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Fitbit Inspire Review

If you can live without advanced features - GPS, altimeter, HR monitor - then the Fitbit Inspire is the fitness tracker for you. Our review evaluates its design, feature set, specs and value for money

Should I Buy The Fitbit Inspire?
We'd happily recommend the Inspire to a casual fitness enthusiast, since it's affordable, smart-looking and easy to use. But be warned that you don't get a lot by way of advanced fitness features: there's no GPS, no heart monitor, no altimeter. If you can live without these, this is a sensible money-saving option.


Price When Reviewed
  • $69.95
Replacing the Alta (just as its Inspire HR sibling replaces the Alta HR), the Fitbit Inspire is an affordable but nice-looking fitness tracker that should appeal to a wide audience.

But is its comparatively basic feature set enough for you? In our review we look at its design, features and specs, and help you decide if this is the fitness band you're looking for.

Price & Availability
Announced on 6 March, the Inspire is available now. It costs £69.99/$69.95. (Fitbit's more advanced Inspire HR costs £89.99/$99.95.)

It can be bought directly from Fitbit. It's also available from Amazon, Best Buy and Currys/PC World.

That's an appealing price when you consider that the Alta started at £99.99/$129.95, but there are cheaper fitness bands out there: the Xiaomi Mi Band 3 has an RRP of £26.99, for instance, and can be had for even less.

Design & Build Quality
The Inspire's a basic-looking fitness band, but it's not without minimalist charm. The body is mostly matt plastic, but the button on the left, the sensor array on the bottom and the screen surround are all gloss. It's very light and slimline enough (10mm at the thickest point) that you can happily wear it to bed without discomfort.

The screen is monochrome, small and low-res, and made of a tough plastic rather than glass; when lit up it inevitably looks quite budget. When asleep, however, it looks more premium, because it blends in with the much larger body of the device. That curved, glossy top surface looks pretty fantastic, in fact.

And as small and unassuming as it is, props to Fitbit for including a touchscreen. You can swipe to navigate the interface (more on that later), and even though this is not quite the instant-response swiping you'll get on a smartphone it's a step up from the 'tap screen' provided on the Fitbit Alta.

The button is relatively long (1cm) but it's harder to get a response if you press the top or bottom third of that. Pressing in the centre is more satisfying and reliable, albeit still slightly rattly-feeling - more Casio watch than Apple Watch. That's to be expected at this price.

The elastomer strap which comes with the Inspire is also basic but we found the 'peg and loop' clasp fiddly to put on and take off - it requires some force to insert or extricate the stud and this is hard to do with one hand when pressing against a soft wrist. Fortunately the strap is easily replaceable, and Fitbit sells a stainless steel mesh band for £59.99/$69.95, or a silicone strap with a choice of attractive prints for £24.99/$29.95.


Colour Options
The Inspire is available in black (which we tried out) or Sangria, a rather nice burgundy. (Note that Currys refers to the latter as 'purple'.)

Features & Specs
The Inspire's screen wakes when you turn your wrist and goes to sleep again afterwards, which is a more battery-friendly approach than an always-on display. We found the waking mechanism reliable, but it's not instant, and the tiny delay may be frustrating for those used to a full smartwatch.

You can turn raise to wake off, but this option is hidden away in the quick settings accessed by pressing and holding the button. You then need to tap the lightbulb, whose 'Screen Wake' label appears when you swipe up a little. We've discovered no way of toggling this from the device settings in the Fitbit app.

The interface is simple - swipe up to see tracking metrics, swipe down to set up alarms and timers, with the button mostly used for 'back'. Let's look at what the Inspire has up its (your) sleeve in terms of features.

Fitness Tracking
The device counts steps, calories burned, active minutes and distance moved, and these metrics are easily accessible, in that order, by swiping up from the device's home screen. (Or you can choose a watch face that shows them by default.)

The accuracy of these stats, of course, is open to a degree of scepticism (this is true of the fitness tracking industry at large), and their accuracy is mostly hard to test. But we did our usual step test, counting out 100 and then 250 steps around the office, and the Fitbit recorded these as 100 and 255 respectively. Not much wrong there.

Beyond these self-explanatory stats, continuing to swipe brings up the number of steps you've taken in the current hour, out of a target of 250 (and the Fitbit can optionally give you a reminder 10 minutes before the hour if you're short of this). Tap again and you'll see how many hours today you've achieved the target.

You can log exercise by tapping the plus button on the Fitbit app's dashboard, but not from the device itself - not very convenient. Cleverly, however, any workouts you do will be detected, tracked and logged automatically by the Inspire, even if you don't tell it what you're doing, so you don't really need to use your phone.

Auto detection isn't an exact science, and you shouldn't expect pinpoint accuracy: all fitness bands that attempt this feature will take at least a minute or two to realise what you're up to, and not all are able to retrospectively add on the calories burned and time elapsed before the detection was triggered.

We tried a treadmill run, and the Fitbit recorded both a time (24:45, compared to an actual time of 27:50) and calorie count (319, compared to 380 recorded in a manually triggered Apple Watch workout) that were within the 'correct' ballpark but on the low side, suggesting it only records what happens after detection is triggered.

The auto detection also seems susceptible to false positives (we've got a cycle ride in our exercise log despite not owning a bike, and suspect this may be a Tube journey) and because there's no on-device indication that it's starting a workout, there's no opportunity to tell it not to, or to record a different type.

You can also set up competitions with friends, in which you compete to get the most steps on a given day, weekend or week. The choice of time periods and ability to have up to 10 participants give it a slight edge over Apple's watchOS (which allows only two competitors and always makes competitions last a week) and a major one over Google's Wear OS, which doesn't support competitions natively at all. But the limited focus on steps rather than, say, calories is a slight shame. Nevertheless we found this feature both fun and motivational.

Swim tracking is supported (in a basic form - just the time, with no lap count), and the Inspire is water-resistant to 50m so showering isn't a problem either. But the device can't count floors climbed during the day, because it hasn't got an altimeter. You'll need to get a Fitbit Charge 3, Ionic or Versa to get this popular feature.

Sleep Tracking
Sleep tracking is supported - and this is where the excellent battery life comes into its own, since overnight charging is not a necessity. But be warned that this tracking is pretty basic, because the Inspire doesn't have a heart-rate monitor.

In the morning you'll be able to see a chart of when in the night you were asleep, restless and awake, and the total times for each category. But that's it.

If you spring for the Inspire HR, your chart (shown below) will show four categories - awake, REM, light and deep - and you'll be able to access stats comparing your numbers to the average for your age and sex.

Notifications
Wearables are nearly always better at telling you things than being told: there are limits, after all, to how much you can actually do on a small touchscreen with a single button. The Inspire's range of notifications and reminders can be an effective way to mould your own behaviour and improve your health and fitness, or they can be an annoying distraction - it's all a question of getting the settings right.

As well as reminders to get up and walk around, the Inspire can notify you when it's bedtime, and mirror notifications from your smartphone - popping up calendar events, emails and so on, depending on the apps you select in the settings. These notifications won't display pictures, however.

Battery And Charging
Battery-wise, Fitbit claims the Inspire should last five days, and that was borne out, almost exactly, in our testing. In fact it died after five days and one hour of moderate use.

Considering that it hasn't got an HR monitor or colour screen to power, that isn't quite a triumph, but it's certainly respectable.

The bundled USB charger attaches magnetically (and pleasingly strongly) to a three-point connector on the Inspire's underside and takes around two hours to charge completely. The charger's cable is short (a little under 18cm), which keeps things tidy if you're plugging into a laptop on your desk but is less convenient if you want to use a mains plug and don't want you device to sit on the floor.

Verdict
This is an affordable fitness tracker with a simple (but quite likeable) look and a basic feature set.

The screen is small and low-res, but when it's asleep the Inspire does a passable impression of a premium wearable. And it's a touchscreen, too, which isn't a given at this price.

Features-wise the Inspire offers all the basic metrics - calories, steps, simple sleep tracking - as well as reasonably accurate auto exercise detection. It can mirror smartphone notifications and battery life is decent, at five days.

We'd happily recommend this to a casual fitness enthusiast, but be warned that you don't get a lot by way of advanced fitness features: there's no GPS, no heart monitor, no altimeter. If you can live without these, this is a sensible money-saving option.

Specs
  • Monochrome OLED touchscreen
  • Lithium-polymer battery: claimed battery life tip to 5 days, takes 2 hours to charge fully
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Water-resistant to 50m
  • 3-axis accelerometer
  • 10mm thick at thickest point
  • 15g (with small strap)
  • Compatible with iPhone 4s and later, iPad 3 and later, Android 5.0 and later, and Windows 10 devices



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