FitBit Charge 5 Review

Hello friends, today we’re going to be taking a close look at the Fitbit Charge 5 from mainly a running and fitness enthusiast perspective. The Charge 5 is Fitbit’s latest addition to the charge lineup, their mid-tier level product line. For casual running and general wellness for overall activity tracking.

Buy On Amazon: FitBit Charge 5

And I’ve been testing it day after day, just wearing it for public life and several running activities to test the GPS and heart rate accuracy. That being said, I’ve been putting off doing this detailed review because of some of the issues I’ve run into with the Fitbit Charge 5 in my testing so far when it comes to accuracy and reliability. However, at its current price point of around $129 on sale, I’ve seen it on Fitbit’s website, Amazon, and a few other places. It still might be a compelling option for some people as long as you know the limitations and margin error.
Exterior Design and Features for Fitbit Charge 5

Let’s get into the design and build quality of the Fitbit Charge 5.
The Fitbit Charge 5 looks like all of its older ancestors and features a narrow band design, a classic Fitbit style. Love it or hate it. The case of the Charge 5 is made mainly out of aluminum. However, the back is a bit of plastic around the heart rate sensor, and the back does feature an updated optical heart rate sensor and SPO 2 sensor, which we’ll talk about later in this review. Next to the heart rate sensor, you’ll find the proprietary charging port for the Charge 5, and it comes with a USB cable. The end has a little magnetic attachment and just kind of clips onto the main body.

The Fitbit Charge 5 does replaceable feature bands that you can easily replace. You just pop them off with your thumbnail, and the mechanism is pretty cool. It pops right off, and you can buy these pretty cheap on Amazon or direct from Fitbit.

The build quality and durability of the Fitbit Charge 5 feel pretty solid in my hands. It’s definitely a lightweight device, but it is made out of metal, so it does feel pretty robust. Chart 5 is water-resistant down to 50 meters, so you can take it for a swim or go for a long run in the rain. You do not have to worry about it when you’re in the shower or something like that. I’ve binged it off doorknobs and rocks while trail running, and it’s still holding up reasonably well.

When it comes to the display on the Charge 5, it received a significant upgrade compared to the older charge line up like the Charge 4. This has a one-inch Amber LED touch display. One inch doesn’t sound very big. However, it’s pretty usable thanks to its orientation being more vertical and horizontal in the menu system lends itself to this orientation. The display on the Chart 5 gets really bright, and it’s really easy to read even out in direct sunlight when you’re out for a run or ride or whatever. It’s not a big deal regarding readability because this is an AMOLED display. It is not an always-on display, but it is a gesture-based display, and that means while you’re wearing the device, the display actually turns off until you raise your hand to look at it. Then it’ll automatically turn back on. If you dive into the settings of the Charge 5, you can turn on the always-on display mode, but in that mode, you will take a significant hit in battery life.

The Fitbit Charge 5 also comes feature-packed with additional sensor capabilities which weren’t available previously in the Charge lineup. As I said, there is an optical heart rate sensor on the back of the device. However, there is an SPO 2 sensor to pick up your blood oxygen saturation level right inside that heart rate sensor. On top of the heart rate sensor, you have a skin temperature sensor and an EKG sensor, and we’ll get into how useful these sensors are a little later.

The user interface on the Fitbit Chart 5 is pretty intuitive, and again it’s a pretty significant upgrade compared to last year’s Charge 4, which I found to be a little bit clunky and laggy compared to this one. Instead, the Charge 5 has been super responsive. It’s got a touch interface, and it’s well laid out. Overall, this user interface is very snappy. There’s no lag or anything like that when you’re swiping between screens or going through the settings. Overall, it’s a pretty good experience.

The watch face of the Fitbit Charge 5 features some interesting information. You have things like your time and date, but on the left, you also have the useful gauge that gives you an idea of how close you are to your goals for the day. Swiping left or right from the Charge 5 watch face brings you through the various widgets of the Charge 5, such as phone notifications. It has an exercise menu, and this is where you would start multiple activities like running, cycling, swimming, etc. Then, we’ve got alarms, timers, then we’ve got Aida scan, and this is a 3-minute-long stretch management test that we’ll talk about in a bit over again.

And we’ve got the electrocardiogram or EKG sensor, and this is a 32nd test that will pick up your heart rate. And again, we’ll talk about this in a little bit, and then we get back to our watch face when it comes to smartwatch features on the Charge 5, there isn’t a lot to choose from, but there are a few features. For instance, you can see your phone’s notifications. This will show your text messages or Facebook messages or emails etc. that come in on your phone will be displayed here.

And if you swipe down, you do have the ability to pay for stuff with the device itself. You are using Fitbit payments which allows you to store your credit card information in the device itself. So when you get to a 7-Eleven or just somewhere when you want to buy a coffee at Starbucks or something like that, you can just tap the device on the credit card machine to pay for stuff which is pretty helpful in terms of everyday routine. That’s a strong point for the Fitbit devices because that’s initially what they were designed to do way back in the day; the Fitbit Charge 5 will cover all the basics like your step count, your calories burned, active time per day, distance per day, as well as your floors climbed every day. The charge five will also track your sleep, but out of the box by default, it’s pretty basic, and it doesn’t give you any advanced analytics about your sleep. It’s just overall sleep duration.

Fitbit Premium Subscription
That said, now let’s talk about Fitbit Premium. Fitbit Premium is a subscription-based service that costs $10 per month or $80.00 per year. By signing up, it does give you additional features to the Charge 5 like Advanced Sleep tracking, stress management tools with EDA, scan a readiness score which is similar to Garmin Body Battery which tries to give you how much energy you have left in your day and all this information is pretty useful. However, I find Fitbit Premium to be extremely frustrating. It drives me nuts when brands advertise a particular set of features only to find out when you buy the thing; you have to sign up for a monthly fee to get the most out of your device. I’m just not into that.

That said, you can still use the Fitbit Charge 5 in everyday life and get valuable information from it without Fitbit Premium. But if you want the most from it, just know that you’ll have to add that additional cost for the monthly fee. With that rant out of the way, let’s talk about monitoring activity tracking on the Charge 5 for or run or ride. The Charge 5 has six built-in activity profiles for running, biking, swimming, treadmill, running weights, and interval training.

I found this selection to be kind of lacking. It doesn’t cost Fitbit anything to add more profiles. It’s literally like a copy and pastes in the code, but they limited this without any additional profiles. I’d expect a device like this to have walking, hiking, or just a general overall cardio profile to catch all those other activities like yoga or whatever that there’s no profile for. I think these six activity profiles will capture most things that people would use this kind of device. But, it is a little bit frustrating that they didn’t add more when it comes to the activity interface on the FitBit Charge 5. It’s pretty basic. There are two data fields, and when you go on a run, it’ll give your total distance and an additional data field that you can tap on and cycle through other metrics. Unfortunately, you can’t customize these data fields, and you can’t add more data fields to them. It is what it is out of the box, and there’s no way to get more information per screen other than tapping on that lower metric to get more information.

Fitbit App for IOS and Google Play
Now let’s talk about the Fitbit app that you would install on your iOS device or Google device. The Fitbit companion smartphone app and the website have always been a selling point for Fitbit devices because the ecosystem is pretty polished, and the app is well built. It’s easy to use. It’s got simple menus, and it’s easy to understand the graphs and layout. Another perk of the Fitbit ecosystem, you can also access all the data from any browser on any device. If you have friends or family using a Fitbit device, Fitbit has a fun way of creating friendly challenges to get everyone moving more with step competitions. Overall, the Fitbit app and website are one of the best features of Fitbit devices, and I feel like most beginners would pick it up with no problem. Getting set up and running is pretty easy and quick.

Battery Life
When it comes to battery life on the Fitbit Charge 5, I was pleasantly surprised because it is so tiny and has that bright OLED display on the front of it. I was not expecting more than a couple of days with it. Fitbit claims that the Charge 5 can last up to seven days as a smartwatch with essential functions, and I’m seeing more like three or four days depending on use. I also record a GPS track every day, which takes more power from the device. Overall, though, battery life is acceptable for a machine like this, and in its price range, it’s pretty solid.

GPS Accuracy

Let’s talk about GPS accuracy, just like the previous Fitbit Charge 4. Chart 5 features a built-in GPS chip, which is great because you can track a run or a ride without your phone. What I found interesting about the Charge 5 is that even though it’s got a built-in GPS chip and antenna by default, when you take this thing out of the box, It’s configured to use connected GPS, which doesn’t use that internal GPS function at all. Instead, it uses your phone’s GPS chip as long as you have your phone on you.

I thought it was bizarre that they would have a device with a built-in GPS chip but have it set up to use your phone’s GPS out of the box. Why would they do that? After I started testing this device and forced it to use the internal GPS chip, I realized why the GPS accuracy on the Charge 5 was not good. It isn’t good. I’ve taken the Charge 5 out on several runs, varying from road to trail with short and long-distance.

And I’ve yet to get any good results from this device. In general, I’m seeing a lot of smoothed corners, which means it’s not an accurate corner. If I came up and took a hard left or something like that, I would see more of a rounded corner, and I’m also seeing a lot of straight lines where there shouldn’t be straight lines, so it seems like the GPS chip is throwing out a lot of information, and it’s kind of connecting dots point to point. Fortunately, you can switch the device into hybrid GPS mode, which will utilize your phone’s GPS chip instead of the internal GPS chip, yield much better results. As long as your phone is in a good position on your body to have a good GPS connection, that will improve the accuracy.

However, at that point, you’re paying for an internal antenna and GPS chip on this device that you’re not using. So yeah, not a great solution, but at least there is a solution with GPS accuracy.

Optical Heart Rate
Let’s talk about the optical heart rate sensor on the back of the device. Fortunately, this sensor performed better than the GPS sensor; however, not by much. On some runs, it’s not a perfect heart sensor, but I’d get pretty good accuracy from the optical heart rate sensor.

But on other runs, I was getting less than stellar accuracy, and it seemed like it depended on how tight I was wearing the device. If I had a little bit looser and tighter, some days would be better. Some days would be worse, and I experimented on what tightness I needed to do to get the best results. Generally, I would say that the overall accuracy of the Fitbit Charge 5 is OK. I would qualify it as acceptable. If you’re not looking for flaws and not comparing them to a chest belt or something like that, you probably wouldn’t mind the error margin inaccuracy.

Essentially, this device was designed so that if you have it strapped down too tight on your wrist, it blocks the GPS antenna with your skin, which in turn, decreases the device’s accuracy. On the other hand, if you wear the device a little too loose, you get better GPS accuracy but substantially worse optical heart rate performance. Why was it designed like this? Who knows? I don’t work for FitBit, but it seems like a significant flaw.

Final Verdict

OK, final thoughts on the Fitbit Chart 5. Is it good? Is it bad? Who’s it for? It’s a little bit confusing.

On the one hand, I like the redesign in the new OLED display is excellent on the Fitbit charge five. It’s great to use in daily life as a smartwatch. Read your text messages on, and It’s just excellent overall everyday wear, and I also like the small form factor in lightweight in the fact that it just kind of gets out of the way. It’s not a big chunky watch like the Garmin. It’s minimal. It’s not an unobtrusive device, and it collects a lot of good metrics that can give you a lot of value in your health and everyday wellness.

Unfortunately, that’s where my praise ends on Charge 5. The GPS accuracy on this device was so bad that I wish they’d just excluded the internal GPS antenna entirely and left it as a connected GPS device that leverages your phone at a lower price point. Sometimes, the Fitbit Charge 5 is on sale for about $130 at most places, and at that price, it’s still a perfect everyday wellness tracker for tracking your steps and calories burned and engaging in friendly competition in the Fitbit app. It’s still got a lot going on at that price point, so I guess I’m back and forth here. I’m kind of flip-flopping on.

If this thing were still selling for its retail price of $180, I’d probably skip it, but at its current sale price, if you know what you’re getting into. You know the limitations of the Charge 5; it could be a valuable tool for getting in better shape at a compelling price point. I think that’s where I’m going to leave it. I don’t have an actual definitive conclusion on the Fitbit Charge 5.

Drop down in the comments below and let me know if you are interested in the Charge 5, or will you skip it? Do you think it’s a good option at its current price point? Let me know in the comments down below. I would love to hear from you.