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

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You can now explore the International Space Station with Google Street View

If you’ve ever wondered what life is like aboard the International Space Station then Google has a treat in store for you because beginning today the ISS is available via Google Maps’ Street View.

Astronauts have been working and living on the ISS – a structure made up of 15 connected modules that floats 250 miles above Earth – for the past 16 years.

Now with Street View regular citizens can explore the station, and go everywhere from the sleeping quarters to where the space suits are kept. This is the first time Street View has ventured beyond planet Earth, and for the benefit of viewers the Street View feature also comes annotated, with handy little dots you can click on to explain what everything does, which is another first.

“In the six months that I spent on the International Space Station, it was difficult to find the words or take a picture that accurately describes the feeling of being in space,” said European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet in a blog post.

“Working with Google on my latest mission, I captured Street View imagery to show what the ISS looks like from the inside, and share what it’s like to look down on Earth from outer space.”

In his blog post, Pesquet goes on to describe how because of the constraints associated with living and working in space, it wasn’t possible to collect Street View using Google’s usual methods.

Instead, the Street View team worked with NASA at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas and Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama to design a gravity-free method of collecting the imagery using DSLR cameras and equipment already on the ISS.

Still photos were captured in space that were sent down to Earth where they were stitched together to create panoramic 360 degree imagery of the ISS.

Images courtesy of Google

“There are a lot of obstacles up there, and we had limited time to capture the imagery,” recalled Pesquet.

“Oh, and there’s that whole zero gravity thing.”

Pesquet ended his blog post by revealing the inspiration behind the Street View and ISS collaboration.

“Looking at Earth from above made me think about my own world a little differently, and I hope that the ISS on Street View changes your view of the world too.” said Pesquet.