Factor Reviews: Fitbit Flex

Despite the Fitbit Force being recalled due to some users experiencing irritation and rashes the company is still one of the most respected wearable manufacturers out there – and the Flex is a testament to this.

The Fitbit Flex wants to help you monitor your health and improve it by challenging you to set yourself daily goals.

The band, which retails for £80 in the UK, is capable of counting steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, very active minutes, sleep time and quality. However the stand-out feature is the silent wake alarm that vibrates you into consciousness.

A series of lights on the wristband’s display shows you how close you are to achieving the day’s goals – whether it is the number of steps completed or amount of calories burned.

The device comes in a range of colours and, as far as wearable wristbands go, is sleek looking and doesn’t stand out as a gadget that you have forked out for.

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Set-up

Setting up the Flex was incredibly easy as it connects to smartphones via the low-power Bluetooth 4.0 – it also syncs data via a wireless USB dongle for those who don’t own smartphones.

The time from un-boxing to connecting the Flex to a mobile phone and using it was a matter of minutes, and reflects the overall ease of use.

Once charged, the Flex does not need charging for up to five days, which feels like an age in today’s era of daily charging.

I did find, however, that without reading the instructions it was sometimes difficult to tell what you need to press or when you need to tap the Flex to understand what it’s doing.

All the information that is tracked by the Flex is available to see real-time on the mobile app or online (as long as you have Bluetooth turned on or are close to the wireless USB connection), which was a nice plus.

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Comfort

Fitbit’s Flex is a comfortable wear. Even the larger side of the wristband – where the sensor is held – was not obtrusive to movement or any daily activities such as typing.

The clasp of the wristband is quite fiddly, and I found this quite frustrating when putting it on for the first time, but it was something that I got used to quickly.

As someone who doesn’t wear a watch I thought having a band around my wrist for more than a few minutes would become highly irritating. But in reality the Flex was hardly noticeable during the entire week I wore it for.

I tried out both sizes of wristbrand, and even switching to the looser version, giving the wristband the ability to slide up and down the forearm, did not make a difference to how much I noticed it, which was a pleasing detail.

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Health Tracking

As with all wearables, the reliability of the number of steps taken and distance travelled is the biggest question mark I found. The Flex appeared to be rather generous in the number of steps it logged with short trips appearing to be more than their actual step-count.

However, over longer distances, the Flex performed more accurately and favourably compared to distances measured via GPS and mapping software.

Tracking food intake is no easier than on any other device. With the process requiring manual input of all foods eaten – these are found from a drop-down within the mobile app – I found it time consuming and a little frustrating with the large number of options.

All the variables that the device lets your track are easily viewable on a compatible smartphone or via the web-app, which was easy to use.

The one feature that stands head and shoulders above the rest, however, is the ‘silent’ vibrating alarm.

The alarm doesn’t wake the wearer suddenly. The vibrations wake the wearer without a startle and unless the user taps the wristband they will start again nine minutes later.

While wearing the Flex I managed to wake up with an alarm that was set earlier than my usual – this is testament to how comfortable it is to wake-up with the vibrating alarm. This would also be great for co-habiters; it means that a partner is not woken up at the same time by a noisy radio or infuriating bleeping sound.

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Overall

The Flex is an un-intrusive wearable wristband that is so comfortable and light that you can forget you are wearing it. However when you do notice that you’re wearing the band it acts as a reminder that you should be watching how many steps you are taking, what you are eating and how much water you are drinking.

It is easy to set up, easy to understand and about as reliable in terms of data collection as any other wearable out there at the moment.

As with any device, the Flex could be improved upon but if you want to start monitoring your health and activity in a way that is going to remind and motivate you, Fitbit’s product more than does the job.

Factor’s verdict

factor-rating-4

4/5: Solid choice


Images courtesy of Fitbit.
Matt tested the Fitbit Flex in Black, which is available for £79.99/$99.95 from Fitbit.


Factor Reviews: Apollo Dress Shirt from Ministry of Supply

Whenever a product claims to use technology that’s used by astronauts it provokes excitement but also a certain amount of trepidation. However, this dress shirt from the Ministry of Supply completely lives up to its claims and beyond – even if it is being worn for running.

After wearing the shirt for several days, and for more activities than it was designed for, it is one that can be thoroughly recommended.  The best way to describe it would be to compare it to a very high-end sports shirt that has been crafted into something you would want to wear to work, out for drinks, on a date, or all three in the same day.

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To infinity and beyond

The Apollo is the flagship of the company’s products and it says it has been made with NASA’s Phase Change Materials, which are meant to keep you at the correct temperature. It claims the shirt will absorb heat away from your skin when you’re too hot and give it back when you need it.

In the best possible way, while wearing this shirt I didn’t notice if I was too hot or too cold. This can only mean the shirt was doing its job in keeping the body at the right temperature.

When walking to and from destinations, the shirt appeared to keep me at a comfortable temperature and I didn’t ever feel too hot or cold when wearing it.

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Running

 To fully put the shirt through its paces it was worn over consecutive days while in the office, at an intimate theatre and also for exercise.

Despite the odd looks received from running around Central London in a dress shirt (and the bemused questions from those I share a house with) the shirt held up surprisingly well to the physical activity.

After a 30 minute, fairly intense run the shirt was almost completely dry. There was no noticeable change in body temperature at any point during the run – despite it being a warm day.

This out-performs many of the existing tops I own that are designed for sports.

The website’s claim certainly rings true: “Hydroblend fabrics incorporate a cotton/nylon blend to create the ultimate in moisture wicking functionality. Together, the fibers pull moisture quickly from your body and store it away from your skin.”

In the more mundane task of being worn in the office, at a desk all day, the shirt did exactly the job it need while not being out of place among those of colleagues.

The only criticism of daily wearing came through the density of the material. More than once the shirt allowed my nipples to be seen from the outside.

When worn during an evening at a London theatre the shirt didn’t stand out from others but blended in seamlessly. The collar remained ridged throughout the entire day and overall was very comfortable to wear.

By the end of the day the shirt didn’t give away the reality – that it had been on for more than 17 hours in one session.

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Overall

Compared to an average cotton shirt the one from the Ministry of Supply performed at a much higher standard when it came to cleaning and ironing.

After washing the shirt dried much faster than those made of traditional materials. It was ready to be worn the next morning – fewer than 12 hours after being flung into the washing machine

One of the biggest advantages was that ironing of the shirt was not required. Despite being washed as part of a large load the shirt only had one small crease and even after a full day’s wear, in various seating positions, it remained uncreased.

The shirt comes in with a fairly high price tag of $98 but the versatility of the product and it’s overall comfort means that if you can afford to get one, you should.

Factor’s verdict

factor-rating-55/5: Must-have purchase


Images courtesy of Ministry of Supply.

Matt tested the slim fit Apollo Dress Shirt in white, which is available to buy for $98 from Ministry of Supply.