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Consumer Reports: Which Fitbit Fitness Tracker or Smartwatch Is the Right Fit for You?

Fitbit's lineup of wearables can be confusing. Here's what you need to know.
Fitbit
/ Source: Consumer Reports

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Thinking about buying a fitness tracker or smartwatch with the hope of getting active once again? It can be hard to choose the right model.

Even if you look just at Fitbit—a longtime leader in wearable tech—you’ll find a dizzying array of options.

To make things easier, we’ve assembled this guide to the company’s offerings, complete with details on features, accuracy, and app selection.

If you’re a Consumer Reports member, you can also consult our fitness tracker and smartwatch ratings to get the full scoop on all models.

Fitness Trackers

First, you’ll need to decide whether you want a fitness tracker or a smartwatch. Trackers are simpler devices intended mainly for basic physical monitoring. They don’t work with the third-party apps that smartwatches do. But they usually don’t cost as much, either.

Fitbit’s fitness tracker offerings boil down to a handful of models. These include the Inspire 2, one of our top-rated options, as well as the new Charge 5, which is slightly larger and more expensive and comes with a color display and other smartwatch-like features.

There’s also the Fitbit Luxe, a sleek and fashionable model that offers stress management tools.

Fitbit Inspire 2

The Inspire 2 gets Very Good ratings from our testers for step-count and heart-rate accuracy. But what lifts it to an overall Excellent rating is the top scores for ease of use, pairing, and readability in low light.

The Inspire 2 also boasts a very generous claimed battery life of 10 days (we don’t test that) and built-in GPS, a feature not found on many other trackers.

Fitbit Luxe

The lightweight and stylish Luxe looks more like jewelry than a straight-up tracker. It also includes the stress-tracking features found on the more expensive Sense smartwatch.

The Luxe earns Excellent ratings for both ease of use and step counting, but it’s not quite as good as other models when it comes to heart-rate tracking. In addition, the tiny screen can make it tough to read, especially for people who have trouble seeing up close.

Fitbit Charge 5

The Charge 5 has a number of functions normally found on a smartwatch, notably an EKG sensor designed to detect abnormal heart rhythms and an electrodermal activity (EDA) sensor to monitor your stress levels.

The sleeker, stainless steel design features a color display instead of the monochrome screen on the Charge 4. The Charge 5 retains basic fitness-tracking functions like step counting, heart-rate monitoring, and sleep tracking, as well as calorie counts and “zone” ratings, which quantify the intensity of your sweat sessions. New on the Charge 5 is a Daily Readiness metric that helps you decide on the intensity of your upcoming workouts to achieve maximum efficiency and avoid burnout.

The model topped the Charge 4 in ease of use, ease of interaction, versatility, and readability in bright light. The Charge 5’s heart rate accuracy and step count accuracy are very similar to those on the Charge 4, but sit somewhat below the highest-rated fitness trackers like the Garmin Forerunner 235.

While the Charge 5 offers impressive performance, it comes at a cost; the $180 price tag could buy you an inexpensive smartwatch.

Fitbit Charge 4

The Charge 4 has been superseded by the Charge 5, but if you find it on sale, it’s well worth a look. Not only does it receive a Very Good overall rating from our testers, but it also offers built-in GPS, a feature missing from previous versions, as well as a generous claimed battery life of seven days.

The model earns a Very Good rating for step-count accuracy, but just a Good rating for heart-rate tracking. It’s also the first version of the Charge to work with Fitbit Pay, the company’s contactless payment app, and the first Fitbit tracker featuring controls for Spotify playlists.

Smartwatches

Sure, a smartwatch will cost you a bit more than a fitness tracker. But in many cases you’re buying a lot of additional functionality. And for what it’s worth, smartwatches have come down significantly in price in recent years. Fitbit’s most basic model retails for a little less than $200.

On the flip side, the performance and features of Fitbit’s fanciest model don’t come close to matching those of the top-rated Apple Watch (which costs about twice as much). Though you can read messages and download a growing population of third-party apps, you can’t make or take calls from any of Fitbit’s watches. And the Fitbit store has just a fraction of the apps that Apple and Google offer.

Fitbit Versa 3

The Versa 3, which launched at the same time as the Sense below, doesn’t offer stress-tracking features, but it’s still a solid performer when it comes to step counting and heart-rate tracking.

It has built-in GPS (unlike earlier Versa models), faster charging capabilities, and a speaker, allowing you to take calls via a Bluetooth connection to your smartphone.

Fitbit Sense

The Sense is the first Fitbit smartwatch aimed at stress management. It’s also the first Fitbit device to feature the electrodermal activity (EDA) sensor that tracks your heart rate, breathing, temperature changes, and skin reactions—data that is then analyzed in a way the company says can tell you how your body responds to stress.

Like watches from Apple and Samsung, the Sense also lets you record an electrocardiogram, chronicling the heart’s electrical activity. In our testing, the device proved to be one of the best at step counting, though it didn’t do as well as other models when it comes to heart-rate tracking.

Fitbit Versa 2

Fitbit made some significant design improvements in the Versa 2. In particular, it trimmed the number of buttons on the watch from three to one, making it less complicated to use. The device has a microphone, which you can use to summon Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant with your voice. But it’s missing the Versa 3’s speaker, so the response will show up in text on your watch’s screen.

The Versa 2 receives top marks for being easy to use and read in both bright and low light. It’s also great at tracking steps and your heart rate.

Fitbit Versa Lite

The Versa Lite’s most attractive feature isn’t a fancy display or fitness-tracking software—it’s the $160 price.

Think of it as a pared-down version of a smartwatch. There’s no altimeter to sense changes in altitude, no gyroscope to help track movement, and no WiFi antenna, which means it’s totally dependent on a Bluetooth connection with your smartphone. And that can be rough when you’re downloading new apps or software updates.

But it does track your heart rate and step counts and let you know when you have a call or a text. It’s water-resistant to 50 meters, according to Fitbit, making it safe to swim with. And it offers a supersharp LCD touchscreen protected with Corning Gorilla Glass 3.

And that’s pretty good for an affordable, entry-level device.

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