- Great sleep tracking
- Good heart rate accuracy
- Thin and light
- No SpO2
- Screen is lacklustre
The Inspire HR is Fitbit's low-cost, entry-level tracker – but that doesn't stop it from being a surprisingly powerful health and activity device that will suit plenty of people.
Read our Fitbit Inspire 3 review
It doesn't look like Fitbit's going to replace its device any time soon. But over a year after its release, is it still a contender? We've been using the Fitbit Inspire HR for much of the last year, and felt it was time to update our review against the latest fitness trackers.
The Fitbit Inspire HR manages to combine heart-based activity tracking, workout detection and powerful sleep monitoring into a small and discreet wristband form. What's more, with a generous screen, it will also display notifications and your goal data too.
Although often available cheaper, the Inspire HR is pretty wallet-friendly, and sits below Fitbit's new Charge 4, which offers more data and more advanced metrics, and is better suited to committed fitness types.
Natural comparisons will be made with the Xiaomi Mi Band 4, Garmin Vivosmart 4, and Samsung Galaxy Fit. Fitbit's riposte isn't simply to cram in every feature under the sun but to make its tracker better value for money while sticking to the formula that has made it a powerhouse in the world of wearables.
Because when choosing a fitness tracker, it's often about the insights and motivation from the app, just as much as the design and sensors on the wrist.
How well does Inspire HR achieve that balance? We've been living with the fitness tracker to find out.
Update: We originally published this review in March 2019 when the Inspire HR was released. At Wareable we don't stop using devices when the review is finished, so we've updated this test after a year's wear to see how the Inspire HR compares to the latest trackers
Fitbit Inspire HR: Design and comfort
Measuring just 37 x 12.6mm the Inspire HR is supremely thin – so much so it runs the risk of being lost on bigger wrists. It’s certainly unisex, but men might prefer the chunkier Charge 4 as the Inspire HR is a little dainty.
The upside is that it weighs just 20 grams, making it barely noticeable to wear, and easy to sleep with. And it still manages 50 meters of water resistance.
The display itself maximizes the width of the unit and is a greyscale 128 x 72 touchscreen.
It’s not winning any awards for screen clarity and does have issues with legibility in bright, direct sunshine, but it does the job. It doesn’t feel lacking like the Charge 4 does, just because visual feedback is so minimal.
However, like the Charge 4, it’s irritating that a screen so lacklustre isn’t always-on. What’s more, the wrist raise is a bit slow and often doesn’t register, which means it’s not a brilliant time-telling device.
You cycle through data by swiping the screen, and there are menus up and down which can be a little disorientating. Swiping down will let you see your daily stats, which are all easy to read on the small screen – and up will get you to menu options including exercise mode.
There’s a button on the device too, which will also let you cycle through stats, take you back to the main clock screen, and start/stop workouts.
Customization is a theme that runs through Fitbit devices, and the bands are easily swappable. That’s just as well as the standard black silicone band is bland, and there are plenty of Inspire HR bands to choose from on Amazon.
Likewise, you can actually lose the band altogether. The Inspire HR can be clipped onto waistbands or bras, unlike any other Fitbit.
It’s designed to replace clip-on trackers like the Zip and the One, for those who can’t or won’t wear something on their wrist. It’s great for those that push buggies, for example, and can boost accuracy.
Fitbit Inspire HR: Sleep tracking
Sleep tracking compared: Fitbit (left) and Garmin (center and right)
When you're done with your day's tracking it's over to bed time and tapping into one of Fitbit's strongest features: sleep monitoring.
Fitbit's approach to sleep is in in our opinion still the most impressive from a wearable point of view. It's generally accurate and there's an effort to offer insights as to how to improve your sleep quality.
The Inspire HR will automatically track your sleep, as is the case with all Fitbit wearables.
As we’ve mentioned, the Inspire HR is super comfortable to wear in bed, and we barely noticed it.
You can't view sleep data on the device itself, so it's over to the companion smartphone app where you can see a breakdown of sleep into light, deep, and REM, plus time you spent awake.
Your nightly rest is summed up in a single sleep score, which is a great way to quickly assess sleep quality without looking at loads of graphs.
We tested it against the Withings Sleep Analyzer and found that while there were differences, sleep patterns were in sync, and the sleep scores themselves were generally spot on.
You can also benchmark yourself against similarly aged Fitbit users to see how you stack up.
You don’t get the Estimated Oxygen Variation data, because the Inspire HR doesn’t have a SpO2 sensor on board.
Fitbit Premium subscribers will also see nightly heart rate, and time spent above and below resting. Better sleep will have more time spent below resting, and this is something you can work on to feel more restored.
Fitbit sleep tracking is a lot more harsh than other wearable trackers, but if you’re keen on making positive changes, it offers some of the best data. Spending 8 hours in bed will regularly only include 6.5 hours of restful sleep, and from there you have the information you need to make changes.
Fitbit Inspire HR: Fitness tracking and sports tracking
The Inspire HR is more than just a simple fitness tracker some features run deeper for gym-goers and weekend warriors.
It's got the Fitbit staples covered, letting you track steps, distance, active minutes and calories burned.
The Inspire HR doesn’t have the new Active Zone Minutes tracking which tracks active time based on heart rate, and Fitbit says it has no plans to add them to its budget tracker.
Step tracking compared: Fitbit (left) and Garmin (right)
The Inspire HR will also display how close you are to hitting the 250 steps an hour Fitbit recommends, with reminders to get up and move. One notable omission is the altimeter, which means it won’t track climbing stairs.
We tested the Inspire HR alongside the Apple Watch and step tracking was always in sync, with some small variations.
From a motivational point of view, not a whole lot is going on here outside of the hourly reminders to move and nudges to hit your daily goals.
We're a big fan of the adaptive step goals on Garmin's trackers, and something like this would be a nice addition to encourage being more active in a very subtle way. Maybe it's time for Fitbit to offer some more onboard motivational features.
It's not just about counting steps and logging your shut eye here. While it might not be immediately apparent, you do get some of the sports tracking skills available on pricier Fitbit devices.
You can choose activity profiles from within the Fitbit app, with running. cycling, yoga, workouts, and more – all trackable from the device itself.
While running and cycling show up as workouts with pace, distance and other data thrown in, every other activity is essentially just time, heart rate and calories. However, it's nice to see sports tagged properly in the Fitbit app.
The waterproof design also introduces swim tracking, although it will only track swim duration and doesn't count lengths or recognize strokes. That's a little disappointing to find when this is effectively replacing the Flex 2, which was able to offer some swim metrics.
Run tracking without GPS: Fitbit (left) and Garmin GPS (center and right)
Unsurprisingly, there's no built-in GPS here, but you do have the ability to piggyback off your phone's GPS to see real-time pace and distance data for activities like running, hikes and bike rides.
The screen is really too small to rely on for proper pacing, but it's great for a Saturday jog, so you can get some data about your run, and get all the credit for it against your daily goals.
We put the tracking to the test without leaning on my phone's GPS and the reported distance was a little short of the same session tracked by a GPS running watch.
Fitbit's SmartTrack tech compared to a manually logged run
Naturally, Fitbit's SmartTrack automatic exercise recognition tech is here, and generally it worked well. It picked up a strong walk or running, but did throw up the odd activity. For example, it told me I'd gone for an outdoor bike ride for 20 minutes one day. Just one problem: I don't even own a bike.
So it has had some blips, but when it works, it's one of the Fitbit Inspire HR's most impressive features.
Fitbit Inspire HR: Heart rate accuracy
Heart rate tracking compared: Fitbit (left) and Garmin (right)
It's when you ramp up the intensity that things begin to falter somewhat – which is the same story across optical trackers.
In extreme testing, running a quick half marathon race (top) and putting it to the running intervals test (bottom), average heart rate data was generally lower than that recorded by the chest strap.
It also managed to report a significantly higher maximum heart rate reading, hitting the 200 mark when the strap maxed out at 189 bpm during the race. It's another case of being useable for steady workouts but simply not being quite cut out for high intensity training and the sudden jumps and drops in heart rate.
All in all, the Fitbit Inspire HR is a superb health monitor with an accurate heart rate. Optical sensors will throw up the odd blip, especially if you throw big swings in bpm at them. However, the Inspire HR is in the top bracket of its competition.
Fitbit Inspire HR: Notifications and extras
Fitbit keeps the smartwatch-like features to a bare minimum on the Inspire HR. There's support for notifications for calls, texts, emails, calendars, and third-party apps such as WhatsApp (you need to turn this on manually).
You can't respond to these notifications though, they'll simply pop up on the screen (as long as your phone is nearby) and you can swipe up and down on the screen and then close them.
The slightly wider screen on the Inspire HR certainly makes reading these notifications more manageable, though it's not exactly suited to reading long correspondence.
They appear as soon as they do on your phone, and paired to an iPhone and Android phone gave the same experience. However, we turned most notifications off – and we did experience one issue where the iPhone seemed to sync shared calendars at 00:00 causing a vibration storm. It's good that there's such granular notification control, however.
There are other notifications not tied to the action on your phone, but based on your tracked activity. So when you haven't put in enough steps for the hour or you're nearing your daily goal, you'll be prompted to 'feed' your tracker.
These notifications thankfully don't appear at an irritating rate, but are regular enough to give you a nudge to keep moving. You can also turn them off.
In terms of other features, you're only looking at the ability to change watch faces to put more or less of your data on show. It can only be done on the app, with nine watch face looks in total to choose from.
Once you've picked what you want it'll quickly sync that over to the tracker, although it would be nice to store a couple of the faces on the device itself.
Fitbit Inspire HR: Battery life
Fitbit claims you should get around five days battery life from the Inspire HR, which is two days shorter than the claimed battery life on the Charge 4. Based on our experience, that's exactly what you get with the full gamut of features turned on.
As is the Fitbit norm, your device will flash up when you're running low and fire off an email to your linked account to let you know there too, giving you multiple calls to charge.
It's likely the all-day heart rate monitoring (which you can't turn off) and notification support, which can be deactivated, are the biggest battery drains here.
Throw in exercise tracking and that's going to dent things further, but on the whole, it holds up well for those five days. When you've hit zero battery, you'll need to stick it onto its charger for a couple of hours to get back that five days' worth of tracking time.
Fitbit Inspire HR: How it compares to the competition
The Inspire HR costs , so if you had the same money to spend elsewhere, what else could you get, and how would that match up?
The Fitbit Inspire HR matches up to many mass-market fitness trackers, and it will draw inevitable comparisons to the Xiaomi Mi Band 4.
While Xiaomi's tracker is half the price, the Inspire HR offers most of the same features but an infinitely superior app. The sleep tracking is better, the insights are better – and if you're serious about making changes to your lifestyle, Fitbit is where you need to be.
The next big comparison is against Charge 4. Fitbit's latest tracker has GPS, SpO2 and Active Zone Minutes – and is the best Fitbit device on the market currently.
But it's bigger, and despite being able to track runs without a smartphone, the workout tracking is pretty much the same as the Inspire HR. If you're not working out multiple times a week, we'd say the Inspire HR will suit more people's needs.