Live Science Verdict
Fitbit’s latest is a good-looking fitness tracker that offers almost everything you need — but those who prefer to exercise with music may need to look elsewhere.
Easy to use interface
Bright display, even in sunlight
Plenty of trackers and sensors
Great low-profile design
Lacking in media playback options
Slim display won’t be for everyone
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The Fitbit Charge 5 is now the manufacturer’s best fitness tracker, packing in everything the company has learned from years of honing its craft. This smart tracker includes options for stress tracking, sleep tracking, and mindfulness sessions to keep yourself mentally ready — as well as maintaining your physical fitness.
That said, if prior Fitbits haven’t sold you on the thin, svelte design that can make readability an issue, then the latest model won't change your opinion of the trackers. And the lack of on-board music controls (which were actually part of the Charge 4) is sure to disappoint music lovers out for a run if they don’t want to be attached to their phone.
Software: Fitbit OS
Compatibility: iOs and Android
Battery life: 7 days approx
Display: 0.86" x 0.58" x 1.04" (AMOLED)
Water resistance: 5 ATM
Heart rate monitor: Yes
Sleep tracking: Yes
Music storage: No
Thankfully, it’s hard to find fault with the rest of the Charge 5, which might be one of this year's best running watches. As a fitness tracker it adds metrics we didn’t know we needed, and as a smartwatch it offers notification support for iOS and Android, and contactless payments. If you’re focused on fitness in 2022, the Fitbit Charge 5 will help you track and achieve your goals better than most. It is, in our eyes, the best Fitbit you can buy right now.
Price and release date
The Fitbit Charge 5 was launched on August 25th, 2021. It retails for £169.99 in the UK, and $179.95 in the US. It comes with a six-month free trial of Fitbit Premium, which we’ll touch on later.
You can usually find it retailing for a lot cheaper than the above MSRP though. It often costs as little as $100, making it one of the best budget fitness trackers that we've tested.
Design and display
- Slim design
- Colorful AMOLED display
- Black, white and blue models available
Fitbit’s 'design language hasn’t really changed a great deal over the last few years, and that’s not likely to be an issue for most.
The Charge 5 maintains the feeling of being more of a bracelet than a watch, with a slimline chassis and an equally narrow strap, with two length options in the box and more sold separately. Straps are easy to swap, even more so than with the Apple Watch, with a small clasp on each side of the chassis that can be lifted. Don’t worry, though, it’s plenty secure on your wrist.
While the Charge 4’s display left a lot to be desired, the Charge 5 offers an AMOLED display that means pure blacks surround the more colorful elements. The contrast really helps those elements — like the time on the home screen — stand out in a way that simply wasn’t possible with the last entry.
It’s also easy to read, and interact with on sunny days. That’s a good thing, because there are no physical buttons on the Charge 5. Unlike Apple’s reliance on a digital crown and a button, Fitbit is completely all-in on prodding the display on your watch.
Depending on how you’ve felt about Fitbit in the past, though, you may be tempted to look elsewhere. Notification text can wrap awkwardly on the slim display, and you’ll need to swipe from side-to-side to reach workouts, alarms, and the various sensor functions. That also means no customizable home screen options, so don’t expect to set your favourite workouts so they’re a tap away. Anyone who needs a bigger display should opt for something like the Apple Watch 6.
Flip the Charge 5 over, and you’ll find a magnetic connector alongside the heart rate sensor, but there’s no power brick in the box. That’s not uncommon these days as manufacturers look to combat waste, but it’s something to be aware of if you don’t have anything with a spare USB-A port.
Our review unit is the black colorway, but you can also buy a lunar white or steel blue variant if you’d like a little more brightness.
- In-built GPS
- New EDA and ECG trackers
- Comes with six month subscription to Fitbit Premium
The Fitbit Charge 5 feels like the Swiss Army Knife of fitness trackers, and there are bound to be some features you’ll use more than others.
Not only does the Charge 5 offer the basic slate of options such as heart rate tracking and step counting but it’ll also track your workout using built-in GPS — no mean feat given it’s slender profile.
That’s not all, though. The Charge 5 offers an ECG app and a new electrodermal activity (EDA) tracker. The ECG tracker will allow you to check for atrial fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat) while the EDA test will look for sweat secretion — which can be a marker of stress.
There’s also a library of mindfulness sessions to help lower stress, with different length exercises to help fit them into your day.
On the subject of Fitbit Premium, the Charge 5 comes bundled with a six month membership to the service. While your mileage will vary, the additional features you can expect for that period include Guided Programs, which encompass diet, sleep, and fitness, a series of additional workouts, and a deeper look into your personal stats than non-premium users.
Fitbit’s Daily Readiness Score is the company’s new way of tailoring workouts and activities to your wellbeing. Your Fitbit assigns you a simple score that’s a composite of your activity, sleep, heart rate and more.
The feature rolled out in November 2021 for Premium customers, and the higher your score, the more intense the activity recommendations will be for your day. It’s not a Charge 5 exclusive feature, but it’s a neat way of knowing you won’t be pushed into additional workouts after a terrible night of sleep.
Fitbit Premium isn’t a must, but if you’re looking for more personalised coaching, it’s worth considering that you’ll need to pay $9.99/£7.99 per month or $79.99/£79.99 per year to keep it after the trial ends.
- Accurate GPS tracking
- No music control
- Great battery life
We tested the Fitbit Charge 5 on runs, with it on one wrist and the Apple Watch Series 5 on the other running Strava.
We’re pleased to say that both clocked in at roughly the same distance, bar a few metres one way or the other, which is pretty great considering the Fitbit is much smaller and lighter than Apple’s offering. If you’re looking for a more accurate read, you’ll want to opt for something more GPS-focused, but the Fitbit is a solid choice for ninety-nine percent of people.
While the Fitbit app is great, offering a day-by-day look at your fitness metrics, the Charge 5 does tend to lean a little too heavily on it. By default, there are spaces on the workout tab of the watch for half a dozen exercises, but you’ll need to swap them around if you want to tweak that. For example, a standard walk isn’t part of the basic setup, so you’ll have to remove something to add it in.
Another issue is that there’s no way to control audio playback through the Charge 5, something its predecessor did offer. While we wouldn’t expect any onboard storage for offline music or podcasts, it’s a shame not to be able to skip tracks or pause a playlist from your wrist. It's a feature that other similarly priced trackers like the Amazfit GTR 3 Pro offer now.
Where Fitbit devices often excel is in their battery life, though, and we’re pleased to say that’s still the case with the Charge 5. In testing, wearing the device regularly, enjoying a series of workouts each week and using it for notifications, we got just shy of six days of use — which tallies with Fitbit’s own benchmark. It’s worth noting that using features like the always-on display or regularly taking ECGs will see that chopped down, but in comparison with something like the Apple Watch it’s miles ahead.
If you’re looking to find an ideal first fitness tracker, you’ve found it with the Fitbit Charge 5. Whether it’s tracking your workouts, your sleep, your stress levels or carrying out an ECG, there’s a lot packed into such a compact device — especially at the price point here.
Aside from the backward step in music playback, it’s a confident update to the Charge 4, offering a brighter, colourful display, as well as more sensors than you’ll likely ever need.
If this isn’t for you
Those looking for music playback options or a more self-sufficient watch that relies a little less on a companion app may want to look into something like an Apple Watch, or the Amazfit GTR 3 Pro. Both of those offer larger displays, too, if you’re less keen on the slimline design of the Charge 5.
Lloyd Coombes freelance tech and fitness writer for Live Science. He's an expert in all things Apple as well as in computer and gaming tech, with previous works published on TopTenReviews, Space.com, Dexerto and TechRadar. You'll find him regularly testing the latest MacBook or iPhone, but he spends most of his time writing about video games as Editor in Chief at GGRecon.com. He also covers board games and virtual reality, just to round out the nerdy pursuits.