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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Fitbit Ultra Review

It has been two weeks since I have purchased and used my new Fitbit Ultra activity tracker. I was all set to buy the Nike + Fuel Band but the Large went out of stock shorty after I wrote my last blog post! One can still purchase the Large Fuel Band on Amazon but for much more than the $149.00 Nike Store price tag. Moreover, I have read a few reviews that argue that the product isn't worth the price - there have also been some reports of it breaking (the clasp mainly). Click here to read the reviews of the Nike + Fuel Band. So I have decided to wait until the next installment of the Fuel Band and purchase its competitor, the Fitbit Ultra seen below.

The Fitbit tracks how many steps taken, calories burned, distance traveled, floors climbed (Fitbit ultra only), an activity score (similar to Nike Fuel) which is represented by a growing flower (kind of cool), and sleep efficiency (Fitbit Ultra Only). Moreover, the website allows you to view all your data and keep a daily food log. The Fitbit comes with a USB base for charging and wireless sync of your data when you are within 15 feet of the base. It also comes with a small plastic clip which can be placed on your belt or clipped to a pocket. Lastly, you receive a sleep wrist-band which holds the Fitbit while you sleep so that it can track your sleep activity. That's what in the box. So here is the rundown. 



The Fitbit is small and lightweight. I place mine in my right-hand pants pocket using the external clip that comes with the product. It stays put all day and I never even notice it is there. If you reference the pictures above you can see the many different areas you can place the Fitbit. I do think that I would like the wrist band better, but I am hard pressed to find an issue with wearing the Fitbit. Even the sleep wrist-band is comfortable (see last photo above). 

The Fitbit does a nice job of tracking calories and steps (although see the cons for overestimating steps) and being able to view your information with the very nice OLED display throughout the day is great. It helps to keep me motivated and I like seeing the data from day to day compiled on the website.

The website is very well done. The data is displayed and organized nicely and the wireless sync from the device to the base is fantastic. The food log is pretty good although the database is not as good as Live Strong's Daily Plate. Personally, I use which does a great job of tracking your daily food intake when you add every single food manually - it has a horrible built in database. I began using FitDay prior to discovering Live Strong and have invested a huge amount of time adding my food manually. If you do not have a foot tracker / daily journal yet I suggest starting with Live Strong or if you buy the Fitbit you can begin using their nicely designed website. The pictures below show the Fitbit website dashboard, calories burned over the coarse of the day, and a portion of the daily food log.

The sleep activity tracker in the Fitbit is really interesting. I find it to be a great feature. You place the Fitbit in the wrist-band (which is very comfortable and soft to the touch) and then go to sleep. The device tracks how long it takes for you to fall asleep, how many times you are active during the night, how many steps you take if you wake up (say, to go to the bathroom), how long you were asleep, and how many hours you were in bed. In the end, it gives you a sleep efficiency score which indicates how well you slept. I find the information rather useful and I never realized how many times I tossed and turned throughout the night. I didn't think this feature would be useful at first, but I really like it after using for a few weeks.

The Fitbit is great for running, It has a nice stopwatch feature that you can begin by just holding down the only button on the device for 2 second (this is also how you enter sleep mode as well). Once the timer begins it tracks all of your activity until you end the stopwatch. This activity data is added to the website and the Fitbit will recognized that data as a separate activity. Because the stopwatch mode is also the sleep mode, the Fitbit recognizes when you were sleeping vs. when you are doing an activity. I use this feature whenever I go for a run and it tracks my distance, steps, and calories burned. 

Overall, the device is pretty good and I would recommend it to anyone looking to track their daily activity. However, there are still some problems with the device. Here are the cons.


The device calculates way too many steps! My biggest pet peeve is when it calculates steps when I am driving! The Fitbit cannot be shut off or placed in an inactivity mode - it calculates everything all day! Thus, when you are driving the Fitbit racks up the calories and the steps inflating your daily goals and statistical information. The Fitbit needs a simple mode (maybe in a firmware update?) where you can tell the device to stop calculating data. It already has an activity mode and a sleep mode, why not an inactivity mode? This is a big problem because the statistics are inaccurate. Moreover, it actually overestimates steps all the time. I am not sure if this is because I have a long stride but it is a serious problem.

Another problem with the device is that the display cannot be read in the sunlight and I think this has to do with the blue OLED display. When I am out running on a sunny day, and I go to check the display, I have to hold my hand over the display to read the data. Indoors there is no problem.

Finally, the price is a little high. The Fitbit Ultra costs $99.99! It does cost less than the Nike Fuel Band by $50.00 (and does a lot more) but I still think this price is a little steep for a high-tech pedometer. 


In the end, I recommend the device. It is easy to use and does exactly what it is supposed to do - collect data on your daily activity and sleep. If this is what you want to do, the Fitbit is a great choice. Especially, given that you cannot get the Large Nike Fuel Band and the Jawbone Up has been taken off the market due to mechanical failure.