Fitbit Inspire HR review

One of the best value fitness trackers you can put on your wrist
Fitbit Inspire HR

The Fitbit Inspire HR is an important fitness tracker in Fitbit's timeline. It replaces the company's hugely popular Alta and Alta HR bands as its most accessible fitness trackers – but because it offers a clip-on design, it finally kills off the Flex, Zip and One.

At $99.95, the Inspire HR is pretty wallet friendly, and sits below Fitbit's advanced Charge 3, which offers more data and more advanced metrics, and is better suited to committed workouts.

It also feels like a move to stem the tide of Chinese tech companies like Xiaomi and brands like Amazfit who've started to infringe of Fitbit's territory with their own affordable, feature-packed trackers.

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.

How well does it achieve that with the Inspire HR? We've been living with the fitness tracker to find out.

Amazon: Fitbit Inspire HR
Amazon: Fitbit Inspire HR

Fitbit Inspire HR: Design, comfort and getting around

Fitbit Inspire HR review

The wider screen does mean data displayed feels less cramped and you still have the same level of band customisation. But in my eyes, it's lost what made the Alta HR so appealing. It's veered more towards the sporty look and lost a little of that elegant feel of the Alta, which could more convincingly mask itself as a fashion accessory.

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If you wanted a discreet tracker Alta was your friend. It may seem like a marginal jump in size, but if you had an Alta HR you'll be very aware of the change – and it will divide opinion.

That being said we had no complaints with how the Inspire HR felt to wear during the day and at night. It's still a supremely light band and didn't cause any skin irritation as some older Fitbit's trackers have been known to do. The added waterproofing (which the Alta lacked) is a welcome addition too, ensuring this is a truly 24/7 wearable.

Fitbit Inspire HR review

The OLED screen is also a jump in quality from the one included on the Alta. While there's still a noticeable bezel, it's brighter, more vibrant and offers better visibility than its predecessor. It's touchscreen as well, so you can swipe and tap on and it's responsive too, with no signs of lag.

There's a physical button on the side of the band, which turns the screen on or off and reveals additional settings including – when it's held down – battery life. It will also cycle through data screens.

The inclusion of the physical button and the touchscreen does mean a bit of a change in terms of navigation and where things live on the Inspire HR. There's a lot on board here and it took a few minutes to realise that additional features like exercise mode, breathing exercises and female health tracking live above the watch screen when maybe it might have been better suited to being a swipe right or left.

Fitbit employs a simple pin mechanism to remove each part of the band. You've got your pick of classic silicone, printed silicone, horween leather wristbands, horween leather bracelets and mesh bracelets. We only had the black band as shown in the images, but would have definitely appreciated something a little less sporty and more stylish to mix things up.

Fitbit Inspire HR review


The Inspire HR is intended to replace Fitbit's clip-on trackers like the Zip and the One. They were getting a bit long in the tooth so this isn't a huge surprise. Fitbit tells us there's still a lot of people out there that won't (or can't) wear something on their wrist, so still opt for that clip-on option. That's why Fitbit has decided to offer additional Clips that allow you to wear the core part of the Inspire elsewhere, like on a belt. There's also a setting mode on the tracker that lets you switch from when it's worn on the wrist or inside the clip. The clip is available in black and pink, but it's not bundled in with the two bands so you'll have to pay extra for the pleasure.

Simplicity has clearly been the aim here and while Fitbit has added a button and a more fully functioning screen, it largely achieves that with the Inspire HR.


Fitbit Inspire HR: Fitness tracking and sports tracking

Fitbit Inspire HR review

The Inspire HR is a simplistic activity tracker first and foremost, but there are features that run deeper for gym-goers and weekend warriors.

It's got those Fitbit staples covered, letting you track steps, distance, active minutes and calories burned. The tracker will also display how close you are to hitting the 250 steps an hour Fitbit recommends. One notable omission is the altimeter, which means you can't track climbing stairs.

Fitbit Inspire HR review

Step tracking compared: Fitbit (left) and Garmin (right)

We tested the Inspire HR alongside a Garmin fitness tracker and the Google Fit phone app. The Inspire HR tended to report roughly 10% more steps than the Garmin, but in line with the smartphone app. While these kinds of tests are hugely problematic, we had no issue with step accuracy on the Fitbit.

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 on-board motivational features.

Sleep tracking

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.

Essential reading: Why Fitbit is tackling sleep apnea

The Inspire HR will automatically track your sleep, as is the case with all Fitbit wearables. Despite the jump up in size from the Alta HR, it's still a light and comfortable tracker to wear in bed. It does lack the future-proofing SpO2 sensor, and sadly doesn't tap into Fitbit's new Sleep Score feature, which could help detect signs of the sleep disorder sleep apnea.

Fitbit Inspire HR review

Sleep tracking compared: Fitbit (left) and Garmin (centre and right)

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. With a Garmin fitness tracker on my other wrist, sleep duration tended to be within an hour of the Garmin data.

Breakdown of sleep was consistent, but the presentation of the data is certainly more digestible on Fitbit's app in comparison. The Sleep Stages graph helps you quickly pinpoint times when you've slept well (or badly). You can also benchmark yourself against similarly aged Fitbit users to see how you stack up, and those more actionable insights to improve sleep quality start to filter through as you pour more sleep data into it.

It's the right mix of data and making that data easy to understand that still makes Fitbit's approach to sleep the one to beat.

Sports tracking

Fitbit Inspire HR review

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.

Fitbit has brought the goal-based exercise modes it introduced on the Charge 3, letting you track running, cycling and yoga from the wrist. The waterproof design also introduces swim tracking, although it will only track swim duration and doesn't count lengths or recognise strokes. That's a little disappointing to find when this is effectively replacing the Flex 2, which was able to offer some swim metrics.

Fitbit Inspire HR review

Run tracking without GPS: Fitbit (left) and Garmin GPS (centre 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. 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 Inspire HR review

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 on 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 Fitbit's most impressive features.

Fitbit Inspire HR: Heart rate accuracy

Fitbit Inspire HR review

Heart rate monitoring is the one feature that separates the Inspire HR from the cheaper Inspire. With the addition of a heart rate monitor you can unlock features like 24/7 heart rate monitoring, resting heart rate data, the ability to recognise your heart rate training zones and see your cardio fitness level score. It also opens the door to get more detailed sleep data to further analyse your sleep quality, and enables Fitbit's guided breathing feature.

On the whole we've found Fitbit's heart rate tech to be well equipped at delivering reliable resting and continuous HR data and it's certainly more of the same with the Inspire HR. Strapping on a Polar heart rate chest strap, it typically matched or was at most one or two BPMs off the data from the chest strap.

Fitbit Inspire HR review

Heart rate tracking compared: Fitbit (left) and Garmin (right)

Fitbit Inspire HR review

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 189bpm 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.

Fitbit Inspire HR: Notifications and extras

Fitbit Inspire HR review

Fitbit keeps the smartwatch-like features to a bare minimum on the Inspire HR. As with the Alta HR, there's support for notifications for calls, texts, emails, calendar and third party apps. 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.

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The slightly wider screen on the Inspire HR certainly makes reading these notifications more manageable than it was on the Alta HR. They appear as soon they do on your phone, and paired to an iPhone and Android phone gave the same issue-free experience.

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.

Fitbit Inspire HR review

In terms of other features, you're really 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 Inspire HR review

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 3 and the now retired Alta HR. 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 day's worth of tracking time.

The most stylish Fitbit Inspire bands

Kartice leather band
Kartice leather band
Amazon
$10.88
V-Moro stainless steel bracelet
V-Moro stainless steel bracelet
Amazon
$18.99
Intoval milanese metal bracelet
Intoval milanese metal bracelet
Amazon
$15.88
Shangpule metal link bracelet
Shangpule metal link bracelet
Amazon
$14.99

Fitbit Inspire HR: How it compares to the competition

Fitbit Inspire HR review

The Inspire HR costs $99.95, so if you had the same money to spend elsewhere, what else could you get, and how would that match up? The Huawei Band 3 Pro comes in at $69.99 and does offer built-in GPS, which the Inspire HR lacks. It also manages an impressive 12-day battery life. But we found the software buggy and had took issue with some of the hardware too.

You'd have to spend more to pick up the Garmin Vivosmart 4 ($129.99), which would get you a design closer in stature to last year's Alta HR. We praised it for its sleek design and innovative features and it also offers a full week of battery life. But it's probably fair to say the Inspire HR handles notification support better than the Garmin tracker.

Samsung's Gear Fit 2 Pro is roughly $100 more than the Inspire, but the incoming Samsung Galaxy Fit is set to be closer in price to the Inspire HR. We've not tested the affordable Samsung tracker yet, but it looks set to be the Inspire HR's closet rival in terms of features and price.

Amazon: Fitbit Inspire HR
Amazon: Fitbit Inspire HR


Fitbit Inspire HR
By Fitbit
The Fitbit Inspire HR doesn't break new ground in terms of what a fitness tracker is capable of. What it does do is bring us a tracker that is supremely good value for money. It's well built, and showcases some of Fitbit's best features in an affordable package. It's not a looker – but beyond that it's a good, versatile performer that doesn't break the bank.

Hit
  • Light and comfortable to wear
  • Packs in a lot of features
  • The price
Miss
  • Looks like a smaller Charge 3
  • No altimeter
  • Drop in battery life


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1 comment

  • rsaugust·

    have had the inspire HR for 2 weeks. Major negative points for Sleep Tracking and battery usage. If you are looking for a sleep tracker, this is not for you