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Sep 22

Fitbit BLAZE Fitness Trackers
Fitbit BLAZE Fitness Tracker Review

Fitness and activity tracking wearables continue to be a hot topic several years into their development. Refinements, added functionality, apps and accessories have expanded the market even further. I have tested several devices from Withings, Nike and Motorola. I wanted to try something new for several upcoming trips and I saw that the BLAZE looked cooler than their Charge HR. The Fitbit BLAZE is my first experience with the brand. I picked up an XL from a local AT&T Store.

Disclosure: I received a Fitbit BLAZE Smartwatch at no cost for review. I have not received compensation for this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Some photos are courtesy of Fitbit.


Fitbit BLAZE Unboxing Video By Chris R @24k

What’s In The Box:
- Fitbit BLAZE XL
- Charging Adapter
- Frame and Silicon Rubber Watch Band

A heart rate sensor on this activity tracker is located on the underside of the Fitbit. It protrudes slightly to secure readings while in use. I like its design over what other smartwatches and activity trackers have, including the Motorola Moto 360 and Apple Watch.

Features of the BLAZE include:
- PurePulse™ Heart Rate monitoring
- Multi-sport compatible
- On-screen workouts
- Workout summaries of statistics
- Tracks all-day activity
- SmartTrack
- Smart notifications
- Auto sleep tracking and silent alarms
- Music control
- Long battery life of up to 5 days
- Syncs wirelessly via standard Bluetooth and BT Low Energy
- Water resistant
- iPhone and Android Compatible

Fitbit expanded their thin bracelet design into a full sized smartwatch for the BLAZE. I immediately noticed that the bands felt nice against my skin and has an open frame design, which locked the Fitbit into place.

The screen on this smartwatch was visible in direct noon sunlight this summer. I like that it has a bright screen with great contrast and is responsive to my taps for various tasks. Swiping trough multiple screens was easy too.

Previous activity trackers that I have tried either have a nice feeling band or a secure fitting buckle, but not both. The BLAZE has both and a little extra, in the form of a securing nib, which fits into the top part of the adjustment band. Runners will like this design feature.

Tracking all day activity is important to me, as I needed something that could track steps; stairs climbed and sleep if I wanted. The other trackers I have can do some of these things, but not to the precision or with ease.

Fitbit BLAZE Hong Kong 10k Steps
Fitbit BLAZE Hong Kong 10k Steps

My first trip with the Fitbit was to Hong Kong and Shenzhen. Both cities had 100% humidity the entire time I was there. I felt comfortable with the BLAZE on my wrist during my visit. My other activity trackers on my other wrist formed mini blisters, so I had to place them in my pocket for about half of the trip.

Fitbit BLAZE in Paris France
Fitbit BLAZE in Paris, France

The second trip I used the BLAZE was in Paris. The humidity was lower, in the 60% range, but it also rained several times. I liked that this smartwatch is water resistant and that there are no open charging ports. Open ports on activity trackers do not make sense to me.

Unfortunately, I did not bring the specialized charging adapter for the Fitbit on my second trip. The BLAZE requires you to remove the main module from the frame and insert it into a charging box. The box creates enough pressure on small pins to charge it in about two hours.

I left the smartwatch on in my carry-on bag so it would count my steps during my journey to Paris. It was fully charged before leaving for the airport. Standard Bluetooth mode was turned off. The Quick View option was turned off, so the screen would not turn on by accident. Bluetooth Low Energy is always on and cannot be turned off, unless the entire device is shutdown. The battery died when I reached my hotel in Paris, on the first evening.

Trying to find the proper charger, while in Paris, was a futile task. I would have had to purchase another complete unit just for the charger. If I was in the US, I maybe could have ordered a charger from Fitbit’s website. Always bring your charger.

Charging is the main problem for smartwatches and activity trackers. My Withings Ox has a standard micro USB charging port, but it is not water resistant. The Moto 360 uses Qi wireless to charge and its coil is enclosed inside of the smartwatch, which makes it less susceptible to water damage.

Showing my friends and colleagues the Fitbit BLAZE was met with several comments that were nearly the same from all of them. They liked its design, feel and great features. However, they said how it charges could be a deal breaker. These device companies have to agree on a standardized way of charging, for easy to find adapters. At least with the Moto 360, I could charge it with a portable battery with Qi, like this model from one of my reviews on MacTrast.

What always fascinated me about Fitbit was the design of their iPhone app and mobile website, which showcases personal statistics. They have the best design for an activity-tracking app for any activity tracker or smartwatch I have used.

Finding out sleeping patterns with this smartwatch was easy. Over the last month of testing, my goal was to add about 45 minutes of extra sleep. By wearing it to bed, the BLAZE automatically detected when I went to sleep, when I moved around and when I woke up the next morning. On average, I added about 20 extra minutes of sleep each night, with the help of this tracker.

Cross platform compatibility with the BLAZE is a big reason why it is so popular. People like the ability to use it with an iPhone or an Android smartphone. While using it with an iPhone, its Smart Notifications show incoming text messages and who is calling. I like that the entire text message shows up on the screen rather than only who sent it. It does not show photo messages though.

Controlling which tracks are playing from my iPhone is an easy task with the Fitbit. By swiping down on the main screen, the options to play, pause, go back or skip tracks appear. Swiping up shows a scrollable list of notifications and the time, in the top right corner.

Silent alarms are something that I have found out to be very helpful. Other people tell me that they purchase activity trackers and smartwatches for this very feature. A small vibration on the wrist reminded me to get up and walk around, answer calls and read texts. A recent firmware update to the smartwatch has fixed some nagging issues users were having with it too.

On-screen workouts through FitStar was interesting to use, as it walked me through how to warm up, perform a seven minute workout or 10 minute abs. For 10-minute abs, it shows what to do in a list. Tapping play starts a countdown timer under the first task, which is bicycle kicks. It progress from there.

The Fitbit BLAZE does not have built-in GPS, but it does utilize the GPS on your phone for running and biking exercises. Running options include turning on run cues, using the phone’s GPS and showing a secondary stat like elapsed time, distance, pace (current or average), heart rate, calories burned, steps or time of day.

Fitbit BLAZE Single Smartwatch
Fitbit BLAZE Single Smartwatch

Customization for the smartwatch come via exchangeable bands, multiple digital watch faces, colors and sizes. I chose XL in black, with a silver frame. A newly announced color comes in black and gunmetal, for an extra fee. Fitbit has an all-metal band too, which looks nice.

Overall, the Fitbit BLAZE is better than a majority of the smartwatches and activity trackers I have tried. Its design, compatibility, app and user interface, feature set, color and style options should make it a great choice for those that want to own a fully featured activity tracker. The only caveat for this model is its charging cable, but at least it can charge in two hours, which should provide five days of battery power. Pickup a size of the BLAZE that fits you, at the AT&T Store, starting at $199.

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