Which fitness tracker should I buy in 2018? The best fitness trackers reviewed
best overall fitness tracker
The Fitbit Charge 2 is our current pick for best overall fitness tracker. It provides a welcome balance of Fitbit's excellent all-day activity and sleep tracking, alongside some more advanced fitness features like VO2 Max estimations. It's also customisable with different straps to make it suit every occasion.
A decent fitness tracker can be a great way to stay on top of your health, monitoring your workouts, heart rate, diet and even your sleep. Many people are turning to these devices for the motivation to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
However, a fitness tracker isn’t a silver bullet fix that will guarantee you achieve your health goals. If you’re looking to lose a little weight or gain some muscle then you’ll still need to put in the hard graft and follow a healthier diet to reap the rewards. That said, constant monitoring and feedback can be an invaluable motivational tool.
Right now, our overall best fitness tracker is the Fitbit Charge 2, which has seen significant improvements on the app side since it was first released. The Fitbit app is clean, user-friendly and makes getting fitter with friends and family super engaging. The Charge 2 itself has a good array of sensors and we really like the sleep tracking, which is an area that can often be overlooked with a fitness tracker.
best value fitness tracker
Considering everything you get with the Moov Now, it gets our pick for best value. It manages to include multi-sport tracking with coaching, activity and sleep tracking, and a 6-month battery life. All this is rounded off with water-resistance.
If you’re on a budget, our recommended fitness tracker for value is the Moov Now. For the money, it does a serious amount beyond just activity tracking and also offers a surprising amount of fitness coaching. If you’re looking for a fitness tracker geared towards a younger market, take a look at the Fitbit Ace (aged 8+).
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How we pick the best fitness trackers
Fitness trackers are often designed as devices that 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 mostly to live with it over a prolonged period of time.
By doing this, we gain an understanding on the level of insights it provides, its accuracy against our reference trackers, and how useful it makes all of the data for you the user. It’s no good having a multitude of sensors if this information isn’t presented to you in an understandable and useful manner. To achieve this, a fitness tracker needs a user-friendly and approachable companion app.
Different fitness trackers are targeted towards different users, from those looking to get started with a healthier lifestyle, to more advanced fitness enthusiasts looking to take their fitness to the next level, perhaps with GPS tracking. We make sure to 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, we’ve put the miles in.
Fitbit Charge 2
- Interchangeable bands
- Large display for at-a-glance information
- Comfortable to wear
- Consistent tracking
- Cardio Fitness score is a useful metric
- 5-day battery life
- Updated with Sleep Stages and Sleep Insights
- No GPS (GPS Connected mode requires your smartphone)
- Gesture recognition is ropey
- Basic notifications
The Fitbit Charge 2 is our overall recommended fitness tracker, meeting the needs of most people.
As you would expect, it manages all of the activity tracking you would expect, but it also includes elements that will appeal to more advanced exercisers, like its Cardio Fitness score. This is based on your VO2 Max, a standard measure of fitness, and is a great way to keep track of your overall cardiovascular health.
The Charge 2 has become one of our favoured fitness tracker for comparing readings whenever we test something new. That’s because we’ve grown to trust its accuracy. Its strength lies in its ever-improving app, which makes the data easier to understand. The Charge 2 has automatic exercise recognition for a good range of exercises. It isn’t water-resistant, which is a shame, so it’s not designed for swimming.
Since its release, it has been updated with support for Fitbit’s Sleep Stages and Sleep Insights. These offer a deeper level of sleep tracking as well as providing guidance on getting a better night’s kip. This makes the Fitbit Charge 2 one of the best sleep trackers on the market.
The Charge 2 also includes a much bigger display than its predecessor for improved at-a-glance information.
This also means better smartphone notifications. With a recent update, Fitbit added the ability to get notifications from the likes of WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, alongside the usual SMS and Caller ID, which rectified some of our earlier complaints. The bands on the Charge 2 are also customisable so you can dress it up or down depending on the occasion.
Battery life is as excellent as you would expect from Fitbit.
- Lighter, smaller more elegant design
- In-depth data recorded and analysed
- Useful real-time coaching to make instant improvements
- Activity-tracking data is a bit basic
- Slightly grating voice coach
When you consider everything you get with the Moov Now for its low price, it’s an astounding fitness tracker. Not only does it handle the basic activity and sleep tracking of its peers, it has a staggering number of coaching features thanks to its Omni Motion 3D sensor.
When used alongside its excellent Moov Now app, you get guided running, swimming and cardio exercise coaching (think cardio boxing workouts). The guided workouts have real-time coaching and a motion gauge to let you know you’re following along correctly.
The Moov Now uses a coin-cell watch battery, and you can also expect around six months of battery life before it needs replacing, which is great. This means you can throw it on and forget about it, especially as you can shower with it on without a problem.
For someone looking to not only track their activity and sleep but actually also get fitter and healthier, the Moov Now offers simply unrivalled value and gets our recommendation.
Buy now: Moov Now for £59/ $55 from Amazon
Garmin Forerunner 645 music
- Local music playback
- Indestructible design
- Comfortable fit
- Excellent multi-sport tracking
- Doesn’t support common streaming services
- Below-average battery
If you like the idea of having a soundtrack during your workout, but hate the idea of lugging your smartphone around with you, then the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music is a great choice.
The Forerunner comes with 4GB of local storage that lets you store music on the device and play it through Bluetooth headphones. The only downsides are that it requires you to own the music, and it doesn’t support local music streaming at the moment – though Deezer support has been promised.
Outside of this the Forerunner 645 is an excellent fitness tracker. It features a 5ATM water-resistance rating and all the sensors you’d need to accurately track a variety of different sports, including basic things such as running and cycling, as well as more advanced activities, such as skiing.
If that wasn’t enough to entice you, it’s also got basic smartwatch functionality and can be used to keep track of incoming notifications and check the weather.
The only slight downside is it’s below-average battery. If you exercise regularly, don’t expect the watch to last more than 3-5 days off a single charge.
Garmin Vivosmart HR Plus
- Rugged waterproof design
- Five-day battery life
- Excellent fitness tracking
- GPS and heart-rate monitor included
- App isn’t very intuitive
- Not the prettiest wearable around
The Garmin Vivosmart HR Plus packs in every sensor an advanced fitness enthusiast is going to want into a design that, while not the most inspiring, is more subtle and discreet than rivals. All of those sensors also proved as accurate as we would expect.
It’s also water-resistant to 50m, which not only means you can swim with it on, but it also means you don’t have to take it off to shower, which is more inconvenient than you might initially anticipate. With five-day battery life, it really is an advanced fitness tracker you can throw on and forget about, but is ready for your next exercise session.
Garmin has included some useful metrics, such as its ‘Intensity Minutes’, which will help to motivate you to work harder. Garmin’s Connect app could do with a design overhaul. While there’s plenty of data on offer, it can be tricky to initially make sense of it all.
Samsung Gear Fit2
- Great notification management
- Vibrant display
- Accurate distance and HRM tracking
- Useful activity tracking and prompts
- Lacking training insight
- Spotty bodyweight exercise rep counting
If you want a fitness tracker that can serve a dual purpose as a smartwatch, you would do well to consider Samsung’s Gear Fit2. It’s by far the company’s best fitness wearable to date. This is considering the subsequent release of the Gear Fit2 Pro, which added in more swimming tracking. We’d still recommend the original Gear Fit2 over the newer model.
The Gear Fit2 has a stunning 1.5-inch curved OLED touchscreen and runs on Samsung’s Tizen operating system, the very same seen in its Samsung Gear S3 smartwatch. This means you have access to a catalogue of apps and smartphone notifications.
But as for its fitness capabilities, all are present and correct, including GPS, a heart rate monitor and barometer to get you wanting to use the stairs. There’s also built-in storage to store music and you can pair Bluetooth headphones, so you really can leave your phone at home.
The Samsung Gear Fit2 falls a little short when it comes to training insight, and that gorgeous screen also impacts battery life, which amounts to only around three days, but it’s still great overall.
- Comfortable design
- Accurate GPS and HRM
- VO2 Max estimations
- Good battery life
- Rep counting is still tacked on
- Washed out display
- Slightly buggy automatic exercise tracking
It has a new colour touchscreen display alongside a slightly more fun design. It otherwise has everything that made the Vivosmart HR Plus great, including built-in GPS, heart rate monitoring and excellent battery life.
Now, you also get stress monitoring, guided breathing exercises and some basic rep-counting for your strength training. Unfortunately, these new additions don’t really justify the higher cost considering you can pick up a Vivosmart HR Plus for a little less nowadays.
Nokia Steel HR
- Attractive design
- Comfortable strap
- Long battery life
- Silent alarms
- Accurate heart rate monitor
- Limited notifications
- Inaccurate distance measurements
- No smart alarms
As Nokia has bought the Withings brand, this fitness tracker has been re-branded, but it’s still the same great tracker we tested as the Withings Steel HR.
Keeping an eye on your ticker is just as important as keeping tabs on your activity. Thankfully, wrist-worn optical heart rate monitors make this much more convenient.
The Withings Steel HR takes the company’s activity tracking expertise and manages to add in heart rate monitoring, too, all the while maintaining a discreet watch-like form factor. There’s also a new digital secondary display, which can be used for basic smartphone notifications, so you know when you get a phone call or an email. Other useful features include its silent alarm.
There are two different-sized models available, in 36mm or 40mm diameters, which is a first for Withings. This means it’s easier to find a watch more suitable for your wrist.
If you’re looking for a discreet tracker with heart rate measurements, the Steel HR gets plenty right, including a stylish design and strong companion app.
- Attractive, discreet design
- Easy to use app
- Decent battery life
- Water-resistant to 50m
- Basic and slightly inaccurate sleep tracking
- Step-counting a little off
- Scratches too easily
The Motiv Ring is a clever little fitness tracker that does all its readings from your finger. It looks just like a standard ring but packs in an accelerometer for activity and sleep tracking, and a heart rate monitor.
If you want to keep tabs on your activity without letting the world know, this is one of the most discreet options out there. It’s available in even slate grey or rose gold designs.
The Motiv Ring’s strengths really are in its discreet form factor, but it does mean it’s activity tracking is quite basic. If this isn’t a problem, it’s a good choice.
Those are our top picks of the best fitness trackers. If you want to know more about fitness trackers and what to look out for when buying one then read on.
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 the 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 give you a nudge to take a walk if it detects you’ve been sat down 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. These can be used to detect how many stairs you climb, which can be a great motivator to take the stairs instead of 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. These give much better distance and speed readings than a simple accelerometer. You’ll also get a handy map of your workout to look back on.
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