Fitness trackers aren’t only for runners and avid gym-goers. They are great accessories to help anyone maintain a healthy lifestyle, providing data on everything from steps to sleep to heart rhythms. We’ve worn, tested, and reviewed more than 100 fitness bands and smartwatches, so we have a good grasp of which ones are best overall, which ones excel in certain areas, and which ones are simply excellent bargains.
Here are the models that stood out the most, and the Fitbit Charge 5 is right at the top of the list, thanks to its lightweight body, long battery life, and basic smartphone connectivity features. We’ve got a host of great deals on Fitbits if one is at the top of your shopping list. And if you can’t justify the price of a Fitbit, we’ve got some cheaper alternatives to track your activity here.
While this list concentrates mostly on fitness bands, smartwatches also do a great job of activity and fitness tracking, so if a more watch-like design and greater functionality appeals, make sure to look at our list of the best smartwatches.
Fitbit Charge 5
Best overall fitness tracker
- Stylish and comfortable design
- Solid battery life
- Loaded with advanced health metrics
- Onboard GPS with multiple modes
- Supports Fitbit Pay
- Sometimes slow to swipe inputs
- Lacks some basic fitness/wellness tools
- Some features require Fitbit Premium
Why you should buy this: It's a well-priced, extremely feature-packed fitness tracker with a seven-day battery life.
Who it's for: Anyone who wants a great fitness charger and doesn't want a smartwatch.
Why we picked the Fitbit Charge 5:
The Fitbit Charge 5 has reminded us exactly why we love Fitbit's fitness trackers. Fitbit has updated the Charge's design language with the Charge 5, adding smooth rounded corners and leaving behind the boxier design of the past. It's a look that's more in line with the latest Apple Watch Series 7, and it means the new Fitbit fitness tracker is something you won't be ashamed to be seen wearing. It's made from aluminum, glass, and silicone too, so it feels as good as it looks.
So we know it looks good, but good looks that aren't backed up by great fitness tracking are useless. Thankfully, it's great. It's a dedicated fitness tracker, and it's as capable as you'd hope, with 20 exercise modes. A number of those start automatically, so it'll capture walks and hikes without you needing to start them, and while the GPS can lag behind slightly when starting a tracked exercise, it always caught up without severely impacting our workouts. Workouts are only part of the story though, and the Charge 5 also has an impressive suite of wellness features. It can keep an eye on your blood oxygen saturation and your stress levels, and will soon feature support for the Fitbit ECG app.
While it's certainly not a full smartwatch, the Charge 5 does have some support for notifications from a paired phone. Android users get a few features iPhone users don't, like quick replies, but iPhone users should really be using an Apple Watch anyway, so it's not a huge bother.
Unfortunately, it's tied pretty heavily to the companion app on your phone. But Fitbit's app is actually pretty good, which sugars the pill quite a bit. The data you need is easy to see on opening the app, and a few taps offer deeper insight into how you've been sleeping or performing in your workouts. A Premium subscription is required to give you all the data you might want though, which is an annoyance.
As mentioned earlier, the Fitbit Charge 5 also offers a seven-day battery life, which is pretty standard for this level of fitness tracker. Best of all, it's reasonably priced, so you won't be shelling out a huge amount of money for it, and it certainly offers a lot of bang for your buck.
Apple Watch SE
Best fitness tracker for iOS
- Stylish design
- Highly customizable
- Comprehensive health tracking
- Responsive, fluid performance
- Reliable, easy-to-use software
- No always-on display
Why you should buy this: You want the best-value fitness tracker and smartwatch for iOS.
Who it’s for: You own an iPhone and would prefer a more watch-like design and many more features outside of just activity tracking.
Why we picked the Apple Watch SE:
The Apple Watch SE is much more than an activity tracker. It has a beautiful screen, runs apps, will make and receive calls, shows notifications from your phone, and will even time how long you’ve washed your hands. Obviously, this high level of functionality affects the price, and so the Apple Watch SE starts at $279.
Why did we highlight it when it’s much more than a fitness tracker? Mostly because Apple’s health software and activity tracking are superb and incredibly easy to use. There’s a wide range of workout tracking, GPS, a heart-rate sensor, sleep tracking, and a swim-proof body as well. The data it collects is easy to interpret, and the Activity Ring system for daily goals is simple and motivational.
It’s the little things that make the Apple Watch SE a great companion. The automatic hand-wash timer is surprisingly accurate, the watch will remind you to stand up after periods of inactivity, there’s a relaxing mindfulness app called Breathe, and it has a menstrual cycle tracking feature. It runs the latest WatchOS 8 software, which adds a new Breathe app and a new range of fitness modes.
If you’re considering the Apple Watch SE and health is a top priority, maybe consider the Apple Watch Series 7 as well. It’s more expensive at $399 but has an ECG, SpO2 measurement, and a new optical heart rate sensor. Whichever one you choose, it’s by far the best health and activity tracker for iPhone owners.
Fitbit Ace 3
Best fitness tracker for kids
- Easy to use
- Comfortable, kid-sized fit
- Engaging, animated interface
- Fun, family challenges
- Clasp can break
- Works best with a parental Fitbit
Why you should buy this: It's a feature-packed, reward-filled fitness tracker that encourages kids to keep moving.
Who it's for: Parents looking for a tough fitness tracker for children ages 12 and under.
Why we picked the Fitbit Ace 3:
It's a fully-fledged fitness tracker, repackaged for kids. Like most of Fitbit's earlier bands, the Fitbit Ace 3 is composed of a fitness tracker unit that fits into a silicone band. This modular design means it's easy to keep clean — since you just have to pop the unit out if you want to give the band a deep clean — but also means it has some pretty strong durability. The silicone itself is fairly strong, but if you've got rough-and-tumble kids, then it's likely you'll need to swap out a battered band eventually, and Fitbit's design means it's easy to do. When they outgrow the more child-focused Ace 3 bands, you can also use any Fitbit Inspire or HR 2 bands to add a more grownup feel.
It doesn't compromise on features just because it's a kid's band. It has a three-axis accelerometer for step tracking and some fairly detailed sleep tracking. There's also a heart rate sensor, but its use is disabled by default. These sensors mean there are quite a few metrics to break down for you, and we did find the "adult" view in the smartphone app to be, well, a little annoying to use. Swapping between the views requires entering a password every time, and that can get very tiring when there's no option to use biometric login data.
Thankfully, that doesn't translate over to the Fitbit's own display for the kids. It gathers a lot of data but doesn't swamp kids with it, and it mostly focuses on step count. There are a number of fun watch faces to choose from that show your kid's step count, including one where a rocket launches when the daily step goal has been reached. Much like the urge to close the rings on an Apple Watch, this visual feedback seemed to really help kids exercise more.
While we have some issues with the software from the adult's side, the Fitbit Ace 3 is an excellent fitness tracker for young children. Older kids may find it too childish, but for those under 12, this should work extremely well.
Best fitness tracker on a budget
- Low cost
- Affordable membership
- Focus on wellness
- No GPS
- Not as durable as others
Why you should buy this: Amazon's fitness band is a strong contender for just $79.
Who it's for: Someone looking to dip their toe into fitness tracking without spending a large amount of money.
Why we picked the Halo View:
It's cheap, it's cheerful, and it's very, very usable. Amazon's first forays into fitness tracking weren't without their problems, but the Halo View is a well-priced and well-featured fitness tracker that won't break the bank. The design is strongly reminiscent of similar offerings from Fitbit, and while the unit itself isn't a perfect fit to the band, the band itself is comfortable, and the Halo View itself is extremely light, being about a third lighter than most fitness trackers.
A lack of GPS tracking (even with a paired smartphone) does mean the "fitness" element is a little light compared to some competitors. No GPS means it's of limited use to cyclists or runners, but it does make that up somewhat with a broad-stroke approach to fitness. Halo Fitness has a good amount of bodyweight exercises to get you moving, and the weekly goals and step counts are solid reasons to start moving and keep moving. It has automatic sleep tracking too, so you can tell how restful your slumber has been, and the nutrition features can help you to lose weight if that's your goal.
Like Fitbit, Amazon wants you to sign up for a subscription to get the most out of the service. It's $4 a month to get the advanced metrics like daily activity scores and personalized insights, but the View does come with a year's worth of Halo membership, so you get to try before you buy. At $79, it's cheaper than a lot of fitness trackers out there, and if you're not put off by a lack of GPS tracking, then this is a great place to start your fitness tracker journey.
Garmin Quatix 6
Best waterproof fitness tracker
- Multiple fitness sensors
- Battery life
- Build quality
- Music storage
- Day to day usability
- Only one size
- No touchscreen
Why you should buy this: More than just another high-priced boating smartwatch, the Garmin Quatix 6 is the ultimate smartwatch for anyone who swims or spends time in the water.
Who it's for: Fitness enthusiasts who want to swim with their fitness tracker, whether it's in the pool or the sea.
Why we picked the Garmin Quatix 6:
Leave aside all the boating connectivity features of the Garmin Quatix 6, and you’re left with a comprehensive fitness tracking smartwatch with all the right features for swimmers. It’s suitable for all surface swimmers (it’s not a dive watch) and will measure distance, pace, stroke rate, and distance, plus swim efficiency (SWOLF) in open water and pool swimming activities.
The heart rate sensor works underwater, plus it’ll connect to an external heart rate monitor, and it has stroke detection for freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke, and butterfly. The Garmin Quatix 6 is water-resistant to 10ATM, weighs 80 grams, and has a 47mm case size and a 1.3-inch screen. It connects to iOS and Android devices, has GPS, and has a battery that will last for up to 14 days of use before recharging.
Apart from its excellent swim tracking, the Garmin Quatix 6 also connects to a wide range of Garmin boating equipment, including the autopilot and GPS transceivers. If that’s not enough, there’s also comprehensive tracking for other activities including cycling and running. Finally, it’ll show notifications from your phone, store and play music, and make contactless payments with Garmin Pay.
It’s not a cheap smartwatch, but the Garmin Quatix 6 is probably the most comprehensively equipped model for anyone who spends time in, or on, the water.
Best fitness tracker for sleeping
- Light and comfortable to wear
- In-depth, informative sleep tracking
- Long battery life with easy charging
- Stylish, with a choice of finishes
- Well-designed app
- Limited activity tracking
- Expensive compared to other fitness wearables
Why you should buy this: It provides comprehensive sleep tracking in a very convenient, very stylish package.
Who it's for: Anyone who doesn't want to wear a watch or band at night to track sleep.
Why we picked the Oura Ring:
If you want to track sleep using a piece of wearable technology, our recommendation is the Oura Ring. What makes it so good is not only the informative and useful data it collects but also its size and convenience. If you don’t like wearing a watch or something on your wrist at night, it’s also a great solution as it weighs very little, and after a few days of wearing it, you’ll forget it’s there.
It measures heart rate, breathing, and body temperature, and also watches for movement while you sleep to show sleep stages, duration, quality, and other stats, which it then puts into an easy-to-understand sleep score. Alongside this is a Readiness score, which helps you understand your level of recovery and whether holding off on another workout would be good.
The accompanying app is attractive and helpful, while the ring’s battery life is about one week before it needs recharging. It’s made of titanium, and it comes in two different designs in several different finishes. What it doesn’t do is track workouts, so to get a really comprehensive picture of your health and fitness it needs to be paired with another wearable. It does count steps and calorie burn though.
The Oura Ring is quite expensive. It starts at $299, and while the features are excellent and work very well, they're not all that different from fitness trackers that cost a lot less. However, the cool design, high-quality materials, and unique style separate the Oura Ring from the competition. It’s the most comprehensive, least intrusive way of tracking sleep with a wearable.
Honor Band 6
Best fitness tracker for bargain hunters
- Compact and lightweight
- Excellent sleep tracking
- Useful smartwatch-like notifications
- Very reasonably priced
- Import-only in the U.S.
- No always-on screen
Why you should buy this: It's a great combination of good design and strong functionality that costs less than the competition.
Who it's for: Someone who doesn't mind doing some research before buying and wants to get an excellent product for a low price.
Why we picked the Honor Band 6:
Consider yourself a shrewd bargain hunter? If so, there are a couple of excellent fitness bands available that may not be on everyone’s radar, and by picking one up, you’ll have one of the most capable activity trackers on your wrist and not have paid much for it. Our pick is the Honor Band 6, which can be found for around $60 and is just the right mix of fitness band and smartwatch.
The Honor Band 6's 1.47-inch screen means it has more display than many rivals, making notifications and exercise data easier to read on the move. The case is light and slim, fits under a cuff, and is also comfortable enough to wear overnight. This is important because the Band 6 uses Huawei’s comprehensive and data-rich TruSleep system for sleep tracking, and it’s great.
It has a heart rate sensor, a blood oxygen monitor (SP02), and a range of workouts it’ll track, although it’s not designed for hardcore sportspeople; it's more for the casual exerciser interested in improving. There are some concerns over step count accuracy, but this never seemed to affect completed workout data, and software updates may cure issues in the future. The overall software experience is pleasant, with swipes and taps needed to navigate the clear menus, all displayed in crisp, colorful detail on the screen.
Why do you need to be a bargain hunter to get one? The Honor Band 6 isn’t officially sold in the U.S., so you’ll have to use an import service or grab one from Amazon. It’s important to make sure the one you pick is the “global” model and not a Chinese version, which has features that don’t work outside China. But other than this, it will connect to your iOS or Android phone without a problem, and as it's sold officially in the U.K., it's fully localized, so you can buy with confidence.
The good news is that if you can’t find the Honor Band 6, we recommend looking at the Xiaomi Mi Band 6 instead. It’s the same story regarding availability, so you won’t find it in retail stores, and you should ensure you buy a global version from Amazon or another online importer. It's also sold officially in the U.K.
The Mi Band has been around for years and has evolved nicely, with the Mi Band 6 having a larger screen and more sensors than its predecessors, yet still with a compact body and low price. It’s equally as good as the Honor Band 6 but has a design that's more fitness tracker than hybrid smartwatch/fitness tracker like the Honor band.
Yes, you’ll have to work a little harder than just picking up a Fitbit at the store to get one, but the saving on both of these is considerable, without any real compromise on functionality and design.
Frequently Asked Questions
Now is as good a time as any to buy a fitness band. Battery life is improving, built-in GPS tracking is far more common, and heart rate monitors are making their way onto more devices to ensure accurate measurements. The tech isn't likely to advance too dramatically, for now, so you'd likely get several years out of the options listed — if you stick with them.
Much depends on what you want to get out of it. If you don't have some motivation and goals to go along with your new fitness tracker, then it may be tough to justify spending the money on one. Smartwatches are a good alternative if you're concerned about finding that motivation, as most can run apps that can help push you and they also have multiple other functions too, so you won't feel like it's wasted money if you don't immediately meet any fitness targets.
One of the biggest complaints people have with fitness trackers is a lack of accuracy. Wrist fitness trackers are not 100% accurate in step count or heart-rate tracking. Fitness trackers use sensors like an accelerometer or an altimeter to calculate step counts and stair climbs. These sensors are not foolproof — they can and do make mistakes. Any movement of the wrist, when you are driving, for example, can cause the tracker to tack on steps or stairs when you are not walking. Sometimes you'll miss out on steps, especially when your feet are moving and your hands are still. We encounter this issue with missing steps whenever we use a treadmill desk. Ultimately, steps and stair count should be used as a loose guideline to gauge your overall activity level and not a step-by-step assessment of your day.
The same principle applies to heart-rate tracking. When compared to a chest-strap heart-rate monitor, wrist-based monitors fall short. They do a decent job of measuring your average heart rate but struggle to detect quick changes in heart rate. If you are going from a standstill to a sprint, the chest strap accurately detects the sudden increase in your heart rate. A wrist-based monitor, though, struggles to keep up with rapid changes and will often lag, showing the spike in heart rate a few seconds after it actually happens. For most people, this lag won't be a deal-breaker, but it is a concern for athletes who are using heart-rate tracking to gauge their effort during an exercise.
Almost all fitness trackers require you to sync the data from the tracker to the app that collects the data and analyzes it for you. Most people sync to their tablet or smartphone, but you also can sync to your computer. Connecting to a computer is not as convenient as syncing to a smartphone, but it can be done. Some smartwatches like the Apple Watch are available with a cellular connection and can perform many functions without a smartphone, but you will need to pay extra on your monthly phone bill to use this feature.
While a fitness band will work without a smartphone, you won't get all the benefits of syncing the data with the matching app or be able to perform other functions such as easily updating the software.
Fitness trackers can measure your heart rate, but most cannot measure your blood pressure. There are a handful of wearable blood pressure devices, but none of the major manufacturers like Garmin, Fitbit, Samsung, Polar, or Apple have integrated blood pressure into their products yet.
Fitness trackers can last up to five years. Problems with the battery charging and broken parts like the strap and the screen ultimately tend to lead to their demise.
While most smartwatches are equipped with GPS, only a few fitness trackers have GPS built into the tracker. GPS allows you to record the route you run, cycle, or walk without needing your phone. Instead of onboard GPS, fitness trackers use connected GPS that relies on your phone to record your route. With connected GPS, the tracker connects to the mobile app on your phone and uses that app to track GPS coordinates during an outdoor activity. If you forget to connect your watch to the app, your distance and pace will be estimated using movement data and not the more accurate GPS data from your phone.
How we test
We test fitness bands just like we test smartwatches. That means using them every day and testing out all the marquee features. We strap them to our wrists (no matter how silly they look) and walk around town with them, take them to bed with us, and hit the gym to test out the workout features. It's also key to pair them with different phones and test the experience when the band is connected to phones with different operating systems.
If a fitness band is water-resistant, we dunk it in water, and if it has GPS, we go on a hike. A fitness band's companion app's reliability and ease of use are just as important because it's certain frustration if it refuses to sync with your phone.
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