We literally went through Insanity to test these fitness trackers. Actually.
We put the top rated fitness trackers through the gauntlet to determine which one is truly the best. Splitting up the overall testing regime into five parts, we looked at the fitness impact, health impact, ease of use, ergonomics, and the display of each product.
To evaluate the fitness impact, we looked at the most common activities that these devices are used for: walking, cycling, and a cardio workout. We also looked at how each model did at calculating flights of stairs climbed, as well as what other activities they tracked and how vibrant of an online community there was.
To check the accuracy at step counting and distance, we measured out a mile track and walked it with each tracker. Throughout this, our tester manually counted steps with a crowd-clicker and then compared the results.
For cycling testing, we compared the GPS-enabled fitness trackers to both a bicycling computer the Strava app on an iPhone 6, verifying the accuracy of the top speed, average speed, and distance traveled.
Non-GPS trackers lack this capability, merely tracking elapsed time and estimating calories burned, similar to any other workout.
Finally, we manually counted the number of flights of stairs climbed, and compared that to the number reported by the fitness tracker.
Here we tested how these products perform at things that could impact your health. These products track heart rate, can help manage dieting or implement lifestyle changes, have a gentle wake alarm, and can track your sleep. First, we compared the accuracy of the heart rate tracking of each of these devices with a chest band heart rate monitor, both resting and active.
Next, we compared how these devices can help motivate you in implementing lifestyle changes, whether it was through diet or exercise. We compared how each one logged caloric intake, and whether or not the tracker would issue challenges or reminders to get up and be active.
Finally, we slept with each of the trackers and compared how they did at tracking sleep, how easy it was to initiate tracking, and the quality of the data produced.
Ease of Use
The more convenient and easy to use these products are, the more likely you are to actually use one of these devices. We looked at the battery life, how each device synced with the app, navigating the menus, how water resistant each device, and how easy it was to put on the wristband.
We compared and scored each model both on how long it lasted, as well as the recharge time. We also timed and ranked each device on how long it took to send a day's worth of data to the phone. We then went through every menu on the device and the app, rating them on intuitiveness and clarity. Finally, we scored them on the manufacturers' stated waterproof recommendations as well as the ease of putting them on your wrist.
From clip-on to wrist mounted, an uncomfortable or ugly fitness tracker just won't be worn. We had a panel of mixed ages and genders try on and rate each tracker. We had them score the comfort, the aesthetics, and how the profile of each tracker felt, then aggregated the scores. We also had them perform simple tasks, such as putting on a light jacket, to see if it got easily hung up.
Our final metric, we rated the display of each product. We evaluated and score each product not only on how the screen looked, but what was shown on the home screen and how visible it was. We also went through and rated the responsiveness of the device to wake-up, as well as whether or not it would receive smartphone notifications.
To see which fitness trackers scored the best, check out our full review and our quest to find the best overall fitness tracker and budget picks. Still on the fence about purchasing one? take a peek at our detailed Buying Advice article to learn more about the types of these products, as well as why you would even want one.