In the years since Fitbit first released the Fitbit Tracker—a tiny, clothespin-like pedometer that debuted in 2008—the company has tried a lot of tactics to stay at the forefront of the field that it helped create. It added music, integration with trackers like Tile, and a partnership with Deepak Chopra. Eventually Google bought the company.
But even as Fitbit faced stiff competition from the Apple Watch, its trackers have always won me over. They’re attractive, affordable, easy to use, and simple. I’m not a competitive powerlifter, and I don’t want to drop below 15 percent body fat; I also don’t want to get addicted to, or ruled by my fitness tracker. I just want a device that will tell the time, gently nudge me toward slightly healthier behavior, and let me ignore it the rest of the time.
This sweet spot is where Fitbit excels. The Charge 4 was my favorite fitness tracker for most people, and even without being able to test its most touted new feature—the new Daily Readiness score, which I am very excited to write about—the Charge 5 still fits the bill. It’s attractive and simple and has all the features you need and none you don’t.
Last year’s Charge 4 has a starker look, with sharper edges and a black bezel. In contrast, the Charge 5 is softer and more organic, with curved edges on its gold bezel (and no “fitbit” inscribed on it anywhere, thank God). As always, it’s offered in a huge variety of colors and has lots of accessories. If you’re an active person, I suggest immediately swapping out the standard solid silicone strap for the perforated sport strap or nylon band. The Charge 5 is wide enough that sweat may collect underneath the standard silicone strap and irritate your skin.
It has a beautifully crisp, full-color AMOLED screen that’s wider, 10 percent bigger, and twice as bright as the Charge 4 display—the perfect size if you want an unobtrusive tracker and not a smartwatch wannabe. I’ve tried smaller Fitbits, like the Inspire 2 and the Luxe, but their screens and induction-touch buttons were too wonky and unresponsive. Thankfully, the Charge 5 dumped that pesky touch button on the bezel. The screen is also wide enough that it immediately registers my sweaty taps rather than forcing me to peck at the screen to try to end a run, as I did with the Luxe.
You also have the option to set the display to always-on, though that will significantly reduce the battery life. With multiple tracked activities per day, the Charge 5’s battery lasted about a week. The accelerometer seems to have improved as well; the screen lit up with even the most minor flick of my wrist, so I didn’t need the always-on feature.
Like the Charge 4, the 5 has onboard GPS to accurately track your pace and distance for outdoor activities. However, unlike many other GPS-enabled fitness trackers, it also has connected GPS. Onboard GPS is useful if you don’t want to carry your phone, but I usually take my phone with me on outdoor runs. I was startled by how quickly the Charge 5 pinpointed my location with connected GPS as compared to Coros or Garmin watches that occasionally leave me tapping my foot at my front door.