Advertisement

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Advertisement

Fitbit Inspire 2 review: Great for casual users; less so for athletes

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
90
inc VAT

The Fitbit Inspire 2 tries to do it all, with mixed results

Pros 
Neat, stylish design
Free year of Fitbit Premium
Strong battery life
Cons 
Small screen struggles to show much data
Fiddly controls
Dude, where’s my button?
Advertisement

Eighteen months after the Fitbit Inspire and Inspire HR arrived as the replacement for the Fitbit Alta, the company is ready for a follow-up. No new name this time: it’s the Fitbit Inspire 2, with no hard-to-recommend non-HR version this time around, either.
 
But with so many quality fitness tracking bands available on the cheap, does Fitbit do enough at double the price? Let’s find out.
 

Fitbit Inspire 2 review: What you need to know

The Fitbit Inspire is the entry-level Fitbit for adults. That means you can forget about a colour screen and built-in GPS, but enjoy a device that tracks basic activities and receives notifications in a discreet package with the stamina to go for over a week without seeing its charger.

Last time, Fitbit created two Inspires: one with a heart-rate monitor, and one £20 cheaper without. This time, Fitbit has decided that the heart-rate monitor is essential, and that’s a smart decision. It was the version we recommended considering the relatively small price difference and presumably sales data led Fitbit to decide one product was enough.
 
So what else is new this time around? Well, it’s evolution rather than revolution but the additions are nonetheless welcome. You get Active Zone Minutes as well as a battery life that’s doubled to ten days. Oh, and the Fitbit Inspire 2 also comes with a year’s worth of Fitbit Premium in the box, which is very nice, given it would normally set you back £8 a month or £80 for the full year.

READ NEXT: Our guide to the best Fitbit to buy right now

Fitbit Inspire 2 review: Price and competition

In fact, given the Fitbit Inspire 2 costs £90 on its own, the inclusion of a subscription service worth £80 is pretty phenomenal. Of course, “worth” is relative here; not everyone will want or need to use Fitbit Premium and, if all you want is the hardware, £90 is still pretty expensive for a fitness band.

Even the firm’s own offerings appear to offer better value, with the GPS-toting Fitbit Charge 4 selling for not much more.

The real competition for price-sensitive consumers comes from China. The Honor Band 5, Xiaomi Mi Band 4 and Amazfit Band 5 all sell for well under £50 and offer a similar set of features. Even more impressively, the Huawei Band 3 Pro has built-in GPS, a list price of £10 less than the Inspire 2 and routinely goes for under £60.
 
The Inspire 2, in other words, has its work cut out.

Fitbit Inspire 2 review: Design

I don’t have the original Fitbit Inspire HR anymore, but from memory and checking the photos from my review, they look and feel almost identical. The only real change is the lack of a physical button, which has been replaced by the need to squeeze the wearable from both sides – an imperfect solution but probably it’s the best way of replicating a tactile button if they’re really believed to be a problem.

Otherwise, it’s the same. The Fitbit Inspire 2 is a small plastic lozenge that clips into two straps on each end. While it looks like the screen is quite large, this is actually an optical illusion: only a small window on the front surface – 17 x 10mm by my awkward ruler measurement – is actually occupied by the monochrome OLED display.
 
The screen itself is sharp, though, and comfortably viewable in most conditions once you turn the brightness up from its “dim” default. The small size does make it of limited use for notifications though: even two-word menu texts have to scroll across the screen before you can read them, so good luck getting through an entire email – but that’s the price you pay for a small form factor. If you don’t like it, there are plenty of great smartwatches to choose from with more sizeable displays.   
 
While the straps are interchangeable they need to be specifically designed for Fitbit Inspire devices – no swapping in your favourite watch strap here – and you’ll have to buy dedicated third-party bands or spend big at the surprisingly pricey Fitbit accessory store. That said, Fitbit does include both a large and small one in the box, taking away the guesswork of years past when you had to estimate whether your wrists were slender or thick before taking one to the checkout.

You can also buy a Fitbit Inspire 2 clip to wear it on your shorts/trousers/skirt. That’s a bit of a faff if you want to track activities manually but, if you just want to treat it as a pedometer like the original Fitbit, this is a good way of keeping it out of the way. Just don’t put it through the wash like I did with several unfortunate Fitbit One devices.

Fitbit Inspire 2 review: Performance

However you choose to wear it, for the most part, the Fitbit Inspire 2 functions as a basic pedometer, diligently estimating your steps so you can improve or maintain your fitness. If you choose to keep it on your wrist, it will also measure heart rate, which means it can spot when you’re being especially active to help estimate calorie burn that bit more efficiently. 
 
This is essential for Fitbit’s Active Zone Minutes feature. Introduced in early 2020 year with the Fitbit Charge 4, this takes step counting to a new level, not just counting how much you move, but the quality of your movement, awarding you more points the more effort you’re putting in as measured by your heart rate. Take a ten-minute stroll to the shops in your fat-burning heart-rate zone, and you’ll get ten points towards your 150-minute weekly target. Really push yourself and power walk or run your way into cardio or peak zones and you’ll get 20 points.

 
 
I generally like this as a concept. It’s more useful than just tracking steps and encourages people to push themselves. Heart-rate focused exercise can be tricky to understand, and this simplifies it in a way casual fitness fans can understand. Good job, Fitbit.
 
That’s where the Fitbit Inspire triumphs: as an advanced pedometer. But the Fitbit Inspire 2 can also track running, cycling, swimming, treadmill running, weights and interval workouts  and it’s here that things fall a little bit short. Or at least, they do for me as a runner who values data on the fly.
 
First of all, there’s no built-in GPS. That means it piggybacks off your phone, but more annoyingly than that, it simply wouldn’t connect for me without first getting my phone out and opening up the Fitbit app to ensure it was running in the background. That’s an unwelcome extra step when you’re running in 1-degree December temperatures and keen to get moving.
 

When you’re out there and running, the problems of the device’s design come into play in three ways. First of all, you actually have to squeeze the device to get the screen to wake up, which is a pain – I couldn’t get it to wake up naturally no matter how sharply I pulled up my arm. Secondly, the screen is so small that you only get one bit of data: distance traveled. You can cycle to other metrics with a tap of the screen, but that brings us to problem three: did I mention how tiny it is, and how difficult it is to accurately prod when going at speed? 
 
Still, for the determined, you can access other metrics like pace, average pace, heart rate, calories burned, steps taken, the current clock, time elapsed, and Active Zone Minutes. But bluntly it’s so awkward that the chances are you’ll just wait until you’re home to read up on how you did instead.

 
And here, it’s surprisingly decent, offering data comparable to my own Garmin Forerunner 245 on my other wrist. With the caveat that all GPS data came from my phone – and yours might offer considerably weaker accuracy, especially if it’s protective of apps draining battery – I only found the Fitbit Inspire 2’s data to be between 0.03 and 0.08km off over 3-4km distances, which is perfectly acceptable. Heart rate measurements between the two were also pretty much identical, within 3bpm difference between both the average and the max.
 
If you’re someone who trusts your instincts while running, that might be enough. Plus, with Fitbit Premium – an £80 per year service but with the first year included gratis – there are a whole bunch of guided exercises that’ll save you the effort of fiddling with the screen, letting you just trust the instructions in your ears.

Fitbit Premium is a strange offering. Some will find it invaluable, while others really won’t see the point but you can’t really argue at the low, low price of ‘free’ in your first year of Inspire 2 ownership.
 
That subscription entitles you to over 150 guided video and audio workouts, guided programmes on everything from mindful eating to sleep improvements, enhanced sleep data and a personalised wellness report that you can theoretically show your doctor.  I’m not entirely convinced they’d gain much from the insights, however. In all, it’s a nice extra to have but I suspect few will carry on paying for it once the year is up.
 
Fitbit also promises that you can get double the five days’ battery life of the original Fitbit Inspire HR and that seems just about true. But the chances are you’ll want to shorten that: the ‘dim’ screen setting that it defaults to is barely visible in bright conditions and I recommend you change that right away. Plus, the more tracked exercises you do, the more the battery will drain. Even with this moderate to high use, however, you’ll likely get seven days out of it and that’s more than enough for a fitness tracker of this nature.

Fitbit Inspire 2: Verdict

 
The Fitbit Inspire 2 is a fitness tracker that tries to do it all and this leads to disappointment when it falls short. I wouldn’t, therefore, recommend it to runners, cyclists or swimmers who want to track their data on the fly; it’s just too small and fiddly. Equally, anybody wanting a smartwatch experience is better looking at a dedicated smartwatch: technically you get notifications with the Inspire 2, but they’re so hard to read, you’re simply better off getting your phone out to figure out what’s going on.
 
That all sounds rather negative, but where the Fitbit Inspire 2 triumphs is as a device that is seen and not heard. If you’re just interested in tracking your fitness through the app each day, then the Inspire 2 is a great successor to the Flex and One devices of old. It looks stylish and can be worn and forgotten about, with all the benefits of the fantastic Fitbit app to keep an eye on how you’re doing, and friendly competition with the community.

 
The question is whether it warrants its £90 price tag when the likes of Xiaomi, Amazfit and Honor offer similar bands for half the price or less. I’m tentatively going to say yes, based on the excellent Fitbit app and community. If you log in to Fitbit, you’ll almost certainly spot friends and family you know, you’re unlikely to find friendly competition on the more lonely apps of Xiaomi and Honor. Plus, the free year of Fitbit Premium is something the cheaper bands can’t match,even if it’s not something you’d consider paying for under normal circumstances.
 
So if you’re casually interested in your fitness, but not enough to consider a Garmin, Polar or Coros watch, then the Fitbit Inspire 2 remains worth a look. Just be aware that, while it’s a jack of all trades, there are certain avenues it should definitely leave to the professionals.