Tracking information like movement, steps and heart rate are all part of the quantified self movement which has gained enormously in popularity in recent years.
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 5
Fitbit Charge 5 is an updated version of the company’s flagship activity band. The much loved device takes across pretty much everything from the previous generation, and slaps on some worthy upgrades.
The sleek looking Charge range 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 is almost the same.
The device has everything you need for 24/7 activity tracking. The main addition with the fifth generation is a beautiful color display. You still get built-in GPS, something runners and cyclists will appreciate, the functionality will come in handy with many of the exercise modes.
The one sensor that has been dropped on Charge 5 is the altimeter for counting floors climbed. However, most people will not notice this. Particularly as you now have access to some fancy health tracking functionality such as ECG, detailed stress tracking and something called the Daily Readiness Score. The latter is a metric that quantifies how ready you are to exercise that day, i.e. whether you should push all out or skip a day. All of this is in addition to blood oxygen, HRV and more.
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. In addition to contactless payments, Charge 5 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.
Think of Charge 5 as Sense, but in the form of a fitness band. The two pack the same health sensors.
Runner up # 1
A recent addition to Fitbit’s range, this one comes in the form of a discreet band but it packs most of the health and fitness tracking functionality you can find in high-spec smartwatches.
The thing is pretty much on par with Charge 4 as far as health and fitness stats. The only thing that is missing is built-in GPS and an altimeter for counting floors. Also, the battery life is shorter.
But what works in its advantage is the small form-factor and beautiful AMOLED display. All of this is offered at a very respectible price. So if don’t need built-in GPS and can do with Connected GPS, Luxe presents itself as an attractive buy.
Runner up # 2
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.
If you want even more comprehensive health and fitness tracking stats we suggest you go for Scanwatch. The device is still pending regulatory approval in the US but you can buy it in other countries.
Garmin Forerunner 935/945
The Forerunner 935 (and 945, 945LTE) 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 also sells 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. As of a few months ago there’s also a 945 LTE variant.
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 timepiece 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 (& Sense)
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 most of the things 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 also access to various music streaming services (some of which allow for downloading of tunes), smartphone notifications, Fitbit pay and Alexa built-in. The App Gallery has Strava, Accuweather, Flipboard, Starbucks and more.
Those that want more can opt for Fitbit Sense. It comes with everything that you can find on Versa 3 plus some additional health tracking smarts in the form of a ECG and galvanic skin sensors.
Garmin Vivoactive 4
Vivoactive 4 is Garmin’s Swiss knife of activity trackers, the company’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 2 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 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 6
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 sixth generation tracker is very similar to that of its predecessor. However, the upgrade in 2021 is the larger AMOLED display which measures 1.56 inches versus the 1.1 inches of its predecessor.
In terms of functionality, you now have the addition of an SpO2 sensor for keeping track of your blood oxygen levels on demand. Xiaomi has also bumped up the number of sports modes to 30, six of which can be tracked automatically.
Other than that you get all the great functionality of generation five. This includes the 5 ATM water-resistance and awesome battery life. There are some non-fitness functions, sprinkled in, such as smartphone messages, Caller ID, weather, alarm and more.
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 7
Apple has just announced the Series 7 watch. Unlike some of the previous generations, the jump from gen 6 is not that big. In fact a slightly large display is pretty much where it ends.
Series 7 models have 20% more screen area than Series 6. The larger display comes courtesy of smaller bezels (down to 1.7mm), along with slightly larger size options (41mm and 45mm). Almost the entire front area now is the screen. All of this is 70% brighter than on Series 6. And apps can fit 50% more text in part thanks to redesigned software.
Apart from that there is slightly better durability, a dust resistance rating for the first time and the S7 processor. Battery life is still the same at around 18 hours.
Apple Watch is hands down the most advanced smartwatch you can buy today. Thousands of apps are available for you to install, and everything has a polished feel about it. Plus watchOS 8 comes with some handy upgrades such as respiratory information and additional mindfullness tools.
Of course Series 7 comes with all the goodies of the previous iterations. This includes a plethora of fitness and health sensors including SpO2, ECG and more. And yes, the watch can now track your sleep despite the short battery life.
Apple has dropped Series 6 now from its range although you can still pick up the older device at various retail outlets. It will likely come down in price quite a bit in the months ahead – and let’s be honest. There is little difference between Series 6 and 7. The company also has a cheaper Watch Series SE iteration. This one uses the same display as Series 6.
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
Honored 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. In our review we found that 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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