Fitbit Blaze full review
Fitbit's range of activity trackers includes the Fitbit Blaze, which sits in the watch market with stylish, colourful looks and more swipeable functions than its more minimalist siblings. Recently it has been joined in the Fitbit family by the Ionic smartwatch, which shares the Blaze's good looks with even more smart features.
The Fitbit Blaze is an attractive watch, but at its heart it's a sophisticated activity tracker that boasts not just multisport options but smartphone Caller ID, calendar and text display functions.
Fitbit Blaze: Pricing and availability
The Fitbit Blaze, with choice of Classic strap size (S, L, XL) and colour, costs £159.99/US$199.95/€239.95, and was released in March 2016.
Additional Classic straps are priced at £19.99 each. Leather straps cost £59.99 each, and the Metal Link bracelet will set you back £89.99. These straps are interchangeable, so you can dress up the tracker as you desire.
For more detailed reviews of each Fitbit activity tracker go to our dedicated review pages, listed below. We also compare the Blaze to the other Fitbits towards the end of this review.
Fitbit Blaze: Design and build
The Fitbit Blaze tracker itself is a small black square featuring a touchscreen, and is slotted into an octagonal frame and strap of your choosing. Fitbit has made most of its trackers this way since the launch of the Blaze, so that they can have their straps and bands swapped out and accessorised as the user desires.
You order the Blaze with a standard Black, Blue or Plum "Classic Band", but you can add either Metal or Leather wriststraps in various colours. There's not the varied range you get with the Apple Watch, but there's enough choice to distinguish you from the usual tracker crowd. See also: Fitbit vs Apple Watch
There are also two special-edition Blaze models: the £179.99 Gunmetal Blaze and the £189.99 Slim Pink Blaze.
There’s a small gap between the body of the watch and the frame at the top and bottom - and while it’s unusual looking, we like how it looks on the wrist. It’s fairly lightweight, and the classic strap is particularly soft to touch.
The Fitbit Blaze features three physical buttons; one on the left of the watch, and two on the right. The left button is essentially a Back button, and the remaining two buttons are contextual, performing different actions depending on what app you’ve got open. You don’t have to use the buttons very much though, as the Blaze is touch and swipe enabled. We would have preferred the option to swipe back from the stats screen to the clock, but the Back button works just fine.
The Blaze weighs 43g, which is lighter than the Fitbit Ionic (46g) but heavier than the simpler Charge 2 (37g).
Read next: 20 best fitness trackers of 2017
Fitbit Blaze: Fitness features
What sets the Fitbit Blaze apart from the rest of the Fitbit collection (except the Ionic) is its colourful screen and strap collection, but it shares most of the functions enjoyed by the other Fitbits.
All Fitbits have a MEMS 3-axis accelerometer that measures motion patterns to determine your steps taken, distance travelled, active minutes, and calories burned. Steps is the measure most people find motivating (and it's how you measure your activity versus friends in the leaderboard), but you can also set yourself goals for the other metrics if you wish.
Its altimeter measures the number of floors climbed; every 10 feet of elevation counts as one "floor". This altimeter is a sensor that calculates altitude based on atmospheric pressure. We have noted rather erratic altitude performance on other Fitbits, and strange results can becaused by other environmental factors.
Like the Fitbit Alta, Alta HR, Charge 2 and Ionic the Blaze features Reminders to Move, which help keep you active with hourly mini-goals.
Fitbit Blaze: Heart Rate
The Fitbit Blaze features Fitbit’s proprietary PurePulse optical heart-rate technology, which uses safe LED lights on the underside of the wristband to detect blood volume and capillary-size changes under pressure. When your heart beats, your capillaries expand and contract based on blood volume changes. PurePulse LED lights on the Blaze reflect onto the skin to detect blood volume changes.
You can see your heart rate right on your wrist, which is better than having to refer to the app as you have to with other trackers, and there's no need to strap on a heart monitor to your chest.
Heart rate measurement is great for the more active fitness enthusiast, as it will help you plan how to burn energy/calories quicker by maximising training, and maintain intensity during workouts. It is also helpful for everyone as a way to analyse all-day and resting heart rate trends.
Cardio Fitness Level provides a snapshot of your cardiovascular fitness. Based on estimated VO2 Max – calculated by your user profile, heart rate and exercise data – this lets you see how your fitness level relates to others of the same age and gender, and get guidance on how to improve over time.
Fitbit Blaze: Sleep measurement
As well as these activity records the Blaze measures and monitors your sleep patterns, and can distinguish between the different Sleep Stages: Deep Sleep, Light Sleep, and REM Sleep.
Doctors warn that a good night's sleep has as much effect on your overall health as an active lifestyle, so keeping an eye on your sleep patterns is another key to staying fit and healthy, both physically and mentally.
While we like the look of the Metal Links bracelet for the Blaze, we do wonder whether you'd want to sleep with it on. You could easily swap to the Classic strap (included with all Blaze purchases) at night.
You can also set "silent" alarms that buzz you awake at set times, supposedly without waking your bed partner. In truth that buzz does make a small sound, but it's certainly more considerate than a ringing or buzzing alarm clock.
You can choose between four different clock faces, none as whimsical as those offered by the quirkier Apple Watch, but a varied enough selection for most.
Fitbit Blaze: Smart notifications and Music Control
The Fitbit Blaze also features push notifications from your Bluetooth-connected device (iPhone, Android, Windows Phone). The Blaze offers Call, text and calendar notifications. This doesn't make it a "smartwatch" as it lacks all the apps those watches can access, and Fitbit is keen to stress that it's a "Fitness Watch" rather than a "Smartwatch". It's smarter than your average watch, however, and matches the best of the trackers with an attractive timepiece. The Fitbit Ionic is smarter, but is still not as smart as a proper smartwatch such as the Apple Watch or Gear; see our Best Smartwatch roundup for more details on our recommendations.
All notifications are automatically removed each day and individual notifications can be deleted by swiping right when displayed.
You can control the Blaze's music playlist (including apps like Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, and podcasts) using Music Control, even during workouts. You press and hold the upper right button for Music Control, and use the lower right button to see notifications. A step up from this is the Fitbit Ionic, which offers 2.5Gb of onboard music storage (up to 300 songs) so you can leave your phone or portablke CD player (!) at home.
Fitbit Blaze: SmartTrack, Multisport and FitStar
SmartTrack automatically recognizes and records select exercises (Walking, Running, Outdoor biking, Elliptical) to ensure you get credit for your most active moments of the day. Whenever you wear your tracker and participate in any continuous, high-movement activity of 15 minutes or more, your tracker will recognize and identify your activity and automatically record it for you. To check your stats, look at your exercise history after syncing your tracker.
SmartTrack also recognizes two general categories. High-movement sports like tennis, basketball, football are automatically recognised, but sports without continuous movement (eg. golf) won’t be. Aerobic workouts with continuous movement, such as Zumba, cardio-kickboxing, and other dance classes, are also recognised.
By default, SmartTrack recognizes an exercise that lasts at least 15 minutes. You can lower this setting to 10 minutes, or increase it as high as 90 minutes.
SmartTrack is perfect for those times when you go for a long run or a walk and forget to activate the tracking software. That being said, if you manually select your type of exercise you get a much more accurate reading than if it was automatically detected. Of course, you don't need to set anything to get your normal, everyday walking tracked. SmartTrack is for longer bursts of activity you want more detail on.
Automatic exercise monitoring shows you the key health stats during that period of activity, including three heart-rate zone (moderate Fat Burn; high-intensity Cardio; and push-to-max Peak).
SmartTrack doesn't record GPS data, provide real-time stats on your wrist, or provide distance and pace information in your exercise history. For those features use the Multisport mode. If you want to track precise exercise stats you can tell your tracker when exercise starts and stops. Depending on the tracker you’ll see real-time stats on your wrist, a workout summary when exercise stops,
The FitStar menu on Fitbit Blaze provides three guided workouts right on your wrist: Warm It Up (8 minutes); 7-Minute Workout; 10-Minute Abs. At the end of the session, you’ll see a review of your workout that includes calories burned, average heart rate, max heart rate, and workout duration. Each workout is free and can be accessed at any time with no app or smartphone required. This will soon be relabelled as the improved Fitbit Coach subscription service.
Fitbit Blaze: Relax Guided Breathing
Fitbit's Relax Guided Breathing mode can help calm your body and mind through either two- and five-minute sessions personalised to your breathing rate. This is supposed to reduce stress and anxiety, as well as lower blood pressure.
Fitbit Blaze: GPS
Unlike the Fitbit Ionic, the Fitbit Blaze doesn't have a built-in GPS, so you need your mobile phone nearby to use the Connected Exercise feature to properly measure distance and speed/pace.
Blaze uses your smartphone's GPS to map your routes and deliver real-time activity stats such as distance and pace during your walks, runs, and bike rides.After each workout, stats sync wirelessly to the Fitbit dashboard to let you review your route, speed and elevation in more detail.
Fitbit Blaze: battery life and charger
Depending on how many times you access the display the Blaze can last as long as five days on a single charge. If you keep looking at the display, swiping through the faces, using the stopwatch, and so on, then the battery while not keep going as long. FitStar workouts, for example, are battery intensive. Rest assured, however, that it will last longer than the Apple Watch!
For some reason Fitbit has a different proprietary charger for every single one of its trackers, and the Blaze is no exception. Rather like the Flex 2 you remove the actual tracker from the strap to charge. It then fits into a small square box, which you plug in to a power source via USB.
We'd love Fitbit to move to a universal charger. There's few worse fears for a Fitbit user than a dead battery, and if your charger is at home, the office or wherever you are not then you risk losing step count while uncharged.
Fitbit Blaze: Blaze vs other Fitbits
The Blaze doesn't do anything that other Fitbits can't, but can do more than some depending on what you're after from a fitness tracker. Like the Fitbit Charge 2, Alta HR and Ionic it measures heart rate. It shares its Caller ID and text notifications with the Charge 2, Alta, Alta HR and Ionic. Only the Blaze and Ionic feature a Music Control feature.
So why pick the Blaze? Like the Ionic it offers more of a standalone "watch" design, although you could easily use the Alta, Alta HR or Charge 2 as a watch in its own right.
Like the Ionic, the Blaze is aimed at more serious fitness through its multisport features, although auto-exercise recognition is also available on the Alta HR and Charge 2.
We think people will choose the Blaze over other Fitbits because of its attractive watch-like design, colour display, strap choices, and extra fitness features. If you want GPS built in you need the Ionic, but most of us exercise quite happily with our phones on us for music or keeping in touch with the rest of the lazy world, so the Blaze can be connected to your mobile's GPS instead. If you want to be free of your phone and wallet choose the Ionic with its onboard music and GPS.
Its real rival in the Fitbit family is the Ionic, which offers everything the Blaze does and some more (built-in GPS, onboard music storage, contactless payments, and smart apps) but at a higher cost: the Blaze starts at £159/$199, the Ionic at £299/$299.
Fitbit Blaze: App
As with all the Fitbits, you can monitor your stats on your wrist via the Blaze's touch screen, and also on the great mobile app (iOS, Android, Windows Phone), and Fitbit's desktop Dashboard. The graphs and charts, plus historical data are great to monitor your progress.
Fitbit Blaze: Friends, Badges and Challenges
We love Fitbit's Friends leaderboard, where you link up with other Fitbit users as an incentive to go that extra step (or 10,000 steps) through daily competition.
You can also challenge (and be challenged) on various daily or weekly battles with your Fitbit friends. All of this, of course, is entirely voluntary. You can maintain a solitary regime, but it's more fun to do it with like-minded friends.
As you progress and pass various step and climb milestones Fitbit rewards you with fun virtual badges. You also gain badges during each week as you hit targets and surpass them.
Fitbit Blaze: Straps, sizes and styles
The Blaze is hugely customisable, with a variety of straps available in a number of colours; the Luxe collection consists of either a silver metal link bracelet, or a premium leather band, and the Classic collection features three standard Blaze straps in Black, Blue and Plum.
The Metal Link bracelet is only available in Silver, whereas you can purchase Black, Camel or Mist Grey leather straps and black, blue and purple classic straps.
The choice of design allows users to wear the Blaze wherever they go, instead of just at the gym. It’s easy to switch between the straps too, as you just pop out the body and slot it into a different frame.
When buying the Blaze you need to choose the colour of the Classic Band you desite, even if you are buying a Leather or Metal strap as well.
You also need to choose from three sizes. Small fits wrists 140 - 170mm (5.5 - 6.7 inches); Large fits wrists 170 - 206mm (6.7 – 8.1 inches); and X-Large fits wrists 206 - 236mm (8.1 – 9.3 inches). See New Fitbit trackers rumours and release date.
Fitbit Blaze: Specs
- Touchscreen display
- PurePulse heart rate monitor
- On-screen workouts
- Limited notification support
- Five-day battery life
- Exercise and sleep tracking
- Automatic exercise recognition and tracking
- Interchangeable straps