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. 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 the gym | For stress | Smartwatch | For originality | Smart scale | Smart blood pressure monitor | For sleep tracking
Fitbit Charge 3
Fitbit Charge 3 is our current pick as the best device for the average person who does the occasional run here and there. The sleek looking fitness band builds on the best-selling Charge 2, and comes in at exactly the same price.
At first glance the Charge 3 comes across very much like its predecesor. But look closely and you’ll spot some important differences. The most obvious is the bigger OLED display. In fact, its 40% larger than on the Charge 2. Furthermore, the high-resolution, backlit screen is fully responsive to touch.
Waterproofing is another important upgrade. Charge 3 has a water-resistance rating of 5 ATM which means you can dunk it down to depths of 50 metres.
Battery life is an excellent 7 days on a single charge. This beats its predecessor by 2 days, allowing it to go 40% longer.
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.
Last but certainly not least are the smart features. These have progressed so much that they are starting to blend the line between fitness tracker and smartwatch. Charge 3 comes with call, calendar, text and smartphone app notifications. You can accept or reject calls and Android phone users are able to send pre-canned quick replies. There is a host of Fitbit and third-party apps, too. For an additional $20, you can slap on Fitbit Pay to the host of features.
Garmin Vivosmart 4
Vivosmart 4 is another great option if you don’t mind the small screen. In additional to all the usual fitness tracking smarts, the fourth generation device comes with a blood oxygen sensor and it keeps tabs on your body’s energy reserves.
The oxygen saturation feature measures your oxygen levels at night, allowing you to better understand your sleep quality. This can potentially be used to identify sleep conditions such as apnea, although Garmin will not diagnose these. You can also check your oxygen levels on demand during the day.
The other novel feature is what Garmin calls Body Battery energy monitoring. This uses a combination of stress, heart rate variability (HRV), sleep and activity data to let you know when to push hard, when to rest.
The other features are fairly standard include the usual step, distance, calories, floors, heart rate and advanced sleep tracking. Like many other Garmin wearables Vivosmart 4 will also keep tabs on your stress, VO2 Max, reps and sets in the gym. No built-in GPS, though.
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.
Withings Steel HR Sport
If you want smart tracking along with self-expression, look no further than the Withings Steel HR Sport.
This is the second generation of the device. The upgraded version comes with the addition of Connected GPS, a Fitness Level assessment via VO2 Max estimation and better watch straps. You still get basic fitness stats and heart rate monitoring. 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. Its swim-proof, too.
The rechargeable battery will keep Steel HR Sport going for up to 25 days, the best battery life for a heart monitoring activity tracker available. After that, it will keep plodding along for another 20 days with limited functionality in power save mode.
If you are looking for a classy smart device with discreet activity tracking features, the Withings Steel HR Sport is one of the best options out there.
Garmin Forerunner 935/945
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.
For those that want the very best, Garmin has just released the Forerunner 945. It has all the great features of its predecessor, plus on-board storage for music, Garmin Pay, a pulse oximeter and lots of new performance metrics. You can read more about it on this link.
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.
The watch does not have offline storage for music, but you can always opt for the souped-up Fenix 5 Plus which does.
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.
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 (in favor of Connected 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. This means Garmin customers can pay for purchases with their timepiece. The 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 3
While not as comprehensive as some of the other options out there, Mi Band gets the basics right and with its lightweight, slick, water-resistant design, looks good enough to wear during the day, in the office or for an evening function.
The look of the third generation tracker is very similar to that of its predecessor, with a module that can be removed from the strap. The 0.78 inch, 128×80 pixel, OLED display has an oval shape which blends well with the strap. There is a color display this time around with improved pixel resolution, and its touch sensitive.
In terms of functionality, the Mi Band 3 keeps tabs on the fitness basics and heart rate, it lets you see messages and Caller ID, there is an option for muting calls and NFC connectivity. There are also functions for checking the weather forecast and turning off the alarm. The fitness tracker can stay on for up to 20 days and has a raise to wake function.
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.
Muse is a headset that gives users real-time feedback on what is happening inside their brain while they meditate. The first generation device detects changes by using seven EEG sensors along the scalp. Muse 2 slaps on a heart rate monitor, accelerometer for body movement and breath for even better tracking. It now provides you with a more holistic view of your sessions.
While you meditate, the headband measures whether your mind is calm or active, and translates that data into sound that you can hear. When you’re calm, you’ll hear the sound of peaceful weather. If Muse senses your mind wandering, you’ll hear the weather sounds get stronger, gently guiding you back to calm.
Muse 2 is as good as it gets right now if you’re looking for a biofeedback meditation headset. It might not be for everyone, but if you have the budget and your aim is to meditate more and improve your focus, the device certainly can help.
Apple Watch Series 4
The Apple Watch Series 4 delivers solid improvements over its predecessor, including a bigger display, ECG sensor, fall detection, performance upgrades and more.
The screen real estate is larger by 30% on both the 40mm and 44mm version. This allows for additional complications and more info on the screen. Other hardware improvements include a revamped digital crown, 50% louder speakers, and a back that is made of black ceramic and sapphire crystal for better cellular reception.
In terms of fitness, the device features a next generation accelerometer and gyroscope which can sample motion data 8 times faster. In addition to dishing out more accurate fitness tracking stats, this allows the watch to identify and send out alerts if you fall or trip.
The previous generation introduced a number of heart rate sensing functions such as high heart rate alerts. This has been expanded now to detect low heart rates. Series 4 also intermittently analyzes heart rhythms and sends alerts for atrial fibrillation.
The most exciting of all is the new FDA-approved ECG sensor. This provides a full report that lets you know if your heart rhythm is normal or there are issues.
The Apple Watch is hands down the most advanced smartwatch you can buy today. But with each iteration, its is getting better at tracking your fitness, too. All it needs is a boost to battery life and the likes of Garmin and Fitbit will have lots to worry about.
Hex is a clinically validated wearable that measures muscle oxygen levels. It comes from Boston-based Humon, a company spun out of MIT. The device was originally only available to professional athletes in the US, but since early last year Hex has been made available to all.
The gizmo acts as your personal coach. Strap it on to your thigh and you’ll get real-time audio and visual feedback that helps you understand the limits of your body. Hex does this by measuring the hemoglobin saturation in the quadriceps.
Information on muscle oxygen saturation allows you to manage workout intensities in real-time, monitor recovery and muscle fatigue. This essentially provides you with the tools necessary to maximise your effort while avoiding the risk of over-training and potential injury.
The band is extremely comfortable, wireless charging is flawless and the battery life is great. If you’re an endurance athlete or even a newbie, we definitely would suggest giving muscle oxygen training a try.
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.
This 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 is one of the most established brands on the home BPM market. Its EVOLV device is a sleek looking one-piece monitor which has no tabletop unit, no tubes and no wires. Because of this the product is highly portable and easy to operate.
Users wrap the entire unit around their upper arm and the blood pressure reading is displayed in bold numbers right on the face of the device. EVOLV provides you with a complete view of your blood pressure with systolic, diastolic and pulse readings. It also detects the appearance of irregular heartbeats during measurement and gives a warning signal with readings.
This is BPM that you can use it completely independently of your smartphone. All you are required to do to take a reading is press one button.
With this device Omron has married their accurate technology with connectivity. In our hands-on review, we found it to be accurate, and the operation to be very smooth, fast and noiseless.
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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