Easy to use, comfortable to wear, and jam-packed with health-tracking features, the Fitbit Charge 5 is our favourite fitness tracker. It’s small enough to satisfy those who prefer the size of a fitness tracker over a smartwatch but has a screen large enough to comfortably swipe through your stats on the device. With the Charge 5, you get a plethora of fitness tracking features like 24/7 heart rate monitoring, summarized sleep data, exercise statistics, and stress tracking all at your fingertips, which makes it a great pick for those who prefer looking at their information on their wrist instead of opening up an app.
The Charge 5 is slightly smaller than its predecessor and our former top pick, Charge 4 (it’s 10% thinner, according to Fitbit), and is comfortable to wear both while lounging and exercising. Its screen is twice as bright as the Charge 4’s and has an “always-on” display option, which makes it easy to read when you’re outside in the sun. It’s easy to scroll through and responsive to touch, even in the middle of a sweaty workout.
The built-in GPS is easy to use, thanks to the tracker’s exercise shortcuts. To record a walking, running, or cycling workout, swipe on the home screen to the exercise tab, select which activity you want to complete, and tap the start button. If you have your phone with you, the GPS takes only seconds to connect, and we didn’t experience any connectivity issues during the testing process. If you don’t have your phone, the GPS takes longer to connect—about 15 to 20 seconds. However, you don't need to wait around for the GPS before taking off. We found the Charge 5 to accurately estimate where an activity began and adjust the distance travelled.
While exercising, you can view information such as your average pace, distance travelled, calories burned, and more on your tracker. You can also keep tabs on your heart rate throughout your workout by turning on the heart rate zone alerts. I used these notifications during a HIIT cycling class and found they helped me push myself into the next heart rate zone during intense periods and gauge when my heart rate finally settled during recovery periods. That said, the heart rate measured on your wrist will never be as accurate as the heart rate recorded from a chest strap, so if you must track your pulse for medical reasons, it’s best not to rely on the Charge 5.
In the Fitbit app, you can later view your route as well as your heart rate and pace on the map so you can see where they increased and decreased along your run, walk, or bike ride. For example, stretches of your route where your heart rate was in a lower zone are marked in yellow, but sections where your heart rate increased are marked in orange and red accordingly.
We found Fitbit’s sleep tracking to be accurate and it comes with some extra bells and whistles users might find interesting. Aside from monitoring the sleep stages (awake, light, deep, and REM), the Charge 5 keeps tabs on your heart rate, restlessness, and estimated oxygen variation (the changes in your blood oxygen saturation). Though this isn’t a diagnostic tool, frequent spikes in oxygen variation could indicate breathing disturbances during your sleep you may want to talk to a doctor about.
The Charge 5 also has electrodermal activity (EDA) sensors that can help you track your stress levels. These EDA sensors measure electrical changes in your skin that can indicate how stressed you are. To use the EDA scanner, you swipe over to the EDA tab and start a session, in which you will hold the sensors (which are on the sides of the screen) between your fingers for three minutes. This helps inform your Fitbit of your stress level, which gets rated on a scale from one to 100, and you can log in the app how you are feeling afterwards.
Though all the features of the Charge 5 are helpful to have—or at the very least, interesting to view—the abundance of data can make using the tracker feel overwhelming at times. Unfortunately, Fitbit doesn’t let you customize all the pre-loaded tabs and features, so you can’t get rid of the ones you don’t regularly use. This lack of customization can make the device more difficult to use than it needs to be, and be frustrating for those who aren’t used to having so many data points available on their tracker.
Still, the Charge 5 impressed us with its ability to track so many different aspects of health. So for those looking for a fitness tracker that keeps tabs on exercise, stress, and sleep, check out the Charge 5.