Available to buy, Fitbit are building on the success of their Flex wearable with fresh products boasting new technologies. First up the Charge HR which is marketed towards “Active Fitness” users who already do a fair bit of exercise. For those who are competitive about their sport, the Fitbit Surge aims to cater for “Performance Fitness” users.
Active? Performance? If they sound like segmentation categories the Fitbit marketing team have made up, don’t worry. I’m at hand to take you through how the Charge HR and Surge differ in features and help you towards you fitness goals. Have a read before buying, as there’s no point missing out on features you’ll love, or paying extra for features you’ll never use.
Little note: There is also a third product release called the Charge which doesn’t include heart rate tracking, Check out my Fitbit Charge HR vs Charge comparison.
#1 GPS tracking on the surge
Whilst the Charge HR will estimate your daily distance covered based on the number of steps you take using a pedometer, the Fitbit Surge uses satellites in space to give you more accurate data. If your training consists of running, hiking or cycling, the Surge is a good choice with its built in GPS chip.
Bear in mind, that GPS won’t really work on treadmills as it’s hard for satellites to gauge your location when training indoors. Luckily the Surge still includes a pedometer, identical to the Charge HR, meaning as a back up you can still track your daily step counts and even how many stairs you’ve climbed. With PurePulse heart rate monitors within both devices, you can measure your beats per minute straight from your wrist , no matter which ever Fitbit wins your… heart.
#2 Longer battery life on the Surge
According to Fitbit, the Surge wearable gives you more than seven days of battery juice; two days extra than the Charge HR. That’s a pretty good charge life considering, which I assume takes some light GPS usage into account. You should be able to get a couple of runs under your belt before needing to plug it in for a recharge. With 5 days battery life, the Charge HR lasts equal to the Fitbit Flex on a single charge.
#3 – Notifications
Pair up with a smartphone and both Charge HR and Surge give you caller ID notifications on the wrist. With no SIM card slot inside either wearable, you’ll have to be pretty in range to your phone anyway to use this feature.
It’s useful if you’re phone is in your gym bag and rings mid-workout. Just look at your wrist to see if the caller is worth taking a quick break. Unlike the Samsung Gear S, neither Fitbit device lets you take the call straight from your wrist.
With a bigger display than the Charge HR, only the Surge lets you read incoming text messages straight from the wrist.
#4 – Control songs from mobile playlist
I love to go on a tempo run with a motivating song blasting in-between my ears. Using bluetooth pairing you can connect the Surge to a music playlist stored on your smartphone and use the buttons on the side of the Fitbit to skip tracks and control volume. It means you don’t have to worry about getting your phone all sweaty during a run because you’re not in the mood for hearing your guilty pleasure.
The Charge HR won’t control your music for you. Take note that if you don’t want to run around clutching your smartphone, there are now wearables which can store music inside! Crazy!
#5 Buttons on the side of the Surge
We just picked up on this. There are 3 buttons (two right, one left) on the Surge. As well as music skipping, they can be used for changing your activity mode and recording workouts.
#6 Greater Water resistance in the Surge.
Whether its for showering, doing the washing up or going for a swim, you need a wearable which fits around your lifestyle. Besides it needs to handle all that sweat you’re going to excrete while you get physical.
The Charge HR offers 1ATM water resistance (10m) ; meaning its all good to get a little sweaty and an accidental splash of water should be fine. For greater protection the Surge has a 5 ATM (50m) rating. Feel free to shower, and go swimming without worry of damaging the insides of this Fitbit.
Going off the ratings, neither watch is suitable for snorkelling or scuba diving.
#7 The Charge HR strap is smaller
A rather subtle difference which won’t affect many users but I noticed both small and large straps for the Surge are slightly longer than the Charge HR. This means the Surge fits bigger wrists which are up to 0.3 inches larger in circumference. Detailed measurements below:
- Small fits 5.5 to 6.7 inches
- Large fits 6.3 to 7.9 inches
- Small fits 5.5 to 6.5 inches
- Large fits 6.3 to 7.6 inches
As both activity trackers monitor heart rate from the wrist using PurePulse technology, its recommended to wear a Fitbit slightly higher up on the wrist to get an accurate reading.
#8 – You can buy the Charge HR in Plum
Both wearables are available in black, blue and tangerine colour designs, but only the Charge HR arrives in an additional plum colour variant.
#9 – About £80 price difference
If the exclusive features of the Surge appeal to you, there is a significant price difference compared to the Charge HR. It varies slightly by country but essentially you’re looking at paying up to 40% more for the added GPS functionality.
Charge HR vs Surge pricing
- UK pounds – £119 vs £199
- US dollars – $149.95 vs $249.95
- Canadian dollars – $149.95 vs $249.95
- Australian dollars – $179.95 vs $299.95
My personal view is that the Fitbit Surge is worth the extra money, if you regularly do endurance activity where you want to track the distance covered. The presence of buttons make it look and feel more like a watch for sports performance, and the added bonus of controlling music from your wrist, ensures little fuss when you need a quick change in sound.