Update: Our Fitbit Blaze review has been updated to include information about the adjustment to sleep quality mode and its latest competitor, Samsung Gear Fit 2.
Fitbit has become a household name when it comes to fitness trackers and wearables in general – and not always for the right reasons. With affordable price points, the company behind some of the earliest fitness trackers to hit the market has consistently released well-received products.
Regardless, Fitbit seems determined to push forward, and show everyone it still has some tricks up its sleeve. And now Fitbit feels that it’s time to hit the smartwatch market, taking on the Motorola Moto 360 and the Huawei Watch with the Blaze.
But it has decided to do so without running Android Wear software. That makes it decidedly different from everything else out there, except the Samsung Gear Fit 2, which also straddles that fitness tracking and smartwatch line.
You can buy the Fitbit Blaze for US$199 (£159.99, AU$329.95). That’s the cheaper end of the smartwatch price scale, considering the likes of the Apple Watch will cost you US$549.99 (£339, AU$735) or more.
But this is still one of the more expensive Fitbit products, only just beaten for price by the US$250 (£200, AU$350) fitness-focused Fitbit Surge.
The Fitbit Blaze has already proved a controversial product, with the design attracting criticism. Let’s take a closer look at what the Fitbit Blaze does – and whether it can be a true contender to Android Wear, or the Apple Watch.
Unlike most other Fitbit devices, the Blaze includes a display, blurring the line between smartwatch and fitness tracker. The display itself is bright and jumps out at you, especially if you’re using the right watch face.
Everything is clear on the display, and I feel this is the right size for a smartwatch. From a distance it looks much more like a traditional watch than some other smartwatches out there.
For some reason, Fitbit has decided to go for a square screen here though – I feel it would have been better if Fitbit had used a round display, like on the Moto 360.
And that display isn’t going to give you that much information – it’s not going to be flush with notifications like the Apple Watch, displaying just basic fitness stats such as your heart rate and steps.
My other problem with the square display is the large bezels around the sides. Fitbit has included some of the thickest bezels I’ve seen on a smartwatch, and there’s a lot of wasted space here; the screen could have been much bigger, or the device could have been much smaller if more thought had been put in here.
To add insult to injury, the Fitbit logo even sits below the main display, which I find irritating whenever I look at it, as it highlights the wasted space – you don’t see the Apple logo sitting at the bottom of the screen on the Apple Watch.
That said, the screen on the Fitbit Blaze does the job. It’s colourful and bright, and you don’t need a high resolution on this device, as it’s only displaying the odd notification.
One of my biggest bugbears with the Fitbit Blaze, though, is that the screen is often unresponsive. There were multiple times where I’d tap on the screen and nothing would happen. It would wake easily with a flick the wrist, but then I’d sit there swiping left and right for quite some time, trying to get the screen to fire up.
When I have a smartwatch on my wrist, it’s usually so that I can get to my information as quickly as possible. But with the Fitbit Blaze I found myself tapping on the screen far more often than I have to with other wearable devices.