Fitbit Charge 5: A powerful fitness and health tracker that keeps things simple

Tech review: Smaller and thinner than its predecessor, but is it worth the upgrade?

You can’t store any music on the Charge 5 so you may find you need your phone on a run.

Product name: Fitbit Charge 5

Price: €179.0

Where to buy: harveynorman.ie

Website: www.fitbit.com

Thu, Oct 7, 2021, 05:37

   

What more can Fitbit do with its Charge fitness tracker? The device has everything from built in GPS to blood oxygen monitoring, and it seems as if there are few other things to squeeze in to make it worth the upgrade.

But the Charge 5 still manages to bring a few new features to the table, streamlining the Charge even further and upgrading the display to make the new tracker a more attractive prospect.

What you get with the Charge 5 is largely what you expect. Activity tracking includes your active zone minutes, which is personalised to your own heart rate zone, plus 20 different workout modes. GPS is built in, as it was with the Charge 4, leaving you free to ditch the phone on a run and still track your route.

There are also a number of health management features, including the EDA stress monitoring, which uses small sensors built into the case to track electric dermal responses on your skin. The more responses it picks up the higher your stress levels are likely to be.

The Charge 5 will also track your heart rate variability – the variation in the time between each heartbeat – overnight. In the broader context of your health, it can flag potentially worrying trends before they become a problem. Skin temperature will also be tracked overnight.

Add into that the blood oxygen monitoring, respiration tracking and heart rate, and you will be given a fuller picture on your general health. The jury may be out on quite how useful this is to the average person, but it is interesting to see the trends as they emerge.

You’ll also get smartphone notifications to your wrist and – if your bank supports it – contactless payments through Fitbit Pay.

So is it worth the upgrade? Out of the box, the Charge 5 certainly looks impressive. It is smaller and thinner than its predecessor, with a stainless steel case and looks a lot softer (visually speaking) than its predecessor.

The biggest change to the Charge 5 is the display. The colour AMOLED screen is bright, even in the strong sunlight that can be a rarity in Ireland, and with the always-on option, you can check your time and stats with a glance even while working out. The latter will have an impact on the battery life, with Fitbit estimating it goes from five days down to two with always-on display activated. In reality, I didn’t find it wound down that quickly, getting a few days out of a full charge.

There are no more buttons on the Charge, not even the capacitive buttons that are on the Fitbit Sense. Swipe right to left to scroll through the menus; left to right will bring you back to the previous screen. A firm double tap on the screen will bring you back to the main clock screen.

The lack of buttons takes some getting used to. I found myself squeezing the case at the sides to try to get back to the main menu, which of course did nothing. It was a few days before I stopped automatically doing that.

Speaking of squeezing the case, I found the EDA stress reading a bit too much hassle to carry out regularly. It requires at least two minutes of holding the sensors to get a reading, which seemed to be a long time when you are trying to put just enough pressure on the sensors but not too much.

Overall though, the Charge 5 seems smart with some useful features. High and low heartrate notifications will be triggered if the watch detects anything out of the ordinary, with an alert if your heart rate is particularly high or low when you are inactive for at least 10 minutes

There is more to come. In a future update, Fitbit will bring its ECG app to the Charge 5, using the EDA sensors to allow you to assess your heart rhythm for atrial fibrillation. Holding the stainless steel panels on the sides of the device for 30 seconds will give you a reading that, if needed, you can download from the Fitbit app and pass on to your doctor.

The good

If you want a powerful fitness and health tracker that keeps things simple, the Fitbit Charge 5 is a good option. The battery life is decent, and the changes to the design make it more attractive for use in a range of scenarios.

The not so good

There is no way to control your music from the Charge 5, and while that may be a feature that wasn’t crucial to many users, its omission is an irritant. You also can’t store any music on the Charge 5 so you may find you need your phone on a run after all.

Some features, including the daily readiness score and the ECG app were not available at launch.

The rest

The Charge 5 requires an update out of the box, so set aside a good 10 to 15 minutes to get the update downloaded and installed.

The Charge 5 also comes with a six month subscription to Fitbit’s premium service, which allows you to follow trends over a longer period of time and gain insights into the data that your watch is gathering. Again, there are some interesting elements to this, but is it enough to get people to pay for the service once their six months is up?

The verdict

With the Charge 5, Fitbit does again what it does best.

fitbit.com