We’re approaching the most dangerous time of the year, the point at which we forget all scruples, all common sense and indulge in what can only be described as an orgy of consumption. Never mind the material cost of all this bingeing, what about our health? One way to fight the inevitable new year guilt is to invest in a set of scales which will offer some sort of diet escape plan, and help us return to a reasonable shape in time for our next stupidwontdoitagain moment.
We took time out from gorging on burgers to check out two of top electronic scales on the market at the moment, to see if a)they worked as advertised and b)which we’d like to have put in our stocking over the festive holiday. Read on for our verdict after the jump.
Fitbit Aria – $160.19 – £99.99
The Fitbit Aria is the first of the super scales from the Fitbit company, and not only does it track your weight but also your fat/lean mass ratios as well. In addition these scales will beam your weight and ratios to an online storage area using your home’s WiFi connection, so you can review your progress later over a coffee and muffin. Sorry, low carb pretzel.
The Aria also integrates with the Fitbit Fitness Program, which incorporates the other devices in the Fitbit stable like the Activity and Sleep Trackers, to help you stay fit as well as in trim. It’s a clever idea and very well implemented.
The Aria is easy to set up, just insert the batteries, connect it to your WiFi network via the online setup wizard, register for a Fitbit account which is where your stats are stored and that’s it. From then on the scale will recognize you when you step on, and upload your weight to your account. You can also set up goals and add in measurements like waist, hips etc, for more detailed tracking. Up to eight different people can be given accounts on the scale, which should cope with the largest of families. There’s even a guest mode.
You need to use the scale on a hard surface and with bare feet in order for it to work accurately, and one thing we found is if you move the scale (say to get it out of the cupboard in the bathroom) to use, it must be left to settle for a few minutes before you step on, because otherwise it gives spurious results. In our case it added 4 lbs to my weight each time until I re-weighed a few minutes later, when the right weight would appear. The fastest weight loss in history, 4 lbs in 20 seconds.
It’s a tad disconcerting, but once you understand the issue you can give it time or leave it permanently down, however it’s not a great feature/bug/quirk. The on screen dashboard in your account is easy to use and self-explanatory, and there’s a nice food plan feature which helps you institute a full weight loss program. Unfortunately there’s only a standard calories in/out structure, which is increasingly becoming discredited in favor of the lower carb doctrine, but that’s something which will probably be corrected in the future as more people opt for sensible dietary habits, rather than relying on dodgy historical low fat misinformation.
The Fitbit Aria is an impressively easy to use weight loss system, which is more than the sum of its parts. The scale is easy to set up, the dashboard clear and understandable. Our only quibble is the scale accuracy, we found it to vary a little too widely for our liking, a problem which is compounded by the fact that the reading on the scale also usually differs from the website or the smartphone app readings, as the system rounds up or down in transit. It’s a small thing but confusing.
Pros: Easy to set up and use. Nice integration with other parts of the Fitbit overall health system
Cons: Doesn’t feel as accurate as other devices in this market, which can lead to confusion.
Withings WiFi Body Scale – $190.69 – £119.00
The Withings WiFi Body Scale device is slightly more expensive than the Fitbit, but also offers the same kind of electronic wizardry to deliver your weight, fat mass and overall BMI (body mass index) ratios to an online dashboard via your home WiFi. However, instead of integrating with a Withings fitness program, the scale is compatible with generic online fitness programs such as Daily Burn and RunKeeper. It also syncs with Google Health.
Like the Aria, the WiFi Body Scale runs on four AA batteries, which should last a few months before needing replacement, and the device is also capable of tracking the stats of up to eight people. We have to say that the overall ergonomics and design of the product also comes across as more appealing, it’s thinner, more shiny and the dial is definitely more legible in bright light. What we didn’t like so much is the fact that you inevitably leave a lot of fingerprints and smears on the glossy black surface from day to day handling, but we guess this is the price you pay for any shiny black object.
Set up of the Withings scale is also unfortunately more complex than the Fitbit Aria. Instead of simply logging on to an online wizard, you need to plug the scale into your computer via a supplied USB cable and run through a fairly cumbersome install process. We also had a few glitches trying to get the scale to install properly, which we are surprised to find on a product of this quality.
Once installed, the scale is great to use. Unlike the Aria, this scale comes with carpet feet for softer surfaces, but you so still need the bare feet for the body mass measurements. However the Withings is much faster in operation, and the results appear to be much more accurate. This could be because it gives a more granular result (including pounds and divisions) or because there’s a logical consistency in the results, we had no massive jumps or dives in weight as with the Aria, just a steady movement in either direction from day to day, week to week.
We felt more confident that the scale was actually working accurately, which we didn’t get from the Aria so much. The online dashboard for the scale is however not as intuitive or all embracing as the Fitbit one. The scale charts nicely, no question, but we found the interface to be a little more clunky, and initially the dashboard had problems identifying who we were until we told it. It’s not that the interface is awful, it’s just not as flexible as the Fitbit one (for instance there’s only a couple of charting options) and not as easy to do a time comparison.
The Withings WiFi Body Scale is a very good product, but there are some surprising issues in a few areas. The installation is a bit of a rigmarole, the synching has glitches and there’s definitely work that could be done to improve the user interface for the user dashboard. But apart from these issues, we have to give this device the edge in the head to head. It’s elegant, much faster, very accurate and just feels like it’s more of a solid product (even though the Aria has a heavier heft). The issues with the dashboard could easily be fixed with a bit of design intelligence, and even so the Withings is still the product to beat in this arena.
Pros: Lovely looking product, beautifully clear dial and fast in operation. Offers solid functionality in the areas that matter the most.
Cons: A little kludgy to install and set up, and the user dashboard could do with a more lightweight and modern makeover (or at least some themes). Also needs more upfront user help with integration with other online services.
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I actually just purchased a Withings scale last week, and just wanted to add – fitbit's website plays nicely with the Withings scale. So, you can combine the nicer Withings hardware with the more polished fitbit website. Best of both worlds!
Oh nice one, thanks for the heads up. I've just done it via the Fitbit site – https://www.fitbit.com/weight/withings . Cool.
I’ve been using my Withings for over two year now and use it every day. Seeing one’s weight history really help in pursuing your efforts. Can’t recommend enough such a purchase.
You can also monitor your weight using the Runkeeper application.
Hi Clippy and Nigel! Here's something I'm sure you'll like! http://blog.withings.com/en/2012/10/17/create-wit…
BTW Clippy, have you seen the free Health Companion app? It's our latest 4-in-1 health monitoring iOS/Android app :) http://www.withings.com/en/app/withings
If you ever try to take Withings scale apart you will see it is put together with only double-sided tape which corrodes over time in humid environments! For paying, $159 I would expect a better build quality. Fitbit is much better build quality.
Since the Body Fat weight scales pass a current through the body , they are a Class II Medical Device. Fitbit Aria “doesn’t even have FDA approval/clearance” for marketing it. Selling unapproved product is illegal as per FDA. Withings sold body fat scales for 2 years illegally before getting the FDA clearance.
Lastly, both scales get completely confused if 2 people in the home are within 5-7 lbs of each other. So make sure of who all are going to use it before investing and what their weights are before buying.
If you took multiple Body fat readings on any scale, expect to see wildly different readings- amazing how you would seem to lose or gain body fat so quickly:)
Thanks for the feedback. I was also amazed by the huge variations in body fat from day to day. Mysterious indeed.