Test of the weekend: Battle of the fitness/step monitors

Bonjour! This weekend is more than just two days, for me, I’m making it a four-day affair.  I’m over in Paris for some work related stuff on Friday and Monday, so I decided that given I’ll be doing a ton of walking I might as well get some concurrent data usage from a bunch of fitness monitoring devices (pedometer related).

I’ve been previously using the Jawbone Up, Motorola Motoactv, Nike Fuel and the FitBit.  But I went ahead and based on some of your feedback decided to add the Slimcoach, Bodymedia and the slightly updated FitBit Ultra (same price as the old FitBit).  All of these devices have a low-power step/distance calculation option.  These devices are less aimed at the endurance athlete, and more aimed at the non-endurance athlete that just wants a bit of assistance in getting healthier.  And, they’re also aimed at data geeks like me.


Wednesday night I got them all charged up, updated with the latest firmware editions, placed on the appropriate Paris time zone, and ready to roll!  As I just stepped off the plane in the city of chocolate croissants, I’ll be monitoring all day long from here on out, all four days.

I’m particularly interested in seeing how the total steps & distance per day varies between these devices – since that is in most cases the primary reason to get one of these devices.  Also, I’ve set them all completely identical as far as my body metrics (weight/height/age/etc…), so the variations on calorie assumptions will also be worthwhile.  Especially since I plan to walk my way between each and every one of the 1,000 chocolate & pastry shops in Paris.  I’m not sure if the calorie math will work out in my favor.

I have yet to decide however if I will include or exclude them from my scheduled 10-mile run.  On one hand, it’s interesting to see the data. Yet on the other, some of these devices note that running isn’t exactly their best foot forward.  So we’ll see.  Any thoughts either way?

Ultimately, these will end up in separate product reviews – though I don’t have a timeline specified for that at this point.  The next review due up on the publishing docket is the Quarq SRAM RED 2012 power meter, then there’s a bunch of other items in the queue.

With that – thanks for reading! And of course, watch the Twitter feed for what I’m sure will be a never ending stream of Parisian awesomeness.  Have a great weekend!


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  1. Glad to see around in Paris, where about you are going to do your 10 miles run? On the eastern or western parks or inside the city? Let me know if you want some routes.

  2. Geoffrey

    Welcome to Paris!

    Looking forward to see which is the best fitness device around… I might decide to finally buy one :-)

    Cheers from Belgium!

  3. My vote would be to include them in your 10miler. I know its not what they’re best at, but it would be interesting to see how they handle it.

  4. I would be very interested in a collected results comparison of all of these.

    And I also vote in favor of including them on the run. They’re designed to be worn at all times, right?

  5. Thomas

    Agree with the other comments. Interesting to see how they cope with activities theyre not exactly designed fir, but activities which the readers of this blog most certainly participate in :)

  6. Wecome to Paris!
    Another idea for a run, following on Chmouel suggestion, is to link up western Paris (bois de boulogne) and eastern paris (bois de vinceene)by running along the Seine. This is possible on sunday as they close the “quai” to traffic and you can run down along the river. You could easily make it more than 10 miles if so inclined.
    Nick (long time reader and Paris based American)

  7. I’ll be interested in how the motoactv deals with the timezone adjustments you made. When I changed mine, the daily tracking went way way bad.

  8. I say take them all with you on your 10-miler. Personally, I can’t even stand to a phone with me when I run, but if you can handle all those toys, take them! The data might be useless, but I’m sure it will be interesting.

  9. Definitely take them on the run! I did a pretty in-depth review of the BodyMedia on my blog last year and I still wear it from time to time. It is definitely cool to see the data from exercise, and the minute-by-minute calories burned chart is quite entertaining. Another thing to compare the BodyMedia with is your sleep monitoring device, as it also monitors sleep (and tells me I am up way more than I think I am!) Have fun!

  10. Do you ever get hassled by Customs when travelling with all those gadgets?!?

  11. Not too much, thankfully. As long as you spread out the devices in the bag, the x-ray machines can see through them. But if one giant clump – never goes well!

    And thanks all on Paris – having a great time thus far! David Lebovitz is definitely on my day to day reads… :)

  12. Though I’m a DC tech leader, I only recently discovered you and your blog on a search for Fuel Band reviews. I’ve been checking back regularly for an update on the Fuel.

    I’m only a very casual athlete (and really, athlete is probably overstating it), but I’ve enjoyed your thoughtful reviews of all sorts of awesome tech gadgets that I will never have cause to need.

    I’d love to click your Amazon link and get a Fuel, but is it worth it?

  13. It’s good, but I’m not convinced I like it any more than FitBit. The thing I like most about Fitbit is the battery. On Fuel, I’m only getting about 2-3 days. On FitBit, I can far far longer (7-10 days typically at least). In may mind, that’s more important than the wireless upload, since realistically if I’m plugging it in to charge it, I might as well just plug it in to sync data too.

  14. Ben

    Hi Ray, was wondering if you were going to write up this weekend? My wife really wants one of these things but wanted to see what you thought first. Thanks in advance

  15. Yang

    Was this comparo posted? wasn’t able to find it easily via search.

  16. Sorry, I haven’t had a chance yet. On my list!

  17. Anonymous

    Still hoping on this one, as I’d been thinking of getting one and put off a decision until I read your comparison. Any ETA?

  18. Sorry.

    Here’s my two cents in the meantime.


    Fitbit, Jawbone Up, Fuel

    Overall favorite:


    I found the other two units (Bodymedia and Slimcoach) a pain in the butt from a user interface and battery life standpoint. The Fitbit/Jawbone/Fuel were all very clear on battery (or lasted long enough it didn’t matter). And all easy to upload with ‘clean’ software suites that didn’t look like something out of the 1990’s.

    I prefer the FitBit overall though, because it’s out of sight – great for the workplace. The only issue I have with it is it can be easy to fall off your belt and into the toilet. Just something to be aware of.

    The Motoactv is a great choice overall as a step-counter, but I prefer a bit slimmer watch day to day. Hope this helps!

  19. Anonymous

    Great, thanks! I look forward to full version when it comes out.

  20. Souza

    I was wondering if you have done any testing with Lark Life, just saw them in the Apple store today and it looks interesting.

  21. David Mead

    Love your website. I have been wearing the Motoactv for 6 mths. I wore it running in very light rain and thought it had died ( horrible waterproofing!!). But put it in rice for 36 hours and it came back to life!! That was about 2 mths ago. It has just died for good this week. Looks like a hardwear problem. I am very disappointed. However I loved it!! As a running and cycling watch i thought it was terrific. I also loved it’s step tracking ability and believed it was very accurate. I wore it everyday for 6 mths. I am now looking at getting another GPS watch but want to track steps and distance throughout the day ( I am a data geek as well). I am thinking about the fitbit flex and find your assessment of the fitbit ultra very interesting.

    Thank you for your website

  22. Just saw this article in the MSM about the Fitbit Flex. What’s your take on his . . . take . . . on . . . what do you think about his review?

    • Ray Maker

      I generally wouldn’t agree with his testing thoughts. Ultimately, different things matter to different folks. But, many folks don’t like the wrist aspect, and the lack of feedback on exactly how far to goal is a big issue for even more folks.

      I continue to use the FitBit Zip daily since it ‘just works’. The battery lasts about 7 months (coin cell), and connects via BLE. I also like the Fuelband, as it gives you clear guidance on where you stand on any given day.

  23. Jay

    Has the comparison been done at yet?

    • Many of the devices (though, now with newer devices) have made it to full-blown In-Depth reviews. See ‘Activity Trackers’ under product reviews up top. Each review includes accuracy comparisons. The FitBit Force In-Depth review should be up early this week.