There are so many fitness trackers available to stalk out your daily treks that provide various assortments of analytical data to help you better fine-tune your body’s needs. From watches, to belts, shoes, smartphone apps and so much more, it can be difficult at times trying to narrow down what you need specifically (or so it seems). In the end, most of them deliver similar features. It’s just how they deliver them and how cool they look while delivering them, that changes from device to device (mostly).
Some of these devices are hidden away and some of them provide a full touch-display to interact with. Some sync later, and some continually sync all day. Some sync to your PC and some directly to your smartphone. The list goes on and on. How about a device that says it can do it all?
Fitbit aims to provide everything in a watch that tracks your all of your day’s activities and even the way you sleep at night, while communicating all of it to your smartphone for you to look at when ready. All of this in what they hope to be a comfortable and trendy design that “fits in” and can be considered the fitness “super watch”. This is the Fitbit Surge. How well it truly performs to these expectations is what we are interested in.
The Surge does pack a lot of features as it borders the line between fitness and smartwatch. It tracks everything you do and has plenty of modes and features to switch between. It tracks your sleep, it tracks your heart beat “all day long”, has solid GPS and it can even display text messages and phone call information from your phone.
That last part is was really separates it from most of the other trackers. It dares to venture into the smartwatch market slightly by giving you a little more than just options related to your workouts. It can control the music on your phone, see who is calling or what text you just got so that you can continue with a focused run without having to stop to answer your phone or read something. It’s not going to replace a smartwatch, if that it was you’re looking for, but it will suite the average person who doesn’t need all of the other apps and functionality you would typically find in one.
Built-in GPS is a plus since only a few trackers have GPS built-in. Others rely on your phone or simply do not incorporate it into the data. This allows the Surge to track your activity to a whole new level by increasing the accuracy of your recorded travels. It can better track the steps you have taken, the floors you have climbed and the distance you have traveled. All of which while keeping an eye on your heart and letting you know how many calories you’ve burned.
During any given work out, you can swipe around to see your current/average pace, your heart rate, the calories you have burned, distance and of course…the clock. What’s nice is that you can track your GPS path taken for any given workout using the app on your smartphone. This is important because you will find yourself going back to verify paths taken in the past. We do this all the time in applications such as Endomondo (“where was it, where I ran past that new restaurant I have never tried before” or that park where you met this incredible girl on the path, etc).
GPS was actually spot on for the most part. It doesn’t take too long to find itself (when outside) and keeps a solid trace without any noticeable drop outs. Looking back at the paths taken (recorded in the app), we didn’t find anything noticeable discrepancies. Every street and every turn was recorded.
All-day heart rate monitoring is a feature that some of the professionals may be sucked in with. That or those with unfortunate heart conditions like my father, who are always trying to keep an eye on things. It is nice to see your average daily beats per minute in any given situation, let it be early in the morning, settling down for bed or jumping out of a plane. Given, we didn’t test out the latter options, but you will most likely find it interesting tracking everything in between. This helps extremists and professionals watch their limitations and effectively retire a workout before it taxes them a little harder than planned. Of course, the accuracy of the reading isn’t always 100% accurate. At times we found plenty of discrepancies while it is monitoring an actual workout, especially when the workout was deemed intense. Heartbeat varied in accuracy sometimes around 15-30 BPM, which doesn’t help at all. I myself am more of a “average” daily fitness nut who just likes to learn about his body, and the watch has give me that. Professional and extremists may not feel the same way.
Sleep tracking is neat when available on a device, but not always informative. In the case of the Surge, it tracks limited information about how long you slept and how many times you were disrupted. It doesn’t go much deeper than that. Some other devices are capable of diving a little deeper to track the specific cycles of sleep you completed, but this one does not. Hopefully this is something they can consider in future software updates since the hardware seems to be sufficient enough to do more.
It does offer a silent alarm that can either gently wake you up in the morning or remind you of something in situations where you don’t want to interrupt anyone else (like that big meeting with your boss that you care nothing about being a part of, but you would like to know when the Chargers game kicks off so you can rush the meeting to a conclusion at just the right moment). Most of all, it’s aimed to help wake you out of bed without disturbing the person lying next to you. We found the vibration to be just right, without causing any added stress to waking up, while strong enough that you don’t sleep through it (at least I didn’t).
The touch-screen is pretty accurate to the touch, allowing for all situations both wet and dry. We didn’t find too many issues with readability outside of a few occasions where sunlight made it a little difficult. We did not test it too heavily in terms of splash resistance. It was used during a run in a light rain and has been sweated on (and sanitized between testers) without any disruption to operation.
The design of the Surge doesn’t really offer much. It kind of feels like one of those rubber bracelets people like to wear around their wrist to support their favorite team or charity (only this one has a clasp and a screen). The design isn’t exactly “bad”, but it does fall within the range of “plain”. Some consider it to be bulky, but we related it to the average size of a normal watch and didn’t feel it stuck out any worse than a Timex calculator watch would. There are three different sizes to choose from depending on the circumference of your wrist and it can be worn on either wrist.
There are three physical buttons to choose from. On the right side you will find two of them (bottom and top). The bottom one will pause/resume any given workout while the top one ends the workout.
Battery life isn’t bad with the Surge as you can get anywhere from two days to a week out of it depending on how you use it. Just like anything else with GPS, if you decide to use it, you will see a significant drop in battery performance. How much you use it depends on how much you expect to lose. Kind of like cellphones. Before smartphones became smart enough to offer built-in true GPS, some of them lasted a day or two between charges easily. The second GPS became part of the mix, people started bringing their chargers with them everywhere. Thankfully you won’t be as worried with the watch since it will out perform your phone, but if you leave GPS going, expect to charge it much more frequently.
The watch is nice. It offers plenty of features, feels ok and has some crazy accurate GPS. It doesn’t look the greatest, but it doesn’t look bad. The touch-screen is very responsible in most situations and I found the information to be useful. The heart-rate monitoring isn’t spot-on though and Fitbit pushes hard for this to be one of the selling points. Sleep tracking doesn’t offer too much information, but it at least requires no actions from you to work and hopefully can be updated in the future to add more details. There are a lot of missing features that users would consider to be advanced that would provide deep analytical results. Some devices offer these, this one does not. Just like the sleep tracking, maybe Fitbit will offer something as a software update in the future, but for now, features vs price do not add up. It’s a mighty watch, but it also feels unfinished and way too expensive. The price feels like you should get a cross between a Samsung Galaxy and what this has to offer. For now, we have given it a 6.5 out of 10. Let’s see where they go with those updates!
- Small: fits wrists 5.5” – 6.3”
- Large: fits wrists 6.3” – 7.8”
- X-large: fits wrists 7.8” – 8.9”
Sizing varies across trackers. Use this guide to pick the right fit & size up if you’re between sizes.
Sensors and Components
- 3-axis accelerometers
- 3-axis gyroscope
- Digital compass
- Optical heart rate monitor
- Ambient light sensor
- Vibration motor
- Touch screen
- Monochrome LCD
- Backlight for low light visibility
When using bike tracking, always pay attention and mind the rules of the road.
- Charging cable
- Wireless sync dongle
Surge has been tested up to 5 ATM meaning it is sweat, rain and splash proof. However, the device is not swim proof. We also recommend taking Surge off before showering because, as with any wearable device, it’s best for your skin if the band stays dry and clean.
If the band gets wet or if you sweat in it, remove and completely dry the band before putting it back on. Clean the band with a mild soap-free cleanser like Cetaphil or Aquanil. Give your wrist a rest by taking the band off every now and then.
Surge’s wristband is made of a flexible, durable elastomer material similar to that used in many sports watches. Surge also has a surgical-grade stainless steel buckle.
Like all heart rate monitoring technologies, accuracy is affected by physiology, location of device, and different movements.
Battery and Power
We recommend charging your Surge every few days to ensure you are always tracking.
- Battery life: lasts up to 7 days
- Battery type: Lithium-polymer
- Charge time: One to two hours
- Operating temperature: -4° to 113°F
- Maximum operating altitude: 30,000 feet
- Tracks 7 days of detailed motion data – minute by minute.
- Tracks daily totals for past 30 days
- Stores heart rate data at 1 second intervals during exercise tracking and at 5 second intervals all other times
- Sample rate for GPS is 1 Hz
Surge syncs automatically and wirelessly to tablets, computers and 150+ leading iOS, Android and Windows smartphones using Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology.
- Syncing range: 20 feet
- Notifications: Text and call via Bluetooth 4.0
- Music control: via Bluetooth Classic
- Syncing to computers requires Internet connection and USB port
- Syncing to mobile devices requires Bluetooth and Internet connection
- Syncs with Windows Vista and later, Mac OS X 10.6 and up, iPhone 4S and later, iPad 3 gen. and later, and leading Android and Windows devices
Are you a manufacturer or distributor that would like us to test something out for review? Contact us and we can let you know where to send the product and we will try it out.