Fitbit Charge HR Review

Fitbit Charge HR ReviewIts been about a year since I bought a Fitbit Charge HR and that means its time for a review. This isn’t going to be your normal boring review where I say things such as “I like that its light” or “This feature is great but could be better.” None of that crap. Well – some of that crap.

What I wanted to do instead was share with you a couple of things that happened to me through the eyes of my Fitbit Charge HR. One that cost me over $20,000 and another that saved me $300.

And lets get something straight here. It’s not a Fitbit. It’s a FATBIT.

**Update: 2-28-18**

I wrote this review in Feb 2016 after a year of owning the Fitbit (bought in 2015). And my Charge HR has finally gone kaput. It cracked in half.

Cracked Fitbit Charge HR
Still works!

It was a pretty good run seeing how it lasted almost 3 years with me pretty much wearing the Charge HR everyday. To replace it I bought the Charge 2 and will write a review about it someday.

Everything below this is apart of my original review.**

This is probably the first gadget I’ve bought which I used longer than a couple of days. Wasn’t sure if I was going to like a Fitbit before I bought it as I’ve never been a big fan of watches or anything on my wrists for that matter. With that the first place to start is…

Why I bought a Fitbit Charge HR?

Because all the cool kids had one and were bragging about their steps. Since I don’t care what the cool kids are doing this could not be the reason. The actual reason is I hoped it would tell me / motivate me / impress upon me / inform me on how active/inactive I was.

The last two years have gone by very fast with the addition of two babies in our household. With them being a year and twenty days apart there really hasn’t been any time to get back into any sort of groove with fitness or scheduled activities. Those were all put aside. I knew without those same activities I had been doing for years like playing softball a couple of nights a week it didn’t motivate me to do other workouts for those activities. My hope was that the Fitbit would tell me where my new baseline was.

I decided to go with the Fitbit Charge HR because of two features: the heart rate monitor and the caller id. The Surge looked too big and the Flex didn’t tell time. If I was going to have something on my wrist it better tell time. Saw the Charge cost $130 and the Charge HR was $150. Figured the extra $20 was worth it.

My first impressions of the Fitbit Charge HR were that it was very light and simple to set up. The Fitbit didn’t feel like a watch and I kind of liked that. Took about 10 minutes from unboxing it to setting up an account on Did need to wait an hour for it to fully charge.

While it was charging I played around in my account settings putting things in like height, weight, goals, etc. Kept all of the goal settings like 10,000 steps a day as is. I’m not into playing around with settings on any electronic device (computer, camera, etc.) I buy because I believe the people who built the thing have probably tested it for months or years and know whats best. After all that it was time to wear it and see what the data told me.

The data tells me most of what I knew

I’m not all that active. Most days I’d barely hit 5000 steps. I guess that’s what happens when you work from home and sit on your ass most of the day. Making excuses here but it doesn’t help that I bought the Fitbit Charge HR in January and winters here in Michigan are miserable. I only go outside to take out the trash. Last winter I was playing racquetball with my brother and two friends once a week which provided some interesting data.

Was getting my heart rate in the “Fat Burning” zone an hour or so a day. That’s basically being a blob. Days I moved around I’d be in the 3+ hours of fat burning zone and noticed it. Energy was higher, attitude was better, and didn’t feel as stiff. Never hit the “Cardio Zone” unless I was working out. And the “Peak Zone” = LOL. I’m not in Peak Zone shape right now.

One neat feature of the Fitbit Charge HR and I’m guessing most Fitbits is it allows you to track data for a specific workout. Hold down the button for three seconds and it starts tracking everything you do until you hold down the button for another three seconds. When you’re done it lets you name the activity and is uploaded as a separate log in your Fitbit dashboard.

Here are a couple of my favorite activities from 2015 including the one that cost me $20,000.

Fitbit Charge HR Data

Distance is wrong for my bike ride. The Fitbit Charge HR does not have GPS capabilities so it’s guessing. I know I did 10 miles that day. Was surprised how many steps I took doing Body Beast Build Chest & Tris. Over a half a mile walking to the stand where my Bowflex Selecttech dumbbells are, changing the weight setting, and heading back to the bench.

Didn’t burn as many calories as I thought I would doing Insanity Max:30 Sweat Intervals. Lots of steps though. Not that much data to track doing P90X3 Yoga. The Fitbit Charge HR is not waterproof but it does allow you to add in workouts. This is why you see swimming. Interesting to see I burn 100 more calories swimming a mile versus doing Insanity Max:30 and covering the same amount of ground.

Had to throw in shoveling 2 inches of snow. You could say shoveling snow is a better workout than Insanity Max:30. Probably would have equaled the amount of calories burned if it would have been 3 inches of snow and took me another 13 minutes.

Racquetball. WOW! What a workout. Like I said earlier, I played racquetball just about every week last winter from December to April for an hour and a half. I’d get half of my daily step goal in during those 90 minutes. Over 700 calories burned!! Not sure why it didn’t record a distance. Didn’t record for the other times either.

Played a decent amount of golf this past summer. Rackham Golf Course is in my neighborhood and I usually go there. Sometimes I’d even ride my bike up there with clubs on my back. The data you’re seeing above is half right.

April 17th data is correct. Walked 6.37 miles that day carrying my clubs. Makes you think how many miles the pros and their caddies walk annually. Burned 1936 calories and took 13,687 steps. Was the first time in years where I walked 18 holes. Felt great at the end. Shot a 94.

April 24th data is incorrect. Rode a cart that day. My guess is because my wrist is at about the same height in the cart as me walking that the Fitbit cannot tell the difference between the two. Over half of those numbers are fake. There is a difference of over 500 calories burned between the two. It shows I took almost 300 more steps this day versus the 17th. How could I burn 1475 calories on the 24th with 300 more steps than the 1936 calories burned on the 17th. Shot a 94 that day too. Data shows me I suck walking or riding.

Onto the $20,000 data entry

Notice the Feb 20th entry that says “Workout”. I took 7,122 steps over a 16 hour time period and burned 2,434 calories. This workout started as me doing P90X2 Yoga X? It turned into something much different.

The week leading up to Feb 20th, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan was a cold one. Four of the previous 6 days had lows in the single digits with 4 days being negative degrees. Feb 19th was brutal. The high that day was 6.1 degrees but with windchill it felt like -10.2. It got down to -17.7 with windchill at one point that day.

Feb 20th carried over that intensely brutal cold weather. At 7:53 am it was -21.4 degrees and it felt like it. Andrea stayed home that day with our son. We went about our normal activities and I decided to do P90X2 Yoga X around 2pm where the temp outside was now -7.

I get through the warm up with Tony Horton and the crew and then I hear this pop sound come from the ceiling followed by a kkkssssssshhhhhhhhhhhhhh. A pipe had burst.

We had known there was a possibility of one particular pipe bursting in our house. One selling point of our bungalow was it had an upstairs bathroom. These are hard to come by. When we bought the house we could see water damage on the basement rafters but did not know where the water came from.

The bathroom is not original to our 1952 home. I think the upstairs was an attic/storage area before it was finished into a bedroom and bathroom. When they did the bathroom they decided to run the pipes up from the bathroom on the main floor, into the shower, and then out into what is the attic, and then back through the wall hooking up into the sink.

Instead of running it straight up through the floor and through the cabinet floor (how it’s supposed to be done) the way it was done created an exposed pipe. I had wrapped the pipe with pipe tape, insulation, and blocked it from the rest of the attic. We even left the water dripping the previous 4 nights. When we woke up that morning the pipe had frozen. I guess -21.4 degrees is cold and stuff.

What happened next was I go from Mountain Pose to instant panic. I knew instantly what the sound was. Ran up the stairs, peeked into what we call the dungeon, and could see the water starting to puddle. From here I go into all out crazy mode.

Search for the valve to shut the water off upstairs. There is no valve. Run to downstairs bathroom to turn off upstairs valve. There is no valve. Run into basement and start turning off every valve on that side of the house. By this time water is pouring into the basement where the previous water damage on the rafters was. NO VALVES WORKED. THERE WAS NO SHUT OFF VALVE. BALLLLLLSSSS. Only option is to turn off the main valve to the house.

All of this happened in a 10 minute time period. There was no real damage and luckily we were home when it happened. Some of the water puddled up in the ceiling of my office and dripped through but most of it found its way down the wall between the office and the downstairs bathroom into the basement and into a drain.

What does all of this have to do with a Fitbit Charge HR?

Well – this is what it looked like through the eyes of data.

Fitbit Charge HR Pipe Bursting Data

My normal resting heart rate is 68. This shows four hours of data where I averaged 93. Its like I ran a marathon. Notice how I go from lets call it 80 during my Yoga warmup to 135 in what appears to be minutes. That’s me freaking out running up and down stairs followed by a steady decline but still at an elevated heart rate. I was alive and flat lining.

The remaining 3 hours of data involved me and my dad (who fortunately is a pipe fitter) running back and forth to Home Depot buying supplies and him showing me how to repair it with Shark Bites. Turned the water back on a couple of hours later and we’re good to go.

We got done with everything around 9 pm. In the log above this chart it says over a 16 hour period. I forgot to turn off (hold the button down for 3 seconds) the activity tracker until 6 am the next morning. The 7,122 steps and 2,434 calories burned happened in the 4 hours above.

Which leads into us spending $20,000

Winter turned into spring and then into summer and us welcoming another baby into the world. The only room available for a new baby to go into was my office where water leaked into. We did not want to renovate the bathroom in 2015 as we had remodeled our kitchen and put a new roof on in 2014. With this though we did not want to have to worry about another pipe bursting over our now sons room this winter.

To fix the problem we had to rip up the floor. To rip up the floor we had to remove the cabinet. To remove the cabinet we had to remove the closet. You see where I’m going with this. Might as well renovate the entire bathroom if half of it is going to be ripped up.

We bite the bullet and started renovating around Thanksgiving to have it done before winter set in. My dads old golf partner did the work. During the estimate process I told him I work from home and could be the “Bucket Bitch” on demo day (i.e, him smashing stuff, putting it in buckets, me walking it down stairs and throwing it into the dumpster) if it would save us some money. He agreed to $300. Did I ever get a workout that day.

Here is what the Fitbit Charge HR told me I did on Demo Day

Fitbit Charge HR Bathroom Demo Day

Worked 9-6 that day. Had 18k steps, 8.45 miles, 110 floors, and 6 hours in the fat burning zone. Would be interesting to see how much weight I carried in the buckets that day. This was the most steps, miles, and floors I had done in a day ever since owning a Fitbit. They just all happened to be on the same day.

Fitbit Skyscraper BadgeThe next day I received an email from Fitbit congratulating me on earning a Skyscraper Badge. Its given out to those who climb over 100 floors in a day. Basically I was a bad ass for a day.

I’ve earned a couple other badges but I like this one the most because it reminds me I spent $20,000 renovating a bathroom. It also tells me I saved $300 going up and down stairs with plastic Home Depot buckets full of 15 year old shower tiles.

Got to hand it to the people who do this kind of job every day. I felt ok the next day. Didn’t over do it taking stuff out to the dumpster. Kept a nice pace throughout the day.

The bathroom was finished in about a month and turned out very nice. Shouldn’t have to worry about pipes bursting again as the plumbers fixed the pipe issue.

Houston – We Have A Problem

Things were going well with my Fitbit Charge HR for about 9 months. It had become a part of me. Kind of like a like a cell phone in that I had to have it on me all the time and never would I leave the house without it.

Broken Fitbit Charge HRFor some reason Fitbit designed the Charge HR in two pieces. I don’t see why it needs to be two pieces. One day the small plastic piece popped off when I was detaching it from charging and it never was the same. The small piece continued to pop off just about every time I took it off from wearing and definitely when detaching from charging. The piece did pop back on but I became tired of dealing with it and would leave it off sometimes.

This really wasn’t a deal breaker for me. What did become a deal breaker was in early December my Fitbit started to not sync at all. I could tell it was tracking steps but nothing was syncing with my iPhone or iMac. I tried every troubleshooting tip and nothing was working. When I went to re-install the set up software on my iMac it did not recognize the Dongle which is a small Bluetooth device Fitbit gives you to plug into a USB port that syncs your Fitbit when you come within a certain distance of it. Recognized it before but not now. Story of my life.

Turns out a lot of people were having the same issues as I was around the same time. Appears Fitbit did a software update which automatically happens and it did more harm than good. I got the Fitbit to work for a day by turning off the caller id function. It back synced weeks worth of data but didn’t work again.

I knew my Fitbit Charge HR still had a month left on the manufacturers one year warranty. With it not syncing and the plastic piece falling off I figured it would be worth it to see if I could get a replacement. Told customer support I had bought the Fitbit Charge HR at Dicks Sporting Goods and still had the receipt.  Two days later they responded with this message.

Fitbit Customer Service

Apologize about the small text. It says they were sending me a new one. Good news. From there it was a quick turn around time as the emails I received from Fitbit shows.

Fitbit Customer Service Replies

The new Fitbit Charge HR was ordered and shipped on the same day. Was very happy. Have my new one now and its working fine. After all of that you can see I have been very pleased with it so far. It’s this thing that’s on my arm. Its kind of boring looking and I’m cool with that. I think I prefer it over a fancy watch.

The feature I liked the most

Was the Caller ID. Paired the Fitbit with my iPhone. When somebody called a name would scroll on the small screen if they were saved as a contact in your phone or a number if they were not. It vibrates too.

I liked the Caller ID for when I was driving as I could take a quick glance at my wrist instead of reaching for my phone. Came in handy playing racquetball. The court we played at didn’t have any glass boxes built into the courts wall where you could put your phones and keys so we had to keep them outside. With a 7 month at home and another one on the way it was imperative I be near a phone. This let me keep the phone outside the court and not worry about missing a call.

Just about every time I play golf I put my iPhone in my bag and turn it to vibrate. Phone calls mean important. Texts are not important. Caller ID let me be available without having to keep my phones volume on. Didn’t mess with my swing either. Most of the time I played golf I didn’t even notice I was wearing the Fitbit until I took it off and had a tan line on my wrist.

The feature I used the least

Was the calorie tracker. It’s a very cool feature if you’re into counting calories. Me – not so much. I did use it for about a month and logged in everything. It started to feel like work and I lost interest. Checking the Fitbit app on my iPhone every couple of hours to see if I’m over/in the zone/ or under calories is too much.

I can see how it would be helpful to people wanting to lose weight or on a strict meal plan for their workout routine. I’m neither. I’ll throw in the feature that lets you track how many glasses of water you drink in a day. Again – information overload. When I’m thirsty I’ll drink.

The feature that I could care less about

Was the sleep tracker. I wore it to bed a couple of times and the data didn’t really mean that much to me. Mainly because I knew when I woke up if I was rested or not. Going to bed earlier solves that problem for me. By bedtime I was ready to take the Fitbit Charge HR off. Thing needs some air.

2015 Year End Stats

2015 Fitbit Year End Stats

I really don’t know how to interpret this data. I’m going to drop the total steps to 2,300,000 and total miles to 1,000 due to the amount of times I rode in a cart while golfing.

I know I hit 10,000 steps a day on average once a week. I also didn’t wear my Fitbit Charge HR the whole month of December as it was broken. So those numbers might be accurate if I did. But man, does that mean the average American is half as active as me? That’s concerning considering I pretty much sat on my ass last year watching my oldest kid and taking care of another baby. I was sitting all the time.

Could also be the average American doesn’t keep their Fitbit on as long as I do throughout the day getting those additional 800 or so steps walking around the house. I put the Fitbit on within 10 minutes of getting up and don’t take it off until 7pm for the babies bath time.

In Summary

I really like the Fitbit Charge HR. I’ll probably continue to wear it as much as I do now for the foreseeable future. I know there are other devices out there like the iWatch that do everything the Fitbit does but I don’t think I’ll make the switch. The Fitbit looks and feels durable. The fancier things get the more cautious I am using them. Plus, my iPhone does everything else. Sometimes more is more and there are some things I don’t need more of.

I haven’t bought into the “I have to hit 10,000 steps a day. If I haven’t hit that goal by 9:52 pm then I’m heading out for a walk and not coming back until I do” mentality yet. Maybe I’ll get into that mindset when spring comes around and I can do things outside with my kids.

Right now, the Fitbit Charge HR is this thing on my wrist. Sometimes it tells me stuff. Sometimes it doesn’t. I’m cool with both.

Send me a friend request on Fitbit if you want to impress me with your stats and be underwhelmed by mine.

About the Author: Brad Gibala

Shreds Gnar. Hall & Oates Fan. Practicing Libertarian. Beachbody Coach. Detroit-ish. Contact - Start Here - About - Recommends

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