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Is Basis Peak a better fitness tracker than Fitbit Surge?

James A. Martin | May 4, 2015
If you still haven't bought into the whole wearable-health thing yet, and you don't have your sites set on an Apple Watch, consider giving Basis Peak ($199) a look. After a few weeks of use, I found a lot to like about the wrist-worn activity and sleep tracker -- which also has some smartwatch features -- as well as a few things that could use improvement.

Basis Peak love: It's comfortable. Peak's "sportvent" strap fits well on your wrist and is comfortable. You can jazz up the device with an optional strap ($30), too. In my opinion, it is a little more comfortable than Fitbit Surge.

Basis Peak needs works on heart-rate accuracy. According to Consumer Reports and The Wall Street Journal, Polar's H7 chest strap is as accurate in reading heart-rate as an EKG. So I use it as a comparison for other devices that monitor heart rate.

Peak performed well during the low- and moderate-intensity phases of a workout. but when I reached 130 bpm or more, the device's optical heart rate sensor reading was usually inflated by about 20 bpm. Peak's reading stayed elevated throughout the high-intensity phase of my workouts, then fell more in line with the Polar reading as I cooled down. That said, I've received inaccurate heart-rate readings during intense exercise from every wristband device I've tested using optical heart rate sensors, including Fitbit Surge.

I asked Basis about the issue and got this response from a spokesperson: "During steady-state activities, such as a light run or bike ride, Peak's heart rate monitor is comparable to a chest strap. There may be a slight lag when you experience a rapid increase or decrease in heart rate."

Basis added that it's important to wear Peak "a little higher than you would wear a normal watch" and to wear it "snugly, with the sensors resting flush against your skin." (For the record, that's how I wear activity trackers during heart-rate tests.)

Here's a response from a Fitbit spokesperson: "As with all heart-rate monitoring technology, whether a chest strap or a wrist-based sensor, accuracy is affected by personal physiology, location of wear, and type of movement. Your heart rate may be affected by any number of factors at any given moment. Movement, temperature, humidity, stress level, physical body position, caffeine intake, and medication use are just a few things that can affect your heart rate ... As with all health and fitness tracking, Fitbit believes that what's most important is trends — if a user misses a minute or two, it's not as important as seeing the overall trends over time."

Basis Peak or Fitbit Surge? 

So is Peak the winner in a head-to-head with Fitbit's Surge? Not necessarily.

Peak, unlike Fitbit, currently lacks a leaderboard, which lets you see how your activity compares to your friends' activity. Basis's privacy policy page hints that it may rollout a leaderboard in the future, though the Basis spokesperson said the company has "no immediate plans" for one.

I can't overemphasize just how motivating a leaderboard can be. I convinced a dozen friends to buy Fitbits and share their stats with me, and the leaderboard is one reason why I remain loyal to Fitbit.


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