Fitbit Blaze review: Stylish, focused, and motivating fitness watch for the active consumer

  • Editors' rating
    9.6 Spectacular
  • $199.95

Pros

  • Long battery life
  • Stylish and comfortable watch format
  • Accurate PurePulse heart rate monitoring
  • Basic, essential smartphone notifications
  • Easy and intuitive user interface
  • Helpful FitStar workouts, especially for the road warrior
  • Cross platform support

Cons

  • Proprietary charger that requires removal from the band
  • Move reminders currently not present (coming later this year)

Fitbit announced the Fitbit Blaze back at CES in January. I wasn't particularly interested in the device for a few reasons, but after spending more than a week with the Fitbit Blaze on my wrist I think it is a brilliant solution for the active consumer.

I was reluctant to consider the Fitbit Blaze because I've spent so much time with smartwatches and thought it looked like a lame smartwatch. I also like to run with a dedicated GPS sport watch and didn't think I would care about the Blaze since it doesn't have its own GPS receiver. It turns out that the Fitbit Blaze is not a smartwatch, it's not designed or advertised as such, and I will not compare it to the Apple Watch or Android Wear in this review. It's also not a GPS sport watch designed for the die-hard runner or performance consumer who is looking to track the fine details of runs and other activities.

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The Fitbit Blaze is targeted to the active consumer who wants to do more with their activity tracker than what a simple band can provide at a reasonable price with a stylish design. The Fitbit Blaze excels as a smart fitness watch and I have to admit that it has changed my perspective on what I really need to be wearing on a daily basis.

Specifications

  • Display: 1.66 inch, 240 x 180 pixels color LCD Gorilla Glass display
  • Memory: Tracks 7 days of detailed data, daily totals for 30 days
  • Water resistance: Sweat, rain, and splash proof. Not designed for the pool.
  • Heart rate performance: 1 second intervals during exercise tracking, 5 second intervals at other times
  • Materials: Stainless steel frame, plastic, and elastomer band
  • Radios: Bluetooth 4.0
  • Sensors: 3-axis motion, optical heart rate monitor, altimeter, ambient light sensor, vibration motor
  • Battery: Up to five days of battery life, charges in one to two hours
  • Weight: About 44 grams with the elastomer band

Hardware

After viewing the press images, I didn't realize that the Blaze was a rectangular module that fit into an octagon-shaped stainless steel frame so when I first pulled it out of the box I was caught off guard. At first I thought it looked strange with gaps showing my wrist at the top and bottom, but after wearing it for a day I found it to be modern and attractive.

The Fitbit Blaze doesn't protrude above my wrist as much as the Apple Watch or Android Wear watches so it fits well under long sleeved shirts and jackets. It is very light and I cannot even feel it mounted to my wrist most of the time. This is essential for a device that you want to wear 24/7 and Fitbit did an amazing job here with this aspect of the design.

There are three buttons on the metal frame, one on the left and two on the right. The two right ones don't do much as you scroll through the different views, but they are useful within the different modules and will be explained more in the software section.

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The elastomer band has a textured finish and feels to be of high quality with a very secure clasp and band mechanism. The leather band was also sent along for evaluation and while it was stiff for a couple days, it quickly formed to my wrist and is both comfortable and attractive. There are quick release pins on the bands to switch them out, but Fitbit includes a metal frame with the optional bands to make it even faster and easier for you to switch between work and play. You won't want to go running with the leather band and it is recommended that you do not try this.

The daily heart rate tracking seems to be very accurate and while the tracking during an active run may not be as precise as a chest strap, it provides me with an indication of whether or not I am in the burn zone. I do not try the details of my heart rate and tend to look at more general zones and ranges rather than the rate measure at every interval.

Step counting has proven to be as accurate as all the other devices I wear and again the important thing is to see if you traveled 7,000 steps or 10,000 steps and not if you went 10,047 or 10,052 steps.

I've heard people write they won't buy the Fitbit Blaze since it isn't waterproof and can't be used for swimming. I don't have access to a pool and don't care about swimming, but I do understand that to add such a level of water resistance then Fitbit would have to give up the altimeter stair/flight counting functionality since air pressure is measured. Counting flights of stairs is one unique aspect of Fitbit that I personally care about since it gets me to skip taking the elevator. Thus, you need to decide which is more important for you and your daily activity.

The Blaze is water resistant and can handle splashes, sweat, and rain. I ran in a downpour and sweat heavily and so far the Blaze has not been impacted by these conditions.

Software

There is software on the watch itself and applications for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone. The watch software is intuitive and very easy to use. There are very few customizations that you can make to the Blaze software and no third party apps are supported. As I stated earlier, this is a fitness focused device and not a smartwatch.

The main screen is the watch face and by default there are four available faces for you to choose from. Fitbit stated that more watch faces will be provided in the future. I personally like the default watch face as it provides a circular status ring for your activity and single tap switching to see the other key data captured by the Blaze.

Swipe once from right to left to open the Today screen. Tap and then scroll up to view steps, heart rate, distance, calories, and floors traveled. Swipe again to view the exercise module, again to view the FitStar module, again for the timer, once more for alarms, and lastly for settings. That's it for the Blaze UI, now let's dive a bit deeper into a couple of these.

You can customize up to seven exercise shortcuts to view on your Blaze, using the smartphone application. There are about 20 options available, including run, hike, bike, elliptical, yoga, bootcamp, golf, and more. After tapping the word exercise, you then swipe left or right to find your particular exercise and then tap to open up that specific module. Each screen will then vary for the exercise where you can choose to start, stop, pause, save, and more.

I primarily used the Blaze to run and within the run exercise mode you can swipe to view different live run status screens with the bottom secondary stat part of the display being a static piece of data that you select from within the run settings. You can also choose whether or not to use your phone's GPS for your activity.

As a person who does not belong to a gym or have equipment at home, I tend to perform body weight exercises. I also like to exercise when I travel and the FitStar function is perfect for this. Fitbit worked with FitStar to identify the three most popular workouts on the FitStar service and these are included on the Fitbit Blaze. You will find warm it up, 7 minute workout, and 10 minute abs.

Choose one of these and then press the lower right button to get started. An animated graphic will appear to show you how to perform the exercise while a countdown timer appears. The Blaze will vibrate when it's time to start and then will vibrate again when you need to finish. The next exercise will then be shown and so forth. At the end of each of these workouts you will get a summary of your workout, including calories burned, your heart rate, and more.

At this time, the Blaze does not count repetitions of each exercise so you are just being timed for the exercise. I would love to see reps get counted so you could then try to improve the number of reps the next time you worked out. While these may not be the most challenging or exhaustive workouts, they offer a nice variety and seem to match the intended market for the Fitbit Blaze.

The timer gives you access to a stopwatch or countdown timer. The alarm module only lets you see what alarms you have setup through your phone application and there is no way to setup an alarm directly on the Blaze.

The left hardware button acts as a back button so you can always go back out of a module by pressing this button. You can also press and hold the top button to access notificatins toggle and music controls or the bottom button to access the received notifications.

You can receive call status, text messages (including Whatsapp and Hangouts on Android), and calendar notifications on the Blaze. If you are connected to an iPhone you can accept or reject calls as well. The music controls work with any client that you initiate on your phone. This is handy for controlling music on your phone while you run.

The Fitbit Blaze tracks your sleep automatically and there isn't actually a way to initiate a sleep tracking session. You can modify the sleep time later in the phone app if it didn't quite catch the beginning or end of your sleep period.

The Fitbit Blaze has SmartTrack technology so that your activity is tracked automatically. I used this a couple of times for runs where I did not connect my phone's GPS. It does a decent job of tracking the run and data, but you should try to use the exercise module for focused activities since that will help you get more precise heart rate readings with shorter intervals.

The applications for your phone haven't changed much over the years and you can download and install the software to test out for free. You can even use your phone to track your movement and other data with the Fitbit app without even having a tracker mounted on your body.

The smartphone application is full featured and shown in some screenshots in my gallery. It mirrors what you can find on the Fitbit website dashboard with a vast amount of data, reports, and charts available to help you improve your lifestyle. I particularly like the leaderboards that help motivate me to do better and these leaderboards are one reason I am likely to move to the Fitbit ecosystem for my daily activity tracking.

More serious runners may also like to use a service like Strava and RunKeeper, both of which are supported through the Fitbit ecosystem as well.

Pricing and competition

The Fitbit Blaze is available now for $199.95 and comes with a black, blue, or plum color elastomer band. You can buy it in small, large, and extra large sizes. I tested the large model and had six holes left in the adjustable elastomer band. You can also pick up other color classic bands for $29.95, a leather band and frame for $99.95, and a metal band and frame for $129.95.

There isn't much in way of direct competition for the Fitbit Blaze. Most activity trackers come in the form of bands and we see plenty of band alternatives from Fitbit, Jawbone, Polar, Garmin, and others. The Polar M400 and upcoming Garmin Vivoactive HR are similar to the Blaze, but both of these also offer integrated GPS for $179.95 and $249.99.

Daily usage experiences and conclusions

In my experiences, the majority of people I see out running have a phone mounted on their arm or in their hand. I try to run as much as possible and especially enjoy running all over the world when I travel for business. Running with a phone is actually a good idea for safety purposes and to capture those unique moments with the camera while you are out exploring the world. For these people, the Fitbit Blaze is perfect since it will provide you with the ability to view your run status on your wrist and control your music without ever touching the phone. I just bought a water resistant Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and may add a Blaze to my arsenal for a complete running experience.

I've been using wearables for years and have captured enough data to realize that devices that have to be charged daily tend to end up in a drawer due to recharge fatigue. Fitbit states that the Blaze should last about five days and in my experiences over the last ten days or so it has proven to be an accurate estimate. Devices with three, five, or seven day battery life will get used more to track your sleep, eating habits, and activity, which in turn ends up helping you live a healthier lifestyle.

I highly recommend you read the DC Rainmaker review that covers the Blaze in typical exhaustive manner. Every question you may have about the new device is available in Ray's review.

Fitbit's SmartTrack automatic exercise recognition is fantastic and has resulted in helping me capture my early morning and late afternoon brisk 1+ mile walk between the train station and the office. Other devices just track these steps, but the Fitbit Blaze recognizes these walks are at a faster pace and occur over a period of time. This is different than walking around the office at a casual pace and I appreciate the ability to capture this data without any interaction on my part.

In talking with the folks at Fitbit, if you are a performance consumer who wants GPS tracking then you may want to consider the Surge product. If you like both products, you can also use the Surge for your run and then switch to a Blaze for the other 23 hours of the day since Fitbit supports syncing one account to multiple trackers.

The Fitbit Blaze has a modern, techy look, it is lightweight and only a few millimeters thick, the display is vivid and colorful, and it has been a real pleasure to wear it 24/7 during my testing period. Several people have seen it on my wrist and have been impressed by the functionality I have showed them. Fitbit has a real winner here with the Fitbit Blaze and if you are an active consumer I highly recommend you consider it.

Specifications

Miscellaneous
Sensors altimeter, ambient light sensor, three-axis accelerometer
Vibrating Alert Yes
Color Category Black
Body Material stainless steel
Max Depth of Water Resistance 33 ft
Protection splashproof, sweatproof, weatherproof
Preloaded Software Clock, Silent alarm
Communications
Wireless Interface Bluetooth 4.0
Environmental Parameters
Min Operating Temperature 14 °F
Max Operating Temperature 140 °F
Max Altitude Operating 27990 ft
Battery
Run Time (Up To) 5 day(s)
Recharge Time 2 hour(s)
Style
Product type Sport watch
Header
Brand Fitbit
Product Line Fitbit
Model Blaze
Packaged Quantity 1
General
Size 1.25 inch
Wearing Style watch style
Clock Display Yes
Integrated Components heart rate sensor
Set Goals Yes
Tracking Data activity, calories burned, distance, floors climbed, heart rate, sleep activity, steps taken, time
CE Input Device
Type touch sensitive screen
Band
Name band
Size S (fits wrists 140-170 mm)
Features
Sensors altimeter, ambient light sensor, three-axis accelerometer
Dimensions & Weight
Width 1.7 in
Depth 8 mm
System Requirements
OS Required Apple MacOS X 10.6 or later, Microsoft Windows Vista or later
Connectivity
Wireless Interface Bluetooth 4.0

Topics: Hardware, Mobility, Reviews, Smartphones

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Where To Buy

Fitbit Blaze (black, small)

Part Number: FB502SBKS
Price
$199.95

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