In the old days, trackers told you how many steps you took. Now they offer much more. Nicole Tsong likes the Fitbit Surge’s long-lasting battery but says the Microsoft Band 2 looks better and will appeal to techies.
BACK IN THE DAY, fitness trackers told you how many steps you took, how far you walked and, if you were lucky, how many flights of stairs you trotted up and down.
These days, your tracker can tell you your exact mileage via GPS, share your heart rate, buzz you with texts and note your current ultraviolet exposure — it’s insta-info.
I’ve used trackers and like knowing my step count. But I had no idea how much information I could have until I tried a couple of current ones.
In the name of fitness and research, I tested a Fitbit Surge, the highest end of the Fitbit trackers, and the Microsoft Band 2, a new release from the local tech giant. Both cost about $249. A disclaimer: I am not a tech expert, and did not rate the devices for precision. I work out a lot. Here’s what I found:
The Surge is physically big, with a large touch screen to flip through steps, floors and heart rate. Navigation is straightforward.
The exercise setting includes multiple sports, but I kept forgetting to turn on “yoga” during yoga. The Surge still tracked time, average heart rate, heart-rate “zone” and calories burned.
Tracking steps has limitations. One day, I did both Olympic weightlifting and a high-intensity interval heated Pilates class (coming soon!) and still hit only 3,500 steps, though I had my average heart rate and calories burned.
I took the Surge on a hike to test its capacity. The two burning questions I have on a hike are: A) How long have I been hiking? and B) How far have I gone? With the GPS, the Surge continuously answered my questions, gave me my heart rate — and buzzed me every time I hit a mile and again at 10,000 steps.
At the end of the hike, on the app, I got a map of my hike, distance, elevation, pace per mile and average heart rate.
I was delighted. Runners, hikers and walkers will benefit most from the GPS, but the data is fun, regardless. The Surge also tracks sleep and calories, and buzzes you with text messages — nonessential and addicting.
Microsoft Band 2
I preferred the look and size of the Microsoft Band 2, with a streamlined, curved design and easy navigation for information like the weather.
The Band 2 has tracking, heart-rate monitoring and GPS features, and piles on with notifications for texts, calendar events and emails, plus tracking for sports like golf. The latest Band can check your exposure to ultraviolet rays and calculate your V02 max, the volume of oxygen your body processes in a minute.
Establishing my V02 max required me to run or cycle five times, otherwise known as five more times than I ever run. It should be an interesting feature for serious athletes.
I took the Band on a long walk. It came back with a handy map, pace and average heart rate. It also said I had four minutes of UV exposure, which was probably inaccurate due to long sleeves on a sunny day. Also, if it was higher, should I put on more sunscreen?
Elevation is new for the Band 2, and I loved that it logged the exact number of feet gained and lost.
The list of features I didn’t have time to try is long, including paying for Starbucks and tracking a long bicycle ride. The features also drain the battery — I hit two days at most.
WHICH ONE IS BEST? I wore both one day to compare steps, and the Surge gave me about 700 more than the Band, credit I won’t turn down. I also like the nearly weeklong battery life of the Surge. I love both for heart-rate monitoring, steps, elevation and reading texts. Both sometimes have technical glitches. But the Band is techier for the same price, and I can’t deny my desire to know all the data, all the time.