Best Fitness Tracker of 2021
$159.99 at Amazon
$98.46 at Amazon
$128.95 at Amazon
$31.55 at Amazon
$129.99 at Amazon
|Pros||Solid display, ergonomic||Detailed sleep tracking, accurate step counting, can be helpful for dieting||Excellent display, great health and fitness capabilities, ergonomic||Inexpensive, easy to use, ergonomic||Great display, good fitness tracking capabilities|
|Cons||A little pricey for its performance||No activity reminders, so-so screen visibility||Runs on the pricey side||No dieting aids, so-so score in our heart rate test||Expensive, harder to use|
|Bottom Line||Finishing in the middle of the pack, the Garmin Vivosport failed to make much of an impact on us||The Vivosmart 4 is a run-of-the-mill tracker with a few noteworthy features but not enough to win an award||This wearable is one of our favorite options, delivering top-notch performances across the majority of our tests and easily earning our recommendation||If you are looking for a basic tracker that won't break the bank, then we think this is a great choice||This flashy, quasi-smartwatch fitness tracker is a solid product, but it is a little pricey for our taste|
|Rating Categories||Garmin Vivosport||Garmin Vivosmart 4||Fitbit Charge 4||Xiaomi Mi Band 5||Garmin Vivoactive 3|
|Fitness Impact (30%)|
|Health Impact (25%)|
|Ease Of Use (20%)|
|Specs||Garmin Vivosport||Garmin Vivosmart 4||Fitbit Charge 4||Xiaomi Mi Band 5||Garmin Vivoactive 3|
|Heart Rate Monitor||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Altimeter (stair tracking)||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Battery life||Up to 7 days; up to 8 hours with GPS||Up to 7 days (excluding pulse ox sleep tracking)||Up to 7 days; up to 5 days with GPS||Up to 14 days||Up to 7 days; up to 13 hours with GPS|
|Charge time||1-3 hours||1-2 hours||3 hours||2 hours||1-3 hours|
|Memory||7 timed activities, 14 days of activity tracking data||7 timed activities, 14 days of activity tracking data||7 days of detailed motion - minute by minute; daily totals 30 days||512KB (RAM) / 16MB (ROM)||7 timed activities, 14 days of activity tracking data|
|Water Resistance||5 ATM||5 ATM||5 ATM||5 ATM||5 ATM|
|Operating Temp||14 - 140 F||14 - 140 F||-4 - 140 F||N/A||14 - 140 F|
|Notifications||Text, call, push notifications||Text, call, push notifications||Text, call, push notifications||Text, call, push notifications||Text, call, push notifications|
|Music Control||Yes||Yes||Yes, with Spotify Premium and phone nearby||No||Yes|
Best Overall Fitness Tracker
Fitbit Charge 4
If you want a premium, best-in-class fitness tracker, the Fitbit Charge 4 is our top recommendation. This wearable features an impressive array of health and fitness tracking and monitoring abilities, along with some of the best social and community-oriented features so you can interact and challenge your friends and family to different fitness challenges. There is an integrated GPS module and a water-resistance rating of up to 5 ATM/50m, giving you plenty of stats on just about all of your workouts, wet or dry. The Charge 4 automatically tracks your heart rate and monitors your sleep, and it sends you reminders to get up and move when you've been stationary too long.
All of this functionality usually comes at a cost. This model is one of the pricier devices we tested. The touchscreen is the only interface you have to rely on, given this tracker lacks any physical buttons or rotating bezels. Fingerprints often showed up on the screen, making it more difficult to read in bright light, and occasionally, swipes would be misread. However, we feel these imperfections are minor and easy to work around, and the Fitbit Charge 4 still tops our list.
Read review: Fitbit Charge 4
Best Bang for the Buck
Fitbit Inspire 2
If you still want the functionality offered in some of the top model fitness trackers but don't want to pay top dollar to get it, check out the Inspire 2 by Fitbit. This wearable offers plenty of health and fitness tracking abilities, and is ergonomic and easy to use. You have access to everything the Fitbit ecosystem has to offer, allowing you to compare and challenge your friends or follow guided workouts. You can track your caloric consumption as well as your sleep.
The Inspire 2 isn't as sleek-looking as some models, and it's unlikely you'll get stopped on the street with compliments. We also found that the heart rate sensor didn't deliver the more accurate results in our side-by-side test, and the optical sensor also sticks out from the bottom of the tracker a bit, which created slight discomfort for some of our testers. However, despite these flaws, with all that you gain from the social and community features offered, we still highly recommend this device to anyone seeking a fitness tracker on a budget.
Read review: Fitbit Inspire 2
Best Basic Tracker
Xiaomi Mi Band 5
If you're on a shoestring budget and don't need the most comprehensive set of features and functions, we'd point you towards the Xiaomi Mi Band 5. It has a modest set of fitness and health tracking features, and we found it exceptionally comfortable and easy to use. It's a great basic tracker with an accurate step count and has most of the basic info you want when tracking workouts.
However, this tracker's companion app doesn't offer much when it comes to social features and doesn't really give an organized way to compete or challenge your friends or family. We also found that its heart rate monitor's results differed considerably from our chest strap control monitor, especially at elevated heart rates. It lacks an integrated GPS module, relying on the connected smartphone for data collection when it comes to metrics like speed or elevation. While it might not be the most full-featured option available, we think this is a great choice for anyone on a budget who's looking for a bare-bones tracker for basic data collection.
Read review: Xiaomi Mi Band 5
Best Smartwatch Alternative
Fitbit Versa 3
Even though the characteristics of the Fitbit Versa 3 are technically more like that of a smartwatch, we feel it deserves consideration. It's a very fitness-focused device that gives you all the benefits of the other Fitbit trackers, as well as allowing you to install third-party apps, like Starbucks and Uber. You can even use it to pay at NFC contactless terminals if you get the special edition. While the screen is a bit more generous in size compared to the other trackers, we like the look and think it's quite comfortable to wear.
This increased functionality, however, means that it costs a bit more than a typical tracker, and its battery won't last as long. It doesn't cost that much more than the top-tier fitness trackers, though, and we think it's worth considering if you are shopping for the best and believe you would benefit from the extra smartwatch features.
Read review: Fitbit Versa 3
Why You Should Trust Us?
We have been reviewing fitness trackers at TechGearLab for close to four years now, all of the products in our review are tested hands-on, and we update the review whenever any new or promising products are 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 and have 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 these products in their day-to-day lives for things like interval training workouts, hiking, mountain biking, skiing, and stand-up paddleboarding.
To start, we spent a substantial amount of time researching these trackers and comparing specifications and features to determine what qualities the best fitness tracker should have. When then designed a testing regimen to evaluate these products and 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 resting metabolic rate, heart rate, steps, and distance. Additionally, we also enlisted assistance from a diverse panel of judges to assess each tracker's comfort and appearance.
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 hot new items on everyone's wish list. These are designed to improve your fitness by measuring your progress towards various goals and maximizing your motivation through access to communities of like-minded individuals. We split our testing process into five distinct metrics: Fitness Impact, Health Impact, Ease of Use, Ergonomics, and Display. Each tracker model 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 looking for the best bang for the buck, we think the Fitbit Inspire 2 is the best option. It has all of the social and community features of the high-end trackers and does a solid job of tracking your different workouts, all at a lower price. It does cost quite a bit more than the cheapest tracker, but we feel strongly that it's the best bargain option if you are shopping on a limited budget and looking to take advantage of the social aspects of these wearable products.
If you are shopping on a tight budget for a new fitness tracker, we think it is hard to go wrong with the Xiaomi Mi Band 5. While it does have a limited set of functions compared to the top models, it can count your steps and track the distance traveled quite well, all for a much lower price. The Mi Band 5, however, is a bit limited when it comes to competing with or challenging your friends.
We rated each product 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 things, or at the very least, closely related, we focused primarily on how well each tracker did at recording physical activities in this metric, leaving things like diet and sleep tracking for our second metric: Health Impact.
To test fitness performance, 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 from random arm movements. Finally, we checked how each tracker monitored a high-intensity cardio workout, a cycling workout, and if any models had special features focused on other physical exercises. Overall, these tests combine to account for 30% of the total score for each tracker.
Claiming the top spot overall, the Fitbit Charge 4 is our favorite for fitness impact. This model did very well in our step count accuracy tests, with its count for two of the three-mile-long trials aligning perfectly with our manual count and only differing by three steps in the third. The estimated distance provided by the Charge 4 was spot on as well.
This model also offers an impressive array of statistics from cycling workouts, logging your speed, distance, time, elevation, as well as giving you a map of where you went in the app, which was one of our favorites. Additionally, we found the data aligned fairly well with information collected by a bike computer and Strava. This tracker also can monitor your estimated calories burned and heart rate information during other cardio workouts. You can have up to seven different profiles on the tracker, with options like circuit training, treadmill, workout, stairclimber, kickboxing, tennis, golf, elliptical, bootcamp, martial arts, spinning, interval workout, hike, weights, or pilates.
The Garmin Vivoactive 3, the Garmin Vivosmart 4, the Fitbit Inspire 2, and Samsung Galaxy Fit, all tied for the runner-up position in our fitness tracking metric.
The Garmin Vivoactive 3 is a smartwatch-style fitness tracker with a ton of activity profiles for every activity you might do, such as skiing, snowboarding, 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.
The Samsung Galaxy Fit impressed us with its accuracy when it came to counting steps. It had an average error near 0.5% in our mile-long walk test compared to a manual step count. This was when we initiated the Samsung Galaxy Fit tracking manually. With automatic workout tracking, we found it usually underreported the number of steps taken since it seems to take a little time for the tracking to begin.
The Samsung Galaxy Fit provides a standard set of data for cycling workouts, but for collecting some of the data, your phone's GPS will be a reliable source. There are also a decent set of other activities to choose from, including swimming, where the Samsung Galaxy Fit can provide some swimming-specific data. Unfortunately, it doesn't show the number of stairs climbed each day.
The Fitbit Inspire 2 produced some of the most accurate results in our step counting accuracy tests. It almost nailed the estimated distance walked and was only off from the true step count by a handful of steps in each of our mile-long trial walks. However, when it came to tracking cycling or other workouts, we did find that the performance fell off quite a bit. This tracker relies on your phone's GPS unit for some of its data inputs, and we did have a few issues with the connection during some of our tests. When it does work, it can collect top speed, average speed, elevation changes, distance, and duration, as well as heart rate and estimated calories burned. You can pick up to six different activity profiles to store on the device, and this tracker gives you access to all of the social and community features available on other Fitbit models.
The Garmin Vivosmart 4 performed better than the Samsung Galaxy Fit in our step counting test, although not by much, only recording an average error of 0.28% after our three trials. However, the Garmin Vivosmart 4 fell slightly when it came to cycling tracking since it doesn't have a dedicated biking mode. We used the running mode for our tests but weren't overly impressed with the results, as they seemed to be a bit off when we compared them to tracking with Strava. It has a decent amount of other trackable activities — including swimming! — and did comparable to the Samsung Galaxy Fit at tracking a cardio workout. We liked that it can track how many stairs are climbed, a feature some of the other models lacked, though we didn't find the count to be completely accurate.
The Fitbit Versa 3 is on par with the top fitness trackers for this metric, offering tons of different trackable activities and a very accurate step and distance counter. It connects to your smartphone's GPS to get GPS-based data and caught most of the flights of stairs we climbed.
Next, we looked at the companion apps for each manufacturer, as multiple trackers will utilize the same app. The Fitbit app led this category with weekly emails, including your stats for the previous seven days. It will also compare you to your top three friends on a 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.
The Garmin Connect app has a simpler set of features that allows you to track your progress over the past seven days, month, or year, and encourages you to opt into weekly challenges with people in your step range.
The Samsung app allows you to view your trends and duel with your friends but lacked even more functionality than the Fitbit or Garmin apps.
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 a tracker could monitor heart rate and how accurate it was compared to a chest strap heart rate monitor. Then, we looked at what dieting aids each model provides, what other lifestyle changes it could help you implement, and whether or not it can track sleep and wake you, as well as if there are any other health-specific features.
The Fitbit Charge 4 and Fitbit Inspire 2 claimed the top spot for our health impact metric. The Charge 4 offers some impressive diet tracking aids and automatic sleep tracking. Keeping track of the calories you take in is made easy with the ability to scan in barcodes or manually enter food in the app.
However, we did find that the Fitbit Charge 4 didn't compare that well with our chest strap heart rate monitor, averaging about 19 bpm under in our 10 trials.
The Inspire 2 did even better than the Charge 4 in our heart rate tests, only having an average difference of 12 bpm from the chest strap monitor. It has the same diet and automatic sleep tracking as other Fitbit models and will remind you to get up and stretch if you have been sitting for too long. However, we did find that the Charge 4 has slightly more features than the Inspire 2 when using it as an alarm clock.
In our opinion, the Fitbit Versa 3 met the performance of a top-tier fitness tracker in terms of health features. It did well in our heart rate accuracy tests, usually coming in off only by a bpm or two of the control HR monitor. Seldomly there were larger errors — approaching 20- 25 bpm different from the control. It can remind you to get up and move and has convenient and easy calorie tracking with its companion app. It also has basic sleep tracking skills and a silent alarm.
Trailing slightly behind the leaders, the Garmin Vivoactive 3, the Garmin Vivosport, and the Samsung Galaxy Fit all delivered just above-average results in this set of tests. All of these trackers have an integrated heart rate monitor, but none of them overly impressed us when it came to accuracy. All showed non-trivial deviations in heart rate numbers compared to a chest strap monitor used as a control. The Samsung Galaxy Fit usually averaged about 18 bpm off. When it came to monitoring heart rate, the Garmin Vivoactive 3 and the Garmin Vivosport both achieved below-average performances, with their measurements differing quite significantly from the measurement on the chest strap heart rate monitor.
The Samsung Galaxy Fit did decently well at estimating our testers' RMR throughout the day and has a basic food tracker in its app, but it cannot scan barcodes to automatically record nutritional data. The Samsung Galaxy Fit also has some simple counters built-in to keep track of your water and caffeine intake. It can also remind you to get up and move if you have been sitting too long and will automatically track your sleep.
When you've been inactive for too long, there is a vibration signaling you to get up and move around on both the Garmin Vivoactive 3 and the Garmin Vivosport. The display also features a "move bar" on the right side which was very helpful, especially if we were occupied and didn't notice the gentle buzz. Although basic, each did a decent job at tracking sleep and had a vibration alarm clock. Both require the use of a third-party app to track calorie intake.
The Garmin Vivofit Jr. 2 is designed primarily for children, with in-app games designed specifically to get them up and active. The more active you are doing or the more chores you complete, the more in-game currency you acquire.
Ease of Use
Next, we analyzed how easy each tracker is to use. These products are meant to be worn daily, and something difficult to use is unlikely to become a regular part of your daily life. We evaluated how intuitive the device and app are, how difficult it is to sync data from the device to the app, how hard it is to put the device on, whether or not it is water-resistant, and the battery life.
Leading this set of tests, the Fitbit Charge 4, the Fitbit Inspire 2, the Letsfit ID205L, the Lintelek ID115HR, the Xiaomi Mi Band 5, and the Garmin Vivofit Jr. 2 all merited top marks.
The Fitbit Charge 4 has a claimed battery life of up to seven days with the GPS enabled — dropping to five if it is — and uses a Fitbit-specific USB charger. We liked that it syncs data very quickly with the app and found it decently easy to navigate through the menus on the device. It's water-resistant to a depth of up to 50 meters/ 5 ATM and has a traditional watch clasp that is easy to latch or unlatch.
We think the Fitbit Inspire 2 is also very convenient and user-friendly to operate. It's water-resistant to 50 meters/ 5 ATM and is very easy to take on or off. The menus are intuitive and easy to navigate through on both the device and in the companion app, and it has a solid battery life — up to 10 days depending on use.
The Lintelek ID115HR is overall very simple and minimalistic, making it very easy and intuitive to use. It has a claimed battery life of five days with the HR monitor enabled and seven days with it turned off. This tracker isn't rated as safe to take in the pool, according to the manufacturers.
The Letsfit ID205L has a slightly longer claimed battery life than the Lintelek tracker, lasting for up to 10 days. The mobile app and the menus are easy to navigate through, and the traditional watch clasp doesn't add any difficulty when taking it on or off.
The Xiaomi Mi Band 5 is a little more difficult to put on, forgoing a traditional watch clasp, but it isn't too bad. This fitness tracker is rated to be water-resistant to 5 ATMs, or 50 meters, so you should be more than confident to take it in the pool with you. 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 has a solid battery life, lasting for a claimed 14 days depending on use.
The Garmin Vivofit Jr. 2 also relies on a coin cell battery, but it is water-resistant to 5 ATMs. 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.
Ergonomics was a much simpler test for these products. We split it into three aspects: comfort, aesthetics, and profile design (or the likelihood that a fitness tracker would get snagged when performing various common tasks, such as putting on a windbreaker or a backpack).
Several models tied for the top position, with the Fitbit Charge 4, the Garmin Vivosport, Garmin Vivosmart 4, and Xiaomi Mi Band 5 all earning top-tier marks. These models all have a relatively low profile, making it easy to put on a backpack or a light jacket without any of them getting caught.
The Charge 4 is decently comfortable, and we think it is one of the sleeker and more stylish designs of the group. It also has a low profile that doesn't usually get hung up on stuff.
The Vivosmart 4 and the Xiaomi Mi Band 5 are very similar in size and overall shape. Consequently, our testing panel rated them all about the same, finding this duo of trackers very comfortable to wear. This pair was followed by the Garmin Vivosport, which our judges found to be just a tiny bit less comfortable to wear. It has a very slim profile that hardly ever gets caught.
The Xiaomi Mi Band 5 and the Vivosmart 4 are pretty run-of-the-mill when it comes to looks, essentially black plastic rectangles of varying dimensions. The Garmin Vivosport improves on this, having a slightly sleeker, rubberized exterior available in various colors.
The Garmin Vivoactive 3 is overall visually striking, while the Garmin Vivofit Jr. 2 stands out by its patterned exterior that is adorned with motifs from popular franchises and movies.
We thought the Samsung Galaxy Fit is considerably more comfortable and has a lower profile than some of the other models, but it's also considerably less stylish. The Fitbit Versa 3 isn't the most ergonomic, being a bit bulkier than some of the smaller trackers. However, it does have a sleek and stylish design and a low enough profile to keep from getting snagged too frequently.
The final rating metric that we looked at for this category was the quality of the display, which is responsible for 10% of the final score.
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 the device up 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 Garmin Vivoactive 3 and the Garmin Vivosport earned top scores. These both have exceptionally nice displays that stood out because of how easy they are to read in bright sunlight or 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 Samsung Galaxy Fit, the Letsfit ID205L, and the Fitbit Charge 4 all followed with their superb displays. Samsung knows its way around screens, and these two products are no exception. We found the Samsung Galaxy Fit to be very easy to read in bright sunlight and has a very responsive touchscreen. Overall, the display looks great and will show just about all the push notifications that your phone can get.
The Charge 4 has a decently responsive touchscreen in our minds and will also show pretty much every smart notification that your phone can get. It shows the time and date, as well as more detailed fitness information over the day. It's bright enough to easily read at night but can be a little more difficult to see in bright light.
The Letsfit ID205L has a much larger and easier-to-read display than the majority of the competition. The touchscreen is very responsive, and most of your phone's notifications will be shown whenever it is paired.
It can be difficult to sift through all the currently available fitness trackers to identify the perfect model 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 (or not so well). Good luck — the effort will be rewarded with a healthier you.
— Austin Palmer and David Wise