Fitbit Charge HR fitness tracker review

The Charge HR by Fitbit counts your steps, tracks calories, monitors your heart rate, and pairs right with the Fitbit app to give you an overview of your activity each day. It also features a small display that shows you current stats and call notifications without having to pick up your phone. It might not boast all the features its older sibling the Fitbit Surge does, but it's still a better option for most people. Here's why...

The good

  • Great battery life, especially if you don't have notifications and all-day sync enabled
  • Double tap can be set to whatever metric you'd like
  • Comfortable band that doesn't get in the way and is comfortable to sleep in
  • Heart rate accuracy is impressive
  • More accurate with step count than most other Fitbit products
  • Sleep tracking is automatic and provides decent data
  • Much more reasonably priced than the Surge

The bad

  • Although step count is better, it's still exaggerated
  • Not a lot of options for exercise, more of an app issue than a band issue
  • Workout and exercising tracking requires interaction with the Fitbit app
  • No native GPS tracking

Fitbit Charge HR fitness tracker review

When I first put the Charge HR on my wrist, I immediately knew I preferred it over the Surge. The band is thinner and doesn't have the large face, which is nice for anyone with smaller wrists. Obviously you won't get the same touch screen interaction and you're losing some of the features the Surge offers, but for comfort, it's a tradeoff some people will be happy to make, me included.

The actual display of the Charge HR is triggered with a button press. Keep tapping to cycle through all the data it provides. Inside the Fitbit app you can rearrange what data is shown and in what order. You can also set the double tap function to display your most viewed data. For example, you can set double tapping the display of your Fitbit to quickly show your heart rate, or your step count. Whatever you prefer.

Fitbit Charge HR fitness tracker review

Battery life is a big concern for a lot of people with fitness trackers. Fitbit advertises 5 days battery life on average for the Charge HR. I actually exceeded that battery life. Today is day number 7 on a single charge for me and my battery just hit low this morning. Keep in mind that your mileage will vary based on what settings you choose. I don't have call notifications enabled, which means I don't have to pair as I would with traditional Bluetooth. I'm sure this saves quite a lot of battery life. I also have continuous all-day sync disabled. Since the Charge HR can store several days of data locally, I just manually sync to the app every night or so. Again, another battery saving technique.

Fitbit Charge HR fitness tracker review

The heart rate sensor that's built in to the Charge HR is the same one found in the Surge. It's just as accurate. I continuously checked it in comparison to what gym equipment said my heart rate was while working out and it was always within 3-5 beats per minute. I also know that my average heart rate falls between 63-68 beats per minute while resting. This is the range Fitbit calculated each week.

Unfortunately step count is still something that Fitbit struggles with. I am aware that no fitness tracker is 100% perfect but in my experience, and after performing manual step counts, the UP24 tracked steps the most accurate for me. So I wore both trackers on the same wrist for a week. The Fitbit Charge HR always had a higher count at the end of the day. Some days were worse than others, depending on what I did that day. The worst day, the Charge HR and the UP24 were about 1,200 steps away from each other. While neither are 100% correct, I still feel the UP24 more accurately showed what I actually did that day. Overall, I did find the Charge HR to be more accurate than the Surge. Most days there wasn't more than a 500 step difference.

Fitbit Charge HR fitness tracker review

My biggest concern with inaccurate step count is always how it affects calorie counts. Considering the Charge HR has a built in heart rate sensor, the effect shouldn't be as drastic as it is with bands that don't have a sensor. It's just something to consider when thinking about what features are most important to you in a fitness band. The difference in calorie counts between the UP24 and Charge HR were negligible, which makes me feel okay saying step count isn't adversely affecting other data. That wasn't the case with the Surge, which always had an equally exaggerated calorie account in my experience. Considering both have heart rate sensors, it's something I find very odd.

The bottom line

Fitbit Charge HR fitness tracker review

Aside from a slightly exaggerated step count, I enjoyed wearing and using the Charge HR. It's comfortable to sleep in, provides accurate calorie counts, has great battery life, and costs $100 less. For most people, the Charge HR will be more than enough. However, if you want native GPS tracking and on-demand workout tracking, you'll have to pony up the extra $100 for the Surge or the vivoactive by Garmin.

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iMore senior editor from 2011 to 2015.

24 Comments
  • Thanks for your review on this, as you promised from my comment in your Surge review! This is very good to hear. How strong is the vibrating alert for alarms and such? Also, for your Fitbit settings, do you have it set correctly for your dominant/non-dominant hand (in regards to the step count issue)? I know this was a feature that could only be configured via your online account and not in-app, so a lot of people aren't aware of it (unless they've since added it to the app?). What band do you or would you choose to wear in and out of your daily life? What band do you feel is currently the best on the market at the moment? I know the UP3 is "supposed" to be around the corner, so that may change things up a bit, what with all of it's features and I really hope to see a review for it from you as soon as you can!
  • Yep it was added to the app. And yeah it's set correctly.
  • I have a Charge HR and have been wearing it for roughly two months. I really like. It's comfortable, and doesn't look too out of place with office attire. The silent alarms are a great feature and very noticeable. I would absolutely recommend it. Sent from the iMore App
  • What is the calorie count different for 1000 steps? I'm thinking it has to be less than 1% of someones total calories for the day. Is that really that much difference? I mean, it's probably far less than the margin of error for most peoples calorie counting for the day.
  • the average person walks 10,000 steps a day and burns roughly 2,000 calories. Do the math, that's about 500 calories per 1,000 steps. Definitely not 1%. And when you're trying to lose weight, yes that makes a difference.
  • Don't you mean 200 calories for 1000? 2000 ÷ 10,000 = .2 calories per step. 1000 x. 2 = 200 calories burned. Which is still 10% but not the 25% you quoted. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Yeah typo. Meant 200. That's not an insignificant amount by any means
  • My math was wrong, but my point remains the same. 1000 steps over 10000 is only 10%, and that's if you went 10000 that day. If it was less, the error is certainly more, but if it was more the error is even less significant.
    However, you're both making a critical error in your calculations. 10000 steps does not equal 2000 calories. That 2000 calories includes your BMR, any additional exercise would be calories you burned above that.
    So lets say I sat around all day and did nothing, I burned 2074 calories breathing and digesting and walking to the bathroom etc. The 10000 steps is additional calories burned.
    Using my fitbit as an example, when I walk 10000 steps, I earn an additional 683 calories. This includes flights of stairs too, but for our purpose I think it's still good enough. So, if we do the math, that additional 1000 steps is giving me 68.3 calories, or less than 3%. So my math was off too, but it was much closer than yours and well within the margin of error of all the other calculations you're doing on a daily basis. Unless you weigh everything you eat, and the calories per weight are perfectly accurate, you're probably more than 5% off on that as well.
    Here's the calculator I used to find my BMR
    http://www.shapefit.com/basal-metabolic-rate.html PS
    I wanted to add, have you looked into this at all?
    HOW CAN I MAKE MY CHARGE TRACKING MORE ACCURATE? You can improve the accuracy of your Charge HR by changing the Dominant Hand setting on your Device Settings page (http://www.imore.com/ext?link=http2F2Fr.cfm%3F...), which can be found under the gear icon in the upper right corner of your dashboard. Changing this setting to "Dominant" will decrease sensitivity of step counting and should reduce over counting of steps when your body is not moving. Using the "Non Dominant" setting will increase the sensitivity of step counting, and can be used if your Charge HR is not counting enough steps. You can also add other personal settings such as stride length on your settings page to make Charge HR more personalized for you.
    http://help.fitbit.com/articles/en_US/Help_article/How-accurate-is-my-Ch...
  • Doesn't change my point at all. And yes I have tested many Fitbit devices and tried dominant and non-dominant. It doesn't make a difference.
  • If your point is it's best to have the most accurate device possible, definitely.
    My point is, 1000 extra steps, if you're only getting 10,000 it's worth mentioning but I don't think a 70 calorie swing either way is going to make a difference to anyone, if you got a 1000 extra on that 14,000 step day, it is even less significant.
    Also wanted to add, that your activities might make the UP24 more accurate than the Fitbit, but someone else might show the reverse. You're a sample size of one, which is also statistically insignificant.
  • Why are you assuming 1,000 is a constant. Or that it applies to everyone? Or that it doesnt increase as more steps are taken. Again, nothing you've said changes my point.
  • Because I'm using the largest variation that you said you had. I'm assuming it, because it's the only data I have from you and I'm using it to show that even at the largest difference, it is still not significant enough to care about.
    You are right, it might not apply to everyone, and that was an additional point of mine. You're a sample size of one. If I wore both, for all we know the UP24 could be the one that inflates the steps 500-1000.
    Without you releasing your methodology, we have no way of knowing if the way you decided one was more accurate than the other is valid and it certainly doesn't mean anything in the long run anyway because the difference is statistically insignificant. Most people probably error more on their calorie counting.
    The Charge HR may be more accurate for YOU, but not necessarily for someone else. We don't know. Feel free to use your resources to prove me wrong, I would love to actually know.
    So my point remains valid, it's something to mention, but not something significant anyone should be hinging their purchasing decision on.
  • The Charge HR doesn't do text notifications, only phone calls.
  • Bah you're right. I'm just used to typing call and text. Will fix thanks!
  • I'm interested in replacing my Fitbit One and want heart rate functionality. I'm tempted by the Up3, but the delays are making me wonder if the technology they are using isn't working as well as they've expected. I've heard conflicting stories about how firmly green LED based HR monitors need to be worn to work. What is the experience y'all have had with the Charge HR and how often do you lose the HR signal?
  • I have this device and one day noticed that my floor count and step count was unusually high. The floor count more than anything. It said I did 2666 floors that day which was far from accurate. When I called fitbit customer service they told me there was a small amount of Charge HR devices that were defective and causing inaccurate steps and floor counts. They are sending me a replacement. I have the fitbit one as well and my counts between the two when worn together have been within 25 steps. I'm curiously to see what it will be now that mine ended up be a defective device.
  • "Workout and exercising tracking requires interaction with the Fitbit app" Not quite true. Press and hold the button and it will start tracking your exercise. You still have to use the app if you want to tell it what you did, but you can track a session without interacting with the app.
  • Yeah I meant to choose what activity you're doing in relationship to the surge. Ill make that more clear
  • One issue I have with my Charge HR is the fact that I can't customize my heart rate zones, it thinks that my normal heart rate of 90+ is my fat burning zone and it's not, so after I wake up, I've already burned over a 1000 calories because it thinks I'm working out. Sent from the iMore App
  • Have you spoken to a doctor? That's high for a resting rate. if you haven't seen a doctor I would.
  • Before buying this, go read the Fitbit forums. This should have never been released, it's a piece of junk. I have one & it's ridiculously inaccurate. A few people at work have one and all have the same issues. Most of them work for a couple weeks then go haywire and then are completely worthless. So my advice is, save your money and just buy a pocket pedometer for about 10 bucks which is just as accurate as this is.
  • How is "No native GPS tracking" a con? It's not part of the product. The HR Charge doesn't give me a neck massage either...should we list that as a con?
  • Just got one for my birthday and I love it. I'll go to the track soon and measure my stride distance to make the step count even more accurate. For me, it's great. And I look at it from a trends perspective and not necesarily any one day. My question is this, has anyone used a screen protector for it they have been happy with? All the listings on Amazon have horrendous reviews, etc. I may just carefully trim a piece of clear tape or something else if necessary. It scratches pretty easily. Of course its the guts inside that matter, but nonetheless a protector would be cool.
  • My sister got a fitbit last year and she absolutely recommends it. I have always wanted to try one and since she loves it, makes me want one even more! I have been looking at reviews these few days and have made my mind to get one. I was looking online for good deals and the best one I have found so far is for $117 at IPZmall. Is that a good price or not? Thank you for your review!