Fitbit Sense 2 review: A first fitness watch

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Fitbit has been busy keeping us active for a while now, having joined the original Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch in adding a heart health monitoring ECG sensor to the original Fitbit Sense smartwatch. For its second generation, the company wants to help control stressful moments.

It arrives at the same time as the Google Pixel Watch, which now sits at the head of the family of Google/Fitbit smartwatches. The two devices take very different approaches, however. Is the Sense 2 the Fitbit smartwatch you should grab?

Design and build

Fitbit ditched the poor haptic controls of the OG Sense for something more traditional, adding a physical button while keeping the overall look and feel familiar. It’s much more useful when you don’t want to wade through menus or navigate multiple home screens just to wake up Amazon Alexa or access the exercise menu.

It’s all baked into a 40.5mm aluminum case, with smooth curves to give this boxy smartwatch a sleeker feel.

There are three case colors to choose from and a generally rich range of watch straps if you want to swap the supplied silicone one (which comes in small and large sizes) for linen vegan leather instead.

If you want to take the Sense 2 for a dip, it’s suitable for diving into water up to 50 meters deep. It will track swim stats in the pool, but when you head out into open water, those metrics are out of bounds.

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Fitbit isn’t making big changes in the screens department either. It’s the same 1.58-inch, 336×336 resolution rectangular AMOLED that’s bright, vibrant, and delivers seriously rich colors.

It’s a screen that can also stay on all the time, to the detriment of overall battery life, but visibility is perfectly acceptable even when you’re stepping outside in bright light. This is where AMOLED screens can have trouble, but we had no problem quickly checking our daily step count.

If you don’t press that physical button to wake it up, you can double-tap the screen quickly or use the wake-up gesture to wake it up. The screen will then wake up slowly instead of turning on instantly.

It’s a display that unfortunately doesn’t escape a dreaded black bezel, although in this case it’s well hidden by the collection of preloaded watch faces.

Interface

FitbitOS takes care of all the software stuff, unlike Wear OS on Google Pixel Watch. It has a similar feel to the version of the OS used on the first Sense, with a few tweaks done in terms of where your finger takes you now.

It now also brings the physical button into play to nudge you into your app screen, although switching between screens feels a bit slow.

More interesting here is what is not here, as Fitbit seems to have streamlined the overall smartwatch experience. There’s no Wi-Fi, music player or option to use Google Assistant like you could on its predecessor. There doesn’t seem to be third-party app support anymore either.

You can still view notifications from Android phones and iPhones, summon Amazon Alexa (with text responses to your queries) and Fitbit Pay is on board to enable contactless payments.

Some Google apps will be added in the future, with Google Maps and Google Wallet marked “coming soon”. It’ll also get Bluetooth calling support at some point, so it’ll become a better smartwatch – but not quite on the same level as the previous Sense.

Fitness and health tracking

That’s really what you buy a Fitbit Sense 2 for and unlike the cheaper Versa 4, you get the full package when it comes to monitoring your health and stress.

It’ll still count steps, monitor sleep, and track heart rate, and do it all with a pleasing level of precision. You still also get an ECG sensor, which can be used to detect heart conditions such as atrial fibrillation. You won’t find this on Fitbit’s cheaper Versa smartwatch.

An array of optical and infrared sensors tracks SpO2 levels and skin temperature during sleep. Fitbit has also upgraded its EDA sensor, which, along with on-the-spot readings, can now continuously monitor when the body may be showing signs of stress. It will regularly trigger notifications asking how you’re feeling during the day, when you can head to the Fitbit phone app and its range of mindfulness modes to return to a calmer state.

When you want to crank up the intensity, Fitbit offers much the same fitness-focused features as the first Sense. There’s built-in GPS, a host of workout modes including running, cycling and yoga, and it can track pool swims too. It will generate cardio fitness scores to provide a window into your current fitness level, give credit when you hit fat-burning heart rate zones, and tell you when you need to train based on its daily readiness scores.

It’s fair to say though that Fitbit’s sports tracking prowess doesn’t exactly rival what a similarly priced Garmin, Polar or Coros watch can offer in terms of accuracy, or the level of metrics and analysis you will get. Fitbit’s sports tracking seems designed to power its other features, but definitely feels geared more towards casual gym goers, or anyone just starting to put more workout time into their daily routines.

Battery life

Fitbit Sense 2 charging station

Like the first Sense, the Sense 2 promises to last over a week between charges. That’s as long as you don’t keep that screen on 24/7, among other things.

If you put it in permanent mode, you are looking at 2-3 days depending on what other features you use to good effect. Live without the permanently lit screen and it will comfortably provide six or seven days of monitoring metrics like heart rate, stress, sleep and steps.

Features like GPS and the new EDA sensor suck the battery faster, so the fast-charging capability is welcome. It only takes 12 minutes to give you another day of watch time, which is ideal if you forget to charge it overnight and need a quick recharge while frantically brushing your teeth.

The charging base remains the same as the one used on the first Sense. It’s small, lightweight, and attaches magnetically to the back of the watch case, but is still a little flimsy. Choosing a clutter-free charging station is the way to go.

Fitbit Sense 2 Verdict

Fitbit Sense 2 Verdict

As a smartwatch that puts health, stress, and sleep monitoring first, the Sense 2 offers plenty to satisfy.

Other than that, the Sense 2 feels like an inferior smartwatch to its predecessor and the new Google Pixel Watch, which packs a lot of Fitbit smarts.

The result is a powerful health and wellness monitoring watch that offers reliable sleep and heart rate stats, and a smartwatch that loses third-party apps, all sorts of music features, and waits for the arrival of some great Google apps.

If you want the best smartwatch, this isn’t the one. If you want the best Fitbit smartwatch, there’s not much difference between the Sense 2 and what the Versa 4 can do for less money.

Technical specifications Fitbit Sense 2

Filter 1.58-inch, 336×336 AMOLED
SE FitbitOS
Battery 6+ days
Connectivity Bluetooth
Sustainability 5ATM water resistant
Dimensions 41x41x12.3mm
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