I walked over 5,000 steps with the Helio Ring vs. Garmin Forerunner 165 — here's the winner

Helio RIng and Garmin Forerunnr 165 smartwatch on a user's wrist against an orange background.
(Image credit: Dan Bracaglia/Tom's Guide)

I've been testing the new Amazfit Helio Ring for about a week — read my first impressions — and wanted to see how well it stacks up against a traditional wrist-based wearable when it comes to keeping tabs on daily walking goals. 

The Garmin Forerunner 165 has been my go-to for monitoring hikes and other outdoor adventures, so it was a natural choice to compete against the Helio Ring in a battle of step-count accuracy. 

But first, here's how they compare. 

Amazfit Helio Ring vs. Garmin Forerunner 16: key differences

The Amazfit Helio Ring and Garmin Forerunner 165 on a bright red table

(Image credit: Dan Bracaglia/Tom's Guide)

Aside from the obvious differences between the two — one's a ring with no buttons and no display, the other is a watch with lots of controls and an AMOLED touchscreen — both measure a lot of similar metrics during a workout, including pace, heart rate, steps, ascent and calories burned.

However, the Garmin boasts an onboard GPS and the Helio Ring does not. So, to track a workout using the Helio, you'll need to open the companion Zepp app on your smartphone and begin their workout from there. Assuming you've given the app permission, it'll piggyback off your phone's GPS signal for location and elevation data.

This means you have to have your smartphone on you at all times to use the Helio Ring for activity-tracking purposes. By the way, it only tracks walking, running, cycling and treadmill exercises. 

With the Garmin Forerunner 165, you can ditch the extra weight; the Music edition even lets you save tunes for offline listening, again, without your smartphone.

Both devices additionally provide impressive amounts of sleep and workout recovery data; I find the Helio Ring easier to wear to bed than the Garmin, but both are lightweight, comfortable and well-constructed pieces of tech. 

Amazfit Helio Ring: $299 @ Amazfit

Amazfit Helio Ring: $299 @ Amazfit
The Amazfit Helio Ring is a comfortable and low-profile sleep and recovery monitoring device that can also be used to track workouts when paired with a GPS-equipped smartphone. Made of titanium alloy, it's also lightweight, well-constructed and boasts excellent battery life.

Garmin Forerunner 165: $250 @ REI

Garmin Forerunner 165: $250 @ REI
The Garmin Forerunner 165 is a lightweight and comfortable GPS-equipped smartwatch jam-packed with fitness training and recovery tools. It also sports a bright AMOLED touchscreen with plenty of physical controls and solid battery life. 

Helio smart ring vs. Garmin Forerunner 165: step accuracy test

This step-count challenge took place on a classic, dreary Seattle Sunday afternoon. With the rain spitting on and off in between brief bursts of sunlight, I decided to wear my favorite waterproof hiking boots, the Scarpa Rush 2 Mid GTX — which also happen to be one of the best all-around hiking boots — along with my go-to L.L. Bean Primaloft Packaway puffer. 

Wearing both devices on my left hand/wrist, I began my trek, manually counting each step until I got to 100 before clicking my analog, handheld tally counter and starting again at one. 

Just under an hour later and completely drenched in sweat and rain, I returned to my apartment and checked in on the results. Here's how the post-workout reports compare between the two devices. 

Helio smart ring vs. Garmin Forerunner 165: the results

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 Helio RingGarmin Forerunner 165Control
Steps5,086 steps5,123 steps5,100 steps (manual count)
Distance2.66 miles 2.56 miles2.6 miles (Google Maps)
Ascent 288 feet279 feetn/a
Average pace18 mins, 51 secs per mile19 mins, 31 secs per milen/a
Calories burned353 calories 311 calories n/a
Average heart rate110 bpm128 bpmn/a
Maximum heart rate123 bpm155 bpmn/a

With a total step count of 5,100, the Helio and Forerunner 165 each performed admirably at tracking our core metric. Beyond steps, the rest of the data also lines up nicely between the two devices and the control. The exception, of course, is heart rate max and average, where there is a significant discrepancy.

Two other recent step count challenges along a similar route involving roughly the same distance — G-Shock Move vs. Polar Grit X2 Pro and Forerunner 165 vs. Polar Grit X2 Pro — suggest that the Helio Ring under-measured in this department. My general intuition also suggests the same.  

Verdict: Helio Ring wins

Amazfit Helio Ring held between a person's fingers

(Image credit: Dan Bracaglia/Tom's Guide)

Ultimately, while the devices delivered impressively accurate step counts, the Helio Ring was closer to my actual total than the Garmin Forerunner 165 by a whopping nine steps. The former undercounted by 14, and the latter overcounted by 23.

This makes the Helio Ring our winner but either device is more than precise enough to be your daily step counter. Ultimately, it'll depend on which ecosystem you want to live in — Garmin or Amazfit — and whether you need a fully-fledged Garmin sports watch.

More from Tom's Guide

Back to Smart Watches
Any Price
Showing 10 of 251 deals
Load more deals
Dan Bracaglia
Senior Writer, Fitness & Wearables

Dan Bracaglia covers fitness and consumer technology with an emphasis on wearables for Tom's Guide. Based in the US Pacific Northwest, Dan is an avid outdoor adventurer who dabbles in everything from kayaking to snowboarding, but he most enjoys exploring the cities and mountains with his small pup, Belvedere. Dan is currently training to climb some of Washington State's tallest peaks. He's also a big photography nerd.