The Fitbit Charge 5 is good, but inconsistent

So far I must say that the Fitbit Charge 5 is a decent fitness tracker in terms of the hardware design. The screen is responsive which is unusual for Fitbit devices and also visible, in a good way, in most lighting conditions. It also sits well on the wrist meaning that it can be worn on your dominant wrist day to day and not get in the way. To add to this I would recommend a third party elastic or nylon strap to ensure true flexibility.

It is very much just a tracker with limited installed apps and very few available to install, and just a few clock faces to play with. You can only use one at a time which again means you cannot swap faces outside of the app, but as a tracker you kind of know what you should be getting. It is not a smartwatch, but Fitbit Pay works well and the interface is good enough when you consider how small a space it has to work in. For a tracker, it ticks enough boxes in my opinion.

Where it is problematic is in the consistency which knocks my faith in all trackers. On the treadmill my heart rate runs at approx 110, but on every 4th run the Fitbit stays below 70 which is definitely far from correct. I have checked the way it is attached to my wrist and also taken a quick reading on the Apple Watch so this is definitely a strange fault.

Also, in comparison to the Garmin Fenix it is a very different beast. For sleep the Garmin, and Garmin, is terrible with completely random sleep scores appearing no matter how well or bad I sleep. The Fitbit seems to be a bit more accurate, but is definitely more generous in how it judges my sleep.

For steps the Fitbit is giving approximately 10% more than the Apple Watch or Garmin which is a concern, but strangely it seems to be much cleaner and more accurate with the GPS tracks. I moved to using the iPhone for GPS in the end to preserve battery performance (the mismatch between battery % in the app and device remains) and I can see it getting 6 days on average which is OK for such a small device.

Now that I have experience Garmins, Fitbits and Apple Watches extensively over the past 5 years I am left with a concerning conclusion. I am starting to wonder if a lot of the stats we see are more algorithmic than based on direct evidence from the sensors. The differences between the various brands, and even devices from the same brand, are often too much to give confidence that they are worth wearing. Consistency is key and this can help you to get fitter so they are definitely useful, but for me I am starting to lose a little faith.

The Charge 5 is a decent product with some very odd quirks, but for now I am going to go without any smartwatch or fitness tracker for a while and will see how I get on.



Categories: Fitness, Fitness Trackers, Health, Product Reviews

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