FitBit Surge fitness watch review

Time keeper combines GPS and heart rate monitor in one

The Fitbit Surge claims to be a Super Watch. It's super as a watch, but heartrate and GPS inconsistencies need to be addressed.

The Fitbit Surge claims to be a super watch, but while it’s super as a watch, heart rate and GPS inconsistencies need to be addressed.

Lowdown: FitBit Surge Fitness Watch

According to Fitbit, the Surge is designed to be a fitness super watch, bringing together all-day activity tracking, onboard GPS, smartwatch functionality, and FitBit’s proprietary PurePulse wrist-based heart rate tracking. Thanks to a combination of all these features, the Fitbit Surge is reportedly the No. 1 selling GPS watch in the U.S. But does its best-selling status mean that it’s capable enough for serious cyclists? Read our review to find out.

Stat Box
Display: Touch screen monochrome LCD Wristband: Flexible elastomer with steel buckle
Battery Life: Up to 10 hours depending on use Colors: Black, blue, tangerine
Charge time: 1-2 hours Sizes: Small, Large, XL
Wireless sync: Bluetooth 4.0 Price: $250
Water resistance: Up to 5 atmospheres (not swim proof) Rating: 3 Stars 3 out of 5 stars

  • Comfortable
  • Elevation gain inaccurate
  • Lots of data tracking
  • Difficulty connecting with laptop
  • GPS/heart rate monitor in one
  • Non-replaceable strap
  • Easy to use interface
  • Proprietary charge port
  • Charges quickly
  • 5-hour battery life with GPS usage
  • Strava integration
  • Can’t wear in water
  • Smartphone app has extensive data tracking
  • Heartrate monitor inaccurate at high levels
  • Expensive

Review: FitBit Surge Fitness Watch

The FitBit Surge seems to be a jack of all trades, master of none. Yes, it has GPS tracking capability, but I am convinced data points such as elevation gained are inaccurate. For instance, on one ride I know involves more than 4000 vertical feet of climbing, the Surge reported 2250 vertical feet. As far as distance, it was accurate.

A proprietary charge cable can be problematic if the cable suddenly disappears as cables often do.

A proprietary charge cable can be problematic if the cable suddenly disappears as cables often do.

The LED wrist-mounted heart rate monitor function with FitBit PurePulse technology is also less accurate than other heart rate monitors I have used. At resting heart rate or light workouts, the Surge was spot on. However, anytime the workout intensity was cranked up, there were noticeable inconsistencies. While in the heat of a full-on anaerobic effort, the Surge said I was at 155 BPM, but I know from experience that my lactic threshold heart rate is in the mid-180 BPM range.

For the most accurate heart rate performance, Fitbit recommends wearing the Surge further up the wrist. And it should be worn “snug” but not too tight. I tried following these tips but still found heart rate to be inaccurate at peak workout levels.

Although these two core functions of the watch didn’t live up to expectation, receiving text messages on the watch from my phone always came through. But honestly, I wear the watch to track GPS and workout data, not to receive messages from friends while I’m grinding up a giant mountain. But others may appreciate that. To each their own.

It can control music through the Bluetooth connection with your smartphone. But again, I’m wearing it to work out, not jam out.

Admittedly, I prefer to use my laptop computer over my smartphone when downloading rides to Strava. So it was cool to see a wireless USB dongle that could connect the Surge with my computer. However, after spending nearly an hour of my life playing with both devices, resetting them numerous times, both wirelessly and with the proprietary cable, I ultimately gave up on trying to connect the Surge with my computer and just downloaded the smartphone app for Fitbit and Strava, both of which synced without issue. I still don’t know what the issue was…

Although easy to use, the Surge app interface seems geared more towards casual fitness folks versus serious athletes.

Although easy to use, the Surge app interface seems geared more towards casual fitness folks versus serious athletes.

The other aspect of the FitBit Surge that’s troublesome is its general consumer-focused smartphone app interface. Based on challenges like “Weekend Warrior” and “Workweek Hustle”, it’s clear that the Surge is geared more towards non-athletic people trying to become more fitness oriented than it is geared towards serious athletes who regard exercise as a de-facto, every day ritual.

Congratulating me on taking 10,000 steps in a day or climbing 200 floors is like that super bubbly friend who compliments you on everything you do, no matter how unremarkable it is.

Some criticize the Surge for being big and bulky, but its size didn’t bother. I do wish I could get it wet, though. Although FitBit Surge is water resistant to 5ATM (about 160 feet), for whatever reason it can’t be worn in the water. Huh? A watch that’s supposed to be geared towards athletes should be at least water resistant enough to be worn in the shower, something Fitbit also recommends not doing. I’d take significantly fewer features on the watch if I can wear it without always having to think first before ever approaching liquid.

Continue to page 2 for more of our review of the FitBit Surge fitness watch »

About the author: Kurt Gensheimer

Kurt Gensheimer thinks the bicycle is man’s most perfect invention. He firmly believes ‘singlespeed’ is a compound word. He sometimes wears a disco ball helmet. He is also known as Genshammer. He is a Gemini and sleeps outside in a hammock.

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