The Fitbit Inspire HR Surprised Me: The Full Review

Fitbit Inspire HR
Fitbit Inspire HR

When Fitbit announced the Fitbit Inspire and Inspire HR I wasn’t overly impressed.  I thought the features were typical for fitness trackers for less and let’s face it, the Inspire isn’t as featured packed as the Apple Watch or maybe even a higher end Garmin but after wearing the Inspire HR for a week, it’s become my favorite Fitbit device and one I’ve been keeping on my wrist, or in a clip, and much more on that in a bit. I like it, a lot!

First off, I’m not new to Fitbit.  I’ve had the Fitbit Zip, Blaze, Versa, and Charge 3 so I have quite a few other Fitbits to compare to.  The Fitbit Versa is still one of my favorite fitness tracker / smartwatches, even though it was plagued with syncing and connection issues early on. Firmware updates since its 2018 release have improved the Versa but I’m waiting on the second generation Versa to really knock my socks off.

Then a few months ago, I reviewed the Fitbit Charge 3, and it tested out as a solid fitness tracker.  The heart rate sensor and connected GPS did a very good job.  I didn’t experience the connectivity issues with it like I did the Versa but I just didn’t enjoy wearing it nearly as much as the Versa and now the Inspire HR which you can check the current price and availability on Amazon where I purchased it from.

charge 3 vs fitbit inspire hr
The Fitbit Charge 3 on the left and the Fitbit Inspire HR on the right on my wrist. I’m using different straps than the ones they come with in this pic. You can see the size difference between the two.

The Charge 3 and the Inspire HR have many features in common and I’ll be comparing both in-depth in another article but my main reasons for preferring the Inspire HR over the Charge 3 are size, style, comfort, and well, I just find the Inspire more inspiring.  

Yes, I’ve experienced much more expensive and feature packed fitness trackers and smartwatches but I’ve been charmed by the low-key but quite capable Inspire HR.  





It has a little bit of a personality to it that reminds me of my beloved Pebble Time.  From the fun watch faces to choose from and the inspiring little motivating messages it’s simply more fun to wear than the Charge 3.

Some fitness trackers really come off as nags on your wrist.  “Get up and move!”  “I’ve noticed you’ve been really inactive lately.  What the deal with that?!”  “You used to look a lot better in those pants before you gained those 10 pounds.”  Okay, I might have made a couple of those up but that’s how some come across – as nags.

And if you’re anything like me the nag trick doesn’t motivate me to do anything, well, not anything good. If I feel like I’m being criticized or constantly told to do something (even if it’s something that I want to do), that’s pretty much guaranteeing that I won’t do it or I’m going to put it off for as long as possible.  

So it’s a very welcoming experience to wear a fitness tracker that feels like it’s in my corner and cheering me on in a positive manner. 

fitbit inspire hr alarm
My 1:00 PM alarm, just in case I’m not awake when it’s time to go to work. I hate that alarm but I like the little animated bird on the Inspire HR.

So what’s so charming about the Fitbit Inspire?  Well, besides the little messages I find positive and motivational, I love the design of it.  Yes, it’s simplistic but sometimes that’s a good thing. 

If you have a smaller wrist the Fitbit Inspire is going to fit well proportionately.  It can be very inconspicuous or it can easily be jazzed up with snazzier bands.  And there are lots of third-party bands or straps to choose from on Amazon and elsewhere.

Oh, and the strap that comes with the Inspire HR is made of soft and flexible silicone.  I greatly prefer it over the band that came with the Charge 3.  I immediately wanted to swap out the band on the Charge 3 because of its rather stiff plasticy feel but I’m perfectly happy with the band on the Inspire HR, except when I just want to wear a different color or style to match my mood or outfit.  





Wearing the Inspire in a Clip

I also purchased a clip for the Inspire HR so I can wear it at work.  I work in a hospital in a sterile environment so watches and jewelry aren’t permitted, so I haven’t been able to really get a full picture of my daily activity during the workweek for quite a while. 

Fitbit Inspire HR in a clip

I knew I was easily reaching or exceeding 10,000 steps daily but I wasn’t getting credit for it because I couldn’t wear a fitness tracker on my wrist.

There’s not much worse than steps taken that aren’t recorded by your Fitbit.  It’s like they didn’t really happen at all and that stinks. 

But with the Inspire HR I’m able to clip it to my scrubs and get a much truer picture of my physical activity throughout the day.  The Inspire HR doesn’t come with a clip, so you’ll need to buy in separately. I found this one on Amazon and it’s available in different colors.

It’s also nice to have the option of using a clip when pushing a stroller, shopping cart, lawn mower, etc. 

While it’s in the clip, it obviously won’t be reading my heart rate but at least steps and distance are recorded.  If you are only concerned with steps you can choose the less expensive Inspire without the heart rate sensor but I’d recommend spending the extra $30 or so and choose the Inspire HR instead.

With the heart rate sensor you’ll get a much better idea of your workout intensity, resting heart rate and more advanced sleep tracking.  

Knowing what your heart rate is during a workout will let you know whether you need to kick it up a gear or slow down a little.  Resting heart rate is a pretty good indicator of overall heart health.  Typically a lower resting heart rate indicates a more fit heart and by monitoring your resting heart rate over several months, to even years, you’ll be more likely to notice trends and possible changes that may be of concern.

The heart rate sensor isn’t a medical device and shouldn’t be used as such but knowing your heart rate when working out and at rest is good information to know, as long as the heart rate sensor you’re using is accurate and so let’s get to that!

Heart Rate Accuracy

I tested the Inspire HR against the Polar H10 chest heart rate strap during a treadmill run and a bicycle ride. Chest heart rate straps are typically the most accurate way to monitor your heart rate during physical activity outside of a clinical setting. The Polar H10 is one of the best ones on the market.

The results for both tests were nearly identical. I was very happy with the performance of the heart rate sensor of the Inspire HR. It did very well during cardio workouts. Of course, I wouldn’t expect it to do as well for weight lifting or push-ups, etc. Any activity that requires a lot of flexing of the wrist pushes the limit of a wrist HR sensor.

For those types of workouts, you really need to go with a chest heart rate monitor for much greater accuracy.

But overall, I would give high marks for the heart rate sensor on the Inspire HR. You can view the results below.

During a treadmill workout, the Polar H10 measured my heart rate at a max of 134 bpm and an average of 114 bpm. The Fitbit Inspire HR measured a max of 136 bpm and an average of 115 bpm.

polar H10
Polar H10 during treadmill exercise

During a an outdoor bike ride, you can see a chart of my heart rate below from the Polar H10 and the Fitbit Inspire HR. The charts are very similar.

The Polar H10 estimated my max heart rate at 142 bpm and the average at 119 bpm. The Inspire HR estimated a max heart rate of 141 bpm and an average of 118 bpm, so extremely close results between the two.

polar H10 bike ride test
Polar H10 heart rate results after bike ride
fitbit inspire HR bike test
Fitbit Inspire HR heart rate chart from bike ride test

Heart Rate Accuracy Grade: A

GPS Accuracy

The Fitbit Inspire HR is equipped with connected GPS which means it uses the GPS from your smartphone so you’ll have to bring your phone with you and have it paired by Bluetooth if you want to use GPS features.

It did well in the several test I threw at it. It connected quickly and stayed connected throughout the tests I did. I had it connected to the iPhone XR.

As you can see from the results below, the distance estimates weren’t exactly the same even though both devices were using GPS from my phone. In the case of the Polar H10, it estimated the distance to be a little longer at 7.57 miles compared to the Inspire’s estimate of 7.44 miles but after looking at the paths created by both, the Inspire HR was followed my actual path more accurately.

polar h10 gps
Polar H10 GPS distance estimate on map
fitbit inspire gps accuracy test
Fitbit Inspire HR GPS test

Also, it’s almost exactly 2 miles from my house to a marker along the bike path I regularly ride which comes in handy when I review fitness trackers and GPS devices and the Inspire HR estimated 1.99 miles while the Polar H10’s estimated 2.03 miles.

I think the Polar H10 was overshooting just a little while the Inspire HR was more accurate. But it is interesting to note that even though both devices used the GPS from my phone I didn’t get the same result.

GPS Accuracy Grade: A-

Step Tracking

It’s always difficult to determine what device is more accurate when it comes to step tracking but I believe the Inspire HR did a good job. It may miss a few steps here and there but I’d rather it be conservative than give me a false impression that I’m walking more than I really am.

The Inspire and Inspire HR also have the unique advantage over other fitness trackers in that they can be worn in a clip, as already discussed, similar to the old Fitbit Zip. Step tracking when worn in a clip was on par to the steps my iPhone was counting through the Apple Health app.

I would grade step tracking high on the Inspire HR. It isn’t 100% accurate but it’ll give you a very good idea of the actual number of steps you’re taking within a reasonable margin of error.

Step Tracking Grade: A-

Sleep Tracking

Fitbit does sleep tracking very well. It’s usually pretty darn accurate and the Inspire HR appears to do sleep tracking well. The size of the Inspire HR also makes it ideal for sleep tracking because it’s so light on the wrist and shouldn’t bother you when you’re sleeping or trying to fall asleep.

I compared the results against the Polar Ignite which also has advanced sleep tracking. I’ve really been impressed with the Ignite from Polar, so it was interesting to compare the two.

The results below are different when comparing REM sleep. The two were very similar for later in the night but the Polar Ignite shows a period of REM sleep earlier during the night. Which one is right? It’s hard to say.

Both had me waking up at 7:26 AM but the Polar Ignite had me falling asleep about 30 minutes later than the Inspire HR estimated. And since I was asleep or nearly asleep during this time, I have no idea which one is more accurate.

polar ignite sleep tracking
Polar Ignite Sleep Tracking results
fitbit inspire hr sleep tracking
Fitbit Inspire HR sleep tracking results

Sleep Tracking Grade: A-

Battery Life

Fitbit promises a battery life of up to 5 days for the Inspire HR and that’s about what I got. This is a tracker that you’ll probably only need to charge once a week unless you do several workouts during the week using connected GPS.

One gripe I do have is that the charging cord is very short, almost ridiculously so to the point it’s almost impractical. I had to place a box beneath an outlet to set the Inspire HR on top of to reach the outlet. That’s kinda silly but luckily it’s not a device you have to charge that often and if you’re using a USB port on a laptop the short cord won’t matter so much.

But overall, I’m happy with the battery life considering my heart rate is being monitored and recorded 24/7.

Battery Life Grade: B

Connectivity

While I had issues with the Fitbit Versa syncing and remaining connected to my phone for notifications, I haven’t experienced those issues with the Inspire HR.

Notifications have come through reliably and the Bluetooth connection appears to remain strong. When I go out of range of my phone and come back into range the connection is reestablished.

As stated earlier, connected GPS has also been reliable so thank goodness because I’ve had my problems with other Fitbit devices in this area!

Notifications are shown on the Inspire HR. You can read the entire message but you may have to do quite a bit of scrolling. The screen is small so keep that in mind.

Connectivity Grade: A

Comfort / Build Quality / Features

One of the differences between the Inspire HR and the Charge 3 is that the Inspire HR is all plastic. The Charge 3 has an aluminum body. Also, the screen on the Charge 3 is composed of Gorilla Glass which is more scratch and smudge resistant than the plastic screen of the Inspire HR.

There is a single button on the left side of the Inspire HR and the screen is touchscreen. Operating the fitness tracker is very simple. Swiping down will bring up the menus for exercise, relax (guided breathing for stress relief) and timers.

step data
Number of steps taken during a treadmill test.

Swiping up on the screen will show the menu icons and data for steps, current heart rate, resting heart rate, daily calories burned, active minutes, total distance, the number of times you walked at least 250 steps in an hour over the day, the number of workouts completed during the week, the total time that you slept the previous night, how many glasses of water you’ve logged that day, and your current weight if you’ve entered that information through the Fitbit app.

Pressing the side button will turn on the screen. Holding in the button will show data for battery status as a percentage. Tilt to wake can be enabled or disabled. When turned on the screen will come on when you turn your wrist to your face. Notifications can also be turned on or off.

Up to 6 exercise shortcuts can be added to the Inspire HR. I have treadmill, weights, bike, swim, hike, and spinning selected on mine. This is done through the mobile Fitbit app.

Other activities supported include: pilates, elliptical, bootcamp, golf, walk, workout, kickboxing, yoga, tennis, stairclimber, run, interval workout, martial arts, and circuit training.

It would be nice to be able to select more than 6 shortcuts. I think 10 would be a better number but whatever 6 activities you do the most you can add to the tracker and you can always change which shortcuts show through the app.

Overall, for the price the Inspire HR has a nice build quality. You can swim with it. I will be comparing the swim features against the Charge 3 and other trackers soon so much more to come on that but it does track pool swimming.

Even if you don’t plan to swim with it, it’s always a good idea to get a tracker or smartwatch the supports swimming because that generally indicates a better build quality. Also, if you do happen to get it wet, you won’t have to worry so much about it.

One thing to consider is that the screen isn’t the most readable in bright sunlight. This is true of the Charge 3 as well. Also, the Inspire HR doesn’t have an ambient light sensor so the screen brightness doesn’t adjust automatically and you also can’t adjust it yourself.

It is plenty bright indoors and I can see it outdoors but there’s definitely brighter screens for those that are wanting a more readable outdoor display. The screens on the Versa and Ionic are much better in bright sunlight.

inspire hr heart rate sensor
The underside of the Inspire HR showing the heart rate sensor and how straps are attached with pins.

As stated earlier, the strap is a soft, flexible and comfortable silicon and it can be replaced fairly easily. It does use pins to hold the strap in place so if you have difficulty with very fine motor skills and plan to regularly swap out the strap, I’d suggest choosing the Charge 3 which is easier to change but even though I do have a tremor, I’m able to change the strap on the Inspire HR fairly easily.

During the workweek I’m taking off the strap and putting it into a clip everyday and that hasn’t been a problem for me.

I’m going to grade the build quality, comfort and features high because, well I think they’re good, but I’m also considering the price point, and for the money you’re getting quite a bit.

Build Quality / Comfort / Features Grade: A

Conclusion

I was hesitant in reviewing the Inspire HR because I didn’t think I’d like it that much. I thought I would be underwhelmed, especially since I regularly wear an Apple Watch or full-featured GPS hiking watches from Garmin but I really like the Fitbit Inspire HR.

I think there’s a lot of value for the money and it’s pretty darn accurate as a fitness tracker. I love that I can easily change the look to match my mode or style with other straps. The cute watch faces are appreciated. I especially like the ant watchface. It’s much more enchanting than I thought it would be and I love how versatile it is in that I can wear it on my wrist on in a clip.

I can confidently recommend the Fitbit Inspire HR if you are considering it. It’s practical, affordable, accurate, and has a bit of a fun factor.

You can check the Fitbit Inspire HR out on Amazon.