The Apple Watch is the clear leader leader in the smartwatch category. But if you’re looking for a wearable focused on fitness and you don’t necessarily want to spend a lot, the $199 Fitbit Versa is definitely worth considering.
In addition to an affordable price, the Versa offers a sleek swimproof design, longer battery life than the Apple Watch, heart rate tracking, on-screen workouts, music playback, NFC payments and more. Plus, there’s new female health features. However, the Versa has some downsides, including the lack of built-in GPS.
Here’s what the critics like (and hate) about the Fitbit Versa.
Fitbit Versa Review Scorecard
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Tom’s Guide’s Caitlin McGarry said that she’s impressed by the Fitbit Versa for a very big reason: it’s really the first “female-friendly smartwatch.”
"While it's lacking in a few areas, this Fitbit Versa might be the best entry-level smartwatch for most people."
“The Versa still looks very much like a smartwatch but one I'm not embarrassed to wear outside of the gym. It's more comfortable to wear than my Apple Watch, and I can change it up with affordable leather bands to make it more stylish.”
“One brand-new — and potentially game-changing — addition to Fitbit's platform is a suite of female-health-tracking features, which gives women the ability to log their period symptoms and gain insight into fertility or potential health conditions directly on the watch face.”
“With 550 apps and clock faces, Fitbit doesn't have the most robust app store — the Apple Watch has thousands of apps to choose from.”
“I don't like the Versa's oversize charging cradle, which continues Fitbit's trend of designing bizarrely shaped proprietary chargers. The charger is larger than the watch itself, which seems unnecessary.”
MORE: Fitbit Versa Review: The First Female-Friendly Smartwatch
Over at CNET, reviewer Scott Stein called the Fitbit Versa “mostly great.” And he awarded the device a score of 8 out of 10 in his review.
"The Fitbit Versa is the best fusion of smartwatch and general fitness tracker under $200, if you can live with its limitations."
“The Fitbit Versa is a compact, lightweight smartwatch and fitness tracker with an improved interface for easier fitness stat readouts.”
“The Versa is fully water-resistant for swimming, and it's easy to track my steps, heart rate or start a workout. It's pretty great! And so far, when using the Versa, I miss absolutely none of the features of the more expensive Fitbit Ionic.”
“It's stayed on my wrist past the review, and I've left the Apple Watch I was wearing behind. The Versa has continued to be a really good daily watch.”
“For watch faces, it's a different story: The variety is great, but the quality varies widely, to put it mildly.”
“There's only 2.5GB of onboard music storage on the Versa, and tracks have to be loaded from a computer, unless you subscribe to Pandora or Deezer and sync playlists with those services. None of these options are as good or convenient as the Apple Watch's dead-simple auto syncing from Apple Music.”
PCMag’s Victoria Song gave the Fitbit Versa a score of four out of five in her review. She was especially happy with the device’s affordable price tag.
"The Fitbit Versa offers just the right blend of smartwatch and fitness tracking features for a reasonable price."
“Where the Fitbit Ionic's blocky design leans sporty, the Versa's rounded corners make for a sleeker, friendlier look and feel. It's waterproof up to 50 meters, or 5 ATM, meaning it's safe for both the pool and shower.”
“The square display is crisp, bright, and clear. It measures about 0.95 on each side and has a resolution of 300 by 300 pixels.”
“Inside, the Versa packs an impressive array of sensors for the price. In addition to your typical three-axis accelerometer and gyroscope, it has an altimeter, an ambient light sensor, an optical heart rate monitor, and an SpO2 sensor (peripheral capillary oxygen saturation, an estimate of the amount of oxygen in your blood)."
“Both Apple and Google have a wider selection of third-party apps...If you're looking for the best app selection (and you're an iPhone user), get an Apple Watch.”
“For distance, the Versa underreported my one-mile walk as 0.87-mile. It fared better on my run, logging an excellent 0.98-mile. This slight disparity isn't too surprising, as the Versa doesn't have GPS, like the more expensive Ionic does.”
“Loading apps can be a bit slow, but it's noticeably improved since the Ionic launched last summer.”
Adrienne So from Wired was pleased with the Fitbit Versa’s ability to facilitate a “more active life.” But the lack of popular services, like Spotify, was a problem.
"If you don’t expect your watch to replace your phone entirely, and you just want an affordable, convenient device that also makes your life a little easier, the Fitbit Versa hits the sweet spot."
“The Versa is so simple and easy to use that as the weeks passed, I found myself relying on it more and more.”
“Fitbit also provided me with a trial subscription of the Coach app, which, to my surprise, I ended up liking a lot. I didn’t strictly adhere to my coach’s suggestions, but whenever I had a string of busy days, it was nice to sneak in a quick workout in twenty or thirty minutes of downtime.”
“It’s one of the most unobtrusive fitness watches that I’ve tried. I opted for a standard black watch with the rubber classic band, although, this being Fitbit, both the unit and the band came in a considerable number of colors and materials.”
“The Versa has a lot of features that I didn’t end up using. I know a lot of people find support in online workout communities. But personally, I always set my account settings to private. I can’t see that anything good has ever come from being quite that vulnerable on social media.”
“You can add music to the Versa from your computer, but there’s no Spotify app and to use Pandora, you have to pay for an upgraded account. They do have a partnership with another streaming service, Deezer, but I just...no.”
In yet another score of four stars out of five, TechRadar’s Lee Bell said the Fitbit Versa was a fine alternative to the Fitbit Ionic.
"What makes it really special is that you can pick up some really great, intuitive fitness tracking features for just under $200. Something we cannot fault, and also something many of Fitbit’s competitors can’t compete with."
“Despite its silly design name, the Versa is a much more handsome and friendly-looking watch than many of the firm’s previous devices.”
“As for the Versa’s display, it’s a vibrant, colorful touchscreen with a brightness up to 1,000 nits. This means that even in direct sunlight or underwater it’s easily visible, even when not turned up to the maximum brightness capacity.”
“Fitbit claims the Versa is one of its lightest smartwatches yet due to its ultra-thin, anodized aluminum case and slightly tapered and angled design. However, this lightweight material does make it feel a little cheap.”
“Fitbit claims the Versa’s battery life is not quite as impressive as its bigger, more expensive sibling the Ionic, cited at four days instead of the Ionic’s five.”
“As for actual device charging, Fitbit doesn't opt for juicing its wearables via traditional micro USB - so if you are travelling then the special Fitbit charger will need to make its way into your suitcase.”
Engadget’s Cherlynn Low was impressed by the Versa’s design and called it the “best-looking Fitbit yet.” Overall, the design, coupled with features, helped the Versa earn a score of 83 out of 100 in Low’s review.
"Ultimately, the things that stand out about the Fitbit Versa are its sub-$200 price and attractive design -- this is a Fitbit that finally looks more like a smartwatch than a fitness tracker."
“The Fitbit Versa is a prettier, cheaper version of the company’s first true smartwatch, the Ionic.”
“The Versa still boasts four-day battery life and a comprehensive range of health-tracking features, making it a strong fitness-centric smartwatch.”
“With the right band-and-case combination, like, say, the rose-gold face with a blue leather strap, you may even find the Fitbit prettier than the Apple Watch.”
“The Versa doesn't have GPS built in -- you'll have to use your phone if you want to track your running route.”
“Also, in the US, the basic version of the Versa is missing NFC for Fitbit Pay. You'll have to shell out an extra $30 for the special edition to get that function.”
“It's disappointing that GPS isn't built in and NFC is missing.”
Credit: Tom's Guide