Disclosure: This article may contain affiliate links. Click here for more info.
Pulse oximeters have become popular as a personal purchase in the last few years. Though they became widespread in the 1980s, it is only recently they became more affordable. Today these devices typically retail for less than $30.
So what exactly are they?
Pulse oximeters are simple non-invasive electronic devices that measure how well oxygen is sent to parts of the body furthest from your heart (such as arms and legs). Some can also calculate heart rate.
Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets for 2017
To obtain a measurement, a sensor device is placed on a thin part of your body, usually a fingertip or an earlobe. Inside the probe is a light emitter that sends out two streams of light: one red and one infrared. Oxygenated blood and deoxygenated blood absorb different amounts of these lights. By calculating the absorption of haemoglobin in the person’s blood stream at these two different wavelengths, the pulse oximeter measures how much oxygen is in your blood. Okay, enough of the science lesson…
Everyone’s oxygen saturation fluctuates, especially when changing activities throughout the day. Cold hands, weak pulse, hand movements, fingernail polish and acrylic nails are some of the most common factors that may affect a reading and cause inaccurate results.
Healthy individuals typically register readings above 97%. A healthy body should never fall below 95%, although oxygen saturation above 92% is generally considered safe.
Although measuring oxygen saturation during a workout may not be necessary for most people, wearing a pulse oximeter can be useful in certain situations. Serious athletes may, for example, wear a pulse oximeter to monitor oxygen levels during strenuous workouts. They are also useful for mountain climbers and athletes whose oxygen levels may decrease at high altitudes.
Measuring oxygen saturation is more important for those with certain medical conditions or patients recovering from a recent illness or surgery. Monitoring your oxygen levels in these cases can help to ensure your safety. Pulse oximetry can be used to check the health of a person with any condition that affects blood oxygen levels, such as: heart attack, heart failure, anaemia, lung cancer, asthma, pneumonia and Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
This is our selection of some of the best pulse oximeters on the market today. While compiling this list, we’ve examined functions and features carefully and thoroughly. We try to test every device personally, but where not possible we took user reviews into consideration and dismissed devices with bad customer reviews and low ratings. This left us with the following selection.
With more than 3,000 five star reviews on Amazon, the Acc U Rate Pro Series 500DL is the top selling pulse oximeter in America.
The small and portable device is manufactured according to the CE and FDA standards used by doctors and other health professionals. Designed for sports enthusiasts, the oximeter is also suitable for use by GPs, nurses and community workers.
The Oximeter is really easy to use. Simply push the little button on the top and clip it on to your finger. Acc U Rate accurately determines your SpO2, pulse rate and pulse strength in 10 seconds and displays it conveniently on a large digital LED display. The device accommodates a wide range of finger sizes, children to adult, and has an auto-shut off feature (after 16 seconds) to save power when finger is removed from device.
Its small size makes it easy to carry around and a lanyard is also included for added convenience. Finally, the oximeter comes with 2 AAA batteries and a silicon cover to protect the device from dirt and damage.
The newly upgraded SantaMedical SM-165 Finger Pulse Oximeter is an affordable and accurate way to check pulse rates and blood oxygen saturation levels. The self-adjusting finger clamp plus simple one-button design allows for easy operation. The small portable size makes it easy to handle and carry.
Other features include an easy to read bright digital LED display; 30+ hours of continuous monitoring on one set of batteries; integrated SpO2 probe and processing display module plus SpO2 and Pulse Rate and bar; low battery level indicator; and auto power off.
The oximeter comes with 2 AAA batteries and a hanging neck/wrist strap and case for use on the move. The device is intended use for spot check of pulse rates and blood oxygen saturation level at home, in sport and recreational use, such as mountain climbing, high-altitude activities and running.
Redesigned in 2015, the Deluxe SM-110 comes with major improvements over the previous model such as a two way display (by default, the display faces the user – at the touch of button, it faces away from user).
This FDA approved device provides reliable oxygen saturation and heart rate readings without compromising accuracy. Just insert the 2 AAA batteries, put it on your finger push the on button and there you go. The SM-110 is for anyone who is interested in knowing their readings including mountain climbers, hikers, skiers, bikers, and others.
The Deluxe SM-110 is suitable for all ages and accommodates a wide range of finger sizes – children to adult. Finally, you also get a nice little velcro close mesh case with a belt loop and neck cord. This is an excellent oximeter all around – inexpensive, very accurate, and easy to carry.
With the help of feedback collected from over 2,000 customers, the newly upgraded Zacurate CMS 500DL Pro Series Fingertip Pulse Oximeter provides you with SpO2, pulse rate and pulse strength. Compared to its predecessor its quicker, less sensitive to movement, more accurate under indoor lighting and can read SpO2 up to 100% rather than 99%.
Its finger chamber comes with a SMART, Self-Adjusting Spring System. This accommodates a wide range of finger sizes, from children to adult. All you readings on conveniently displayed on a large digital LED display.
The second best selling oximeter on Amazon comes with 30 hours of battery life, which means you will not need to replace the two AAA batteries too often. One measurement takes only 10 seconds.
This lightweight, portable device quickly measures your Blood’s SpO2 oxygen, pulse rate and pulse strength.
Simply place your finger inside the antimicrobial vinyl sensor and have these vital measurements instantly displayed on a a large digital red LED screen. Designed and Tested to exceed FDA and CE standards, the device features a battery-saving automatic power off function and a heart rate bar graph.
The oximeter comes with 2 AAA batteries, a nylon carrying case, a neck lanyard and a full one-year warranty. There is also a clear screen protector which can be removed before use.
iHealth, the maker of fitness trackers, smart scales and smart blood pressure monitors, also sells an oximeter.
The FDA approved device gives you gives you fast, accurate vital signs readings. You can track and view your blood oxygen level readings instantly on the device LCD display and through the iHealth MyVitals app from your smartphone.
Simply charge your oximeter, download the iHealth app, and you’re ready to go. The iHealth Wireless Pulse Oximeter automatically detects your smartphone or tablet.
The free iHealth MyVitals app automatically keeps a history of your data and gives you the option to share your information with a family member, doctor or caregiver. The smartphone app records and saves your data to the secure, HIPPA compliant iHealth cloud. Each reading is evaluated and charted for a clear picture of your current level of wellness, and results are graphed against previous readings to track trends at a glance.
This pulse oximeter is great for athletes or anyone who wants to gain a much greater understanding of how their bodies work, both during normal recreation and high-impact sports.
The Withings Pulse O2 allows you to keep a tab on your daily activity, steps, distance walked, elevation climbed and calories burned. It also has built in automatic run detection and monitors your sleep cycles at night.
What sets this device apart from other fitness trackers on the market today is its Optoelectronics sensor. By pressing your finger against the HR light sensor on the back of the Pulse O2, you can obtain measurements of your heart rate and blood oxygen levels.
If you dont mind the outdated look, the Pulse O2 offers good value for money. It is unlikely you will buy the device for its oxygen feature alone but if we couple this with its other functions you get a fully featured fitness tracker.
Fitbit’s first fully fledged smartwatch comes with some decent specs under the hood. You’ll find 8 different sensors inside including an altimeter, 3-axis accelerometer, digital compass, GPS, optical heart rate monitor, ambient light sensor, vibration motor and a new relative SpO2 sensor for measuring blood oxygen levels. Fitbit claims this could help the device alert the user of sleep apnea, a condition that causes breathing interruption during sleep.
When it comes to features, this is a smartwatch that puts fitness first. It includes everything you would expect from a Fitbit device, along with capturing real-time stats on 20 different types of activities including swimming.
There is on-board storage for music too, smartphone notifications and Fitbit pay. The App Gallery has Strava, Accuweather, Flipboard, Starbucks and more, and Fitbit will open its SDK for third-party developers in September.
Like this article? Subscribe to our monthly newsletter and never miss out!
*Disclosure: We are a review site that receives a small commission from sales of certain items, but the price is the same for you. We are independently owned and all opinions expressed here are our own. See our affiliate disclosure page for more details.