Fitbit Surge GPS sportswatch review
Steps, distance, pace, track, heart rate, this thing can do it all
- Built-in heart rate monitor
- Built-in GPS
- A good all-round performer
- Dashboard interface could be better
- Maps don't look accurate enough
Price$ 350.00 (AUD)
The Surge is the cream of Fitbit’s crop of fitness tracking devices. It’s a relatively large smartwatch which incorporates a ton of features that make it do more than just track steps and elevation. In particular, it has GPS, and it also includes a built-in heart rate monitor that works using optical technology.
You can record your steps, distance, elevation, pace, track (on the map), and heart rate, all without requiring any additional equipment such as your phone, or a strap for your chest, and it’s a highly convenient all-in-one device in that respect.
The watch itself is chunky given that it houses so much stuff, and it looked immediately uncomfortable when we pulled it out of its packaging. You are instructed to wear it in a way so that it’s flush on your skin for the heart rate monitor to work. To Fitbit’s credit, the watch didn’t feel all that uncomfortable when we wore it for our activities. It sat well balanced on the wrist, and its band felt smooth and soft. However, until you get used to it, it can be inconvenient to wear it full time. We took it off when sitting at our desk.
All of the functions running at the same time will deplete the battery in the Surge rather quickly. We found that we had to charge it roughly every three days (recording one one-hour activity per day) when the indicator got down to a small shade on the screen, but it gave longer life when we disabled the heart rate monitor. A full charge took about 1.5 hours via a USB cable that needs to be plugged into the back, rather than a dock. In this way it’s a little fiddlier to charge than watches such as Garmin’s Vivoactive.
Setting up the watch requires that you have a Fitbit account to pair it to, and a wireless connection to a computer can be made via a supplied USB-based Bluetooth dongle -- it’s separate to the charging cable. The entire process involves downloading Fitbit’s Connect software, plugging in the Bluetooth dongle, and then plugging in the device to charge it and pair it with your account. The screen on the watch confirms the pairing process by displaying a series of numbers that need to be confirmed in the software. It’s a lot of steps, but it all worked smoothly for us, and, most importantly, on the first go.
Using the watch to record activities entails pressing on the button on the left, and swiping on the screen to either select ‘run’, or ‘exercise’ and then choosing your activity. You can either tap on the screen or press the bottom button on the right to select things. The activities are hiking, weights, elliptical, spinning, yoga, and workout. The screen for each workout shows you which functions of the watch will be recording data when you start the activity. Interestingly, there is no ‘walking’ activity, meaning you will have to use ‘hike’ when going on walks.
We found the layout of the interface simple, and the watch was responsive when it recognised our swipes and taps. It’s not a large touchscreen -- the viewable area is a 21x21mm square -- and the way the stats fill the screen sometimes made us wish it was slightly wider.
A backlight comes on automatically when you tap or swipe on the watch, but this is a function we weren’t happy with. We’d prefer the backlight to be activated by a dedicated physical button instead. That said, the left menu button does turn on the backlight when pressed, but it takes you away from the screen you want to see.
One of the things we love about the main screen of the watch is that it shows you how active you’ve been during the course of an hour. A series of dots lights up for every minute. The more dots that are stacked up per minute, the more active you’ve been. If you look down and only see one dot for each minute, that means you’ve been inactive for too long. It’s a feature that’s true to the roots of Fitbit; that is, giving you hints, and perhaps motivation, to move more.
All of your recorded data can be viewed in the Fitbit Dashboard interface via the Fitbit Web site or through the app on your phone, including recorded activities and your heart rate. Just make sure that you have the most up-to-date version of the app installed on your phone, otherwise you won’t see heart rate or logged activities. Furthermore, only the latest version of the app will allow your phone to sync with the watch via wireless means.
Performance was good overall, with the watch giving almost the same stats in multiple categories compared to our benchmark device, the Fitbit Ultra. You can see our comparison between these devices below, when they were working side by side throughout the course of an active day (the Ultra in our pocket).
The GPS on the Fitbit Surge found satellites in relatively quick time. It basically gave us a good overview of the track we took, but when we looked at the maps on some recorded activities very closely, the track didn't follow the road exactly. It often showed us walking on the wrong side of a road or well in from the road and footpath.
Distance comparisons with the Garmin Vivoactive showed the difference between the units to be 300m over the course of a 10km walk, even though the maps for both looked largely the same (including start and end points). That said, we like the look of the Garmin’s maps a lot more than Fitbit’s. Fitbit’s maps are less detailed and this is perhaps what causes tracks to look off.
As for the heart rate monitor, it recorded our activities with a complete data-set throughout, suggesting it never failed to bounce light properly off our wrist as we moved (and rested). For those of you who want the convenience of a heart rate monitor, but dislike the idea of wearing a strap, then it’s a good option.
We’re happy with the overall performance of the Fitbit Surge in our tests, and think it’s a sportswatch that deserves serious consideration for the functions that it harbours.
That said, we think it's a watch that could use some tweaking; mainly, its Web Dashboard interface isn’t all that intuitive -- it often bounces you out into an old-style view when you look at activities -- and its maps aren't all that detailed. Also, the backlight implementation could be better, and we would appreciate a mode called ‘walk’ rather than ‘hike’, for those of us who are city walkers.
Join the newsletter!
Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44
Panasonic OLED 4K Ultra HD TV - TH-55EZ950U
cloudandco Smart Cane
Nespresso Creatista Coffee Machine
Dyson Supersonic™ Hair Dryer Fuchsia/Iron
Apple iPhone X
Panasonic OLED 4K Ultra HD TV - TH-77EZ1000U
WD MY PASSPORT™ Gaming Storage
WD MY PASSPORT™ X Gaming Storage
SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™
Toys for Boys
Ubiquiti Network’s Front Row Camera
UBTech First Order Stormtrooper Robot
Propel Star Wars T-65 X-Wing Drone
Google Daydream View VR Headset
Bose SoundLink Micro
Leica M10 Digital Rangefinder Camera
Onyx Smart Walkie Talkie
LaCie Rugged USB-C Portable Hard Drive
Lego Mindstorms EV3
PETKIG Go Smart Dog Leash
Dearear Endear In-ear Wireless Earphones
Xbox One X
Toffee Bags Commuter Satchel
WD MY CLOUD™ HOME Personal Cloud Storage
iRobot Roomba 980 Vaccum Cleaning Robot
Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K
Nest Protect Smart Smoke Alarm
Panasonic Hi-Fi - SC-UA7GS-K
Amazon Echo Bluetooth Speaker
Belkin Pocket Power 10,000mAh
Lexon Flip Alarm Clock
Raspberry Pi Starter Kit
Tile Pro Bluetooth Tracker
Fallout Geeki Tikis
Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse
Logitech Doodle Collection Wireless Mouse
Kogan Bluetooth Soundbar
3SIXT 3-in-1 Smartphone Lens Kit
Ikea NORDMÄRKE Wireless Charging Pad
Urbanworx Full HD Action Camera
Panasonic Portable Splashproof Fun - RF-D20U
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Huawei Mate 10 Pro Review: A solid winter flagship that cribs from the best
- 2 Google Pixel 2 review: not quite 'pixel perfect' but damn close
- 3 Google Home Mini review: a welcome addition to the smart speaker family.
- 4 Huawei Nova 2i review: Flagship features get smuggled into the mid-tier
- 5 Moto X4 review: This is what a world without MotoMods looks like
Latest News Articles
- Microsoft takes $550 off the Alienware 15 gaming laptop as time runs out on PC deals
- How to automatically mute a website within Google Chrome, forever
- Amazon's Echo Show has dropped in price by $80
- FCC votes to kill net neutrality in an unsurprising move. What happens now?
- Microsoft knocks $550 off the fantastic Dell XPS 13 as last-minute PC deals get crazier
PCW Evaluation Team
I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.
It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.
Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.
The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.
The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.
The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic
- PC World 2017 Editors' Choice Awards Nomineees Announced
- LG V30+ review: The videographer's smartphone arrives
- Fitbit Ionic review: Impressive but not quite iconic
- What's the difference between an Intel Core i3, i5 and i7?
- Laser vs. inkjet printers: which is better?
Product Launch Showcase
- TPPrincipal Project Manager|HRIS ProgramQLD
- FTSolution Architect - Security/DigitalVIC
- FTSenior .Net Developer - (Australian Citizens Only)Other
- FTTechnology Engineer | 6mth ContractOther
- FTFront-End DeveloperNSW
- FTDevOps EngineerNSW
- FTSenior Test Analyst - Market RiskOther
- FTDesktop TechnicianSA
- FTProject Manager/Business AnalystQLD
- FTMid-level Drupal Developer - BrisbaneSA
- FTBusiness AnalystOther
- CCPHP DeveloperQLD
- TPBusiness AnalystQLD
- FTDev Ops EngineerOther
- TPICT Infrastructure EngineerACT
- FTCustomer Service OperatorOther
- FTScrum MasterOther
- CCBusiness AnalystNSW
- FTApplication Support Analyst (.NET, SQL. ORACLE, ITIL)Other
- FTFinance Analyst (Part-time)Other
- CCExstream DeveloperNSW
- CCTransition Manger - Infrastructure ServicesVIC
- CCSite Acquisition Coordinator - Sydney basedNSW
- FTSenior Field Services Telecommunication RiggerACT
- FTSenior Analyst ProgrammerOther