Fitbit has taken the wrapper off the all-new Charge 6 – it flagship fitness tracker band.
The follow-up from the Charge 5 features some tweaks and changes under the hood, but little in the way of design changes. To the untrained eye, they look the same.
That’s where we come in. We've reviewed both devices, and we're here to reveal the key differences between the Charge 6 and Charge 5 – and find out which is the right fitness tracker for you.
Price and colors
Charge 6 (left) and Charge 5 (right)
The Fitbit Charge 6 costs $159/£139/€159 – and is available to buy now.
That's cheaper than the original retail price of the Fitbit Charge 5, which went on sale at $179.95 / £169.99. However, you can easily pick up a Charge 5 now for around $120/£100 – and we'd expect prices to fall even further over the coming weeks and into Black Friday.
In terms of colors, the Charge 6 comes in black, white, and coral (orange). The Fitbit Charge 5 comes in black, silver/blue strap, and gold/white.
Fitbit Charge 5
The Charge 6 uses the same case, design, and screen tech as the Charge 5 (above) – so the differences here are pretty imperceptible.
But there are two key points to be aware of:
The Fitbit Charge 6 embodies the same case and design as the Charge 5 – but this time in 100% recycled aluminum. But with one key addition: the physical button is back, which can be used to summon the menu, and also to navigate back to the home screen.
The Charge 5 was solely a touchscreen device, and this was universally hated. And it seems Fitbit/Google got the message loud and clear.
Charge 5 GPS accuracy left a lot to be desired
The key change here, and the biggest overall, is that the Charge 6 will use Google’s much-improved heart rate algorithms, which were debuted on the Pixel Watch 2.
Fitbit says that this will improve accuracy over the Charge 5 by 60% during HIIT workouts.
In our testing, we found excellent heart rate accuracy across a wide range of tracked activities, although we still encountered a few rogue readings along the way. But this is a big step up from previous Fitbit bands when it comes to the tracking of high heart rate workouts.
Fitbit has 20 new workout modes to the Charge 6, including HIIT, CrossFit, and skiing modes to the Charge 6 tracker – so it’s better suited to workout classes all around.
Both devices feature GPS tracking of workouts – so you can take it for a run. The accuracy was found to be poor in our Charge 5 review, and sadly, things haven't improved on the Charge 6 either.
We struggled to get a good GPS lock when using the Charge 6's internal GPS sensor, and when we did, distances were wayward and tracked poorly.
It does help if you tweak the settings to use Connected GPS, which uses your paired smartphone for GPS instead. Either way, neither Charge bands are suited to hardened runners.
The Fitbit Charge 6 can also broadcast heart rate data to third-party fitness equipment and apps via Bluetooth, so you can see data in real-time. It already works with Peloton bikes, the Peloton app, and NordicTrack equipment.
The Charge 6 has an improved heart rate sensor
The Fitbit Charge 6 features the same array of health sensors as its predecessor – and it’s still the most advanced fitness tracker on the market.
Both devices have an ECG sensor to check your heart rate rhythm and produce a graph in the Fitbit app that can be shared with your doctor.
However, both will also screen your heart rate for signs of AFib or irregular heart rate rhythms in real-time, making them powerful wellness tools. It will also notify of abnormally high or low heart rate.
There’s also an electrodermal activity sensor (EDA) which looks for signs of physical stress, which feeds into the Fitbit stress tracking. However, it’s not something we found hugely insightful in our review period on Charge 5, but interesting for those who find stress something they’d like to track.
The heart rate sensor algorithms have been improved for high heart rate, but there’s no real difference in terms of basic daily HR tracking – which was already excellent on the Charge 5.
The Fitbit platform is one of the best out there – and a huge draw to the Charge series of trackers. Both will keep tabs on sleep and key wellness metrics as part of the Health Metrics Dashboard, which shows your current levels of resting HR, breathing rate, SpO2, and body temperature against personal baselines.
All of these are expanded in detail by the Fitbit Premium subscription – which is another $9.99/£7.99 per month on top.
The Charge 5 showing notifications (with Fitbit Luxe)
The biggest changes between the Charge 5 and Charge 6 come in terms of smart features and the adoption of Google services.
The Charge 6 has a Google Maps integration and can display turn-by-turn directions on the screen. This worked well in our testing and can be a useful feature.
Google Wallet is now supported, so you can make payments from the wrist using Google Pay instead of Fitbit Pay on the Charge 5.
Fitbit Pay support was quite limited, and this is a feature users have been crying out for – however, at this time it doesn’t look like Google will retrospectively roll this out for older Fitbit devices.
This makes the Charge 6 feel even more useful – and certainly makes for a better all-round device.
Verdict: which is best for you?
Everyone is a winner with this update. If you're into HIIT classes or getting sweaty at the gym, then getting the Charge 6 over the Charge 5 seems like a no-brainer. Add in the new Google services and it may even be worth upgrading.
If you're not much of a gym-goer, but are here for general wellness and health tracking features, then picking up a cut-price Fitbit Charge 5 is a great way to save some money.
These two are still so far ahead of the rest of the fitness tracker world it's crazy.
But remember, if it's steps and sleep tracking you want, then the Xiaomi Mi Band 8 and Huawei Band 8 are both even cheaper.
How we test