Tracking information like movement, steps and heart rate are all part of the quantified self movement which is quickly gaining in popularity.
With so many wearables on the market today, choosing a fitness tracker or smartwatch can be difficult. The right one for you will be based on your individual needs; whether it’s step counting, sleep tracking or 24/7 heart rate tracking, there’s something for everyone.
We’ve seen quite a few new wearables recently from Fitbit, Garmin and other manufacturers, and the rest of 2018 should be no different. Read on for our pick of the best, broken them down across various categories.
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Overall fitness tracker | For style | For running | For outdoors | Fitness tracker watch | Budget fitness tracker | For active coaching | For the gym | For stress | Smartwatch | For originality | Smart scale | Smart blood pressure monitor | For sleep tracking
Fitbit Charge 2
Despite being some two years old now and rumors of an upcoming update, Fitbit Charge 2 is our choice as the best device for the average person who does the occasional run here and there. This is a sleek looking device which comes with a great software ecosystem.
You’ll find everything you need for 24/7 activity monitoring, and the device will link to the GPS on your smartphone to provide more precise data on pace and distance when you’re running while recording a map of your route in the app. There is also Multi-Sport tracking and you’ll get smartphone notifications.
Plus there are a few features that tap into your heart-rate readings. The most interesting and potentially useful one is called Cardio Fitness Level. It gives you a snapshot of your fitness level using a personalised Cardio Fitness Score, which is based on your VO2 Max.
Fitbit likes to think of the Charge 2 for everyday users who want to get fitter and see how they are doing in real time on the wristband and also via the excellent free app and graphics-heavy desktop dashboard. The wearable definitely serves this purpose.
Vivosport comes in a close second. Its slightly more expensive than Charge 2 but in addition to everything above, the tracker is waterproof, it comes with built-in GPS, all day stress tracking and counts reps and sets in the gym.
This device can be seen as an upgraded version of the company’s popular Vivosmart 3 and Vivosmart HR+ trackers. In a sense, Garmin has taken the best from these two and come up with an entirely new fitness band. This is also Garmin’s first wristband with a color screen.
Measuring 21mm in width, 10.9mm in thickness and weighing only 27 grams, you’ll hardly notice you are wearing it. It feels great on your wrist, fitting very snuggly.
Despite the slim form-factor, Vivosport has some pretty decent specs under the hood. You’ll get everything you could possibly hope for 24/7 activity tracking, including detailed info on steps, calories, distance, heart rate, activity, floors and sleep. The GPS makes for more precise distance, time and pace tracking, along with route mapping for your runs. It will track your swims in the pool too.
This is probably Garmin’s best fitness band yet.
Garmin Vivomove HR
You no longer need to compromise fashion for function. Vivomove HR is a hybrid smartwatch with activity tracking, wrist-based heart rate, notifications and a beautiful 9.6 mm x 19.2 mm OLED display.
When the display is off, there is no way of telling that this is anything but a sleek looking traditional watch. Tap firmly towards the bottom or quickly turn your wrist and the screen magically appears.
The timepiece comes with heart rate tracking, you get info on steps, sleep (total sleep and periods of movement or restful sleep), distance, calories, floors climbed, and intensity minutes. A pretty comprehensive list.
The swim proof watch also has the ability to show smartphone messages along with info on your activity. You can even send quick replies. The watch hands move out of the way when you swipe through your messages, heart rate and more for unobstructed reading.
Nokia (Withings) Steel HR
Steel HR is another great hybrid. The watch takes much of what was great about the Activite range and upgrades it with new features including a heart rate monitor and a digital display for smartphone notifications.
There are no buttons to push. Steel HR automatically tracks everything and syncs the info to your app to give you metrics, personal coaching and more.
Real-time heart rate info is displayed on the watch during your exercise, and more detailed info including time spent in heart rate zones can be seen in the app. The watch also tracks resting heart rate, one of the most important metrics to assess overall health over time.
This is a swim-proof device that is designed to look and feel normal, and it works in pretty much every situation. You can wear it not only during business hours, but also for a formal event, as well as light hiking or other sporting events.
Garmin Forerunner 935
The Forerunner 935 is a fully featured running and triathlon GPS sports watch. You will find the usual Elevate wrist-based heart rate for 24/7 heart rate monitoring, and GPS and GLONASS coverage. Additionally, the wearable sports a barometer, altimeter, and a compass.
Essential reading: Gone for a run – top GPS watches for running and training
Where the watch stands out most though, is in its detailed analysis of performance. According to Garmin, the Forerunner 935 aggregates past training results and then uses that data to evaluate the amount of effort users exert during fitness sessions, i.e. if you are slacking off or overdoing it. It does this through two new additional metrics, training load and training status.
Training load looks at users’ exercise activity over the last seven days and compares it to the optimal range for your fitness and recent training history. Training status does the same thing with a more short-term view, and lets you know if you’re training productively, peaking or overreaching. Additionally, the training effect metric tracks and reviews the aerobic and anaerobic benefit of a training session. There are also other advanced dynamics for running, cycling and swimming, including FTP, VO2 max, cadence and others.
The only negative is the price. On that note, the lower priced Garmin Forerunner 235 is also a great option. In addition to tracking your runs, the gadget will provide you with the recovery advisor and VO2 Max, but you will miss out on the more advanced analysis of the 935.
Garmin Fenix 5
This is the ultimate outdoor adventuring watch that packs bumped up specs into a slightly slimmer body. You can choose between multiple models that vary in size to fit every wrist and every workout. The watch features everything you would ever want for fitness training plus feature sets for outdoor navigation.
Fenix 5 is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts who are into multi sports and want to be able to track everything. You can use it for cycling, open water swimming, cross country skiing, climbing, indoor run/bike/swim, hiking and much more.
In addition to heart rate tracking from the wrist, the watch provides advanced running metrics including vertical oscillation and vertical ratio, VO2 max and a recovery advisor. Outdoor navigation includes things like 3-axis compass, altimeter and barometer and TracBack feature.
Versa is Fitbit’s second smartwatch. The device comes with most of the sensors you’ll find on Ionic, but with its rounded edges, polished look and more compact form factor, it looks much better. The company is clearly learning from its Pebble acquisition and this influence is becoming increasingly evident.
When it comes to features, this is a timepiece 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. And you’ll be able to keep tabs on all this in real-time on the gorgeous hi-res 300 by 300 pixel LCD touchscreen. Admittedly there is the lack of built-in GPS, but you are unlikely to notice this unless you are an avid runner. This also helps keep the price down.
There is on-board storage for music too, smartphone notifications and Fitbit pay. The App Gallery has Strava, Accuweather, Flipboard, Starbucks and more.
Garmin Vivoactive 3
Vivoactive 3 is the successor to the Vivoactive HR, a Swiss knife of activity trackers. Garmin has realised that it needs to introduce a less bulky form factor if it is to appeal to a larger demographic. And on that count, the Vivoactive 3 does not dissapoint. With a classy new design, it closely resembles Garmin’s Fenix and Forerunner line.
Apart from the design, the main news here is the inclusion of Garmin Pay, a first for the company. Which means Garmin customers can finally pay for purchases with their timepiece. The new functionality is enabled by FitPay and supports Visa and Mastercard debit and credit cards from major issuing banks.
There are 15 built-in sports profiles, including new ones for snowboarding, cardio, yoga, eliptical and stair stepper. Vivoactive 3 will also let you mix it up by creating customized workouts. Other new features include VO2Max and stress/workout tracking.
Xiaomi Mi Band 2
Also rumored for an update later this year, the latest generation Mi Band combines the best features of the predecessor devices, and throws an OLED display into the mix. Which means that for the first time Mi tracker users are not tied to their smartphones to check on their daily progress.
The fitness tracker is super lightweight and comfortable to wear. The “capsule” pops in and out of the band for charging but is in no danger of falling out once pushed in. The wearable tracks steps, distance, calories and sleep, and has a battery that lasts 20 days between charges. It is water-resistant and will even wake you up in the morning.
Mi Band 2 uses a light-based PPG (photoplethysmography) sensor to measure your body’s blood flow. The heart rate sensor can be used on demand, such as while running or monitoring your sleep patterns.
Misfit Shine 2
Shine 2 looks very much like its predecessor. It is however a bit larger in diameter, and also thinner. At only 8mm thick it is Misfit’s thinnest wearable ever. With zero cables, an elegant design, and no need to recharge, Shine 2 is one of the best-looking, lowest-maintenance activity trackers.
The device, which tracks a good deal of activity, can be worn anywhere as it is very small and light. The low profile means it is comfortable to wear at night, maximising its effectiveness.
You will get detail on your nightly deep, light and REM cycles as well as total sleep duration and periods when you were awake. You can also set the vibrating alarm to wake you up. All importantly, the Shine automatically knows when you are asleep so there is no missed data. It is also able to sync to Apple Health and a host of third party apps.
Misfit made activity tracking accessible for everyone with the Shine. As something to look at, The Misfit Shine 2 really works and we love its low-maintenance status and reasonable price.
To achieve a higher level of measurement reliability, and to perform each possible exercise, the Beast sensor is configured as a small magnet, which enables it to be easily plugged on barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells or gym machines and to the body itself for performing free body exercises.
The device shows you in real-time how much you are pushing, rep by rep, whether you are lifting weights, using a machine or performing bodyweight exercises. You can chose to visualize Speed, Power or Strength and monitor your performance live while working out.
Essential reading: Boost your gym session with one of these gadgets
Beast utilizes something called Velocity Based Training. This takes the guesswork on how much load you should be adding or removing on a particular set. It also tells you if you should move on and try a new exercise altogether by using the measurement of the bar speed and work to understand the force production.
The little gizmo tracks your improvement and helps you train better. Moreover, it gives you an overview of all workout data, keeping a diary of your performance.
Vivosmart 3 takes across all the features of its predecessors (apart from GPS), but adds more sophisticated fitness tracking tools such as VO2 max and fitness age, all day stress tracking, and the ability to count reps and sets in the gym.
Thanks to Garmin Elevate wrist heart rate technology, you still get 24/7 heart rate monitoring, and the wearable automatically tracks activity including steps, floors climbed, calories burned, intensity minutes, sleep and more. It also features smart notifications to keep you connected while on the go.
As part of that 24/7 monitoring, when users are not on the move the device will now measure heart-rate variability which it uses to calculate and measure stress levels. To make you worry-free, you will get relaxing mindfulness experiences through deep-breathing sessions. A longer timeline of stress levels is accessible on the smartphone app.
This fitness tracker aims to teach you the concepts of a healthy life. The truly novel feature of the Moov is real-time coaching feedback in a wide variety of exercise programs. At the moment, the Moov is pretty much out on its own for what it can do. The device tracks your movements in 3D, analyzes them and gives you a comprehensive report on how you are doing, after, as well as during the workout.
The original model was meant to be worn only during workouts so was not ment to be used as a standard activity tracker – in contrast, the Moov Now is designed for all-day use. The Moov Now will measure your activity level and active time, in addition to automatically tracking your sleep at night.
Apple Watch Series 3
The Apple Watch Series 3 delivers solid improvements over its predecessor, including LTE compatibility, a faster processor/wireless chip and a barometric altimeter.
Built into the display, there is now cellular connectivity. The watch uses the same number as your smartphone. Although users still need a SIM, the Series 3 features a small electronic SIM card.
In terms of fitness, there is a new barometric altimeter sensor. This means the watch is finally able to count floors climbed and estimate your altitude. You, of course, get all the great features of the predecessor versions including GPS, all day heart rate and more
Other changes are to do with the heart rate sensor. You are now able to see your current heart rate just by raising your wrist due to a new complication on the watch face. There is the addition of a “recovering heart rate” which shows how fast your heart rate drops after a workout, the watch will alert you when it detects an abnormal spike in your readings and you’ll get your resting heart rate in the morning.
The device offers so many other things in addition to being a fitness tracker, its health and fitness features should be viewed as a bonus rather than the main reason for purchase. As a fully featured smartwatch, there are few wearables on the market today that can rival Apple.
When you think of fitness trackers, Skulpt products don’t readily come to mind. That’s because they’re a different breed, that measure metrics that you wouldn’t normally measure with more ‘traditional’ activity devices. Rather than monitoring daily activities, such as steps taken and distance traveled, the Skulpt Chisel measures muscle quality and body fat percentage.
The device is simple to use and allows you to measure and track 24 individual muscles. Chisel also shows you how your body is changing over time and is a great way to track progress, even when it seems there is none. Also, a much better measurement than BMI or weight. Serious workout enthusiasts and personal trainers will adore this device.
The Chisel will give you greater insight and will enable you to monitor the result of your fitness achievements. This will help you to better understand when you are losing fat and gaining muscle – and which muscles you need to focus on. As you can tell, we are very excited where this technology will lead us, and are looking forward to further innovative products in this area.
Nokia’s scale simply does the job. Having one of these in the bathroom means you can make weighing yourself part of your morning ritual, allowing you to track your progress every day, at roughly the same time, in the same state of undress, with no hassle. It configures relatively effortlessly to your network, and then just goes about its work reliably and quietly enough.
Body+ measures weight and BMI, along with fat mass, muscle mass, water and bone mass. The scale has multi-user support and recognition, a free Health Mate app and syncs to the Cloud. It also has both iOS and Android compatibility.
The Patented Position Control Technology delivers highly-precise measurements accurate to .2 pounds. The fat % monitoring and other metrics can sometimes vary, but as mentioned this is the case with all such scales on the market.
If you love gadgets and find tracking your weight useful to help you diet or maintain a healthy weight, you won’t go wrong with the Body+.
Omron 10 blood pressure monitor
Those looking for bells and whistles may be disappointed – and with a bulky, clunky-looking design, the Omron 10 cannot compete aesthetically with the sleek, smaller, wearable BP monitors.
But overall, the Omron is a reliable, simple “does what it says on the tin” device. The high accuracy, reliability, and lower price compared to many of the other smart blood pressure monitors on the market today, would make this our device of choice.
SleepScore Labs’ SleepScore Max
SleepScore Max is a personalized sleep sensor and monitor. The uniqueness of the device is in the way it monitors your kip time. Similar to the echo location system used by bats, it detects your sleep levels without touching you or the sleeping surface. Which means no mattress strips and no wristbands.
Sensors in gizmo detect key sleep-related parameters within your environment including loud sounds, light levels and temperature. These are analyzed along with how they impact your sleep state to produce customized suggestions for helping you to get a better night’s sleep.
Essential reading: Ten gadgets for advanced sleep monitoring
Simply place SleepScore Max on your nightstand. The technology behind the device works by detecting the movement of your upper body while you sleep. The device shows light, heavy and REM sleeping – and gives you an overall sleep score in the morning.
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