Fitbit Charge 5 review TL;DR: The Charge 5 might not be as cheap as its predecessor but for the premium price, you get a premium fitness tracker that's worth it's salt.
I wasn't blown away by the Fitbit Charge 5 when I first reviewed it. At the time, some of the promised features, such as the Daily Readiness Score, were not available to try and I argued that for the exorbitant price, it just hasn't got enough to offer.
Times have changed and not only has Fitbit rolled out the features ever since but it also dropped the price for Black Friday/Cyber Monday, signalling that the company doesn't mind giving the fitness band away for cheaper to make it more appealing to people.
Fitbit Charge 5: price and availability
It's available in three colourways: Black / Graphite Stainless Steel, Lunar White / Soft Gold Stainless Steel and Steel Blue / Platinum Stainless Steel.
Fitbit Charge 5 review: Charge 5 vs Charge 4
Credit's where credit's due, Fitbit did introduce significant changes since the Charge 4.
The physical design has been completely revamped, and the Charge 5 now includes an AMOLED screen that's twice as bright as the Charge 4, at least according to Fitbit.
The sharp edges of the Charge 4 have been replaced with softer curves on the Charge 5, in line with the new Fitbit design philosophy. This was first introduced in the Fitbit Versa 3 and the Sense models, and sure enough, the Charge 5 looks more sophisticated than its predecessor.
The Charge 5 has a bunch of new features, too, including the Fitbit ECG App, the EDA Scan App, Reflections and Skin Temperature Tracking. It also inherited the built-in GPS, 20+ sport modes Menstrual Cycle Tracking, Stress Management Score and more from the Charge 4.
Fitbit Charge 5 review: design and ergonomics
One of the best things about the Fitbit Charge 5 is its physical design. Thankfully, Fitbit moved on from using that awful capacitive button; the Charge 5 is now fully touch operated. This means you might have to swipe more than once to arrive back on the home screen, but it's still a good trade if you ask me.
The AMOLED display is stunning and protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3 lens, so it won't crack when you accidentally bump your wrist in the door handle. The display itself is vibrant and has a high contrast ratio, making it easy to read even in broad daylight.
Sadly, it's on the small side, not just in general but also compared to other fitness trackers such as the Huawei Band 6. For people with smaller hands than mine (99% of the population), the Charge 5 might feel okay, though.
Speaking of displays: the Charge 5 now has an always-on screen. It's not anything to rave about and significantly impacts battery life, so I'd recommend not wasting precious battery power on it. It's too dim to be helpful, and frankly, flicking the wrist up works most of the time anyway. Should flicking the wrist not do the trick, you can tap the screen instead to wake it.
There is an option to have the screen always on during workouts which is a genuinely good idea. This helps you from having to do twist the wrist or tap the screen to wake the screen and check your heart rate or the time.
The new Infinity band is even more comfortable than before, and I really didn't mind wearing the Charge 5 24/7, which says a lot as I tend not to like wearing watches for sleep.
Fitbit Charge 5 review: features
The Fitbit Charge 5 is one of the most feature-rich fitness trackers on the market. It has all the features of the Charge 4 and added even more, such as the new EDA Scan (borrowed from the Sense), ECG (also borrowed from the Sense) and the Daily Readiness Score (DRS).
The EDA Scan app measures stress on the wrist. The measurement is simple; all you have to do is hold still and breathe. I personally found it hard to find a good finger position to perform the test but haven't seen anyone else complaining about it so the issue might just be my sausage fingers. After the assessment, you self-reflect and all data appear in the Fitbit App once the tracker has been synced.
ECG measurement is exactly the same as in Fitbit Sense: it's pretty straightforward. See also Withings ScanWatch, another ECG-capable watch.
The Daily Readiness Score is similar to Garmin's Body Battery and Whoop's Day Strain Score. It measures how ready your body is for exercising based on heart rate variability. It takes roughly two weeks for the Charge 5 to calibrate the zones and after that, it will give you the score and also recommends workouts from the Fitbit Premium exercise library.
Heart rate variability (HRV) is gaining more traction in fitness wearable circles as a good way of telling how healthy your body is. Without much detail here, HRV measures the variation in time between heartbeats and the larger your HRV number is, the more ready your body is to perform.
Fitbit Charge 5 review: accuracy
In my first review, I noted that the HR tracking accuracy of the Charge 5 was decent for running, and that statement still stands. When worn like a typical fitness tracker, the heart rate sensor of the Charge 5 works perfectly fine.
In the same review, I was slightly puzzled by the Charge 5 never picking up the GPS signal but showing my running route reasonably accurately in the Fitbit App afterwards.
I did some more digging since then (special shout out to Ray at DC Rainmaker), and the reason why the Charge 5 doesn't seem to find any GPS signal is that the antenna is tucked under the underside of the bezel, close to your skin. Fitbit recommends wearing the tracker looser for the GPS to work, which compromises heart rate reading accuracy.
If you're desperate to use the Fitbit Charge 5 for running training, I have bad news for you: it's not fit for the purpose. The antenna is physically placed where it is, so not even future firmware updates can alleviate the problem. The Charge 5 is perfectly capable of tracking heart rate on its own for HIIT workouts and whatever else workout you might do indoors.
What annoys me is that you have the onboard GPS – you pay for the onboard GPS – but you can't use it properly. It's the same story we have had with the capacitive button on the Charge 4. There is no point in having a button that doesn't fulfil its purpose. Give us a working GPS chip or leave it out, use connected GPS and sell the tracker for less.
Fitbit Charge 5 review: verdict
The Fitbit Charge 5 is a decent update over the Charge 4, and the AMOLED screen is very handsome. The updated Infinity Band is comfortable to wear for both exercising and sleeping. The overall user experience is also great; at this point, Fitbit knows how to create a useable fitness wearable.
However, once you look at the broader fitness tracker market, things get a little less rosy for the Charge 5. The AMOLED screen is much smaller than the ones found on other, usually cheaper fitness trackers. And, dang, is it expensive!?
For the price, you can get a Coros Pace 2 or two Huawei Watch Fit Elegant watches, and both of those are equally as good fitness wearables as the Charge 5. I'm sure Fitbit will eventually permanently lower the price and until then, I'd advise you to keep your eyes peeled for cheap Fitbit deals.
Fitbit Charge 5 review: also consider
Apart from the fitness trackers mentioned above, you might also want to consider the Garmin Venu Sq, a sporty fitness watch that's cheap and cheerful. Being able to access premium Garmin sports features for such a friendly price is a real bonus here. The screen is not quite as pretty as the Charge 5, though.
There is the Fitbit Inspire 2, another Fitbit tracker that also comes with a Fitbit Premium subscription included in the price but lacks onboard GPS. It's a bit less sporty than the Charge 4, but it's also one-third of its price.