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The Charge 5 is Fitbit's latest flagship band tracker. Its's certainly not cheap – but the new design looks great and it comes with premium features.
The Fitbit Charge 5 is expensive for a fitness tracker and there are more affordable alternatives if you are on a tighter budget. That being said, you get a lot of premium health features for your money, and the new design is really sleek.
The Fitbit Charge 5 is a premium, feature-rich fitness tracker that’s (almost) perfect for gym fanatics, runners and anyone still into home workouts.
This style of band tracker has become popular in recent years, and it’s easy to see why. They’re lightweight, unobtrusive and easy to use, giving you an assortment of health and fitness metrics at your fingertips – or via a linked mobile app.
The Fitbit Charge 5 is one of the more capable. Once you grasp where everything is in the menus – there are no physical buttons on the device – it becomes easy to use, and most of the modes are accessible with a couple of finger swipes or taps.
It’s expensive, but if you can afford the £169.99 price tag, it’s definitely a step up from the Charge 4 (now £99) due to its bright AMOLED display and sleek new design. We have been testing the device for a couple of days now, and here’s our full verdict.
For more on Fitbit devices be sure to read our Fitbit Sense review and Fitbit Versa 3 review. Don’t miss our guide to the best smartwatch if you want to compare it to some other top wearables on the market.
The Charge 5 is Fitbit’s flagship band fitness tracker. It is used to monitor health metrics such as your heart rate and fitness metrics such as calories burned or your GPS route while out for a morning jog. It’s a premium device that can also be used to track your quality of sleep, and it has a water resistance of up to 50 metres.
The Fitbit Charge 5 retails for £169.99 and was released in the UK in September. It includes a six-month subscription to the Fitbit Premium subscription service, which is needed to open up more stress analytics and enhanced sleep data. After the trial ends, the auto-renew subscription costs £7.99 per month or £79.99 per year.
The Charge 5 costs slightly more than its predecessor did at its launch. The Charge 4 came out in March 2020 and was priced at £129.99.
The Charge 5 is the flagship fitness tracker and has the price to match that premium status. We feel it does enough to justify the price and sits well in the broader line-up of Fitbit devices. The closest tracker is the Fitbit Luxe, which costs £129.99. There’s also the Charge 4 (£99), Inspire 2 (£89.99) and the kid-friendly Ace 3 (£69.99).
Fitbit makes pricier smartwatches that combine fitness tracking with a bigger touch display – including the Sense (£279.99), Versa 3 (£199.99) and Versa 2 (£119.99) – but we feel the Charge 5 strikes a good balance between the two styles.
Outside of the brand, there are clear competitors. For iOS users, the Apple Watch SE (from £249) is the obvious choice. For runners, the Garmin Forerunner series is also a fantastic alternative – and those are typically priced between £130 to £300. And for anyone on a tight budget, the Huawei Band 6 is currently around the £40 mark.
The Charge 5 has a different look than the prior model, and we much prefer the new sleek, more rounded frame over the angular appearance of the Charge 4.
The display is no longer monochrome but a full-colour AMOLED touch screen that was bright and responsive throughout testing. We were using the darkest variant of the wearable (black strap/graphite stainless steel body), but two more colours are available: a white strap with a soft gold stainless steel body and a steel blue strap with a platinum stainless steel body. All of them look really nice.
The quality extended to the strap itself, which is made from silicone and comfortable to wear for lengthy stretches. While (TMI alert) it can often attract and stick to any longer hairs on your arms, we felt the design itself was very well-made overall.
As stated, there are no physical buttons on the Charge 5, so you are forced to make your way through the menus via the touch screen. It can be a little overwhelming at first. We can’t help but wish there was a small button to bring you back to the main screen instead of the current setup, which has you tapping the screen twice.
We found that the display was generally responsive at turning itself on with a flip of the wrist, and there are a lot of choices when it comes to changing the clock faces via the app. We did think the one out of the box – Continuum – worked well.
There are a lot of features bundled into this thin and lightweight little band, and they are surprisingly powerful. Sure, the wearable can be used to tell the time, but let’s start with how most people will likely be using it: tracking daily exercises.
Swiping right twice from the main screen navigates to exercise options. From there, you will have access to six out of 20 modes – swiping down to move between them and tapping on the screen to either start the tracking or set a goal.
There can be six modes installed at any one given time. Our modes out of the box were Run, Bike, Swim, Weights, Treadmill and Interval Work.
But adding more was really simple. Just open up the mobile app, go to the settings and click a box labelled “exercise shortcuts.” This brings up a variety of alternatives, such as Elliptical, Walk, Tennis, Golf, Hike, Kickboxing, Pilates and more.
The Fitbit app itself has been refined over the years, and it’s well-suited to use paired with the Charge 5. The device display is small, so the app was very useful for seeing data it recorded in more depth – breaking down how much sleep you had during the night, resting heart rate, step counts and motivating you to move.
One mode that has been introduced into the Charge 5 from the company’s range of smartwatches is the ability to check blood oxygen saturation, also known as SpO2. This is not intended to replace medical experts, but provide a rough estimate for how your body is distributing oxygenated blood and help you to spot concerning drops (in general, levels are typically supposed to be between 95 and 100%.)
Unfortunately, some features, including mindfulness sessions and video workouts, are all paywalled, and you will need a Fitbit Premium membership to access them.
There’s also a large social media aspect to Fitbit these days, and the app urges you to connect with friends who are also using its devices. Call us cynical, but while it’s nice to create a community vibe, it undoubtedly gives Fitbit (and new parent company Google) a huge trove of valuable health data and metrics. Using the community features is optional, though, so you don’t have to participate in them.
One of the stranger features on the Fitbit Charge 5 was EDA (electrodermal activity), which seemingly measures small changes to your skin’s sweat level to indicate your body’s response to stress – included as a kind of tool that gamifies meditation.
It isn’t an automatic feature – you have to literally hold down the sides of the screen where the sensors are hiding to get a reading in real-time.
As you do so, the screen asks you to “just breathe”, and after the 3 minutes are done, it asks you to reflect on your mood after the session. We chose calm and got a total “score” of 23 responses. Fitbit says that fewer responses equate to a calmer state, but we still don’t really know what it means – aside from more data collection.
Many of the metrics will feed into the app’s “stress management” section, which also tries to score you by taking your sleep and activity into account.
In theory, all of this lets you track your stress levels and emotional states over time. Aside from feeling like borderline pseudoscience, the bigger problem is that getting a breakdown of those analytics is paywalled – and that’s actually pretty stressful.
OK, back to the fitness tracking. The onboard GPS is a great feature for exercising, and it’s neat that there are multiple modes you can choose from. We used dynamic, which launches the GPS at the start of a workout. There are two more options. “Built-in” GPS uses the tracker sensors directly, but this impacts the battery. “Phone” does the exact opposite, preserving battery by using GPS sensors on your phone.
We liked that the Charge 5 can show smartphone notifications, too. While the screen isn’t big enough to read a lot of text without scrolling, it gives you the option of seeing incoming WhatsApp messages, emails or texts with a glance of your wrist.
Unfortunately, while the Charge 5 has the sensors needed for an electrocardiogram (ECG) – which measures the electrical activity of your heart to check for irregularities in rhythm – the feature is still listed as “coming soon”, so we couldn’t test it.
There’s also no support for on-device music, so if heavy metal is a key component of your weightlifting routine, you will need to make sure you also have your phone and a set of earbuds. With the size of the Charge 5, it’s little surprise it can’t store music, but it’s a shame you can’t use it to pause or skip tracks playing through Spotify.
Luckily for a device that you want to wear quite a lot, battery life is solid, providing up to a week of charge – heavily dependent on what features you are using.
If the always-on display was off and it was mainly used for tracking daily exercise or checking how you slept during the night, it would easily last for multiple days without needing to be topped up using the provided cable. However, using the always-on display will massively impact that time as the device is constantly using power – so it’s best to keep that off. It takes roughly two hours to charge from 0% to 100%.
Setting up the Charge 5 is simple. It’s good at prompting you through the process. After attaching the cable, you connect the supplied charging cable, create or log into your Fitbit account on the app and sync the device using the on-screen guide. It will prompt you to launch the 6-month Fitbit Premium membership, but that’s optional. If you do choose to sign up, be aware that the subscription automatically renews.
The Charge 5 is expensive for a tracker, and there are definitely more affordable alternatives if you are on a tighter budget. That being said, you get a lot of fitness features for your money – with more additions coming in the future.
The device comes with multiple onboard GPS options, and it’s comfortable to wear for long periods of time, has a nice screen and can be paired with your smartphone for notifications. The exercise selection is solid, as is the battery and build quality.
There are omissions, however. We missed the lack of at least one physical button and would have liked a little bit more control over music playing through our paired smartphone. (We tested it using an Android). In addition, some features teased for the flagship wearable are either “coming soon” or behind the Fitbit Premium paywall. Luckily, the Charge 5 is still more than usable without having to sign up.
If you only need the basics, the Charge 4 is still a very capable fitness tracker. If you love the new design and screen – you won’t be disappointed with the new model.
Certain categories are weighted more highly.
Overall rating: 4/5