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, 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 down across various categories.
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Overall fitness band | For style | For running | For outdoors | Fitness watch | Budget fitness tracker | For the gym | For stress | Smartwatch | Smart scale | Smart blood pressure monitor | For sleep tracking
Fitbit Charge 4
Fitbit Charge 4 was launched earlier this year. The much anticipated upgrade to the company’s best selling activity band is here. It takes across everything from the previous generation, and slaps on some worthy upgrades.
The sleek looking fitness band has been our favourite for a couple of years now. So until something better comes along, the new version is our choice for the average person who does the occasional run here and there – particularly as the price has not changed.
The device has pretty much everything you need for 24/7 activity tracking. The main addition with the fourth generation is built-in GPS. Something runners and cyclists will appreciate, the functionality will come in handy with many of the 20 or so exercise modes.
The other change worth mentioning is that NFC comes as default now. Previously it was only available for the special edition of the device.
The remaining specs are largely identical as the predecessor version so you still get the grayscale OLED display and identical design, fitness and sleep tracking smarts and PulseOx. The 7 day battery is no different, as is the 5 ATM water-resistance. With GPS switched on, battery life falls to a respectable 5 hours.
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 4 comes with call, calendar, text and smartphone app notifications. There is a host of Fitbit and third-party apps, too, as well as Spotify control.
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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 readings 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, but there is Connected GPS thanks to a recent software update.
Garmin Vivomove 3
You no longer need to compromise fashion for function. Vivomove 3 is a hybrid watch that comes in a number of different variants. This includes the Vívomove 3/3S (to denote two case sizes – 44mm and 39mm), Vívomove Style and Vívomove Luxe.
Notifications are shown on the beautiful 8.9 mm x 18.3 mm OLED display on 3/3s (24.1 mm x 18.7 mm on Style/Luxe). 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.
When the display is off, there is no way of telling that this is anything but a sleek looking traditional watch. Tap firmly on the thing or quickly turn your wrist and the display magically appears.
Packing a heart rate monitor, barometric altimeter, accelerometer, ambient light sensor and Pulse Ox, these watches come packing excellent fitness tracking smarts. There’s also Connected GPS for more precise tracking of outdoor activity and a swim-proof design. Battery life is up to 5 days in smartwatch mode and a further 7 days in with limited functionality.
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 (and 945) 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 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 recently unveiled 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 Plus / Fenix 6
This is the ultimate outdoor adventuring watch. You can choose between multiple models that vary in size to fit every wrist and every workout. The watch features most things you would want for fitness training plus feature sets for outdoor navigation.
The watch 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.
If you’re not short on cash, the daddy of the bunch is the Fenix 6X Pro Solar Edition. It comes with a transparent solar charging lens that sits on top of the watch face. This converts the sun’s rays into energy which provides you with an additional 10-15% battery juice.
Fitbit Versa 3
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 AMOLED touchscreen. The big update with the third generation device is built-in GPS. This allows for phone-free outdoor exercise.
There is on-board storage for music too, smartphone notifications, Fitbit pay and Alexa built-in. The App Gallery has Strava, Accuweather, Flipboard, Starbucks and more.
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Garmin Vivoactive 4
Vivoactive 4 is a Swiss knife of activity trackers, Garmin’s main competitor in the all-purpose smartwatch space. Plus it looks great.
This iteration comes in two sizes, a 45mm stainless steel model and a 40mm model for small wrists (4S). The larger one comes with up to eight days of battery life in smartwatch mode and six hours in GPS and music mode. The 4S has room for a smaller battery so keeps going slightly less. That’s not bad considering the Vivoactive 4 has an always-on transflective display. There’s also a classy Venu option which sports an AMOLED screen.
In addition to fitness tracking basics and built-in GPS, there are numerous built-in sports profiles. Other changes over the predecessor include pulse oxygen readings, along with estimated respiration. This will insure you get very advanced sleep analytics.
There’s also the new Body Battery function, abnormal heart rate alerts, female health tracking, yoga and pilates workouts and more.
Other features are identical to previous Vivoactive models and include the essentials such as NFC for on-the-go payments and music storage.
Xiaomi Mi Band 5
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 fifth generation tracker is very similar to that of its predecessor, with a module that can be removed from the strap. However, the wearable comes with a full colour AMOLED that now measuers 1.1-inches versus the 0.95-inches of its predecessor.
In terms of functionality, not much has changed. The Mi Band 5 keeps tabs on the fitness basics and heart rate. You get 11 different sports modes to tap into, including running, outdoor running, exercise, cycling and walking. The wearable is rated 5 ATM for water-resistance, so swimming is also on this list.
There are some non-fitness functions, too, such as smartphone messages, Caller ID, weather, alarm and more. The fitness tracker has awesome battery life and can stay on for up to 20 days between charges.
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 6
In addition to everything from the Series 5 watch, Series 6 owners get blood oxygen readings, an improved S6 chip, a brighter always-on Retina display and more. With each new iteration, the device is getting better at tracking your health and fitness. All it needs is a boost to battery life and the likes of Garmin and Fitbit will have lots to worry about.
The headline feature in 2020 is the new SpO2 sensor. The LEDs shine red and green infrared light on the back of your wrist to determine the level of oxygen in your blood. The actual calculation is done via photodiodes that measure the amount of light reflected back.
Plus let’s not forget the many improvements that come as part of watchOS 7. Most notably, this includes sleep statistics for the first time. Yes, your Apple Watch is finally able to track your nightly rest. It was a long time coming and a glaring omission up to now. In addition to information on sleep phases, length of sleep and more, you can set up sleep goals and get suggestions for improving nightly rest.
The Apple Watch is hands down the most advanced smartwatch you can buy today. If you want to save a few bucks, the company has released a cheaper Watch Series SE iteration. This one uses the same display as series 6. Inside is a S5 chip for up to 2x faster performance than Series 3. Most of the other specs are the same as Series 3.
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+.
Withings BPM Core
Honoured with a CES Innovation Award, Withings Core functions as a BPM, ECG and digital stethoscope. ECG is used to identify atrial fibrillation (AFib), a serious form of irregular heart rhythm that can lead to heart failure and is a major risk for stroke. The digital stethoscope can provide early detection of valvular heart disease. The condition is characterized by damage to one of the four heart valves and may require surgical intervention.
The ability to monitor all three conditions (high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation and valvular heart disease), with one product definitely sounds like a game changer. You’ll essentially get a complete heart health checkup in 90 seconds.
For now BPM Core is only available for purchase in Europe. US availability is expected later this year. You can check out our full hands-on review on this link.
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.
Withings Sleep Analyzer
Withings Sleep Analyzer slips under the mattress from where it tracks all aspects of your nightly (and daily) rest. The company says after 3 days of use, more than a half of users increase their amount of sleep by an average of 48 minutes per night for the next 3 nights. Not bad, as most people are chronically sleep deprived.
The thing lies incognito under your mattress with no buttons to push or need to charge. Jump into bed, and go to sleep. This is exactly what you want – a no hassle tracker that you forget is even there.
The device captures a wealth of stats. Everything from sleep cycles, to interruptions, sleep heart rate, snoring, breathing disturbances and even sleep apnea – it’s all there. And it does this accurately even though it lies under a thick mattress. The data it collects automatically makes its way to the app on your phone so is ready to be viewed in the morning.
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