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Fitbit Inspire review: Just spend a bit more on the HR

Alan Martin Pete Clark
2 Dec 2020
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
70
inc VAT

BT is offering a great Fitbit deal on the Inspire during the sales season

Pros 
Well priced
Stylish design
Fantastic app and community
Cons 
Lacks connected GPS
Limited feature set
The HR model is just £20 more
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Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had the majority of Fitbit’s new trackers on my wrists: the Versa Lite, the Inspire HR and now the vanilla Fitbit Inspire. I don’t think I’d pass as an under-ten to qualify for testing the Ace 2, so that’s probably it for now.

Of the three, the Inspire is the least inspiring but that’s more down to its comparative weaknesses rather than being a poor tracker in its own right.

Fitbit Inspire review: What you need to know

The Fitbit Inspire is a stripped-down version of the Fitbit Inspire HR. That means it shares the same form factor, the same screen and – for the first time in living memory – the same charger.
 
The element that’s been stripped out is the heart-rate sensor, hence the lack of “HR” in the title. That means it can’t tell you your heartbeat, obviously, but that has a knock-on effect on other things. It prevents the guided breathing exercises, stops the Fitbit app giving you a cardio fitness level and strips sleep tracking of the ability to detect different stages.
 
Less explicably, Fitbit has also removed the connected GPS functionality, meaning it won’t give you run data on your wrist. Given all the heavy lifting for this is done on your phone, there’s no technical reason it can’t do this, so it feels a bit bloody minded of Fitbit to drop it, but there we are.

READ NEXT: Fitbit Versa lite review – makes cuts in all the right places

Fitbit Inspire review: Price and competition

How much more would you pay for those extra features? If it’s £20 or more, happy days: go and buy a Fitbit Inspire HR for £90 right now and don’t worry about its cheaper sibling.
 
The Fitbit Inspire goes for £70. That puts it in a strange price bracket of its own but one that’s markedly lower than its other offerings. The Fitbit Charge 3 goes for £130 and offers a couple of extra things to the Inspire HR: floors climbed and quick replies to messages. That's not an extra £40 of value, though, so you can safely discount it.
 
At the cheapest point in the market, you can get the Xiaomi Mi Band 3 for just £20, a fitness tracker that, incredibly, does have a heart-rate monitor. 

Fitbit Inspire review: Design

Design-wise, there’s very little to differentiate the Fitbit Inspire from its heart-rate-tracking sibling. The two points of difference: the back of it doesn’t have the green light to measure heart rate via blood flow and it’s available in different colours. That’s it.

That’s no bad thing: both varieties of Fitbit Inspire are excellent examples of sleek minimalism. A small plastic lozenge – the brain of the Fitbit – clips neatly between two rubber straps. These straps can be swapped out to match your style and the company sells a number of options in rubber, leather and steel, meaning you can match both your outfit and the formality of any occasion.

There’s a drawback to copying the design from the Fitbit Inspire HR, which is that it inherits its weaknesses as well as its strengths. For me, that’s chiefly because it's a touchscreen device and quite a fiddly one at that. There's a button on the side but that’s used for “back” and not much else.
 
That said, a touchscreen interface makes marginally more sense here than it does on the HR. Since this doesn’t have connected GPS, there’s less need to consult it when exercising, meaning sweat and rain confusing your inputs shouldn’t be an issue.

Fitbit Inspire review: Performance

The core functions of the Fitbit Inspire are the same as that of the Inspire HR. That means you put it on your wrist and forget about it, while it dutifully counts your steps and congratulates you when you hit the target. Occasionally it’ll tell you to move if you’ve been sedentary for too long, and it’ll also buzz through call and message notifications from your phone.

The trouble is that there’s really not much more I can say than that. It’s comfortable enough and the screen is bright, but this is a pretty basic device when all is said and done. Even the sleep tracking simply tells you that you’re sleeping or not based on movement, with none of the clever sleep-stage tracking the Fitbit Inspire HR offers. That means the difference between this on the Fitbit Inspire...

 
...and this on the Inspire HR:

 
Maybe you don’t feel like you need that kind of data. I’m a bit sceptical of its utility myself, but it’s still another bit of value that makes that £20 difference look pretty significant.
 
Maybe this more limited feature set is enough for you. I mean, it worked well enough for early Fitbit models and it does come with the genuinely fantastic Fitbit app, which offers just the right amount of friendly competition between friends and family.

But, for all this, it does feel a bit cheap of Fitbit not to include connected GPS. There’s no technical reason the company couldn’t have added it in and it would make the tracker a lot more useful, even without tracking heart rate (which felt pretty flakey during exercise on the HR anyway.) It feels like Fitbit cut the feature here just to make the Inspire HR seem like a better option when the truth is that, even without, it was already a far more compelling product.

Fitbit Inspire review: Verdict  

In short, for a saving of £20, you’d be a fool to pick this over the Inspire HR. Even if you don’t care about running, the guided breathing exercises and better sleep tracking are worth the extra money. Unless £70 is literally all you can afford, you’re better off spending a bit more.

Even then, if money’s tight, I’d advise going cheaper than this. The Xiaomi Mi Band 3 offers the same kind of features for less than a quarter of the price and throws in a heart-rate monitor as well. If you’re going to compromise on features, you may as well do it on the cheap.