Fitbit Charge 2 review: A sleek wearable with thoughtful features

Gelo Gonzales
Fitbit Charge 2 review: A sleek wearable with thoughtful features
Read Rappler's hands-on review with the follow-up to Fitbit's best-selling tracker, the Charge HR

If you’re looking for a new fitness tracker to help you fight off the holiday pounds, the Fitbit Charge 2 makes for a sensible purchase. We tried one out recently, and from our experience, it’s a cool, sleek device to wear casually but is indeed useful for those actively trying to stay healthy. 

For starters, like a good fitness tracker does, it counts your steps. But we urge you to try out its slew of features and not let this P8,499-device become a glorified step-counter. The Charge 2 offers a load of well-meaning, health-enhancing features – if used properly.

Chief among these features is its ability to estimate your VO2 Max, a measurement of how well your body uses oxygen when you’re working out at your hardest – and said to be a great way of measuring cardiovascular fitness. Traditionally, VO2 Max is measured in a lab environment, so the number that the Charge 2 shows is merely an estimate, appearing as “Cardio Fitness Level”.

It is able to do this by using several key pieces of data: height, weight, age, gender, running speed, and heart rate. The score can be accessed through the Fitbit app to give you a general picture of how well you’re doing. Stay active, and you just might see your score go higher through time. It’s an easy way of seeing yourself progress and a neat gamification of your fitness. The Fitbit app boasts a boatload of other stats to help you track your fitness, by the way, and has a bright, modern user interface that makes it fun to use. 

Another way that the Charge 2 is simplifying things for the fitness buff is with its PurePulse heart rate tracking technology. This tracks your heart rate without needing a chest strap as some other fitness trackers still do. It’s liberating to work out without the need of a cumbersome strap on your body – that’s the main benefit of this. With the data the device is able to collect, it’s easier to monitor the calories you burn and to know when you need to actually step it up and increase your heart rate. You’re also recording your heart rate over time, so you’ll be able to check out this data and see the times when you’re pushing your body hard or when you might be stressing yourself out.

One warning: some report that there is a delay with the Charge 2’s heart-rate tracking capabilities, especially when undergoing intense exercises. It keeps up when you’re just resting or walking, but when you’re doing more strenuous exercises, the reading doesn’t always match up perfectly as experienced by one CNET reviewer. Don’t rely on it for specific heart rate measurements; read it to give you a general idea of how intense you’re exercising. 

Another nice touch is the device’s “Relax” feature. Feeling stressed? Tap the device a few times (it’s how you scroll through the device’s capabilities) until you see the feature. Activate it by pressing the sole button on the device, and it will guide you with a guided breathing session. What’s cool about this is that the breathing session is personalized. It determines your breathing rate, and creates a custom meditative inhale-exhale session to calm you down. Great for when you’re feeling a bit stressed out at work! 

You know though what might stress you out? The device doesn’t always respond to your taps. The tracker has a larger screen now than its predecessor, the Charge HR. You might think it’s a touchscreen but it’s not. It responds to the vibration you send by tapping it. There’s a sweet spot you need to hit. Tap too hard or too light and it won’t respond or let you scroll through the functions. And why is there no way to scroll back? You’ll have to cycle through the entire menu if you miss the function you want. These are small problems, but they can get annoying over the long run. Because the device has many well-meaning features, these tiny usability issues somehow stand out.

Speaking of a long run, the device has battery life that’s better than most wearables: it runs for 5 days on a single charge. 

Overall, the Fitbit Charge 2 is a sensibly-priced, innovative fitness tracker that’s good for the casual gym-goer who’s looking to enhance his well-being – as long as you’re not into cross-fit, high-intensity interval training, or swimming – remember: the Charge 2 isn’t waterproof. –

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Gelo Gonzales

Gelo Gonzales is Rappler’s technology editor. He covers consumer electronics, social media, emerging tech, and video games.