Fitbit Surge vs. Basis Peak Fitness Tracker

November, 2015

I was an early adopter of the Fitbit Surge.  It was my first smart watch and I’ve been wearing it daily for about a year.  Recently, I was lucky enough to attend the Intel Developer’s Forum and received a Basis Peak as an attendance gift.  I thought I’d capture my thoughts on the similarities and differences of these two fitness trackers in case others are considering an investment.

FitBit Surge Summary

Pros Cons
Battery Life Wrist Band
 Mobile App  Customer Support

 

Basis Peak Summary

Pros Cons
Waterproof Alarms
 Mobile App  Daily Goals

 

The Details

Category Fitbit Surge Basis Peak
Cost $199 USD $149 USD
Display Size 20.88 mm x 24.36 mm  32 mm x 32 mm
Band 3 band size options, not detachable Detachable bands, comes with 2 bands;  Other options available online
HR Accuracy Good Good
Battery Life 5 days 3 days
Waterproof Sweat, rain and splash-proof Designed to track swimming
Screen Interface Touch, 3 buttons Touch only
Back Light Yes, tap or tilt Yes, swipe
Touch Screen White on Black, OLED White on Black, OLED
Bluetooth Pairing Easy, 2nd required for music play control Easy
Alerts SMS Text or Phone Call Configurable – SMS Text, Phone Call, many mobile apps
Alarm Multiple, recurring, setup via web app One, non-recurring, setup on watch
Track Exercise Select from categories like hike, weights, elliptical, spinning, yoga, or workout;  Manual start/stop Auto-detects exercise;  Can track swimming
Track Sleep Auto-detect Auto-detect, a bit too sensitive
Track Steps Yes Yes
Track Stairs Yes Yes
Stop Watch Yes (with latest update) Yes
Calorie Tracking Yes, using estimate;  Food tracking in app Yes, using estimate only
Social Mobile app interface to Facebook, Twitter, etc.;  Challenges with other Fitbit users Mobile app interface to Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Web Portal Displays dashboard interface Displays latest activity
GPS Tracking Yes No
 Charger Proprietary USB interface plugs into inside of watch Proprietary USB interface with magnetic connector to inside of watch
Mobile App iPhone & Android iPhone & Android

 

Comments:

  • Goals:  Fitbit Surge uses a daily goal and provides a weekly progress tracking report.  The daily goal is configurable, but counting steps is the most common.  The Basis introduces the concept of “habits”.  The Basis starts with a single habit of wearing the watch 12 hours/day x 2 days/week;  Once achieved, it provides points and unlocks another habit.  Habits accumulate over time and multiple can run at a time. Habits are tracked across certain hours of the day. Can’t find a way to set a daily goal.
  • Bands:  Fitbit Surge has an integrated elastomer band that collects lint (very annoying).  I’ve also found the band stretches a bit over time.  The Basis came with a brown leather and white plastic band which requires no tools to remove/attach.  Both Fitbit and Basis bands itch when I sweat, and need to be cleaned thoroughly.
  • One of the first updates to the Fitbit Surge software broke the auto timezone feature of the Surge.  I travel a lot, and it forced me to manually reset the timezone via the app.  I notified the Fitbit help desk many times over the period of 3 months before giving up.  I repeatedly explained that there was a bug with the Android mobile app – the setting to auto detect timezone did not survive a reboot.  They’re answer:  reboot your watch and phone.  Only in the most recent release (7+ months after I reported the issue) was the bug resolved.  A disappointing experience.
  • The initial release of the Fitbit Surge software allowed the swiped screen to remain on indefinitely.  Since I most often refer to the watch for time, I was frustrated that I had to try to find the time screen each time I needed it.  In a later release, this was addressed – the screen times-out and returns to the main time screen.  The Basis Peak also has a time-out and returns to the main time screen.
  • I use the silent alarm feature a lot.  Alarms are a disappointment for the Basis Peak.   Only 1 alarm can be set, and it cannot be configured for re-occurrence.  It has a 10 minute snooze, but after it is dismissed, the alarm is disabled.
  • The Basis Peak has an annoying feature that requires me to acknowledge each alert on the watch.  If I do not, it reminds me every 10 minutes until I do.  There does not seem to be a way to disable this “feature”.
  • The Basis Peak has some really nice, rich graphs in the mobile app and web portal that provide lots of detail in a compact view.  Details about how long I sleep, any restlessness, depth of sleep, REM cycle, etc.
  • I found the Basis Peak’s auto sleep-detect feature to be too sensitive.  When I was sitting and reading a book or watching TV, it tracked that time as sleeping.  Sure, I was relaxed, but I was not sleeping.  It needs some tuning, and I don’t see any way to adjust this feature.
  • Fitbit challenges are one of the nice ways gamification is incorporated into platform.  I like the extra motivation provided by competing against my friends.  For Peak Basis, they have an elaborate gamification solution in their habits.  However, habits are exclusively meant to compare my actions against my own history, and there is currently no option for competing against others.
  • A stopwatch feature was added in a recent release of the Fitbit software.  This gives me hope that they will continue to improve on the interface and features moving forward.
  • The Basis Peak is among the first set of wearable tech using the Intel Curie chip.  I applaud Intel for jumping into the wearable business, albiet a bit late.  I think this chip has a lot of promise and I look forward to seeing how it evolves.

 

Who is the winner?

While there are minor pros/cons for each, both watches are quite good.  I think the winner depends on the features that matter most to the wearer.  For me, I will be sticking with my Fitbit Surge.

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