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The redesigned appearance of the $180 band is striking, but GPS remains the most compelling feature.

Last year's Charge 4 was Fitbit's return to the fundamentals, bringing back a fitness tracker with integrated GPS for the first time in a long time. The $180 Charge 5 is an attempt by the business to bring its most competent band up to date. Since the Charge 4, Fitbit's full-featured smartwatches (the Versa and Sense) have had some of the functions that the Charge 4 lacked. The Charge 4 now contains those features.

Fitbit expects you to pay an additional $10 per month for Fitbit Premium, which gives you access to your past health data and more. Those who prefer bands to smartwatches will discover that the majority of fundamental functions stay the same with the Charge 5, and you'll have to determine whether the Premium benefits are actually worth the extra money.


Design


Surprised that Fitbit's design tweaks to the Charge 5 had such an impact. In addition to being 10% slimmer, the module is made of stainless steel in a color that should match the band you've selected. Because of its softer corners and less weight, it's easier to wear on the wrist. Compared to the Charge 4's design, the Charge 5's band is less noticeable and more comfortable when worn tight. The Charge 5 comes with a new soft-touch band that resembles the sport bands on the Apple Watch but has a more secure clasp.


7 Photos in the Fitbit Charge 5 review gallery









Lifting your wrist activates the 1.04-inch color AMOLED touchscreen display, which has also been upgraded. It's a huge improvement over the Charge 4's grayscale OLED screen, and it brings the Charge 5 in line with Fitbit's smartwatches.


Always-on mode may be activated in the settings of the device. As long as you have sleep mode on on your device, the clock and watch face will remain on, even if somewhat dimmed, throughout the day. Fitbit makes it clear that this has an impact on battery life.


Fitbit, on the other hand, removed all physical buttons from the Charge 5 because of the touchscreen. The sparkling slivers on the module's long edges may seem like capacitive-touch buttons, but they're really electrodermal activity (EDA) sensors that allow for stress monitoring. In comparison to the Charge 4, which had an inductive side button, I found it strange that there was no such button on the Charge 5.


Features, both old and new


A few sophisticated capabilities from Fitbit's Sense wristwatch, like as ECG measures and EDA monitoring, were rolled out to the Charge 5. I couldn't test the first since it's "coming soon," but the second is quite similar to the EDA tool on Fitbit's wristwatch. The Charge 5 features two lengthy sensors on its sides that you squeeze and hold when you want to take an EDA scan instead of obscuring the screen as you would with the Sense.


For the first three minutes, I sat in semi-frustrated quiet since I didn't realize you could alter the length of each scan (torture, I know). In order to determine how much stress you're under, the EDA sensor scans your skin and records any changes it finds.


it spotted towards the conclusion of the scan. In my first session, the Charge 5 recorded 18 occurrences, which presumably represented my growing dissatisfaction with the instrument.


The time left in your scan is shown on the device's screen, but nothing else is shown. There were recommended breathing exercises that may help you relax on Fitbit, but they have now been removed from the company's devices. Fitbit's app still contains meditation exercises, but I wish Fitbit had included them in the EDA tool on the Charge 5 (most are Premium, with just a couple free). I didn't feel any better after a scan; in fact, having my fitness tracker warn me that I could be stressed without offering any solutions made me angrier rather than calmer throughout my hectic day.


Other than that, the Charge 5 is essentially the same as the Charge 4, except that the full-color screen makes everything appear a little more shiny. A good GPS was likely the most significant feature of the Charge 4 — and it's still there in the new model, too. As soon as I started running, the built-in sensor picked up my position and the Fitbit app precisely charted my path.


In the meanwhile, Fitbit did not introduce any new music-specific features. That's a shame, since it took some away. Only Spotify Premium customers could use the Charge 4's screen to control playing since it had no internal storage. In light of Fitbit's findings, the company decided to remove Spotify from the music controls as well. But even though I can see the reasoning behind it, using the Charge 5 left me feeling let down each time I ran a track since I had to pull my phone out of my fanny pack every time I wanted to skip a track.


On the plus side, Fitbit's Charge 5 has useful alarm and timer applications. Many fitness bands already provide these basic features, so this isn't a smartwatch's fault. Setting daily alarms for medicine reminders and timers for washing, cooking, and the like is a huge time saver for me, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who does this.


Benefits of Purchasing Premium


Over the last three years, Fitbit has gradually integrated Premium, its $10 monthly health and fitness subscription, into all of its devices. This implies that sophisticated analytics, such as wellness reports, guided workouts, meditations, recipe inspiration, and more, are behind a paywall on the Charge 5.


The walled-off health measures are what bothers me the most. It implies that Fitbit users can only access the information they need to improve their sleep and exercise habits if they pay for it. Even after wearing the Charge 5 for months, you may discover just how much data you've been missing out on. That's a shame, but at least you'll get a taste of Fitbit Premium when you purchase a new Charge 5.


In addition to "advanced" health insights about your heart, exercise, sleep, and other areas based on your recorded data, Premium offers you access to 30-day and 90-day health trends. Additionally, only Fitbit members get access to Fitbit's health reports, which compile all of your data on things like heart rate, steps, weight, water and food consumption, exercise, sleep, and more.






Fitbit's Daily Readiness Score is a new feature that is exclusively accessible to Premium customers. Based on factors such as heart rate variability, sleep quality, and fitness exhaustion, it simply informs you when your body is ready to work out. Like Garmin's Body Battery score (which, by the way, doesn't cost anything more), this seems like it may be useful.


However, like with the ECG app I described previously, I was unable to try it out since it is slated to be released in the near future. For years, Fitbit has teased new goods with "coming soon" features, only to have them take an eternity to arrive. To be clear, I do not encourage purchasing a Fitbit gadget in anticipation of any future features that may take months to come.


This isn't a Fitbit Premium review since I haven't had enough time with the Charge 5 to acquire enough data to make an informed decision about the service. That said, Premium isn't for someone like me who has a well-established training routine and eats properly (most of the time). However, people who are just beginning their fitness journey, whether they are aiming to reduce weight, exercise more often, or eat healthier, may find this information valuable. For the most part, Premium's video workouts and food ideas aren't anything remarkable, but having them all in one spot motivates you to utilize them every single day. Many people in the fitness industry believe that the most difficult element of working out is just turning up. As a result, Fitbit's Premium service eliminates a lot of the guesswork that might make adopting a healthy lifestyle appear more difficult.


Life expectancy of a battery


The Fitbit Charge 5 offers up to seven days of battery life, but when the screen is constantly on, that estimate shrinks to two days. In the end, Fitbit's projections were quite accurate: With always-on mode enabled, I received roughly two and a half days of battery life, and five days of battery life when it was off. Battery life will be affected by how frequently you use the built-in GPS, so be mindful of that when planning your use patterns. For 45 minutes to an hour every other day on my runs, I utilized the GPS on the gadget.


It's a battle!


Because there aren't many fitness trackers priced at $180, it's difficult to draw any comparisons. Smartwatches like the $200 Garmin Forerunner 55 dominate the top end, while basic band-style trackers like the $80 Garmin Vivofit 4 and the $130 Vivosmart 4 are more inexpensive. A grayscale OLED screen on the Vivosmart 4 may be the most equivalent gadget out of the three, although it has a smaller form. Other functions include all-day activity tracking, exercise tracking and tracking such as VO2 max, Body Battery scores and tracking such as sleep and blood oxygen levels. It does not have an integrated GPS receiver. It also has a lengthy battery life and music controls right on the gadget.


Even within Fitbit's own range, the Charge 5 and $150 Luxe have a lot of same features. However, despite the fact that the latter is a bracelet-like device, it is more cheap and features a full-color display (which will soon enable always-on mode), activity and sleep monitoring as well as smartphone notifications, and much more. Fitbit Pay and on-board GPS are two features that are missing.


Wrap-up


When the Charge 5 costs $180, it's easy to think, "Why not just purchase a smartwatch?" Even an Apple Watch Series 3 (which I wouldn't suggest) is just $20 more expensive than a Garmin wristwatch. The Charge 5's band design, on the other hand, may appeal to those who like smaller smartwatches. For the most part, fitness bands feature smaller profiles, long-lasting batteries, and focus on health and exercise. It's a breath of new air if you're searching for that in a wearable, and the Charge 5 delivers.


In terms of features, the Fitbit Charge 5 is quite comparable to the Charge 4 in terms of inbuilt GPS and Fitbit Pay compatibility with NFC. Disappointingly, apart from the band's old look, Fitbit did not make any significant improvements to the prior band. Fitbit has disabled all music control capability, even for Spotify Premium customers, so the Charge 5 still has a small range of applications. It also doesn't interact with Apple Health or Google Fit. I'd expect a smartphone that now costs $30 more to make greater progress and differentiate itself. If your Charge 4 is still in good working order, you may safely ignore this update. However, if you don't already own a fitness tracker, the Charge 5 is one of your best bets for a GPS-enabled band.

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