Last September I wrote about the Fitbit Flex and how it had worked for me in terms of losing weight and becoming more fit. Since I bought the Flex the Charge and the Surge models were released, but I considered that the Flex was more than good enough for my needs.

However, a couple of weeks ago I traveled to New York, and said to myself that if the Fitbit Charge was available at a good price tax-free at the airport, I may possibly consider buying one. That ‘good price’ was £80 as they’re usually £100.

No ‘killing time’ mope around a Heathrow departure lounge is complete without a survey of the goods on offer in Dixons (or whatever they call it these days), and there were the Fitbits… and there was the Fitbit Charge… priced at £65. Even so, I spent a while debating the merits – it’s bigger than the Flex, and the Flex is really good enough, but the Charge has that little read-out with the real number of calories, steps and distance, and you don’t have to do that strange multiple tap to put it into sleep mode. Eventually I decided – yes – and took the box to the till. Immediately the assistant walked back over to the Fitbit selection, grabbed a Charge HR and stated…

This one has a heart monitor

To which I replied…

I know, but I don’t want a heart monitor

Not a very interesting exchange of views, I grant you. I’m not really bothered with having a heart monitor. I know if my heart is beating fast. And if I’m running and my heartbeat is 120, what am I going to do about it? I run to a pace that I can keep for an hour or so, and I know that pace doesn’t cause me to have an over-zealous heartbeat or get dangerously out of breath.

Fitbit ChargeAnyway, after an uneventful flight (I watched Interstellar*), getting to the hotel, going to the office and then a meeting – and then dinner – the Charge was, errr, charged. Set-up was simple, attaching it to the Surface Pro 3 (nice bit of kit) with the USB connector, installing the sync tool and registering the Charge against my account. You can, by the way, have more than one Fitbit device attached to your account – if one sits idle, data will be synced from the active one.

And to be honest (this isn’t much of a review) there’s not much else to say. Now I can press the Charge’s one button to cycle through a readout of calories burned, steps, distance and flights of stairs conquered (stairs is an addition over the Flex) which is better than the Flex’s system of dots. The order in which you see things is configured in the Fitbit dashboard, and you can also select from four different styles of time display. A double-tap on the face will display the time. Pushing and holding the button starts a stopwatch, which is actually an ‘exercise mode’ tracking stats until you press and hold again (so you can get stats specifically for that workout). Sleep mode is automatic, there’s no having to tap the device a few times (which has annoyed the sleeping Mrs A on a couple of occasions).

The battery life is very good – the Flex needs to be charged about every five days, but so far (after two weeks) the Charge lasts seven days. The band is wider than the Flex, but the face doesn’t sit any prouder from the wrist – it’s comfortable and the bigger clasp is much easier to click into place. Like the Flex, the Charge offers a silent vibrating alarm which really does wake you up.

Call notifications are also available, if your mobile phone supports it – my Windows Phone doesn’t, but it’s coming. A nice-to-have but I’m not really bothered.

As expected, a number of people have asked me why I bought an updated Fitbit and not a Microsoft Band. Yep, good question. My colleague Andrew bought a Band in New York, a bit cheaper than the UK price, and looking at his I contemplated whether I would have bought one too had I not just coughed up for the Charge. The Band was however more than twice the price, and I like the social element of my Fitbit league. I will continue with my strategy of not buying something first-generation and wait for the Band 2 (I know nothing about it, but you know there’ll be one at some point).

* Interstellar – it was quite good overall but the ending left me feeling cheated in the same way as that Jodie Foster movie Contact… you know, when she got to the alien planet and she was greeted by a creature made to look like her father because she’d be comfortable with that. A bit of a cop-out.

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