Best Overall Fitness Tracker
Fitbit Charge 3
Heart Rate Monitor
: Yes | Built-In GPS
: No, uses your smartphone's
Extremely easy to use
Great set of fitness features
No integrated GPS
Hard to read in bright light
One of the newest additions to our review, the Fitbit Charge 3 immediately swept away the competition and claimed the highest overall score we have seen in the past two years of testing these products. Needless to say, this product easily claimed the Editors' Choice Award and the title of Best Overall Fitness Tracker. This wearable is very accurate, has tons of different activities that can be tracked, and is very comfortable — all in a sleek and stylish form factor. The Charge 3 also has some of the most extensive set of social functions, allowing you to compete and compare your fitness progress with your friends and family.
The Charge 3 does lack a built-in GPS module, relying on your phone's, so you should definitely consider other products if you need the GPS data and don't plan on bringing your phone with you. Additionally, it can also be really hard to read the screen on the Charge 3 in bright sunlight — especially if you are wearing certain types of polarized sunglasses. These flaws are relatively minor and the Charge 3 is definitely the best you can get for the majority of people.
Read Full Review: Fitbit Charge 3
Best Bang for the Buck
Fitbit Inspire HR
Heart Rate Monitor
: Yes | Built-In GPS
Solid fitness tracking
Heart rate monitor didn't impress in our tests
Could be more comfortable
If you want as much performance as possible without blowing your budget, then the Fitbit Inspire HR is an absolutely fantastic choice. This wearable packs an impressive amount of fitness and health tracking capabilities into a tiny package and is also surprisingly accurate — at least when tracking your steps and workouts. The Inspire has a great display that is very responsive and can display all sorts of smart notifications. It's simple and easy to use, having all the critical features you want in one of these wearables without a ton of fluff to keep it friendly on the wallet.
However, it does make some concessions to keep the cost down. Namely, this tracker does lack a built-in GPS unit, instead relying on a connected GPS through your smartphone, so you will need to bring it along with you if you want to get the most out of the Inspire. It also isn't the most universally comfortable tracker we have encountered, but is fine for most people. Additionally, we didn't find the heart rate monitor to be amazingly accurate in our tests, but it will give you a rough idea of how hard you are working. Overall, these flaws are relatively minor for most people and we highly recommend this model to any budget-conscious shopper looking for a new wearable.
Read Full Review: Fitbit Inspire HR
Best on a Tight Budget
Xiaomi Mi Band 3
Heart Rate Monitor
: | Built-In GPS
Severely limited fitness tracking abilities
Searching for a fitness tracker without blowing your budget? While the Xiaomi Mi Band 3 can't really compare to the top-of-the-line Fitbit, Garmin, or Samsung offerings, it retails for a fraction of the price of the top products and is an all-around great economical option for basic fitness tracking. It is very discreet and super comfortable to wear — hardly noticeable at all — and has a slim enough profile that it hardly ever gets snagged when donning a light jacket or backpack.
However, its fitness tracking and health tracking abilities are quite limited in scope. It does a solid job at tracking your steps and distance, but doesn't do much in terms of more advanced fitness metrics and we weren't overly impressed with its heart rate tracking abilities. While these are some significant drawbacks, it's hard to argue with the super low price of the Xiaomi, making it your best bet for sure if you are shopping on a budget.
Read Full Review: Xiaomi Mi Band 3
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Looking to get up and active? A fitness tracker may be just the perfect thing for you!
Why You Should Trust Us?
We have been testing and comparing fitness trackers at TechGearLab for over two years, buying all of the products in our review and updating it whenever any new or promising products have been released. We buy all the products ourselves so you can be sure that we have absolutely zero financial incentive to pick one product over the other. Austin Palmer and David Wise lead our fitness tracker testing team with their extensive experience when it comes to these products. Both have reviewed dozens and dozens of fitness trackers, smartwatches, and other wearables, as well as hundreds of other tech and smart home products. In addition, both lead very active lives and have used the products in their day-to-day lives for things like interval training cardio workouts, hiking, mountain biking, skiing, and stand up paddleboarding.
To start, 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 designing a testing regimen to crown the award winners. We conducted tons of different side-by-side tests against baseline data to score the accuracy of these trackers when it came to things like RMR, heart rate, steps, and distance. Additionally, we also enlisted the help of a diverse panel to judge things like the comfort and appearance of each tracker.
Related: How We Tested Fitness Trackers
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 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.
Related: Buying Advice for Fitness Trackers
If you are trying to maximize your value dollar for dollar, then the Fitbit Inspire HR or the Xiaomi Mi Band 3 are both fantastic options. While the Mi Band 3 does have a more limited set of functions than the top models, it can count your steps and track the distance traveled quite well, all for a price much lower than the top trackers. However, the Mi Band 3 is a bit limited when it comes to competing and challenging your friends. The Inspire HR has a few more features and gives you an excellent set of community compare functions, but this increase in performance comes with a corresponding increase in cost. While the Mi Band 3 is the best bet if you are shopping on the tightest of budgets, the Inspire HR is for the shopper who doesn't want to make too many concessions when it comes to performance but is still budget-conscious. If you want the best of the best, then the Fitbit Charge 3 is the clear choice, though it costs quite a bit more with the standard edition and even more for the special edition that includes mobile payment capabilities. I
We wish the Xiaomi Band 3 had a little more when it came to fitness tracking.
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.
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. 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.
Earning the top score of the entire group when it came to fitness impact, the Fitbit Charge 3 earned an 8 out of 10 for its stellar showing. This tracker is highly accurate when it comes to calculating steps taken, stairs climbed, and distance traveled. It perfectly counted the number of stairs climbed in our tests and the step count was within 0.05% of the true count in each of our trials. The distance measurement was similarly accurate, showing a distance within 0.05 miles of the true count. It has extensive metrics on cycling and other workouts — though it does rely on your smartphone's GPS unit to maximize its tracking abilities — and has a whole host of profiles for different trackable activities.
The Charge 3 is very accurate when it comes to step counts.
Next in the rankings were the Fitbit Inspire HR, Garmin Vivoactive 3 and the Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro, both earning a 7 out of 10. The Vivoactive 3 is a smartwatch-style fitness tracker. It has a ton of activity profiles for every activity you might do, such as ski, snowboard, XC skiing, SUP, yoga, or golf — to name just a few. It has a built-in GPS module, allowing it to do a great job at tracking different workouts and is very accurate at counting steps.
With a large selection of activities you might find one that best suits your less mainstream interests.
The Fit2 Pro tracks steps exceptionally accurately and provides a handful of metrics for a variety of different activities, such as hiking, elliptical, yoga, pilates, and swimming. This tracker has a particularly impressive set of swimming features, even calculating your SWOLF score while you swim. We also liked that it was quite adept at automatically recognizing an activity and would begin tracking automatically. However, we found its set of community compare features to be a bit sparse and it did an abysmal job at accurately tracking flights of stairs climbed.
The Fit2 Pro was accurate at counting our steps.
The Inspire HR offers the same number of trackable activity profiles and community compare features as the Charge 3, but it wasn't as accurate. It didn't seem to line up as well with our baseline measurements when it came to estimating RMR and didn't prompt you to use the connected GPS for other workouts and didn't monitor elevation gained or lost while cycling. However, it was close when it came to step counts, only having an average discrepancy about 1% higher than the Charge 3's step count error.
Following these three trackers are the Garmin Vivosmart 3 and Garmin Vivosport, both earning a 6 out of 10. Both of these trackers can track stairs. Though stair tracking is available on the Vivosport, it performed abysmally, only counting three out of the ten flights of stairs whereas the Vivosmart, another Garmin tracker, was able to count seven out of ten. 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 Garmin Vivosport has a built-in GPS module, allowing to accurately track and monitor a variety of metrics while you are working out. It is very accurate at counting steps, though it did show a slightly larger discrepancy from the true manual count than the Vivoactive 3. However, it does have a much smaller set of activity profiles to choose from and wasn't terribly accurate at tracking flights of stairs climbed in our tests.
The steps screen on the Vivosport.
Rounding out the bottom of the pack, the remainder of the group all scored 5 or below. The Vivofit Jr. 2 is limited to tracking steps and timing activities exclusively, lacking the sensors for heart rate or stair climbing, enough to merit it a 5 out of 10.
The Huawei Band 2 Pro and the Xiaomi Mi Band 3 both earned a 4 out of 10. The Huawei isn't the most accurate at counting steps, varying from the true count by much more than other models — about 3%.
The Band 2 did poor matching up to our manual step count over a mile.
The Mi Band 3
is a bit more accurate at counting steps, only having a 1.9% discrepancy in its worst trial and a 0.23% discrepancy at its best. However, aside from step and distance tracking, the Mi Band 3
is essentially a stopwatch, failing to record any other fitness metrics without the use of the mobile smartphone app.
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.
Some of the competitive and non-competitive challenges you can participate in with the Fitbit trackers.
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 Garmin Connect displays a ton of information about your fitness.
The Samsung app followed, allowing you to view your trends and duel with your friends, but lacked even more functionality than the Fitbit or Garmin apps.
This tracker can automatically track your sleep and exercises, like walking.
Rounding out the bottom were the apps from Xiaomi, Huawei, and Polar — each of these apps only allowed you to view your past progress and offered little to no ability to challenge or compare with your friends or family.
The Fitbit Charge 3 also has an impressive set of health and wellness functions.
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.
The Fitbit Charge 3, the Gear Fit2 Pro, and the Vivosmart 3 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 and the Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro were very close to his recollections of the night, in terms of the number of times woken up. We found the Garmin brand trackers, in general, to be a little more temperamental when it came to sleep monitoring, failing to register any sleep data whatsoever multiple times throughout the course of our testing, with the Vivosmart 3 being no exception.
The Charge 3 did fairly well in our heart rate tracking assessments, although the difference between the heart rate reported by the Charge 3 and out chest strap heart rate monitor did widen considerably when our tester's heart rate became elevated when working out. We did particularly like that the Charge 3 will remind you if you have been sedentary for too long and offers the same great access to dieting aids that the other Fitbit brand trackers do.
You can scan or search for food to help maintain a diet in the Fitbit app, as well as monitor hydration. These models all offer reminders to move every hour if you have been too sedentary, and the Charge 3
has the unique feature of guided 2 or 5-minute breathing sessions to help you relax, while the Fit2 Pro
will suggest a mini-exercise to do.
In our heart rate test the Vivosmart 3 scored about the same as the Charge 3, doing very well with resting heart rates, but being about 20-25 bpm off at active heart rate levels. Throughout our trials, we found an average discrepancy of 9 bpm from the chest strap.
The heart rate display on the Vivosmart 3.
The Fit 2 Pro performed a little worse, averaging about 14.5 bpm off of the chest strap.
The Fit2 Pro didn't have the most accurate HR monitor.
Trailing slightly behind the leaders, three of the trackers earned a 6 out of 10 in this metric, including the Inspire HR
, the Vivoactive 3
and the Vivosport
. Both the Vivoactive 3
have a built-in HR monitor, but these models are capable at reminding you to move. These Garmin's have a noticeable vibrate in addition to producing a "move bar" on the right side of the display. The "move bar" was very helpful especially if we were distracted at the time and didn't feel the light buzz.
The Vivosport has a strong display. It is easy to read in both dim and super bright light.
The Vivoactive 3 and the Vivosport both were relatively subpar at monitoring heart rate, varying significantly from the measurement we took with the chest strap heart rate monitor. These models both did an alright job sleep tracking and required you to use a third-party app to track calorie intake. This pair also has some basic sleep tracking abilities and a vibration alarm clock.
The Inspire HR was a little more accurate in our tests when it came to measuring heart rate than either the Vivoactive 3 or the Vivosport, but it still averages about 10 bpm off a resting heart rate and even more off of an elevated one. We did like how easy the Fitbit app makes it to track calories consumed, but we were a little disappointed with how off the Inspire was our base estimate when it came to calculating approximate RMR — it had a much larger discrepancy than the other Fitbit trackers. However, the Inspire does remind you to get up and move and has both a silent alarm clock and automatic sleep tracking.
The Mi Band 3, the Vivofit Jr. 2, and the Huawei Band 2 Pro all earned an average 5 out of 10 when we evaluated their health impacts. The Vivofit Jr. 2 lacks a heart rate monitor completely, but we weren't that impressed with the performance of the heart rate monitor on either the Xiaomi or the Huawei.
The Huawei Band 2 Pro had a relatively terrible performance in our heart rate monitoring test, averaging by over 70 bpm off of our chest strap control heart rate monitor. This tracker also uses MyFitnessPal to track calorie intake, like the Garmin's, but it does have a notification to alert you to get up and move if you have been stationary too long.
We usually found quite a big discrepancy between the Xiaomi and our chest strap heart rate monitor.
The Xiaomi did a bit better in our heart rate testing but still averaged about 22 bpm off of the control heart rate monitor. However, it doesn't estimate daily calorie burn, only active calorie burn, and lacks the ability to connect with MyFitnessPal. It will remind you to get up and move if you have been sitting for too long and does have automatic sleep tracking, though we weren't the most impressed with the date it produced.
Reaching 60 active minutes you get to make a move in the Adventure game.
The Vivofit Jr. 2
is designed primarily for children, with in-app games that are designed specifically to get them up and active. The more active you are or the more chores you complete, the more in-game currency you acquire.
The Mi Band 3 can be fully submerged.
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.
Leading this set of tests, the Fitbit Charge 3, the Fitbit Inspire, the Xiaomi Mi Band 3, the Gear Fit2 Pro, and the Garmin Vivofit Jr. 2 all earned an 8 out of 10. The Charge 3 has a very intuitive layout of menus on the device itself and we found the Fitbit app to be one of the most user-friendly in general. This tracker has a battery life that purportedly lasts for up to 7 days — depending on use — and syncs your data quickly and reliably to your smartphone whenever you open the app. The wristband has a nice stiffness and the traditional watch clasp make it very easy to put the Charge 3 on or take it off and it is rated as being water resistant to 5 ATM — though we did miss any sort of physical interface, like a button.
The Fitbit app is by far our favorite of the group.
The Inspire HR performs almost identically to the Charge 3 in this metric, but its battery life is just a little bit shorter, only lasting for up to 5 days instead of 7 days. It's just as easy to put on and is water resistant enough to take it in the shower or the pool. Additionally, we thought it was just a tiny bit more responsive than the Charge 3.
The Xiaomi Mi Band 3 is a little more difficult to put on, forgoing the traditional watch clasp, but it is rated to be water resistant to 5 ATM or 50 meters. It is one of the easiest trackers to use when it comes to navigating through the menus, relying on both a touchscreen and a single-button interface, with an app that is equally intuitive to navigate. It does take a little longer to sync than the other trackers and has solid battery life.
The clasp on this tracker is a little more difficult to use than traditional watch clasps.
The Fit2 Pro is also water resistant to 5 ATM, but is a little more difficult to navigate the menus. It's not overly difficult, it just takes a little time to become accustomed to where everything is. However, we did find the battery life on the Fit2 Pro to be wanting.
The Vivofit Jr. 2 also relies on a coin cell battery, but it is water resistant to 5 ATM. It is also very easy to navigate through the menus on this tracker and the simplified Vivofit Jr. app is much easier to use than the original Garmin Connect app.
Kids can redeem points from chores for rewards.
The Vivoactive 3 and the Vivosport followed two steps behind the Gear Fit2 Pro, both receiving a 6 out of 10, losing a few points for their shorter battery life and slightly confusing smartphone app.
The Vivoactive 3
and the Vivosport
are similar, lasting for up to 7 days with normal use and 13 and 8 hours respectively when the built-in GPS module is being used. As mentioned above, the Garmin app is a little confusing, and we found that some of these 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 group of trackers, but they were straightforward in their simplicity. All of these are easy to put on, and rated to 5 ATM of depth.
Garmin models are easy to put on with their watch-style bands.
The Huawei Band 2 Pro
and Vivosmart 3
both were of average difficulty, earning a 5 out of 10. 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 has a somewhat reduced battery life compared to its peers.
We weren't the biggest fans of the Striiv app.
The Huawei Band 2 Pro
has a mediocre battery life and an abysmal app. There wasn't a ton of data displayed and we had a ton of syncing issues, such as lost data in our tests. It's fairly easy to put the Huawei
on or take it off and it's water resistant to 5 ATM.
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 majority of the models tied for the top position, with the Fitbit Charge 3, the Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro, the Garmin Vivosport, the Vivosmart 3, the Xiaomi Mi Band 3, and the Band 2 Pro, all earning 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 without any of the trackers getting caught.
The Vivosmart 3 and the Xiaomi are very similar in size and overall form factor. Consequently, our testing panel rated them all about the same, finding this duo of trackers to be the next most comfortable to wear. This duo was followed by the Garmin Vivosport, the Charge 3, the Gear Fit2 Pro, and the Band 2 Pro, all of which our judges found to be just a tiny bit less comfortable to wear. These all have very slim profiles that hardly ever get caught, with the exception of the Charge 3, which is a tiny bit heftier.
The Charge 3 looks great and can get wet without problems!
The Charge 3 is, in our opinion, the most visually stunning of the group, available in an attractive variety of colors. The Huawei and the Samsung are a close second, with the Huawei essentially being a visual clone of the past Fitbit models, theAlta and Alta HR, while the Fit2 Pro stood out for its overall sleek and stylish design, including its curved screen
The Fit2 Pro has an awesome vivid display that is really easy to read.
and the Vivosmart 3
are pretty run-of-the-mill when it comes to looks for these products, all essentially black plastic rectangles of varying dimensions. The Vivosport
improves on this, having a slightly sleeker, rubberized exterior available in a variety of colors.
Next, the Inspire HR, the Vivofit JR. 2, and the Vivoactive 3 all merited a 6 out of 10 for their slightly above average ergonomics. The pair of Garmin models are both similarly comfortable, though the Vivoactive 3 has a larger profile due to the built-in GPS module. However, the Vivoactive HR and Vivofit JR. 2 manage to maintain a much lower profile than many of the others, hardly ever snagging on anything.
This pair of products both stand out a bit when it comes to looks. The Vivoactive 3 is overall visually striking, while the Vivofit Jr. 2 stands out by its patterned exterior, adorned with motifs from popular franchises and movies.
This tracker is designed to be worn by kids or adults with smaller wrists.
The Inspire HR takes a very minimalistic design and has a very low profile, but some of our testers found that the heart rate sensor protrudes slightly from the back of the watch, making an uncomfortable pressure point.
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.
Delivering the best performance in our set of display assessments, both the Vivoactive 3 and the Vivosport earned a 9 out of 10. These both have exceptionally nice displays, particularly standing out by how easy they are to read in bright sunlight and in low light conditions. These trackers both had highly responsive touchscreens and can display almost every push notification that your smartphone can get, even allowing you to accept or deny a call.
The Vivoactive 3 has a strong display that is easy to read in bright sunlight.
Next up, the Gear Fit2 Pro
earned an 8 out of 10 for its superb display. This tracker is very responsive and can receive practically almost all of the notifications that your smartphone can. It is reasonably visible, even in bright conditions, but only when you activate "Outdoor Mode" which maximizes the brightness for five minutes. We found this to be slightly more of a hassle than other trackers, dropping the Fit2 Pro
's score a tiny bit.
The Fitbit Charge 3 and the Inspire HR finished next, earning a 7 out of 10. This pair of Fitbits essentially displays any smart notifications that your phone can, but it can be hard to read them in bright sunlight.
Next, the Xiaomi Mi Band 3, the Huawei Band 2 Pro, and the Garmin Vivofit Jr. 2 all earned a 6 out of 10 for their displays. The Xiaomi is almost impossible to read in bright light, but can receive most notifications that your phone can. However, it does cap it at only being able to show 5, with some longer messages counting for multiple in its queue. The touchscreen is quite responsive, though it can occasionally misread the direction of a swipe.
The Mi Band 3 didn't really stand out when it comes to looks.
The Huawei isn't very easy to read in bright conditions, hurting its score slightly. It's not terribly responsive, but it does get smart notifications and showed a decent amount of basic fitness data.
The Jr. 2 cannot receive smart notifications, but we found it relatively easy to read, even in bright conditions. This pair of trackers are both reasonably responsive, though the information they display is a little limited.
Finishing out the bottom of the pack in this metric was the Garmin Vivosmart 3
earning a 5 out of 10. The Vivosmart 3
is exceptionally difficult to read and is not very responsive, though it does display a decent amount of data and notifications.
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.