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Fitbit Charge 5 vs Fitbit Sense: Which Should You Choose?

Fitbit has cemented itself as one of the most popular brands for smartwatches and fitness trackers. With a wide range of models to suit different needs and budgets, consumers are spoiled for choice when picking a Fitbit device. Two of Fitbit‘s newest and most feature-packed models are the Charge 5 and the Sense. But which one is right for you?

In this hands-on comparison, we‘ll examine the key differences between the Fitbit Charge 5 and Fitbit Sense to help you decide which of these impressive wearables best matches your activity tracking needs and budget.

Fitbit Charge 5 vs Sense: At a Glance

Before diving into the details, here is a high-level overview of how the Fitbit Charge 5 and Sense compare:

  • Price: The Charge 5 is cheaper at $149 while the Sense retails for $199 and up
  • Design: Both have a sleek, minimalist look, but the Sense looks more like a smartwatch
  • Display: The Sense has a significantly larger display
  • Smart Features: The Sense offers more advanced smart features and third-party app integration
  • Health Tracking: Both devices provide detailed health metrics monitoring, but the Sense includes some additional sensors
  • Battery: Charge 5 has a longer battery life at roughly 7 days vs 6 days for the Sense

Now let‘s explore each device‘s capabilities in greater depth…

Price and Value

The Charge 5 has a retail price of $149, making it very competitively priced in the overall fitness tracker and smartwatch marketplace.

The Sense, on the other hand, costs around $199 at minimum. So from a pure pricing perspective, the Charge 5 delivers strong value.

However, we need to consider what that extra $50-100+ buys you in terms of features before declaring an outright "winner" for value. We‘ll analyze that throughout the comparison.

Design, Display and Wearability

Both the Charge 5 and Sense have an aesthetically modern and stylish appeal. Yet you‘ll immediately notice a difference in overall form-factor.

The Charge 5 looks and feels more like a typical fitness band. It has a slim, rectangular shape with rounded edges and corners. And at just under 33 grams, it‘s very lightweight. You can choose from a range of stylish band colors like steel blue, lunar white and black.

Conversely, the Sense resembles a smartwatch moreso than a basic activity tracker. It has an elegant stainless steel body with softer, curvier lines. At roughly 46 grams, it‘s heavier. But it remains comfortable enough for all-day wear. The Sense is available in silver aluminum, graphite stainless steel and lunar white.

Now for the displays…

The Charge 5 has a 1.04" color AMOLED touchscreen display. This is a major upgrade from previous Charge models. The AMOLED panel renders vivid colors and high contrast. And it‘s easy to navigate through apps and menus.

In comparison, the Sense boasts a larger 1.58” display with similar AMOLED technology. So you’re getting more real estate for viewing health metrics, apps and notifications. It also enables an overall smarter smartwatch experience.

Both displays feature Corning Gorilla Glass for enhanced durability as well.

So while the Charge 5 has an excellent display for a fitness tracker, the Sense takes the win here with its considerably bigger touchscreen.

Health, Wellness and Fitness Tracking

Now let’s compare what health and activity tracking metrics you can measure with the Charge and Sense.

Both models include 24/7 continuous heart rate monitoring. They can also track oxygen saturation (SpO2) levels during sleep along with respiration rate. And thanks to their built-in GPS chips, you can accurately record pace, distance and route maps for outdoor runs and rides without needing your phone.

For sleep, each device breaks down sleep stages (light, deep and REM sleep) plus overall sleep quality. The Sense adds the ability to track nightly blood oxygen saturation and temperature levels though.

Stress tracking is available on both Fitbits too. They each have an EDA sensor that measures electrodermal activity linked to your body‘s stress levels. You can perform on-demand stress scans with the EDA Scan app. The Sense also offers a stress management score to indicate if your levels are out of the normal range.

Daily Readiness Scoring is a newer Charge 5 feature. After recording your sleep and activity, it generates a score each morning gauging if your body has recovered properly or needs more rest. This helps prevent overtraining or burnout. The Sense doesn’t include Daily Readiness Scoring yet.

For workout modes, the Charge 5 comes preset with 20 different exercises like running, biking and swimming. The Sense offers even more built-in activity profiles plus the ability to create custom modes. And it has an exercise intensity heat map to illustrate if your heart rate has stayed in fat burn, cardio or peak zones.

One other noteworthy health feature exclusive to the Sense is an ECG app capable of generating a clinical-grade electrocardiogram to check for signs of atrial fibrillation. So the Sense pulls ahead for potentially identifying this common heart rhythm disorder.

Smart Features

In terms of “smartwatch" functionality, the Sense has a clear edge. But let‘s break the key features down…

For smartphone notifications, you can receive call, text, app and calendar alerts on your wrist through both Fitbits. However, the Sense enables quick reply messages on Android (coming soon on iOS).

Only the Sense supports contactless payments through the Fitbit Pay platform. You can use your device similar to a credit card for in-store checkouts.

Voice assistant integration is also Sense-exclusive. Ask Alexa questions, set reminders and control smart home devices completely hands-free. Google Assistant support is slated for 2022 too.

And thanks to on-board music storage and streaming apps like Deezer and Pandora with Sense, you can listen to playlists and stations while exercising without a phone. Neither model offers offline Spotify support currently though.

So on the smart features front, the Sense is the obvious frontrunner. But casual users may find the Charge 5 provides sufficient connectivity for basic alerts and notifications.

Battery Life and Charging

Battery performance often separates dedicated fitness trackers from bulkier smartwatches. And the Charge 5 maintains the upper hand for longevity per charge:

  • Fitbit Charge 5: Roughly 7 days battery life
  • Fitbit Sense: Approximately 6 days on a full charge

The built-in GPS does impact both devices when activated for outdoor workouts. You’ll get about 5 hours with continuous GPS running before recharging.

Fortunately, each Fitbit also includes faster charging capabilities:

  • Charge 5: 12-minute quick charge = 1 day usage
  • Sense: 12-minute quick charge = 24 hours runtime

So battery life is very comparable. For multi-day endurance with typical usage, the Charge 5 inches ahead. But the Sense holds its own and won’t leave you hanging after just a couple days like some smartwatches.

Sensors and Accuracy

Let’s examine the key sensors within each device as well…

The Charge 5 relies on PurePulse 2.0 optical heart rate tracking technology. It emits and measures light through your skin to record heart rhythms. Fitbit has refined its algorithm and circuitry to boost accuracy compared to earlier iterations.

The Sense uses the latest PurePulse 2.0 hardware too. But it supplements it with an electrical heart signal sensor for the on-demand ECG capability. This enhances precision for detecting irregular heart rhythms.

For GPS, both Fitbits utilize built-in antennas and chipsets. When reviewing live device vs phone distance and pacing data though, I’ve found the Sense generally holds a tighter tracking accuracy. The Charge 5 has room for improvement with its GPS sensor.

And as outlined earlier, the Sense incorporates extra sensors like the nighttime blood oxygen and temperature monitor. So it delivers a greater depth of health metrics.

Which One Should You Buy?

So summing up this comprehensive comparison, which model reigns supreme? Honestly, it depends on your individual needs and budget.

Both watches clearly have strengths justifying their pricing:

The Charge 5 shines for its user-friendly design, vivid display and robust fitness/health tracking at an affordable cost. With 7-day battery life and Daily Readiness Scores, it’s a top-notch fitness band.

Alternatively, the Sense delivers a more premium smartwatch experience in a smaller package. You’re getting advanced health sensors like the ECG along with handy smart features. And battery life still outperforms most full-scale smartwatches.

So while the Charge 5 already packs a punch, I’d pay the extra $50+ for the Sense if you want deeper health insights and helpful smart integrations. Think of the Sense as an introductory Apple Watch alternative for Android and iPhone owners alike.

You truly can’t make a poor choice between the user-friendly Charge 5 and feature-laden Sense. Let your personal preferences and budget guide you. Both Fitbit models deliver an outstanding user experience blending health, fitness and smart connectivity.

Do the Fitbit devices integrate with iOS and Android?

Yes, both the Charge 5 and Sense fully support iPhone and Android devices to sync data and access companion apps.

Can you swim with the Fitbit Sense and Charge 5?

Yes! Both Fitbit devices have 5ATM water resistance ratings, so you can safely swim and wear them in the shower. They can handle depths up to 164 feet.

Can I receive social app notifications on Fitbit wearables?

You can receive call, text, calendar and app alerts from services like Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp on your Fitbit Sense, whereas the Charge 5 currently only supports texts, calls and calendars.

How much storage does the Sense have for music?

Along with on-device music storage, the Fitbit Sense includes access to streaming partners like Deezer and Pandora with Spotify coming soon. Actual storage totals approximately 3.5 GB or 300+ songs.