Fitbit calls Surge the fitness super watch. It certainly is hard to pigeonhole the Surge. I am not quite sure if it is a smartwatch that can track fitness stats or a fitness tracker that displays notifications.
You see, Surge is Fitbit's flagship fitness tracker that combines the fitness tracking power of Charge HR, including heart-rate sensor, with built-in GPS and a 1.25-inch touchscreen to display notifications.
The Surge looks like an inflated version of the Charge HR, but with a squarish display surrounded by a thick bezel. As a result, it is too big for a fitness tracker and a tad small for a smartwatch.
I find Surge quite unattractive and not something I would want to wear, not even to work.
It does have a textured rubber wristband with a stainless-steel buckle that makes it comfortable to wear. But the wristband is not replaceable and comes only in black, for now.
There are two buttons to the right of the display, and one button on the left. The time is always displayed and there are four changeable options of watch face accessible from the Fitbit app (Android, iOS, Windows Phone).
You can sync the device wirelessly with a PC via the included USB dongle. But syncing the Surge with your smartphone is much easier as no pairing is needed. Just ensure that your smartphone has Bluetooth switched on and launch the app.
When it is paired with a supported smartphone, you will be notified of incoming SMS and calls. You can view the entire SMS but you cannot use the Surge to reply.
Swiping the display sideways lets you toggle through the fitness statistic panels, including steps taken, distance travelled, calories burned, heart rate and number of flights of stairs climbed.
As this is one of the few fitness trackers on the market that has a built-in GPS, you can use the Surge to record runs or cycling accurately.
To start a run, press the button on the left to bring up a Run panel. Run is the default, but you can set others, including Hike, Weights and Spinning, as default.
Tap on the Run panel and the display will show Free Run. Swipe to choose Treadmill Run or Lap Run. Press the lower button on the right to start, and the upper one to end.
The device took only 10sec to lock onto GPS signals versus 30sec for my TomTom MultiSport Cardio GPS watch. The Surge does a great job of tracking fitness statistics.
The step count differed by less than 3 per cent from that of my calibrated Apple Watch. Heart-rate measurements differed by fewer than six beats per minute from those from my Apple Watch and TomTom running watch.
There is no need to trigger sleep-tracking mode. The Surge does this automatically and can detect when I am awake, having a restless sleep or in deep slumber. It works quite well, even pinpointing as "awake" the time I awoke to go to the toilet.
Like Charge and Charge HR, the Surge is only splash-resistant. So, it will survive a jog in the rain, or being kept on when you wash your hands. But swimming is out.
The advertised battery life is seven days. But when paired with my Apple iPhone, it lasted four days before it needed recharging. Still, this is better than most smartwatches though not as good as some fitness trackers.
On the downside, you need the bundled proprietary USB cable to charge the device. The cable that comes with the Charge cannot work with Charge HR and the cable that comes with Charge HR does not work with the Surge. Fitbit could have started its own ecosystem with a single cable for all these devices.
At $329, the price tag is quite steep for a fitness tracker.
Material: Rubber wristband with stainless-steel buckle
Water resistance: 10m
Value for money 3/5
Battery life 4/5
This article was first published on June 17, 2015.
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