The Charge 5 is Fitbit’s most advanced fitness tracker to date. It brings some of the advanced sensor tech introduced in the Fitbit Sense to a more affordable wearable.
This includes an EDA stress sensor and ECG heart monitoring, although the latter is not switched on at launch.
A few of the Fitbit Charge 5’s features aren’t available yet, actually. Daily Readiness is the other key one. This will take a look at your recent sleep, exercise and heart rate variability and offer tips on whether your body is ready for a big workout, of if you should go easy.MORE FROM FORBESFitbit Charge 5 Vs Charge 4: Four Key Features You Need To KnowBy Andrew Williams
Several fairly comprehensive Fitbit Charge 5 reviews have been published, and the responses are mixed.
However, most are agreed on the surface-level stuff, the most obvious being the switch from the monochrome display of the Fitbit Charge 4 to the Charge 5’s sharper color OLED.
“The text is legible and large enough so I never feel like I am squinting to see notifications, or reaching for a magnifying glass like on the Fitbit Luxe,” writes Cnet’s Lexy Savvides.MORE FOR YOU
“I’d also recommend the Charge 5 to anyone with a Charge 3 or older. Seriously, the display alone is worth it,” says Gizmodo’s Victoria Song.
DC Rainmaker also says the new band is more comfortable than the Fitbit Charge 4, mostly thanks to a revised strap material. “The band is so much better than the Charge 4. Worlds better. It feels more flexible, fits better, and the material isn’t as stiff. It’s great,” he says in the review.
The Verge’s review is critical of Fitbit’s decision to remove all physical buttons, though. This is a touchscreen-only tracker, and The Verge’s Jay Peters found it frustrating.
“Also annoying is the fact that the Charge 5 has no physical buttons, meaning you have to wake up the screen by raising your wrist or by tapping on the screen. Many times during my four-hour run, I would tap on the Charge 5’s screen a couple times to wake it, only to accidentally tap past the last metric I had up, forcing me to keep tapping just to return to where I was before.”
A lack of physical buttons means there might be a bit of a learning curve as you get used to the rhythm of the Fitbit Charge 5. These kinds of irritation do tend to dull as a watch’s interface works its way into your muscle memory. I’ve had similar reactions to wearables at review, though.
You want your run metrics to be right there on the screen, at the moment you want to see them. Otherwise a wearable can turn from something that motivates you to get out for a run, to a hindrance.
Fitbit Charge 5 Exercise tracking
Reviewers are split on its exercise-tracking accuracy too.
Cnet found the Fitbit Charge 5’s heart rate accuracy solid, apart from shaky results in the first few minutes of tracking, common among wrist-worn trackers.
“I did test the heart-rate sensor against a chest strap, which is considered the gold standard in consumer heart-rate tracking, and was pleasantly surprised at how well the Charge 5 matched up overall. It took two minutes for the Charge 5 to catch up to the strap's readings at the start of every run that I did though, so hopefully a software update can address that,” the review reads.
DC Rainmaker, who performs some of the most in-depth tracking of all, found a serious issue, though.
He writes that the Fitbit Charge 5 makes you trade off heart rate accuracy for GPS. If the strap is done up too tight, the watch loses its location signal. If it’s worn looser, as Fitbit suggests for general wear, heart rate accuracy is poor. “The Fitbit Charge 5 exhibits workout issues I haven’t seen in more than a decade of wearables testing,” DC Rainmaker writes. It’s damning stuff.
“Ultimately, if you’re looking for accuracy, this probably isn’t the tracker for you. Or at least, it’s not for me.”
Other reviews do not highlight this issue, suggesting the reviewers did not wear the Fitbit Charge 5 tight enough to cause the GPS fading signal problem.
Fitbit Charge 5 battery life
Impressions on the Fitbit Charge 5’s battery life largely depend on the point of reference used. PCMag’s Angela Moscaritolo seems largely happy with it, and says “In testing, it lasted three full days with the always-on display enabled during the day.”
Gizmodo’s review suggests you’ll see slightly worse results, “even though you can enable a setting where the AOD turns off while you’re sleeping, you’ll still only get about two days worth of battery.”
The Fitbit Charge 5 is rated for a week’s use, but there’s an understandable focus on the new “always on” display mode in many of the reviews. This keeps the screen lit when not in active use, which makes the tracker a better watch while more than halving battery life.
Final verdicts on the Fitbit Charge 5 vary wildly, and they largely rest on whether it is viewed as a fitness tracking device for enthusiasts or a mainstream bubbly wearable for those who won’t actually focus on the stats too much.
Part of the hardcore crowd? DC Rainmaker’s conclusion says the Fitbit Charge 5 is not for you. However, it won a PCMag Editor’s Choice award and Cnet calls it “no-brainer buy if you want the best of Fitbit's health and tracking features in an inconspicuous, band-like design.”
The Fitbit Charge 5 is available to buy now for $179.95.