To top
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on LinkedInEmail this to someone

The fitness tracker and smart watch market is crowded. Countless makes and models are jostling for shelf space and your attention. It is easy to be confused when choosing just one. So we’ve made it easy and with a quick review of eight of the latest and the most sophisticated activity and fitness trackers from four major brands: FitBit, Jawbone, Garmin, and Misfit. In this piece, we examine the Surge and Charge HR (FitBit), UP24 and UP3 (Jawbone), Forerunner 910XT and fēnix 3 (Garmin), and Shine and Flash (Misfit).

Because these fitness trackers are some of the most sophisticated to have come out from their respective stables, they pack in an array of features. All the fitness trackers under our scanner can track the number of steps you have taken, the hours you have slept, and record data from multiple activities. Some of the more advanced ones have continuous heart rate monitors and provide more detailed sleep reports. Fitness watches with GPS trackers are ideal for specific activities like running, cycling, and hiking, and some models include more sophisticated features and churn out minute details that elite sportsmen and serious fitness enthusiasts demand.

Here’s the low-down on how the FitBit, Jawbone, Garmin, and Misfit models compare against each other on the basis of these features:

GPS Tracker


The two Garmin models in our consideration and the FitBit Surge contain the GPS tracking feature. Garmin is the industry leader in GPS tracking devices, and it comes as no surprise that their smart sports watches too pack in this powerful feature. The in-built GPS technology in the fēnix 3 is boosted by the satellite-based GLONASS support system that gives more accurate readings. But it is not that the Garmin Forerunner 910XT and the FitBit Surge would give you any cause to complain in this regard.

The FitBit Charge HR and Jawbone UP3 do not have in-built GPS tracking features, but if you take a GPS-enabled compatible smartphone along with you, you can view your location details on your watch.

The Jawbone UP24 and the two Misfit models—Shine and Flash—do not contain the GPS tracking feature.

Activity Tracker

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 4.13.41 PM

All fitness trackers under our consideration perform basic activity tracking like counting the steps taken, calories burned, and the number of hours slept. However, some take activity tracking to an extreme level.

The fēnix 3 is the ultimate activity tracker with an inbuilt altimeter (to track altitude), barometer (to record weather changes), and compass. The fēnix 3 and its Garmin cousin, the Forerunner 910XT, are watches for runners and swimmers. So they also provide minute running data like the ground contact time, vertical oscillation, and cadence and swimming data like distance and stroke type, count, and efficiency. The fēnix 3 also charts data for activities like skiing.

The Jawbone UP3 may not be a dedicated multi-sports watch like the Garmin Forerunner 910XT and fēnix 3, but it still packs in a punch with its onboard range of uber-sensitive sensors. It features automatic activity detection and records data for a host of activities like running, hiking, tennis, Zumba, cross-training, and dancing. The precision motion sensor ensures the data captured is accurate, always.

Although not as detailed like the Garmin duo, the FitBit Surge too provides an impressive array of activity data like speed, distance traveled, elevation (in terms of number of stairs climbed), and active minutes courtesy its in-built 3-axis accelerometer and gyroscope, and digital compass. And with an in-built GPS tracker, the Surge fares admirably as a running and cycling watch.

The FitBit Charge HR does not have a GPS tracker. However, it can accurately record steps taken and calories burned, like the Misfit Shine, the Misfit Flash, and the Jawbone UP24. But the Misfit models cannot log data separately for different activities.

Heart Rate Monitor

Both the FitBit models—Charge HR and Surge—have continuous heart rate monitors that keep track of your beats whether you are active or are resting. The sensor uses the proprietary PurePulse technology to provide accurate numbers. After you have worn one of these devices for some time, you get a graph that plots your heart rate throughout the day. This detailed graph indicates the heart rate peaks across different intensity zones, so you know immediately if you are doing an aerobic workout or are busting fat.

The Jawbone UP3 has no optical heart rate sensor, but it makes up by providing you with your resting heart rate, which most physicians agree is a reliable indicator of your general heart health. Additionally, the Jawbone UP3 provides a multitude of bioimpedance data like perspiration, hydration, breathing, body mass index, and skin temperature.

Heart rate monitors are sold separately with both the Garmin Forerunner 910XT and the fēnix 3. The fēnix 3 additionally does some complex number-crunching to provide data like the maximum amount of oxygen you consume in a minute by recording heart rate variability.

The Jawbone UP24, Misfit Shine, and Misfit Flash do not have heart rate monitors.

Sleep Tracker


The FitBit Charge HR and FitBit Surge offer superior sleep tracking features compared to most of their peers. Both have automatic sleep trackers and provide consistently accurate data on the number of hours you have slept. Both trackers also have silent alarms that wake you up from sleep with gentle vibrations. But if you want more detailed reports on your shuteye, you have to look to the Jawbone UP3.

The Jawbone UP3 has sophisticated sensors that can track your light, deep, and REM sleep times. This watch is suitable for individuals battling insomnia or other sleep disorders and who want to evaluate their therapies. However, you have to activate the sleep mode on these watches manually.

The Jawbone UP24 does not contain an automatic sleep tracker. Nor does it provide any sleep data other than the number of hours you have slumbered. But this device has a whole range of nifty alarm features. You can set a wake-alarm. You can also set another alarm to go off a few minutes earlier or later, in case the gentle vibrations don’t manage to rouse you from sleep. There is also a power nap alarm that you can set to go off between 27 and 45 minutes. Research has shown that a short nap during the day is an excellent pick-me-up.

Both Misfit Shine and Misfit Flash have automatic sleep trackers and both models can track light and deep sleep. The Misfit Shine has a smart alarm that wakes you up only when you are sleeping lightly, which means that you wake up refreshed (and not grumpy).

The Garmin models—Forerunner 910XT and fēnix 3—offer only basic sleep tracking features. But considering that these high-end sports watches are designed for the hardcore fitness fanatic or an elite athlete who is more concerned about his on-field performance, you cannot complain about the lack of sleep-tracking features.

Water Resistance


When it comes to sturdiness, the fēnix 3 excels over not only its Garmin counterparts but also models from other brands. The fēnix 3 is designed for the outdoors and is the ultimate rugged mean machine. It is water resistant for up to 100 meters. Its brother, the Forerunner 910XT too has a sturdy design and can withstand water pressure for up to 50 meters. No other fitness tracker we are considering has such powerful water-resistance features. But then these Garmin models are multi-sports watches.

The sleek and stylish Misfit models—the Shine and the Flash—come up with impressive results in the water-resistance category. Both these models are waterproof, making them ideal for swimming. But while the Shine is crafted from aircraft-grade solid anodized aluminum, the Flash is its plastic clone and not much sturdy.

The FitBit Surge and the Charge HR are rain- and splash-proof and stand up well to sweat. But you cannot wear them when you are swimming or showering. The Jawbone UP24 can resist rain, splash, shower, and sweat but not a dunk in the bath tub. The UP3 is water-resistant for up to 10 meters, so it can withstand a hand wash or shower but not swimming.

Battery Life


The Misfit Flash and the Misfit Shine also impress with their long battery lives. They last six months on a single charge.

But as expected, most fitness trackers that come with an array of features and a multitude of sensors have shorter battery lives. For instance, the Jawbone models we are considering—UP24 and UP3—have approximately a week of battery life while the FitBit Charge HR and the FitBit Surge have about five days of battery life. So it is no wonder that the chunky Garmin Forerunner 910XT lasts for much less time, 20 hours on a single charge. But the Garmin fēnix 3 gives you options to extend its battery life by choosing one of the four modes of operation—Normal, Ultra Track, Indoor, and demo. In the demo watch mode with the GPS turned off, the fēnix 3 can last for a whopping six weeks and in the UltraTrack mode, for up to 50 hours.

Smartphone Notifications


They may be fitness trackers or sports watches, but the discerning user demands more from his wearables, and smartphone notifications feature high on his list of wants.

The Misfit Shine surges ahead with its Bluetooth connectivity and social media updates, apart from alerting you when calls and messages come in. The Jawbone UP24 is also a show-stealer with its Bluetooth BLE 4.0 connectivity that lets you sync the device with both Android and the latest iOS devices. So you can receive call, text, email, and social media notifications on your watch. The Jawbone UP3 notifies you of any call, message, or mail with a gentle buzz.

The “super watch” FitBit Surge and the FitBit Charge HR notify you of incoming calls, missed, calls, and text messages, but they do not display social media updates. However, you can control your playlist from the Surge watch interface.

The extreme sports watches in our review list—the Forerunner 910XT and fēnix 3 from Garmin—display smartphone notifications, and these show up well on their large screens, unlike the FitBit models.

The Misfit Flash is the cheapest fitness tracker on our comparison. It does not provide smartphone notifications, but we cannot complain.

From the above comparison, you have probably realized that the most feature-heavy smart watch or fitness tracker may not be the best choice for you. Many high-end fitness devices contain too many features for the casual fitness enthusiast. But the most basic fitness tracker may leave you hankering for more. So before you head for the stores with this guide in hand or order a fitness tracker online, make sure you have figured out your exact needs and budget.

Leave a Reply

We are on Instagram