Last year's Fitbit Charge 4 was an excellent fitness tracker held back by a dated grayscale display and a cheap plastic build. Now in its fifth-generation, Fitbit's most popular device finally has an AMOLED color touch screen and a metal case, making the $179.95 Charge 5 a wearable you actually want to wear. Fitbit has removed Spotify support from this generation, but added several useful health monitoring features that were previously only available on its $299.95 Sense smartwatch, including an electrodermal activity (EDA) sensor that measures small electrical changes in your skin's sweat level to track your body's response to stress, and an electrocardiogram (ECG) app that checks for signs of atrial fibrillation (AFIb), an irregular heart rhythm that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure, and other serious complications. It offers a lot more functionality than the Luxe, with a similarly attractive design for only $30 more. The Charge 5 is easily Fitbit's best fitness tracker yet, and our new Editors' Choice winner.You Can Trust Our ReviewsSince 1982, PCMag has tested and rated thousands of products to help you make better buying decisions. (See how we test.)
A Major Makeover
The Charge 5 sits atop Fitbit's current fitness tracker lineup, offering a more advanced alternative to the fashion-forward Luxe ($149.95) and the budget-friendly Inspire 2 ($99.95). It's the only tracker out of the three with a built-in GPS, which lets you see your real-time pace and distance on your wrist when tracking an outdoor workout without your phone. Priced at $179.99, the Charge 5 costs $30 more than its predecessor, but justifies the increase with a number of design improvements and new health monitoring features.
It's available in three color options, including black/graphite, steel blue/platinum, or white/gold. For this review, the company sent me the white/gold model along with a lilac sport accessory band. The tracker comes with a six-month Fitbit Premium membership (for both new and returning users), which gives you access to more than 200 guided workouts, meditations with Deepak Chopra, and other wellness tools.Left to right: Fitbit Charge 4, Charge 5, Luxe(Photo: Angela Moscaritolo)
On the design front, the Charge 5 measures 1.44 by 0.89 by 0.44 inches (LWD), making it the widest of Fitbit's current fitness trackers. It has a bright, colorful 1.04-inch AMOLED touch screen, a major upgrade compared with the grayscale Charge 4. Moreover, the Charge 5 is Fitbit's first fitness tracker with an always-on display option, a feature that comes in handy when you want to simply glance down at your wrist to check the time.4.0Excellent $128.80See Itat AmazonRead Our Fitbit Luxe Review 4.0Excellent $179.00See Itat AmazonRead Our Fitbit Versa 3 Review 4.5Outstanding $399.00 See Itat AmazonRead Our Apple Watch Series 6 Review 4.5Outstanding$248.95See Itat AmazonRead Our Garmin Vivoactive 4 Review 4.0Excellent Starting at $30/MonthSee Itat WHOOPRead Our Whoop Strap 3.0 Review 4.0Excellent $299.00See Itat AmazonRead Our Coros Apex Review 4.0Excellent $228.99See Itat AmazonRead Our Polar Ignite 2 Review 4.0Excellent Read Our Wyze Band Review 4.0Excellent $279.00See It at Apple.comRead Our Apple Watch SE Review 4.0Excellent $197.17See Itat AmazonRead Our Garmin Lily Review
And while its predecessor sports a cheap plastic resin case, this year's model is housed in aluminum, giving it a classier look. It doesn't have any buttons, but features stainless steel panels on the sides that are flush with the case, serving as sensors for the ECG and EDA apps.Left to right: Charge 4, Charge 5(Photo: Angela Moscaritolo)
It's noticeably thinner in depth than the Charge 4 (Fitbit says it has reduced the case thickness by 10%), which not only gives it a more streamlined look, but makes it more comfortable to wear to bed.
The Charge 5 has a silicone band, and in the box you get both small and large size straps. The small one fits wrists 5.1 to 6.7 inches in circumference; the larger one accommodates wrists up to 8.3 inches. The tracker and the silicone band are water resistant to 164 feet, so they're safe to wear in the rain, pool, or at the beach.(Photo: Angela Moscaritolo)
Fitbit is also selling a range of Charge 5 accessory bands, including leather, nylon, and vented sport options, priced from $29.95 to $49.95. At the risk of stating the obvious, you should avoid getting the woven and leather bands wet. Changing the band is easy: There are two small tabs on the back of the tracker—just press them to release one strap and snap on a new one.
For everyday wear, Fitbit says the Charge 5 should be loose enough to slide up and down your wrist. During workouts, the company recommends wearing it higher on your wrist for a tighter fit.
The Charge 5 has a similar aesthetic to the Luxe, though the latter's shinier stainless steel case and narrower design makes it the better option for those who prioritize style, as long as you can deal with its tiny 0.76-inch display. I prefer the wider Charge 5 for its larger screen and more robust feature set. With the Luxe, you forgo built-in GPS and mobile payment support, two very useful features.
As a more style-minded alternative, we like the $199 Garmin Lily, which stands out for its jewelry-inspired design. The Lily lacks a color display, GPS, and ECG, but can measure your SpO2 level on demand (not just when you sleep), supports music playback controls, and lets you notify emergency contacts if you get into trouble and send quick text replies on Android, features that aren't available on the Charge 5.
Setting Up and Navigating the Charge 5
To start using the Charge 5, just plug the included charging cable into a USB port and attach the other end to the tracker, then wait for it to reach 100% battery life.
The Charge 5 supports Google Fast Pair for Android users, so as long as you have the Fitbit app on your phone, it will automatically bring you to the pairing screen when you take the Charge 5 out of the box.
To wake the Charge 5, simply rotate your wrist toward your face like you're checking the time, or firmly double-tap the screen. As mentioned, the tracker also has an always-on display option, which drains battery faster but allows you to see the time without waking the screen. When enabling the always-on display, you have the option to set off hours when the screen will automatically go dark. By default, it's set to turn off between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. to preserve battery life and avoid waking you up at night, though you can customize or disable the off hours if you prefer.
In terms of battery life, the Charge 5 promises to last up to a week on a charge, the same as its predecessor, which is impressive given its color display, bump in screen brightness, and slimmer design. Certain features significantly impact battery life, primarily GPS and the always-on display. Fitbit says the Charge 5 will last up to five hours while continuously tracking a workout with GPS, or up to two days with the always-on display turned on. In testing, it lasted three full days with the always-on display enabled during the day.
Fitbit offers 24 clock face options for the Charge 4. To personalize your clock face, tap the Charge 5 icon in the Fitbit app and select Clock Faces > All Clocks. The clock faces aren't customizable, which is a bit of a bummer. I wish you could at least customize the colors, a feature that's available even on the $25 Wyze Band.
Since the Charge 5 has no physical buttons, you navigate it exclusively with swipes and taps on the screen. That's a change from last year's model, which featured a multi-function inductive button on the left side of the device. Navigation is still simple as the interface is well organized, with mostly white text and colorful accents set against a black background.(Photo: Angela Moscaritolo)
To return to the clock face at any time, firmly double tap the middle of the screen. Swipe left or right from the clock face to access the following apps: Alarms, Exercise, EDA Scan, Notifications, Timers.
Swipe up from the clock face to access the Today app, which shows the date and your battery percentage, along with stats such as your Active Zone Minutes, calories burned, heart rate, hourly activity, resting heart rate, sleep duration, sleep score, SpO2 percentage, step count, and more. Swipe down from the clock to access Fitbit Pay, Do Not Disturb (which mutes notifications), Sleep Mode (which mutes notifications and sets the screen's brightness to dim), the Water Lock (which prevents the screen from activating when you're swimming or in the shower), and Settings.(Photo: Angela Moscaritolo)
Tracking Your Health and Fitness
For fitness tracking, the Charge 5 features 20 exercise modes, SmartTrack automatic exercise recognition, Fitbit's Active Zone Minutes metric, a GPS to map your route during outdoor exercises (like running, biking, and hiking), and in-app workout intensity maps showing your pace and heart rate zones throughout your route. To help you keep tabs on your ticker, it tracks your heart rate 24/7 and can alert you if it's unusually high or low.
At night, it will track the duration and quality of your shut eye, as well as your sleep stages (light, deep, and REM), breathing rate (the number of breaths taken per minute, a metric that's also soon headed to the Apple Watch), heart rate variability (HRV, a measure of your nervous system activity), skin temperature variation (whether you were hotter or colder compared with your baseline), and blood oxygen saturation (SpO2). Every morning, it will give you a stress management and sleep score.
When you swipe to the Exercise app, it gives you the following default tracking options: bike, interval workout, run, swim, treadmill, and weights. You can edit that list in the Fitbit app (tap your profile image > Charge 5 > Exercise Shortcuts). The list of available exercise shortcuts also includes bootcamp, circuit training, elliptical, golf, hike, kickboxing, martial arts, outdoor workout, pilates, spinning, stairclimber, tennis, walk, workout, and yoga. You can have up to six workout tracking shortcuts on the watch at a time. I chose bike, run, walk, weights, workout, and yoga.
It's a little disappointing that the list of available exercise shortcuts is so limited, and that you can only put six on the device at a time, especially given that tracking fitness is the main point of a fitness tracker. I'm currently testing the Aviron smart rowing machine for an upcoming review, so I've been doing a lot of indoor rowing lately, and I wish there was a tracking option for that here. Instead I just use the general workout tracking option, which shows your heart rate, calories burned, and duration on the screen. After the workout, I can go into the Fitbit app and manually categorize it as a rowing machine session. If I forget to do this, it will just appear as an unspecified workout.(Photo: Angela Moscaritolo)
In terms of accuracy, the Charge 5 delivered similar heart rate and calorie burn readings to an Apple Watch Series 6 (the Series 7 isn't available at the time of this writing). During a 15-minute core class on the NordicTrack Vault, which I'm also testing for an upcoming review, the Charge 5 said I burned 71 calories and had an average heart rate of 111BPM. For the same session, the Apple Watch (which conveniently offers a Core Training tracking option, another exercise shortcut I'd like to see on the Charge 5) said I burned 67 total calories and had an average heart rate of 109BPM.
During a one-hour rowing session on the Aviron, the Charge 5 said I burned 395 calories and had an average heart rate of 136BPM. The Series 6, meanwhile, said I burned 385 active calories and had an average heart rate of 147BPM.
Fitbit's SmartTrack feature automatically recognizes and records certain types of workouts, including walking, running, aerobic and elliptical sessions, outdoor cycling, continuous high-movement sports (like tennis, basketball, and soccer), and swimming. In testing, SmartTrack accurately logged several walks, but one time mislabeled a walk as a swim, a problem that also occurred once when I tested the Luxe. If this happens, you can manually re-categorize the exercise in the app.
No More Spotify, But More Health Insights
After adding Spotify support to the Charge 4 last year, Fitbit has removed the streaming service from its latest model. "Our data shows Charge 4 users have not used this music control on-device," a Fitbit spokesperson told PCMag. "We focused this device on what our research shows our users want and need."
To that end, the Charge 5 is Fitibt's first tracker with an EDA sensor, which measures small electrical changes in your skin to track your body's response to stress, a feature the company first introduced on the $299.95 Sense smartwatch last fall. In general, the fewer EDA responses recorded, the calmer you are.
To take an EDA scan on the Charge 5, just swipe to the app then gently hold the stainless steel panels on the sides of the device with your thumb and pointer finger for two minutes while staying still. This hand position is a little awkward, but not too bad. It's easier to take an EDA scan on the Sense, which simply requires you place your palm over the entire screen.(Photo: Angela Moscaritolo)
While taking a scan, you'll see a countdown timer, and the device will tell you to remain still and just breathe. The first time I took an EDA scan on the Charge 5, it recorded 19 EDA responses and said my heart rate decreased from 71 to 67BPM during the two-minute session. After taking an EDA scan, the Charge 5 asks you to reflect on how you're feeling (very calm, calm, neutral, stressed, or very stressed). You can change the length of a session to be anywhere from two to seven minutes, which makes for a nice, meditative break. The Fitbit app keeps a record of your EDA scans in the Mindfulness section, and your manual reflections about how you're feeling in the Stress Management section.
For fun, I then took a second EDA scan while playing a Chopra-led guided mindfulness session in the Fitbit app (a Premium feature) to see how my body would respond. During that scan, the Charge 5 recorded 21 EDA responses, and said my heart rate lowered from 76 to 68BPM.
The Charge 5 also promises to let you take an ECG from your wrist, another feature Fitbit first introduced on the Sense. At the time of this writing, the ECG app is not available on the Charge 5, but Fitbit says it's coming this fall.
Fitbit also soon plans to launch a new metric for Premium members called Daily Readiness Score, which is designed to help you quickly gauge whether your body is ready for a workout or needs a rest day. Your activity level, sleep stats over the past few days, and overnight HRV will all impact your score. A high score indicates you're ready for a challenging workout, while a low score means you should prioritize recovery. The Fitbit app will then offer workouts or meditations, depending on what your body needs.
Fitbit's Daily Readiness Score wasn't available at the time of this writing, but the company says it's coming soon. Fitbit seems to have pulled some inspiration from the Oura Ring, which already offers a daily readiness score that takes into account a number of factors (including your activity, body temperature, HRV, resting heart rate, and sleep) to measure your overall recovery and ability to perform at your peak. Polar and Garmin watches also offer similar features.
Fitbit's Best Tracker Yet
If you're looking to improve your health, the $179.95 Fitbit Charge 5 is an excellent investment. It offers top-notch fitness, sleep, and stress tracking features that can help you stay motivated to meet your workout goals, get to bed earlier, and incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine. The latest generation builds upon its predecessor with a more attractive design featuring an always-on color touch screen and a slim metal case. It's Fitbit's most expensive fitness tracker, but it offers several useful health and lifestyle features that aren't available on the style-focused Luxe or the entry-level Inspire 2, including built-in GPS, an EDA app to measure your stress, a planned ECG app to assess your heart rhythm, and mobile payment support. The Charge 5 balances form and function better than any other Fitbit tracker. Moreover, it offers more bang for your buck than any other fitness tracker we have tested, Fitbit or not, earning it out Editors' Choice award.4.5Editors' ChoiceSee It$129.95 at AmazonMSRP $179.95View More
With an always-on color touch screen, a sleeker design, and new health tracking features, the Charge 5 is a significant upgrade over the previous model and Fitbit's best fitness tracker yet.
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