The Best Fitness Trackers

We’ve spent more than 150 hours walking, jogging, sleeping, grocery shopping, kettlebell swinging, and biking (indoors and out) to learn everything there is to know about fitness trackers. After considering new alternatives and testing 23 top-rated trackers within the past 3 years, we believe the Garmin Vívosport is your best fitness tracker for those who wish to track their activity levels and progressively track their workouts.

Our pick

Garmin Vívosport
Garmin Vívosport

Best for true monitoring

From the Vívosport, Garmin combines the best of its own stable of fitness trackers–by an always-visible screen to automatic exercise detection to heart-rate observation to GPS–and does this quite well.

The Garmin Vívosport nails all of the capabilities of a well-rounded physical fitness tracker by combining an always-visible color display, responsive auto-activity detection with GPS, up-to-seven-day battery life, and accurate constant heart-rate readings at a wrist-worn band that’s waterproof for swimming. Additionally, it has sleep tracking, stress-level detection based on heart-rate variability, and also a strength-training manner that counts reps for you. Though trackers from Fitbit and Samsung include similar attributes, they do not have the precision that Garmin set the benchmark for. The Vívosport also can receive smartphone notifications from virtually any app as well as the present weather, and can control your phone’s music playback remotely via Bluetooth. The Garmin Connect app, with a recently improved home display, is compatible with iOS, Android, and desktop computers, however it does not have too many social networking users as Fitbit’s program. However, given Garmin’s more capable hardware, we think it’s the best choice for most people.

The full-color Gear Fit2 Pro is a sleek-looking gadget with many of the very same features as our overall winner, and a couple of improvements to its predecessor, the Gear Fit2. It has a noticeably larger, more beautiful display than the Vívosport using GPS, a heart-rate sensor, and automated action detection. It is also the only tracker that lets you interact with some smartphone notifications: You can actually respond to texts and email with canned answers received within an Android cellphone. Contrary to the Vívosport, you can even download extra physical fitness programs, such as MapMyRun and MyFitnessPal, to trigger directly in your wrist, and the Samsung can save up to 4 GB of audio for online listening via Bluetooth headphones. But these wise features come at the cost of measly battery life–with moderate usage, you need to charge it nearly daily. Like its predecessor, its outdoor exercise styles begin without waiting for the unit to lock on a GPS signal, which means you might wind up halfway through a workout without distance and path recording. Overall, the Gear Fit2 Pro is a sleek and intelligent device, however the more reliable Vívosport is best for tracking fitness overall.

If you just want a simple approach to monitor and track your daily activity (like workouts), nightly sleep habits, and get reminders to be active, the Fitbit Flex 2 is an excellent choice–especially if all your friends are around Fitbit. Unlike most other Fitbits, it’s water-resistant to 50 meters, which means it’s possible to track shower and swimming with it. But, it does not have a display–just five status LEDs to track progress toward your everyday step-count goal. Additionally, it does not track heart rate, but Fitbits generally continue to struggle with heart-rate accuracy, so we don’t find this as a major issue; it assists the Flex 2 maintain its slim profile and lower price. The Flex 2 syncs into the Fitbit app on a smartphone or the Fitbit site on a pc to maintain a record of your activity and link you to other Fitbit users–a true highlight, as research shows that friendly competition can be very motivating.

Without a battery to charge and no urgent need to sync into a telephone, the watertight Garmin Vívofit 4 would be the best option for basic tracking without the requirement to use a separate program. Although pairing it with a mobile provides more information, such as daily activity logs and sleep monitoring, the small screen is sufficient to get most of everything you want at a glance: time of day, steps taken, measures needed to accomplish your daily goal (in the event you don’t want to do mathematics), distance traveled, calories burned, and also “busy minutes” (Garmin’s step of sustained walks and other workouts). Additionally, it needs no charging up to a year on a replaceable watch battery. Despite its own lower-tech approach to fitness tracking, it’s some brighter features, such as automatic workout tracking via Move IQ, inactivity alarms to get you going after a too-long sedentary stint, and a variety of workout timers and stopwatches.

For anybody who doesn’t want to wear something in their wrist, the Fitbit Zip is our recommendation. The very small Zip is truly clip and move–it runs to a replaceable watch battery, so it requires no more charging–and it’s an easy-to-read display that you test out your progress at a glance. Costing at least $20 less than another clip models, it is the best value in the field. However, it lacks sleep tracking; if that is important to you, updating to (and paying more for) the Fitbit One is the only good alternative. Either gives you access to Fitbit’s very busy social community to keep you moving.

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