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We have bought and tested over 50 of the best fitness trackers on the market since 2017. For this edition, we look at the 9 most compelling models currently available and comprehensively test them head-to-head, all to help you find the very best. We walked dozens and dozens of miles and tracked workout after workout to compare the fitness impact of each model as well as the various health impacts and overall ease of use of each tracker. Read on to see which wearables are worthy of awards and which is the best bet for you, regardless of whether you are looking for the overall best, the most in-depth fitness tracking data, or if you are shopping on a budget.
Our mission at GearLab is to deliver high-quality reviews to make it easier for you to choose the right product. We have tested a variety of products from pull-up bars to running armbands. If you're looking for a watch that does it all, check out our top smartwatch review.
Editor's Note: We updated this fitness tracker review on September 12th, 2022, with four of today's latest fitness trackers.
If you are in the market for a device with the high performance of an elite fitness tracker coupled with a copious amount of smart features like a smartwatch, then look no further than the Apple SE Watch. We found that this tracker delivers some of the most accurate fitness tracking and health monitoring results we have tested. This device comes with 32Gb of storage, giving you much space to download apps, podcasts, and music. Whether running around the block or at the gym, you can always count on the Apple SE Watch to deliver important notifications such as calls or texts. This product will best fit consumers looking for a device with everything, from peak tracking abilities to intuitive design.
This device is one of the most expensive trackers we have tested. This product may not be the best fit for those who are new and unfamiliar with fitness trackers. It may be better to try a cheaper band first before jumping all in on an expensive model. With that said, we believe that the Apple SE Watch is worth every dollar. Those who are in the market for top quality will not be disappointed.
HR monitor didn't deliver the most accurate results
If you still want the functionality offered by many top fitness trackers but don't want to pay top dollar to get it, check out the Fitbit 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. 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, which created slight discomfort for some of our testers. However, despite these flaws, with all you gain from the social and community features offered, we still highly recommend this device to anyone seeking a fitness tracker on a budget.
If we had to describe the Garmin Vivoactive 4 in one phrase, it would be "peak performance." The tracking capabilities are second to none, scoring particularly high on step tracking, cycling performance, and altimeter quality. We were particularly impressed with the quality and usefulness of the dieting feature. All the user has to do is scan the food's barcode for it to be tracked in a journal where relevant nutritional data is displayed. With premium, the user can take pictures of a full meal without the need for barcodes.
Peak performance comes at a cost; the Vivoactive 4 lacks display quality and user-friendliness. We found that navigating through the menus was unnecessarily complex, displaying too much information at once. As for the display, it is of relatively low quality compared to other trackers we have tested. This tracker seems great for more competitive health junkies but unnecessary for casual consumers.
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. We 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.
We have been reviewing fitness trackers at TechGearLab since 2017. All of the products in our review are tested hands-on — 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 Jessica Ricoscente 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. Also included in this review is David Wise, who has reviewed tens of tech products and has a degree in Robotics Engineering from MIT. New to this review is ISSA-certified fitness trainer, Jared Eastlick.
Exploding in popularity in the past several 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 to help you find the best fitness tracker: 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.
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 6. 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 6, however, is a bit limited when it comes to competing with or challenging your friends.
We rated each product on the quality of community and social features, 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 account for 30% of the total score for each tracker.
The Garmin Vivoactive 4 came out on top as our favorite device for fitness impact. It performed remarkably well in all our step count accuracy tests, as two of the three-mile-long trials were spot on with our manual count. We calculated the average difference from all three trials and found the Vivoactive 4 was only off by seven steps. The estimated distance of the Vivoactive 4 was also spot-on.
This model also offers an impressive array of statistics from cycling workouts, logging speed, distance, time, and elevation, and it shows you a map of where you went. 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. This track also includes workout options like circuit training, treadmill, stair climber, kickboxing, tennis, golf, elliptical, boot camp, martial arts, spinning, interval workout, hike, weights, and pilates.
The Apple Watch SE is a smartwatch-style fitness tracker with many 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 tracking different workouts, and it is very accurate at counting steps.
The Apple Watch SE impressed us with its accuracy in counting steps. The distance tracker performed equally as well, consistently giving us an accurate account of our course length.
The Apple Watch SE provides a standard data set for cycling workouts, such as time, heart rate, average miles per hour, and distance. There are also a decent set of other activities to choose from, including high intensity target training (HITT) workouts, where the SE can provide specific data like live active calories and HR range. We were also pleased to see that the SE comes with an altimeter to measure altitude.
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, the performance fell off quite a bit when it came to tracking cycling or other workouts. This tracker relies on your phone's GPS unit for some of its data inputs. We also had issues with the connection during some of our tests. When it does work, it can collect top speed, average speed, elevation changes, distance, duration, heart rate, and estimated calories burned. You can pick up to six activity profiles to store on the device. This tracker gives you access to all the social and community features available on other Fitbit models.
The Garmin Vivoactive 4 performed better than the Apple Watch in our step counting test, although not by much, only recording an average step difference of 1. The Garmin Vivoactive 4 performed very similarly to the Apple Watch SE when it came to cycling. We thought the cycling tracking was solid but not as accurate as it could be since 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! These models also did better than the Apple Watch SE at tracking a HITT workout. We liked that it can track how many stairs are climbed, a feature some of the other models lacked.
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 catches most of the flights of stairs 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 also compares 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 several days, months, or years and encourages you to opt into weekly challenges with people in your step range.
The MyFitnessPal app does a good job tracking fitness progress but falls short in community engagement since you can only connect with others with Apple Watches.
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 Apple Watch SE and Fitbit Inspire 2 were the top performers for our health impact metric. However, SE features unimpressive diet tracking aids and an automatic sleep tracking feature. Unlike the Fitbit Charge 5, the SE does not allow you to scan barcodes or manually enter food items, making it difficult to keep track of calories.
The Apple Watch SE mostly matched our chest strap heart rate monitor. We found about a 1.8 bpm difference between the strap and the tracker.
The Inspire 2 did very similar to the SE in our heart rate tests, with 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.
In our opinion, the Fitbit Versa 3 met the performance of a top-tier fitness tracker regarding health features. It did well in our heart rate accuracy tests, only off 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.
We found that the Garmin Vivoactive 4 has a solid sleep tracker that can track hours slept and time in REM. We found that it could not recognize snooze time, which slightly affected the overall score. Its waking alarm gets the job done despite its softer vibration. We were confident that this tracker could reliably get you up on time, even for heavier sleepers.
The Garmin Vivofit Jr. 2 is mainly targeted toward children. It features in-app games designed to make kids more active. Increase your activity or complete more chores, and you'll earn more in-game currency.
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, and whether or not it is water-resistant. Lastly, we examined each model's battery life.
The Fitbit Charge 5 has a claimed battery life of up to seven days 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 Inspire 2 is also very convenient and user-friendly to operate. It's water resistant up to 50 meters/5 ATM and is very easy to put on and take 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. According to its manufacturer, this tracker isn't rated as safe to take in the pool.
The Xiaomi Mi Band 6 is rated to be water-resistant to 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 navigating through the menus, relying on a tall, sleek touchscreen with an equally intuitive app. It has a solid battery life, lasting up to 14 days, depending on use. Lastly, we thought the Mi Band 6 was rather difficult to put on, far worse than others in this metric.
The Garmin Vivofit Jr. 2 also relies on a coin cell battery, but it is water-resistant to 50 meters. 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).
The Charge 5 is decently comfortable, and we think it is one of the group's sleeker and more stylish designs. It also has a low profile that doesn't usually get hung up on things while going about your daily tasks.
The Garmin Vivosmart 4 and the Xiaomi Mi Band 6 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 slightly less comfortable to wear. It has a very slim profile that hardly ever gets caught.
The Xiaomi Mi Band 6 and 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 4 is visually appealing overall but slightly bulky. We found that the Vivoactive 4 often gets caught up in jackets. The Garmin Vivofit Jr. 2 stands out by its patterned exterior that is adorned with motifs from popular franchises and movies.
We think the Apple Watch SE is considerably more comfortable and has a lower profile than some of the other models, and it's also considerably 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, responsiveness, what notifications could be displayed, and what other information was shown on subsequent screens. All of these models enter sleep mode when you are not adjusting their settings to conserve power. Thus, we defined responsiveness as how easy it is to wake the device up to initiate a workout or look at your progress and also how easy it is to control the device through the touchscreen and buttons.
The Apple Watch SE and the Fitbit Versa 3 all followed with their superb displays. Apple knows its way around screens, and these two products are no exception. We found the Apple Watch SE 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 Fitbit Charge 5 will show practically every smart notification your phone can receive. It displays everything from the time and date to detailed fitness information gathered throughout the day. The display is bright enough to read at night without eye strain but harder to read in bright light. We thought that the display on the Charge 5 was below the standards of the Charge series, being comparatively less responsive and of lesser quality.
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, Jessica Riconscente, David Wise and Jared Eastlick
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