See if Fitbit Surge, a fitness super watch with built-in GPS, will suit your taste
Things To Consider Before Buying A Fitbit Surge
Remember when the first activity trackers came on the market? It seemed like you couldn’t take a step without recording it. How did you sleep? How far did you walk that day?
The Fitbit Surge was partly responsible. It was one of the first activity trackers, and it’s the only Fitbit with GPS. Is it the ultimate training watch? Not anymore.
The competition with the Fitbit Surge is strong. However, the Fitbit’s software still surpasses many of the other smartwatch apps.
Is the Fitbit Surge worth it? If you’re a runner or athlete who relies on GPS for tracking your training session, this might be one of the best affordable smartwatches available.
However, if you’re looking for an everyday smartwatch that looks fashionable on your wrist, you’re not going to find it here. The Fitbit Surge is bulky. Some people actually find it downright ugly.
It does have an optical heart rate sensor. The sensor isn’t all that accurate, though. If you’re relying on that during your exercise sessions, you might want to pay for a more accurate fitness watch.
If you’re in it for the fashion statement and don’t care about the GPS, you’ll find plenty of value in many of the other, more attractive smartwatch styles on the market. If you’re a serious athlete, you’ll probably want something a little more accurate.
It’s a good thing most of us fall somewhere in between. You can check out my other smartwatch reviews here.
Presenting The Product
The Fitbit Surge was groundbreaking when it first came out. With a $250 price tag, GPS, optical heart rate sensor, 24/7 activity tracking and smartphone notifications, the Surge is by far the most powerful Fitbit.
Is the Fitbit Surge good? It depends what you’re using it for. It has valuable functionality for most people who aren’t serious athletes.
- Includes GPS
- Optical heart rate monitor
- Syncs with many devices
- User-friendly software
- Outdated design
- Problems with accuracy
- Can’t swim with it
Features & Benefits
Style And Design
Style is not a term that comes to mind when I see the Fitbit Surge. It’s not as attractive as the Fitbit Blaze. It has the neutral, bracelet style of the cheaper Fitbit models, but it’s so large that it really stands out on your arm. It doesn’t say, “Look at this awesome design,” either, unless you particularly like the look of a molded bracelet with a basic black-and-white display.
That said, the watch is fairly comfortable. The back of the watch is somewhat rounded and sits well on the wrist. The closure allows for a snug fit that doesn’t let the watch wiggle around as you move.
Watch Straps And Display
Because the 1.25-inch display is larger than the one on other Fitbits, you can cycle through several stats using the Surge. The display is always on, so you can see how far you’ve moved and how long you’ve been active.
That means you don’t have to stop and search for buttons to press while you’re working out. You can also view your heart rate throughout the day.
The watch face isn’t all that appealing, though. It’s backlit and easy to read, but it has no sense of style. You can choose from four different watch faces, but they’re all pretty basic.
Unlike some of the other GPS watches out there, the Fitbit Surge display is black and white. However, it does have a touchscreen, which isn’t available on all of the Garmin GPS watches. The touchscreen makes it easier to swipe through your data than using control buttons alone.
This watch has a traditional clasp. If you’ve had another Fitbit in the past, you’ll know how important that is. It’s easier to fasten and more secure than the clasp on the Fitbit Charge and Fitbit Force.
That’s about the only thing that the strap has going for it. At one inch wide, it’s conspicuous. The thick band isn’t all that comfortable as you move your wrist. The watch face sits almost half an inch from your skin, making it challenging to tuck under your clothing.
The eight sensors incorporated in the Fitbit Surge explain its immense size.
The optical heart rate monitor tells you how intensely you move throughout the day. It also helps you track your sleep.
The altimeter is helpful if your daily activity involves going up and down stairs or climbing mountains. Combined with GPS, it can map your activity and show you the elevation of your route.
The main benefit of the GPS tracking is that you can access the maps directly from your watch. There’s no need to pull out your phone to view the detailed metrics.
That makes the Fitbit Surge more streamlined than its predecessors even though it’s so much bigger. The watch is larger, but at least you don’t have to deal with your mammoth smart phone while you’re working out.
Even if you’re not a runner, you can use the Fitbit Surge to track your exercise. It has pre-set exercise modes that include martial arts and yoga. I feel like it covers most general workouts that you’ll find on YouTube or at the gym.
The larger display and GPS features weaken the battery life on the Fitbit Surge. Without music controls or GPS enabled, you’re supposedly able to use the watch for seven days before recharging. I found that it lasted more like four days.
That’s still better than many other activity trackers and smartwatches, which have a battery life of only 24 to 48 hours. My Android Wear devices have to be charged at least once a day.
When you do charge the Fitbit Surge, you have to use the model’s proprietary charger. It’s not compatible with other Fitbit chargers. That’s not a deal breaker, but it would be more convenient if Fitbit would just stick to one charging style.
The Fitbit Surge doesn’t have the most accurate heart rate monitor or pedometer. When you move around, you might see random spikes in your heart rate. This makes it a little unreliable for serious athletes.
Still, you don’t have to stop moving to record your heart rate, like you do with some earlier fitness trackers. Just know that the reading might be off a bit as you move throughout the day.
I don’t know a serious athlete who relies on a pedometer for training, however. If you’re competing with your friends to see who moves more throughout the day, you might win if you’re wearing the Fitbit Surge. If pedometer accuracy is extremely important to you, this may not be the watch for you.
According to the American Council on Exercise, listening to music while working out can improve your performance. However, it’s frustrating to have to pull out a smartphone to control your tracks. Although the Fitbit Surge doesn’t have room to store music, it syncs to your phone.
You can control the music on your phone using your watch. That’s huge when you’re out for a run. Just remember that you will have to keep your phone near you.
The automatic sleep detection feature is useful. You don’t have to remember to change modes when you’re resting, like you do with some other fitness watches. Just start snoozing, and the Fitbit Surge will pick up on it. The silent alarm vibrates to wake you up without rousing your sleeping partner.
What does the Fitbit Surge actually track while you’re sleeping? The stats are pretty basic. It tells you when you’re asleep, restless or awake.
The Sleep Schedule feature is a little more valuable. The app suggests an optimal number of hours for you to sleep every night based on your sleep history. It will even recommend sleep and wake time goals.
Monitoring your sleep can be fun and slightly helpful for your health. However, experts say that you shouldn’t rely on fitness trackers for evaluating your sleep if you have a serious sleep problem. Smartwatches aren’t going to replace medical professionals anytime soon.
Customers seem to have the same experience as I did with the Fitbit Surge. They like the convenience as well as the Fitbit interface.
If you’re new to smartwatches or aren’t sure which features are the best, this has enough features to start with without breaking the bank.
One user said: “I’m not a fan of smartwatches and this is the perfect in between for me.”
Another user said: “It does everything I need and much more.”
Most of the complaints had to do with the bulkiness of the watch and the lack of design options.
Garmin Vivoactive HR
The Garmin Vivoactive HR is on par with the Fitbit Surge when it comes to GPS functionality and activity tracking. It also provides smartphone notifications and has an optical heart rate sensor. You can track a variety of activities, and the design is eerily similar to that of the Fitbit Surge. Even the price tag is comparable.
What can the Garmin Vivoactive HR do that the Fitbit Surge can’t? It can go underwater. The Fitbit Surge is listed at 5ATM. It can be submerged up to 50 meters, so the specs say. However, the company doesn’t recommend that you wear it in the shower or for swimming.
Garmin Vivoactive HR vs. Fitbit Surge:
- Both have a similar design.
- Comparable price.
- Garmin can be worn for water sports; the Fitbit Surge cannot.
- Heart rate sensor is comparable and fluctuates sometimes.
- Garmin’s app isn’t as user-friendly as Fitbit’s.
If you’re a swimmer or paddler, you might want to check out the Garmin Vivoactive HR.
If you like the display and design of the Fitbit Surge but don’t need the GPS functionality, don’t pay for it. The Fitbit Blaze offers similar features at a lower price.
I think it even looks more like an everyday watch than the Fitness Surge. You can swap out bands to make it match your style. With more traditional watch bands, the Blaze is more comfortable than the Surge.
You can track your activity all day, of course. You can also view texts and get phone call notifications. The screen isn’t on all the time, but it does have color, a feature that’s missing from the Surge.
Fitbit Blaze vs. Fitbit Surge:
- The Blaze has a lower price than the Surge.
- The Blaze looks more like a watch; the Surge looks like the typical Fitbit activity tracker.
- The Blaze has the option to swap out bands.
- The Blaze has a color screen; the Surge screen is black and white.
- No GPS on the Blaze, although it can sync to GPS mapping on your phone.
If you don’t need GPS tracking and want to save some money, you might want to check out the Fitbit Blaze.
Many people say that the Surge is Fitbit’s answer to the Apple Watch. As you can read in my Apple Watch Series 2 review, it’s definitely more of an activity tracker than a watch. The Apple Watch has GPS, and it’s waterproof.
Apple Watch vs. Fitbit Surge:
- Apple Watch gets emails; Fitbit Surge doesn’t.
- Apple Watch looks slightly less like a fitness tracker than the Surge.
- Apple Watch syncs with Apple’s Health app, which some people are used to using already.
- Apple Watch has a much shorter battery life than the Surge.
- You can use Siri’s voice command feature on the Apple Watch.
- Apple Watch has several models available, but the base model is a little more expensive than the Surge.
If you like the idea of a little more functionality in the organizational and productivity department, check out the more versatile Apple Watch.