Please recommend a wrist health tracker to replace dying Fitbit Surge
August 9, 2017 7:45 PM   Subscribe

Since I bought it 14 months ago my Fitbit Surge has continuously decayed (fragile wrist band, slow syncing, refusal to sync, poor sleep tracking). I expected better for $250, so I am looking to buy a new fitness/health tracker of better quality (you can try and convince me my Fitbit experience was a fluke). Details after the break.

My needs are:
  • tracking of sleep
  • heart rate
  • aerobics
  • stairs climbed
  • steps/distance walked
  • calories burned estimate
  • absolutely must play nice with Android (Samsung Galaxy S5 currently) and MyFitnessPal
I do not run or walk any great distance so GPS is not of interest. Good battery life would be nice. I am willing to pay $300+ for a very good quality device that meets all my needs, less for a compromise.

The relevant AskMeFi questions I found were few and 2+ years old.

Thanks in advance for your advice!
posted by forthright to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I came to recommend the Fitbit Charge 2 before reading about your previous Fitbit experiences. So far I've really liked the Charge 2, and can't comment on the Android requirement as I live in an Apple world, but I think it hits your other requirements pretty well (although not totally sure about MFP as I dont use it). I've had a decent enough experience with Fitbit overall; I've had a couple Zips that only died after I put them though the wash accidentally more than a few times. I also had the allergy issue with the Flex that a lot of people reported. And after Fitbit bought out Pebble I was pissed off enough to say I'd never own one again, but then ended up buying a Charge 2 spontaneously (for $160 CDN, so significantly less than your max) and so far so good. My only gripe is it's not waterproof and they say not to wear it in the shower. I've already done that accidentally a couple times already. So far it's held up, but... i guess I'm just hard on Fitbits?
posted by cgg at 8:01 PM on August 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

Fenix 3. Above which there is none better. I have one. It's so smart it will take care of all your bullet points plus about ten times more, and probably do your taxes for you.
posted by Lord Fancy Pants at 8:02 PM on August 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

I use Garmin's Vivoactive HR (and before that their regular Vivoactive), and it's fantastic. Hits all your bullets (plus has GPS) and its battery lasts me over a week between charges. Has specific tracking for just about everything, from treadmills to rowing machines. Around $200. Very thorough review here.
posted by machinecraig at 8:46 PM on August 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

I don't know if they've improved the Fitbit Charge case at all for the later versions, but I would not recommend it on the basis of my experiences. After only 6 months of daily use, the battery case on mine cracked around one of the tiny screws, so it was no longer sealed and gapped open. I'll also be reading this thread with interest.
posted by limeonaire at 9:04 PM on August 9, 2017

I had band problems with a couple different Fitbit models and the screw issue mentioned above with the original Charge in addition to a ridiculous flimsy proprietary charger proble (all replaced by Fitbit fairly efficiently- was worth it to keep the receipt) but am kind of wedded to the Fitbit ecosystem because that's where my friends/colleagues are for challenges etc.

I finally got the Fitbit Charge HR about a year ago and it seems *much* better built, and has replaceable bands if something goes south with that or if I want to look a little more classy. No GPS (it will work with your phone's GPS but you have to tell it at the time you begin you want it to, or it will just guess based on number of steps) but is correspondingly inexpensive. Maybe my experience is just a fluke- I'd check other places- but I am impressed how much better it is.
posted by charmedimsure at 10:00 PM on August 9, 2017

My husband and I both have a Garmin Vivosmart HR and at this point have gifted them to several family members as well. We both have Android phones, use MyFitnessPal, and decided on this fitness watch specifically for its sleep tracking after trying other brands. We go a week between charges, sometimes a bit less if we're fiddling with its screen a lot.

My husband had a problem at some point that required contacting Garmin, and he had no problem getting a replacement when a defect was found. So there's that too. I think we're going on 1.5 years of consistent use at this point and are very happy with this brand and model!
posted by erratic meatsack at 10:03 PM on August 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

I've been using rubber cement to repair my Fitbit HR band every few months when it falls apart. The repair looks good and gives me the satisfaction of not giving Fitbit more money.
posted by hh1000 at 10:35 PM on August 9, 2017

have you asked fitbit for a replacement? a friend of mine had a number of fitbit bands break on her and they replaced them for free. It might be worth giving the one you have a second chance if they give you a new one?
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:03 AM on August 10, 2017

I believe Fitbit have a 1-year warranty in most of the world; two in Europe. I agree with post above that they will provide replacements during warranty period (though, latterly, grudgingly, and making me pay the postage for returning the defective one before they would ship the new one). But I'm guessing since you paid in USD that your warranty has probably lapsed.
posted by sagwalla at 1:59 AM on August 10, 2017

Thanks for all your answers. Luckily sleep in my time zone kept me from thread sitting, but now I'll address your requests for more info.

Yes, I was aware from forums that Fitbit would replace in warranty but those folks also said the replacement would go South also, so I used cyanoacrylate gel to slow the wrist band decay and just lived with the syncing and battery problems. And now I am out of warranty.

WCityMike thanks for the review links, especially the wirecutter one. I always like to have both testimonials and reviews (and anti-testimonials too) so all this info and the opinions are definitely helping me.

Something I should have said in my question is that the syncing problems were almost always between Fitbit's app and the Surge, once Fitbit got my stats MyFitnessPal almost always noticed them soon thereafter. Also, I don't do social aspects or challenges, but I am deeply into the MyFitnessPal app for tracking all aspects of health and nutrition, and so fitness syncing to that app is important to me.

At this moment the Garmin models look very interesting to me. But I appreciate and will mull over all replies before I buy my replacement this weekend (Aug 12).
posted by forthright at 2:43 AM on August 10, 2017

I had a Charge HR that survived for almost 2 years of daily wear but then succumbed to Florida (sand and saltwater and me being a dumbass). I now have a Charge2, which I've had for a year with no issues of any kind. Just as another fitbit longevity data point.
posted by soren_lorensen at 4:41 AM on August 10, 2017

I love my Garmin Vivoactive - I have the older (non HR) version - it's 2.5 years old and still works like new after wearing it every day - in pouring rain, swimming in the sea, altitude changes, all kinds of temperatures and conditions. I've had to replace the band a few times (<$10), but the watch itself is great. Without GPS, the battery will last 2+ weeks. I've heard great things about the updated version with the wrist HR monitor.
posted by raztaj at 6:01 AM on August 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'd say you probably want a vivoactive HR. I don't own one myself, but know this model will work with Android, and it's slightly knewer than my 235 which also syncs over bluetooth. A Fenix 3 is over kill and likely 3-4x the price for what you're looking for.

The only hesitation I'd have with recommending a vivoactive HR for your needs is that I know Garmin occaisionally has crappy firmware updates that introduce bugs (HR tracking goes wonky until they release a new update in a month, display bugs, etc) and have on few occaisions removed functionality when they accidentally included something the watch wasn't origianlly spec'ed for (235 lost "intensity minutes tracking" ). I also seem to recall that the vivoactive HR doesn't allow an option to not update firmwares - I always wait at least 2 weeks before updating to see how it's performing for others on the forum, and often I skip the update. I only left 5.4 for 7.1 to get a newer base version of connectIQ to run a particular new datafield in my run tracking.

Garmin software is occaisionally ... not what I'd expect for the price. But their hardware I've generally not heard complaints about and they seem to be beyond reasonable with their warranty if you're in the US / Canada. Definitely heard some problems on the forums from people in Eastern Europe. But also remember that the forums are where the complaints end up going.
posted by nobeagle at 7:02 AM on August 10, 2017

One more thing about the Fenix 3: I bought the standard version and had it for just over a year when I really smacked it hard. Hard enough to crack the lens (not an easy thing to do). I took it back to the REI where I got it and they replaced it with their Garmin model with an upgraded harder sapphire lens. I just paid the difference between the two. This is after having it for more than a year! I'm hooked!
posted by Lord Fancy Pants at 7:39 AM on August 10, 2017

Also chiming in to say that my Charge 2 has done these things well, except my band did bubble around the face and and eventually break (admittedly, I caught the dog chewing on it twice). Luckily my cheapie amazon replacement band (a milanese mesh one) has held up fantastically since.
posted by R a c h e l at 12:31 PM on August 10, 2017

Nthing vivosmart HR.
posted by bizarrenacle at 1:39 PM on August 10, 2017

Hmmm. I feel a little like the Hogwarts Sorting Hat. Based on reading your experiences and looking at reviews on Amazon and Web searches (and the review machinecraig linked to), I am leaning toward the Garmin Vivoactive HR. It seems (???) to be a much better quality version of my current Fitbit Surge.

However I do see some negative comments about Garmin Connect and their Firmware updates being sketchy (which would seem to apply to any Garmin device I got). I saw this on the Web, but I know nobeagle was very up front about it above.

I am thinking of just buying it locally and if I experience anything I don't like in the first 2 weeks returning it instantly. By that I mean anything from a software, sync, MyFitnessPal, comfort or grossly ridiculous values standpoint. I just want it to work well from the get go.

My mind is not made up though, so please free to post more thoughts. I in turn will try to remember to post a follow up late this month about how it all worked out.
posted by forthright at 6:44 PM on August 10, 2017

The Charge 2 is a solid unit with a good price point. I would give FitBit one last go.
posted by jasondigitized at 5:52 AM on August 11, 2017

I just wanted to come back to say that after checking out a friend's, my brother's, and a saleswoman's Fitbit Alta HR, I would actually consider going back to that ecosystem with one. The Fitbit itself is actually made of metal, so the battery, case, and wristband issues seem like they'll be reduced, and you can get metal replacement bands, so it looks very strong and stylish.
posted by limeonaire at 11:09 AM on August 13, 2017

OK, I bought the Garmin Vivoactive HR on August 12th and so far I am very happy. Of course, I can't know if any of the other devices recommended above would have been even better. I will comment that the Fenix 3 looked very cool and was in my price range, but I think (?) it was large for my small wrist and business long sleeve shirt attire.

What I like about the Vivoactive HR so far:
  • battery life: I am charging it from 10% now, so about 11 days on a charge, and that's after cranking the brightness up to 9 a few days in because I thought the default was too dim
  • syncing (at least so far): has been smooth with Garmin Connect on my Android Samsung Galaxy 5, and as usual MyFitnessPal picks up the results soon thereafter
  • I like the choice of clock faces (I'm using the modern analog with sweeping second hand and date)
  • comfort of the band: more notches than the FitBit, and I like that the band is replaceable
  • phone functionality: being able to glance at my wrist when it vibrates for a text or the number of a phone call is much more convenient than pulling out my phone
My other comments would be that the Garmin Connect app is visually quite nice, and tracking sleep is more detailed than the FitBit app. Also, the values being reported are comparable to what the Fitbit showed, though a bit lower. I don't know if the FitBit was too generous or Garmin too strict. For instance, Garmin is up front about the floors having to be 10 feet, so I am definitely getting fewer floors tracked at home. I don't notice any difference in calories burned from my workouts or mowing the lawn, though that's always hard to be sure about.

Bottom line, I spent less than for the Surge and got far more. Granted, technology advances, and only time will tell on the durability.

I appreciate the time everyone took to give me advice and comments, I mark best answers just for the ones that helped me the most.
posted by forthright at 11:11 AM on August 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

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