Fitbit Surge review: Fitbit's top-end GPS watch and fitness tracker feels like it needs an update

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The Good The Fitbit Surge has an always-on display, all-day fitness and heart-rate tracking, and GPS to track a variety of activities. Fitbit's software is still one of our favorites and has the largest social base.

The Bad The design feels old and clunky. It can't be worn while swimming or when in the shower. The heart rate data isn't accurate and notifications are limited to text messages and calls.

The Bottom Line The only GPS-capable Fitbit will appeal to casual runners, but more serious athletes should look elsewhere.

6.9 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Battery 7
  • Performance 8
  • Software 8
  • Features 7

The Fitbit Surge was one of the first watches to include all-day fitness tracking, GPS, smartphone notifications and an optical heart-rate sensor. But a lot has changed since it was first announced in 2014. The competition has since caught up to Fitbit and in some instances has even surpassed it.

We now have multifunction products like the Apple Watch, Samsung Gear Fit 2 and various Android Wear watches. Meanwhile, fitness companies like Garmin, Polar and TomTom have also started to include built-in heart-rate sensors and smartphone notifications in their GPS watches.

While the $250 (£200, AU$400) Surge isn't as distinct as it was two years ago, it's still a good buy for active consumers due to the superior Fitbit software, which is one of the easiest to use, has the largest social base and syncs with a variety of other services. The Surge, however, isn't ideal for more serious athletes. If you don't need GPS, you're also better off getting one of Fitbit's other trackers. Here's why:

It's bigger and bulkier than other watches

Calling the Surge big would be an understatement. The watch is enormous. The grayscale touchscreen is also dull to look at and can be difficult to see outdoors. While I do like that the screen is always on, I wish Fitbit would give us more appealing watch faces. There are only four to choose from and none of them offer anything besides the time and date. If you want to see your steps or any other metric, you have to swipe to the next screen.

The big design does allow for a larger battery, though. The Surge will last up to seven days, or up to 10 hours with an active GPS signal. I typically saw around four days, but your time will vary depending on how frequently you use the GPS.

Sarah Tew/CNET

You can't wear it in the shower

Looking for a fitness tracker to swim with? This isn't it. Fitbit doesn't recommend swimming or showering with the Surge, which is odd considering the watch has been tested to withstand up to 5 ATM (50 meters) of water pressure.

Heart rate data isn't accurate

The optical heart-rate sensor on the back of the watch isn't very good. It was the most accurate when measuring resting heart rate, but there were still random spikes (which you can view below). It had a lot of problems measuring heart rate during easy runs and hard workouts. When compared to a Polar H7 chest strap, the Surge tended to fluctuate by around 20 to 30 beats per minute, which is worse than other sensors, such as those used in the Garmin Forerunner 235 and Vivoactive HR.

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