A Solid Alternative to a Smartwatch

Table of Contents An Actually Fashionable Fitness TrackerFitbit LuxeWhat is it?PriceLikeNo LikeThe Biggest Selling Point:…

Fitbit Luxe on top of a notebook

Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

The humble fitness tracker has long since been eclipsed by the smartwatch. It’s easy to understand why, of course but it’s left anyone looking for something simpler—and cheaper—with dinky wristbands to choose from that aren’t much to look at. The Fitbit Luxe seems like the perfect solution, with an elegant jewelry-inspired design, color touchscreen, and all the basic health-tracking features a person could ask for, and then some. It’s also got a price tag befitting a “luxe” tracker. That may or may not be a good thing, depending on what you’re looking for.

An Actually Fashionable Fitness Tracker

It’s been a while since we’ve seen an attractive fitness tracker that wasn’t actually a hybrid smartwatch. The last one was probably the Fitbit Alta HR—and that launched ages ago in 2017. When Fitbit announced the Luxe in April, I jokingly told a coworker it had “bougie bitch energy”—in a good way. And it does!

When the touchscreen isn’t on, you could easily mistake the Luxe for a bracelet. That makes it easy to dress up or down, especially if you splurge for a nicer-looking band. My review unit came in the gold-and-lunar white combination, and Fitbit also sent along a gold mesh strap. While the Luxe looked more like a tracker with the default silicone strap, when I swapped it out for the mesh, I’ll admit I felt fancy.

The big advantage the Luxe has over other trackers is the color touchscreen. It’s easy on the eyes, text is easier to read than on a monochrome LED screen, and colors are vibrant. However, the display itself is actually quite small and the bezels are huge. If you tap at the top or bottom of the screen, it won’t register, so you’ll want to keep your taps to the center of the display. Otherwise, navigating is simple. You swipe up for a dashboard of your daily activity, down to access settings and a Do Not Disturb mode, and left or right for your apps. Double tapping any screen will bring you back to your default clock face, which you can swap from the app. There aren’t a ton of options, but enough to find one you like.

While beautiful, the display’s size presents some quirks. Swipes registered easily with minimal latency, but a smaller screen isn’t as easy to use compared to a smartwatch. Setting an alarm, for instance, requires more swiping, and you can only really do one. Same with timers. Scrolling through notifications takes a while if you have a lot of them. The screen also isn’t the easiest to see in direct sunlight. This is only a drawback if you want to interact with your tracker a lot. I ended up appreciating how I spent less time looking at my wrist than I do with other smartwatches.

Fitbit Luxe's sensors

Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

At 1.43 inches by 0.69 inches by 0.4 inches (LWH) and 0.96 ounces, the Luxe is quite slim and lightweight. Unless you’ve got it strapped on too tight, it’s easy to forget you’re even wearing it. That makes it ideal for not only sleep-tracking, but also everyday activity. It’s also great for petite wrists, as the small strap fits wrists ranging from 5.5 to 7.1 inches in circumference. The larger one accommodates wrists measuring 7.1 to 8.7 inches. Between the sleek design and comfort, the Luxe gets major points for wearability.

You are giving up some functionality for the design, though not much. The two notable omissions are built-in GPS and NFC payments. That said, you still get health-tracking features you’d expect from a pricier tracker, like SpO2 sensors (though Spo2 clock faces aren’t available at launch), skin temperature readings, continuous heart rate-monitoring, and multi-day battery life.

The Luxe is also water-resistant to 50 meters and has a water lock setting. But truthfully speaking, I didn’t want to get it anywhere near water if I could help it. It was fine for washing dishes and my hands, but I didn’t feel comfortable wearing it in the shower or in the pool. Maybe it’s something to do with the fact it feels like jewelry, but I treated the Luxe more gingerly than I would Fitbit’s other tracking bands, Charge 4 and the Inspire. (Even if I didn’t have to.)

One thing I didn’t love? Fitbit’s stuck us with yet another proprietary charger. I get it, but for the love of God, this is the fourth or fifth one in the past two years. Also, Fitbit, it’s time to finally move from USB-A to USB-C. Please.

The Biggest Selling Point: Fitbit’s App

The Luxe isn’t super impressive from a hardware standpoint. It’s really just an average fitness tracker in nicer packaging. But the Luxe gets you access to the Fitbit app, and buddy, that app is one of the most comprehensive for health tracking out there. Here’s what you get without a subscription: stress management tools, guided breathing and meditations, health and wellness programs, sleep tracking, heart-related health trends, competition and challenges with friends, smart notifications, a crap-ton of exercise modes including swimming, menstrual health-tracking, food and hydration-logging, blood glucose-tracking, and a metric that Fitbit calls Active Zone Minutes (AZM). AZM is basically a representation of the 150 minutes of moderate activity you should get per week, as recommended by various health institutions. It’s a hell of a lot more meaningful than random step counts and takes some of the pressure off of meeting arbitrary daily goals.

Fitbit Luxe worn in everyday life.

Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

The Luxe also comes with a 6-month trial of Fitbit Premium, the company’s $10 monthly subscription tier. That unlocks some in-depth insight into metrics like sleep, stress, heart rate variation, and breathing rate, as well as expanded options for guided workouts, meditations, health and wellness programs, and challenges. It’s a lot!

Getting access to all these tools is enough to overlook some of the Luxe’s weaknesses—so long as all you want is a holistic overview of your activity. Looking for something more granular to help with training? This probably isn’t going to meet all your needs.

This is mainly because the Luxe relies on tethered GPS, which means you’re going to need to carry your phone with you on outdoor runs, walks, hikes, and bike rides. That’s fine for weekend warriors, but not so great if you’re someone who likes to go hard in areas where you’re probably not going to get good cellular service. (You also have to be mindful of whether the Luxe has acquired a signal via your phone before you start a workout.)

Even if you do get a signal, the Luxe is going to be slightly off when it comes to recording your pace. (Heart rate, however, is spot on compared to my Polar H10 chest strap and Apple Watch SE.) On a 2.75-mile run recorded by my phone with an average pace of 11’06”, the Luxe logged 2.87 miles and a 10’44” pace. My Apple Watch SE logged 2.77 miles and a pace of 11’o3”. That’s a reasonable discrepancy and was replicated on two subsequent runs, meaning the Luxe is consistent enough to reliably measure progress. It’s less fine when you’re training for a race and accurate metrics will make a significant difference on race day.

Person using a Relax session on the Fitbit Luxe

Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

However, if you value convenience, the Luxe is great. Because of the limited screen space, you have to pre-program which exercise shortcuts show up on the wrist. Meaning, no endless scrolling to find the one activity you want. Also, you don’t even have to manually start activities. In my testing, the smart tracking was quite reliable. On a long day where I was showing some out-of-town friends around, it automatically recorded when we were walking with freakish accuracy. The Luxe recorded 25,882 steps and 11.34 miles for that day, compared to my Apple Watch’s 26,802 steps and 12.1 miles. This is the sort of gap you’d expect to see from two accurate but algorithmically different gadgets worn on different arms. You might think this is par for the course these days, but it’s not always guaranteed.

Another thing in the Luxe’s favor is battery life. Fitbit says it’s estimated for up to five days between charges, but I actually got a bit over 7 days with roughly 30-45 minutes of activity per day. Of course, this will depend on how you use the device, but I consider myself a power user and I was impressed, especially given the color touchscreen. Charging from 15% back up to 100% took about 90 minutes, which is a little better than average.

Fitbit Luxe vs. Fitbit Charge 4

The Fitbit Luxe is a solid tracker, but the main thing that flits through my head when I look at it is, “It’s pretty.” If design is one of the main reasons you haven’t gotten aboard the wearables train, then the Luxe is a good, affordable option compared to a more full-featured smartwatch. It’s also a solid choice if you’re not quite as zealous about notifications, advanced features, or hyper-accurate outdoor activity tracking. So long as you understand that you’re paying a premium for a stylish tracker, the Luxe is a fine choice.

Fitbit Luxe on a marbled background

Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

But say all you want is a simple fitness band. This is where things get muddled. Fitbit has another excellent option, the Charge 4. While it initially cost the same as the Luxe at $150, you can now find it on Fitbit’s site for $130. The design is ho-hum and there’s no color screen, but it has more features, including the built-in GPS and NFC payments that the Luxe is lacking.

I can understand why you might omit built-in GPS with the Luxe. It’s a fashion-first device. But leaving out contactless payments feels like a missed opportunity, given we’re still in the midst of a pandemic. Sure, Fitbit Pay’s future is a bit dubious now that it’s been bought by Google, but including the NFC sensor would’ve made sense for the Luxe. It probably has something to do with the Luxe’s slim form factor, but it’s a shame.

Obviously, the Charge 4 makes more sense if you’re more serious about outdoor fitness and durability. In reviewing my testing results, the Charge 4’s built-in GPS gets you slightly more accurate outdoor activity-tracking. But if you’re not an outdoorsy person, the Luxe’s accuracy is just as good as the Charge 4’s. In that case, it boils down to looks versus contactless payments.

That said, we do not recommend the Luxe Special Edition. It costs a whopping $200, and for that extra $50 you get a… fancy Gorjana link bracelet and zero additional features. Unless you think the Gorjana bracelet is the most beautiful thing ever to have graced the earth, that doesn’t make any financial sense—especially since third parties will eventually put out similar accessories for much less than Fitbit’s official ones. And even then, I assure you there are beautiful hybrid smartwatch options in the $200 range.

Having used both the Luxe and the Charge 4, the cheapskate in my heart says the Charge 4 is the better value. Knowing that, I would personally opt for the Luxe because it’s super comfortable, I like pretty shiny things, and the best tracker is the one you’re going to wear. Call me shallow, but if I’m going to go basic, I want to look good. And on my wrist? The Fitbit Luxe looks damn good.