Update: If you're looking for a fitness tracker with a heavy, but not-too-heavy
a lean toward being a smartwatch, the Fitbit Blaze is a competent choice that you can buy for cheaper than ever.
Despite being outdated by way of the Fitbit Ionic, which is basically a true smartwatch, the Blaze is fully featured and comes recommended enough to earn a spot on our list of the best fitness trackers.
Original review follows below.
Fitbit has become a household name when it comes to fitness trackers and wearables in general – and not always for the right reasons. With affordable price points, the company behind some of the earliest fitness trackers to hit the market has consistently released well-received products.
Regardless, Fitbit seems determined to push forward, and show everyone it still has some tricks up its sleeve. And now Fitbit feels that it's time to hit the smartwatch market, taking on the Motorola Moto 360 and the Huawei Watch with the Blaze.
But it has decided to do so without running Android Wear software. That makes it decidedly different from everything else out there, except the Samsung Gear Fit 2, which also straddles that fitness tracking and smartwatch line.
Fitbit Blaze price and release date
- Announced in January 2016 at CES and released a few weeks later
- Easily available now for $199 (£159.99, AU$329.95)
At launch you could buy the Fitbit Blaze for $199 (£159.99, AU$329.95). That price has dropped down a lot so you can now get it for around $150 or £139 from some retailers and we expect to see the price drop even further around Black Friday and Christmas sales.
This is still one of the more expensive Fitbit products though with the price only being beaten by the $250 (£200, AU$350) fitness-focused Fitbit Surge and the new fully fledged smartwatch the Fitbit Ionic at $299.95 (£299.95, AU$449.95).
- Color LCD display, first time for a Fitbit product
- Larger screen than on any other Fitbit
Unlike most other Fitbit devices, the Blaze includes a display, blurring the line between smartwatch and fitness tracker. The display itself is bright and jumps out at you, especially if you're using the right watch face.
Everything is clear on the display, and I feel this is the right size for a smartwatch. From a distance it looks much more like a traditional watch than some other smartwatches out there.
For some reason, Fitbit has decided to go for a square screen here though – I feel it would have been better if Fitbit had used a round display, like on the Moto 360.
And that display isn't going to give you that much information – it's not going to be flush with notifications like the Apple Watch, displaying just basic fitness stats such as your heart rate and steps.
My other problem with the square display is the large bezels around the sides. Fitbit has included some of the thickest bezels I've seen on a smartwatch, and there's a lot of wasted space here; the screen could have been much bigger, or the device could have been much smaller if more thought had been put in here.
To add insult to injury, the Fitbit logo even sits below the main display, which I find irritating whenever I look at it, as it highlights the wasted space – you don't see the Apple logo sitting at the bottom of the screen on the Apple Watch.
Fitbit Blaze specs
OS: Fitbit software
Compatibility: iPhone and Android
Display: Color LCD
Storage: Enough for 7 days of data
Battery life: up to 5 days
Heart Rate tracker: Yes
That said, the screen on the Fitbit Blaze does the job. It's colourful and bright, and you don't need a high resolution on this device, as it's only displaying the odd notification.
One of my biggest bugbears with the Fitbit Blaze, though, is that the screen is often unresponsive. There were multiple times where I'd tap on the screen and nothing would happen. It would wake easily with a flick the wrist, but then I'd sit there swiping left and right for quite some time, trying to get the screen to fire up.
When I have a smartwatch on my wrist, it's usually so that I can get to my information as quickly as possible. But with the Fitbit Blaze I found myself tapping on the screen far more often than I have to with other wearable devices.
Design and comfort
- Comfortable fit, but some may find this to be too large for their wrist
- Looks like a smartwatch, but not as stylish as a lot of other choices
The Fitbit Blaze isn't the best-looking smartwatch you'll ever see. It feels a little like Fitbit decided it wanted to make an Apple Watch-like device, but then didn't go the whole way.
The Blaze is the first Fitbit product with a color touchscreen, and it looks much more appealing than the Surge – and functionality-wise, it does more.
However, what isn't certain is whether it's actually a smartwatch. The Samsung Gear Fit 2 runs into the very same issue. It's certainly simpler than other smartwatches I've seen before.
There's a button on the left side that serves as a home and back command, with two on the right that can be used for volume controls for music.
The right-side buttons also provide an alternative way for you to select exercise options, in case your hands are wet or gloved and aren't registering on the touchscreen. Those are the only buttons on the device, and everything else is controlled via the screen.
As mentioned, the design has proved divisive. It's certainly a different-looking smartwatch, with an outer metal rim for the strap, and those aforementioned bezels.
It does look odd, and I think this is a mistake by Fitbit. I'd much prefer this device if Fitbit had made full use of the space it occupies on my wrist, rather than wasting it.
The watch body of the Blaze can be popped out and placed into another band and frame easily enough. I liked the flatness against my wrist, and it fits nicely. I've got rather large wrists, but it feels like it would fit most people comfortably, even if you're used to smaller devices.
Popping the device back into its frame can be a little confusing though. It fits into the frame either way up, so it's easy to put it in the wrong way up, and not realise until you put the watch on.
And that hexagonal shape is sure to be polarizing for many. On the one hand it's certainly different, but on the other the design feels a bit outdated, although I didn't notice this as much when it's on my wrist due to the overall flat look of the body.
I don't think the metal holder around the screen works all that well. The straps themselves feel good on the wrist, and that's something that Fitbit has managed to nail down after its problems with the irritable Surge straps a few years ago.
The strap is the only option you really have for personalizing your Fitbit Blaze. With a ton of Android Wear and Apple Watch bands available, it's no surprise that Fitbit has decided to offer its own selection of bands and frames.
You can buy a number of different bands from Fitbit directly. For 'formal' occasions Fitbit has created the Luxe band, which comes in black, camel or mist grey leather. There's also a stainless steel version, but sadly we didn't get to play with any of these.
Customising your Fitbit doesn't come cheap, though. The leather bands will cost you $99.95 (£59.99, AU$169.95), while the stainless steel option will cost a little extra, at $129.95 (£89.99, AU$219.95).
Fitbit is also offering the 'classic' elastomer bands, which come in black, blue and plum for $29.95 (£19.95, AU$49.95). These are all comfortable to wear – and crucially, as mentioned, they didn't irritate my wrist.
I had time with both the blue and black 'classic' editions; I haven't seen the purple version, but I'm told it's the same shade of plum as other Fitbit products, so it should be an attractive choice.
Fitbit has confirmed that more strap colors and materials will be available in the future, so that'll be something to look out for if you want a drawer full of different style options – it may get a little expensive though.