Which fitness tracker is right for you? We’ve tested them all and reveal our top choices
Looking to get in shape? Then you’ll want to invest in a fitness tracker. A robot shouting at you to run faster may not sound that appealing, but these days a variety of great trackers can make you feel the effort is worth it.
These include affordable models for gym newbies and go all the way up to top-end trackers made for marathon runners and professional athletes. But with so many on the market, knowing which to go with can be a tricky task. We’ve created a definitive list of the best fitness trackers we’ve reviewed, covering every price point. Unlike the recommendations you’ll find on many sites, the products on this list have all been exhaustively tested by the Trusted Reviews team.
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Here’s our summary of the finest fitness trackers on the market. You can also click through to read our full review of each.
- Best for serious fitness fans: Garmin Fenix 6
- Best all-rounder: Fitbit Charge 3
- 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 a helpful nudge towards making 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 a user-friendly and approachable companion app.
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Different fitness trackers are targeted towards different users, from those looking to get started with a healthier lifestyle to more advanced fitness enthusiasts seeking to take their fitness to the next level, perhaps with GPS tracking. We ensure we test each fitness tracker with its intended user in mind, so you can be sure that, if it’s a fitness tracker aimed at runners, for example, we’ve put the miles in.
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
The Fenix 6, the latest hardcore fitness tracker from Garmin, offers serious athletes a robust tracker that’ll survive everything from mountain climbing to ultra-marathons.
This is a refinement on the Fenix 5 that brings a number of small but welcome new features to the table. This is not a huge upgrade, but the subtle changes made by Garmin have resulted in a stellar fitness tracker. It’s not the most stylish model around, but it’s by far the most reliable we’ve tested and a perfect training companion.
Garmin’s loaded it with a larger 1.3in, 260 x 260 resolution, MIP screen. This is a marked step up from the Fenix 5’s 1.2in, 240 x 240 resolution display. The watch has shed a small but significant 7g in weight. The larger screen also makes it way 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 only downside is that, with pricing starting at £529.99, it’s pretty darned expensive, even by Apple Watch 5 standards. Its strong focus on durability and functionality also means it won’t appeal to less serious athletes or fashion-conscious buyers.
• Read our Garmin Fenix 6 review
2. Fitbit Charge 3
A great all-rounder
|Fitbit Charge 3 Fitness Activity Tracker, Rose Gold/Berry, One Size (S & L Bands Included)||$125.82|
- Attractive design
- Larger, sharper display
- Great battery life
- Well-presented app
- Water resistant
- Some might miss built-in GPS
- Still waiting to use the SpO2 sensor
The Fitbit Charge 3 is a huge update on 2017’s Fitbit Charge fitness tracker and one of the best options for newbie or mid-level athletes.
The tracker has a water resistance rating of up to 50m ,which means it can be used to track your morning swim as well as basic workouts, like runs. The subtle design also makes it one of the most comfortable trackers we’ve reviewed.
Combined with a top-notch Fitbit PurePulse heart rate monitor, excellent battery life and reliable notification features, this makes the Charge 3 a great all-round health tracker that can be worn 24/7.
The only downside is that it only offers connected GPS connectivity, which means you’ll have to carry your phone if you want reliable distance tracking.
• Read our Fitbit Charge 3 review
3. Fitbit Inspire HR
A great entry-level tracker
- Water resistant to 50m
- Smartphone notifications
- No altimeter
- Basic fitness tracking
The Fitbit Inspire HR single-handedly replaces numerous Fitbit devices, including the Alta HR and the Flex 2, helping to simplify Fitbit’s entry-level fitness tracker offerings. It’s taken on board some of the best aspects of each, like 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.
It’s now a great option for anyone who doesn’t need all of the more advanced exercise tracking offered by the Fitbit Charge 3 and wants a slightly sleeker design. You get much of the same great functionality that comes with the more expensive tracker, with great sleep tracking, automatic exercise recognition and solid battery life.
It’s worth noting that the Fitbit Inspire HR gets our recommendation over the cheaper Fitbit Inspire. The latter model sacrifices a number of features for a saving of only £20, making the Inspire HR much better value.
• Read our Fitbit Inspire HR review
4. 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
Instead of going with a major overhaul of specs and design, 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.
With so many features on board, including SpO2 tracking, a gorgeous AMOLED display and a hugely detailed sleep tracking programme, the Honor Band 5 isn’t just a great recommendation for someone on a budget, it’s a great fitness tracker in its own right.
A vibrant, slightly curved 0.95in 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 almost too easy to recommend.
- Read our Honor Band 5 review
5. 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)
- watchOS 4 improvements
- Apple Pay is still 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
Apple Watch is now in its third iteration, and while it may appear that not much has changed on the surface, there have been some developments under the hood. Many of watchOS 4’s improvements centre around fitness tracking, which was already a significant focus for the Apple Watch Series 2.
In the Apple Watch Series 3, the GPS from the Series 2 is now joined by an altimeter so the device can keep an eye on the number of stairs you climb throughout the day, as well as the elevation data during your workouts.
The day-to-day activity tracking has improved, too. It continues to focus on three activity rings: move, exercise and stand targets. A dedicated activity-based watch face make it easy to determine your progress at a glance, or you can simply dive into the Activity app. The ring-based progress is an easy primer to ensure you’re conscious of your activity, helping to motivate you to “close the rings”. You receive prompts throughout the day.
For avid runners, there’s the EdgeGear Shift. Rather than having the Apple Watch on your wrist, it moves back on your hand, just below your thumb, making for a much more natural way to quickly view the display without having to rotate your wrist.
There’s no native sleep tracking, although there are third-party apps that fill the void. Ultimately, it’s around fitness where the Apple Watch has really come on leaps and bounds from its early days.
- 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.