All posts by Susanne Hauner

Factor Reviews: Fitbit Blaze Smart Fitness Watch

Among all the fitness gadgets I’ve tried for Factor so far, Fitbit’s Blaze smartwatch is the first that has thoroughly impressed me, both in the gym and for everyday use. For the past three weeks I’ve tested in on everything from MMA to yoga and from running to weights, and I already don’t remember how I ever got through my daily fitness routine without it.

Slim and stylish, the Blaze is comfortable enough to wear around the clock – even at night. It comes with a range of accessories, including the standard elastomer band, a softer nylon version, and some very smart-looking (if somewhat expensive) leather and metal options that will go nicely with any business suit.

Image courtesy of Fitbit

Its high-resolution colour touchscreen, supported by three buttons, allows for easy and intuitive access to all features and offers a range of styles for the clock face. As a nifty extra, you can make the screen wake up and go to sleep with a simple flick of the wrist.

The Blaze tracks daily essentials (steps, distance, calories, heart rate) as well as most major sport modes, with the option to customise shortcuts for your preferred activities through the paired app. It also features sleep tracking, connected GPS, smartphone notifications and controls, silent alarms and a small selection of on-screen workouts.

In exercise mode, you can flick through comprehensive tracking information on screen – and here comes my only point of criticism: The screen can be a bit tricky to use when on the move, especially with sweaty hands, and sometimes requires repeated tapping to respond.

Image courtesy of Fitbit

Images courtesy of Fitbit

For more in-depth analysis of all the stats collected, the Blaze syncs (via Bluetooth) with Fitbit’s superb smartphone app, which completes the full fitness picture with sleep analysis, food and weight logs, a calories in vs out tracker that adapts to your activity level throughout the day, and a range of goals and challenges to keep you motivated.

Battery life is very decent; it charges in two hours and lasts around four days when in constant use.

Prices start at £159.99 for the basic frame and band and special editions are available at £179.99, but a stainless steel band will set you back a further £89.99.

Overall, the Blaze is a brilliant smart watch for all your fitness tracking needs that’s also stylish and comfortable enough to convince as an all-day accessory, offering a whole lot of useful features at a reasonable price. I’m not taking it off anytime soon.

Factor’s verdict:

factor-rating-5

Factor reviews: Nike+ FuelBand SE

The Nike+ FuelBand has become a bit of a love-it-or-hate-it case among the big-brand fitness trackers – and we can see why.

The wristband uses a built-in accelerometer to measure movement in the brand’s NikeFuel unit. An LED display operated by a single, subtle button lets you cycle through time, NikeFuel, calories and steps, with a line of coloured lights showing the progress towards your daily fuel goal.

You can also set basic activity sessions on the band’s – fairly limited – built-in menu. Sessions let you track the time elapsed and the NikeFuel earned, as well as a fuel per minute average.

The related app offers more detailed analysis including daily and monthly breakdowns, a range of NikeFuel related stats, goals and achievements as well as the option to customise goals and sessions and social sharing.

factor-review-nike-fuelband-1

Synching the band to smart phones requires Bluetooth 4.0, which means it won’t work on anything below iPhone 4S. The app runs on iOS 6.1 and above, iPod touch 5th generation and above and Android devices using Jelly Bean 4.3 and above. The band charges and connects to computers via USB 2.0.

We’re not convinced by the FuelBand’s accuracy as the NikeFuel earned seems to depend largely on how much you wave your arm while walking or running – or indeed while sitting on the sofa. This also limits its use for more stationary forms of exercise – think push-ups or abs – where you may end up with very little tracking depending on the movement.

Unlike some of its competitors the FuelBand offers no heart rate monitoring, sleep tracking or GPS info and is water resistant rather than fully waterproof.

Design-wise it certainly sits at the more stylish end of the fitness wristband spectrum, but the black rubbery material is a bit of a dust and dirt magnet. The band is available in three sizes which can be further adjusted with removable links and a sizing tool, but we still found it a bit too rigid and bulky to be worn comfortably all day.

factor-review-nike-fuelband-2

As the name suggests, the FuelBand is primarily aimed at counting NikeFuel. Unless you’re using NikeFuel across the brand’s range of – pretty awesome – workout apps and to share your achievements with the Nike+ community, this somewhat random unit isn’t much use in measuring activity or level of fitness.

This makes the FuelBand more of a gadget for Nike fans or recovering couch potatoes who appreciate the motivation provided by a clear daily goal and the social sharing options, but for us it didn’t tick all the boxes for an all-round useful fitness tracker.

Factor’s verdict:

factor-rating-2

2/5: WE’RE NOT CONVINCED


Images courtesy of Nike