FitBit Versa Review

Today we have the review of the FitBit Versa. The Versa is one of the two higher tier models from FitBit and has quite the features. This is a long one so grab a drink. Now on to the review!

 

[Disclaimer: We reached out to FitBit Malaysia and they were kind enough to send us a FitBit Versa. This is not a paid review. All views expressed in this review are solely of the writer. We would like to thank FitBit Malaysia for sending us this unit. ]

 

Looks

The Versa has a square shaped face. The case is made of aluminium and the band is a classic black band. On the left is the Back button. And on the right are the Top and Bottom buttons. To the right of the face itself is a proximity sensor (unseen under this lighting). And underneath the watch is the heart rate sensor.

Simple and straightforward.

 

Setup

Head over to our short guide on how to setup the Versa!

 

Features

There are a few areas that make up the features for the FitBit Versa. I have divided them to Health Tracking, FitBit Apps, and Dashboard and Log.

 

Features – Health Tracking

Health tracking is the most essential feature of any wearable fitness tracker. At the most basic level, it has a step counter, calories burned counter and a heart rate monitor. And this is no different for the FitBit Versa.

Step counter
This tracks how many steps you’ve taken during the day.

Step counter.

Heart rate monitor
The heart rate monitor detects your current heart rate and resting heart rate.

Heart rate monitor.

Calories burned counter
This logs the number of calories burned for the day. To read exactly how this value is calculated head over here.

Calories burned counter.

 

Features – FitBit Apps

You’re able to download apps from the App section in the FitBit app. You have a selection of official apps from FitBit and user created apps. Below are some of the apps that come default with the Versa.

Exercise
This is the app to use when you want to exercise. It will start tracking the activity when exercising and is separated into seven areas: Run, Bike, Swim, Treadmill, Weights, Interval Timer and Workout.

Music
You also can listen to music on the Versa. Just be sure to have a set of bluetooth enabled headphones with you.

Alarm
What’s a watch if you can’t set an alarm.

Coach
Think of coach as a power workout session. It has several options for you to choose like 10 Minute Abs, 7 Minute Workout, and Warm It Up. It guides you with moving images which is displayed on the watch.

Wallet
Contactless payment is also supported. This enables you to use the Versa as a payment device. To see whether your local bank supports it, go here.

Exercise, Music, Alarms and Coach.

 

Features – Dashboard and Log

This is the ‘Command Centre’ where you view all the recorded stats from the Versa and log things like consumed food and water, your weight and activities carried out. More will be elaborated on the Dashboard and Log in the Usage and Performance section below.

Calories, Steps, Heart Rate
View the statistics the number of calories burnt, steps taken and also your heart rate.

Summary of the number of steps for the week.

Sleep
This records the duration of sleep at night. You’ll be able to see different stages like awake, REM, light and deep.

Interesting to know how you actually slept.

Weight
Keep track of your weight by logging it daily. Those who have a weight goal will find this useful.

Keep track of your weight.

Food & Water
Log your consumed food and their calories. Log how much water you drank throughout the day. As you log, the cup fills up indicating how much left to drink (to fulfill the recommended amount).

Log what you ate.
Log amount of consumed water.

 

Usage and Performance

I had the FitBit Versa with me for a month and this is how I used it: Once I reached home from work, I would take it off. And I would put it back on when it was sleeping time. It would stay with me until after I woke up and throughout the daytime until after work. It wasn’t strapped for 24 hours as I felt my wrist needed some ‘space to breathe’. Keeping that in mind was important because there’s a downtime of a couple of hours which meant the health reading would be off by a bit. Now that you’re aware, let’s find out how it performed!

 

Usage and Performance – Health Tracking

Steps
The first thing I did was to set up a new daily goal for my step counter. I’d figured 5000 steps was a good start. During the weekdays I recorded an average of 3300 steps. I commute to work by car so the only walking I do is from the carpark to the office, going to the pantry and toilet and going out for lunch. The reading for weekends was higher at 5000+ steps as I was hanging out at the malls. What I liked throughout this whole process is two areas; reminders and goals. At every hour, it will remind you to walk a certain number of steps. For me it was 250. This is different for every individual and is calculated based on your bio information you entered in your user account.

250 steps achieved.

Once you’ve met your hourly step goal or daily step goal, you’re greeted with a celebratory animation that plays on the watch. It’s these little things that go a long way in encouraging anyone to do better and push further. I certainly felt a sense of achievement after a goal was met and wanted to continue my effort of staying healthy.

5000 steps achieved!

Heart rate
The heart rate monitor was more of a good-to-know information. Throughout my time with the Versa, I hardly paid attention to it. As long it didn’t show signs of abnormal heart beat, I was totally oblivious. The only important information is the resting heart rate. In simple terms, ‘It is a measurement that indicates how efficiently your heart is working’. The average resting heart rate is between 60 – 100 while athletes are between 30 – 40. My resting heart rate hovered between 65 – 70 so I consider it to be normal. For more information on resting heart rate check out FitBit’s article here.

Calories burned
Fitbit takes a few considerations when calculating the calories burned. You can view the details here. One of the considerations is the number of steps taken each day. Logically speaking, the more steps you take, the more calories you burn. It was nice to know the number of calories burned each day as an indication of being ‘healthy’. So naturally I tried to walk more whenever I could. On a daily average I burned 2216 calories. The thing is, to an average Joe like me, burning 2216 calories doesn’t really mean anything if you don’t know what you’re comparing it to. I will attempt to explain more on that in the Dashboard section below.

 

Usage and Performance – FitBit Apps

Although FitBit categorises the Versa as a smartwatch, the apps on it are basic and doesn’t come with much bells and whistles. The app I found myself to use most of the time is funnily the alarm. I wasn’t able to test the music feature as I did not have any bluetooth earphones with me. Neither was I able to test contactless payment (Wallet feature) as no banks in Malaysia supported it. However, I did try the Exercise app.

Exercise – A morning at Bukit Kiara
To put it through its paces, I went to Bukit Kiara in Taman Tun for a morning jog. The original plan was to head up, complete the loop and head back down. But I was cut short due to rain and had to do with only 1.25km (ascending and descending). Truth be told, it had been a long time since I exercised so my jog quickly turned into a walk.

Start of the trail.

For this exercise the closest option was Run so I selected it.

Selected Run as the mode of exercise.

After selection it will sync with your phone to get your location so remember to bring your phone with you. Do note that the Versa does not have built-in GPS. Once synced, press the Play button and you’re good to go.

Bring your phone as it needs to sync before you run.

Here are some of the information you can see while you exercise.

Check your pace, fat burnt and calories burnt while you exercise.

Pace logs how long it took you to cover the distance you covered. Fat burn logs your heart beats per minute and calories log how much calories have been burnt. On a separate note, let’s take a minute to appreciate the sounds of nature at Bukit Kiara.

At the end of the exercise, the Versa will display a brief summary of your activity.

Summary of the exercise.

Let’s also take a minute to savour the breakfast I had at the TTDI Market after the exercise.

There goes my exercise.

 

Usage and Performance – Dashboard and Logging

All data recorded in the FitBit Versa needs to be presented in an informative way. And this is done in the dashboard. The dashboard is split into two main areas: Dashboard and Log. The dashboard stores all the information that’s tracked in the FitBit Versa. And log logs your consumed food and water, activities, weight and sleep.

The dashboard.
Usage and Performance – Dashboard and Logging – Dashboard

Chart
On the most top is the summary chart. This chart displays the history of your steps, heart rate, distance covered, calories burnt, equivalent stairs taken and active minutes. Select one of the six and filter by the time period; Daily, 7 Days, 28 Days.

View your weekly performance.

Progress Circle (Probably isn’t the correct name)
This section displays the vital statistics that’s represented by individual circles. Each of these circles will have a coloured ring that signify how much you have achieved. The closer you get to your goal, the fuller the ring becomes.

How close to achieving your goals.

Water consumed
This is an image of a bottle that fills up every time you log your consumed water.

Remember to stay hydrated.

Calories In vs. Calories Out meter.
This is a meter which calculates the calories burnt vs calorie intake and the calculation is simple. Consume less calories than burnt and you get an ‘Under’ weighting. This is called calorie deficit. Consume more calories than burnt and you get an ‘Over’ weighting. This is called a calorie surplus. 90% of the time I registered an ‘Under’ weighting, and the 10% was an ‘Over’ weighting.
There’s been alot of debate mostly on the area that calories in vs. calories out doesn’t tell the whole picture of your health. For this review, I’m going to take it as face value that it is as simple as calories in vs. calories out. To read more on what the fuss is about check out this piece from physiqonomics. Also check out what FiBit says.

Calories consumed vs Calories burnt.

Exercise
One of the stats that I was particularly impressed was from the exercise. It mapped my movement and also tracked the usual health counters. Below are the stats recorded from my exercise at Bukit Kiara.

Headed up and down the hill.
Summary of my exercise. It also tracked the elevation!

The icing on the cake was being able to move your mouse left or right over one of the categories, and see the corresponding point you were on the map.

78 metres of elevation at 0.33 km of distance.

Sleep
Sleep is another area that the Versa can track. I try to sleep at least 7 hours a day and before this I didn’t really pay too much attention in this area. It was to my surprise that I was sleeping way less than I should.

Ideally it should be 8 hours.

 

Usage and Performance – Dashboard and Logging – Log

Logging has four sections – Food, Activities, Weight, Sleep. Logging allows you to manually insert items such as Food and Weight which you wouldn’t be able to do by just wearing the Versa. Also if you forget to wear it and would like to enter the missed tracking, you can do it for Activities and Sleep. For this review I will share the food logging.

Food
Logging food was an eye opener as you get to see your eating patterns. It’s also where you enter the calories of each meal. The food database will have your burgers, pizzas, roasted chickens, spaghetti, and canned products. But how about local food? Well, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Evidenced from the search results (Fried Bee Hoon with Fishcakes Old Chang Kee), I can make a calculated guess that the local food database is sourced from Singapore. Not too bad considering we share almost identical food culture. So it was nice to find ‘Milo powder’ and ‘Cream Crackers(Hup Seng)’. For the rest that weren’t in the database, I had to search on the net and one source that popped up frequently was from Under Armour’s myfitnesspal. Where else would I find ‘Economy Rice (Rice + 1 Veg + 2 Meats)’ ? Below is the accumulated menu of my weekly food.

All your logged food at a glance.

 

Usage and Performance – Other bits

Battery
I managed to use the Versa for 5 days without charging. And my usage was just basic; occasionally unlocking it to check the steps, calories and hear rate. For a full charge, it took 1.5 hours.

Waterproof
The Versa is certified with an IP68 rating. It means that its resistant to dust, dirt, sand and can be submerged under water up to 1.5 metres (5 feet). It worked as advertised as I was able to take into the shower with me.

Screen Wake
One feature that’s often overlooked is the ability to set the screen wake to manual or auto. I found this useful especially when going to bed. If there wasn’t any option to set the screen wake to manual, you would have random annoying lights flashing here and there.

Notifications
Syncing with your phone allows you to view alerts and notifications via the Versa. See incoming calls, text (sms, whatsapp, google hangouts, facebook messenger), emails, calendar events and other app notifications. I only managed to get the incoming calls working. This is because the FitBit app kept prompting “Notification service not running. A phone restart is required to re-enable notifications on your tracker”. I tried everything, from unpairing the Versa, to restarting the phone to restarting the Versa but nothing seemed to work. A check on the community thread reveled that it was a reported issue and an update was already available. However it didn’t work for me. Check it out here.

 

Where to buy

The retail price for the FitBit Versa is at RM1008. You’re able to purchase it on FitBit’s Lazada page.

 

Final Thoughts

This is my first fitness tracker I’ve used so coming into this review, I didn’t know what to expect. After using it for a while though, I now understand why some find it essential in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Because to be honest, how else would you find the motivation to literally walk that extra mile. I know I wouldn’t. But with the FitBit Versa, it’s like having a fitness coach on your wrist that pushes you and encourages you throughout the day. Also what I like about it is how everything comes together in the dashboard. It collects and organises the information in a way that’s easy to read and digest. I would say that the both the Versa and the dashboard work hand in hand. You can’t do without the other.

How does this compare to other fitness trackers? I don’t know as I haven’t used one before this. But I think that it should be same with varying differences. And how about comparison to other FitBit models? In terms of features, it is ranked second after the Ionic. So expect the Versa to come complete with more than your basic functions. Should I get a FitBit Versa? It depends on your wants and budget. In terms of pricing, the Versa is going for RM1008 (USD$243). For a comparison, the Ionic (highest spec model) is going for RM1308 (USD$315) while the Charge 2 is RM718 (USD$173). Next is to know what you want in a fitness tracker. If you want to track the bare essentials, go for models like the Flex 2 and Charge 2. If your wallet is forgiving, and prefer a more comprehensive package, go for the Versa.

Regardless of whether you choose FitBit or other brands, I wholly recommend to get at least a basic fitness tracker. It has given me new insights to my health and I’m sure it will do the same for you too.