Do you love cookie-cutter fitness wearables? Fitbit’s latest device, the Blaze, satisfies your need for the mundane – but watch out! The $200 Blaze also throws in a digital personal trainer called FitStar, which might completely change the way you work out. But is it worth it? Read on to find out, then enter our competition to win your own Fitbit Blaze!
What You Get
The Blaze comes with the standard peripherals: A USB charging cradle, an instruction manual, and the watch itself. As one might expect, there’s nothing out of the ordinary or worth mentioning.
A compatible smartphone or tablet with Android, iOS, or Windows 10. Windows 10 requires signing into the Windows App Store.
Windows 8.1 works, although it requires a Fitbit Wireless Sync Dongle, which costs $20 and isn’t currently available.
Sensors: altimeter, pedometer, accelerometer, gyroscopic, heart rate, and possibly a magnetometer.
“Connected” GPS: The Blaze doesn’t come with an integrated GPS sensor — it instead relies on your smartphone’s GPS.
Screen: 16-bit 240 x 180 pixels LCD with capacitive touch.
Proprietary USB cradle charger.
Proprietary replaceable wrist strap.
Four days of battery life.
Automatic brightness detection.
The Blaze itself consists of two parts: a detachable watch face and a replaceable wrist strap. Like most wearables, there’s a value-add here. Rather than using an industry standard wrist-strap, like many Android smartwatches, the Fitbit can only accommodate a proprietary wrist strap. Fitbit sells several varieties, each with a different texture and color. Compared to the unexciting default strap, the optional bands are eye-catching and potentially worth buying. They’re well-priced, too, costing around $8-15.
The default wristband is a simple silicone rubber strap, attached using a classic watch-style locking mechanism.
The Blaze is a lot smaller than the uncomfortable, rash-inducing Surge (my review of the Surge was less than stellar). It’s hardly noticeable on the wrist – although it’s slightly bulkier than my other favorite smartwatch, the Basis Peak. Its bulk owes to the unnecessary metal frame, which adds a few millimeters to the length of the watch.
On the back, there’s a continuous optical heart-rate monitor. Inside the Blaze is (most likely) a “9-axis” sensor, which should include the three standard sensors: An accelerometer, gyroscopic sensor, and magnetometer.
The three sensors allow the smartwatch to measure a user’s speed, wrist movement, and the direction that the user moves in. We don’t know for certain about its internal components as Fitbit hasn’t shed much light, but it appears not to differ from any other fitness tracker. Noticeably absent is a GPS sensor, which many of its competitors (and even its predecessor, the Fitbit Surge) includes. Fitbit contends that piggybacking on a smartphone’s GPS is adequate. But if you don’t feel like lugging a smartphone along with you on a jog, you may want to pass on by the Blaze.
The $150 Sony Smartwatch 3 (my Sony Smartwatch 3 review) offers GPS and a wide range of applications for the Android Wear platform. While it lacks a heart rate sensor, it can sync with a far more accurate Polar H7 Bluetooth heart rate sensor. Together, the Sony Smartwatch 3 combined with a Polar H7 sensor can outperform the Blaze. And on top of that, Android Wear gains access to high-end fitness apps like Strava, for better value.
While I could go on for days about how derivative and boring the hardware is. Fortunately, the software does offer wearable users something of worth.
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