Fitbit Charge 5 review TL;DR: the Charge 5 is not a terrible fitness tracker, but due to the exorbitant price and the missing features, it's hard to recommend it until future firmware updates patch things up a bit.
I have mixed feelings about the Fitbit Charge 5.
Sure, it's not the best fitness tracker, nor is it the best Fitbit, but it's 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 the Fitbit Charge 5 is currently also missing some of the promised features (although these are supposed to be "coming soon"). And, dang, is it expensive!?
That said, two paragraphs don't serve the Charge 5 justice, so read on to find out if you should buy Fitbit's latest fitness wearable (or not).
Are you after a cheap Fitbit Charge 5 deal? If you're in the US, you're in luck! It's currently $50 cheaper than usual! The rest of you should have a look at our best Black Friday deals roundup where we collect all the best offers and sales.
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 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 the screen 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 not a bad idea. This helps you from having to do the twist or the tap 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
On paper, 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).
Now, this is all well, but sadly, some of these features are not actually available in the Charge 5 yet. You can already use the EDA scan and self-reflect after each measurement on the tracker and in the Fitbit App which is great. 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.
ECG and the DRS are missing, though. The former probably doesn't need much explanation – see also Withings ScanWatch – while the latter 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.
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.
The trouble is, as far as I'm concerned, you need a Fitbit Premium subscription to access these features, which in itself shouldn't be an issue as buying a Charge 5 also includes six months of Fitbit Premium Subscription.
But since Fitbit didn't tell us when these features will be available, you can end up in a situation where you buy the tracker now and run out of the subscription before these features are rolled out.
Truth be told, the Charge 5 is fine to use even without these two features, but considering the price, I would want to have a tracker that delivers on features hard. And currently, the Charge 5 doesn't.
Fitbit Charge 5 review: accuracy
In my initial review, I noted that the HR 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
I could forgive the Fitbit Charge 5 for its shortcomings if it didn't have such a hefty price tag. 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 or even better fitness wearables than the Charge 5.
I wish Fitbit waited a bit longer and released a competent Charge 5. Right now, I wouldn't recommend buying it until all the features are available as the Fitbit Charge 5 is just too expensive for an incomplete fitness band. It's almost twice as expensive as the Charge 4, and apart from the prettier physical design, it hasn't got enough going on that justifies the high asking price.
I'm sure Fitbit will lower the price of the Charge 5 sooner rather than later, and I would advise you to wait until then. Once all the features are up and running and the price has been brought down to a more reasonable level, you might get your money's worth.
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.