Fitbit Sense Review
Pros: Specialized fitness tracking features, good battery life
Cons: Expensive, not our favorite touchscreen
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Our Analysis and Test Results
As we mentioned above, this smartwatch has some particularly unique abilities, like the ability to monitor stress level, SpO2, and skin temperature. These are somewhat specialized features and keep this smartwatch from having a more universal appeal in our minds.
Ease of Use
We started by comparing and evaluating how user-friendly and easy to operate each of these smartwatches. We rated and ranked the Sense's interface, the responsiveness of its touchscreen, how easy it is to swap wristbands, how water-resistant it is, and how easy it is to recharge. The Fitbit Sense fared fairly well, earning an above-average score.
The Fitbit Sense is water-resistant to a depth of 50 meters or 5 atmospheres, making it more than suitable for wearing in the shower or the pool. This watch has a magnetic charger with 4 magnetic pins that lock it into the position. It holds the charging cable very securely in place, with it taking a considerable amount of force to knock it free.
This watch doesn't have much of an interface besides the touchscreen and a touch side button, lacking a rotating bezel or crown scroll that other models have.
However, we did find that the touchscreen isn't quite the most responsive compared to many of the other watches we tested. It occasionally misread swipes and we found the touch button didn't always respond to our taps. It did wake up fairly fast when we raised our wrist but there was a slightly more noticeable delay than some of the other watches.
We did like that the bands on the Fitbit Sense are very easy to swap. You just press a tab down on the back of the watch and the band pops right out, then a new one just snaps in place.
Our next set of tests scored and compared the smart features and functions available to you with the Fitbit Sense. We looked at which third-party apps are compatible, if you can take voice calls from the watch, control your music, if it can be used as a mobile payment option, and if there is a standalone GPS unit for location data when your phone isn't connected. The Fitbit Sense did about average in this regard, earning it a score in the middle of the group.
We found the Fitbit Sense to have a little smaller of an app library than some of the other iOS/Android/Samsung watches. At the time of testing, only Uber, Spotify, Strava, and IFTTT had standalone apps of our set of test apps, though it can get notifications from other apps and even send quick replies to messaging apps if you are using an Android phone.
This watch will ring when you get a phone call and you can answer it from your wrist but you still need to take out your phone to actually take the call. However, Fitbit says that this feature will be coming soon.
The Sense does let you control your music with Spotify and Pandora, though you do need to have premium subscriptions to be able to use them on this smartwatch. The Fitbit Sense does have NFC-capabilities, allowing it to be used as a payment option using Fitbit Pay. This watch does have an integrated GPS unit for location data during outdoor runs and other workouts.
However, this model doesn't have any standalone cellular connectivity features.
Next, we looked at and compared the display for each watch. We awarded points based on the image quality, the ease of reading in bright light, and the different backlight brightness settings. We think the Sense has one of the better looking screens of the group, earning it one of the top scores.
We like the excellent image quality and how easy it is to read the display — even in bright sunlight or at night. You do have the option to set the display to be always on but you can't set the backlight to automatically adjust based on ambient lighting conditions.
Next, we rated and compared the different fitness and workout tracking abilities present on each smartwatch. We tested out the accuracy of the step counter and heart rate monitor, as well as looking at the different workout tracking capabilities. The Fitbit Sense scored quite well in this metric, earning it one of the more impressive scores we have seen in this category.
The Sense got off to a great start in this set of tests by very accurately counting the steps in our three different mile-long trials. This smartwatch was only an average of 11 steps off of the true manual count, done with a mechanical clicker.
It didn't do quite as well in our heart rate monitor tests, routinely showing a discrepancy of around 25 bpm from the chest strap heart rate monitor we were using as a control whenever measuring an elevated heart rate. However, it was fairly close to the chest strap when measuring a resting heart rate. This smartwatch also has a ton of different workouts that it can track. The integrated GPS unit makes it easy to collect data and the Sense will show you distance, speed, duration, time, estimated calories burned, and plenty of other information, depending on the workout profile selected.
We also like that the stairs climbed tracker on this seemed to be very accurate in our tests. This watch was one of the only ones that actually recorded all 10 flights of stairs climbed.
Next, we moved on to scoring the battery life of each of these wearables. Scores were based on the battery life with typical use, as well as the time it takes to recharge. The Sense did very well, again earning one of the better scores of the group.
Fitbit states that you can get about 6 days of battery life with this watch, which aligned very well with our tests. However, using the always-on display or lots of functions that rely on GPS will severely cut down on battery life. We also liked how quickly this watch recharges. It only took around 76 minutes for it to completely recharge and 24 minutes to hit 50%. Even better, it only takes around 12 minutes for it to charge enough to last for a full day.
Unfortunately, the Fitbit Sense is one of the most expensive options and definitely is not one that we would recommend to anyone shopping on a budget.
The Fitbit Sense is a good option if you are someone who can make use of its specialized and high-end fitness and health tracking features but we generally would recommend other watches for the majority of people.
— Austin Palmer and David Wise