The Charge series has been the flagship fitness tracker of Fitbit, which was bought over by Google, for many years. Into its fifth iteration, the latest Charge 5 offers plenty of upgrades and improvements over its predecessor – last year’s Charge 4.
For a start, it comes with a new AMOLED colour touchscreen display that is said to be twice brighter than that of Charge 4’s monochrome display. In addition, the Charge 5 features electrocardiogram (ECG) for measuring the electrical activity of your heart and electrodermal activity (EDA) for tracking your stress level.
In terms of design, it has a more streamlined looks with no physical buttons. Instead, there is a long thin rectangular sensor on each side of the Charge 5. These two sensors are used for the ECG and EDA functions of the fitness tracker.
The Charge 5’s front is dominated by the 1.04-inch AMOLED display. Since there are no buttons, everything is touchscreen operation for this fitness tracker.
Despite its small size, the display is easy to read in most lighting conditions except bright sunlight. It lights up almost immediately with every raise of my wrist. The display also responds swiftly to swipes and touches.
At the rear of the fitness tracker, you will find the optical heart rate sensor as well as the connector points for the proprietary charging cable. The charging cable is also USB-A. So if you are a MacBook Pro user, chances are you have to find a USB-A port charger somewhere else.
In the past, there had been skin allergy reports with Fitbit’s silicone straps. While I don’t have any issues with the straps, I developed a mild rash on my wrist where the heart rate sensor resides when wearing. This might not happen to you, but it is something to note.
As you might expect from Fitbit’s flagship fitness tracker, the overall performance is excellent.
+ Superb sleep tracking
+ Built-in GPS, ECG and EDA
+ Accurate tracking of steps and runs
+ Long battery life
+ Fitbit Pay contactless payment
– Requires Fitbit Premium subscription for more in-depth health metrics
– Not cheap
– Missing some features, such as altimeter, found in Charge 4
– Causes skin irritation (for me)
The Charge 5 took only 10 seconds – 20 seconds faster than Charge 4 – to get a GPS fix when I first wore it for a run. Subsequently, it took at most three seconds to do so. On my jogging route, it tracked around 200m more than the actual distance, which could be better.
The Charge 5’s daily step-tracking readings are spot on, differing by fewer than 30 steps from the readings of my newly-calibrated Apple Watch Series 7.
For heart-rate monitoring, its measurements differed by at most three beats a minute from the readings of my Apple Watch.
I am not too sure if the ECG or EDA readings are accurate, as that might mean having going into hospitals for measurements to compare. And given the current situation, it is better not to disturb the already-stretched hospitals.
In any case, the ECG readings say I am alright. And it is easier to measure, as you need to hold two fingers on the sides of Charge 5 for 30 seconds while staying still. For the EDA, you have to do the same for three minutes. And I think I feel more stressed about holding still for three minutes than anything else.
Sleep tracking remains excellent. The Charge 5 automatically tracks the amount of time you spend in light, deep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep stages, as well as the time you are awake. It accurately noted when I woke up to use the bathroom.
The device also shows sleep stages against their corresponding readings according to age and gender, so you know if you are sleeping normally. For instance, I discovered I get more deep sleep than most men my age. It also gives you a Sleep Score to show how well your sleep quality is.
With a Fitbit Premium subscription ($14.48 per month), you can get a deeper analysis of your sleep score and tips on how to improve your sleep quality. Not to mention, this premium subscription unlocks guided training programmes, more personalised insights and detailed analysis of physical activities.
Finally, with Fitbit Premium, you will also be getting Daily Readiness Score, which is available only this month. It uses insights gathered from the Charge 5, such as physical activity, heart rate variability (HRV over your entire night’s sleep) and recent sleep patterns, to determine if you should work out or prioritise recovery. It will even recommend the kind of workout you should be doing.
You have to wear the Charge 5 for at least 4 days before you get your first Daily Readiness Score, and even more personalised score after two weeks. I find it to be a good reference for you to gauge your well being. But ultimately, it is just a reference.
In short, you need to subscribe to Fitbit Premium to get most of the Charge 5. Buying this fitness tracker will give you six months free subscription of Fitbit Premium. As such, you have ample time to consider if you should continue the subscription once the trial period is over. But this means there is additional cost of having this fitness tracker.
The fitness tracker also features Fitbit Pay contactless payment. It currently supports only Visa and MasterCard credit cards from OCBC, UOB and Revolut banks. This came in handy as I was able to pay for my post-jog drink and last-minute groceries without having to take along cash or a credit card.
On the downside, the Charge 5 loses some features found in Charge 4. For example, there is no more Spotify music control and weather app. The guided breathing and relaxation sessions are moved to the Fitbit app from the Charge 5. Perhaps, most glaring omission is the lack of the altimeter previously found in Charge 4.
Battery life is rated at up to seven days. During the review, the battery level dropped to 20 per cent in five days of all-day usage, with two 4km GPS-tracked runs logged in. This is superb, as the average fitness trackers last only two or three days.
The Fitbit Charge 5 is probably one of the best fitness trackers in the market and definitely the best Fitbit fitness tracker. If you are in the market for one, this is definitely the fitness tracker to consider. That is, if you are fine with its not-so-cheap price tag of S$288.
For S$288, you can practically get two Huawei Fit Watch. Of course, you will not get premium features like ECG, EDA, or daily readiness score. But for some, they might not want to spend that much money and yet still have to pay extra for a subscription.
BATTERY LIFE: 10/10
VALUE FOR MONEY: 8/10