Amazon Review by FreeSpirit
5093 people found the following review helpful
Overall great device! Quick summary of features. Brief comparison with Apple watch
I've owned several Fitbit devices to date along with other brands like the Jawbone Up, Garmin ForeRunner, and the Apple watch. I waited with excitement for my Blaze to arrive so I could test its new features and hopefully use this as the only watch I need to wear all the time. I am a fitness enthusiast and love to log workouts in addition to monitoring daily steps and sleep. I've had the Blaze for a few weeks now and so far I love some of the features, while some I would have liked to see improved. I will do a quick walkthrough of some key features along with some shortcomings, followed by a quick comparison with the Apple watch.
- Large screen, easy to read display
- Nice gorilla glass screen that doesn’t get scratched
- Accurate heart rate monitor without the need for chest strap
- Automatically tracks steps, sleep, workouts, heart rate. All viewable easily on the screen
- Auto activity and sleep tracker without the need to manually start an activity
- Great battery life (5-6 days for me so far)
- Smart notifications (texts, accept or reject calls, calendar appointments) are very convenient
- $199 price point!
My personal favorite is the auto-track feature. You really don’t need to manually start activities like running, walking, or elliptical, the watch automatically picks up these activities and logs them based on movement and heart rate. Very cool feature in my opinion. For spinning, cardio, and weights, you will need to manually start these activities, although it still computes calories burned automatically based on heart rate during these activities.
- Hexagonal design may not be aesthetically pleasing (but not bad once you get used to it)
- No built-in GPS to map runs and bike rides (need to carry phone to map)
- Not waterproof so can’t be worn in the pool
- Watch needs to be removed from frame every time for charging
- Screen doesn’t always come on when I raise my wrist. Gotten used to the correct motion now
- No option to keep screen on at all times (this is probably deliberate to conserve battery life)
Include a GPS and make it waterproof - that would make this a near perfect product.
NOTE that the Small and Large sizes of the watch simply refer to strap size. The actual watch is just one size. I was confused about this earlier and thought the Small and Large had different screen sizes.
SCREEN I am used to wearing somewhat large watches like the Garmin 920XT, and the Blaze is just fine. I had read reviews where people had said it was too big, but in my opinion it has a fairly low profile design. It’s smaller than the 920XT, marginally bigger than the Apple watch (38mm). Yes, the design may seem odd a bit at first given the width and the space between the frame and actual watch, but the benefit of a large size is that the screen is super easy to read without having to pull your wrist up, a simple flick and you can view all snapshots and smart notifications in a discrete way (useful when you’re sitting in meetings). The large display is most helpful when you want to view your progress or view an incoming notification during a workout without having to pause. Design overall honestly seems a little clunky, but I got used to it pretty quick. The buttons on the side turn the display on and let you toggle to different sections. The screen is made from Gorilla glass so it should hopefully hold up well against scratches over time, so far it looks new (a screen protector isn’t really required).
The screen, similar to the Apple watch, stays off, and can be turned on with the simple turn of a wrist. I have found that raising the wrist doesn’t always turn on the screen (this works flawlessly with the Apple watch), however if you “flick” your wrist towards you, the screen will turn on right away. I guess the correct motion is not so much to raise your wrist, rather spin your wrist. Hope this makes sense, will try to record this and show it in the video part of the review. The screen can be customized based on what and how you wish to view the main screen. The clock, for example, can be set to analog or digital mode. You can choose to view steps, distance, calories, heart rate, floors climbed, and date right on the main screen. It does not show weather like the Apple watch does.
HEART RATE This is where the Blaze shines in my opinion. I have extensively compared heart rate shown by the Blaze to that shown by the Apple watch (which is usually WAY off) and that shown by my Garmin chest strap HRM, which is considered the most accurate. The Blaze, even though it’s worn on the wrist, comes extremely close to the chest strap HRM readings. I would say it has consistently been within 95-98% of the chest strap readings. You can view your heart rate real-time during a workout instead of waiting to finish and then viewing average heart rate during an activity. This real-time accurate date is key to determining and maintaining fitness levels, and monitoring which zone you’re training in. Very convenient having this feature and accuracy available real-time on your wrist.
ACTIVITY TRACKING The Blaze has multi-sport modes that allow you to choose from running, biking, elliptical, weights, or cardio. You can simply select the activity before you start. The automatic tracking feature (SmartTrak) is another one of my favorite in the Blaze. With the built-in heart rate monitor, it automatically tracks your activities and calories burnt in case you forget to manually start a workout on the watch. Whether I’m on an elliptical or running on a treadmill, it logs the workout and provides a fairly good estimate of calories burnt and average/peak heart rate during the activity. If you go out running, it will show time, distance, average speed, pace, heart rate - all on an easy to read screen. One of the coolest features of this watch!
The watch does NOT have a built-in GPS, and this is one reason I still have to use my Garmin (I always map my routes, just my personal thing). If you want to map your runs, you will need to carry your phone with you and the Blaze syncs with your phone to record the route, elevation, etc. I personally don’t carry my phone on runs so the lack of a built-in GPS was a bummer. For workouts, the watch has FitStar which serves as a virtual coach guiding you through a workout should you need it. I haven’t used this much myself so I can’t comment on it’s usefulness.
TRACKING SLEEP The last Fitbit device I had was the Flex, and I had to manually start the sleep mode in that. Same goes for my Garmin 920XT. With the Blaze, it has an Auto-Sleep feature that doesn’t require you to turn on the sleep mode, it will automatically detect that you are sleeping based on lack of movement and heart rate. Small but significant improvement in my opinion. I think the Charge had this feature as well, but I’m not entirely sure. For me this is a new feature and I love it. I am not crazy about delving in sleep data, but it’s nice to get a snapshot of sleep times and quality of sleep over a period of time.
SMART NOTIFICATIONS The Blaze provides notifications from your phone right on the screen. It will show incoming calls, texts, and calendar reminders on the screen. I wasn’t able to get other notifications to show up on the screen, like WhatsApp messages. I did some research and it seems other apps are not yet supported, but I could be wrong on this. The watch also lets you change songs right from the screen, a useful feature to have when you’re working out and don’t have to reach for your phone to do this. You do have the option to turn all notifications off. I did notice that if I am using my phone like listening to music (and not looking at the phone screen), notifications do not show on the watch. They show up only when the phone is not being used. Maybe there is a fix for this, but so far, this is a minor annoyance.
BATTERY I usually get a low battery notification on the 6th day after regular use. Pretty good in my opinion specially when compared to the Apple watch which I need to charge on a daily basis. That said, having to remove the watch from the strap every time I need to charge is somewhat cumbersome. I charger like the Apple watch would have been ideal where you can simply drop the watch on the charging pad and it will charge right away. Note that for the first few days, you might need to charge it sooner than 5-6 days because you are likely to be looking at it more often and using more of its features.
WATER RESISTANT The Blaze is water resistant, but not waterproof. This means that you cannot take this in the pool or wear it in the shower another reason I have to still use my Garmin. Since it is water resistant, it can handle a little but of exposure to water, for example it won’t be affected by sweat during a workout. That being said, I have accidentally worn the Blaze in the shower a few times already (I’m probably still used to my Garmin watch which I didn’t need to take off) and the watch held up just fine. But I would recommend taking it off before getting into the shower.
QUICK COMPARISON WITH APPLE WATCH:
- Apple watch is sleeker and feels more comfortable on the wrist. Blaze is large and feels awkward initially, at least it takes getting used to.
- Apple watch has a better and crisper resolution compared to Blaze’s screen. Difference is not significant in my opinion, given the small screen sizes.
- Blaze automatically tracks activity and sleep. Apple watch doesn’t track sleep and requires you to manually start logging an activity.
- Both have smart notifications and show text messages, calls, calendar appointments, but Apple watch lets you do more like view WhatsApp messages and other phone notifications, and answer calls right on the watch.
- Blaze has a 5-6 day battery life with normal use compared to Apple watch which needs to be charged every 1-2 days
- Blaze - $199, Apple watch - $349 for base model
- If you have an older fitness tracker band like the Fitbit Flex or Jawbone Up, the Blaze is a great upgrade with all its new features (heart rate monitor, auto activity/sleep tracker, smart notifications).
- If you have an Apple watch, I guess the Blaze doesn’t offer that much more to make it worthy of a switch (though I’m a huge fan of the accurate HRM and auto tracking in the Blaze).
- If this is the first fitness tracking device you’re considering, I definitely recommend it. The design may seem odd at first, but I got used to it pretty quick.
Hope you find this review helpful. Please feel free to post questions and I will try to answer them in a timely manner.
UPDATE 5/12/16 -
I’ve had this watch for over 2 months now and it has been working great, nice solid product with stable performance. Just adding a few minor observations in addition to the initial review:
If you let the watch automatically track a workout, it starts logging it after the first 5-10 minutes, basically only once your heart rate picks up. So say you are biking for an hour, the watch might log it only as a 50 minute workout because your heart rate was still low for the first 10 minutes. Minor issue, immaterial in my opinion - if you want a precise log of your workouts, you can manually start the workout on the watch and it will log it as a 1-hour workout. Also, I think the calculated calories burnt during a workout are on the low side. For example, the difference in calories burnt on a day when I haven’t worked out compared to a day when I got for a 7 mile run is only 300-400 calories, when it should be significantly more.
The watch automatically detects when you’re sleeping based on movement (lack of) and heart rate, however it doesn’t automatically turn off notifications during this time. Very minor issue but it would have been excellent if the watch could automatically turn off phone notifications during this period. To turn off notifications when sleeping, you can either put your phone in sleep mode, or switch off notifications on the watch by simply swiping down on the main screen. I don’t usually receive messages late at night so I don’t even bother turning notifications off.
I have been wearing the watch every day in the shower and it works just fine. Rather convenient not having to take it off every day. That said, the product literature still recommends not to wear it in the shower even though it is water resistant. I haven’t gone as far as to try it in the pool yet, and I wouldn’t take that risk.
The battery consistently lasts a solid 5-6 days, and charging now seems less cumbersome as it did in the first few days. I bought a spare charger and keep one at work and one at my bedside. Charging speed is pretty good - it gets from empty to a full charge in about 30 minutes or so. Battery status is displayed on top in the app, so you know when to put it to charge. You also receive emails when the battery level is low.
UPDATE 6/1/16 -
I accidentally wore this in the pool last week and it held up just fine! It showed my heart rate, and the watch kept functioning properly. The only thing I noticed was that the screen’s touch sensitivity was a little off when the watch was wet (perhaps due to the water droplets interfering with the touch), but that problem went away once I got out of the pool. So I have worn it a few times in the pool since and it works just fine. That being said, I would say wear it in the pool at your own risk. Fitbit clearly says that the watch is splash-proof and not waterproof. Not sure if taking it in the water will void the warranty. Anyway, thought I’d add this revelation to the review!