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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Fitbit Charge 5 review: A fitness band with data insights

The Fitbit Charge 5 is the best fitness band out there for those who want to know more than their step count and calories burnt.

Written by Nandagopal Rajan | New Delhi |
Updated: December 14, 2021 12:31:32 pm
Fitbit Charge 5 review: A band with data insights. (Image credit: The Indian Express/ Nandagopal Rajan)

There is no dearth of fitness bands and smartwatches now. In fact, you can get a good smartwatch for well under Rs 5,000. But fitness bands start becoming life-changing devices only when the data they offer becomes actionable or the goals something the user will aspire to achieve. When it comes to fitness data, no company has more insight than Fitbit, which is now using this wealth to give new cues to its users.

The Fitbit Charge 5 is a more evolved version of Fitbit’s more popular fitness band. The design now has more curved, soft, edges that almost blend into the silicone band. The display is slightly larger, though it rests inside a glass casing with a thick bezel. The display offers bright colours that reminded me of the first Samsung Galaxy Gear bands a few years back. There are no buttons or grooves on the sides of the tracker. Behind it, you can see the lasers being used to sense various aspects of your body.

Besides the time, step count, and calorie burn reading on the main display, with a swipe up you can dive deeper into other aspects. (Image Source: Indian Express/ Nandagopal Rajan)

Using a fitness band has to be easy and something that just works in the background. The Fitbit Charge 5 excels at this brief but is able to produce quite a lot of data and features on the band itself. Of course, there is the time, steps, calories burn, and heart rate on the main display itself. But with a swipe up you can dive deeper into this data or other aspects like sleeping time, latest SPO2 measurements, and others. A sideswipe opens up the features like notifications, access to preset workouts, timer ECG and so on.

Via the Fitbit app, you will be able to track your sleep cycles in split timings. (Screenshot: Indian Express/ Nandagopal Rajan)

And there is a lot more of where is data came from in the app. For instance, you get to see a split of the sleep time with different stages. After wearing the Charge 5 all the time for a fortnight I came to the conclusion that on days I hit more than 30 minutes of cardio is when I get more deep sleep.

Now that is a calculation I made on my own, but Fitbit too does some number crunching for you. Like telling me that my late-night movie yesterday meant I got just 4.30 hours of sleep resulting in a not-so-great sleep score of 76. With over six hours of sleep, this score is usually in the high 80s. For a better score, I will need to work on early retirement and not my cardio.

The Fitbit app’s new Daily Readiness Score determines whether you are ready to work out or prioritise recovery. (Screenshot: Indian Express/ Nandagopal Rajan)

This insight goes a level up with the latest version of Fitbit’s software which also gives a readiness score, telling you how fit you are to take on the coming day and more workouts. This is an indication of how well the body has recovered overnight. And today despite my moderate sleep levels, the app says that my lower stress levels and very little heart rate variability put my readiness score at 100. So I know this is the day to push myself on the treadmill a bit more. However, this is a premium feature at the moment — there is free premium access for six months for new customers of the Charge 5.

There are such nuggets of data all across the app. For instance, there is a cardio score that had me interested because Apple Health has been putting me in the low cardio health category which I think is because I am doing most of the walking indoors. But the Charge 5 tags me in the good category and I am more than happy to accept that, though my doctor would not agree.

Fitbit Charge 5 clocks all vital data from heart rate to blood oxygen, and it even has ECG readings, which is rare in a band this size. (Image Source: Indian Express/ Nandagopal Rajan)

What I really liked about the Fitbit Charge 5 is the fact that it clocks all vital data you are looking for from heart rate to blood oxygen. It even has ECG readings, which is rare in a band this size. And to top this all, it uses the EDA scan to measure your stress levels. Like with the latest Fitbit Sense, it is this comprehensive view of user data that takes the Charge 5 also to a different level against the competition.

Despite the colourful screen and the bouquet of data sensors whirring away inside, the battery of the Charge 5 lasts about six to seven days on a single charge. But to conserve the battery, the display should not be on the always-on mode. In the regular mode, I did find that it needs more than a tap at times to wake up.

With my last Fitbit review, some users had pointed out how it is near impossible to repair products from the company. Yes, if this is something that concerns you, then the problem has not yet been solved. And like something you wear all the time, the Charge 5 is also more prone to damage than maybe a smartwatch. This is a call you will have to take as a user, but I doubt there are any fitness bands out there that can be repaired.

The Fitbit Charge 5 is in my books the best fitness band out there for those who want to know more than their daily count of steps and calories burnt. The Charge 5 now offers enough insights for you to take charge of your life and improve it, one step at a time.

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