If you’re looking for a new wearable with a screen that counts your steps, receives notifications, and can withstand a dunk in the pool, you don’t have to buy an expensive smartwatch. Nor do you have to settle for an outdated fitness tracker on eBay. Fitbit makes a pair of fitness trackers that strike a balance between smart and sensible without breaking your budget or sacrificing any of the modern features you want in a wearable. Here’s how they stack up.
While Fitbit’s Versa and Ionic devices have giant square faces with big color screens, the Charge 3 and Inspire HR bands are much smaller and sleeker. The Inspire is quite a bit smaller than the Charge 3, but either of the three will fit any sized wrist.
With such a small body, the Inspire HR has an extremely minimal design, with an all-black plastic body and a single button on the left side. The Charge 3, on the other hand, is made of either black or rose gold aluminum and had an inductive button that lies flush against the case, giving it a more premium finish.
The Inspire HR and Charge 3 both have tiny backlit grayscale touchscreen OLED vertical displays, but at 1.57 inches, the Charge 3 is slightly bigger than the 1.4-inch Inspire HR.
The Charge 3 and Inspire HR devices are packed with sensors that will count, track, and record your activity throughout the day, but you’re getting a lot more with the Charge 3.
In a nutshell, the Charge 3 will track stairs climbed and oxygen saturation in your blood to eventually identify conditions like sleep apnea (it’s not live yet), while the Inspire HR will monitor basic fitness activity such as steps and standing. The special-edition Charge 3 adds NFC for Fitbit Pay, with no such option on the Inspire HR, while both trackers is also water resistant to 50 meters and needs a phone with GPS to track distance.
The Charge 3 and Inspire HR feature several pre-loaded apps with no ability to delete them or add more.
Fitbit has also teased a Calendar app for the Charge 3, but it’s been “coming soon” since the device launched last October.
No matter which device you choose, you’ll be getting an array of fitness, exercise, and health features on your wrist.
The biggest difference between the two trackers is that the Charge 3 can track elevation due to its altimeter and oxygen saturation in the blood with its SpO2 sensor. But for better-than-basic fitness and sleep tracking, either device will fit the bill.
The Inspire HR and Charge 3 both have a home screen that doubles as a clock, with the Today on-screen dashboard accessible via a swipe up from the bottom of the screen. The Charge 3 stores its notifications above the home screen, so you need to swipe down to see them, but there’s no way to access archived notifications on the Inspire HR. Rather, swiping down on the Inspire HR brings up its app list, while apps on the Charge 3 can be found by swiping left.
Both watches use the button to go back a screen, turn off the display when on the home screen, and access the settings (by long-pressing for two seconds), and let you tap and swipe to do things like open apps, set timers, and start exercises.
The Charge 3 and Inspire HR will each ping you when a notification or call comes in to your phone, but the Charge 3 takes it a step further. You can swipe down from the top of the screen to see a seven-day archive of your old notifications, and if you have an Android phone, you can set up custom smart replies for text messages as well. On the Inspire HR, you can’t interact with notifications at all and once they disappear, they’re gone forever.
Fitbit rates the Inspire HR for five days of battery life and the Charge 3 for seven days, including while sleeping. In our testing, the Charge 3 lived up to Fitbit’s claims, but the Inspire HR didn’t quite make it to a full five days.
As is the case with most Fitbit devices, the Charge 3 and Inspire HR have different charging cables. Both are small enough to fit in a pocket or a small bag, but the Charge 3’s cradle is a touch bulkier than the Inspire HR’s magnetic induction cord.
Like the rest of its offerings, Fitbit offers several color combinations for the Charge 3 and Inspire HR.
Fitbit sells a variety of bands for the Charge 3 and Inspire HR trackers to mix up the style, and many more are available through third-party sellers. The Charge 3 feature a mechanism that separates the band from the tracker via a small button, while the Inspire uses a sliding pin to detach the band. Among the options offered are stainless steel mesh, Horween leather double wrap, sport, and woven bands, ranging in price from $25 to $70.
Compared to the Versa and Ionic, the Charge 3 and Inspire HR represent the lower end of Fitbit’s price range.
Fitbit also sells a version of the Inspire HR without the heart-rate monitor for $70, but we think the hear-rate monitor is too important to pass up for fitness tracking.
Choosing between the Charge 3 and Inspire HR mostly comes down to a matter of preference. Both do an admirable job of tracking your steps and fitness activities in a small, lightweight package, but the Charge 3 is definitely a bigger fit. But it also has more functions, such as weather forecasts and notification history. If those features are important to you, then you’ll want to invest the extra $50 in the Charge 3. Otherwise, the Inspire HR is a fantastic tracker that will look good on any wrist.
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