FitBit Surge review: Part two

OK, in the first part of my review of FitBit’s Surge (Super Fitness Watch) I covered some basics about the watch itself. Today, I’m looking at how it actually functions during exercise (I mean, that’s what it’s primarily for, right?)

FitBit's smart phone app tracks all your exercise so that it's easy to go through.

FitBit’s smart phone app tracks all your exercise so that it’s easy to go through.

Over the past two weeks I’ve used the Surge during bike rides, walks with the dog and walks/runs during the week. The exercise function is accessed by pressing the button on the watch’s left side, which gives you the option to record runs or exercise.

The exercise option is broken down into several options:  Currently I have Hike, Workouts, Weights, Spinning, Biker and Walk but the watch will let you customise up to seven options ranging from Kickboxing and Yoga to Stair climbing and Golf.

I was particularly interested to see how the Surge worked with bike rides and while I don’t ride my bike as much as I used to, I still like to pedal the tarmac a couple of times a week. I was particularly interested in having an active heart rate monitor that didn’t require me to wear a cumbersome chest strap.

Not long before I got the Surge, Strava, a bike recording app, had announced it was compatible with the Surge so rides would be saved to the Strava app, which is great because I use that app on my LG smart watch to record bike rides as well as a Magellan Cyclo 100 cycle computer. I was also interested to see out of the Surge & the Magellan which was most accurate.

Starting the Surge to record activity only requires a couple of button presses and I found that it generally found GPS satellites quickly (there is an option to do a quick start which starts recording your activity and will vibrate when it’s located satellites).

I found that the Surge found satellites much quicker than my Magellan cycle computer, which I was most pleased with. During one ride, the Magellan didn’t lock onto a GPS signal until about 2 minutes after I’d actually started my ride, meaning it was already behind recording my activity.

The Surge will track overall distance using GoogleMaps and its inbuilt GPS.

The Surge will track overall distance using GoogleMaps and its inbuilt GPS.

The bike setting recorded all the stats that I needed: Average speed, distance covered and heart rate and I noticed that when I put in a really hard effort, such as sprints or climbing, the heart rate would pop onto the display. Uploading the details to my PC broke down the information even further, telling me how long my HR had been in the peak, cardio and fat burning zones.

My heat rate broken down by the FitBit Surge into peak, cardio and fat burning periods.

My heart rate broken down by the FitBit Surge into peak, cardio and fat burning periods.

Looking at the information in more depth, graphs for speed, calories burnt and HR actually have sliders which can show you exactly what speed you were doing at each point during your ride, how many calories you were burning a minute and what your heart rate got up to.

For example, when I was averaging 30km/h, my HR was peaking at 158bpm (beats per minute) and I was burning 7.6 calories a minute. That’s quite mind-blowing.

Overall, I was impressed with FitBit’s Surge, given that it’s a good all-rounder for a variety of exercise options. I like it so much that it’s knocked my LG Smart Watch off my wrist and it’s making me keep active during the day.

While it might not be cycling-specific (if you’re the kind of person who wants a cycling-specific monitor then you’ll probably want to look at something from Garmin, perhaps), the Surge ticked all the boxes for me as someone who likes to do a variety of activities.

The Surge gets two thumbs up from me.

Fitbit Surge: Part 1




This is the first part of several posts on my time with Fitbit’s Surge super fitness watch. For this one, I pretty much just talk about the watch.

It’s amazing how one image can convey so much information about what’s happened during one week.

The image above is a screen grab of my Fitbit dashboard and its tells me – and now you if you click on it (you’ll also see what other tabs I’ve got open) – how active I’ve been over the past week, thanks to Fitbit’s Surge Super Fitness Watch (hence forth just to be called Surge).

See the green circle at the top left with the black lightning bolt in it? That’s congratulating me on doing 80 minutes of exercise today (at time of writing, July 23). Underneath the “How much exercise minutes I’ve done” graph are little Google Maps icons showing the places I’ve travelled so far during a week of bike rides and walks.

That bar graph next to it? With all the different coloured bars? That’s telling me how many steps I’ve taken during the day. If I hover over each bar I can find out how many steps I took each hour.

The dashboard tells me that I should be aiming for 70,000 steps a week – 10,000 a day: As of Thursday night, July 23 I’ve managed 73,369.

I’ve only had the Surge for one week and already I can’t live without it. It’s replaced my LG Smart Watch, too (at least for the time being) and I’m just amazed at the plethora of information that the Surge gives me about my sleep and how active I am during the day. It’s on my  wrist 24.7 (apart from when it needs charging).

I’ve always tried to keep fit: Riding my bike as many times during the week as work and family commitments allow, walking with my wife during the weekends and talking the dog for a walk most days. When I bought an HTC One M8 phone earlier this year it had Fitbit software pre-installed and I was fascinated at how many steps I could walk during a typical day.

My current part-time job can involve a lot of walking, depending on the job I’m doing that day, and I started using the Fitbit software to compare days, seeing which days I was most active and which days I needed to up the activity.

So when I was offered a Fitbit Surge to review, I jumped at the chance. I’m going to do this review over a few posts, too: There’s just too much for one post.

The Watch: simply if a little chunky

The watch itself has an active backlit OLED touch screen, a nice flexible rubber strap and three buttons: One on the left, two on the right.

It’s quite chunky, though, and on the back is a USB charging port (but it’s not a standard USB fitting) and the optical Heart Rate monitor, which continuously scans your heart rate using two (safe) green LEDS which measure your heart rate by detecting blood flow and capillary size changes under pressure.

It’s all very technical but it’s nice to see a sports heart rate monitor that doesn’t force you to wear a chest strap. (As a comparison of the HR monitors, my LG Smart Watch has an HR function which I find next to useless: I have constant trouble trying to read my HR with it).

One of the several watch faces you can pick on the Fitbit Surge.

One of the several watch faces you can pick on the Fitbit Surge.

The step counter shows how many steps you've done in a day.

The step counter shows how many steps you’ve done in a day.

The Fitbit Surge has a continuous optical Heart Rate monitor.

The Fitbit Surge has a continuous optical Heart Rate monitor.

The Surge measures all the things you’d expect a fitness watch to: Calories burned, steps, distance and heart rate, as well as the number of floors you’ve travelled. You can access all those metrics by swiping the screen.

The data can be synchronised to your smartphone where you can see things in more details (and in colour: the Surge’s screen is monochromatic). I found that I got a few steps when I did simple things like move my wrist to pick something up so while you might find a few extra steps at the end of the day, I found the Surge to be accurate. You also get a nice notification when you’ve reached 10,000 steps for the day.

I found the watch comfortable to wear – the rubber strap is soft and flexible – but you have to make sure that it’s not too loose otherwise the HR won’t be able to get an accurate reading.

Another useful function is that you can track your sleep with the Surge and it will breakdown how many hours you got and how many times you were restless or awake.

Fitbit touts that the Surge has a battery life of five to six days but I found that using the GPS functionality every day meant that I was getting around three to four days on a single charge. That’s still good, in my book. It comes with a wireless dongle that plugs into a USB port on your computer so you can sync the data from your watch easily.

As I said, I’m wearing the Surge pretty much 24/7 and am  so far really impressed with what it’s capable of. I’ve used it for several bike rides and walks but more on that in another post.

OK, that’s it for this post, in the next one I’ll go into more detail about how the watch handles strenuous exercise and go more indepth about what all the graphs mean.