Sunday, 11 December 2016 16:53

Fitbit Charge 2 – a fine fitness band (review)


Fitness bands now dominate 85% of the wearables market – they do a great job tracking your fitness without pretending to be anything more.

Fitbit’s new Charge 2 is an honest, no-fuss device that at $249.95 offers everything you could want in an unobtrusive, svelte, band style device. It offers:

  • PurePulse continuous and interval heart rate tracking
  • Al day activity tracking and auto sleep tracking
  • Multi-sport modes
  • Long battery life (to five days)
  • Guided breathing session
  • Call, text and calendar alerts as well as connected GPS (needs a smartphone)
  • One of the best fitness apps for iOS, Android, Windows Mobile, and has a desktop web interface
  • Interchangeable elastomer bands – A$49.95 black, blue, plum or teal and touch AMOLED screen

The best way to review a fitness band is to use it for a few weeks. In this case, my wife Jan was the proud tester of a plum coloured band.

What I wanted

Unlike my husband, Ray, my life does not revolve around technology. I expect things to seamlessly work, and do what I expect of them. To me, you strap on a fitness band when you are walking, sleeping, exercising, and not much more. And I want it to do everything without the need to press buttons or remember to turn it on.

I did not test the running, biking and sports – I am sure they do what is promised.

I do not want a big fancy watch (I have my Omega and Rado for business and pleasure), and I don’t need every type of smartphone notification imaginable.

The Fitbit Charge 2 does what I expect in a device that looks like I expect it to at a price that seems reasonable.

Fitbit Charge 2 features


The Charge 2 comes with a choice of strap colours, and you can buy more later if you wish. I chose the plum/silver – it’s a more fashionable colour to black/silver. The strap is removable and easy to do up.

It comes with a USB-A to “clip-on” charge cable – no charger supplied - and the obligatory “thousand page/language” safety instructions. The clip only goes on one way and charging seemed to be within an hour.

The mono AMOLED screen is a fingerprint magnet, and it is no waterproof – nearly showered in it! It is OK but gets washed out in bright sunlight – it has no brightness settings. I found the screen frustrating at times – lots of tapping and little response. That is until Ray discovered it was not a touch screen at all and uses the accelerometer!

The watch has five screens Time, Heart Rate, Activities, Stopwatch, and Relax – it has sub-screens for biking, elliptical, running, weights, treadmill, and workout.

The app

Fitbit Charge 2 apps

Unlike Ray, I have not used dozens of fitness apps, so I don’t know how it compares to Microsoft Health, S Health, Apple Health …

All I need to know is that it runs on iOS and Android and for the latter supports all the major brands in Australia. I was happy to see a Window 10 PC/Tablet app as it is not always holistic or convenient to look at your health on a smartphone.

Setup is simple – download the app, join Fitbit (email and password), enter a few details, it finds the Charge 2, and that is all.

To wake it up, flick your wrist or press the single button. Fitbit says to make the most of the device you should wear it every day to build up a profile. That is not always practical, so I wore it at night for sleep and morning exercise (a 5+km walk) daily.

I found it useful to see calendar reminders, texts (SMS) and calls (with Caller ID) when the smartphone was in my pocket (which it was not when I was walking) – but you cannot action them from the Charge 2, and that is fine as you need to spend a lot more to get that in a smartwatch. They were also a little hard to see, and the ability to select a slightly larger font would have been nice.

I found the guided breathing sessions amusing – I am sure someone will find it useful when reciting “Om mani pade hum” or another mantra.

I did not use the challenges and friend’s features – uber competitive millennials may.

As an office worker, I found it annoying to be told to move regularly – fortunately, you can switch that off.

Overall the app seemed very easy to use – walking/running showed steps, floors, kilometres, calories, and duration. I found it good to try to get into different zones – fat burn, cardio or peak.

If you were super focused on health, it would help you track calorie, hydration, food plans and more.

Heat rate is reasonably accurate (compared to others Ray has tested on me), but the app does not visually overlay heart rate on walking or exercise as the Microsoft Band 2 does – that’s suggestion!

If I had to rate it subjectively, I would say its everything you need in a no-nonsense fitness band, especially if you don’t need a GPS - I am going to hand the review back to Ray now.

Technical stuff

Fitbit is a fitness tracker, so it has a three-axis accelerometer (pedometer), altimeter (steps), continuous heart rate monitor, and a vibration motor.

The display is not touch – it took a while to realise that it uses vibration and the accelerometer. Once you realise that it is less of a fingerprint magnet as you don’t need to touch it.

While Jan says, it was automatic in tracking I found that it took around 15 minutes to pick up patterns. You can manually start recording if you need to be more precise.

Connected GPS is more a buzz word – you need the phone in your pocket, and it simply activates it.

The sleep analysis is a little light on – it will tell you that you have been asleep, awake and restless – other apps will tell you the difference between light sleep, motionless and deep sleep. Still, it’s a good record of the night before.

The app, even with any shortcomings is one of the best all round and gives the average user everything they need. Cardio fitness should impress.


It does a great job for a three-axis accelerometer device – much of that is due to the excellent app in the background. You will like the information it provides but on the caveat that you are not an athlete or a runner. This is a fitness band for the masses.

Its accuracy is average but no so much so that you could do better without spending twice as much. It needs to be worn 24/7 if you want to get the best out of it.

It is an improvement over the Charge HR which I am informed was one of the bestselling fitness bands.

I did a review on the Fitbit Surge here and that will give you a little more background on the app and the next device up the Fitbit ladder.

Price wise its on special at Office Works and Harvey Norman and Myer now under A$230.



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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!



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