I walked 3,300 steps with the Fitbit Charge 6 and Fitbit Charge 5 — here's the winner

Fitbit Charge 6 vs. Charge 5
(Image credit: Future)

The Fitbit Charge 6 is the best fitness tracker for most folks in 2024, but what about its predecessor, the Fitbit Charge 5 which can often be found at a discounted price? The two devices look quite similar and share a lot of features and tech — here's a closer analysis of how they compare — the question is, which counts steps with better accuracy?

Both have an onboard GPS and accelerometer to keep tabs on location and movement and both provide a useful buffet of post-workout metrics, including pace, max and average heart rate, calories burned and of course, steps taken. 

Fitbit Charge 6: $138 @ Walmart

Fitbit Charge 6: $138 @ Walmart
The Fitbit Charge 6 is the best fitness tracker for most people in 2024 thanks to a simple user interface, accurate onboard GPS, lots of useful health-tracking tech and a crisp display that's easy to read, even in direct sunlight. The device also supports Google Maps and Google Wallet. 

Fitbit Charge 5: $128 @ Amazon

Fitbit Charge 5: $128 @ Amazon
Fitbit's previous generation Charge device remains a popular option, especially if you can find one on sale for closer to $100. You're still getting onboard GPS, a solid suite of health and fitness tracking tech, support for mobile payments and more in a slick, lightweight and easy-wearing package with respectable battery life. 

Fitbit Charge 6 vs. Fitbit Charge 5 — step accuracy test

To find out how the Fitbit Charge 6 and Fitbit Charge 5 compare when it comes to step count accuracy, I strapped a device to either wrist — the Charge 6 on the left, the Charge 5 on the right — and set out on a lovely late afternoon walk around my neighborhood.  

As a control, I manually counted my steps for the walk's duration, clicking an old-school tally counter once for every one hundred steps taken. For distance, I used the Google Maps measuring tool post-walk, plugging in my exact route. 

After 3,300 steps — a third of my daily total goal — here's how the data captured from these two similar wearables compares:

Fitbit Charge 6 vs. Fitbit Charge 5 – the results

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 Fitbit Charge 6Fitbit Charge 5Control
Steps3,319 steps3,3253,300 steps (manual count)
Distance1.53 miles1.92 miles1.68 miles (Google Maps)
Average pace23 mins, 37 secs per mile18 mins, 3 secs per milen/a
Calories burned266 calories 273 calories n/a
Average heart rate121 bpm121 bpmn/a
Maximum heart rate147 bpm148 bpmn/a

Both the Fitbit Charge 5 and 6 were within 25 steps of my actual total count. This doesn't surprise me all that much given Fitbit's reputation for accuracy in this department. However, the Charge 6 was six steps closer than the Charge 5, or just 19 paces over the total. 

Google Maps placed my total distance covered at 1.68 miles which makes the Charge 6 under by 0.15 miles and the Charge 5 over by nearly a quarter mile. The Charge 5 also seemed to think I walked at a faster pace than its sibling, despite taking roughly the same number of steps. 

While a speed of just over 18 minutes per mile from the Charge 5 seems too quick, 23 minutes and 37 seconds per mile from the Charge 6 strikes me as too slow. Which one is more correct? It's difficult to tell, but I do know that my standard walking pace tends to be between 20 and 21 minutes per mile. This is based on previous walk tests and my own experience tracking treks.

Moving on to heart rate and calories burned, both devices' metrics match up quite nicely, which is always encouraging to see.

Conclusion — Fitbit Charge 6 wins

Fitbit Charge 6 vs. Charge 5

The Fitbit Charge 6, left, wins.  (Image credit: Future)

For this head-to-head walk test, the laurel goes to the Fitbit Charge 6. It wins by the skin of its teeth — or exactly six paces — over its predecessor, the Fitbit Charge 5. It wins in distance accuracy by less than a tenth of a mile. 

Of course, this doesn't mean the Charge 5 is a stinker but it does mean that the Charge 6 is likely the better buy in most cases, even if it currently costs a little more than its older sibling.

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Dan Bracaglia
Senior Writer, Fitness & Wearables

Dan Bracaglia covers fitness and consumer technology with an emphasis on wearables for Tom's Guide. Based in the US Pacific Northwest, Dan is an avid outdoor adventurer who dabbles in everything from kayaking to snowboarding, but he most enjoys exploring the cities and mountains with his small pup, Belvedere. Dan is currently training to climb some of Washington State's tallest peaks. He's also a big photography nerd. 

  • temberember
    So there is actually one more thing that differentiates the two. The charge 5 actually has many tech problems, that is why it is discounted or you can't find it anymore. In my family we are frequent users of Fitbit watches and we have had 5 different charge 5 watches go bad in about the span of a year and a half. They die slowly, usually the screen stops being responsive or some other glitch occurs and within weeks or even days they stop working completely. I think that there might even be articles online about the technical glitches. Also, I currently have the charge 6 and it is actually way more accurate personally, and it will automatically pop up an exercise on screen if it senses it on the vitals. Overall, it is better to spend a bit more on the charge 6 or just some other watch than be stuck dealing with an unresponsive watch only a few months after you bought it.