Fitbit still isn't the most intuitive or polished app on the market. I certainly wouldn't suggest handing it to your grandfather without an extensive tutorial. But it shouldn't give you a migraine if you're patient. Tracking exercise is at least a more visually appealing experience than in the past, and the addition of GPS maps makes it feel like a fuller solution for the more athletic out there. Plus, if you're not super into Fitbit's built-in tools, you can always connect it to other services like MyFitnessPal, RunKeeper or even use If to turn your sleep patterns into boring-ass spreadsheets with Google Drive.
One area that Fitbit seems to have ignored, however, is notifications. Specifically, the ability to push text messages and caller-ID info to the Surge. There's a pretty significant delay between when a message comes in and when it shows up on your wrist. Plus it's not entirely clear how you dismiss notifications, and they're completely passive; you can't reply without taking out your phone.
So here's the weird thing: Since the Surge adds GPS, it means that Fitbit's competitors aren't just Nike and Jawbone anymore, but also Garmin, TomTom and Microsoft. Actually, in terms of features, the Surge's closest relative is the Microsoft Band. Sure, you can't get Twitter notifications or dictate responses to Cortana, but it does a heck of a lot more than just count your steps. Like Microsoft's wearable experiment, the Surge is supposed to go with you throughout the day. It's supposed to count every step from your door to the bus stop. You're supposed to tell it when you're doing calisthenics or going for a run. And when you turn in at night, it's supposed to measure just how much shut-eye you're getting. Of course, the Surge is far more comfortable than the Band, and its battery lasts much longer.
If you just want to track how much you're moving around during the day, the Charge HR is a cheaper and sleeker solution. Fitbit's mid-range device keeps the heart rate monitor and can tell time, but it doesn't draw as much attention. And, perhaps most importantly, it only costs $150, that's a full $100 less than the Surge. If you want to go even simpler, there are devices like the $50 Misfit Flash that count steps, but pretty much stay out of the way otherwise.
On the other hand, if you're looking for a serious running watch complete with GPS and heart rate monitoring, there's a pile of options from companies like Garmin. The Vivoactive, for example, has most of the same basic features as the Surge at the same price point, with better battery life and more athlete-friendly data logging. While the Forerunner series, like the surprisingly affordable Forerunner 15 (pictured above), delivers best-in-class GPS tracking and detailed tools for runners. (Oh, it also doubles as an activity tracker during your down time.)
Here's the thing about the Surge: I kind of ended up liking it. It does a ton of different things, some of them quite well. It's a serviceable running watch, a good activity tracker and a surprisingly robust sleep monitor. The problem is: I just don't want to wear it. When I'm out for a run, its mild bulk and severe black design are a non-issue. When I'm trying to sleep or going to the office, it's a different story. The Surge lacks the subtlety of its relatives like the Flex and the fashion-minded detailing of something like the Jawbone Up. Which means it's really best suited as a running watch rather than an all-day activity tracker.
However, at $250, there are more robust options for runners out there. Timex, Polar, Garmin and TomTom all make devices that more carefully cater to athletes. These running watches have fast, highly accurate GPS radios and connect to chest straps that offer far better heart rate monitoring than a wrist-worn LED. They also have advanced features for tracking progress toward goals, running intervals and coaching you through training programs.
Now, that doesn't mean the Surge doesn't have a niche. There is a market out there for activity trackers that double as GPS watches (and not the other way around). If you're a casual, fair-weather runner, a dedicated running watch might be overkill. And if you're willing to sacrifice some style and comfort in the name of best-in-class step counting and sleep tracking, then the Surge's shortcomings aren't dealbreakers. It's certainly not for everyone, but if you were intrigued by Microsoft's Band only to be turned off by its poor ergonomic design, then the Surge is worth considering.