Friday, June 19, 2015

Gadget Review: Fitbit Charge HR

I had originally purchased the Fitbit to monitor my sleep. Suffering from insomnia during the summer and also finding out that sometimes I appear to wake in a panic and don't remember doing so, I figured monitoring my sleep could reveal something. I have not had it for too long, however there are some things I feel the need to talk about with it.

Now the first thing to note is physically how it is wearing it. The material is rubbery but no discomfort with the band. The actual metal buckle cut into my wrist one night when I fell asleep on it. The rubbery texture means it's pure hell if moisture gets under it. The actual heart beat monitor on it likes to leave a square indent no matter how loose I make it, if I make it any looser it would slide too much and get really annoying. All in all, about as comfortable as any Casio I'd wear if I wore watches.

The screen itself is good, bright and readable. The single button to cycle through everything is mildly annoying if I bump past the screen I wanted.

Now as far as the tracking goes, let's start with the heartbeat monitor. It seems good, although sometimes I question its accuracy. The pedometer is very inaccurate. It's set to being on my dominant hand and it still registers any up-down movement as a step seemingly nine times out of ten. The monitor for stairs, there are no describable words for how terrible it is. I can run up and down a ladder or stairs or do steups and get no change. Meanwhile I know someone who never uses any stairs and can go up 10 flights of stairs in a day. When it comes to monitoring calories burned, some days it seems very high, other days it seems very low. So I couldn't even guess if there is any real accuracy there.

Now another thing to talk about is the distance measuring. This is guessed based off of your steps and the stride length (I never entered that information because because). This means that is is as accurate as the pedometer. So I walk about a mile every morning laying in bed petting my dog. Enough said.

Now the automatic sleep monitor. According to stuff online, it determines when you fall asleep by a lack of movement and low heart rate. Seems accurate enough. It also logs "restless sleep." This is when you move a little from tossing and turning. If you sleep with someone else, these logs can look very similar. It can also log if you "wake up." This can also appear if you sleep with someone who disturbs the bed enough when they wake up and you're still asleep. I would venture to guess this is about the best it can do on accuracy and it seems rather accurate for me.

There is also an activity log based on the heart rate monitoring. This means anything that gets your heart going counts as activity, be it exercise, an exciting movie, video games or porn. So there's that.

Now it also comes with a way to sync to your computer and to your phone. The computer uses a dongle and the phone uses bluetooth. So I don't bother syncing anything unless I get curious otherwise the bluetooth would kill my phone too quickly and bluetooth security is not really the greatest thing in the world.

Now aside from the automatic tracking and graph generations, it also includes basically a food journal, exercise log, water intake log and weight log. I don't use any of these because I am not going to take my phone out every time I want to eat, drink or exercise. If I were really interested in that, I would more than likely write it down by hand. But I'm not so I don't. I won't go on a rant about dietary needs (even though I do in real life whenever I hear the word diet), but a food journal isn't really necessary unless you have a real medical reason for needing to know. Plus, seeing I eat McDonalds, pizza rolls, ramen and every candy I get my hands on won't change me doing all those things. I'm 6'2" and 160 lbs and have been for eight years. So take that. Also, drink water when you're thirsty and exercise for about 15 minutes a day and you'll be perfectly healthy. Hrumph.

Now that that is out of my system, let's move on to the stuff that actually genuinely irritates me. First, I cannot remove "goals" from the thing. I don't care how many steps I take, floors I go up, calories I burn or water I intake. There are no steps in my house but it won't let me remove that or set it to zero. I just don't have any goals for any of that because I don't care. I was curious about the sleep monitoring, enjoy the heart rate graphs every now and again, but that is it. Let me be lazy without this whole goal overtone. The actual app design is okay and the website is okay as well. It's easy enough to use. One feature I think would be nice is to have an alarm set a certain number of hours after it registers you falling asleep.

Speaking of, I forgot about the silent alarm. It works for me because I'm a light sleeper. The sound of the vibration motor is enough to wake me up. Doesn't work so well for heavy sleepers, though.

At the end of the day, I would say it is an annoying novelty that might be interesting to people really into working out and dieting, but does very little in the way of leading to a healthier lifestyle. Oh, and if you're curious, I have taken about 50 steps in the process of typing this. As far as has it helped me figure anything out about my sleep... well it just lets me know I sleep consistently badly.

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