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Fitbit’s latest top-of-the-line wearable offers an exciting new stress management feature, but it isn’t without its flaws.
Life is stressful. You know it, we know it, and, it seems, so do the engineers at Fitbit, since the brand’s latest top-end wearable offers a feature we’ve never seen before: it tells you how stressed you are.
Of course, the vast majority of fitness trackers and smartwatches will tell you if your heart rate has gone up – but that’s just as likely due to exercise as anxiety, so it isn't much of an accurate gauge. The Fitbit Sense is far more advanced than that. With some of the most innovative fitness tracking tech you'll find on the consumer market, it will measure the electrical changes in your skin that come about in what is commonly known as ‘fight or flight’ situations, as our bodies go into emergency mode when dealing with some kind of threat.
These days, such experiences are more likely to come from burning your banana bread than, say, fleeing a sabre-toothed cat – but the changes to your physiology remain just the same. The Fitbit Sense is capable of monitoring these phenomena and delivering a daily stress management score each day.
Pretty cool, huh? Of course, such fancy tech comes with a slightly stress-inducing price. And the question is: does the Fitbit Sense justify its price tag? Read on for our full hands-on review of the Fitbit Sense. And if you want to compare it to our other top wearables, don't miss our best smartwatch selection.
The Fitbit Sense is a wearable that is all about advanced fitness and health tracking – and on both counts, it undoubtedly delivers. There's something a little utilitarian about Fitbit watches in general design: they aren't fashion statements, that's for sure. But it handles its wealth of feature well, all delivered via an easy-to-use UI and with a battery life that outstrips those of rival watches from Apple and Samsung. The £300-odd RRP makes this just a bit too flashy for many people, but if you're into analysing your metrics, this is worth the expenditure.
The Fitbit Sense is – at the time of reviewing – the brand’s top-end wearable. It costs almost six times as much as Fitbit’s cheapest wearable, the Fitbit Inspire. But where that’s an entry-level fitness tracker that delivers basic stats – steps, calories, sleep – the Sense really ups the ante with a whole other level of metrics.
The Fitbit Sense offers a range of health and fitness tracking features, as well as a few additional functions. Here’s what you can expect from this smartwatch:
The Fitbit Sense has an RRP of £279.99 across all the major retailers. However, we’ve seen the odd minor price drop – you’ll find the best prices directly below.
In terms of its build, the Fitbit Sense feels strong, durable and tough. The one-year warranty should give you a bit of added peace of mind.
We like the fact that a free six-month trial of Fitbit Premium is included. (Of course, like all such offers, Fitbit is banking on you becoming so accustomed to the service that you’ll happily cough up the £7.99 monthly cost when the time comes around.)
Functionally, the watch delivers – especially with the fantastic new stress measuring tool. It is a little disconcerting to have a piece of tech on your wrist telling you have frazzled you are at any one time. We’re confident this will become a genuinely useful aid for Sense users, especially when used in tandem with the Fitbit app's mindfulness tile.
Like we say, the slightly prosaic design might not deter some buyers from Apple’s charms. But if fitness tracking is your priority, this is still markedly cheaper than the Apple Watch 6 – in fact, the price difference is more or less the exact cost of a year’s subscription to Fitbit Premium. So if you have the extra cash, you know what to spend it on.
The Fitbit Sense has a square watch face with rounded corners. In that sense, it’s not entirely unlike the Apple Watch, though it should be said it doesn’t have that same wow factor. Its slightly forgettable appearance doesn’t quite match the price tag.
One available watch face size – 40.6mm – is available in two colour schemes: carbon/graphite stainless steel and lunar white/soft gold stainless steel. Straps are available in a range of designs.
There’s no big dial like with other smartwatches. Instead, there is just a discreet button on the face's left-hand side to activate the smartwatch and a side button to head backwards.
The watch face is clear but basic, with three different brightness settings. It doesn’t have the personalisation options of other smartwatches of a similar price, which is a shame. But what the Fitbit Sense lacks in customisation options, it more than makes up for in its smooth, fluid UI – and for our money, the icons on the face are clearer than those on smartwatches from both Apple and Samsung.
The ECG tool, which assesses your heart rate, was easy to use, and lots of medical information was provided before we ran it for the first time. It’s capable of detecting things like arrhythmia in your heartbeat, although one thing that we should make clear is that a smartwatch is no substitute for an appointment with a doctor. Via the phone app, the Sense clearly expressed that the results weren’t an official, expert diagnosis.
Similarly, the stress test was easy to use. It works by delivering a daily ‘stress management score’ that factors in your sleep quality, heart rate and electrodermal activity and delivers a score out of 100 (one being absolute Zen, 100 being peak neurosis).
We particularly enjoyed the guided workouts, some already included in the watch, while others were a paid extra (for example, Apple’s Fitness+ subscription). We noticed loading times weren’t quite as lightning-fast as the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 or Apple Watch 6, but they are still pretty smooth as a whole.
The Fitbit Sense should last for six days – that’s an impressive length of time when compared to smartwatches from the likes of Apple, which need charging daily. We also found that the Sense’s battery charged relatively quickly, with a 70% boost in charge in less than an hour.
You’ll find the battery level displayed clearly at the top of the screen. The charge itself is via a magnetic connection on the rear of the watch face – and a particularly strong one at that.
The Fitbit Sense took an hour to set up, which was due to a few technical hiccups.
The Fitbit Sense comes in a cuboid box that folds out to reveal the Sense in all its glory, with its strap already attached. You’ll find the USB charger on the left and a differently sized strap on the right. Having two strap size options included is a particularly nice tough on Fitbit’s part.
Unfortunately, there were a few teething issues when we tried to pair our iPhone with the Sense. An error notification repeatedly flashed on the screen, telling us to come back later: not ideal. But after deleting and reloading the app, we eventually managed to sync the phone with the Sense.
The instructions and information contained inside the box are pretty limited. Luckily, the charger was easy to attach as, well, it isn’t the stuff of rocket science. But the setup involved some guesswork on our part.
If your tracking needs are basic, you wish to monitor your progress on those home workouts, for example, we would steer you towards the Fitbit Versa, Charge, and other less pricey wearables from the Fitbit line.
But this Sense is positioned as a fitness-focused smartwatch with some seriously cutting-edge tech – and if that’s what you’re after, it's very much worth the investment. Now, breathe... and relax.
Certain categories are weighted more highly.
Overall star rating: 3.83/5
Looking for a cheaper alternative? Take a look at our pick of the best smartwatch deals available right now. We understand there's a lot on the market these days, so check out our best smartwatch 2021 round-up.