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Consumer Reports backs Fitbit accuracy despite lawsuit

Tougher tests suggest the heart rate data is trustworthy.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
January 23, 2016
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Given that there's a lawsuit over the accuracy of Fitbit trackers' heart rate monitors, you might be wondering how trustworthy those wearables really are. Should you buy a chest strap if you need to track your BPM? Not necessarily, if you ask Consumer Reports. It just retested both the Charge HR and Surge under more stringent conditions (additional arm locations and higher-impact workouts), and it found that both were effectively as accurate as a chest-based heart rate monitor. The only significant deviation was when using the Charge HR in particularly intense workouts, and even that could be fixed by wearing the wristband on the forearm.

This doesn't mean that the devices are flawless, or that the lawsuit has no merit. If your Fitbit occasionally underreports your heart rate by a wide margin, that's a real concern -- you could perform high-intensity workouts without realizing that you're over-stressing your heart. And of course, there are questions as to whether or not the test is really comprehensive. The Consumer Reports study isn't broad enough to completely rule out issues that could crop up with different body sizes and fitness routines. However, the findings suggest that the errors might not be as widespread as implied by the lawsuit. They may well exist, but they're not necessarily easy to replicate.

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