The cost of a fitness tracker is very different to what it was a few years ago. The $120-plus price tag is no longer the standard, with companies like Samsung and Fitbit now looking to compete on a more even playing field with the industry leader, Xiaomi.
This paradigm shift has spat out two new trackers from the Korean tech giant β the ultra-budget Samsung Galaxy Fit e and the more premium, $99 Samsung Galaxy Fit.
At just $35, the cheaper Fit e is a natural rival to the new Xiaomi Mi Band 4, promising long-lasting life and basic fitness tracking for less than half the price of its more expensive sibling.
We've been living with the Samsung Galaxy Fit e for the last couple of weeks, testing whether it's one to consider buying or whether your money is best put towards another tracker. Here's our full verdict.
Samsung Galaxy Fit e: Design and display
The trade-off for the budget price tag of the Samsung Galaxy Fit e has to occur somewhere, but, surprisingly, it doesn't feel too far off the pace of the likes of the Fitbit Charge 3.
It's not winning any design awards, sure, but, at this price point, fitness trackers are what they are β nobody's reinventing them and there's little room for manoeuvre. And since this is aimed at more minimalist tracking, it actually does a nice job of having a design to match.
It's 40.2mm x 16mm and weighs just 15g, so you'll pretty much forget it's on your wrist most of the time β unless you opt for the yellow band, like we did, and not the white or black option. In that case, you'll be taking out everybody's eyeballs every time you put your wrist on show. It's also waterproof up to 5ATM, meaning you don't have to take it off for the shower or swimming. Just don't go scuba diving, since it can only survive 50 metre depths for 10 minutes.
Read this: Best waterproof fitness trackers 2019
So, the look itself is fine β we like it. The only concession comes with the quality of the display and what you can actually do with it, which, as we say, is somewhat to be expected when you're paying just $35.
The Fit e features a PMOLED, monochrome, 0.74-inch screen that offers very little functionality. Raise-to-wake actually works well β much better than Fitbit trackers β and you also have the option to double-tap to wake the screen. Once you do, though, you'll practically have to punch the screen to get it to cycle through the widgets, which show the time, heart rate, weather, steps and more.
The screen quality is not ideal if you're someone who will look at the device a lot during the day, and you'll really find it a struggle in any kind of sunlight. There's no way to brighten or dim the screen, either, so keep all this in mind if you're looking for a responsive screen that's readable in all conditions β the Fit e is not that tracker.
Back to the physical design, and you might notice in the photo above that the Fit e actually does a nice job of tucking away the band β similar, almost, to the Apple Watch. It does take a couple of days to get used to unhooking the tracker from the plastic pin, but we'd say we prefer it over traditional styles, which leaves the remaining bit of band flailing.
The only problem with the band's physical design is, potentially, the size. This is sold as one size fits all, though we imagine those with slightly big wrists will actually struggle to get it on. During exercise especially, where your wrist expands, we found we had to wear it on the second pinhole just to save our hand from turning purple.
Samsung Galaxy Fit e: Features
We'll touch on the actual tracking of the Galaxy Fit e below, but it's also worth covering off the supporting cast of features and how they work.
Considering, again, this is only a $35 tracker, there's a decent amount of support. And it all goes through the polished Samsung Galaxy Fit app β letting you tweak which notifications buzz through to the tracker, decide between a handful of watch faces, and customise the widgets that appear on the tap-through screens.
You'll also be able to set your alarms, change weather settings and even access a Find My Band feature, which buzzes the tracker continuously and lights up the screen. If you're sleeping with the tracker, or just don't want it to light up as much, there's even options to choose how/when it turns on.
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It's not extensive β notifications can't be viewed again after they've flashed up, and features like contactless payment support aren't present β but it'll be good enough for the average user. Our only real gripe is that you'll need to also download Samsung Health in order to view tracking stats. We wish it was all in one app and you could easily access your workouts, steps, sleep and heart data.
And, take our word for it, you'll want to turn the vibration off immediately. Like, immediately, otherwise you'll be struggling to type at your computer.
Samsung Galaxy Fit e: Fitness tracking
You're not going to be running a marathon with the Galaxy Fit e, but it is a handy way to get in on the ground floor of fitness tracking. So, while it doesn't have GPS (meaning you'll have to take your phone on runs), there are things like a heart rate monitor on the underside of the device to offer deeper insights.
In total, 90 different activities can be tracked through the tracker and Samsung's fitness and health apps. Overall, we found it over-reported things like steps and suffered some mishaps in tracking. It's to be expected for a budget device like this, but here are more detailed accounts of our run and sleep tracking experience.
Run tracking compared: Apple Watch (left) and Galaxy Fit e (centre and right)
For the run tracking test, we put the Galaxy Fit e up against the Apple Watch Series 4 β a device that, while costing ten times as much as the fitness tracker, is the gold standard of smartwatch tracking.
And considering this disparity in price, the Samsung tracker didn't perform too badly. Naturally, with no GPS on-board, the distance is tracked through the connected smartphone. However, you still get a good amount of feedback in Samsung Health β stats on speed, heart rate, elevation and cadence β as well as a whole page of data that also considers your pacing, calorie burn and heart rate.
However, we did find that the heart rate accuracy suffered because of a couple of pauses. While the Apple Watch gives a very detailed account of our heart rate throughout, showing a steady increase between quick breaks, the Fit e never really seemed to pick things back up after the first break β as shown through around ten minutes at around 100bpm in the middle of the run.
And it's this kind of performance that'll sum up how much of the tracking will probably go β it can give you a decent idea of your highs or lows, but you'll likely have some runs where it'll leave you scratching your head.
And, to be honest, that's not the end of the world for most users. If, for example, you just want to track the odd run in the park, want a bit of extra data and don't mind also taking your phone, we'd still recommend the Fit e.
Samsung Health is also the home of your sleep stats, and, despite a lack of insights, the actual final figure is about in line with what you'll get from the very best sleep tracking algorithms available from the wrist, Fitbit's.
In the example above, both registered a total time of around 8 hours and 45 minutes in bed, though the difference β yes, an admittedly big one β is that Fitbit pretty much always highlights the time spent awake, and time spent in the three different sleep stages.
Read next: Top wearable sleep trackers to buy
Samsung Health and the Galaxy Fit e, meanwhile, showed some inconsistencies. Sometimes it would give us details around the sleep (sleep efficiency, actual sleep time, as well as light, motionless and restless sleep times), and others, like the above, it will just provide total number without any of the breakdown.
As with the run tracking, you get the basic picture with the risk of some inconsistencies β making it a viable option for beginners, but maybe not for those who want more serious tracking.
Samsung Galaxy Fit e: Battery life
As trackers' price tags have come down, battery life has handily gone up β and you do get a good amount of time in between charges with the Fit e. The charging dock itself may be awkward β being a very small cable you have to forcefully clip onto the bottom of the device β but we found it serves up around a week of life.
When we did push the tracker to its limits, it still managed around four days - and that meant having notifications for things like WhatsApp and Twitter turned on and a couple of tracked runs. Interestingly, the tracker will only give you a heart rate reading if you're exercising, or if you go into the Galaxy Fit app and manually add the heart rate widget to the list. If you do the latter, you'll receive continuous recording, though this will come at the cost of battery life.
We'd recommend choosing the watch face with the battery indicator in order to keep an eye on this and see what kind of usage-battery level works for you. Also, consider tweaking the screen wake settings to just double-tap β this will see plenty of accidental wakes negated.
- Excellent value for money
- Galaxy Fit and Health apps are refined
- Simple, clean look
- Screen feels budget
- Some tracking inconsistencies
- May not fit all wrist sizes