Fitbit Surge Review – Opt for a Garmin Instead
Fitbit Surge is one of the most powerful Fitbit, packing plenty of features in a mid-range wearable. Having been launched in 2014, it has been around for quite a while but is still one of the most popular fitness tracking products from Fitbit. The watch has been designed with Fitness tracking to be the primary goal. Even the name Smartwatch does not really apply to it; fitness tracker is more of an accurate description. Costing around $250, Fitbit Surge is priced at the higher mid-range level. But is it worth your money? Join us as we peak beneath its smart hood in our Fitbit Surge review.
If you are short of time, we have started with a quick overview to give you a basic idea of what Surge is all about. For a more comprehensive review, jump to the design section further below. If we have left anything out about Fitbit Surge, feel free to leave your comments below.
The first thing you will notice about Fitbit Surge is the size. It is bigger than most fitness trackers and Smartwatches and feels even bulkier when you strap it onto your wrist. If you love small minimalist watches, this might not be exactly what you are looking for.
While it seems that Fitbit threw everything they had in making Surge into a decent fitness tracker, it is unfortunate that it does not bring anything groundbreaking from the table. Do not expect any unique or amazing features. What you will find is found in many other fitness trackers from brands like Garmin and Pebble. It also comes with a number of limitations that prevent it from being useful to serious athletes and fitness enthusiasts.
One good feature is GPS. With satellite connectivity on your wrist, you can easily plan and review your running or cycling routes. As a bonus, you do not have to keep carrying your phone with you when you go on a run. It also comes with a heart rate monitor and multi-sport tracking.
When it comes to connectivity, only the bare basics are included. You can receive texts and call alerts but no emails. It also does not work with any third party apps.
This is a wearable for anyone interested in a gadget for basic fitness tracking. It is not for the serious athlete nor should it be relied upon for serious fitness tracking.
Fitbit Surge Review
1. Design – Eek
There is not much to love about the design of Fitbit Surge. To put it in a few words, it is clunky, ugly and dull. That’s quite a shame for Fitbit considering just how much style matters when it comes to wearables. A later update by Fitbit introduced 3 different sizes; small, large and extra large. Still, the bulky look refuses to go away.
The watch features a bland rectangular screen with a dull gray bezel and casing. There is nothing interesting about the watch’s design. Combined with the bulky size, it almost feels like a huge chunk of rock sitting on your wrist. But at least you have 3 choices of straps; blue, black and tangerine. If you buy a certain strap style, you had better be satisfied with it because the straps are not replaceable. This is another major downside of the Fitbit Surge in an age where smartwatch manufacturers allow users to use third party straps.
Three large buttons grace the sides of the watch, providing easy control of the watch interface.
If you plan to use Surge on the track and in the gym, its rugged design will not look out of place. But it is not something to wear to the office or party. The awkwardly bulky and bland design will seem out of place. This is a big disadvantage for the many users who want to track their activities all the time.
As for comfort, the straps feel very cozy on your wrist. They have a texture similar to that of a fabric and feel quite soft and comfortable on your skin. But beware of wearing it for too long as it could cause skin rashes. (https://www.engadget.com/2014/12/15/fitbit-charge-skin-irritation-complaints/)
2. Display For Minimalists
As if the dull casing is not enough, the display is devoid of color. The grayscale display makes the Surge feel like a slightly tech version of a digital stopwatch. But with a screen larger than some of its predecessors, more information is fitted onto the screen. You can easily swipe or click through multiple stats and menus either on the screen or using the side buttons.
To customize the watch face, Fitbit provides only four display options all of them displaying just the time and date in different styles. Overall, a bit more customization options would have made the Fitbit Surge a lot more appealing.
The display features a backlit ever-on display that makes it easy to keep track of your metrics when you are on a run.
Overall, Fitbit could do much better when it comes to the display. A color display combined with a more intuitive interface could have made for a much more satisfying user experience.
Fitbit Surge is actually the first Fitbit to feature built-in GPS. It is perhaps an attempt by Fitbit to enter into serious fitness and athletics training. A few button presses will get the Surge’s GPS firing up. It takes around a full minute for the connection to lock in. Once connected, it holds the connection strongly until you turn it off.
With GPS, you can plan your route ahead of time and even check your progress as you go through your run or ride. The GPS is not perfectly accurate but for basic activity tracking, it is not too bad. One big advantage of GPS is that it allows you to compete against your earlier performances. You can run the same route twice and compare your times.
It’s a big step for Fitbit to include GPS in one of its fitness trackers. But it still has a long way to go before they can make it good enough to turn the head of serious athletes. In any case, a fairly good GPS feature is marred by other no so great features of the watch. It feels like another fitness tracker could have made better use of the GPS.
If you are looking for a serious GPS-connected fitness tracker, we would highly recommend one of the acclaimed Garmin products. Garmin is simply unbeatable when it comes to GPS wearables. But for everyday fitness tracking, the GPS of Fitbit Surge is adequate.
4. Heart Rate Monitor
A heart rate monitor is now considered a standard feature in Smartwatches and fitness trackers. It would have been a surprise if Fitbit had not included it in Surge. This is not a medical-level heart rate monitor and some fitness trackers even have a better monitor. But it will give you a pretty good idea of your heart rate during your workout. Fitbit has made some updates to improve its accuracy.
By monitoring the heart rate, the Surge is able to calculate various other metrics such as calories burned and number of hours slept. It can even detect automatically when you fall asleep by monitoring your heart rate.
One good aspect of the heart rate monitor is that it tracks your heart rate continuously. This is unlike some fitness trackers that you need to tell to start taking your heart rate. With continuous heart rate monitoring, you can keep track of your fitness whether you are running or sitting down in your office.
5. Activity and Sleep Tracking
Fitbit Surge is a pretty good activity tracker though we would still not recommend it for serious fitness buffs and professional athletes. For that, a Garmin fitness tracker would be more appropriate. The watch packs 8 sensors within it to help keep track of a variety of activities and movements. It can count the amount of distance you have run or walked, the number of steps you have taken, your speed and even the number of floors you have climbed thanks to an inbuilt altimeter. Add heart rate monitoring to these and you have a well-rounded fitness tracker for the everyday runner.
Fitbit Surge is a multi-sport activity tracker, allowing users to track multiple types of activities. You can use it when running, cycling, weight lifting and yoga among others. Unfortunately, you cannot track your swimming since the watch is not waterproof.
All the activity information collected is uploaded when you sync the watch with your phone or computer. You can then review it on the Fitbit app and see your progress over time.
As for sleep, Surge is a decent sleep tracker. It will automatically know when you fall asleep and will, with average accuracy, measure your sleep quality and quantity. Sleep tracking has become even better after Fitbit added a new feature called Sleep Schedule to the Fitbit app. The feature not only monitors your sleep but actually helps you establish a consistent sleep schedule that is good for your health and fitness.
Fitbit Surge does not offer much in the way of connectivity. This year, Fitbit tried to make up for this by releasing Fitbit Blaze, a more smartwatch-oriented wearable with better connectivity options. Surge offers basic options to satisfy essential connectivity feeds.
The most important thing is the ability to upload your data from the watch to the companion app. You can do this easily by wirelessly syncing the watch with your phone or computer. The watch and app are compatible with many Android, iOS and Windows phones, though you should first check the full list of compatible devices.
When connected to your phone, Surge offers a few smartwatch capabilities. It will show you the caller ID of incoming calls and allow you to read incoming texts on your watch. But you cannot get any app or email alerts. You can also control music on your phone using your watch. This includes pausing, playing and going to the next track on your playlist.
7. Battery Life
For all its frustrations, Fitbit Surge performs well when it comes to battery life. Instead of having to recharge it every few hours, you can use the watch for 7 to 10 days before needing to plug it in. Of course, this depends on your level of usage. For instance, if you connect to your phone often, expect the battery to drain quickly. Having GPS always on also guarantees a quick power drain. With normal usage, you just need to recharge it once a week. That is a huge advantage.
If you are looking for a fitness tracker that you can keep on your wrist the whole day long and not have to leave it charging every night, this is it.
There are plenty of split opinions when it comes to the pricing of Fitness Surge. Some feel that the $250 price tag is too much for the features offered on the watch. The sentiment is that it is not worth that much. Others contend that it is a fair price considering the high price tags of competitors such as Apple Watch.
Our verdict is split between the two. While you could call $250 average pricing, there is still the nagging feeling that it is a bit too much for what is on offer. The design is not exactly the best, there is a severe lack of customization and the features are not something to write home about. At best, this is a sub $200 fitness tracker.
- Multi-sport and all-day tracking capability.
- Sleep tracking feature.
- Includes a continuous heart rate monitor.
- Only protected against rain, sweat and splashing but should not be submerged.
- Non-color LCD display.
- Includes various sensors; accelerometer, gyroscope, compass, altimeter, ambient light sensor and GPS.
- Wireless connectivity to your phone or computer for easy syncing and data upload.
- 7-10 day battery life with a 2-hour charge period.
Best Fitbit Surge Alternatives
Immediately Fitbit thought of adding GPS to Surge, they entered into competition with big brands such as Garmin. With a rapidly heating up market, Fitbit has to up its game. If it does not impress you, a close alternative is Microsoft Band. The Moto 360 Sport, with its GPS connectivity is also a close competitor. Other alternatives in the same price range ($200-$400) include Misfit Shine, UA Band and Apple Watch Sport.
If you want something designed for the serious athlete try Garmin Vivosmart HR+, Casio Pro Trek PRW3000, Suunto Traverse Alpha and Garmin Fenix 3.
Fitbit made a good attempt at creating a dedicated fitness tracking watch but they missed a few points. Hopefully, they will solve limitations and problems present in Surge in future fitness trackers.
What do you think of Fitbit Surge? Is it worth your money? Please leave your comments below.