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Fitbit Ultra review

Kat Orphanides
26 Dec 2011
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
80
inc VAT

Fitbit Ultra is a fun activity tracker, but the American-oriented website severely compromises its usefulness

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Specifications

Fitbit Ultra is a smart clip-on device which uses accelerometers to monitor your movement. It acts as a pedometer to see how many steps you take every day, a stair counter to tell you how many flights you've climbed and - almost uniquely among fitness products - a sleep tracker. It clips on to your clothing and, once you've uploaded the data via a proprietary wireless dongle, tracks everything via your account on the Fitbit website. This also lets you monitor the calories and macronutrient content (protein, carbohydrate, fat, and so on) of your food.

It's a great idea for encouraging gentle exercise. We loved the graphs showing the amount of time we'd spent active over the course of the day, and the sleep graph is particularly useful if you're prone to insomnia or just trying to make sure you get enough rest. Like Fitbit's other tracking functions, sleep detection is motion based - if you're still, it registers you as asleep and if you move around a lot, it logs you as being awake. It proved to be remarkably accurate and encouraged us to keep our sleep times regular.

Fitbit Ultra

The pedometer and stair counter work in much same way, using a 3-dimensional accelerometer and an altimeter to detect the way in which you're moving. However, this style of motion-based tracking means that the vast majority of exercises won't be detectable to the Fitbit. This includes popular activities such as cycling and strength training. Swimming's also not an option, because the Fitbit isn't waterproof. You can manually log untrackable activities using the web interface and either enter calorie burn yourself or allow the site to calculate it.

Manually-logged activities of this sort don't count towards the daily goals Fitbit encourages you to achieve, which can be a frustrating. It doesn't matter if you've cycled 50km and spent an hour in the weight room - the website will still tell you that you're below par for the day if you've taken fewer than 10,000 footsteps.

Fitbit website

If you're a runner, a keen walker or just trying to get a bit more physical activity into your day, the Fitbit's a really great way of tracking your activity. The graphs and charts that show how much you've done in a day are really inspiring, particularly if you keep them open in the background while you go about your daily routine. You're awarded badges when you achieve something noteworthy, such as climbing enough stairs in your lifetime to reach the flight altitude of a helicopter, which is a fun bit of gamification. We ended up climbing 91 flights of stairs in the course of one day, just to see how far we should push it, but then we are particularly susceptible to this kind of thing.

The Fitbit also works out how many calories you burn throughout the day. We appreciated this feature, as it gives a live and fairly realistic assessment of how many calories your body is consuming on any given day. If you're trying to gain or lose weight, the website can also calculate how large a calorie surplus or deficit you should be working towards. To use this, you can - and should - log every item you eat, as well as all your exercise.

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