Fitbit Surge Fitness Super Watch Review

Super Watch With GPS Speed and Distance Plus Heart Rate

Fitbit Surge Super Fitness Watch
Fitbit Surge - Flare Clock Face. Wendy Bumgardner ©

The Fitbit Surge super watch is the first Fitbit with built-in GPS for speed and distance, and it also has continuous strapless heart rate monitoring. It does what other Fitbits do — counting steps, distance, calories, floors climbed and tracking sleep. If you pair it with a compatible phone you can get call notifications and read incoming text messages and control your music during workouts. It's a very smart pedometer smartwatch.

Who Will Love the Fitbit Surge?

It is sleek enough for either men or women to wear all day as a watch. Then when you want to track a workout, you don't need to wear a heart rate monitor strap or use a separate app or device to track your speed and distance via GPS. You can view it all on your wrist, then see further details (including a map of your route) after syncing to the app or online dashboard.

The Surge is built for walkers, runners, and cyclists who want to use GPS and heart rate to track their workout speed, distance and exercise intensity, and who want to track step, calories and sleep all in one device.

You can track other exercise activity via the exercise timer and heart rate readings. You can track indoor walks and treadmill workouts with the Surge without GPS, it will use the accelerometer readings to give you speed and distance estimates.

If you already have been tracking your activity with a different Fitbit model, you can easily switch your same account to the Surge and continue with the same history, app, and online profile. Fitbit also has updated to allow you to link more than one Fitbit device to your same account, so you can use the Surge for workouts and another Fitbit for daily activity.

Buy Fitbit Surge at

On Your Wrist

The Surge is worn as a wristwatch with a soft elastomer strap and typical (secure!) wristwatch buckle. It comes in black only at this time and the strap is not replaceable. It's best to wear it one finger-width from your wristbone or slightly higher on your arm for the accuracy of the heart rate monitor. Your pulse is read via their PurePulse LED sensors on the back of the watch.

Surge has a monochrome touchscreen, with the clock or other screens always visible and it has an automatic backlight. I found it easy to read with my aging eyes. The clock screen has a choice of different time displays, all of which show only the hours and minutes (no seconds), and some also show the date. I prefer the Flare screen which shows your activity each minute.

Swipe the touchscreen to view screens showing your current heart rate, daily steps, distance, calories burned and floors climbed.

Press the Home button to track exercise sessions and manage vibrating alarms. You can view incoming calls and read incoming texts on the screen if your paired phone is within 20 feet. I actually was able to get texts when my phone was downstairs at the opposite end of my house (probably 50+ feet away), which was impressive.

Charging and Battery Life: The Surge has a battery life of up to 7 days if you don't use the GPS feature. The battery will only last for 5 hours of GPS activity tracking, and they recommend charging it after using the GPS function. It has a custom USB cable for recharging.

Is the Fitbit Surge Waterproof? No, it is splashproof but they recommend against swimming or showering while wearing it. Showering shouldn't hurt it, but Fitbit wants you to give your wrist some air and taking it off in the shower will clean your wrist to prevent rashes.

Setting Up the Fitbit Surge: You need either a computer or a smartphone to set up and use the Fitbit Surge. It syncs wirelessly to a USB dongle on a computer, or via Bluetooth 4.0 to the mobile app (iOS and Android).

Heart Rate 

  • Are You In the Zone? The heart rate screen shows your beats per minute and the heart icon indicates which zone you are in. It has three automatic zones: moderate-intensity Fat Burn zone (50-69% of maximum), vigorous-intensity Cardio zone (70-84% of maximum), and the Peak zone (85% and above). You can also set a custom zone if you don't like the preset zones. You get total time in the zone for any workout as well as all-day totals.
  • Heart Rate Accuracy: By wearing the Surge in the position they suggested, with the strap snug, I got stable readings that were consistent with a chest strap heart rate monitor when I was at rest and during brisk walking workouts. But as a wrist-based sensor, it is likely to be less accurate if you are doing weightlifting or other activities that use the arm muscles. 
  • Workout Heart Rate: You can view your heart rate and zone indicator during workouts, but it doesn't have any alerts when you are in a chosen zone or out of the zone (such as a beep or vibration). After you finish, you can see a graph of your heart rate on the app or online dashboard, including your average and maximum heart rate and time in each zone.
  • Resting Heart Rate: This reading is taken during your sleep period and is an indication of your health and fitness. A lower resting heart rate is an indication of better fitness and readiness for a good workout
  • Daily Heart Rate Graph: See a graph of your heart rate throughout the day on the app or dashboard.

GPS Speed and Distance 

Choose Run, Walk, Bike, or Hike as an exercise activity and you can use the GPS sensor to track your speed and distance and then view your route afterward on the app or online dashboard. Unlike the Fitbit app, it uses the sensor in the Surge watch itself rather than your smartphone.

You need to be outdoors to use the GPS feature as it locks in satellites after you choose Run, Walk, or Hike exercise tracking. This can take several seconds, although you can do a quick start and it will track you based on the accelerometer until it locks in the satellites.

While tracking a Run, Walk, Bike, or Hike, the screen shows the total mileage at the top, elapsed time (minutes, seconds, tenths and hundredths of seconds) and then a third line that you can scroll through for current pace, average pace, heart rate, calories, and time of day. You can track laps by pressing the action button at the end of each lap and seeing the lap stats. Automatic laps are recorded for each mile, but you will only see them after your workout in the app or dashboard.

I found the Pace (your current pace) to be jumpy, it seemed to flip-flop between paces that were a couple of minutes per mile apart at my walking speed (average of 16 minutes per mile). The Average Pace and Lap Pace were more consistent.

You can pause the workout and resume easily. You will still receive incoming calls and text alerts while recording workouts, as well as congratulations if you reach your daily step goal.

After the workout, you can view your summary stats on the Surge and full details on the app or online dashboard after you sync.

For treadmill workouts and indoor walking, the distance and speed are based on the accelerometer rather than GPS. You may have to measure your stride length and adjust it via the online dashboard to get an accurate speed and distance for the treadmill.

Intervals: There is no obvious interval function, but you could use the vibrating alarms to set up your own intervals.

The GPS distance readings were much more reliable than the GPS of my iPhone 4s (which consistently overestimates my distance by 10% and therefore my speed by a similar margin). They match the Polar M400 GPS Sports Watch worn on the other wrist.

You can't use the GPS on the Surge to tell you where you are or give coordinates. You can only get map information after you sync it with your phone app or online dashboard.

What Fitbit Surge Tracks All Day

  • Steps - All-Day and Workout Steps: The Surge tracks both all-day steps and steps for individual workouts. It vibrates and flashes congratulations when you reach your daily step goal, which is set to 10,000 steps per day by default (which you can change).
  • Calories: Fitbit tracks all-day calorie burn, plus you can see the calories burned during the workouts you track. The calorie count is meant to help you balance the calories you eat with the calories you burn off all day. The dashboard or app will tell you how many calories you should eat in order to meet a weight loss goal. You can use their food tracking log online or in the app. It is a very good pedometer for dieters.
  • Distance: This is estimated from your step count for all-day steps. It includes any distance tracked in workouts via GPS.
  • Sleep: The Surge automatically detects sleep, but doesn't display it on the watch. On the app or dashboard you can view your total time in bed, time asleep, time awake and time restless, plus a sleep graph.
  • Alarms: You can set multiple vibrating alarms and choose how often they repeat. You can manage these from the watch as well as the app and dashboard.
  • Stairs/Floors: It automatically tracks the floors climbed.
  • Active Time: The number of steps you take per minute are translated into Active minutes. This can help you track whether you are meeting exercise recommendations for 30 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous exercise each day. If you use the Flare clock, you see how active you have been each minute of the current hour, which can be a good prompt to prevent long periods of inactivity.

Fitbit Dashboard and App

Fitbit is a favorite of mine for tracking your diet and health stats. You can use its food log in the app or on the online dashboard, track water, your weight and more. You can engage in challenges with friends and earn badges for accomplishments. Fitbit also can share data with many other popular apps and you can post to social media.

Expert Review 


  • Comfort: I found it easy to wear as a wristwatch day and night. I tightened the buckle slightly more when I wanted the best heart rate reading during an exercise session.
  • Display: Like a standard watch, you can view the time without having to activate the display. It was easy to move from screen to screen with a swipe to see your other stats.
  • Heart Rate, GPS Speed and Distance at a Glance: You don't have to put on a chest strap or activate an app. You can leave your smartphone safely at home and still track your workout. You can view it right on your wrist instead of trying to view it on your smartphone during a workout. Best of all, for long workouts you aren't draining your phone battery, just that on the Surge.
  • Mobility: You need to sync with the app or a computer every 7 days to download minute-by-minute data, but it will keep 30 days of daily totals and 39 hours of GPS data if you are unable to sync weekly.


  • No inactivity alerts or moves reminders to keep you from being sedentary and reduce the health risks of sitting too much. However, the Flare clock gives a very good indication of how much you have moved within the hour. If you set a vibrating alarm, you could check it at set intervals to remind yourself to move.
  • Lacks advanced running watch features: Compared to the Polar M400 GPS Sports Watch, it doesn't have interval timers built in and some other features that serious runners may expect on a running watch.
  • Lacks advanced heart rate monitor features. There are no beeps or vibration to indicate if you are in-zone and out-of-zone, just the icons.

Bottom Line 

I loved the GPS and heart rate features of the Fitbit Surge. It is a very good all-in-one fitness tracking device for runners and walkers. I also enjoyed the incoming call alerts and text messages. It has all of the other basic Fitbit functions for steps, calories and sleep tracking. Most of all, I liked the Flare clock display to show me how active I have been within the hour.

The price tag of the Surge puts it into the realm of smartwatches, and it may be that you'd want an Apple Watch instead.

If you aren't interested in the GPS speed and distance, or the Surge just seems too big for you to enjoy wearing, the Fitbit Charge HR band is a good alternative.

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