Fitbit Charge 2 v Fitbit Charge HR: Battle of the fitness trackers

Should Charge HR owners make the upgrade? Read on to find out
Wareable is reader-powered. If you click through using links on the site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

The Fitbit Charge 2 has firmly placed itself alongside the Alta HR as one of Fitbit's most reliable fitness trackers with a built-in heart rate sensor. The Charge 2 does many of the things you'd expect from a Fitbit device, but it also brings some other stuff to the table, and has even been updated with new features debuted on later Fitbits.

Fitbit has been on a tear, consistently releasing new and updated versions of its fitness trackers: the Charge 2, the Flex 2, the Blaze - the company's first smartwatch - and the Alta HR all in the past year and a half. However, that also means that choosing the right fitness tracker is a lot more difficult.

In-depth: Fitbit Charge HR review | Fitbit Charge 2 review

Some of you might be rocking the Charge HR right now, wondering whether you should finally upgrade to the newer model. Is there enough here to warrant a new purchase? For the rest of you, perhaps you're looking to pick up the Charge HR for cheap, rather than splash the cash on the more recent Charge 2. Are the differences worth the price gap?

That's what we're going to help explain in this guide, putting the Charge 2 and HR side by side, detailing both the similarities and differences to help guide your decision.

Fitbit Charge 2 v Fitbit Charge HR: Design

Fitbit Charge 2 v Fitbit Charge HR: Battle of the fitness trackers

The first difference you'll notice in design between the Charge HR and 2 is the screen: the 1.5-inch OLED display means the Charge 2 has more room to play with, while the HR's is significantly smaller with just enough space to display one bit of information at a time. For that reason the Charge 2 is similar to the Alta HR in design. The extra screen is also necessary for the Charge 2's more advanced notification features.

The band itself isn't very different to the HR, measuring the same 21mm across, although the length will depend on which size you opt for - small, medium or large. However, on the Charge 2 you can swap the bands out, meaning you can opt for a classy leather look if you're pairing it with smarter clothes. The standard sports band comes in our different colour options: black, blue, plum and teal.

While the HR doesn't enjoy the same amount of customisation, both the Charge 2 and HR are splash resistant. Unfortunately Fitbit hasn't made the Charge 2 waterproof like the Flex 2, so bear that in mind.

Overall, the Charge 2 has a nicer design. Even though it's not a million miles away, the option to swap out bands is quite a big deal.

Fitbit Charge 2 v Fitbit Charge HR: Features and heart rate

Fitbit Charge 2 v Fitbit Charge HR: Battle of the fitness trackers

A good deal of the features on the Charge 2 and HR are the same. They'll both track your steps, heart rate, calories burned, floors climbed and your sleep. So ignore the lack of 'HR' in the Charge 2 name, as it's also going to be monitoring your beats using Fitbit's PurePulse technology. The Charge 2 however introduces a multi-sport mode, which will let you key in a range of other activities such as yoga and biking.

The Charge 2 also introduces Cardio Fitness Level, which we explain in more depth in our VO2 Max guide. Here, Fitbit takes into account all of your bio data - height, weight, age etc - and then analyses how your cardio health compares to other people in your age bracket. Although it lacks the lab conditions to do it as thoroughly as would be ideal (meaning there's likely a bit of estimating going on), this is still a significant new feature on the Charge 2, and something big for it to hold over the HR.

Fitbit Charge 2 v Fitbit Charge HR: Battle of the fitness trackers

Another new feature that the HR doesn't have is Guided Breathing. This is something Apple is also focusing on in Apple Watch Series 2 through the watchOS 3 update and - as the name suggests - is about getting you to focus on your breathing, based on your heart rate.

The Charge 2 also diverges from the HR by connecting with your phone to track your GPS information. It's not built in like some other devices out there, which is a shame, but the ability to track it is something the HR can't boast about, and something that left the previous device feeling a bit toothless for runners.

And then there's sleep tracking. While both the HR and 2 used to offer the same sleep tracking features, the Charge 2 has since been updated with Fitbit's Sleep Insights and Bedtime Reminders. Basically, after a night of sleep with your Charge 2 on your wrist, the Fitbit companion app will deliver insights on how you can get a better night of sleep. Bedtime reminders, on the other hand, will gently remind you that it's time to hit the hay.

Unlike the HR the Charge 2 will also deliver smartphone notifications beyond called IDs, which we'll expand on shortly. So overall, the Charge 2 offers more of a deep dive into the fitness; the HR is fine if you want the basics, but the fitness freaks will want to go for the Charge 2.

Fitbit Charge 2 v Fitbit Charge HR: Notifications

Fitbit Charge 2 v Fitbit Charge HR: Battle of the fitness trackers

More screen space means more things you can see - and indeed the Charge 2 will be throwing up more information. The wearable can now show call, text and calendar notifications, while the HR can only display caller IDs. However it's not a smartwatch in the way the Blaze is, and there are no ways to respond to notifications directly from the device, although the touchscreen offers a new way to interact with them.

You'll get a little buzz to notify you of an incoming notification, but if any messages are too long the screen will clip them short - and you can't see emojis at all, if that's a big deal to you. If you're headed into a meeting or a class, you can also quickly mute the notifications by pressing and holding the side button while on the clock face. Overall, the added notifications make the Charge 2 feel like a better device.

Fitbit Charge 2 v Fitbit Charge HR: Battery life and price

Fitbit Charge 2 v Fitbit Charge HR: Battle of the fitness trackers

Fitbit says you'll get about five days of battery life from the Charge 2 depending on use, but in our testing we found it to be a little higher, squeezing out just over six days total.

It's pretty much the same as what you get on the HR. Particularly good are the short charging cycles, with half an hour being enough to get almost a week of life from the device. However, checking the Charge 2's battery level can be a little frustrating, since you have to enable the option in the Fitbit companion app and then, on the device, keep tapping the button until you get to the battery level indicator all the way at the end of the menu options.

Amazon PA: Fitbit Charge 2

As for price, the Charge 2 costs . The Charge HR, on the other hand, isn't sold on Fitbit's website any longer. You can, however, pick up the Charge HR on Amazon for anywhere from cheaper to half the price.

Fitbit Charge 2 v Fitbit Charge HR: Verdict

Simply put, the Charge 2 is for people who are more serious about their health. The more in-depth information such as VO2 Max and Sleep Insights means it will give you a more comprehensive picture of your fitness, while the added notification features are a nice touch. We also think it looks a bit nicer than the HR.

The HR is not a bad device, but it's clearly a couple steps behind; Fitbit doesn't even sell the device anymore, instead nudging you towards third-party stockers. If all you're looking for is something very affordable to keep an eye on your more basic metrics and aren't too concerned with breathing exercises, in-depth cardio fitness and more advanced sleep tracking, it's still a decent choice. Especially since you can find it for about half the price.

How we test

Hugh Langley


Now at Business Insider, Hugh originally joined Wareable from TechRadar where he’d been writing news, features, reviews and just about everything else you can think of for three years.

Hugh is now a correspondent at Business Insider.

Prior to Wareable, Hugh freelanced while studying, writing about bad indie bands and slightly better movies. He found his way into tech journalism at the beginning of the wearables boom, when everyone was talking about Google Glass and the Oculus Rift was merely a Kickstarter campaign - and has been fascinated ever since.

He’s particularly interested in VR and any fitness tech that will help him (eventually) get back into shape. Hugh has also written for T3, Wired, Total Film, Little White Lies and China Daily.

Related stories