With Roku boxes, game consoles, and Web-enabled HDTVs, there's no question the connected home has become a reality. Now a new gadget, the Wi-Fi bathroom scale, is poised to invade our abodes. The $129.95 Fitbit Aria is a perfect example of this trend. Not only does it promise to record your weight, BMI, and even body fat percentage, it will then shoot your stats to the cloud for analysis and better motivation. That is, if you want to know.
I don't often find myself admiring bathroom scales, let alone shopping for one. Even so, when I first gazed upon the Fitbit Aria I was struck by its clean, modern look. Like most commercial scales, the Aria is flat and square. Itself weighing 4.3 pounds, its main sensing platform measures 12.3 inches by 12.3 inches and sits 1.3 inches above the floor.
What's really striking, though, is the platform's all-glass construction. The black Aria unit I tested (it comes in a white version, too) sports a smoky-hued surface that's quite sophisticated. In fact, I prefer the Aria's style over its main competitor, the. Not only is the Aria almost a pound lighter, but also its build quality feels higher. I'm especially fond of the Aria's underside, which is made from a pattern of 16 bubblelike protrusions.
The design element is eye-catching, but I suspect that it also works to strengthen the scale by distributing weight evenly. By contrast, the flat bottom of the Withings Body Scale flexes disconcertingly when I apply pressure to it with my fingers. Its four plastic feet also rattle around in their sockets, whereas the Aria's rubber risers are stable and provide a surer grip. Also on the bottom of the scale is the battery compartment, which holds four AA batteries.
A silvery metal ring on the Aria's top center encircles a backlit LCD that displays a wide variety of information. As you'd expect, the screen prominently shows your weight. It also displays various notifications and alerts including battery status and Wi-Fi signal strength plus the progress of various tasks like measuring weight or capturing body composition.
Thinking of the Fitbit Aria as a mere scale is woefully inaccurate. It's more of a "smart measurement device" or a networked home appliance. Of course, the Aria's primary function is to record your weight, but just like the Withings Body Scale, the Aria will determine your body fat percentage and calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI). It does this by sending a tiny electrical signal through your body to differentiate between lean mass, such as muscle, and fat tissue. That's why the Aria's manual repeatedly states never to use the scale if you rely on a pacemaker. Sounds like a good rule to follow.
The scale is intelligent enough to recognize up to eight different people. Each person does have to create a Fitbit account and register with the Aria device via the Fitbit Web site. In fact, as with Fitbit's Ultra pedometer, the real power of the Aria resides in its Web-based software and deep analytical tools that live online. Once the Aria has recorded your weight and other stats, it automatically transmits the data to Fitbit's servers in the cloud via its Wi-Fi radio. After the scale populates your Fitbit account with this information, the fun, or the pain (depending on the reading), really begins.