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Fitbit Charge 2 Review

The Fitbit Charge 2.
Best Buy Award
Price:   $150 List | $148.95 at Amazon
Pros:  Stylish, easy to use, great display
Cons:  Not water resistant, shorter battery life
Bottom line:  A great all-around tracker for those on a budget
Editors' Rating:   
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Manufacturer:   Fitbit

Our Verdict

Earning the Best Buy award, the Fitbit Charge 2 is a fantastic fitness tracker at an affordable price. This model performs well across the board, comes in a variety of colors and stylish bands, and won't break the bank. The Charge 2 has some innovative features, such as V02 max calculations and reminders to do breathing exercises periodically. This model also has the ability to pair with your phone's GPS, to add even more capabilities.


RELATED REVIEW: Best Fitness Trackers and Activity Monitors of 2017


Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
David Wise and Austin Palmer

Last Updated:
Wednesday
January 11, 2017

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The newly released Fitbit Charge 2 offered exceptional performance at a price that couldn't be beat, earning it our Best Buy award. This model performed exceptionally well across the board. Receiving the highest score in our two highest weighted testing metrics, fitness impact and health impact. This model can also connect to your phone's GPS to increase the accuracy of your distance measurement, as well as add speed tracking for cycling workouts.

Performance Comparison


The Charge 2 took home a Best Buy award for its great performance at a great price.
The Charge 2 took home a Best Buy award for its great performance at a great price.

Fitness Impact


The Fitbit Charge 2 did well in this metric, earning an 8 out of 10 that placed it in a tie for second place in this metric. We tested how the Charge 2 did at counting steps, tracking cycling, monitoring a high-intensity cardio workout, and how it did at tracking other activities. We also looked at how the tracker did at counting flights of stairs climbed, and finally evaluated the helpfulness of community compare features, such as adding non-competitive goals to strive for, and friendly competition.

Counting steps is the first and foremost use for these products for most people, as the fitness goal of 10,000 steps a day has become commonplace. We manually counted the steps it took to walk a mile with a mechanical crowd clicker while walking with the fitness tracker, then compared the results. This model did alright, averaging about 49 steps off, or 2.3%. The distance estimation did reasonably well, with the tracker reporting an average of 0.98 miles walked, off by 0.02 of the actual result. This of course, can be improved by pairing the Charge 2 with your smartphone while walking, to add GPS capabilities.

The home screen of the Charge 2 displays the current time  date  and step count.
The home screen of the Charge 2 displays the current time, date, and step count.

This model also does quite well at tracking cycling workouts, especially with the added GPS capabilities through your mobile device. This tracker measures your top speed, average speed, distance traveled, time spent working out, and elevation changes. In addition, this model can show you your route, as well as heart rate information, such as maximum bpm, average bpm, how long you were in different workout zones, and estimated calories burned. We compared the information reported on the tracker to the Strava app on a phone, as well as a dedicated cycling computer, with the numbers all matching up well.

The Fitbit app will show your estimated calories burned  as basic stats about each activity.
The Fitbit app will show a breakdown of all your recent activities.
 

The Charge 2 provides similar metrics when tracking a cardio workout, but substitutes counting steps for speed. One feature that we felt was missing was the lack of ability to pause tracking during a workout for a quick breather or water break. This model measures flights of stairs climbed throughout the day, as well as track a variety of other activities, such as tennis, golf, yoga, or pilates to name a few. However, it doesn't really do anything different for these activities, just monitors the standard heart rate info, duration of the activity, and time elapsed, but it does provide a nice way to organize and share what activities you do.

Common among all Fitbit brand fitness trackers, this model has a great companion app for comparing and competing with your friends. The app also gives you non-competitive challenges called "Adventures", allowing you to use actual treks as a way to set goals, while learning fun facts along the way.

A competitive challenge with the Fitbit app to help you get up and get active.
Taking a virtual "Adventure" to Vernal Falls with the Fitbit app.
 

Health Impact


The Charge 2 also scored well in our suite of tests to evaluate health impact, earning a solid 7 out of 10. This score was the highest we awarded in this category, only matched by our Editors' Choice award winner, the Fitbit Blaze. This model has the unique feature of guided breathing sessions to help you relax throughout the day, with either a two or five minute session, as well as some of the other features designed to improve your health common among other models.

Breathe in....
And breathe out.
 

This model did about average in our heart rate accuracy testing, averaging about 23 bpm off of the chest strap heart rate monitor we used as a control. We did find that the Charge 2 took a little longer to register the heart rate compared to other model, and also tended to underestimate when compared to the chest strap. As with all optical heart rate monitoring, it works well while resting, or with a very steady heart rate, but can fail when you are actively working out with elevated heart rate that is less consistent.

The Charge 2 in the midst of tracking a simulated workout.
The Charge 2 in the midst of tracking a simulated workout.

Aiding you in dieting, the Fitbit app has the ability to enter food's nutritional content manually, or scan the barcode to auto-populate the information if the item exists in their database. The app also offers a way to track your water intake throughout the day, to properly maintain hydration levels.

You can track your water intake to ensure you stay hydrated on the Fitbit app.
You can also log your calorie intake on the Fitbit app to track your progress towards a diet.
 

This model will also remind you to move 10 minutes before the hour if you haven't taken at least 250 steps in the last hour. The Charge 2 also has automatic sleep tracking, and a vibration alarm clock.

Ease of Use


None of the features on a fitness tracker are particularly helpful, if the device is too complicated to actually use. Thankfully, the Charge 2 did not fall into this category, earning a 7 out of 10. This model was easy to put on, with a watch style clasp that had a nice stiffness to it. This tracker is sweat, rain, and splash proof, but not rated for complete immersion, so if you are looking for a tracker to swim with, then you better look elsewhere.

This model has a claimed battery life of up to 5 days. It requires between 1-2 hours to completely re-charge, and uses a proprietary charger.

The Charge 2 uses a dedicated charger that plugs into a USB port.
The Charge 2 uses a dedicated charger that plugs into a USB port.

The device would sync quickly with the app, taking only 2-10 seconds and automatically syncing when you open the app and login. The app is intuitive, but it can be a little confusing to navigate menus on the device itself.

Ergonomics


All fitness trackers must be worn daily to be effective, so an model that is uncomfortable or tremendously ugly simply won't work. We rated the comfort, visual aesthetic, and the profile design for our ergonomics test, and bestowed a 6 out of 10 on the Charge 2 for its above average performance.

This model was rated about average when it came to comfort, both for sleeping and day-to-day wear, feeling like a slightly bulky watch. Our panel did appreciate the visual appeal and style of the tracker, rating it the highest out of all the competition.

The Charge 2 is particularly striking in appearance.
The Charge 2 is particularly striking in appearance.

This model also maintains a low profile on your wrist, only catching slightly when putting on a backpack and providing no problems when putting on a light jacket.

Display


The final metric that we looked at in our analysis of fitness trackers was the quality of the display. We looked at how responsive the screen was, the quality of notifications, and the clarity of information conveyed. The Fitbit Charge 2 did great, earning a well-deserved 8 out of 10.

The home screen on the Charge 2.
The home screen on the Charge 2.

This model displays the time, month and day on its home screen, which is approximately 4X larger than its predecessor, the Charge Hr. It can be a little difficult to read the display in bright light, and almost impossible when wearing polarized sunglasses. The screen was reasonably responsive to touch commands, though occasionally it was a little finicky. The notifications are fantastic, showing text, call, and calendar events, with the first snippet of a text displayed on the screen. You can also view your current steps, distance traveled, calories burned, stairs climbed, and active minutes, as well as an hourly step count on further extended displays.

Value


The Fitbit Charge 2 offers an exceptional value, high enough to merit our Best Buy award. This is a feature rich, great performing model at a price that won't break the bank. This is a great fitness tracker for those that want a balance of continuous monitoring throughout the day, as well as workout tracking, and don't mind the lack of standalone GPS or lack of waterproofing.

Conclusion


The Charge 2 performed exceptionally well in our tests, particularly in our health and fitness impact tests. This model does a great job at tracking a variety of workouts and has the nice feature of being able to add GPS through your phone. While this may be a drawback for some, it greatly reduces the cost of the device by omitting a GPS module inside, and keeps this product more affordable. In addition to the great physical activities monitoring, this device gives you helpful reminders to get up and move, as well as to take a quick breather every so often. In addition to the reminders, the companion app helps you track calorie and water intake, as well as provides motivation through the form of challenges and competitions. All in all, this is a great tracker for those that are shopping on a budget and don't want to sacrifice too much performance.
David Wise and Austin Palmer

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