Fitbit Charge 3 Review
Pros: Excellent set of fitness features, convenient and easy to use, solid display
Cons: No integrated GPS unit, screen can be hard to read in direct sun
Our Analysis and Test Results
This fitness tracker narrowly finished ahead of the Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro and the Fitbit Alta HR. We found that the fitness tracking features are just a bit better on the Charge 3, but the health tracking features are quite comparable across this trio of trackers, as well as the displays. The Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro and the Charge 3 are both a bit easier to use than the Alta HR.
In our quest to see which wearable is truly worthy of an award, we have spent the past two years extensively researching and testing these products head-to-head. We have bought all the best and most promising fitness trackers, scoring them with our five-part testing plan on a scale from 0-100. Keep reading to see how the Charge 3 compared to the rest of the pack when it came to fitness and health impact, as well as ease of use, ergonomics, and its display.
Accounting for the largest portion of the overall score at 30%, it's relatively unsurprising that our set of fitness impact tests are exceptionally significant to the overall score of each fitness tracker. For this testing metric, we looked at the accuracy of the step counter and stairs climbed sensor, as well as the different data collected from a cycling workout and a cardio session. Additionally, we also compared what other activities this tracker can track and the different types of community compare and compete functions available to you. The Charge 3 did very well, earning an 8 out of 10, which compares very favorably to the rest of the group.
This fitness tracker is one of the more accurate when it comes to tracking distance and steps traveled, only differing from the true count by 15 steps or less in our tests. We took each fitness tracker on multiple mile-long walks on are 1-mile measured course, manually counting the steps and comparing the number we got to the number registered on the Charge 3. The largest discrepancy we got was 15 steps over, then 12 under, then 4 over. The distance measurement was also quite accurate, with the calculated distance being within 0.05 miles of the correct amount. The Charge 3 is also excellent at calculating the number of sets of stairs you have climbed, registering the correct number exactly in each of our tests.
They cycling workout data was fairly accurate in our test, with the speed and distance being essentially spot on, but the distance was about 0.1 miles short of the true count, with the GPS track showing a few corners cut. However, the Charge 3 does rely on your smartphone's GPS unit, so your results could vary a bit depending on which phone you have — we tested with a Samsung Galaxy S8.
The Charge 3 will also show you what activity impacted you the most, showing the Impact of the Day and how many additional steps you took, calories burned, and activity duration. This wearable will also give you some detailed heart rate data after your workout, showing you how long you were in each heart rate zone and maximum heart rate.
There is a decent selection of trackable activities, including running, biking, swimming, treadmill, weights, interval workout, elliptical, hike, golf, stair climber, tennis, walk, spinning, yoga, boot camp, circuit training, kickboxing, martial arts, pilates. However, you can only pick seven of these to show on the tracker, with the remainder requiring you to use the app to initiate them.
The Charge 3, like all the other Fitbit models, has an extensive set of challenges and competitions that you can participate in to provide that little extra push to get up and moving. There are non-competitive "Adventures" that allow you to go on a virtual vacation or you can challenge your friends and family in the head-to-head "Workweek Hustle". Overall, we found the Fitbit models to be the best at this, so if you are really into the social aspect of having a fitness tracker, then a Fitbit model should be your first choice.
Following our set of fitness tests, our health impact tests came next in terms of importance, constituting 25% of the overall score. We compared the accuracy of the heart rate monitor and how helpful the Charge 3 can be at aiding you in implementing dieting or lifestyle changes, as well as how well its sleep tracking abilities are. The Charge 3 did very well, earning a 7 out of 10.
We started off by grading the accuracy of the optical heart rate monitor on the Charge 3. Unfortunately, this fitness tracker only did about average when compared to our control chest strap model. It did quite well at lower resting heart rates, but we did find discrepancies of over 15 bpm when our tester's heart rate was elevated mid-workout.
When it comes to dieting, the Charge 3 does a bit better. It does a decent job of estimating the calories burned through your resting metabolism and the app has a section where you can input your meals and snacks to track calorie intake. This fitness tracker will also remind you to get up and move if you have been sedentary for close to an hour. Additionally, this tracker also offers some guided breathing exercises if you are feeling too much stress and need some help relaxing.
The Charge 3 also has a vibration alarm and automatic sleep tracking, which we found to be as accurate as any other product we have tested, but still far from perfect.
Ease of Use
Next, we rated and scored how easy to use each wearable is, as a fitness tracker that is a pain to operate makes daily use highly unlikely. We scored each tracker on its battery life, intuitiveness of its mobile app, and how easy the syncing process it, as well as how water-resistant it is, the ease of putting it on, and how user-friendly it is to navigate through all the different menus on the device itself. The Charge 3 again delivered a top-notch performance, meriting an 8 out of 10 in this set of evaluations, which account for 20% of the total score.
This fitness tracker syncs quickly and reliably with your smartphone, automatically transmitting all of the data within 2-10 seconds as soon as you log in. This smartphone app is also exceptionally easy to use and navigate through all the menus, with a very intuitive layout.
The Charge 3 has a great battery life, lasting for up to 7 days depending on usage and relies on a proprietary USB charger to replenish its built-in lithium battery.
The band on the Charge 3 is quite stiff, making it really easy to take the tracker on or off. Additionally, this product is rated as water-resistant to 5 ATM, so more than enough for the shower, a quick dip, or even a full swimming workout.
However, we would have liked to see a button or other physical interface on the Charge 3. The touchscreen is decently responsive and makes it quite easy to navigate through all the menus on the device, but we did find other products with a tactile interface are a bit easier to use.
Our trio of ergonomics tests — comfort, aesthetics, and profile design — combine to account for 15% of the total score. We had a panel of testers rate the looks of each fitness tracker and how comfortable each one is to wear, as well as how obtrusive it is. The Charge 3 again scored very well, earning a 7 out of 10.
Our panel were fans of the design of the Charge 3, finding it to be one of the sleeker and overall more attractive fitness trackers we have seen to date. It is also quite comfortable, though there were a few other trackers that are a bit less noticeable. The overall profile is quite slim, making it about as likely to get caught as any standard wristwatch.
For the remaining tenth of the total score for the Charge 3, we rated and compared its display against the other models. We were specifically looking for how easy it is to read in bright light, how responsive it is, and what exactly is easily displayed. The Charge 3 finished out our testing with another solid showing, receiving a 7 out of 10 for its efforts.
It's very easy to read the screen of the Charge 3 in dimmer conditions, but isn't the easiest in bright sunlight. The screen can pick up fingerprints that obscure your view and can be almost impossible to read if your sunglasses are polarized. The touchscreen is decently responsive, as mentioned above, but occasionally can misread the direction of a swipe and open the wrong menu.
The Charge 3 can display most push notifications from apps that your phone can, such as calls, texts (and quick replies!), text notifications, and other app notifications. The home screen will also show the current time, but not the date. Further screens will also show your current step count, distance, estimated calories burned, active minutes, and steps per hour.
While the Charge 3 is our favorite fitness tracker of them all, it isn't an amazing value, as there are cheaper models out there that don't do that much worse.
If you are searching for the best fitness tracker around, you should look no further than the Fitbit Charge 3. This wearable offers unparalleled performance at a reasonable price, offering excellent fitness and health tracking capabilities, as well as a full set of community compare and compete options.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer