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Best fitness trackers in 2020: Top activity bands from Fitbit, Garmin and more

best fitness trackers
(Image credit: Shutterstock/Jacob Lund)

The best fitness trackers are great tools for helping you to get healthier, get more active, and even get more sleep. While they can't do your runs or workouts for you, they can help motivate you to be more active, track your progress, and even give you guidance on how hard you should be pushing yourself. While many are designed to be used outdoors, most can also track indoor exercises, for those of you who want to stay socially isolated, but also want to stay in shape. 

Fitness trackers have come a long way from simply keeping tabs of how many steps you take. Now, these exercise-oriented wearables can measure your heart rate, read your blood oxygen levels, accompany you swimming, tell you if you're well-rested, pay for groceries, play music and much more.

With so many devices, choosing the best fitness tracker or fitness watch for your needs can be tricky. We put dozens to the test, spending hours on the treadmill, running, biking, swimming, working out on the best yoga mats — even sleeping — to see which excel, and which couldn't make it past the starting block. 

This list of the best fitness trackers and fitness watches ranks the ones that made the cut, whether it was for features, price or both. But if you're on a tight budget, check out the best cheap fitness trackers instead.

See all of the best fitness trackers and fitness watches below.

What are the best fitness trackers?

After testing dozens of contenders, we think the best fitness tracker for most people is the Fitbit Charge 4. At around $149, it's not all that expensive, and features a built-in GPS and extensive health tracking. The Fitbit Charge 4 also sports improved sleep tracking, wireless payment support and on-device Spotify controls. Plus it's swim-proof, and has a bright touchscreen display that responds instantly to swipes and taps.

If you want a fitness tracker and capable smartwatch in one, the Apple Watch Series 3 is your best option. The Series 3 is a relatively affordable $199 (and usually on sale for less), but you get a waterproof device with a full app store which includes a number of fitness-tracking apps, built-in GPS, and onboard music storage. The one caveat is that you have to also own an iPhone if you want to use the Apple Watch, but if you're already invested in Apple's ecosystem it's an excellent choice. 

Looking for something less expensive? The Fitbit Charge 3 is still available and still one of the best fitness trackers you can buy for under $100. It offers group competitions, detailed sleep analysis and a design that can be customized with easily interchangeable bands. 

Whether you opt for last year's Charge 3 or the newer Charge 4, you can participate in the Fitbit Heart Study (open to U.S. residents 22 years or older.) Here's how to sign up for atrial fibrillation research that involves tracking irregular heart rhythms.

The best fitness trackers you can buy today

The best fitness trackers: Fitbit Charge 4

Fitbit Charge 4 (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

1. Fitbit Charge 4

The best fitness tracker overall

Sizes: One size, with S, M, L bands | Battery Life (Rated): 7 days | GPS: Yes | Sleep Tracking: Yes

Accurate, fast GPS
Big community of users
Good design
No onboard music storage

The Fitbit Charge 4 is our top pick among the best fitness trackers and fitness watches because it introduces the key feature we missed on the Charge 4: GPS. The Charge 4 sync with a smartphone to show you a map of your runs, hikes and other outdoor activities. You'll also see data for pace, elevation, heart rate zones, and calories burned. Even better, the app overlays this information along your route, so you can see what parts of your venture made you huff and puff.

The Charge 4 uses an SpO2 pulse oximeter sensor to better help you understand sleeping patterns, too. Plus the Charge 4 is the first of Fitbit’s fitness trackers to have contactless Fitbit Pay capabilities. If you're looking for a well-rounded wearable with a broad collection of features, this is the one to get. Check out the best Fitbit deals right now.

Read our full Fitbit Charge 4 review.

The best fitness trackers: Fitbit Charge 3

Fitbit Charge 3. Credit: Tom's Guide

2. Fitbit Charge 3

The best fitness tracker under $100

Sizes: One size, with S, M, L bands | Battery Life (Rated): 7 days | GPS: No | Sleep Tracking: Yes | Swim-Proof: Yes | Heart Rate Monitor: Yes

Touchscreen display
SpO2 sensor
Swim-proof
No on-board GPS
Not the most accurate heart rate monitor

The Fitbit Charge 3 is the best fitness tracker for those on a budget and looking for a general-purpose device. It has a fairly large (but monochrome) touchscreen display that's easy to navigate, and shows such things as your heart rate, distance traveled, and notifications from your smartphone, if connected. The Charge 3 is also swim-proof, and can track laps in the pool. 

We also like that the Charge 3 comes in three sizes, which helps it better accommodate wrists of all sizes. Plus, there are numerous straps available, letting you personalize the device to your liking. The Fitbit Charge 3 also has an SpO2 sensor that will be used to diagnose breathing disturbances while sleeping and week-long battery life. It still requires a smartphone to connect to GPS, but overall it's the best fitness tracker for the money.

Read our full Fitbit Charge 3 review.

Best fitness trackers: Apple Watch Series 3

Apple Watch Series 3. Credit: Tom's Guide

3. Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS)

Best fitness-tracking smartwatch for iPhone users

Sizes: 38mm and 42mm with S and L bands | Battery Life (Rated): 18 hours | GPS: Yes | Sleep Tracking: No | Swim-Proof: Yes | Heart Rate Monitor: Yes

Improved fitness-tracking features
Accurate heart-rate-monitoring
On-board music storage
Lower price than Series 4 and LTE Series 3
Short battery life

The Apple Watch Series 3 with GPS isn't the newest Apple Watch, but it's the best fitness tracker and best fitness watch for iPhone users. It's more affordable than the Series 5 (our top pick among the best smartwatches) and still has all the great fitness-tracking features baked into watchOS 6. You can track a variety of workouts, including open-water swims and laps in the pool, hiking, yoga and basics like running and cycling. 

The Apple Watch Series 3 detects when you start a workout and gives you retroactive credit for the time you missed. If you want a fully featured smartwatch that lets you leave your phone at home while at the gym or out for a run, the Series 3 with GPS is the one to buy. The one caveat is that its battery life is just one day, and even less if you use GPS. 

Read our full Apple Watch Series 3 review.

best fitness trackers: Garmin Vivoactive 4

Garmin Vivoactive 4. Credit: Tom's Guide (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

4. Garmin Vivoactive 4

A stylish fitness tracker with smartwatch aspirations

Sizes: 40, 45 mm | Battery life: 7 days | GPS: Yes | Sleep tracking: Yes | Swim-Proof: Yes | Heart rate monitor: Yes

Comes in two sizes
Built-in music storage with Spotify support
Two-button navigation
Occasional syncing issues
Convoluted app installation process

While it's one of the most stylish fitness trackers there is, the Garmin Vivoactive 4's attributes are more than skin deep. That's because this device has excellent GPS, a heart rate monitor, sleep tracking, and an NFC chip so you can use it for mobile payments. 

We also liked that the Vivoactive 4 has on-screen animations for workouts including  yoga, Pilates, cardio and strength-training exercises. It also has respiration tracking and a pulse oximeter for tracking blood oxygen saturation levels, as well as on-board music storage. Its estimated battery life of seven days is also pretty good, but that will decrease the more you use GPS.

Read our full Garmin Vivoactive 4 review.

best fitness trackers: Fitbit Versa 2

Fitbit Versa 2. Credit: Tom's Guide (Image credit: Fitbit)

5. Fitbit Versa 2

The best fitness tracker for sleep tracking

Sizes: One size | Battery Life (Rated): 4 days | GPS: No | Sleep Tracking: Yes | Swim-Proof: Yes (but no swim-tracking mode) | Heart Rate Monitor: Yes

Good battery life
Custom training programs (with subscription)
Great sleep analysis
No GPS
No onboard music storage

The Fitbit Versa 2 brings with it more advanced sleep-tracking features, as well as the ability to monitor your blood oxygen saturation levels. (That data's helpful for identifying conditions like sleep apnea.) For those times when you're not sleeping, it's also good at measuring your heart rate and steps, and even has NFC for mobile payments.

The Versa 2 works with both iOS and Android. While it's a little light on apps when compared to the Apple Watch, you can control Spotify playback from your wrist — too bad there's no way to download songs to the watch itself. The Versa 2 also lacks on-board GPS. But overall, it's a solid fitness tracker for those who don't want to spend more than $200.

Read our full Fitbit Versa 2 review.    

best fitness trackers: Garmin Forerunner 245

Garmin Forerunner 245. Credit: Tom's Guide (Image credit: Future)

6. Garmin Forerunner 245

Best fitness tracker for runners

Sizes: One size, with adjustable strap | Battery Life (Rated): 11 hours(using GPS and heart rate) | GPS: Yes | Sleep Tracking: Yes | Swim-Proof: Yes (but no swim-tracking mode) | Heart Rate Monitor: Yes

Accurate GPS and heart-rate monitor
Easy to read in sunlight
Customizable interface
Onboard music storage
App could be better organized

Garmin makes the best sports watches you can buy, and the Forerunner 245 is one of our favorites. There aren't a lot of bells and whistles, but this running watch is small and light with built-in GPS and a colorful screen that's easy to see in bright sunlight. 

Even better is that the Forerunner 245 has onboard music storage, so you don't need to carry a smartphone with you if you want to listen to tunes while you run. The 245 also calculates your V02 max score and offers a recovery advisor to let you know how long to rest between runs. This watch also lasts for about a week of workouts on a charge, which isn't bad for such a fully-featured GPS watch. However, Garmin's menus, on both the watch and its app, can be a bit confusing.

Read our full Garmin Forerunner 245 review.

best fitness trackers: Garmin Forerunner 25

Garmin Forerunner 25. Credit: Garmin (Image credit: Garmin)

7. Garmin Forerunner 25

Best budget fitness tracker for runners

Sizes: One size, with adjustable strap | Battery Life (Rated): 8-10 hours (using GPS and heart rate), 8-10 weeks in watch mode | GPS: Yes | Sleep Tracking: No | Swim-Proof: Yes | Heart Rate Monitor: No

Long battery life
Waterproof
Inexpensive
No heart rate monitor
Lacks sleep tracking

If you don't need extra bells and whistles, consider the Garmin Forerunner 25. The best fitness tracker for runners on a budget, it's an inexpensive, yet accurate, GPS watch that tracks distance, speed and pace, and it notifies you at every mile you run. One big caveat is that the Forerunner 25 lacks a heart rate monitor, which could be a deal-killer for many. It also lacks niceties such as a touchscreen and a color display,

With nearly 10 weeks of battery life in watch mode and up to 10 hours when using GPS, the Forerunner 25 can also be your everyday timepiece, and will still work when you need it for those impromptu jogs. And, it costs less than $100, which could be incentive enough for many.

Read our full Garmin Forerunner 25 review.

How to choose the best fitness tracker for you

When buying a fitness tracker, you should first evaluate your needs. What do you want to track? If you're only using it at the gym to count your steps and your heart rate, a simpler, less expensive fitness tracker will suit you fine.

If, however, you plan to do more outdoor activities, such as running or biking, you may want a fitness tracker with built-in GPS, so you can more accurately see where you're going, and where you went. Dedicated runners and athletes will want to check out our best GPS watches page, too.

If you plan to use the fitness tracker for swimming, you'll want to make sure it's not only waterproof, but that it can also track your laps in the pool. 

Many of the best smartwatches have fitness-tracking capabilities, too, and have additional features such as responding to text messages and paying for purchases. But there are trade-offs. However, smartwatches as a whole tend to be more expensive and have shorter battery life than dedicated fitness trackers. 

How we test the best fitness trackers

For each new fitness tracker, we evaluate its hardware design and comfort; you need to be able to wear the device all day, and we’ve found that some larger trackers don’t fit well on smaller wrists. If the device has a touchscreen, we look to see how readable it is, especially in bright sunlight. We also examine how easy it is to navigate the fitness trackers' menus; you don't want to have to dig through multiple screens to change your music if you're out running.

We also evaluate features such as step counting and sleep monitoring, distance calculations and when applicable, GPS and heart rate accuracy. And, we see how well a manufacturer's battery life claims hold up in real-world testing. 

Finally, we test how well a device pairs with its companion app, and evaluate the experience of using the two together. We also look to see what features the device's app supports, such as coaching and diet tracking, and if it can sync data with third-party apps, such as MyFitnessPal. 

  • seoguy
    Archived comments are found here: http://www.tomsguide.com/forum/id-2064520/fitness-trackers-2014.html
    Reply
  • yinyang1950
    I was given an UP 2 years ago as a Christmas gift. Started out really liking it until I discovered that it registered movement when I drove my car or rode my motorcycle making it difficult to accurately track my steps. So, stopped using it. I do not see this problem addressed in the reviews. How do these devices handle movement that is not step related?
    Reply
  • walkabouts3
    Love my Misfit Shine: Waterproof, options for wearing location (I hate things on my wrist), attractive, subtle, syncs well with iPhone. No need to charge (watch battery good for 6 months). Sleep tracker. I've been using one continuously for 2 years.
    Reply
  • hunyogo
    been using one continuously for 2 years.
    Reply
  • walkabouts3
    I have been using a Misfit Shine for 2 years and it's fantastic! The magnetic attachment for clothing and optional wrist (or necklace) offer flexibility for wearing. It is waterproof, so I can use it for my daily pool exercise and don't have to worry about being caught in the rain. It is lightweight, attractive, and does not need charging. The app works well. Can't recommend it highly enough. (None of the trackers you mentioned have the combination of attributes that Misfit offers!)
    Reply
  • Laura_38
    Just FYI, the Moov fitness tracker that you reviewed is not the newest version. I dont believe they even offer that any more. The newest edition is call Moov Now and has many more capabilities than the original Moov
    Reply
  • code guy
    17223430 said:
    Fitness tracker bands come in many varieties, but the ‘best’ band is the one that suits your lifestyle. Here are our top picks by category.

    Best Fitness Trackers: Read more

    I watched a special that said the iPhone "health" app, is the most accurate tracker....a little hard to work out with your iPhone while your running.
    Reply
  • ubercake
    I have a MS Band 2. It's one of few out there that has GPS built into it. You don't need to bring your phone on a run or bike ride. It tracks heart rate. It seems to be very accurate with regard to calorie burn. The MS Health dashboard (browser app) has everything you need with summaries and details of all of your activities. Being able to see all of the stats laid out in front of you and your numbers over time can be very motivating. I'm always trying to beat my fastest time or greatest distance.

    The only things I'd like to see if they ever came out with a Band 3 is the ability to store music on it and Bluetooth to some fitness headphones. Further, I'd like it to be fully water-resistant and incorporate swimming workouts/activities. Also, I've found through almost five months of wearing it, the band holds up well, but the contacts you connect the charger to are prone to corrosion from your sweat. Even if you wipe the thing down or clean it really well where the charging contacts are, it still develops corrosion under the seal by the contacts. This results in the contacts not always matching up with the charger. This became a problem resulting in my returning it. I should have the replacement shortly. But you'd expect something called a 'fitness' band which touts water resistance to be able to deal with sweat five days a week. That issue needs to be corrected for sure. If they make the next device water-proof rather than water-resistant, this will probably be a non-issue.

    I think it's pretty cool device, but they should add the improvements and corrections I've suggested to the next iteration.
    Reply
  • TesseractOrion
    I agree Ubercake about the MS Band. Another rumour has said they're phasing it out (no Band 3) which I think would be a shame. I like my version 1 a lot, despite the lumpy aesthetics and terrible charging system... but then I'm in a minority with a Windows 10 phone too..
    Reply
  • Techelle
    I have a FitBit Charge 2 and I love it but the battery life isn't as great as I was hoping it would be.
    Reply