Every year, a new crop of more stylish, more powerful and more feature-packed fitness trackers debuts with the promise of helping you live a more active, healthier lifestyle. But are they worth your hard-earned cash? We put every single one to the test, spending hours on the treadmill, running, biking, swimming — even sleeping — and found that the Fitbit Charge 2 ($147) is the best overall choice for the money.
The Charge 2 is comfortable enough to wear all day, has a large screen and an interchangeable strap, continuously tracks your heart rate and automatically monitors your sleep without you having to lift a finger.
Those on a budget should consider trackers like the Fitbit Flex 2 ($60), which tracks your steps, sleep, and calories, and can even automatically recognize some types of exercises. We chose this device after evaluating a dozen cheap fitness trackers. The Fitbit Flex 2 lacks a heart rate monitor and a display, but its sleek, versatile design and powerful smartphone app make it perfect for fitness-tracking newbies.
For not much more money, you can get a tracker that gives you smartphone notifications that appear as text on your device. And if you're willing to spend $200 or more, other fitness trackers have special features such as GPS (great for runners who want to know their pace and distance). We've also evaluated the latest running watches.
To help you select the right fitness trackers for your needs, we’ve evaluated all of the latest models based on design, performance and ease of use. Here are our top picks—both high-end and budget—for each category.
Latest News and Updates (March 2018)
- Fitbit announced two new fitness trackers: One for kids, the $100 Fitbit Ace, and one for adults, the $200 Fitbit Versa. The Versa is a redesigned smartwatch that takes all of the Ionic's features and puts them in a more stylish package. Fitbit also developed a suite of female health-tracking features so women can log their periods and symptoms in the Fitbit app. The Versa will ship in April and the Ace will ship later in the second quarter of this year.
- Fitbit launched an Adidas-branded version of the Fitbit Ionic, which will have an Adidas-centric watch face and the Adidas Train app, which has six runner-specific workouts, and is found only on Adidas devices. Special wristbands will also be available. The Adidas version of the Ionic is available for preorder for $329—a premium of $30 over the standard Ionic—and will ship March 19.
- Garmin's newest fitness-tracking smartwatch, the $450 Forerunner 645 Music, is the company's first device to include on-board music storage, which makes it easier to leave your phone at home on long runs. The newest Forerunner also has Garmin Pay, Garmin's mobile payment system, so you can buy things directly from your wrist. Garmin is also planning to release a version of the 645 without music for $50 less. Stay tuned for our full review when the Forerunner 645 Music goes on sale later this year.
How We Test 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. We also evaluate the features, including movement detection (such as step counting and sleep monitoring), distance calculations and when applicable, GPS and heart rate accuracy. 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. Lastly, we wear the device for at least a week to test the manufacturer's battery life claims.
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