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.

Allyson Kazmucha

iMore senior editor from 2011 to 2015.