Have you set a New Year’s resolution to get fit but aren’t sure where to start? Or, are you simply looking to take your home workouts to the next level? Regardless of your reasons, there are plenty of reasons to invest in a fitness tracker in 2021.
There are a wide range of brands releasing fitness trackers right now, meaning it can be tricky to spot the one that best suits your needs. That isn’t even to mention all of the smartwatch/fitness tracker hybrids that are also available. It’s important to take your skill level, desired features and budget into account when picking up a new fitness band – which is why Trusted Reviews is here to help.
Some of the key players in this market are Garmin, Apple, Xiaomi and Fitbit and we’ve rounded up all of our favourites, along with who they’re best for, in this easy-to-follow guide.
Each of the following watches packs a different set of features from basic step counting to built-in GPS and health tracking capabilities. While a longer list of features may seem like the way to go, it’s important to consider how a wearable stacks up against your preferred workout routine – there’s no reason to drop your cash on a £750 Sunnto if you’re mostly looking for a wearable just to track your steps on a regular basis.
Likewise, you shouldn’t expect a lower-end band to report your progress as thoroughly as a top of the line fitness tracker. Thankfully, there are plenty of options that offer a good balance of features in between these two ends of the wearable spectrum.
Scroll down to discover our favourite fitness trackers for 2021, including which type of fitness folk they’re best suited to. We’ve included all the pros and cons as well as links to our full, comprehensive reviews so you can read more about our experiences with each one.
You can also see our list at a glance below.
- Best for serious fitness fans: Garmin Fenix 6
- Best for extreme sports: Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Solar
- Best under £200: Fitbit Versa 3
- Best all-rounder: Fitbit Charge 4
- Best budget Fitbit: Fitbit Inspire HR
- Best budget fitness band: Honor Band 5
- Best for those who just want an Apple Watch: Apple Watch Series 3
Related: Best smartwatch
How we pick the best fitness trackers
Fitness trackers are generally designed to integrate into your everyday life, giving you helpful nudges towards better lifestyle choices and making you more conscious of your activity levels. For that reason, we find the best way to test a fitness tracker is to live with it over a prolonged period of time.
By doing this, we gain an understanding of the level of insight it provides, its accuracy against our reference trackers, and how useful it makes all of the data for the user. It’s no good having a multitude of sensors if the information they gather isn’t presented in an understandable and useful manner. To achieve this, a fitness tracker needs to have a user-friendly and approachable companion app.
1. Garmin Fenix 6
A perfect training companion for any serious athlete
- Excellent location and fitness tracking
- Unbreakable design
- Two-week battery life
- Heart rate monitor works underwater
- Smartwatch functionality still limited
Serious athletes seeking a robust tracker that will stand up to everything from mountain climbing to ultra-marathons should consider the Fenix 6, the latest hardcore fitness tracker from Garmin.
The Fenix 6 – an upgrade of the previous Fenix 5 – introduces a number of small but welcome new features. Garmin’s subtle but significant changes have resulted in a stellar fitness tracker. It’s not the most stylish watch around, but it’s by far the most reliable we’ve tested and it’s a perfect training companion.
Garmin’s loaded the Fenix 6 with a larger 1.3in, 260 x 260 resolution MIP screen. This is a marked improvement on the the Fenix 5’s 1.2in, 240 x 240 resolution display and the larger screen makes it much easier to take advantage of the Fenix 6’s nifty new widgets system. Garmin has also managed to improve the Fenix 6’s multisport and general fitness tracking features – a serious achievement considering the Fenix 5 was already best in class. The watch has also shed 7g in weight.
The only downside is, as always, that a high-end product carries a premium price. Starting at £529.99, the Fenix 6 is pretty darned expensive, even by Apple Watch standards. Its strong focus on durability and functionality won’t appeal to less serious athletes or fashion-conscious buyers.
- Read our Garmin Fenix 6 review
2. Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Solar
Best for extreme athletes
- Best in class battery life
- Near indestructible design
- Excellent fitness tracking and coaching services
- Lots of storage for maps and local music
- Very expensive
- Limited smartwatch functionality
If the regular Garmin Fenix 6 Pro doesn’t sound hardcore enough for you, then you’ll likely want to check out its Solar sibling. The Solar Edition takes all the great features of the regular Pro and improves them by adding a wealth of even more extreme activities to track and a nifty new “Power Glass” design.
The glass aims to lengthen the watch’s already industry leading battery live by letting it collect solar energy – hence the name.
This may sound like a gimmick, but during testing we found there was a lot of truth to the claim. Testing it directly against the Fenix 6 Pro in the – not exactly sunny – UK the Solar generally lasted for an extra day. This meant you could easily get at least a fortnight’s regular use out of it off one charge.
Maintaining its extreme feel, the watch also adds new tracking services for mountain biking, indoor climbing and surfing, making it the best wearable on the market for extreme athletes that like to partake in the odd ultramarathon.
- Read our Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Solar review
3. Fitbit Versa 3
The best fitness tracker under £200
- Feature-packed for the price
- GPS is finally here
- Six-day battery with intensive use
- Fitbit’s apps and app store still need work
- The step count is just too eager
- Still no support for offline Spotify
- Fitbit Premium is essential for getting your money’s worth
If you’re looking for a fitness tracker that offers a good set of features for less than £200, you can’t go wrong with the Fitbit Versa 3.
The Versa 3 benefits from premium features such as built-in GPS tracking and offline music storage, all while being £100 less than the Fitbit Sense, allowing users to benefit from these features without breaking the bank.
The fitness band also benefits from an impressive six-day battery life and supports both Alexa and Google Assistant, displaying answers on its bright 1.58-inch 336 x 336 display.
As far as fitness tracking goes, the Versa 3 takes advantage of sleep tracking as well as Fitbit’s new PurePulse 2.0 technology to measure your heart rate throughout the day. However, to get the most out of your Fitbit you’ll want to subscribe to Fitbit Premium, which could be a deal breaker for some.
- Read our Fitbit Versa 3 review
4. Fitbit Charge 4
Fitbit finally adds GPS to its flagship band
- Excellent location and fitness tracking
- Easy to use
- Great battery life
- GPS tracking
- No local music playback
The Fitbit Charge 4 is an ideal training companion. The watch features a sleek, discrete design, stellar battery life and tracks all the metrics newbie gym goers need. These include cardio, running, cycling and swimming, but what differentiates it from the pack is the included 40-day trial to Fitbit Premium.
For those out of the know, this is a great service that offers users guided workouts covering yoga, general cardio and weights. It’s a great way to get you started on a new fitness regime, that offers step by step instructions on how to do each exercise.
It also has a few key additions that will appeal to more serious athletes. The biggest are the inclusion of an in-built GPS, SpO2 sensor and Active Minutes tracking metric. The GPS will be a boon for runners and cyclists who like to exercise in the great outdoors. It means you’ll be able to get accurate distance tracking without having to pair the tracker to your phone.
The SpO2 sensor and Active Minutes back this up, letting the Fitbit offer guidance on how effective your workout was and your overall fitness level.
The only downside is that it doesn’t feature local music playback and can only be used to control Spotify when paired to a phone. But at this price that’s hardly surprising.
• Read our Fitbit Charge 4 review
5. Fitbit Inspire HR
A great entry-level tracker
- Water resistant to 50m
- Smartphone notifications
- No altimeter
- Basic fitness tracking
The Fitbit Inspire HR replaces numerous Fitbit devices, including the Alta HR and the Flex 2, simplifying the brand’s entry-level fitness tracker offerings. It combines some of the best aspects of each, including the water resistance of the Flex 2 and the heart rate monitor of the Alta HR, while coming in at a lower price than the Alta HR.
The Fitbit Inspire HR is an excellent option if you don’t need all the more advanced exercise tracking offered by the Fitbit Charge 4 and you prefer a slightly sleeker design. You get much of the same great functionality that comes with the more expensive tracker, including sleep tracking, automatic exercise recognition and solid battery life.
While a successor for the Inspire HR has now hit the market, you can pick up the original with a sizeable discount as a result.
• Read our Fitbit Inspire HR review
6. Honor Band 5
An affordable and competent fitness tracker
- Detailed sleep tracking
- Seven-day battery with intensive use
- Bright AMOLED display
- Few changes from the Honor Band 4
Honor has priced its latest wearable at just £29.99/$34.99, to undercut the competition and dominate the scene with an affordable – and competent – fitness tracker. The company hasn’t carried out a major overhaul of specs and design, but there are already plenty of features on board, including SpO2 tracking, a gorgeous AMOLED display and a detailed sleep tracking programme.
The vibrant, slightly curved 0.95-inch 2.5D screen is easy to read in direct sunlight and has a notably punchy display. Everything feels responsive, from scrolling through menus to waking the screen. Outdoor results were pretty much spot on in terms of distance, and being able to check your heart rate during a run is always appreciated.
Despite slashing the price of its latest fitness tracker, Honor has crafted a device that sacrifices very little and gives its competitors a run for their money. At less than half the price of the cheapest Fitbit, the Honor Band 5 is easy to recommend, and not just for buyers on a budget – it’s a great fitness tracker in its own right.
- Read our Honor Band 5 review
7. Apple Watch Series 3
A solid fitness tracker
- Snappier performance
- Improved exercise tracking
- Super-bright and clear display
- Decent battery life (when not reliant on LTE)
- Apple Pay is super-useful
- LTE has a big impact on battery life
- Needs more dedicated watch apps to make use of LTE
- Need to wait for Apple Music streaming
- Siri doesn’t always work
While it might be a few years old now, the Apple Watch Series 3 still holds a lot of value for any iPhone users who want an affordable wearable. In the Apple Watch 3, the GPS is joined by an altimeter so the device can keep track of the number of stairs you climb during the day, as well as elevation data from your workouts.
It continues to focus on three activity rings with move, exercise and stand targets, and motivates you to “close the rings”, with prompts throughout the day that ensure you’re conscious of your activity levels. A dedicated activity-based watch face makes it easy to monitor your progress at a glance, or you can simply dive into the Activity app.
Avid runners will appreciate the EdgeGear Shift, which repositions the Apple Watch on your hand, just below your thumb, rather than on your wrist, making for a much more natural way to quickly view the display without having to rotate your wrist.
- Read our Apple Watch Series 3 review
Fitness trackers – How much should I spend?
If you’re just starting out, £80/$100 or less will get the features you need. These will cover the basics, such as counting the steps you take throughout the day and keeping tabs on your sleep at night.
For £100/$120 or more, you’ll find fitness trackers begin adding in heart rate monitors targeted towards more intermediate exercisers. At this price, you tend to also see added smartwatch functionality, such as notification mirroring.
Spend around £150/$180 or more and you’ll find advanced fitness trackers with GPS sensors and more fully fledged performance analysis. You’ll also start entering smartwatch territory, which means they can serve a dual purpose.
Fitness trackers – What are all the sensors for?
The typical sensors you’ll find in a fitness tracker include:
- Accelerometer/gyroscope: Used for counting steps and detecting movement. Many fitness trackers have move alerts, which nudge you to take a walk if your tracker detects you’ve been sitting down for too long – great for sedentary office workers.
- Heart rate monitor: Optical heart rate monitors take readings using optical light. This information is useful both at rest and during exercise. Keeping an eye on your resting heart rate is a good way to measure your overall cardiovascular health. A low resting heart rate means a more efficient and healthy cardiovascular system.
- Altimeter/barometer: These detect changes in air pressure and are used to measure altitude. They can be used to detect how many stairs you climb, which can be a great motivator to avoid the lift. They can also be used to detect elevation during exercise, such as during hilly runs. This can be used in tandem with the heart rate readings to see when you were pushing extra hard uphill.
- GPS/GLONASS: These use satellite positioning to track your outdoor workouts. They give much better distance and speed readings than a simple accelerometer. You also get a handy map of your workout to look back on.
Do you think another fitness tracker should make our list? Let us know on Twitter @TrustedReviews.