Fitbit Charge 3 Review
Bottom Line Up Front: The Fitbit Charge 3 is the best fitness tracking device on the market today. I highly recommend it for a certain demographic.
I just wrote a review of the Garmin Instinct, which I bought at the same time as the Charge 3. It has a brief history of my fitness tracking devices as well, so please check it out if you are interested.
I got the Charge 3 because I wanted something minimalist that I could wear either in lieu of a watch or with a watch on the opposite hand. I also love the Fitbit ecosystem and their hardware so when the new Charge came out, I wanted to give it a shot.
What is it?
This device is for those interested in basic to slightly advanced fitness tracking. Basic would be total steps, total stairs, and hours of sleep. Slightly more advanced would be heart rate all day, exercise heart rate, exercise session recording, sleep stages analysis, etc.
You can’t ask much more from a device in this category. You’d have to upgrade to an advanced exercise recording watch like a high-end Garmin to start getting GPS, or running metrics like cadence, split times, pace, etc.
It also has additional things like vibrating silent alarm and, if you get the upgraded model, tap and pay, which is pretty cool.
Who is it for?
It is for anyone who wants above average fitness metrics in addition to the basics who wants a device they can wear as a watch. If you just want to know how many steps you are taking, you can get less expensive Fitbits. If you are a serious athlete, you need something more than the Charge line. For most people in the middle, this is an excellent device.
What do I like?
Battery life. This is easily the best Fitbit I have owned of the six with regard to battery life. This gets a week minimum, usually eight to ten days. That is way more than enough for me.
Comfort. It’s easy to wear. You barely notice it’s on. I wear this sometimes instead of my Garmin watch when I get annoyed with wearing a larger sport watch. You can wear this on your non-watch hand like a bracelet easily. Huge plus.
App/Ecosystem. The Fitbit app itself – how it works, how it looks, the data display – is excellent. It’s better than Garmin’s.
Vibration. This thing has a vibration motor of a much larger device. You will be shocked at how well it gives silent notifications. Much better than any vibrating watch I have had (Garmin and G-Shock) despite their much larger sizes.
Sleep metrics. The Charge (and my Fitbit Ionic) does a great job of getting my sleep right. If I watch a movie on a Friday night at 8 PM, it knows I am not sleeping but Garmin doesn’t. It is spot on with sleeping and waking every time. A
Display. The quality and responsiveness of the screen is excellent. You can change the watch faces on it to show different fonts and/or different data. When you touch the screen it responds immediately.
Band changes. You can easily change the band on this device to a more professional look or a more athletic look. It comes with two band styles both in large and small sizes out of the box.
Waterproof. You can actually swim with this which is a higher level than simply being able to shower with it. More devices are waterproof these days, so it’s not terribly significant but I wouldn’t buy a device that I had to remove to shower. Some earlier generation Fitbits aren’t shower-proof though. That alone may warrant an upgrade.
Extra features. It has a great alarm (vibration, sound or both), timer, stopwatch, weather, specific exercise event tracking (set it to “weights” or “circuit training” start and stop the event and it records it in your archive), and tap & pay. Don’t underestimate the utility of the tap & pay! I thought it was silly until I used it a few times to quickly buy something with my Fitbit. Link your credit card and when you would normally use a credit card, you can just touch the Fitbit to the pay terminal. You need to pay extra for this version of the Charge 3 though.
What do I not like?
Wrist-based HR. It just isn’t great on any device, but it’s better probably than nothing, so I guess I’ll take it. Just don’t expect it to be as accurate as a chest-based on, not even close. It is good at tracking increases of decreases but definitely not accuracy during any activity. For example, Charge 3 would say I was at 110 BPM when my chest-based (basically gold standard) Polar says 150.
Non-dominant hand metrics. I wore this on my right hand for a day and compared it to my Garmin on my left hand. Then I wore the Charge on the same hand as the Garmin to eliminate variables. The Fitbit and Garmin don’t agree on steps and stairs on the same hand precisely, but the Fitbit on the dominant hand was MUCH farther off. 10-20% at least. It recorded all kinds of things that weren’t steps because of how much I use my dominant hand. A lot of people wear these non-watch devices on their non-watch hand (obviously) and they need to know the numbers are inflated. If you are looking for 10,000 steps, I think you need 12,000 if you are wearing this on your dominant hand. There is a setting where you tell Fitbit if this is worn on the non-dominant hand or not, but it doesn’t adjust it enough in my opinion.
Proprietary chargers. Fitbit seems keen on ensuring you use one of their chargers not a standard like micro USB or USB C. This requires another charger than most other electronics. And not only do they do this, but they use different charges for EACH FITBIT as far as I can tell. Three people in my house are wearing Fitbits and they each use a different charger. The last two Fitbits we had also used different chargers. That is five different chargers for five different Fitbits. Torture.
Final Thoughts & Recommendations
If you are using an older Fitbit from 2017 or earlier, this is a worthy upgrade. This device is the best non-watch fitness tracker you can get right now in Spring 2019. Fitbit just came out with some simpler devices in the Inspire series that offer a lot of bang for your buck also. They are slightly less powerful than the Charge 3 but good for most people. Check them out here. Picked up one for my wife and it’s very nice. One version has heart rate and one doesn’t. Otherwise, the same.
If you are in the market for a new tracker and want to get into quantifying movement/activity, I would highly recommend the Charge 3. Read more & grab one here.