With the Fitbit Versa hitting shelves in April of 2018, the buzz around the company’s latest smartwatch has hit a fever pitch. The new device features the geometric look of traditional sports watches but with a sleeker, more minimalist design — it even evokes a similar aesthetic to the Apple Watch. Though after it released its first official smartwatch (dubbed the Ionic) in 2017, Fitbit went back to the drawing board to design a wearable capable of having mass appeal. Born from this type of R&D was the Versa — though, only time will tell if it fulfills Fitbit’s lofty goals.
While it rightfully packs much of what makes the Ionic an impressive product, the Versa also acts an awful lot like the Fitbit Blaze from 2016. Although its predecessor is technically not a full-fledged “smartwatch,” the hybrid fitness tracker has many of the same characteristics. Ultimately, it is meant to be a crossover — the tracker you use while you sweat hard at the gym but then still wear to the office. Let’s take a closer look at which of the two is more deserving of a spot on your wrist.
An upgrade in every sense of the term, the Versa is the finished product of years of Fitbit development and it shows. Outside of a bigger screen and lighter weight, a scan of the Versa’s specs show improvement across the board. Featuring a higher screen resolution, NFC support, and waterproofing to 50 meters, it’s Fitbit’s latest flagship for a reason.
From a pure comparison standpoint, the Blaze is left playing second fiddle here. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that it’s a full two years older, meaning its finished product is (at the very least) two production cycles behind the Versa. That it’s still capable of somewhat standing up to its smartwatch kin is impressive in itself. It’s still a powerful and capable fitness tracker without the bells and whistles of a smartwatch — which some people may actually prefer.
Screen resolution and operation
As mentioned above, the Blaze and Versa each come standard with color touchscreens, allowing you to swipe up or down to control the functions — each also boasts the option to easily adjust its brightness. However, the Versa’s larger screen and stronger resolution truly make its color graphics pop — which is also boosted by Fitbit OS 2.0. For a standard fitness tracker, Blaze’s on-screen interface remains intuitive and easy to use, avoiding much of the baggage offered by full-featured smartwatches (like the Versa).
Design-wise, both watches feature square-shaped trackers, however, the Blaze is more rectangular with slanted edges while the Versa maintains a true square shape with rounded edges. Fitbit also designed the Blaze as an integrated piece of the strap whereas the Versa sits on top of it, appearing more like a separate element of the watch. Perhaps the best way to describe the design is that it looks like you’re wearing a fitness tracker when you wear the Blaze while the Versa resembles a normal wristwatch — and of course, this makes sense due to the fact we’re comparing a fitness tracker to a smartwatch.
Both devices feature a single, left-side back button and two buttons on the right to control the navigation, as well as touchscreen functionality — of which tends to be a bit laggy from time to time but nothing that completely hindered our experience with either device. From a purely aesthetic, standpoint, each gives off a similar “gym meets happy hour” athleisure vibe, though the Versa’s lighter weight and slightly smaller size give it an edge here.
When it comes to functionality, there’s one key difference between the two: The Fitbit Versa is waterproof up to 50 meters while the Blaze is not. This means that if you’re a swimmer interested in tracking laps, you’ll likely want the Versa. With a dedicated Swim Exercise mode, you can use it in the pool, river, or lake to track your laps in real-time. The Blaze, on the other hand, must be removed entirely before swimming.
Both watches do feature a 3-axis accelerometer to measure steps, a gyroscope to measure orientation and rotation, an altimeter to count floors, and an ambient light sensor to dim the screen automatically when it gets dark — all of which are now Fitbit staples. Additionally, the Versa and Blaze feature optical heart rate monitors, so you won’t have to wear a bulky chest strap during workouts — the devices do it all from your wrist. Fitbit also included SmartTrack in both models which automatically detects and begins tracking activities.
Neither feature an internal GPS tracker and while this isn’t a dealbreaker — especially since they both lack it, in this instance — built-in GPS is becoming more prevalent in fitness tracking smartwatches and thus, an incredibly useful added extra. Perhaps next time. Instead, each relies on your smartphone’s GPS connectivity which means you have to bring your phone with you when you run or work out. This is a significant downside but not one which necessarily makes one device stand out from the other. The Versa nabs another win here due in large part to its waterproofing.
For years, Fitbit’s built its brand on offering industry-best fitness tracking. As its begin introducing innovative sport modes and activity tracking, its depth of features has only widened. This is perhaps most noticeable when comparing the Blaze to the Versa because, in just the two years since the Blaze released, the Versa already has an edge on it right out of the box.
For starters, the Blaze is limited to just running, cycling, weight training, treadmill running, elliptical training, and what Fitbit calls “workout” mode. Conversely, the Versa offers more than a dozen different modes like swimming, weights, interval workouts, spinning, golf, hiking, tennis, pilates, boot camp, yoga, kickboxing, martial arts, and others (including the standard running and cycling modes). The Fitbit app even allows you to load more workouts onto the Versa, giving it added versatility.
Even after our own reviews, it still remains to be seen how accurate long-term tracking of specialized sports can be but if you’re planning to use the feature, it’s nice to have them pre-loaded — as opposed to taking the time to manually load them via the app.
The cherry on top for both watches is the Fitbit app itself. Capable of storing the entirety of each wearable’s amassed data, it provides an easy way to chart and analyze performance over days, weeks, and months. In addition to the watch itself providing real-time statistics, the app offers an easy-to-read interface allowing anyone to adjust their fitness plan as they see fit.
From an accessory standpoint, Fitbit offers interchangeable straps for both the Versa and the Blaze. Everything from fitness-focused silicone straps and Horween leather options to designer-inspired varieties built out of materials like steel or mesh. Since both offer a largely array of combinations, this category is a draw and simply comes down to personal preference.
The category where the Versa’s advanced operating power actually holds it back is in terms of its battery life. To be fair, however, the fact it features a four-day batter is still an incredibly impressive feat in the fitness-tracking smartwatch industry but the Blaze’s five-day lifespan narrowly edges it out. Neither requires being plugged in every night — thankfully — but the Blaze’s extra day of battery give it the edge here.
At $200, Fitbit’s Versa is one of the absolute best deals for a smartwatch slash fitness tracker on the market. Powerful and packed to the gills with smart features, few other wearables — let alone the Blaze — offer as much bang for the buck. Funny thing is, the Blaze also retails for $200, though you’re likely to find it discounted through various online retailers. Still, even at $40 or $50 cheaper, the Versa just offers a much more comprehensive experience, making its own $200 price tag seem like an utter steal.
Overall winner: Fitbit Versa
Smartwatch capabilities aside, the Versa and Blaze are very similar devices. Although Fitbit calls the Versa a true smartwatch, and the Blaze a “smart fitness watch,” there are only a few functional differences which set these two apart. From a visual perspective, their relative size and style are striking enough to tell them apart — the Blaze is a bit boxier while the Versa is smaller and much more minimalistic.
Specs-wise, the Versa stands tall over the Blaze. It’s waterproof, packs a higher resolution in its touchscreen, and boasts a powerful lineup of smart features and sport modes which make it an ideal companion no matter if you’re at work or in the gym. You can’t go wrong with the Blaze if you’re in the market for a traditional fitness tracker but for the same price, we recommend opting for the full-featured and powerful Versa.
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