The best fitness trackers are no longer just cheap, plasticky activity bands. We now have new activity bands from the likes of Fitbit, Garmin, Withings and Misfit that offer serious style, 24/7 heart rate monitoring and useful insights into your health.
The right fitness tracker for you will be based on your individual needs and how active your lifestyle is. Some will just look for step counting and reliable sleep tracking, others want GPS for running, advanced resting heart rate and VO2 max data. The good news is that there’s something out there for everyone.
We’ve updated our roundup of the best fitness trackers and added a new at-a-glance feature list to try and make it easier to spot the right band for you.
Got any questions about fitness trackers? Let us know in the comments section below and we’ll see if we can lend a helping hand.
Best fitness tracker – Garmin Vivosmart HR+
Our Garmin Vivosmart HR+ review broke the record for an all-time high score for fitness trackers and for good reason: it’s all-singing, all-dancing and packed with tech, although that still might not make it the perfect choice for everyone.
Its top mix of features and performance also made it a worthy Fitness Tracker of the Year at the Wareable Tech Awards 2016.
The Vivosmart HR+ offers a great mix of activity, heart rate and GPS tracking, which makes it a no-brainer for those who are thinking about a Fitbit, but nonplussed by the idea of taking a phone along for a run.
While the band is still a little chunky for some, and the screen is nowhere near as attractive as the Fitbit Alta HR, it offers up around a week of battery life, is devilishly good when it comes to notifications and it’s water resistant to about 50m – although the lack of a swimming mode is a disappointment.
Run stats are a little light – if you want more than pace, distance or basic HR data then you’ll need to head into proper GPS running watch territory.
Feature check: Steps, sleep monitoring, 24/7 heart rate monitoring, GPS.
$179.99, garmin.com | Amazon
Best general fitness tracker – Fitbit Charge 2
Fitbit raised the bar with the Charge 2, but in spite of the device falling slightly short of its own expectations, it still got a deserved commendation at the Wareable Tech Awards.
As well the usual steps and sleep tracking – all logged within Fitbit’s superb app – the Charge 2 tracks heart rate continuously, monitors resting heart rate and now rates VO2 Max, a scientific gauge of fitness. New breathing training to combat stress adds to a stellar line-up of wellness features – so why isn’t it topping the table?
Teething issues with screen responsiveness, a fiddly interface and flaky heart rate tracking during very intense workouts make for an experience that falls short for the more active user. It will accurately track runs, but you need to take your phone out with you.
However, if general wellbeing is more important to you than getting sweaty at the gym, the Charge 2 is one of the strongest devices on the market.
Feature check: Steps, sleep monitoring, 24/7 heart rate monitoring, breathing training, VO2 Max.
$149.95, fitbit.com | Amazon
Best for wellness – Garmin Vivosmart 3
This all-day fitness tracker successor to the Vivosmart HR+ aims to go toe-to-toe with Fitbit’s Charge 2 as Garmin decides to get serious about stress.
On the design front, it still has that sporty rubber band but now packs in a bigger monochrome display, which melds into the curved strap and does its very best to remain discreet.
As well as the standard fitness tracking features it also includes an onboard heart rate monitor for 24/7 bpm data, VO2 Max testing, automatic exercise tracking, Garmin’s Move IQ software and rep counting for those who like to lift weights. The decent accelerometer-based run tracking makes up for the missing GPS support as well.
Garmin’s big play is with stress tracking using its heart rate sensor to deliver heart rate variability readings to produce a stress score. Like the Charge 2, it also provides guided breathing exercises to get you feeling calmer. It’s a little hit and miss at times, but it’s the best option out there if you want to take care of mind and body.
Feature check: Steps, sleep monitoring, 24/7 heart rate monitoring, heart rate variability stress scores, VO2 Max, rep-counting.
$140, garmin.com | Amazon
Best for heart rate tracking – Withings Steel HR
Hybrid smartwatches have a tendency to be a little light on hardcore fitness features, but not the Withings Steel HR.
The top-notch heart rate monitor underneath the stainless steel case keeps tabs on your ticker 24/7 and chucks the data into the award-winning Withings Health Mate app. What’s more impressive is that the Steel HR still boasts a 25-day battery life, putting the likes of Fitbit to shame in both the design and longevity departments.
Steps, sleep and calories are all recorded accurately, and with a long press of the button the Steel HR jumps into running watch mode to track distance and heart rate zones – although with no GPS, it’s nowhere near a Garmin replacement.
The OLED screen placed at 12 o’clock can display fitness metrics and offer details on basic notification, and the internal dial at 6 o’clock shows progress towards your step goal. It’s the most fitness focused hybrid we’ve tested and still one of the best looking to wear around your wrist.
Feature check: Steps, sleep, 24/7 heart rate, 25-day battery.
$143.96, withings.com | Amazon
Best for simplicity – Misfit Ray
Stylish and sleek, Misfit broke from the traditional design of its circular Shine tracker to offer something a little more discreet.
The Misfit Ray offers steps and sleep tracking, all within Misfit’s sleek and clean app, and will alert users to messages and calls from a paired smartphone. You can also add advanced swim tracking but that requires a $10 to make the Ray more pool-friendly.
As far as activity tracking goes, the Ray will count your steps, measure distance walked and estimate calories burned via a 3-axis accelerometer, as well as track activities such as cycling, yoga and dancing. There’s no heart rate here, nor GPS.
As far as customisation goes, there are a number of decent strap options from Misfit, and it can also be worn as a pendent. This, mixed with strong (if no frills) fitness tracking and a good price, means you can’t go wrong.
Feature check: Steps, sleep, buzzes for smartphone notifications.
$99.95, misfit.com | Amazon
Best for style – Fitbit Alta HR
While the Fitbit Alta HR doesn’t differ too heavily from its older sibling in the looks department, with the addition of a heart rate monitor into the same sleek device, this is clearly the superior tracker.
It’s often said that devices with screens can’t be alluring, but the Alta HR’s wide range of interchangeable straps help it become a discreet part of your everyday wear. You can pick up the sporty Classic models at the lower end of the spectrum in black, blue, plum and teal, with the more expensive Luxe bands coming in leather and metal variants.
On the tech side, the Alta HR hones in on the company’s strong points: sleep, heart health and general wellbeing. In terms of the heart rate tracking, you’ll be clocked at five-second intervals, logging resting bpm and zones during sessions.
While there’s no workout mode or GPS, exercise is automatically detected and logged, which means it’s usable in fitness classes. There are still some irregularities during high intensity workouts that enthusiasts will find frustrating, but it generally holds up enough to give you a basic window into your fitness and ticker.
Feature check: Steps, sleep, HR tracking, customisable bands and notifications.
$149.95, fitbit.com | Amazon
Best for stroller-pushing parents (clip-on) – Misfit Shine 2
When the Misfit launched the Shine back in 2012, it proved that you can count your steps from a fitness tracker that didn’t look like an ugly piece of plastic around your wrist.
The Shine 2 remains faithful to its original features adding a redesigned action clip, smartphone notifications and vibration alerts. Also, the battery life pretty much kicks the ass of any of the trackers on this page.
Where it really impresses though is data accuracy. When we put the Shine 2 up against a GPS running watch and there was 0.1km difference in the readings. If reliable data is your priority, then this is the one to go for.
However, for us it stands out because of its versatility. It ships with a clip, and has modes for attaching to shirts, waistbands, shoes and pockets, meaning buggy-pushing parents can get credit for their days – a common request on Wareable’s comments and forums.
Feature check: Step tracking, sleep monitoring, smartphone notifications, waterproof for swim tracking.
$99.99, misfit.com | Amazon
Best for getting in shape – Moov Now
Moov Now is a small, round element that you clip into a strap to wear around your leg and pair with a smartphone. The aim of the game is advanced sports training plans, at which it excels, with actionable running, swimming and cycling data aimed at making you better at the sports you love.
The band boasts ever-increasing levels of difficulty, which offer a gradual but tangible improvement curve. With both running and seven-minute workouts included, it has all bases covered.
Even better news is that Moov Now – the second generation product – also works as a daily step and sleep tracker, making it a decent activity band when you’re not busting out interval times.
Feature check: Steps, sleep, advanced sports coaching, run/bike tracking.
$59.95, moov.cc | Amazon
Best for a tight budget – Xiaomi Mi Band 2
Now available outside China, the Mi Band 2 might not be as cheap and cheerful as its predecessor the Mi Band Pulse but it does now add in an OLED display to check in on your stats. For the sub-$50 price, it still manages to pack heart rate monitoring onto the wrist for an astonishing price.
Xiaomi has shifted more than a million of its bands in China alone, making this possibly one of the best budget fitness trackers.
Feature check: HR tracking, steps, sleep, smart alarms, incoming call alerts.
$33.49, mi.com | Amazon
Best for losing weight – TomTom Touch
While it’s far from the perfect fitness tracker – read our review to find out why – the TomTom Touch is uniquely placed to help users track weight, thanks to its build-in body composition sensors.
Place your finger on the sensor and you’ll get a (pretty) accurate analysis of your body fat and muscle percentages. There’s a few percentage points difference between scales, but it’s a great way of tracking the benefits of your new exercise regime.
Feature check: Sleep, steps, 24/7 heart rate, body composition.
$129.99, tomtom.com | Amazon
Best for multisports – Garmin Vivoactive HR
This everyday sports wearable blends fitness and sports features with reliable notifications in a reasonably priced package. It’s not exactly a looker, but don’t let that put you off – the Vivoactive HR uses GPS to accurately track running, cycling and swimming with live pace and distances.
It’s not perfect – the screen is dull and the heart rate tracking can’t beat a chest strap – but as an easy to live with sports companion with access to Garmin Connect, this is a brilliant buy.
Feature check: Daily steps, 24/7 heart rate, GPS run/bike/golf tracking, notifications.
$249.99, garmin.com | Amazon
Best for screen quality – Samsung Gear Fit2
When it comes to that AMOLED panel on the front of your fitness tracker, the new Samsung Gear Fit2 rules the roost. With so many fitness trackers trading quality colour displays for longer battery life, they can make for a rather dull-looking crowd. The Gear Fit2 bucks that trend with a sumptuous 1.5-inch screen with an eye-popping 432 x 216, 322 pixels per inch screen.
On the fitness side there’s GPS built-in for run tracking and an optical heart rate monitor – all for a very competitive price tag.
Feature check: Steps, sleep, GPS and optical heart rate.
$179.99, samsung.com | Amazon
Best for style – Skagen Hagen Connected
When it comes to fitness tracking style, few are getting it as right as Fossil. Its line-up is so numerous it’s impossible to outline here, and it’s also smartening up its vast dumb watch collection one by one.
But it’s the Skagen Hagen Connected (Fossil’s sub-brand) that we’re plumping for here. The watches themselves are thin, sleek and come in four styles, tracking steps and sleep plus buzzing for notifications.
Feature check: Steps, sleep monitoring, discreet notifications.
$195, skagen.com | Amazon