Best Fitness Trackers and Activity Monitors of 2017

Looking for some sleek and stylish tech to help you get fit? After extensive research, we bought the 17 best fitness trackers on the market today and conducted a comprehensive series of side-by-side tests to find out which wearable came out on top. We evaluated the accuracy of each tracker at counting steps, walking miles and miles in the process, as well as tracked insane workouts and climbed flight after flight of stairs to see how each product stacked up. In addition, we also rated and scored how comfortable each product is, its display, and how effective each one could be at establishing healthy habits. Take a look at the full review below to see which fitness tracker will be the best bet for you, whether you are a serious athlete in the process of a strict training plan or are just trying to get up and be a little more active.

Read the full review below ≫

Test Results and Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 17 ≪ Previous | View All | Next ≫
Rank #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product
The Fitbit Charge 2.
Fitbit Charge 2
The Fitbit Blaze.
Fitbit Blaze
Garmin Vivoactive HR
The Fitbit Surge
Fitbit Surge
The Garmin Vivosmart HR+
Garmin Vivosmart Hr+
Awards  Best Buy Award  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award  Editors' Choice Award   
Price $150 List
$148.95 at Amazon
$200 List
$198.95 at Amazon
$250 List
$142.95 at Amazon
$250 List
$181.96 at Amazon
$200 List
$159.00 at Amazon
Overall Score 
100
0
73
100
0
72
100
0
72
100
0
71
100
0
69
Star Rating
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Pros Stylish, easy to use, great displaySleek, stylish, fantastic displayTons of activity profiles, rugged, waterproofBuilt-in GPS, great display, easy to useRugged, waterproof, built-in GPS
Cons Not water resistant, shorter battery lifeNo built-in GPS, largeLarge, Not very stylishExpensive, bulkyBulky, not the most comfortable, difficulty syncing with the app
Ratings by Category Fitbit Charge 2 Fitbit Blaze Garmin Vivoactive HR Fitbit Surge Garmin Vivosmart Hr+
Fitness Impact - 30%
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
8
Health Impact - 25%
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
6
10
0
6
Ease Of Use - 20%
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
6
Ergonomics - 15%
10
0
6
10
0
5
10
0
6
10
0
4
10
0
6
Display - 10%
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
9
Specs Fitbit Charge 2 Fitbit Blaze Garmin Vivoactive HR Fitbit Surge Garmin Vivosmart Hr+
Heart Rate Monitor Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Altimeter (stair tracking) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Battery life Up to 5 days Up to 5 days Up to 5 days Up to 7 days, up to 10 hours with GPS Up to 5 days, up to 8 hours with GPS

Analysis and Award Winners


Review by:
David Wise and Austin Palmer

Last Updated:
Monday
October 2, 2017

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Updated October 2017
As summer ends and fall begins, you may find that your motivation for exercising is starting to wane. This might be the perfect opportunity to upgrade or a try out a fitness tracker for that little extra boost to your fitness regimen in the upcoming winter months. While there aren't any new products to add to our review at this time, there have been a few announcements about upcoming products from the major manufacturers. We will keep our eyes peeled for anything new that looks like it could be a worthy contender with our award winners, but for now at least, the products below are the clear winners and the best you can get.

Best Overall Fitness Tracker


Fitbit Blaze


The Fitbit Blaze. Editors' Choice Award

$198.95
at Amazon
See It

Sleek
Stylish
Great Display
Large
Pricey

Earning the highest score out of the entire group, the Blaze by Fitbit snagged an Editors' Choice award and is the undisputed winner of the title of Best Overall Fitness Tracker. This quasi-smartwatch tracker took the top score for the majority of our rating metrics, performing exceptionally well in our Fitness Impact, Health Impact, and Display tests. This product is exceptionally accurate when it came to counting steps and stairs climbed and has a top-of-the-line display, all while making it extremely easy and fun to compete against yourself or your friends or family with the Fitbit online community. You can participate in events like the Workweek Hustle challenge with your coworkers or virtually trek to places like Vernal Falls or Half-Dome in Yosemite National Park using Adventures. This sleek and stylish watch also has a handful of smart features, allowing you to receive text, call, and other push notifications right on the device. It is compatible with an enormous array of bands to match your own personal taste and customize the device to be a perfect accessory for the gym or the boardroom. All in all, the Blaze is the clear choice for those that want the best.

Read review: Fitbit Blaze

Best Fitness Tracker with GPS


Fitbit Surge


The Fitbit Surge Editors' Choice Award

$181.96
at Amazon
See It

Fantastic set of fitness tracking abilities.
Very Easy to use
Awesome Display
Unexciting appearance
Bulky

Only narrowly missing out on the top spot, the Surge by Fitbit only trailed the Blaze by a single point. This watch has a built-in GPS unit in the device itself, boosting its standalone capabilities exponentially and allowing you to leave your phone at home. However, while this is a great all-around fitness trackers, Fitbit does plan on discontinuing it in the future with the release of their first smartwatch, the Fitbit Ionic. However, this wouldn't dissuade us from recommending it, especially if you can find it on sale. The Surge can track an impressive array of stats, providing you with accurate distance, speed, and average speed during your workouts, as well as tracking your route for later review. This caused it to earn one of the top scores overall when we evaluated the fitness impact of each tracker. This tracker is a little on the bulkier side, but it is comfortable, and is definitely a model to consider if you want some serious sports tracking and don't mind the heft.

Read review: Fitbit Surge

Best Bang for the Buck


Fitbit Charge 2


The Fitbit Charge 2. Best Buy Award

$148.95
at Amazon
See It

Stylish
Great display
Petite profile
Not very water resistant
Awesome value
Shopping for fitness tracker on a budget? Then look no further than the Fitbit Charge 2. This model performed exceptionally well, tying for the top score in our test with the Blaze and costing about $50 less. This is an exceptionally well-rounded tracker, excelling at basic fitness tracking and has several features focusing on your wellness. These include a series of guided relaxation exercises to help you unwind when you are too stressed out. This model is also much slimmer and stylish than the larger, bulkier trackers with built-in GPS and comes in an attractive variety of colors. This is definitely the model to consider if you are shopping on a slim budget and want to keep a fat wallet.

Read review: Fitbit Charge 2

Best for Outdoor Activities


Garmin Vivoactive HR


Top Pick Award

$142.95
at Amazon
See It

Amazing display
Tons of trackable activities
Packed with sensors
Bulky
Mediocre looks

Tying for the second highest score of the entire group, the Garmin Vivoactive HR is an overall excellent fitness tracker, earning our Top Pick for Outdoor Activities award. This rugged and durable fitness tracker is rated to 5 ATM of water resistance and is packed to the brim with different sensors, including everything from an accelerometer to an altimeter. It has a ton of preloaded activity profiles for all of your different outdoor adventures and has some of the most detailed and comprehensive fitness data displayed after a workout that we have seen. It is a little on the pricey side and is a bit hefty, but it is still surprisingly comfortable to wear and has a decently minimalistic profile on your wrist. For those looking for some wearable tech to accompany them on all of their outdoor exploits, then this is the one for you.

Read review: Garmin Vivoactive HR

Best Clip-On Fitness Tracker


Fitbit One


The Fitbit One. Top Pick Award

$100
List Price
See It

Small
Inexpensive
Discreet
Limited features
Not terribly stylish

Can't stand to wear a watch? the Fitbit One took home the Top Pick award for being the best clip-on style tracker. This model was uncannily accurate at counting steps — the best of the entire group. This model is relatively inexpensive, exceptionally easy to use due to its simplicity, and is so discreet that it is easy to completely forget you are wearing it. While it doesn't have the largest set of features, it does incredibly well at the functions it does perform. All in all, this is a great choice for someone who abhors wearing a watch or can't bear the thought of giving up their current watch for a fitness tracker.

Read review: Fitbit One

Great for Outdoor Activities on a Budget


Garmin Vivosmart Hr+


The Garmin Vivosmart HR+
$159.00
at Amazon
See It

Rugged
Waterproof
Not the most comfortable
Bulky

Ready to venture off the beaten path but trying to save some cash? the Garmin Vivosmart HR+ scored very well in our tests, just barely being edged out of the top spots. It's performance is eclipsed by the Vivoactive HR in almost every aspect, but the Vivosmart HR+ still has some merit. It retails for significantly less than the Vivoactive HR and is a solid option for someone who is still looking for a rugged and waterproof fitness tracker with a built-in GPS module and is shopping on a budget. It also is decently smaller than the Vivoactive HR, but is still quite bulky. Regardless, the Vivosmart HR+ is a solid option for the outdoorsy adventure that is shopping on a tight budget.

Read review: Garmin Vivosmart HR+

Best for Navigation


TomTom Spark 3 Cardio + Music


The TomTom Spark 3 Cardio + Music
$210.84
at Amazon
See It

Built-in music storage
Displays GPS tracks
Large
Expensive

Looking for the most detailed GPS stats available right on your wrist, or looking to leave the smartphone behind? The Spark 3 is a rugged, 5 ATM waterproof fitness tracker with a built-in GPS module and audio player. This model will display your route right on your wrist or allows you to upload .GPX files and shows your location relative to your planned route, helping you stay on track. This tracker also has up to 3 GB of onboard music storage and can pair directly with a pair of Bluetooth headphones. However, this model doesn't have the most interactive of an online community and the app isn't quite as full-featured as other brands.

Read review: TomTom Spark 3 Cardio + Music

select up to 5 products
Score Product Price Our Take
73
$150
Best Buy Award
Fantastic fitness tracker for the price, but is hydrophobic with a shorter battery life
72
$200
Editors' Choice Award
A fashionable yet still very functional tracker without built-in GPS
72
$250
Top Pick Award
The Vivoactive HR is our Top Pick for Outdoor Activities with its wide variety of activity profiles and its rugged and waterproof design
71
$250
Editors' Choice Award
Great for those who are looking for a more functional tracker than a fashionable one
69
$200
Great features for those who spend most time of their time outdoors
68
$100
Top Pick Award
Simple unobtrusive tracker, worn on the waist, that is amazing for tracking steps
67
$150
While it did improve on the Alta, the Alta HR still left some things to be desired
67
$130
Simple straight forward tracker that wont be around much longer
66
$250
Lacks the notification features of other models, but great for solo outdoors
63
$150
Great for those who need some motivation to get up and move each hour, or those that need a tracker that can keep up with them outside without the added cost of GPS
62
$130
A straight forward tracker similar to the Charge HR, but with a more minimalist design and no HR monitor
61
$140
Falling a little flat, the Vivosmart 3 can't quite hold up to the Fitbit Charge 2 as a fitness tracker for daily wear, though it is waterproof to 5 ATM
59
$100
A budget model that tracks activities a little better than a stop watch, with good battery life and is waterproof
59
$100
A minimalist tracker in features and profile, but can be used for swim tracking with an in app purchase
57
$200
A comfortable, ordinary tracker for a higher price
45
$50
Cheap clip-on tracker with poor tracking and consistency
45
$100
Not a case where you get what you pay for, you get much less

Analysis and Test Results


Exploding in popularity in the past few years, fitness trackers and other wearable pieces of technology have become one of the new hot items. These are designed to improve your fitness by measuring your progress towards various goals and maximize your motivation by integrating you into a community of like-minded individuals. We spent a substantial amount of time researching these trackers, comparing specifications and features, and reading through user reviews and experiences to determine what qualities the best fitness tracker would have, and design a testing regimen to crown the award winners.

We bought the highest rated products currently available and put them through a veritable barrage of tests to see which one came out on top.
We bought the highest rated products currently available and put them through a veritable barrage of tests to see which one came out on top.

We split our testing process into five distinct metrics: Fitness Impact, Health Impact, Ease of Use, Ergonomics, and Display. Each model of tracker received a score in each metric, and these were combined to determine the overall score. We detail exactly what each tracker did well and where it struggled in the following sections.

The lineup of fitness trackers  ready to be assessed.
The lineup of fitness trackers, ready to be assessed.

Fitness Impact


The most important metric in our test, and the primary reason that many people will purchase one of these products is to improve their fitness. We rated the products on how the community could motivate you, as well as what activities and workouts each device could track. While health and fitness are arguably the same thing, or at the very least substantially intertwined, we focused primarily on how well each tracker did at recording physical activities in this metric, leaving things like diet and sleep tracking for a separate metric. You can see how all of the products compared in the chart below.


We manually counted how many steps it took to walk a mile course with a mechanical tally counter, then compared it to each tracker on the same course.

To check the step count of each tracker  we manually compared with a tally counter over a mile walk.
To check the step count of each tracker, we manually compared with a tally counter over a mile walk.

After multiple trials for each tracker, we computed the average % error. We also tested the tendency to record false steps off random arm movements. Finally, we checked how each tracker did at monitoring a high-intensity cardio workout, a cycling workout, and if any models had special features focused on other physical exercises.

The Fitbit Surge was the top-scoring model in this metric, earning a 9 out of 10. This model has a built-in GPS, so it is exceptionally accurate at measuring distance walked or ran, as it is actually measuring it, not estimating off a step count. This built-in GPS is a great feature, as the ever-increasing size of smartphones has made it less and less convenient to bring these devices with you while working out, making it a challenge for those addicted to tracking every adventure they take. A fitness tracker with a built-in GPS allows you to still generate detailed maps and tracks of your day while leaving your large smartphone at home. This model did a good job at counting steps, but it wasn't the most accurate, averaging about 0.9% off the true count in our tests. This model also does a great job for tracking cycling, measuring the top speed, average speed, distance traveled, duration, and elevation changes.

We used a bike mounted cycling computer as a baseline to compare the cycling tracking on each product.
We used a bike mounted cycling computer as a baseline to compare the cycling tracking on each product.

We particularly liked that you can pause recording in the middle of a workout to take a quick break, then resume again when you are ready.

The Garmin Vivosmart HR+, Garmin Vivoactive HR, Fitbit Blaze, and Fitbit Charge 2 all finished in a tie for the second highest fitness impact score with an 8 out of 10. These four models all won awards, and particularly excel at tracking physical exercises. The most accurate step counter out of all the wrist-mounted models we tested was the Vivosmart HR+, averaging a minuscule 0.2% discrepancy. However, this model was substantially more prone than the others to pick up false steps off random arm movements. The HR+ also has a built-in GPS module, making it perfect for tracking cycling or long runs.

The Vivosmart HR+ records the route you traveled with its built-in GPS.
Heart rate and elevation data from a cycling workout on the Garmin Connect app.
 

The Vivoactive HR only averaged a slightly higher discrepancy when it came to step counting accuracy — 0.47%. This model has a whole host of different trackable activities and has some of the most detailed fitness stats that we have seen in these products. It has a built-in GPS, as well as a ton of other sensors, making it an awesome choice for tracking cycling or other outdoor activities.

Some of the different activities that this model can monitor.
Some of the different activities that this model can monitor.

Both the Blaze and the Charge 2 can connect to your phone to add GPS capabilities — a great feature, but only if you are ok bringing your mobile device along with you. Both of these models have similar recording metrics for cycling, or with other workouts. In addition, the Blaze does have Fitstar — three part workouts that last about 20 minutes if you need some added inspiration. We also found that the Blaze was slightly more accurate than the Charge 2 when it came to counting steps, about the same as the Surge.

Next in the rankings were the TomTom Spark 3, Fitbit One and the Fitbit Charge HR, all earning a 7 out of 10. The One was the highest rated clip-on fitness tracker that we tested, its score buoyed up by its phenomenally accurate step count, averaging only a 0.1% discrepancy — the most accurate of our testing.

The clip-on Fitbit One had the most accurate step count in our tests.
The clip-on Fitbit One had the most accurate step count in our tests.

Unfortunately, this model can't really track cycling or other cardio workouts, forcing you to enter data on the app after you have completed the activity. This model can track how many flights of stairs you climb a day. The Charge HR is exceptionally similar in fitness performance as the Charge 2, but it lacks the ability to pair with your phone's GPS, thus bringing down its score slightly.

The TomTom is exceptionally accurate at tracking steps and distance. It also does a solid job at tracking a whole host of other activities.

However, this model is severely deficient at allowing you to compare and compete with your friends — the worst of the group. It also lacks the ability to track flights of stairs climbed.

Following these two trackers was the Garmin Vivosmart HR, Garmin Vivosmart 3, Fitbit Alta HR, and the Polar A360, each earning a 6 out of 10. The Vivosmart HR is the non-GPS version of the HR+, performing similarly, but losing some accuracy at counting steps. This model also lacks a ton of the cycling metrics, only monitoring your heart rate and timing the duration of the activity. This model also tracks flights of stairs, but it was slightly more inaccurate than the Fitbit's in our tests, adding a phantom flight of stairs.

The Vivosmart 3 is alright at tracking steps and counting stairs climbed, but it is a little deficient when it comes to tracking other activities, with a limited set of data. The Alta HR is even worse at dealing with other activities, but it does have a substantially better online community — like other Fitbits — for fun challenges and competitions.

The Polar wasn't as accurate at step counting, lacked lots of customization available to other models, and only tracked basic stats: calories burned, heart rate, and duration. However, this model does have a ton of training profiles you can add for a whole host of activities, such as kitesurfing, table tennis, or backcountry skiing, though it is worth bearing in mind that the Polar doesn't change what it tracks for each activity, just logs that you did a different exercise.

The Polar app has plenty of different profiles to log your activity under.
Some of the many sports available to track with the Polar A360. Unfortunately  the tracker doesn't actually change how it tracks for each sport  simply measuring duration and estimating calories burned.
 

Rounding out the bottom of the pack, our last 4 trackers all scored 5 or below. The Garmin Vivofit 3 is limited to tracking steps and timing activities, lacking the sensors for heart rate or stair climbing, enough to merit it a 5 out of 10. The Misfit Shine 2 earned the same score, similarly only tracking duration and steps, but it has a few more activities that you can classify your physical activities under in the app than the Jawbone UP Move. The Jawbone earned a 4 out of 10, getting docked for its inferior step counts that were incredibly unreliable. It was either dead on or way off, with no middle ground. Finally, the Striiv Bio 2 finished last, with a dismal 3 out of 10. It tracked steps accurately, but that's about all it did, proving unreliable at tracking anything else accurately.

Finally, we looked at the companion apps for each manufacturer, as different models utilize the same app. The Fitbit app led this category with its weekly emails including your stats for the previous 7 days, as well as your top 3 friends on the step count leaderboard. The app has non-competitive "Adventures", where you can digitally walk along a path to a point of interest, using your steps. There are also competitive challenges you can undertake against yourself or your friends.

A competitive challenge with the Fitbit app to help you get up and get active.
Taking a virtual "Adventure" to Vernal Falls with the Fitbit app.
 

Next was the Garmin Connect app, having a simpler set of features allowing you to track your progress over the past 7 days, month, or year, and allows you to opt into weekly challenges with people in your step range. The Jawbone app followed, allowing you to view your trends and duel with your friends, but lacked even more functionality than the Fitbit or Garmin apps. Rounding out the bottom were the apps from Misfit, Polar, and Striiv — each of these apps only allowed you to view your past progress, not really allowing you to challenge your buddies at all.

Health Impact


The next highest weighted metric in this product category is the health impact of each tracker. To assess this, we started with whether or not the tracker could monitor heart rate, and how accurate it was compared to a chest strap heart rate monitor. Then, we looked at what aids in dieting each model could provide, what other lifestyle changes it could help you implement, and whether or not it could track sleep and wake you, as well as it there were any other health-specific features. You can see which models scored the best in the chart below.


The Charge 2, Alta HR, Vivoactive HR, Vivosmart 3, and the Blaze led this metric, all earning a 7 out of 10. These models all have automatic sleep tracking, as well as a vibration wake alarm to gently wake you and leave your partner undisturbed. Our tester felt that the sleep stats reported by the Fitbit brand trackers were very close to his recollections of the night, in terms of the number of times woken up. We found the Garmin brand trackers to be a little more temperamental when it came to sleep monitoring, with it failing to log any data at all plenty of times. The Blaze and the Charge 2 were off an average of 23 and 16 bpm from the chest strap heart rate monitor, with larger discrepancies occurring the more active you are — and higher your heart rate was.

The Blaze did an alright job at monitoring heart rate  though its accuracy dropped the higher your heart rate was.
The Blaze did an alright job at monitoring heart rate, though its accuracy dropped the higher your heart rate was.

The Alta HR didn't perform terribly well in our heart rate test, averaging about 34 bpm off of the chest strap. On the other hand, the Garmin models — the Vivoactive HR and the Vivosmart 3 scored very well in our test, only averaging about 8 and 9 bpm off of the chest strap, respectively.

We also found the heart rate sensor to be quite accurate in our tests.
We also found the heart rate sensor to be quite accurate in our tests.

You can scan or search for food to help maintain diet in the Fitbit app, as well as monitor hydration. These models both offer reminders to move every hour if you have been too sedentary, and the Charge 2 has the unique feature of guided 2 or 5-minute breathing sessions to help you relax.

Breathe in....
And breathe out.
 

Trailing slightly behind the leaders, the bulk of the trackers all earned a 6 out of 10 in this metric, including the Alta, Charge HR, Surge, Vivosmart HR, Vivosmart HR+, Misfit Shine 2, and Polar A360. All of the Fitbit models were excellent at aiding in tracking caloric intake, though only the Charge HR and the Surge had the capabilities to read your heart rate. These models were both less than 25 bpm off the chest strap, on average. The Alta lacks this ability but does vibrate to alert you that it is time to get up and move.

The HR and the HR+ were much more inaccurate than the Fitbits in our test, averaging 51 and 31 bpm off, respectively. These models also require you to use a third-party app, MyFitnessPal to track your diet, rather than their companion apps. However, these model has the best reminders to get up and move, with a movement bar on the left side of the screen that builds up the longer you have been stationary, requiring a proportional amount of exercise to remove it. These models both have automatic sleep tracking and can act as an alarm clock.

The need to move bar  on the left side of the screen  will fill up the longer you have been sedentary  and takes a proportional amount of activity to reduce it.
The need to move bar, on the left side of the screen, will fill up the longer you have been sedentary, and takes a proportional amount of activity to reduce it.

The Misfit Shine 2 lacks heart rate monitoring, though you can use the app on your phone to estimate it, and requires you to use the same third-party app to monitor calories, MyFitnessPal. This model does offer movement reminders with a customizable duration, anywhere between 20-120 minutes in 20-minute increments. The Misfit can also track your sleep, initiated through a button press. The Polar A360 was actually the most accurate at monitoring heart rate in our tests, averaging only 6 bpm off of the chest strap — definitely making this a model to think about if heart rate is your main priority, though you may just be better served with a chest strap monitor if that is the case. The Polar uses MyFitnessPal as well to track calories and lacks any sort of movement reminders.

Exceptionally accurate at heart monitoring  the A360 fell flat in our other testing metrics.
Exceptionally accurate at heart monitoring, the A360 fell flat in our other testing metrics.

The Spark 3, Fitbit One, and Garmin Vivofit 3 all earned an average 5 out of 10 when we evaluated their health impacts. Both lack heart rate monitoring, with the One more effective at tracking calorie intake, and the Vivofit 3 better at reminding you to get up and move — the One completely lacks this feature. These also will both track your sleep, with the Vivofit 3 being automatic, and the One needs to be triggered with a button and placed in its specific, sleep tracking wristband.

FitBit One and all of its included hardware. Shown from left to right is the charging cable  the clip/case  the device itself  and an armband for wear during sleep.
FitBit One and all of its included hardware. Shown from left to right is the charging cable, the clip/case, the device itself, and an armband for wear during sleep.

The Spark 3 does have a heart rate monitor that works reasonably well but offers very little in terms of help implementing a lifestyle change or a diet. While it does estimate calories burned, it does nothing to monitor caloric intake and it doesn't have any sort of reminder to get up and move when you have been stationary for too long. This model also did an unremarkable job at tracking your sleep, only showing the duration with no additional data.

The Striiv Bio 2 and the Jawbone UP Move both scored somewhat poorly in this metric, earning a 4 and a 3, respectively. The Bio 2 measures heart rate, but was the least accurate out of our testing, averaging 61 bpm off of the chest strap. This tracker lacks an alarm to notify you to move and requires you to use MyFitnessPal to track dieting. You initiate and stop sleep tracking through the app, and it gave us an endless amount of problems. The Up Move does not monitor heart rate in any way or remind you to get up and move around. This model can track sleep using the included wristband, though it's not automatic, and requires the same third-party app to count calories.

The UP Move needs to be transferred to its wristband to track your sleep.
The UP Move needs to be transferred to its wristband to track your sleep.

Ease of Use


Next, we analyzed how easy each tracker was to use. These products are meant to be worn daily, and something that is difficult to use isn't exactly conducive to wearing on a daily basis. We evaluated the battery life, how intuitive the device and app was, how difficult it was to sync data from the device to the app, how hard it was to put on the device, and whether or not it was water resistant. The following chart shows which models stood out, and which ones fell flat.


Three trackers led this set of tests, the Charge HR, One, and — surprisingly — the Shine 2, all earning an 8 out of 10. The Shine relies on a coin-cell battery, lasting for a claimed 6 months, but does require you to change the battery when it dies, rather than re-charge it. This model syncs well, taking only 6-8 seconds, and happens as soon as the app opens up. The app shows you your fitness stats by day, week, or month, and shows a little graph.

Sleep tracking stats captured with the Misfit.
The home screen on the Misfit app.
 

There aren't really any menus to navigate on this device, as it only has a ring of LED's, as a display. The Shine 2 is waterproof to 50 meters, and it is easy to put on. The Fitbit One, a clip-on model, lasts for up to a claimed 10-14 days and requires 1-2 hours on a proprietary charger to completely re-charge. This model syncs quickly, like all Fitbits, within 2-10 seconds. The Fitbit app is extremely user-friendly and intuitive, displaying your stats, as well as your standing in the leaderboards. The One has a one-button interface, pressing once to navigate through the menus, and holding to initiate sleep tracking. This model is only water-resistant, rated for being sweat, rain and splash proof. The Charge HR is very similar to the One, but has a much shorter battery life, only lasting for up to 5 days. This model's band has a nice stiffness to it, making it easy to put on.

The Charge HR was an average comfort level.
The Charge HR was an average comfort level.

The main bulk of the trackers closely followed, with the Alta, Alta HR, Blaze, Charge 2, Surge, TomTom Spark 3, and Vivofit 3 all earning a 7 out of 10. The Fitbit models sync quickly, and have the easiest to use and most intuitive app, clearly displaying all the relevant information.

The home screen on the Fitbit app displaying your current progress towards your daily goals.
The step count leaderboard on the Fitbit app shows you which of your friends ( or you!) has been the most active for the week.
 

The Vivofit 3 uses a coin-cell battery, lasting for up to one year before needing replacement. This model is rated to up to 5 ATM of depth, and the single button interface made it easy to navigate through the menus. The Garmin app isn't quite as intuitive as the Fitbit, with the sheer amount of information causing it to be slightly overwhelming at first. This model was also the most reliable and easiest to pair out of the Garmins.

The step leaderboards on the Garmin app.
Current progress towards your daily goal  displayed on the Garmin app.
 

The Surge lead the pack of Fitbits in terms of battery life, claimed to last up to 7 days, but only if the GPS is turned off. While using the GPS, the battery life is reduced to 10 hours. The other Fitbits last for up to 5 days, and all use a proprietary charger. The Blaze and the Surge were both equally easy to navigate through the menus on the device, much better than the slightly finicky Alta and Charge 2. None of these four models are waterproof, only water-resistant, and only the Alta gave us some difficulties with its clasp when putting on.

The clasp on the Alta gave us some difficulties when putting it on.
The clasp on the Alta gave us some difficulties when putting it on.

The Alta HR uses a watch-style clasp, making it substantially easier to put on than the Alta. The Alta HR also has an improved battery life, but is a little less water resistant, no longer rated for wearing in the shower.

The TomTom Spark 3 has a solid battery life, with the manufacturer stating it can last for up to 3 weeks with normal activity tracking and 11 hours when using the GPS. This model is also water resistant to 5 ATM, very easy to put on, and has a handy directional pad to navigate between menus.

The directional pad underneath the display took a little getting used to but is a very reliable and easy interface method.
The directional pad underneath the display took a little getting used to but is a very reliable and easy interface method.

However, while this model synced to a smartphone reasonably well, we found the companion app to be underwhelming. We had quite a few issues with it crashing and it was much harder to use than the Fitbit app and had a reduced set of features when compared to Garmin's Connect app.

Both the Vivosmart HR, Vivoactive HR, and the Vivosmart HR+ earned a 6 out of 10, losing a few points for their shorter battery life and slightly overwhelming app. These models last for up to 5 days, with the HR+ only lasting for 8 hours and the Vivoactive HR only lasting for 13 hours with the GPS enabled. As mentioned above, the Garmin app is a little confusing, and we found that these three models tended to have some syncing issues in our tests, tending to display some sort of error at first, but then syncing successfully. There weren't many on-device menus to navigate through on this pair of trackers, but they were straightforward in their simplicity. All of these are easy to put on, and rated to 5 ATM of depth.

Both Garmin Vivosmart models were easy to use and easy to put on.
Both Garmin Vivosmart models were easy to use and easy to put on.

The Jawbone UP Move, Polar A360, Vivosmart 3, and Striiv Bio 2 all were of average difficulty, earning a 5 out of 10. While the Jawbone has a great battery life of up to 6 months on a coin cell, it was very finicky to connect with the app and the app was overly complex and unintuitive for such a simple device. The Jawbone has no menus to navigate on the device — lacking a screen — and is rated as splash-proof only. The A360 has a good battery life of up to 14 days but takes around a minute to sync data with your phone. We struggled a little to put this model on, and it is only rated for accidental splashes. The Vivosmart 3 is waterproof to 5 ATM and is very easy to put on, but we found it to be quite confusing to navigate among the menus on the device and it have a somewhat reduced battery life compared to its peers. The Bio 2 has a claimed battery life of up to 30 days, but we found it depleted extraordinarily fast in our tests. This tracker's app also felt a little outdated, and only had minimal useful information.

Sleep tracking metrics captured by the Striiv tracker.
The home screen with basic stats on the Striiv mobile app.
 

Ergonomics


Ergonomics was a much simpler test for these products, split into three aspects: comfort, aesthetics, and profile design — the likelihood that the fitness tracker would become snagged when performing various common tasks, such as putting on a windbreaker or a backpack. The chart below shows which models were the most comfortable to wear, and which ones were too bulky for our taste.


The One led this category, meriting an 8 out of 10. This model is a clip-on tracker and is small and light enough that it is altogether too easy to forget that you are wearing it. This made it exceptionally comfortable. As a small rectangle, it's not visually stunning, but is by no means hideous, and is almost impossible to become snagged when clipped in your pocket. While you do wear it with a wrist strap for sleeping, most people aren't putting on jackets or backpacks in bed, so no snags there, either.

It's almost easy to forget you are wearing the One when it is clipped into a pocket.
It's almost easy to forget you are wearing the One when it is clipped into a pocket.

Next, the pack of the Alta, Alta HR, Vivosmart 3, Vivofit 3, UP Move, TomTom Spark 3, Shine 2, and Bio 2 all earned a 7 out of 10 in this metric. These models all have a relatively low-profile, making it easy to put on a backpack or a light jacket. The clip-on UP Move was the most comfortable and least obtrusive of this bunch, closely followed by the low-profile Shine 2. The Bio 2, Spark 3, Vivofit 3, Vivosmart 3 were next, being decently comfortable. These were followed by the Alta and the Alta HR, which had very low profiles, but still weren't the most comfortable to wear.

The Alta was one of the smaller wrist-mounted trackers.
The Alta was one of the smaller wrist-mounted trackers.

The Alta and Alta HR are, in our opinion, the most visually stunning of that group, available in an attractive variety of colors. The TomTom, Vivofit 3, Vivosmart 3, and the Bio 2 are pretty run of the mill for these products, all black plastic rectangles of varying dimensions. The UP Move comes in a few colors, but is essentially a small disc clipped to your pocket — so there is not too much potential for a striking fashion statement. The Shine 2 received mixed views from our panel, with people either loving it or hating it, but it's ultimately up to you if it matches your style.

The Misfit shine has a unique look for a tracker.
The Misfit shine has a unique look for a tracker.

Next were the Vivosmart HR, Vivosmart HR+,Vivoactive HR, and the Charge 2, all earning a 6. These models were all similarly comfortable, though the HR+ and the Vivoactive HR have a larger profile due to the built-in GPS module. The Vivoactive HR does manage to maintain a much lower profile than the others, hardly ever snagging on anything. The other three models were all equal when we tried to put on a backpack or jacket, only experiencing some slight snags. The Garmins were equal and average when it came to appearance, but the Charge 2 stood out as being much more visually striking.

The Charge 2 is particularly striking in appearance.
The Charge 2 is particularly striking in appearance.

The A360, Blaze, and Charge HR all were about average in ergonomics, deserving a 5. The A360 is mediocre across the board, along with the Charge HR. The Blaze is the closest to a smartwatch out of the bunch, with a larger, higher-resolution display and interchangeable bands to match any style. However, this model is quite large, and wasn't the most comfortable, especially for those with more petite wrists. However, this tracker definitely qualifies as visually appealing.

The Blaze is somewhat large  especially for those with more petite wrists.
The Blaze is somewhat large, especially for those with more petite wrists.

Finally, the Fitbit Surge rounded out the bottom of the pack in this metric. This model is large. Period. It has the larger profile common among the built-in GPS models and is of about average comfort to wear. It comes in a handful of colors, and like other models, a rectangle of molded plastic — making neither stunning or ugly. What really sets this model back is its elevated profile, which managed to get caught on everything throughout our tests.

The Surge is an exceptionally large tracker...but also has an exceptional set of features and functions.
The Surge is an exceptionally large tracker...but also has an exceptional set of features and functions.

Display


The final rating metric that we looked at for this category was the quality of the display. The following graphic shows which models had the nicest displays, and which ones fell short.


We evaluated the clarity of information displayed, whether or not the tracker could substitute for a watch, how visible the screen was in different lighting conditions, its responsiveness, what notifications could be displayed, and what other information was shown on subsequent screens. All of these models enter a sleep mode when you are not adjusting settings on them to conserve power, so we defined responsiveness as how easy it was to wake up the device to initiate a workout or look at your progress, and how easy it was to control the device through the touchscreen and buttons.

The Blaze has an exceptionally clear and easy to read screen.
The Blaze has an exceptionally clear and easy to read screen.

Six models tied for the top score in this set of tests, all earning a 9 out of 10. The Blaze, Surge, Polar A360, Vivosmart HR, Vivoactive HR, and Vivosmart HR+ all have exceptionally nice displays, with a distinguishing factor being how easy all of these models were to read in direct sunlight. While all of these models can receive text and call notifications, all of the models from Garmin are able to receive email notifications as well.

The three models from Garmin and the A360 were also slightly more responsive than the Fitbit models, something to consider if you become easily frustrated by a finicky tracker. This primarily presents itself by not being able to wake the device up, or by having a touchscreen that is unresponsive to commands. This can actually be a surprisingly differentiating factor between models, as the less responsive ones were incredibly infuriating over time.

Next up, the TomTom Spark 3 and the Fitbit Charge 2 both scored an 8 out of 10. The Charge 2 mainly getting knocked down by its lack of visibility in bright sunlight, but sharing all the other features that the top scoring models had. The Charge 2 also has calendar event notifications, to ensure that you never miss an appointment. The predecessor to the Charge 2, the Fitbit Charge HR earned a 7 out of 10. This model has a much smaller screen but is very responsive, both to button and touchscreen presses. This model shares the similar problem of not being quite as easy to read in sunlight, and lacks text notifications, only calls.

The Charge HR notifies you when a call and who is calling.
The Charge HR notifies you when a call and who is calling.

The Spark 3 had an exceptionally easy to read display that was highly visible in direct sunlight. However, it lacks notifications entirely, severely dropping its score in this category. It also does not have a touchscreen, instead relying on a directional pad below the display. This input method is highly responsive but takes a little bit of time to become familiar with.

The Spark 3 had one of the easiest to read displays of the entire group  especially in bright light.
The Spark 3 had one of the easiest to read displays of the entire group, especially in bright light.

Tying with the Charge HR and the TomTom, the Fitbit Alta, Alta HR, and the Garmin Vivofit 3 all earned 7 out of 10 as well. This Alta and Alta HR do a much better job at notifications, displaying text, call, and calendar events, but both are dismal when it came to responsiveness. This pair of models requires the most delicate of touches in a specific spot to cause it to wake and caused us an endless amount of frustration. The Vivofit 3 is highly responsive, and extremely visible in bright light, but to our dismay, lacks any sort of backlight, making it impossible to see in the dark. This model also lacks any notifications.

Next, the Fitbit One scored a 6 out of 10, with its small, but alright display. This model displays the time, but no date. This model is clip-on — not really designed to be a watch substitute, so the display is less watch-like, instead showing a flower graphic to represent your current progress towards your fitness goals. The screen is responsive but shows no notifications.

The flower graphic on the One represents progress towards your daily goal.
The flower graphic on the One represents progress towards your daily goal.

Finishing out the bottom of the pack in this metric was the Jawbone UP Move, Misfit Shine 2, Garmin Vivosmart 3, and the Striiv Bio2. Both the Misfit and the Jawbone lack traditional screens, foregoing them in favor of a ring of LEDs. While this severely limits the amount of information conveyed, these models still convey the current time and progress. These models are responsive, and the Misfit will vibrate when you receive a call or text. The Striiv showed the time and some fitness stats, but it was very hard to read — the worst out of the bunch and was incredibly unresponsive. This model supposedly can receive notifications, but we couldn't successfully get it to work. This model does show your step count, distance, calories burned, and active time on further displays. The Vivosmart 3 is exceptionally difficult to read and is not very responsive, though it does display a decent amount of data and notifications.

Conclusion


Which fitness tracker is the best? The one that gets you up and active!
Which fitness tracker is the best? The one that gets you up and active!
It can be difficult to sift through all the currently available models and information to find the perfect fitness tracker for you. Hopefully, this review has helped you narrow down your search to a specific type, and given you a little more info on what each one does well…and not so well.
David Wise and Austin Palmer

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