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Home / Fitness and Health / Fitbit Sense Review – The Best Features of the $ 330 Smartwatch

Fitbit Sense Review – The Best Features of the $ 330 Smartwatch



Fitbit is ready to level up. The health and fitness tracking company has finally launched a follow-up to its top wearable Ionic (released in 2017) with the brand new Sense smartwatch.

Since the Ionic’s debut, Fitbit has made a few other smartwatches, establishing the Versa family as a solid (albeit basic) option for sports and wellness fans. However, with the Ionic still at the top of the product line without an update – its emphasis on health and fitness, which touted features like built-in GPS, was raised above the more useful Versa – something was missing. The Versa watches worked well and had some features that the competition couldn̵

7;t match like long battery life, sleep tracking, and (perhaps most importantly) a low price point, but they couldn’t compete in other areas.

The sense compensates for these and a few other problems. (Though I haven’t tested it, the next watch in the other row, the Versa 3, looks like an improvement too.) New sensors, intelligent processing capabilities, and an improved heart rate monitor give the Sense just about every health trait you have. I’ll find it on competitors, along with the battery life and sleep tracking features mentioned above that Fitbit users already know and love. I tested the Sense and felt more secure in its place on my wrist than any other Fitbit smartwatch since the Ionic.

Fitbit

Fitbit Sense

fitbit
fitbit.com

$ 329.95

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The slimmer design of the mind

While Fitbit says the Sense was created with “a new design language,” you’ll find it difficult to tell at a glance the difference between it and the old Versa watches (the company also says the new Versa 3 comes with the Sense Aesthetics was designed). Instead of keeping the Ionic’s funky, edged octagonal shape, Fitbit decided to copy the same square dial with rounded corners from its recent releases. There are two notches on the sides of the scythe face that are not included in verse 3 if you actually take a moment to look it up, presumably a visual mark showing the stainless steel and aluminum casing of the former and the aluminum of the latter indicates.

Fitbit Sense product plaster, front view, made of carbon and graphite stainless steel

Fitbit Versa 3 product render, front view, in black and black aluminum

While the similarity of design may seem boring to some, I think it’s a good call to err in the direction of uniformity. The form factor plays one of Fitbit’s strengths: a deep line of products. For one thing, the Sense is compatible with all of the Versa 3’s accessories, and the similarity to a certain other line of smartwatches on the market that also happened to have two new devices with the exact same form factor is just one advantage.

The sense also sits better on the wrist than the Ion ever. Additionally, removing all physical buttons in favor of an inductive control point, a feature first seen in Fitbit’s charge trackers, makes the watch more convenient, especially in the gym or in bed. My typical wear test for wearables involves squats or pushups on the barbell front to see if the wrist extension of the movements crushes the buttons and leaves the tracking function. The Sense passed the push-up test and only woke the watch screen for one or two repetitions. Still, I love the functionality of a physical button – the haptic feedback from the spot just doesn’t do the same for me.

The removal of the button is made possible by the smooth response of the smartwatch’s operating system, which is easy to navigate with a swipe and tap. More than any other Fitbit device I’ve tested, you can personalize the Sense with customizable widgets to determine what data is shown on the screen and with shortcuts to commonly used features.

The sense as a stress buster and heart hero

The sensors and health traits are the true premium feature of the Sense.

Fitbit claims the watch has the first EDA (Electrodermal Activity) sensor in a wearable, a feature that measures the body’s response to stress. Using the feature is quite simple: start a measurement, then place your palm over the watch for two minutes and relax. When I stopped trying to look at the timer, reading it was a good opportunity to relax. The sensor detects reactions (“tiny changes in the sweat level”) on your skin during the session and logs your starting and ending heart rate. You will then be asked to record your feelings. This is part of Fitbit’s focus on managing mood and stress using the device. Along with the EDA readings, you can do guided breathing exercises on the watch, while Mindfulness and Stress Management – the latter use biometric inputs to provide a personalized assessment, similar to Fitbit’s sleep tracking – two standout sections on the watch are connected app.

The Sense also has a new EKG app for assessing the wearer’s heartbeat to identify abnormalities commonly known as atrial fibrillation or AFib. A similar feature was introduced for the Apple Watch Series 4 in 2018. As with Apple’s functionality, Fitbit Sense’s EKG is not available at launch because the feature was announced before Fitbit received FDA approval for use. The wait won’t be long, however; Fitbit was given proper permissions to the EKG app soon after the Sense was publicly revealed, and the feature is expected to be available in October.

Fitbit sense

The SpO2 dial.

Fitbit

For now, however, you can use Fitbit’s SpO2 watch faces to measure your blood oxygen levels, another great Apple Watch feature announced this year. This feature isn’t unique to Sense – I tried it out on the Fitbit Versa 2 first – and it’s easy to use. Just wear the device in bed and the data collected while you sleep will be used to calculate the percentage. Fitbit’s app clearly states that the measure is not intended for medical purposes (much like Apple’s new messaging around the feature), it is only intended to provide information that users can use to assess their wellbeing.

Men’s health subscription

Finally, a new temperature sensor on the wrist tracks changes during sleep to monitor trends over time, which can help identify problems early on. Like the SpO2 function, it is completely passive and is not used to diagnose any condition.

Much of the general data from these sensors is detailed in the helpful new Health Metrics Dashboard in the Fitbit app, which only Fitbit Premium members can access (all Sense buyers receive a six-month trial of the service). I found the dashboard extremely useful for analyzing the data from all the sensors and actually understanding how it all fits together. So those who are not ready to expand the premium service will be happy to know that Fitbit recently decided to implement the dashboard to the general user base for free in the coming months.

The intelligence of the mind

Along with all of the new health features, the Sense is still admirable as a fitness tracker. You will be comfortable if you’ve used any of the brand’s watches before, and if you haven’t, it won’t take you long to figure it out. Step count goals are still an easy way for low-intensity athletes to move around and engage with the device, while Fitbit’s newer activity zone, introduced with Charge 4, challenges more advanced wearers to set a predetermined number of minutes with personalized Heart rate reach zones for harder exertion. The Sense also added built-in GPS for improved fitness tracking, the first for a Fitbit smartwatch since the Ionic. The feature also makes it easy to leave your phone behind for an outdoor workout if you’re feeling that brave (music storage on the device via Pandora and Deezer make this even more appealing).

Lifestyle photo by Fitbit Sense

Fitbit

The Sense also has solid smartwatch capabilities with phone notifications, NFC payments, and two smart assistants: Amazon Alexa is available at launch and works fine for basic functions, while Google Assistant will be available later this winter.

One of my biggest favorite complaints from Fitbit’s other devices is finally happily resolved: The new charger uses a basic magnetic connection design instead of a cumbersome plastic case. I’ve complained about the charger in every other Fitbit review and was probably a little more excited than I should have been when I unpacked the scythe and saw the new power setup. This charger is powerful too; According to Fitbit, a 12-minute charge gives the device a full day of juice. My battery tests didn’t match Fitbit’s estimate for more than six days – I did it for a little over five days – but I did a fair amount of tracking to test them and the constantly on display turned on and off turned off, so this is likely to affect the duration.

The bottom line

Lifestyle photo by Fitbit Sense

Fitbit

The Sense is a more complete smartwatch than anything Fitbit has released to date. It has health and fitness tracking capabilities that rival its biggest competitor in the space, Apple. There are a few shortcomings, however, namely the lack of quality apps and watch faces that Fitbit offers.

The cost of Fitbit is a big jump at $ 330, especially after the company launched the last Versa smartwatch for under $ 200 (the Versa 3 is $ 230). Buyers need to look through the array of sensors and services and determine if a Fitbit Apple Watch is worth money, a factor that hasn’t been part of the equation for the past few years. Also, since the Sense’s price is more in line with premium competitors, it’s also worth noting that iPhone connectivity with the Sense isn’t quite as smooth as it is with an Apple Watch – but that shouldn’t come as a big surprise given Apple’s entire range this is a connected family of devices that work well together.

But Fitbit’s sense stands on its own, especially for Android users and purely health and fitness-oriented wearers. The combination of design, health functionality and smarts is the top tier of the smartwatch market. If you’re looking for one of the best smart devices to wear on your wrist, the Sense is for you.

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