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Review: FitBit Blaze

From: Barry Regan

Review: I’ve been a longtime FitBit user and recently upgraded from a FitBit One to the Blaze. The driving force behind this upgrade was the addition of Heart Rate monitoring but I was pleasantly surprised by some of the other features. The Blaze is a wrist watch type of activity tracker that monitors the basic stats of steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, and flights of stairs climbed. In addition, it monitors your heart rate and gives you a daily resting heart rate that you track over time. You can also use it as a timer and set silent alarms.

After the latest firmware upgrade, it added in a motivation feature that will remind to take at least 250 steps an hour over the range of hours that you define. At 10 minutes before the next hour the watch will vibrate to remind you to get moving.

It has two addition modes called Exercise and Fitstar. Exercise has a set of pre-defined workout styles like boot camp, run, or treadmill that when activated will track those work outs and provide you some feedback. If you are connected to a nearby phone, some modes will connect to the phone GPS and provide additional info but not on the same level as a Garmin or watch of that type.

Fitstar is utility with built in bodyweight fitness routines so you can do a workout anywhere you are. I haven’t tried it yet so can’t tell you how good the workouts are.

The watch face is a little on the large size so I would recommend checking one out before buying to see if you like it. You can change the look of the watch face by switching between 9 different styles using the app. The unit itself pops out of the wrist band so you can probably get different bands as well.

Overall I like the Blaze. It is definitely a solid tracker and the heart rate monitoring helps me control my workout and running intensity.

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Review: Garmin Forerunner 230

From: Rob Baynes

Review: After fighting with a fitbit surge for over a year, I finally did some research and bought a real GPS tracker.

I chose the Garmin Forerunner 230 because:
A) I don’t do heart rate training, so I didn’t get the 235 and saved a few $.
B) It is very accurate, comfortable, easy to read, lightweight, long running and waterproof.

After wearing it for a month of training and races, I love it and would recommend it to anyone for OCR training / races and fitness tracking. I was surprised how well the smart watch features work (text / email / calendar notifications). I like them so much I keep my phone on silent now and just use the watch to decide if I answer a call / message (handy in places where pulling out your phone would be rude).

I could not get the watch to use bluetooth to sync to the Garmin app on my iPhone 6s, and I tried for days and asked their support for help. No dice. But it turns out I don’t care – the phone app is pretty confusing and the watch still works with the phone as far as smart watch features go. Just no syncing GPS data. I found using the USB cable to my mac a great way to sync GPS data while charging it.

The only other negative thing I could say about Garmin products in general is that they have many features, more than most people ever use, and the navigation on the device suffers. Many menus, different paths to the same feature, etc. But once you learn where the features are you use, you are fine.

I highly recommend this device. The $250 price is awesome for what you get.

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Review: TomTom Spark Cardio + Music

From: Mike Lane

Review: My first jump into a fitness tracker came just after Christmas where I decided to try out a Fitbit tracker. The overall intent was to of course ensure I stay active and help keep me on track to prepare for the sport we all love, OCR. After about 7 months of using this product and enjoying it I found myself wanting more. Knowing that the Fitbit is not waterproof I was hesitant on bringing it out on the course and typically made good judgement on doing so. Just like many people though it killed me to not get those steps counted towards my overall day after a race. I could not use the time, distance and heart rate functions while competing. Of course I did try it at a course and you guess it, my Fitbit is now in a better place.

After looking around I decided to go with the TomTom Spark Cardio + Music. I wanted something that I could use daily to track fitness goals, but would also be extremely valuable on the courses. I was sold on the TomTom due to it having the daily features for goals, ability to store music and it was created to handle an OCR. Another bonus and hint if you decide to buy this watch. When you order the watch through the TomTom website they include the bluetooth headphones for free. That is a nice value you can’t pass up and so far they have worked extremely well. Uploading the music onto the watch was about as easy as it could get. The TomTom app automatically linked with iTunes and I was able to move a created playlist right onto the watch. The watch will hold up to 500 songs which I feel is more than I need. Also, good to point out that the pairing of the TomTom headphones was very easy and using daily is also very easy. All I need to do is let the watch know I am turning the headphones on and as I do so they start playing right away. The ear pieces fit into my ears perfectly and have yet to feel like they will fall out (they give you different sizes) and sound great.

This watch has multi sport capability so you can set it for multiple workouts which is nice. I really like how when you select an activity such as running the watch quickly picks up your heart rate and then locates you with GPS. Once it has both it literally tells you it’s ready and you can start. I will say that while running the Spartan Super it showed to be very accurate with my heart rate and distance. Each time I hit a mile marker on the course my watch was pretty much right with the marker. You can also display multiple views on the watch so whatever is most important for you is easily visible. If you want heart rate to be visible or pace or just time of day it is no problem. I also enjoyed how it broke down your run and gave you all the stats you would need as well as showing the map of where you actually ran. I’ve never had that luxury so that was nice.

If the TomTom was lacking in anything I would say it is in the mobile phone app. I think it could sync to the watch a bit easier (the Fitbit for instance would automatically sync when opened). Also, while it does give you your workout details and race details. As far as normal daily activities it only tells you your steps for the day and week. I would like it to have more info around daily activities like the Fitbit app.

When looking at design I think it is a great looking watch. It fits very comfortably on my wrist and does not look too big or clunky. It can easily be worn like an everyday watch in my opinion. The display screen is also very easy to read during a sunny day. The actual straps of the watch are very comfortable. It has the ability to be switched to different colors and is extremely secure on your wrist. I have never seen a watch clip in three different places like this one does. Great for doing OCR as far as peace of mind goes. There is no way that watch is falling off your wrist.

While this is really my first crack at a multi sport watch I definitely feel like I made the right choice. I love having the ability to have music when running without the need to carry a phone or iPod and it works extremely well. I have had no issues using the watch so far after about 3 weeks and would recommend it to anyone.

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