Fitbit Charge 5: three reasons to buy, and three reasons not to

Is the best Fitbit fitness tracker the best fit for you?

There’s no denying that the Fitbit Charge 5 is one of the best budget fitness trackers available right now. Packed with features, for many it is one of the most complete offerings on the market and offers almost everything a health-conscious individual may wish to track. There are plenty of reasons to buy a Fitbit Charge 5. But there are also a few reasons not to.  

Fitbit is one of the best-known brands in the world of fitness trackers and has a reputation for delivering excellent devices. The Charge 5 continues in that vein, and there was a lot that impressed us.

But there are some niggles that stop it being perfect. And depending on what you want from your wearable device, it may mean that this isn’t the right fitness tracker for you. 

The Fitbit Charge 5Credit: Saga Exceptional

The Fitbit Charge 5

You can read our Fitbit Charge 5 review to see what we thought of it, but in summary, we were impressed. Now that the price has dropped substantially from its launch RRP of £179, it competes with other budget fitness trackers, and is undoubtedly one of the best of these affordable devices.

It is though, still significantly more expensive than some other very good trackers, such as the Honor Band 7 or Xiaomi Smart Band 7, both of which are often available for under £50. 

When it comes to deciding whether to buy the Charge 5, much of it will come down to your budget, and what features you want from your fitness tracker. Having tested this device, there are a few factors we feel are worth considering when it comes to making your buying decision.  

3 reasons to buy

Reasons to buy the Fitbit Charge 5:

1. GPS

When we’ve tested fitness trackers, one of the most noteworthy features is GPS. GPS enables your device to track outdoor sports or activities such as running, walking and cycling without needing your phone. And devices with built-in GPS are generally a lot more accurate than devices that rely on connected GPS (which relies on your phone to track where you are).  

While many more expensive smartwatches come with built-in GPS, it’s a lot less common in budget fitness trackers. The Xiaomi Band 7 Pro is one notable exception. But even devices from premium brands such as the Polar Unite and Garmin Vivosmart 5, lack their own GPS.  

If you want the most accurate tracking of the distance you’ve covered, the route you travelled, and your speed, then built-in GPS is a massive selling point for the Charge 5. 

2. The Fitbit App

Screenshots from the Fitbit app, showing Cardio Fitness, the Home Screen, and stress managementCredit: Saga Exceptional

It may not be the first thing you think about when buying a fitness tracker, but the app that supports the device is crucial to the all-round experience. Your fitness tracker may collect all the data under the sun, but if the app that then presents that data is unusable, it won’t be long before that fitness tracker finds itself at the back of a drawer, gathering dust alongside an old Walkman and a pager. 

Thankfully, the Fitbit app is one of the best apps available. It presents the data collected by the Charge 5 clearly and cleanly and offers plenty of information to explain what the data means, or how you can improve some of your metrics. You can also compete with friends who own Fitbit devices, to keep each other motivated in reaching your fitness goals. It’s a well-thought-out app that does almost everything you would want.  

You don’t need a Fitbit to use the Fitbit app (although you won’t get quite as much out of it as you would with a companion device). This means you can explore the app before buying a fitness tracker, should you wish.  

3. Extra health monitoring features

The ECG screen on the Fitbit Charge 5Credit: Saga Exceptional

There are plenty of health and fitness metrics that you expect any half-decent fitness tracker to offer. These include heart rate and blood oxygen monitoring, step counting, calorie burn estimates, and sleep and exercise tracking.  

The Charge 5 offers all these features, plus a couple of extras. The Charge 5 can take an ECG (electrocardiogram) which can help to identify an irregular heartbeat. It also offers something called EDA (electrodermal activity). This monitors changes in the sweat level in your skin, to gauge your stress levels. 

These features are rare in fitness trackers at this price point. So, if you’re looking for as much health data as possible, the Charge 5 offers more than most of its direct competitors.   

3 reasons not to buy

Reasons not to buy the Fitbit Charge 5:

While there are lots of positives about the Fitbit Charge 5, there are also a few reasons why you may decide not to buy it. 

1. Fitbit Premium

The Fitbit Charge 5 pictured next to the Fitbit Premium appCredit: Saga Exceptional

Yes, we did sing the praises of the Fitbit app earlier. But we’re much less enthusiastic about the Fitbit Premium aspect. This service offers additional content to support the information you’re getting from the Charge 5, including recipes, workouts, and guided meditations.

But there are also certain insights based on your own data that you can’t receive unless you for Fitbit Premium. These include extra sleep insights, stress management features and your Daily Readiness score, which tells you whether your body is ready to exercise, or in need of something gentle. 

We found Fitbit Premium irritating because it means you can’t access all your data insights without paying an extra £7.99 a month. And other companies, such as Garmin and Withings, supply all their data insights at no extra cost. If you want all your data insights, then your Charge 5 plus Fitbit Premium starts to look expensive.  

2. Fitbit Pay

Contactless payments may not be the first thing you think about when shopping for a fitness tracker. But if you’re considering buying the Charge 5 because it offers Fitbit Pay, we’d urge you to think carefully.  

Fitbit Pay is Fitbit’s equivalent of Apple Pay or Android Pay, and in theory, it allows you to use the Charge 5 for making contactless payments. Unfortunately, it’s only available with a handful of UK banks, and for many users, it’s unlikely to work with their debit or credit cards. For those people, it’s a feature that’s entirely redundant. 

As such, we don’t think you should think too much about Fitbit Pay as a feature in the Charge 5. 

3. Small screen

The Fitbit Charge 5 next to the Amazfit Band 7Credit: Saga Exceptional

The Charge 5 doesn’t have a bad screen. It’s a full-colour AMOLED display, which is bright and clear. At 1.04in (26.43mm) it isn’t especially large though. For many, this might not be an issue. But a smaller screen can make it harder to read, and there are other devices that offer significantly larger screens that are also extremely bright and clear.

Consider the Xiaomi Band 7 Pro or Huawei Band 7 for example. And, as an aside, both of those devices offer superior battery life to the Charge 5. 

The other drawback of the relatively small screen is that this is a device that is entirely touchscreen controlled. The smaller the screen, the more fiddly it becomes to use. We found it particularly difficult when we wanted to wake the screen during a workout. 

Of course, the screen size may not be a hindrance to everyone. But it’s a factor that’s well worth thinking about before making the commitment to buy this device. Especially if you think you may struggle to read the display or use the touchscreen.  

Should you buy?

Should you buy a Fitbit Charge 5?

Think carefully about what’s important

The Fitbit Charge 5 is an excellent device. For many, will be an ideal fitness tracker to help support those health and fitness goals. Even so, there are aspects of it that may mean an alternative device might be a better fit.  

Whether that’s a larger screen, access to all your data at no extra cost, or even making sure you don’t buy it because of a feature you can’t use, it’s important to make sure that this, or any other device, does everything you need, at a price you’re happy to pay. 

Featured product

Fitbit Charge 5

RRP: £129.99

Fitbit Charge 5
Steven Shaw

Written by Steven Shaw he/him

Updated:

Steven Shaw has been a freelance writer for a variety of outlets, most notably TechRadar. His degree in Medieval History prepared him less adequately for his career than you might expect, but the years spent working in technology focused retail were much more helpful.

Outside of work, Steven is passionate about health and fitness, and particularly enjoys high-intensity interval training, weight training, and increasingly, spending time recovering. Steven loves reading, films and a wide variety of sports. A particular highlight was watching Viv Richards and Sachin Tendulkar batting together in an exhibition match.

He wishes he could travel more. He can also tell you a lot about the Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, and Carolingians. Most of his non-work time is spent with his young children, who are the living embodiment of high-intensity training.