The undisputed leader in fitness trackers, Fitbit continues to expand its line of sports wristbands and watches with the arrival of two new products: the Fitbit Blaze watch and the Fitbit Alta bracelet.
It is on the first that we pay attention today since it is a model relatively offset compared to the rest of the range of the manufacturer. Indeed, halfway between the connected watch and the activity sensor, the new Fitbit Blaze contrasts with the manufacturer’s habits and questions its real objectives and its real target. Is it for athletes like a Fitbit Surge ( see the latest prices by clicking here )? Can it accompany its users in the life of days like an Apple Watch or a Moto 360 Sport? Does it bring more than a classic bracelet?
Just like the Garmin VivoActive we were testing last year, we will see that Blaze is closer to a Fitness Watch as real Smartwatch. Available around € 249, can it be as much in the hearts of addicted to statistics as seasoned athletes? Answer after two good weeks of use.
The Fitbit Blaze is presented in a small cardboard packaging, with a rather sober and refined look. The front shows a large picture of the watch itself, as well as some pictograms allowing to imagine its different features (running, heart rate monitoring, number of steps, notifications …).
All these features are included with a little more detail at the back, and we discover that the Blaze manage the monitoring of daily activity and sleep, record your different exercises or even displays alerts at the reception calls or messages. The application of Fitbit is also highlighted since it is apparently one of the key points in the use of the product. An entire program.
Inside the box, the watch is accompanied by its user manual and a base connected to a USB cable to recharge it. At first glance, the finishes seem rather well done, but place the details in the rest of the article.
Design & Ergonomics – Not a hell of a look
- Unlike brands such as Misfit, Fitbit had not yet crossed the border between sports products and Fashion products. Indeed, all models of the brand, whether bracelets like the Fitbit Charge HR or the Fitbit Surge watch, kept a sporty orientation with looks that did not always adapt to everyday life.
- With the Fitbit Blaze, the manufacturer opts for a more “consumer-oriented” approach, since as we will see, its design is reminiscent at first glance of a Smartwatch than a GPS watch.
- The watch has a large tactile dial, placed on a metal frame with a square appearance giving it a slightly retro design. It is impossible not to make the connection with the famous Casio watches, which return to fashion in recent years. The set is accompanied by interchangeable bracelets, offered in many materials and colors (rubber, leather or metal). Some very welcome personalization options, which should allow everyone to find the style that suits them. Obviously, rubber bracelets will be recommended for sports activities, while others will adapt more to everyday life.
- A little closer, the main module has a square shape, with the center of the dial an LCD touch screen and backlit. The bands around this screen are relatively wide, but its size remains correct, and the information is perfectly legible, even remotely. The Fitbit logo is discreetly positioned just below.
- The management is then mainly touched, even if there are three buttons positioned on the slices of the Blaze. The one on the left makes it possible to return to the previous page when navigating on the pages of the watch, whereas the two on the left allow displaying some information by keeping them pressed. The top one brings up a page to manage his music and the activation of notifications, while the bottom one displays the notifications in question.
- Without going through these buttons, we can nevertheless access these two pages with a simple swipe up or down the screen. The advantage of the buttons is that they allow consulting this information from any page, even during a running session for example. This is an important point since it is often impossible to manage your music or view your messages during the effort with competing models.
- At the back of the dial, we find the heart rate monitor, to track its pulsations throughout the day and night, but also during physical efforts. The Fitbit Blaze uses an optical sensor, similar to what we’ve already seen on the Fitbit Surge, the Garmin FR235 ( available here ) or the TomTom Spark. We will come back to this a little later in our essay.
- Regarding the bracelet, the one proposed by default is obviously the rubber. Very pleasant to the touch, it seems at first sight rather robust and shows itself very easy to put in place. It is worth noting, however, that the ridged texture of the latter quickly attracts dust and that regular cleaning will be necessary.
- We find a classic clasp system, ensuring optimal support. Unlike some activity sensors, there is no chance to see the Fitbit Blaze slide off your wrist. As explained above, we can easily change the bracelet without any tools since a system allows to remove it without the slightest effort. Also note that two sizes are available, to fit most wrists.
- Once on the wrist, the Fitbit Blaze is very light and is quickly forgotten. Nothing to say, comfort is in the game, but question look, we are still skeptical. The very square design of the set is not necessarily to our taste, but we imagine that many users should find their account.
- Back on the dial, the main screen displays the time and day by default, but it is possible to change the style via the mobile application. Just like the Android Wear watches, we find dials rather refined and more colorful more fitting perfectly to the spirit Fitness.
We then navigate between the different menus by sliding our finger on the screen, where we find the following pages:
- Today: Summary of daily activity.
- Exercise: This is where you can start recording a sports activity (running, cycling, etc …).
- FitStar: Recently bought by Fitbit, FitStar offers sets of exercises to keep fit, we’ll come back to it a little later.
- Timer: To set up a stopwatch or a countdown timer.
- Alarms: To manage its different alarms (to set up from the mobile application)
- Settings: To set the options of the watch.
The navigation is rather intuitive, and visually the whole is well done. Both the colors and the many small animations bring real life to the dial, light years of some monochrome screen GPS watches. Everything is also rather fluid, even if some slight slowdowns are sometimes to report.
Monitoring of daily activity and sleep
Like the vast majority of products offered by Fitbit, the Blaze watch apparently allows you to follow its activity but also to obtain details about its nights. By wearing the watch throughout your day, it records a lot of information that can be found either directly on the dial or in the dedicated application available on iOS and Android.
From the watch, the “Today” page displays the different indicators in real time. We find the number of steps, the current heart rate (and at rest), the distance traveled, the calories burned, the stages mounted or the so-called active minutes. Most of these data are accompanied by a small circled pictogram, filling in according to the assigned objective. As a reminder, it is recommended by default about 10,000 steps per day.
It is not possible to view the previous day’s results or the current week’s summaries directly from the watch ( as on the TomTom Spark), but all information is automatically transferred via Bluetooth to the mobile app. Fitbit.
Available for free on iOS and Android, it is the strength of Fitbit products and is a big part of its success. With a clear presentation, a well-worked look and an intuitive interface, we find ourselves very quickly among the many pieces of information.
The main page presents a summary of the current day, with the following information:
- Device connected (Fitbit Blaze here, so)
- Calories burned (includes those consumed naturally)
- Exercises performed
- Weight goal
- Absorbed calories
- Remaining calories
- Hydration goal
- Number of steps
- Cardiac frequency
- Distance traveled
- Raised floors
- Active Minutes
An “Edit” option at the top, of the screen, allows you to choose the information to display or hide, but also to reorder the order of the information. Arrows allow you to go from one day to the next to easily check the results of the day, for example. Then, simply click on the information of your choice to obtain additional details. By clicking on the number of steps, for example, we access a chart listing the lows made since the beginning of the week, compared to the objective set up. It is the same for the distance traveled, the calories consumed or the heart rate.
Each time, it is possible to go a little more into the details, by clicking on the day of his choice. We can then consult the steps, or the distance traveled hour by hour to get a clear view of his day. On the night side, it is still possible to put a goal of hours of sleep. The Fitbit Blaze automatically recognizes bedtime, and there is no need to activate any option for the recording of your sleep to activate. The sensor records the total sleep time as well as its quality, counting the minutes when one is asleep, restless or awake. These data are primarily captured by the accelerometer of the watch, and it is also possible to set it insensitive mode or not. The difference is rather blatant as you can see in the pictures, with the bars much clearer insensitive mode.
It is also possible to set alarms or silent awakenings from the application. Rather useful if you have the habit of waking up before everyone else at home to go to the office. Note, however, that unlike some other activity sensors, it is not possible to intelligently set the alarm, based on its sleep cycles. Overall, the accuracy of the different data seems consistent, and it’s not a surprise since the builder is starting to have real experience in the field. Indeed, you will never get the exact number of steps made in your day, but the range remains correct. In logic, one must, in any case, think globally, trying to approach more or less of its objective.
Not much to blame at the level of activity monitoring for the Fitbit Blaze so, who is doing brilliantly in this sector. The application is complete, easy to take in hand, in short, at all good.
Running with the Fitbit Blaze
The place now in the effort, with some running outings in the company of Fitbit’s latest watch. Before spreading the subject, it is important to note that the Blaze does not have a built-in GPS, unlike the Fitbit Surge for example. This is a crucial point since it will be necessary to keep his Smartphone with either during his training to use the GPS of it. Indeed, the watch is still able to use the geolocation data of your phone to calculate in real time the distance traveled and of course your pace.
It is also, possible to use the Blaze without any GPS, and in these cases, the data is calculated from the internal accelerometer and your personal information (size, weight).
To start running training, simply go to the “Exercises” page and select the “Race” mode. If your phone is in range (with Bluetooth enabled, of course) and the Fitbit app is open, the watch will automatically connect to it to locate you. Once the confirmation message is on the screen, the session can begin.
We then find several pages of data, with each time the main data, associated with a second which remains fixed on all pages. It is, of course, possible to choose in the options fixed data, for example, to be able to monitor his heart rate or distance constantly traveled regardless of the information displayed above.
The displayable, pages are as follows:
- Average pace
- Calories Burned
- Number of steps
- Distance traveled
- Duration of the training
We then move from one page to another during the effort of a simple sliding of a finger up or down the screen. The responsiveness is pretty good, and the information is readable, without having to put the wrist in front of the face. Once the training is finished, it is automatically saved, and a summary of the session appears on the screen. The data is then transferred via Bluetooth to the Fitbit mobile application (which can also be consulted on the manufacturer’s web platform).
From the app, the exit appears in the “Exercise” section, and you just have to click on it to get all the details of it. We find on the upper part of the screen the number of outings or training made since the beginning of the week and a calendar to see at a glance if we were a big slacker or not. On the page of the output in question, we find its course on a map, but it should be noted that only a graphical view is available. No satellite view at the moment. Below, there is a table listing the time and average pace of each lap (default 1km).
Indeed, it is, for example, impossible to access the curve of its pace from the application, which seems rather strange! Note also that the web version of the Fitbit platform allows you to export its data for reworking in other third-party applications.
And cardio in all this?
Optical heart rate sensors are becoming more prevalent on Fitness watches and sensors, but their accuracy is often a step back from the usual Heart Rate Monitor belts. What about the Fitbit Blaze?
First of all, remember that the watch allows you to keep pace with your rest thanks to an optical sensor that operates continuously at regular intervals. Here, the data are consistent and in the image of those that could be obtained with a cardio belt. The frequency at rest is also an interesting indicator, allowing to appreciate its progression over time easily.
During running training, things get a little complicated. Indeed, if during a race at a moderate pace the frequencies are very close to those of a belt, the sensor of the Fitbit Blaze quickly shows its limits as soon as you raise a little pace. On training in fractional for example, the optical sensor barely because of too much latency making the results displayed inconsistently. By starting a sprint, the heart rate obtained from the belt rises quickly to around 185 BPM while the watch continues to display a 165 BPM pace for several seconds before gently climbing.
Problems that should discourage the most seasoned riders, since it is good to point out that it is not possible to connect a belt Ant + or Bluetooth to the Fitbit Blaze for the moment. For others, and especially beginners and amateurs, the sensor still offers useful indications to track its various outputs and its progress effectively.
Fitbit & Fitstar
In addition to activity tracking and excellent sports outings (running, cycling, hiking, etc …), we find on the Fitbit Blaze a new menu called “FitStar.” It is a variation of the mobile application of the same name, recently bought by Fitbit.
There are currently three types of training: a warm-up, a 7-minute training, and 10-minute training specific to the abdominals. 7-minute workouts have become more fashionable in recent years, allowing those in a hurry to stay in shape with a series of fast-paced exercises.
If the idea is rather good, the realization is however less. After having selected training, that of 7 minutes, for example, the screen shows us the first exercise to realize. An animated silhouette then describes the movement for a few seconds; then it’s up to you for 30 seconds. And there, several negative points are quickly felt.
First of all, the animations are very basic and lack explanations for beginners. Then, during the 30 seconds of effort, the Blaze is not able to use its accelerometer, to count movements, or even to display the animation again to verify that the exercise is well done. The integration seems finally sloppy, and we have done better to view some videos on YouTube to get complete and better-explained training.
The Moov Now, which we were testing recently, also offered a relatively similar feature. However, unlike the Blaze, the exercises were presented on the Smartphone screen, and most importantly, the repetitions counted automatically. Also, many levels of difficulty are proposed, allowing to have a real evolution over the sessions.
Once the session is over, the data is also transferred to your account Fitbit, and it is possible to view the calories burned or the heart rate recorded throughout the session. Not much more to put on the tooth and it is not possible to manually enter its numbers of repetitions to obtain a history and evaluate its progress.
As you can see, the addition of Fitstar to the Blaze is still rather anecdotal, even if we imagine that other training should happen over the updates. However, beginners can still find their account by discovering simple exercises to achieve to keep fit.
Notifications: This is not a Smartwatch
The Fitbit Blaze is sold as a smart fitness watch, so after several days of use, it is clear that the “Smart” part is not the most advanced of the product. Indeed, unlike an Apple Watch or a watch in Android Wear, Blaze notifications are limited only to calls and SMS reception.
A big surprise, since it is not even possible to check his e-mails from the watch. Also, do not imagine being notified of a tweet or message on Instagram. Call and SMS, point bar.
By sliding your finger towards the top of the screen, the last messages are listed, but it is not possible to answer from the watch via a microphone for example. In short, nothing to break three legs to a duck.
By sliding your finger towards the top of the screen, it is possible to disable the notifications (to save the battery for example). Buttons to manage your music are also part of it. For once this is a positive point, although in practice it will pass more naturally by the remote control of his headphones or headphones.
Autonomy: a good point
For a watch with a color LCD touchscreen and monitoring of the heart rate, the Fitbit Blaze is doing well on its autonomy. The manufacturer announces a battery that can hold for five days, and according to our different tests, the contract is well filled.
Obviously, the duration can vary between 4 and six days depending on the use, the number of exercises performed, and notifications received, but overall it remains an excellent point. Small flat however for charging, which requires at least 3 hours.
Speaking of recharge, the latter is via a dock not necessarily very well though, where we will position the sensor after detaching the bracelet. The handling is a bit risky, and we would have liked a system as powerful as the Moto 360 Sport.
So, this Fitbit Blaze, we buy or not? Yes and no. For beginners or anyone wanting to get back into shape, the manufacturer’s new watch has the potential to support users effectively. The monitoring of the activity is efficient and complete, while the management of physical exercises is correct despite the lack of an integrated GPS. A problem that can quickly be solved by keeping your Smartphone with you (this is often the case if you run with music).
However, the tariff positioning of the Fitbit Blaze ( around 250 € ) finally raises many questions. At this price, or even less, there are many sports watches with a GPS and more advanced features, especially for interval training. Also, for fifty euros more, we can move towards an Apple Watch, which for once offers a much more complete environment thanks to the many compatible applications.
By positioning itself as a real in-between, the Blaze finally does not convince despite good ideas and a much more discreet design than conventional GPS watches. The possibilities of evolutions seem so many, and it will keep the product in the eye.