Fitbit Surge

Fitbit recently added three new models to the device lineup. The new additions were the Charge and the Charge HR, as well as the Surge. We've already spent a bit of time with the Charge, and more recently, we've been taking a look at the Surge. Fitbit has a solid reputation in terms of fitness trackers, and step counting in general, however the Surge takes things a step beyond what many have come to think of as the Fitbit default feature set.

Just to begin with, the folks at Fitbit are billing the Surge as the "Fitness Super Watch." A quick look at the tracker has that branding looking rather accurate. The Surge looks more like a smartwatch than a traditional fitness tracker. Along with the basics such as daily step counts, the Fitbit Surge brings goodies such as continuous heart rate tracking, and GPS tracking for specific activities such as running, and more.

Some of the other features include a battery life of up to 7 days, a touchscreen monochrome LCD display, and a water-resistance to 5ATM. Basically, that last one means you shouldn't have to worry about sweat or rain ruining your Surge while you are out getting exercise. In total, the Surge has the following sensors; GPS, 3-axis accelerometer, 3-axis gyroscope, digital compass, optical heart rate monitor, altimeter, ambient light sensor, and a vibration motor.

Looking at the spec sheet for the Fitbit Surge — which we'll do shortly — one could begin to believe the "Fitness Super Watch" branding. Of course, just because things look perfect on paper, that doesn't mean the Surge is going to be the best option for everyone. Before we get any further in the review, I should mention that I went into this review already sold on fitness trackers. To that point, I've been using a Fitbit for several years now.

The Fitbit One had been my go to tracker, however I'll let you in on a little secret — I only stopped wearing the Charge from our [earlier review]( "earlier review') to test out the Surge. So, knowing I've been happy with the One and the Charge, a person could assume a fancier model with more features would be right up my alley. Having said that, let's see how well the Surge performed in day-to-day use, and whether or not it will remain on my wrist, or if I'll fall back to wearing the Charge.

The Specs

  • Touchscreen monochrome LCD with backlight
  • Battery Life: Up to 7 days
  • Charge Time: 1-2 hours
  • Internal Memory: Detailed (minute-by-minute) data for 7 days, daily totals for the past 30 days
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Syncs with Android, iOS, and Windows Phone, as well as Mac and Windows computers
  • Water-resistant to 5ATM
  • Band: Flexible, durable elastomer material (similar to a sport watch band), with a surgical-grade stainless steel buckle
  • Band Size: Small ( 5.5 - 6.7-inches), Large (6.3 - 7.9-inches), X-Large (7.8 - 9.1-inches), and 34mm wide
  • Records steps, distance, floors climbed, active minutes, calories, sleep, continuous heart rate, and GPS for distance, paced elevation climbed
  • Sensors: GPS, 3-axis accelerometer, 3-axis gyroscope, digital compass, optical heart rate monitor, altimeter, ambient light sensor, vibration motor
  • Ships with USB charging cable and wireless sync dongle (used to sync with a Mac or Windows computer)
  • Colors: Black, Blue, Tangerine
  • Price: $249.95


The Surge is a good looking device, but it isn't one that will be confused with a fancy dress watch. This is clearly fitness oriented, and as far as fitness watches go — this one is certainly on the nicer side of the scale. Up front you'll find a small monochrome LCD display that is closer to what you would have with a Pebble, as opposed to an Android Wear smartwatch. The Surge may not have a fancy color display, but it does have a touchscreen display. And to make matters nicer, the display is clear and easily readable at a glance both indoors and out in the bright sun, and also has a backlight. Overall, the touchscreen works rather well.

If a touchscreen monochrome LCD isn't your thing, you also have some buttons. The folks at Fitbit gave the Surge a three-button setup. You'll find a single button on the left, with the remaining two buttons on the right side. These correspond to the touchscreen options, and work as one would hope and/or expect. The touchscreen was the preferred option during most of the testing, however the physical buttons did come in handy at times.

According to Fitbit, the band is made of a "flexible, durable elastomer material." Our take on that — the band is soft and flexible. We would actually go as far as saying the Surge offers the most comfortable band of any Fitbit product. Reaching into the box and grabbing the Surge the first time was almost a surprise to the touch — the band really does feel soft. We wonder what that will mean for long term use, however during our few weeks of wearing the Surge we can say the band was comfortable, and it held up well. Also important to note, you will not be able to swap the band.

Similar to other Fitbit trackers, the Surge charges with a proprietary cable. The cable connects to a computer or wall charger using USB. The charging port on the Surge is opposite the display, which means it will be facing your wrist while the watch is being worn. Also on the inside is the heart rate sensor which sits just above the charging port. Having the heart rate sensor means you'll need somewhat of a snug fit on the wrist, which goes back to the comfort of the soft touch band.

Overall, there wasn't much to complain about in terms of looks and comfort. And just to clarify, the comfort meant wearing the watch 24/7 so we could use it for daily activity as well as sleep tracking. The only time the Surge came off during the review was to rinse it off (after a long run), or to charge it. Speaking of charging, the folks at Fitbit tout a battery life of up to 7 days. Our testing came up a little shorter than that, but we were still looking at 5 full days with a need to charge on the 6th day.


As mentioned earlier, the Surge offers all the goodies you would expect from a Fitbit. You'll find it keeps track of your daily steps, distance, floors climbed, active minutes, and calories. The Surge also offers automatic sleep tracking, continuous heart rate tracking, and has GPS for distance, pace and elevation climbed. The GPS is actually one of the key features of the Surge, which is part of the reason why Fitbit has this one billed as the "fitness super watch."

You can use the GPS to track "Runs" or "Exercise" which are available by hitting the button on the left side of the Surge. Running options include free runs, treadmill runs, and track runs. On the exercise side you will find options for hiking, weights, elliptical, spinning, yoga, and general workouts.

The GPS generally took a minute or two to lock in, and once locked it was generally solid and accurate. Using the Surge to track a run, you will have some key details up for easy glance. The display will show how long you have been running for, and also show your current mileage. The activity display also shows your current heart rate, which as mentioned earlier, is continuous. Perhaps even nicer is how the heart rate tracking doesn't require any additional hardware. Simply put, you will not be wearing any chest strap monitor with the Surge.

Based on comparisons with some other fitness oriented devices, the GPS data and the heart rate tracking seemed to be rather accurate. In fact, we didn't have any complaints when it came to what the Surge was tracking.

The Surge also offers automatic sleep tracking. The automatic aspect is nice because it means your data will be recorded without having to worry about hitting a button before falling asleep. But on the flip side, a lazy evening watching a movie (just before bed) may confuse the Surge into thinking you've gotten a bit more sleep.

So, the Surge does the regular fitness tracking (step counting), the more advanced fitness tracking (GPS tracking), and the sleep tracking. Those can be summed up as the key features of the device — again of which we had no complaints. But there are a few other goodies to be found. There are silent alarms to go along with the sleep tracking, and those can be set from Fitbit app on your smartphone, or using the web interface. The Fitbit Surge also features music playback controls, and shows notifications for incoming calls and text messages.

While you are setting the alarms (using the smartphone app), there are also a few other options available. Going into the settings (for the Surge) you will find options to turn the call and text notifications on or off. The settings also allow you to configure your main goal (we picked steps), whether you are wearing the Surge on a dominant or non-dominant wrist, and the style of clock you see on the display. Remaining Surge specific options include setting whether you want the heart rate tracking to be automatic and continuous, and choosing some exercise shortcuts.

The last remaining option includes choosing whether you want the Surge to sync in the background or only when you open the app manually. Having the Surge sync periodically in the background is nice, especially if you choose to display the Fitbit widget (on an Android device), however that does come at the expense of some battery life. During our testing (and similar to how we regularly use a Fitbit), we left the background sync turned off.

Up until this point the Surge has been a great device. It was comfortable to wear, it looked nice, and overall it performed well during our day-to-day use. But moving into the next section of this review and you'll start to see why it wasn't a perfect device for us. A little hint — that had to do with smartwatches. The Surge looks close enough to a watch that we didn't feel comfortable wearing it along with a Pebble. We suppose you could, however you may get some crazy looks for wearing a watch on both wrists.

Fitness Tracker vs. Fitness Watch

Continuing on that train of thought, as much as we liked what the Surge offered, we were not ready to part with our Pebble. Of course, while this was an issue for us — if you are not already attached to a smartwatch — that would not be an issue. But this is where the Surge begins to feel like a device that falls somewhere in the middle. A device that feels a bit different that what we've been seeing in terms of fitness trackers and fitness watches.

The Surge tracks your daily steps and sleep which means it is designed to be worn all day and every day. But most of the fitness trackers do not look so similar to a regular watch. That thought uses bands such as the Fitbit Charge, and even the Jawbone UP line as an example. The other side deals with fitness and sport watches, such as those from Garmin. With those types of devices you often wear the watch for a specific activity and then remove it after you are done working out (running).

With the Surge you sort of have to go all in, assuming you want to get the most from the data it tracks. That means all day and everyday use, which (given the watch-like style) means the Surge will likely be the only device you wear on your wrist. Having said that, those looking for a single device to track regular daily activity, as well as specific workouts, and sleep should at least consider the Surge when shopping.

Mobile and Web Interfaces

We covered the mobile and web interfaces for Fitbit with our earlier Charge review, and the overall setup is the same with the Surge, with the addition of heart rate data. Perhaps the key point we would like to make with the data collected from the Surge — you really need to dive in and see what you are, or aren't doing during the day. For one, the Surge isn't a basic activity tracker. Or in other words, those paying $249.95 should take full advantage of what is being offered.

For example, we didn't really have trouble hitting a daily goal of 10,000 steps. But when looking closer at those steps, we found that roughly 75 percent of those steps came from a one-hour period of actual exercise (running). Furthermore, when you are awake for roughly 16 hours per day, doing about 75 percent of your activity in 1 hour means you mostly sat for 15 hours. Simply put, the Surge tracks quite a bit, and is accurate with what it tracks — this means those willing and able to pay the $250 price point should get one's money's worth.

Bottom Line

The bottom line here is fairly simple…if you are looking for one device that is able to track your daily activity as well as your workouts, and sleep — the Surge is one to consider. Summing things up, we found the Surge to be comfortable to wear, good looking, and perhaps equally important — accurate. But in full disclosure here, we should mention that we've since moved back to wearing a Pebble on the left wrist for full smartphone notifications, with the Fitbit Charge on the right wrist. Overall we really liked what the Surge has to offer, however the main drawback for us (and the reason we went back to the Charge) was the watch-like appearance.