Fitbit Ultra review – intro

Pedometers. All the rage these days. In fact, there are so many around it's easy to wonder whether the latest Fitbit can justify the comparatively hefty £80 price attached to it, especially as it looks so simple and small. But the devil, as they say, is in the detail, and the Fitbit Ultra is more detailed than ever before. Can it motivate you to become a dedicated step-counter?

Fitbit Ultra review – setting up and syncing

Setting up your Fitbit Ultra involves registering on the Fitbit site, plugging the charging dock into your computer via USB, and downloading a dinky bit of software. After that, the Ultra will automatically sync with the site when it's within 15 feet of the base station. Leave it hooked up on your desk and when you take your seat in the morning all of the synchronisation jiggery pokery will be done for you.

To charge up the battery you have to attach the "Tracker" to the dock, but battery life is generally very good and it should last the best part of a week before it needs to be juiced-up.

Once charged you just need to decide where to clip the Ultra – at the top of your jeans/shorts/leggings/tights is the best spot, and it comes with a holster to keep it in place. Not everyone wants to display their (in)activity on a sci-fi style bracelet like the Nike+ Fuelband after all.

Fitbit Ultra review – the device

With just one button to press the Ultra itself is the essence of minimal, but somehow this wonder-tracker keeps note of steps taken, distance travelled, stairs climbed (thanks to an altimeter) and calories burned.

Press the button to see your stats for the day and a flower that grows the more you move and hyper-enthusiastic messages like 'Rock on'. It might sound cheesy but it's seriously adictive - before long you'll be experiencing genuine annoyance whenever you climb stairs without the Fitbit to monitor it and add it to your progress.

The distance measurements aren't as accurate as a (more expensive) GPS watch so if you're training for a half-marathon or really need to keep an eye on your running times, this isn't the gadget for you. In fact, we got the feeling the Ultra claimed we'd walked farther than we had most days but overall it should be about right.

Fitbit Ultra review – apps and results

You can view your latest synced stats online or via the free iPhone and Android apps. If you want to look at the week or month as a whole it's easy to do so, and Fitbit will give you badges for meeting (fairly easy) targets. It's all very colourful and friendly and if you want to go the whole hog you can log your sleeping sessions (there's an included wristband for nighttime tracking) and food and water consumption too.

For personalised goal settings, you'll need to upgrade to Fitbit's paid-for Premium plan, which seems a bit stingy since you've already forked out £80, but at least there's a free one-week trial so that you can decide if it'll be worth it to you. And if Fitbit's own life-tracking isn't enough for you, you can use the Ultra with other fitness apps such as Endomondo and Microsoft HealthVault.

Posting to social networks – like tweeting how many miles you've done that day – can be set up quickly and easily, but if you want to keep things private, make sure to turn everything off in settings before you begin.

Fitbit Ultra review – verdict

Simply attaching this little gadget to your belt will be all the motivation needed for many people to utliize foot power rather than horse power for the regular trip to the shops, and for them the Fitbit Ultra will quickly pay for itself as well as get you a little bit fitter. True, if you're seriously attached to your bad habits this isn't going to help, but for those looking to make a change the Ultra is a very useful helping hand.

Stuff says... 

Fitbit Ultra review

A life-tracking shaker-upperer of lazy habits