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In an era where people are urged more and more to change their lifestyle from a stressing, unrelenting and with bad dietary habits one to a healthier one that includes a lot more physical exercise, it becomes necessary to have some means to monitor vital signs, distances, caloric intake and expenditure etc… especially if you are supposed to do specific things and follow specific programs.
The newest additions to the arsenal of fitness tracking listen to the names of Fitbit Surge and Microsoft Band. The way technology works now they basically provide just about the same options and it seems that the differences may be confined to design, comfort and price but a closer look may reveal a little more.
A Closer Look: Fitbit Surge
At a first glance it is a combination of 1)GPS running watch with a step counter and 2) a sleep tracker. It provides the complete set of information required by habit and semi-serious runners. Since a crucial piece of information is the caloric intake, we come to the first major advantage which is the very robust and complete food database.
Those who choose hiking trails to run may use the GPS locator to draw a map of the path they followed. While not many other trackers contain such a GPS tracking option, this one takes about 60 seconds to lock on and it is not among the most accurate. But it does lay down a nice map even if the signal sometimes gets lost.
What is greatly improved to this model in relation to the previous ones is the heart beat sensor. It is nowhere near a medical grade sensor but it will provide an accurate average heart rate especially in sleep tracking mode as long as it is not set to sensitive which makes for a rather great disadvantage.
Another point of interest would be the design. It’s rather too big to be worn at the office or a social outing. It looks much better at a gym or when wearing sporting clothes but not when wearing a suit. Furthermore, it’s quite bulky which means that sleep tracking may be a problem.
Counting in the price of $250which seems to be too expensive for “just a fitness tracker” and the absence of third party applications which prohibits universal communication with smartphones, tablets and pcs, my overall judgement is that fitbit surge is an improvement over older trackers but still a work in progress on many fronts.
How does Fitbit Surge compare to Others
Closer Look: Microsoft Band
The thing to understand first about Microsoft Band is that it is designed to serve the company’s overall project called Microsoft Health. Without this context it is difficult to render any judgments. This project is a cloud based initiative proposing to provide better health information through the accumulation of data by any number of fitness trackers.
This means that the database is still in the development stage. It shows promise but it is not yet anywhere close to the level it should be to provide accurate information.
The tracker is equipped with a GPS locator like any good modern fitness tracker. Unfortunately the GPS signal is very often lost and whenever there can be a signal lock it is nowhere near as accurate as it should be. On the other hand, being platform agnostic, means that Microsoft Band can communicate with anything, which gives it a clear advantage over all other trackers.
For many a point of debate is the display. First of all it is a color display which is an advantage over monochrome ones, highly customizable by its user and providing a lot more information. However, no one can read it in bright sunlight especially wearing sunglasses with polarized lenses and the load of information sometimes gets very hard to read and comprehend.
At a price of $200 it ranks somewhere at the top of the list, unjustifiably so at this time, while there has been a lot of debate about its design. The general consensus of opinion seems to think that it looks well in both sporting clothes and a suit, however it is too rigid and very distinctive which may not be the preferred choice for people that prefer subtlety.
The sensors also belong to quite a different approach than the rest of the fitness trackers who use optical ones. Microsoft band chose to place them underneath the clasp which means that the sensor is in contact with the veins themselves.
It seems to work fine and transmit all the necessary information but without the assistance of the database the bulk of this data seems to be unusable.
On the other hand the tracker comes with a load of guided workout presets and instructions on what to do with the load of information. It also comes with a virtual assistant which needs some fine tuning to respond to commands the first time around. Again the problem is with the Microsoft Health database. And this is actually the end result of the evaluation.
Microsoft Health shows promise. Microsoft Band is the first fitness tracker released and it’s bound to have some issues to be resolved. Should the database get finalized and provide the information it is supposed to, then the total solution should be more than ample even for professional athletes.
Pros and Cons at a glance
|Fitbit Surge||Microsoft Band|
|Platform||No third part app||Agnostic|
|Software||Built in basic||Apps with instructions and preset programs|
good signal lock
|Inaccurate, poor signal lock|
|Sleep tracker||Works well if not in sensitivity mode||Accurate|
|Sensor||Accurate if not set in sensitive mode||Accurate|
|Display||Very legible and very usable monochrome display||Very customizable color display sometimes too complicated to read and illegible in bright sunlight|
|Database||Robust and complete||Pending solutions from Microsoft|
|Design||Unfit for the office or social environments||Rather fit for all uses|
|Color options||Black and silver display with black, blue and orange options for the straps||Black only|
|Price||About $250||About $170|
Final Recommendation: Which Would I Take Today?
Fitbit surge is an improvement over the previous releases of the manufacturer attempting to address the needs of the everyday user rather than the needs of professionals.
Microsoft Band is the first attempt of a tracker that belongs to a completely different philosophy of a company that wants to create an overall health improving system rather than a single fitness tracker. Under this context the two trackers are not actually comparable.
The first one addresses the present. GPS locator, step counter, sleep tracker and all the information required according to the present day needs. The second one is more of a test of what is to come in the future. A test of the concept of the Internet of Things where every device will be connected to a central database system providing solutions.
It is very characteristic of the concept, that Microsoft included the ability to pay for food and drink through the input of card numbers and the display of barcodes on the display which can be scanned.
That is an extra feature that probably most people would think that it would not be considered as a necessity in a fitness tracker. However, it is very indicative of a future that wants everything and anything interconnecting.
Nevertheless, since the comparison is for trackers that are worn and work here and now, it seems that Fitbit Surge is a better choice despite the design, the higher price and the restriction of setting it to high sensitivity. Its database works and it provides immediate results where Microsoft Band still needs to resolve its database issues.
Even afterwards, it is question worthy if all the information provided will be useful to a fair-weather habit runner. But it will be very useful to professionals and medical personnel who will have everything they need right there.