THE Smartwatch category has really taken off in the past few year, and while things like the Apple iWatch and Samsung Galaxy Watch are well known and found on many wrists, they are not the only game in town.
Fitbit have been around since 2009, creating one of the original fitness trackers, with a range of products which have established themselves very firmly and prominently in the ‘wearables’ category.
The latest addition to the Fitbit line-up, the Fitbit Versa 3, takes a proven formula and adds an important addition: In-built GPS tracking, meaning the watch no longer needs to rely on your phone to work out where your exercise route has taken you.
Fitbit sent me a Versa 3 to review and it’s earned itself a prominent spot in my watch rotation schedule as a result of its performance and wearability.
Aesthetically, I really like the gold case and the midnight blue strap which were included in the box of the review unit– it’s comfortable to wear and isn’t showy or gaudy. There are other colours available too, including black and pink, and you can get different bands to go with the Versa 3 as well.
The watch has a 40.5mm face, incorporating a 1.58in display with 336×336 resolution. On paper it sounds like a something you’d find on a mobile phone from 2002, but it works absolutely fine on the Fitbit – you’re not watching videos on it, after all.
There are a range of different watch faces to select (and you can download more from the FitBit app) – I tended to stick with an analogue style one because I’m old school like that, but there are plenty of other styles to choose from.
If you have the screen default to “off unless woken”, the battery lasts about six days. Unfortunately, I found the button to wake it wasn’t as responsive as I’d like and it didn’t always respond to movement that was supposed to wake it either, so I left it on all the time. It reduced the battery life to about three to four days but also meant it was showing me the info I needed when I wanted.
As gamers, most of us don’t get enough exercise. We joke about it, but the reality is we spend rather a lot of time in a chair or on the couch and while there’s plenty of us who do make time for regular exercise, there’s also a lot of us who could use some help in that regard – and that’s where the Fitbit Versa 3 really shines.
The main attraction of the Fitbit Versa 3 is its fitness tracker functions and golly are there a lot of them in there.
At a basic level you’ve got step counter, distance travelled, heartrate monitor and calories burned, but the Versa 3 goes beyond that with GPS tracking to let you see the route you’ve taken and where you’ve been.
I’m also reviewing a Mate.Bike e-bike (expect a review soon!) and the Fitbit was a fantastic companion to my rides on it, showing me exactly where my travels were taking me and providing some really interesting insights into how I was going physically as I did so.
Between the watch and the app, I was able to get clear, easily understood information about how my fitness attempts were progressing. The results from a bike ride session, for example, identified the distance I’d travelled, displayed the route, showed my average heart rate, the average speed, and how many minutes I’d spent in heart zones such as cardio and fat burn.
There were similar results for walking and several other exercises, including golf, pilates, yoga, weightlifting, kickboxing, martial arts, bootcamp sessions, and more.
The Versa 3 was packed with useful features I didn’t know I needed until I tried them out – perhaps the best example being the “smart wake” alarm that detects the best time in your sleep cycle to wake you up, within half an hour of your set alarm time.
Thus, if your alarm is set for 7am, the Fitbit Versa 3 will work out when you’re in the lightest sleep between 6.30am and 7am and vibrate on your wrist to wake you up.
It sounds gimmicky but it works really well, and meant I woke up feeling considerably less like I was being dragged out of a fog to begin my day.
From a gaming perspective, one of the other neat features was a movement reminder – basically, if you’ve been sitting in one place too long you’ll get a gentle reminder to walk a few steps. Obviously you’re not going to jump off the payload as it nears the point in Overwatch to stretch your legs, but if you’re doing some flightseeing in Microsoft Flight Simulatorthen it’s an excellent nudge to put the plane on autopilot and go and check on the kids/cat/dog/indoor plants/etc (and move a bit while you’re at it).
As well as the expected phone and messages notification features, there’s also Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant included too with the Versa 3; you activate it, ask it a question and get a text response on the screen – I found it useful for working out if I was going to get rained on while heading down to the park for some al fresco gaming, for example.
The only issues I had with the Versa 3 were the “Find My Phone” function didn’t seem to work unless I was pretty much right next to my phone, and the function button on the side wasn’t always especially responsive; I basically had to pinch the watch from both sides Dick Tracy-style to get it to work somewhat reliably. I really would have preferred an actual button rather than a touch-sensitive area on the side of the watch.
The GPS also doesn’t work well indoors – I spent an hour or two wandering around a large warehouse store and while I set the Fitbit Versa 3 to “Walking Exercise” mode, the unit didn’t record the session properly, saying I’d only walked 0.2km and taken 454 steps – I walked further than that to get between my car and the front door of the store.
Otherwise, however, the Fitbit Versa 3 has proven itself a superb smartwatch and fitness tracker during my time reviewing it.
I’ve been very impressed with it and given it has an RRP of AUD$399, it packs a lot of features into a fairly priced package that can make a difference whether you’re gaming, going to the gym, or just want a useful wearable.