Fitbit Sense Review: A Comprehensive Look at Features, Performance and Value

As one of Fitbit‘s most advanced health and fitness smartwatches to date, the Fitbit Sense packs an impressive array of sensors and features to help you monitor your wellbeing 24/7. With stress tracking, on-wrist skin temperature readings, advanced heart rate monitoring, SpO2 tracking and an EDA scan app to assess electrodermal activity, the Sense goes well beyond basic activity tracking.

But how well does all this new technology work in real life? And is the Sense worth its premium $300 price point? This in-depth Fitbit Sense review will cover everything you need to know about this feature-packed smartwatch.

Fitbit Sense: Key Specs

Before diving into the full review, here is an overview of the key specs and features included with the Fitbit Sense:

  • Display: 1.58" AMOLED touchscreen display
  • Battery Life: 6+ days in smartwatch mode, 12 hours in continuous GPS mode
  • Water Resistance: Up to 50 meters
  • Sensors: Optical heart rate monitor, EDA scan sensor, ECG app, skin temperature sensor, SpO2 sensor
  • Smart Features: Bluetooth calling, voice assistants, smartphone notifications, contactless payments
  • Activity Tracking: 20+ exercise modes with built-in GPS, Active Zone Minutes, sleep tracking
  • Compatibility: Android and iOS devices
  • Price: $299.95 USD

Fitbit Sense Review: Design and Comfort

The Fitbit Sense features a sleek, square watch case made from aerospace-grade aluminum in a choice of three colors: carbon/graphite, lunar white/soft gold or sage grey/silver. With a crisp 1.58” color AMOLED touchscreen protected by durable Corning Gorilla Glass 3, the Sense has a bright, vibrant display that’s easy to view even in direct sunlight.

Weighing just under 2 ounces, the lightweight Sense is comfortable for all-day, around-the-clock wear. And it‘s swimproof design means you don‘t have to take it off for the shower or pool. Adjustable infinity bands in small and large sizes come included to provide a flexible, non-irritating fit. Silicone construction gives the watch bands a smooth, gentle feel on skin.

Fitbit Sense Review: Features and Performance

Where the Fitbit Sense really stands out is in its robust array of health tracking metrics and stress management features. Multiple sensors let you monitor key vitals like heart rate, skin temperature and blood oxygen levels both day and night. And new additions like the EDA scan app provide insight into your body‘s response to stress.

Here’s an overview of some of the key features and how well they performed in testing:

Heart Rate and Active Zone Minutes

Like all Fitbits, the Sense provides continuous heart rate monitoring 24 hours a day. You can check your real-time heart rate on the watch display at any time or review trends over time in the Fitbit app. The watch also tracks your time spent in target Active Zone heart rate zones and reports this in weekly and monthly Active Zone Minutes – a metric that correlates closely with improved cardiovascular fitness.

In testing, heart rate tracking proved accurate when compared against dedicated chest straps during exercise across various intensity levels. Resting heart rate data and Active Zone Minutes accumulate reliably with all-day wear.

Stress Tracking and the EDA Scan App

Managing stress is crucial for both mental and physical health. And the Fitbit Sense aims to provide new insight into your body’s response to stress with its EDA Scan app and additional sensors.

The EDA Scan app uses the Sense’s integrated electrodermal activity (EDA) sensor to assess changes in the sweat glands and pores that reflect your body’s reaction to stress. To take a manual EDA scan reading, you place your palm over the face of the watch while the app guides you through a short two-minute scanning session.

Once the scan completes, you input how you feel – very stressed, stressed, neutral, calm, or very calm. Over time, multiple readings help paint a picture of how your EDA levels correlate to perceived stress, potentially revealing triggers or patterns.

In practice, EDA scan results proved quite variable even when feeling relaxed or focused. More data over time would likely provide better context on typical readings. The good news is collecting EDA measurements is straightforward if you remember to do so regularly. But the entire process feels a bit academic rather than intuitive or actionable.

Beyond EDA readings, the Sense also uses its array of sensors to calculate a daily stress management score based on activity, sleep and heart rate variability metrics. This helps round out the picture when it comes to monitoring potential stress impacts.

Skin Temperature Tracking

Knowing changes in baseline body temperature can indicate potential early signs of illness or changes in health conditions. The Sense uses a new on-wrist skin temperature sensor to track variability in nighttime skin temperature while you sleep.

After three nights of sleep, the Fitbit app shows an overview of your skin temperature ranges. However exact readings or minute-by-minute data is not provided to consumers. Temperature sensing also does drain battery life more quickly. But if you’re looking to detect fever early or see temperature shifts, the nightly skin temp tracking can prove useful. Those dealing with menstrual cycle changes, menopause or certain medical conditions may find particular benefit.

SpO2 and Breathing Rate Monitoring

As a tool for tracking sleep apnea and breathing disturbances during sleep, the Sense measures two key metrics at night: blood oxygen saturation levels (SpO2) and breathing rate per minute.

SpO2 indicates how effectively oxygen is being transported by red blood cells from the lungs throughout your body. Breathing rate tracks the number of breaths per minute and can indicate breathing irregularities.

Like skin temperature tracking, Sp02 and breathing rate data displays in the Fitbit app in easy-to-read charts. Trends and variability provide insight over time. Those with respiratory conditions or who suspect breathing issues during sleep get actionable data from these readings.

Built-in GPS and Smartwatch Features

Support for onboard GPS helps the Sense accurately track pace, distance, elevation and workout routes when exercising without bringing your phone. After runs or rides, maps of your route display directly on the watch.

For everyday wear, Bluetooth calling, voice assistant control, music storage/playlists and wallet-free payments via Fitbit Pay round out the Sense experience. Notifications display on screen for texts, calls and calendar alerts. Respond to Android users directly from the watch interface via quick replies or voice messages.

Core smartwatch functionality stood out as robust and seamless during testing. Built-in GPS proved accurate measuring outdoor run distances against a Stryd footpod. If you like tracking workouts without phones or headphones, the Sense has you covered.

Sleep Tracking and Restoration Metrics

As with all Fitbits, the Sense offers in-depth sleep cycle analysis to help uncover potential issues impacting sleep quantity or quality. Alongside metrics for time slept and sleep stages (light, deep, REM), the Sense assesses your nightly restoration through its measurement of key vitals.

Factors like heart rate variability (HRV), resting heart rate and breathing rate during sleep contribute to your overall sleep score. Comparing daily changes against your 30-day average, the sleep score estimates how well your body recovered overnight.

For those seeking to improve sleep regularity, duration or efficiency, having data on sleep stages and restoration metrics can help identify lifestyle changes that may help. Those with medical conditions impacting cardiovascular health also benefit from HRV and breathing rate data.

ECG App (Coming Soon)

One of the most anticipated updates to the Fitbit Sense is the addition of the on-watch ECG app to assess heart rhythm for signs of atrial fibrillation (AFib). Slated to launch in 2020, the app will use the sensors built into the stainless steel ring around the watch to take spot ECG readings at any time which can then be shared with your physician.

Easy access to ECG measurements will provide peace of mind and potential early identification of heart issues before they become acute health events. We will be eager to take the ECG functionality for a spin when it launches to see how it impacts the value of the Sense.

Fitbit Sense vs Other Smartwatches

So where exactly does the Fitbit Sense fit when it comes to the competitive smartwatch landscape? It‘s closest analogue is likely the Apple Watch Series 6, which similarly emphasizes health metrics over flashy smart features.

Fitbit Sense vs Apple Watch Series 6:

Both watches have advanced health sensors, including EDA/ECG sensors and SpO2 monitoring. The Apple Watch costs slightly more for basic models without cellular connectivity. Apple still dominates when it comes to apps, with far more options for watchOS. But the Sense lasts notably longer between charges, offering nearly a week of runtime versus less than two days for the newest Apple Watch.

For iPhone users debating between Fitbit and Apple watches, tighter integration tips scales toward Apple. But Android users wanting long battery life, sleep tracking and stress data get more value from the Fitbit Sense.

Fitbit Sense vs Garmin Venu Sq:

For gym goers and athletes, top-end Garmin watches like the Fenix 6 Pro offer far more performance metrics and training tools. But at $300, the new Garmin Venu Sq compares closely with the Sense for health tracking abilities. While the Venu Sq lasts an equally impressive 6 days between charges, it lacks more advanced Sense features like stress tracking, SpO2 monitoring, on-wrist skin temp sensors and EDA scanning. The Sense provides a more rounded health picture.

Fitbit Sense vs Fitbit Versa 3:

Considering the Versa 3 costs $100 less than the Sense, you might expect to miss out on some key features – but that surprisingly isn’t the case. The Versa 3 includes most of the same functionality as the Sense, minus EDA scan ability, ECG app, and skin temperature sensors. For those less concerned with stress tracking or temperature variability, the Versa 3 offers tremendous value at just $199.95 with effectively the same smartwatch capabilities.

Fitbit Sense Review: Battery Life and Charging

Packing so many advanced sensors into a slim smartwatch profile while maintaining long battery life is no easy engineering feat. But somehow Fitbit manages to eke an impressive 6+ days out of the Sense between charges.

Even with continuous heart rate monitoring, sleep tracking and notifications enabled, we consistently hit at least 5 full days on a single charge. Quick charging gives you a full day‘s power boost in just 12 minutes when drained. Compared to the roughly 1.5 days offered by an Apple Watch, not having to charge the Sense daily is a major perk.

Fitbit Sense Review: Software and App

The Fitbit Sense ships with the brand’s excellent companion wellness app for iOS and Android devices. Clean dashboard design surfaces key metrics prominently while still giving access to more detailed health data.

We particularly like the Wellness Report section that periodically provides an overview of your health trends over the past 30 days. Seeing positive or negative momentum on core metrics like heart health, activity and sleep scores helps motivate improvement where needed. All health stats sync automatically to the app over Bluetooth so data is always up to date.

Some reviewers have complained about buggy performance on first release Sense watches. Our testing model ran the latest firmware out of the box with no issues observed. Managing notifications, apps and settings proved smooth and lag-free. The full-color touchscreen made interacting with apps and data an intuitive experience. In short, we experienced excellent software integration with the easy-to-use Fitbit app.

Fitbit Sense Review: Verdict and Recommendation

With its bevy of health sensors and stress tracking abilities, the Fitbit Sense has the potential to provide unparalleled insight into your daily wellness and response to stressors. For those hyper-focused on their health, the wealth of biometrics proves intriguing. Yet casual users may find some of the data more overwhelming than actionable initially.

At $300, it also costs as much as a premium Apple Watch or Garmin multi-sport watch. So you have to be bought into the Fitbit ecosystem and value the health data to justify the price tag.

The Sense offers tremendous value for:

  • Those looking to better manage stress and overall wellbeing
  • Anyone with underlying health conditions impacted by key biometrics
  • Athletes and exercisers who still want actionable sleep insights
  • Android users wanting an Apple Watch alternative

For the average user, the Fitbit Versa 3 likely represents a better all-around value without surrendering much functionality. Yet if optimized health is your top priority in a smartwatch, the feature-packed Fitbit Sense certainly delivers the goods.

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