Microsoft Band v Fitbit Charge HR

Both of these new fitness bands want a piece of your heart, which one is for you?
Microsoft Band v Fitbit Charge HR

If you're deciding which of the the latest and greatest fitness trackers is best for you, your eye might well have been caught by the Fitbit Charge HR and the Microsoft Band. Both Fitbit's big update and Microsoft's long-awaited entry look extremely strong.

Essential reading: Fitbit Charge HR review

There has been a wealth of new fitness trackers announced at the end of 2014, as the likes of Jawbone and Fitbit update their hugely successful lines and Microsoft hit the market with a surprise entrant.

Microsoft and Fitbit's new bands offer 24/7 heart rate tracking and a whole lot more, so we put them head-to-head to see which is best. And check back for full reviews soon.

Fitbit Charge HR v Microsoft Band: Heart rate

Microsoft Band v Fitbit

Unlike the new Jawbone UP3 that uses a biomimpedance sensor setup for measuring resting heart rate, the Fitbit and Microsoft rivals both make use of optical sensors for their 24 hour bpm recordings.

On the Fitbit Charge HR, there is 24/7 monitoring based on the company’s new PurePulse technology. It’s the same sensor you’ll find packed into the Fitbit Surge ‘super watch’.

Fitbit claims this means more accurate calorie burn tracking and that you can train in intensity zones using heart rate peak zones.

Wareable verdict: Microsoft Band review

For the Microsoft Band, there’s no brand name for the optical heart rate sensor but the Redmond company states its readings will give you a better understanding of your calorie burn and sleep patterns, combining your peak and resting heart rate in order to help you always train at your best.

Without thorough testing, it looks like a dead heat here.

Fitbit Charge HR v Microsoft Band: Design

The Microsoft Band is constructed from a thermal plastic elastomer and features an adjustable fit clasp.

It's available in three different sizes that equate to wrist height guideline measurements of 39mm, 41mm and 49mm. It weighs in at 60g and measures 19mm x 8.7mm. There’s only the one colour on offer – Henry Ford's favourite: plain old black.

Fitbit v Microsoft Band

Essential reading: Fitbit Surge specs, release date, price

The Fitbit Charge HR is made from a flexible, durable elastomer and boasts a surgical-grade stainless steel buckle. It comes in three different sizes with wrist sizes from 5.5 inches up to 9.1 inches catered for. The Charge HR is 34mm wide, so a bit fatter than Microsoft’s effort.

The Fitbit Charge HR is available in a range of colours; black, plumb, blue and tangerine, and despite its size offers a far more exciting and modern design.

Fitbit Charge HR v Microsoft Band: Display

Like the discontinued Fitbit Force, the new Charge trackers have a small OLED display to show the time, stats and incoming caller IDs. There are no other smartphone notifications, you’ll need to upgrade to the Fitbit Surge to get those.

Fitbit v Microsoft Band

On the Microsoft’s display, which is a 1.4-inch TFT colour touchscreen one, you’ll get a whole host of notifications including emails and calendar reminders, as well as call, text, social media, weather and finance information. What's more, it doesn't just work with Microsoft devices (thankfully) so iOS and Android users can get in on the act, too.

Fitbit Charge HR v Microsoft Band: GPS

The big win for Microsoft is that its Band packs in GPS connectivity. This isn’t a feature of the Fitbit Charge HR. The Surge is the Fitbit device you’ll need for accurate GPS tracking.

Guide: Best fitness trackers to buy

On the Microsoft Band the GPS inclusion means that you’ll be able to track your runs in detail, without the need of carrying around your smartphone with you.

Fitbit Charge HR v Microsoft Band: Tracking

The Microsoft Band packs in step counting, calorie burn recording, and sleep quality analysis. You can look at your daily or weekly stats, set goals, and receive a virtual high-five when you hit them through the app – which works on Android, iOS and Windows Phone.

The Fitbit Charge HR also works across these mobile platforms and offers similar tracking statistics. Where the Charge HR wins out though is that it ties in the existing Fitbit ecosystem, so you can compare and compete with your pals who are using Ones, Flexes or Zips, as well as marrying up data from additional Fitbit devices such as its smart scales.

Our verdict: Fitbit Charge review

However, a trump card for Microsoft’s Band is its guided workouts, offering programs from Gold's Gym, Shape and Men's Fitness.

Fitbit Charge HR v Microsoft Band: Price

Fitbit Charge v Microsoft Band

The Microsoft Band is US only for now and retails at $199 – if you can find anywhere with them in stock that is.

The Fitbit Charge HR is £119.99 in the UK, $149.95 Stateside, so a $50 saving to forgo GPS connectivity and smartwatch notifications.

Budget picks: Best fitness wearables under £50

Battery life is another win for the Charge HR though; with five days compared to just two for Microsoft’s tracker.

Fitbit Charge HR v Microsoft Band: Verdict

It’s a difficult one to call because Fitbit has the cheaper, but still feature packed, option with the Charge HR but Microsoft has the edge when it comes to functionality – albeit with a costlier price-tag.

In terms of design, the Charge definitely feels and looks more natural, striking us as very much a product from a company with a heritage in the fitness tracker area.

The Microsoft Band on the other hand is clunky and a tad ugly but does, of course, boast a far better display than its Fitbit rival.

Check out our definitive guides on the two new trackers to help you make up your mind:

Microsoft Band: Everything you need to know

Fitbit Charge HR in depth


  • arijaycomet says:

    You've completely let out the Basis Peak:

    Not only does that device do everything the Fitbit Charge HR does, it also adds touch screen and will soon be able to do notifications and other features.  Granted it is $50 more, but Basis also has their IQ system that auto detects certain activities.  Oh and let's not forget the Peak is 5ATM waterproof compared to the 1ATM splash-proof of the Fitbit.

    For me I think people will go one of two ways here.  Someone who wants techie geek stuff will get the MS Band because let's face it-- that unit offers apps, gimmicks, and a cool screen.  But those folks who want a more serious sports band will get the Fitbit or the Basis.

    You've also left out an important component which is sampling rate.  Data I've found online indicates the MS Band only takes resting heart rate 6 times an hour -- where the Basis and Fitbit takes one per second.  This means the Fitbit/Basis will better auto detect activity and caloric burn.  If you want to record heart rate on the MS Band you have to manually say so.  Yet it gets worse battery life because of that HUGE display.

    I'm excited for the Fitbit Charge HR when it arrives, but if you want GPS you're better off waiting for the Surge.  The MS Band is neat, but really just clunky and not that useful.

  • willstay says:

    Nice comparison. You should also include Basis Peak and Jawbone UP3 in the comparison. All these devices monitor heart beat. It would be interesting to see how accurate they are as 3 of them (Basis, Fitbit, MS) are using optical and UP3 is using bio-impedance. All have pros and cons. Basis Peak, UP3 and Fitbit Charge can auto identify sleeping but only UP3 allows you edit the data if there are false positives. Only Basis Peak and UP3 monitors sleep to REM level. One has full screen and another has no screen at all. Personally I would choose UP3. But for my dad, I would buy Basis Peak coz it can show bpm reading continuously without draining battery on its b/w LCD panel.

  • p.lamkin says:

    Don't worry guys, we'll be covering the Basis Peak in plenty of detail soon. 

  • jocaustin says:

    I bought and returned the Basis Peak. It wasn't really ready for release, in my opinion, and it promises to do too much. Sometimes simple is good. I have worked with clients for the past decade as well as managed my training facility, so in my opinion, the average Joe would like the Fitbit best. They have the advantage of selling a lot more units and a fairly simple interface.  We have just had quality issues and many returns......hopefully that keeps improving as the products become more mature.

  • SG910 says:

    I would like to know if fitbit charge hr will sync with the equipment at the gym like my heartrate monitor does now.

  • Haney_A says:

    I have personally used them both and Fitbit is very inaccurate about everything it even told me to eat 5500 calories!? Heart rate was all over the place it was the most gimmiky piece of junk i have ever used. The Microsoft band is not perfect but in my opinion it's the best tracker out right now and has some extra bonus smart watch features in price comparison 50 more dollars gets you a lot more and accurately.

    • pjhenry1216 says:

      If the Fitbit recommended 5500 calories, you either put in completely incorrect data, you work out way too much, or you weigh a lot but with a slow weight loss plan. Fitbit is fairly good at ballparking where your calorie intake should be. So it's either correct or you put in inaccurate data.

  • samiup says:

    "Battery life is another win for the Charge HR though; with five days compared to just two for Microsoft’s tracker."

    That is a plain misconception that needs to be rectified.

    The first generation of charge HR used to last 5 days on a single charge, the newer generation (even though looking exactly identical) has a battery that does not hold the charge for more than 2 days. Just ask anyone who owns one or simply look at fitbit forums.

    I myself own an HR, this is actually my 2nd fitbit Charge HR, the first one used to hold charge for several days, but then it just stopped turning on, one day, the replacement did not hold charge for more than a day and half, right out of the box.

    I know at least two other people having the exact experience.

    I am actually reading this article because i am tired of dealing with fitbits and their support and looking for an alternative.

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