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Do you love cookie-cutter fitness wearables? Fitbit’s latest device, the Blaze, satisfies your need for the mundane – but watch out! The $200 Blaze also throws in a digital personal trainer called FitStar, which might completely change the way you work out. But is it worth it? Read on to find out, then enter our competition to win your own Fitbit Blaze!

What You Get

The Blaze comes with the standard peripherals: A USB charging cradle, an instruction manual, and the watch itself. As one might expect, there’s nothing out of the ordinary or worth mentioning.

IMG_7924-Edit-Edit

Requirements:

  • A compatible smartphone or tablet with Android, iOS, or Windows 10. Windows 10 requires signing into the Windows App Store.
  • Windows 8.1 works, although it requires a Fitbit Wireless Sync Dongle, which costs $20 and isn’t currently available.

Hardware specifications:

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  • Sensors: altimeter, pedometer, accelerometer, gyroscopic, heart rate, and possibly a magnetometer.
  • Connected” GPS: The Blaze doesn’t come with an integrated GPS sensor — it instead relies on your smartphone’s GPS.
  • Screen: 16-bit 240 x 180 pixels LCD with capacitive touch.
  • Proprietary USB cradle charger.
  • Replaceable wrist strap: The wrist strap can accommodate most 22mm bands (there’s no mention on FitBit’s German language page of the size, but their community forum mentions 22mm as the correct size).
  • Four days of battery life (five days reported by FitBit).
  • Automatic brightness detection.

fitbit blaze unboxing

The Blaze itself consists of two parts: a detachable watch face and a replaceable wrist strap. The wrist strap can fit 22mm non-proprietary replaceable bands (thanks to Robert Williams for the correction.) Fitbit sells several varieties, each with a different texture and color. Compared to the unexciting default strap, the optional bands are eye-catching and potentially worth buying. They’re well-priced, too, costing around $8-15.

fitbit blaze oitom band

The default wristband is a simple silicone rubber strap, attached using a classic watch-style locking mechanism.

fitbit blaze wrist locking mechanism

The Blaze is a lot smaller than the uncomfortable, rash-inducing Surge (my review of the Surge Fitbit Surge Review and Giveaway Fitbit Surge Review and Giveaway There is a single benchmark for the efficacy of a fitness wearable: does it help optimize your workout? The FitBit Surge claims it can do just that. Read More was less than stellar). It’s hardly noticeable on the wrist – although it’s slightly bulkier than my other favorite smartwatch, the Basis Peak. Its bulk owes to the unnecessary metal frame, which adds a few millimeters to the length of the watch.

fitbit blaze bulky bezel

On the back, there’s a continuous optical heart-rate monitor. Inside the Blaze is (most likely) a “9-axis” sensor, which should include the three standard sensors: An accelerometer, gyroscopic sensor, and magnetometer. The Blaze also includes an altimeter of some kind — but FitBit hasn’t supplied the public with the particular chip. Most altimeters rely on changes in pressure to record changes in altitude, which can be wildly inaccurate during sudden changes in weather. In Berlin, Germany, I can say the accuracy proved poor. But there were jarring air pressure fluctuations, so this is understandable.

fitbit blaze back ppg optical sensor

The four sensors allow the smartwatch to measure a user’s speed, wrist movement, altitude change, and the direction that the user moves in. We don’t know for certain about its internal components as Fitbit hasn’t shed much light, but it appears not to differ from any other fitness tracker. Noticeably absent is a GPS sensor, which many of its competitors (and even its predecessor, the Fitbit Surge) include. Fitbit contends that piggybacking on a smartphone’s GPS is adequate. But if you don’t feel like lugging a smartphone along with you on a jog, you may want to pass on by the Blaze.

The $150 Sony Smartwatch 3 (my Sony Smartwatch 3 review) offers GPS and a wide range of applications for the Android Wear platform 6 Android Wear Apps To Install Right Away On Your Smartwatch 6 Android Wear Apps To Install Right Away On Your Smartwatch If you've got a brand-new smartwatch, here are the must-have apps to install right away. Read More . While it lacks a heart rate sensor, it can sync with a far more accurate Polar H7 Bluetooth heart rate sensor. Together, the Sony Smartwatch 3 combined with a Polar H7 sensor can outperform the Blaze in accuracy — but it makes a sacrifice in battery life.

I could go on for days about how derivative and boring the hardware is. Fortunately, the software does offer wearable users something of worth.

Setting up the Fitbit Blaze

The Blaze offers extremely easy configuration. Users just install the Fitbit application on their Android or iOS device and initiate a pairing process. Once paired, the Blaze automatically updates its firmware over a Bluetooth 4.0 connection. It’s smart, simple, and reliable.

fitbit setup example

Unlike the Basis Peak Basis Peak Review and Giveaway: A Great But Flawed Fitness Wearable Basis Peak Review and Giveaway: A Great But Flawed Fitness Wearable Read More , the pairing and firmware update process did not suffer from deal-breaking bugs – although I should mention that Basis initially shipped the Peak without firmware, which required a messy installation process. If you buy a Peak today, it shouldn’t suffer from any issues. That said, the Blaze in my possession suffers from numerous graphical glitches. The various bugs are purely cosmetic and don’t interfere with the user experience.

fitbit blaze weird graphical glitch

Making Use of the Fitbit Blaze

The Blaze retreads a lot of the ground covered by the Fitbit Surge Fitbit Surge Review and Giveaway Fitbit Surge Review and Giveaway There is a single benchmark for the efficacy of a fitness wearable: does it help optimize your workout? The FitBit Surge claims it can do just that. Read More : It counts footsteps, flights of stairs climbed or descended, heart rate, workout intensity, smartphone notifications – and a lot more. But almost all modern fitness wearables do the same. The Blaze distinguishes itself from its competitors through software. There are two basic categories of exercise: Exercise, which includes activities such as running, and the newest Fitbit feature: FitStar. It also sprinkles in a dash of extra features, such as automatic exercise and sleep detection. FitStar comes by default with three core activities, but accessing the wider range of FitStar content requires a yearly payment of $39.95.

Exercise recognition: Another interesting feature is its ability to recognize frequently performed exercises. If you forget to start a workout manually, it starts itself. After 10 minutes of activity, the Blaze automatically determines what kind of activity you’re doing and switches into that mode. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get it working properly, but many others have reported that it works.

Modes of operation: The standard workouts include running, bicycling, weight-lifting, treadmill, elliptical machines, and a generic activity category. It doesn’t contain a pedometer mode as the Blaze includes automatic walking detection. It also includes automatic detection of sleep. Here’s an example of the sleep statistics generated by the Blaze:

fitbit blaze sleep analysis

It’s not that much different from the sleep statistics produced by the Basis Peak. It detects the number of times that the user was awake and the “quality” of sleep, based on the amount of movement detected by the device. It does not interpret the results as the Peak does — such as light sleep, REM sleep, and deep sleep.

Milestones: The instantaneous notification of Badges is another interesting feature. While most fitness smartwatches display milestones well after you’ve completed a workout, the Blaze notifies users immediately. My impression is that instantaneous feedback offers a powerful morale boost at the tail-end of a grueling jog or cycling trip. I’ve only gotten the 10,000 step achievement, but there are quite a few other awards.

milestone achievements

FitStar: The Blaze’s standout feature is FitStar, which leverages Fitbit’s use of an LCD screen. After selecting the FitStar exercise option, users can go through three kinds of guided exercise regimens: Warm It Up, 7 Minute Workout, and 10 Minute Abs. For each of these exercises, the Blaze displays animated tutorials, with weak demonstrations of proper form.

As each activity begins and ends, the Blaze’s linear motors fire up, providing a subtle wrist-buzz. The overall package is slick, functional, and simple to use. And the guided workouts feel intense. Even the simple warm up exercises got my heart rate up to a steady 110 beats-per-minute – for a full eight minutes.

Here’s Fitbit’s attempt to explain FitStar:

It’s advertised as a series of adaptive exercises using a combination of biofeedback and motivational techniques. To illustrate, the Blaze reads heart rate data generated by the PPG sensor. If your heart rate is low, the smartwatch encourages the user to increase the intensity of their exercise. The concept is novel and long overdue.

Here’s a video clip of FitStar’s guided exercises:

FitStar isn’t perfect – it relies on an inaccurate heart rate sensor technology and a limited number of exercises in the free version. But heart rate sensors are accurate enough. Unless you need medical-grade precision, the Blaze’s sensor won’t inflict sudden weight gain or a heart attack.

And while the guided workout is intense, an observer might feel different. The entire experience felt silly. Here’s what it felt like:

On the surface, FitStar is an excellent tool for guided activities. But its paid content doesn’t offer enough variety, such as suspension straps, to justify committing to a yearly subscription. It desperately needs a trial subscription plan and more kinds of workouts to shine really.

The Blaze Has Some Serious Shortcomings

The Blaze retreads a lot of ground already covered by other fitness wearables. And on top of that, its lack of automatic exercise detection takes away from its luster. The worst feature is its reliance on an inaccurate heart rate detection technology.

It’s derivative. The Blaze’s hardware is without question one of the most derivative health trackers on today’s market. It omits GPS, uses a standard 9-axis sensor, and forgoes transflective screen technology (e-paper displays The Best Four E-Paper Displays Coming To Your Smartphone and Tablet The Best Four E-Paper Displays Coming To Your Smartphone and Tablet Looking for months of reading time from your smartphone or tablet? E-paper display technology may soon satisfy your needs. Read More are better for outdoor devices). Most users may not know that all modern smartphones include 9-axis sensors. With Samsung’s new dedicated system-on-a-chip (what’s a SoC? Jargon Buster: The Guide to Understanding Mobile Processors Jargon Buster: The Guide to Understanding Mobile Processors In this guide, we'll cut through the jargon to explain what you need to know about smartphone processors. Read More ) in production, the next generation of Android Wear (wearable operating system) smartwatches might start throwing in continuous heart rate sensors, which will completely obviate the need for dedicated fitness trackers.

Optical heart rate sensors aren’t enough. A little-known issue with optical heart rate (photoplethysmography, or PPG) sensors is that they aren’t 100% accurate. They offer varying degrees of accuracy, but the fundamental flaw originates with the underlying technology. As such, any device reliant on optical sensors sucks compared to its superior competitor: electrocardiography (ECG.) To illustrate, many outdoor activities, such as jogging, introduce light pollution and vibration, destroying PPG accuracy. Manufacturers try to compensate using a variety of tricks, but this results in further distortion: Many PPG fitness trackers record heart rate – even when you’re not wearing it. The Blaze is among the worst examples I’ve seen.

fitbit blaze rear sensor and side

FitStar’s free version is mediocre. It has a limited number of exercises. If you install the application (FitStar is a separate installation, aside from the Fitbit app), you get a taste of what’s in store for paid users, but it would be preferable if Fitbit provided the first month of exercise free. After all, owners just threw down $200 on a fitness tracker with average hardware.

Music control configuration isn’t intuitive. Users need to pair the Fitbit twice to get music controls working. The first connection syncs to the Fitbit app. The second directly matches the watch to the smart device. The process seems needlessly complicated and unintuitive to users. Pairing for music control requires an AVRCP-protocol compatible music app (such as Google Play Music). Fitbit’s instructions are a lot of help.

music control fitbit blaze

Should You Buy a Fitbit Blaze?

Maybe, but I recommend waiting. While the Blaze’s hardware is dull, its software makes it one of the better fitness wearables on today’s market. But you might want to wait. The future looks brilliant for wearables. The wearables market suffered from a lack of purpose-designed hardware for biometric readings. That changes this year when Samsung releases the first ever processor for wearables — it’s appropriately called the Samsung Bio-processor. The Bio-processor vastly improves over the current generation of sensors. It includes PPG, EEG, Bioelectric Impedance Analysis, and other measures of data. It’s worth waiting for, although it will likely first show up in only Samsung products.

Fitbit Blaze Smart Fitness Watch, Black, Silver, Large Fitbit Blaze Smart Fitness Watch, Black, Silver, Large Fitbit Blaze syncs automatically and wirelessly to 200+ leading iOS, Android and Windows devices using Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology. Syncing to computers requires Internet connection and USB port. Syncing to mobile devices requires Bluetooth and Internet connection. Syncing range: 20 feet Buy Now At Amazon $199.90

For those skeptical of wearables — continue to doubt. There are serious privacy and security issues for Fitbit devices Is Your Fitness Tracker Putting Your Security At Risk? Is Your Fitness Tracker Putting Your Security At Risk? Is your fitness tracker secure? A technical report highlighted a series of serious security flaws in their designs, theoretically allowing potential attackers to intercept your personal data. What are the risks? Read More .

Our verdict of the Fitbit Blaze:
It’s a good enough fitness tracker with bland hardware, but you should probably hold off on buying the Fitbit Blaze for now.
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Fitbit Blaze Giveaway

  1. Sandy Gliddon
    May 6, 2016 at 6:23 pm

    Thank you for the opportunity!

  2. madeline connolly
    May 6, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    YES PLEASE LOVE TO WIN

  3. Liberty
    May 2, 2016 at 12:50 am

    At the end of the day I would be able to know how hard or easy the following day would be.

  4. Susan
    May 1, 2016 at 11:47 pm

    Nice prize!

  5. BOB CHASE
    May 1, 2016 at 10:42 pm

    WHERE DO SUPPOSE TO SIGN ENTRY FORM??????

    • Kannon Yamada
      May 1, 2016 at 10:46 pm

      Ad-blockers cause problems with the form. You have to temporarily disable it and then refresh the page for the entry form to show up. It's at the very end of the article.

      • Michael
        May 4, 2016 at 7:40 pm

        Not seeing any form to fill out - I don't have any ad-blockers installed.

        • Kannon Yamada
          May 6, 2016 at 4:27 pm

          The form is back up now. Sorry about that. It must have been a goof on my part.

    • Kannon Yamada
      May 6, 2016 at 4:28 pm

      Hey Bob, it's back up. Looks like I goofed and disabled it. Sorry about the issue.

      • Michael
        May 6, 2016 at 5:51 pm

        Thanks!!

  6. gail davies
    May 1, 2016 at 9:59 pm

    I would love to win !!!

  7. Andy
    May 1, 2016 at 6:04 am

    I've been using the MI band for the last 2 months and its lack in feature... Good review & thanks to Robert williams for the enlightenment.

  8. Tina deacon
    April 30, 2016 at 7:26 pm

    Wow this would be so amazing and would certainly help with my new healthy routine thank you

  9. Robert Williams
    April 30, 2016 at 3:04 pm

    The Blaze band at the point of attachment is 23 mm, my mistake. The band itself is 24 mm. Bands at 23 mm are now being advertized for the Blaze on Amazon. Sync dongles are not proprietary and ones that work with the Blaze are available on Amazon for $10. That your Blaze has a display glitch and shorter battery life indicates that it is defective and qualifies for warranty replacement. I think those complaints out there about Fitbit heart rate accuracy come from owners who have never made serious comparative measurements over extended exercises. The reports are anecdotal and may reflect errors from only the first ten minutes of motion where Fitbit measurements suffer their largest errors. There are also those relatively small but active class actions against Fitbit where members are looking for a windfall. A standard deviation of 2.5 bpm from ECG measurements is quite accurate enough for those interested in fitness and 24 hour heart rate measurements.

  10. tracy
    April 29, 2016 at 10:35 pm

    id love to win please.fab comp

  11. Aarone Mawdsley
    April 28, 2016 at 11:44 pm

    i would love to win

  12. Robert Williams
    April 26, 2016 at 3:13 pm

    From Robert Williams:
    This review is full of errors and appears to be biased.
    1. The wrist strap is not proprietary. Any 24 mm strap will work.
    2. Battery life is not 4 days; 5 days and more under heavy use has been my experience.
    3. The Sony 3 has no altimeter. Add the $50 Polar H7, only about 3 bpm more accurate than the Blaze (see my review at REI and the Consumer reports review.), and your up to $200 - wearing that chest strap we all love, so you don't get resting heart rate and all day recording. The Sony also has only two days of battery life. The Blaze also works with Strava.
    4. Boring is in the eye of the beholder. Mine is cool.
    5. I've never seen a graphical glitch, or a reference to one in another review.
    6. Exercise recognition works fine for me.
    7. The heart rate sensor is not inaccurate. See Consumer Reports for unbiased measurements. The PPG technology itself (optical sensors) does not suck when it is used in earbuds. It lines up very well with ECG. I've measured my Blaze to line up very well with my chest strap monitor, with a standard deviation of 2.5 bpm, one of the best examples I've seen.
    8. If the hardware were dull, it wouldn't be the most highly rated and bought fit band and smartwatch on Amazon.

    • Kannon Yamada
      April 27, 2016 at 3:10 pm

      Thanks for the corrections, it's much appreciated. I'll edit in the ones regarding the proprietary replaceable band, Strava, and the altimeter.

      It could be that the device I'm using is defective. You can see the graphical glitches in the screenshot and video. The battery life in my experience has consistently been 4 days with moderate use, but if the device is somehow damaged, it might be throwing my results off.

      Regarding the technology, PPG sensors have shown a wide degree of accuracy, depending on the user's skin color, hairiness, movement, and other factors. For "average" users they are good enough, but they aren't comparable to ECG as ECG is a direct measurement. If you need medical grade precision, nothing beats ECG. I have worn the H7 for a full day, without the intermediary drying up. Has this not been your experience as well? I came to love using the chest strap.

  13. Lori
    April 26, 2016 at 2:40 pm

    where do you enter?

    • Kannon Yamada
      April 26, 2016 at 2:57 pm

      It's toward the bottom of the article. Ad-blockers might prevent you from seeing it.

  14. Derek
    April 26, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    I don't use my Charge HR for it's fitness monitoring, I suffer from Atrial fibrillation ( pulse shots up to 135 bpm )

    Normally I've no idea this has occurred so the HR monitor will give me a clue, one thing I have noted is that the HR monitoring seems to worse since I did a firmware upgrade recently.

    I know the HR monitor is a bit on the dodgy side as I also have access to a finger monitor and a home blood pressure monitor

    • Kannon Yamada
      April 26, 2016 at 2:30 pm

      Hey Derek, thanks for the comment. I can see why you've elected to use a heart rate monitor. It's a smart idea. Sorry that the latest firmware update may be causing issues.

      If you ever decide to upgrade, I'm of the opinion that an Android Wear device + a Polar H7 Bluetooth heart rate sensor is a better option -- you can do more things with your heart rate data on Android Wear and the H7 is more accurate. Together, they're cheaper and more reliable, although the battery life on Android Wear at the moment is horrible.

  15. Lois
    April 26, 2016 at 12:19 pm

    This kind of confused me. I was set to buy one but now I'm not so sure...

    • Kannon Yamada
      April 26, 2016 at 2:30 pm

      I think the holiday season of this year will finally bring something more original, depending on when Samsung pushes its new hardware out.

  16. Derek
    April 26, 2016 at 11:08 am

    I have a Fitbit Charge HR, I know the Pulse measuring is not perfect but it does function to some level

    I'm not sure I need to upgrade

    • Kannon Yamada
      April 26, 2016 at 11:11 am

      I should have mentioned that the Blaze's accuracy is very good (among crappy PPG sensor-equipped devices) due to its supposed high sampling rate. But I didn't wear it for three days and it reported a steady heart-rate of 70 BPM. This is by design, but it's a dishonest practice that is likely intended to create the perception of reliability. If it's not detecting a heart beat, it should tell the user it's not getting a good reading.

      You definitely don't need to upgrade. The Charge HR isn't all that different from the Blaze.

  17. amerul
    April 26, 2016 at 7:19 am

    hope i win this time

  18. Joe
    April 26, 2016 at 4:56 am

    I like my Blaze, first tracker...( the place where I work offered them to us for real cheap...)
    I think the charger needs some work, the cradle has the cable facing the top not the side so it's hard to 'build' a stand. it has to be removed from the frame to charge. That stand with ability to leave it in the frame would be nice.
    I only get around 2 days use before requiring a charge. settings with Quick View on and AUTO Brightness. I'm trying it w/o Quick View and Dim settings...
    I've already placed a 3rd party 9H Glass Screen Protector on it, to save it from scratches at work.I'm waiting for a black frame/Milanese Loop combo the plastic is ok for work but i'd like something a bit more dressy for going out etc..
    I'd give it a 3.5 out of 5, fix the charger work on more faces and expand the software. There are many GREAT suggestion on the User Forums...It think it was rushed and the devs have plenty more to show... Third Party vendors are stepping up on the accessories and I hope Fitbit does so too!

    Thanx for the give-away! Good luck all!

    • Kannon Yamada
      April 26, 2016 at 11:13 am

      Thanks for sharing Joe, those are excellent observations. The proprietary charging cradle is something they need to improve upon. Other devices, like the Sony Smartwatch 3, were able to achieve excellent water-proofing while using a standard microUSB port. Other designers were able to add a non-proprietary wireless charging standard. FitBit can improve in this area.

  19. Doris Calvert
    April 26, 2016 at 12:38 am

    Great review but where is the secret word?? I am looking for the video, watched all the dance ones but don't see one from you, thank you.

    • Joe
      April 26, 2016 at 5:00 am

      did you find it?

      Watch his video again...

      Good luck!

  20. Mye
    April 26, 2016 at 12:26 am

    Love these giveaways! Wish I could win one?

  21. Pamela
    April 25, 2016 at 11:47 pm

    Wonderful review, and this guy is one of my favorite reviewers. Great job.

    I understand why one might want to wait on purchasing this, but even for the basics it does offer, it would be fun to own it!

    Thanks for sponsoring the giveaway, and good luck all!

    • Kannon Yamada
      April 26, 2016 at 11:14 am

      Thank you Pamela, it's rare to receive positive feedback on reviews. Good luck!

  22. Myron Wallace
    April 25, 2016 at 7:02 pm

    How do you guys afford all these giveaways?!!! (Not that i'm complaining!)

    • Kannon Yamada
      April 26, 2016 at 11:15 am

      To be honest, I'm not sure. I've heard that we break even on many of these giveaways.

      • Myron Wallace
        April 26, 2016 at 12:00 pm

        Well I love tech and I've only recently found this site. The review's from everyone I've seen has been very professional and very balanced. Kudos to you all and you've all defiantly got a new fan and subscriber to your articles.

        Keep up the good work (hopefully you'll do reviews of graphic's cards sometime down the line)

        • Kannon Yamada
          April 26, 2016 at 2:32 pm

          Thank you for the kind words. Best of luck on the giveaway!

        • Lana Schmidt
          April 27, 2016 at 8:40 am

          Hello Kannon ! I would like to know where to enter for the giveaway i want to give to my son since his father past away yrs ago it would be a great surprise Lana Schmidt

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