FITNESS TRACKERS, LIKE EVERY OTHER PIECE OF EQUIPMENT YOU WEAR ON YOUR BODY ON A DAILY BASIS, ARE EXTREMELY PERSONAL. They must be comfortable and appealing, but they must also match your lifestyle, including when and how you exercise. Do you ride a bike, row a boat, or lift weights? Do you want a reminder to wake up every hour or do you want to run on trails for hours at a time?
There’s never been a better moment to locate a powerful, intelligent tool that can help you enhance your exercises or jump-start your program, no matter what your demands are. We’ve put dozens to the test over the last four years to bring you these recommendations. Don’t forget to check out our guides to the best smartwatches and the finest running gear while you’re at it.
Best in Every Way
Fitbit’s trackers have always won me over, despite heavy competition from other manufacturers, most notably the Apple Watch. They hit a sweet spot in terms of aesthetics, cost, accessibility, and ease of use. They’re ideal for anyone who isn’t an ultra-marathon runner or a semi-pro powerlifter looking to set a new personal best.
The Charge line has always been at the top of our lists, and the Charge 5 (8/10, WIRED Recommends) is no exception. This year’s model features gentler lines, a bright AMOLED screen, and nearly every sensor imaginable, including stress tests and ECGs. The Charge 5 pairs quickly with Android phones, just like the Apple Watch works with iPhones, and features both onboard and linked GPS, so you can track outside workouts without a hitch. Although a Fitbit Premium subscription costs $10 per month to get the new Daily Readiness function and individualized sleep and stress insights, the hardware is still less expensive and the subscription is less expensive than others on this list.
Also a Fantastic Option
When choosing a fitness tracker, it’s important to evaluate both the hardware and the proprietary software. Fitbit’s app is simple to use, but I also prefer Garmin’s Connect, which I’ve found to be one of the most comprehensive digital health apps—it interfaces easily with Strava, for example, if you discover that you enjoy jogging. As a result, Garmin’s newest entry-level wristwatch is one of my top selections for a first fitness tracker, despite its unassuming appearance. It is available in a number of colors and resembles an analog watch. To log activities and check notifications, simply swipe along the bottom half of the touchscreen.
You can track not just your exercises, but also your sleep, heart rate, and a few more Garmin patented algorithms, such as your Body Battery or how prepared you are for the day. However, most people purchase a Garmin because it is GPS-enabled, whereas the Vivomove Sport relies solely on connected GPS from your phone. Check out our guide to the best Garmin watches for more Garmin recommendations.
The Most Effective Budget Tracker
Letsfit’s smartwatch is a carbon copy of the Fitbit Versa, right down to the watch face typography, but anyone who has used (and loved) a real Versa will notice the changes. The clasp is constructed of cheap plastic, the metrics tracked on the watch display are basic, and the VeryFitPro app is unappealing and difficult to use.
The tracker, on the other hand, is waterproof, and the pedometer is rather accurate. The band is silky and comfy, and the battery lasts about a week between charges. Look for older Garmin or Fitbit devices that were released a year or two ago if you’re ready to spend a little extra. Those are frequently on sale for less than $100.
If you have an iPhone, this is the best option.
The Apple Watch upgrade each year can feel iterative. If you want a fitness tracker and have an iPhone, the current version is the best option. The Series 7 (8/10, WIRED Recommends) is more waterproof and dustproof than ever before, with improved cycling algorithms such as better fall detection and the ability to distinguish between ebiking and traditional biking.
When you buy an Apple Watch, you get all of Apple’s features, including integration with Fitness+, Apple’s workout streaming subscription; Apple’s addictive activity rings game, which will have you marching around your kitchen at night closing circles; integration with Apple Maps to guide you while running or biking; and the full suite of comprehensive sensors that can track your sleep or measure your blood oxygen. However, unlike almost every other tracker on this list, you must charge it every day—an inconvenient annoyance if your only time to exercise is 6:30 a.m., before getting your kids ready for school. Check out our Best Apple Watch guide for additional information.
The Best Running Timepiece
For years, I believed that no running watch would ever be able to compete with a Garmin. That changed after trying the Coros Pace 2 (8/10, WIRED Recommends), which has since become my favorite. It’s really light, and the battery lasts for weeks between charges, which you won’t find in any other watch on our list. It also works with Strava to chart your runs and rides, and it traces your journey using the same multi-system satellite location system as Garmin.
On the downside, it has a simple LCD screen, and EvoLab—Coros’ analytics platform, which is intended to compete with Garmin’s Connect—is still in its early stages. Accuracy isn’t always guaranteed; a handful of my outdoor runs were mistracked. Coros, on the other hand, provides a plethora of minor, helpful features, such as a locking screen and simple two-button operation, at an affordable price.
The Best Ring
I had issues with Oura’s Gen3 ring, specifically that the firm was pressuring people to commit to the Gen3 and a new $6-per-month subscription before any of the new features were even available. There is, however, no other tracker like the Oura in a sea of identical square and round watches. It’s compact and elegant, and the new onboard sensors this year are equally as accurate as the previous ones.
New features are currently being added, and will continue to do so during 2022. You can access guided meditations, personalized insights, and instructional information with the membership; without it, you’ll only be able to see your three basic Oura scores: Daily Readiness, Sleep, and Activity (what you saw last year, basically). It’s especially useful for women who want to follow their menstrual cycles, because it’s sensitive enough to detect a half-degree temperature dip just before my period begins. Read on if you want a fitness tracker that you can take with you at all times.
The Most Fashionable
The most common issue with any fitness wearable is that it gets in the way of… working on your fitness. The Oura ring, for example, cannot be worn while rock climbing. That’s why, this year, the cult fitness tracker Whoop debuted a range of smart clothing. I’m wearing the tracker tucked into the Any-Wear bralette right now. I’m not even aware of it! Now I can use my Garmin to log my runs!
Whoop is perfect for athletes who can decipher the sometimes enigmatic metrics on their own. “Daily Strain” only takes into account cardiovascular load, therefore a day in which I walked 3 miles back and forth is purportedly more difficult than a day in which I did weights for an hour. With a new battery, the Whoop 4.0 is also smaller than last year’s, however I did have charging troubles with the new battery. You must have the app open at all times, or it will notify you (constantly) that it is unable to update right now. The monthly subscription is the most expensive option here, at $30, and the exclusive apparel line does not offer extended size. Despite all of that, it’s the only piece of clothing I’ve ever forgotten I’m wearing.
Best Outdoor Timepiece
Garmin debuted two high-end adventure watches this year: the Fenix 7S Sapphire, an update to the popular Fenix series, and the Epix ($1000). The Epix sports a 47-mm case with a huge, bright AMOLED display, whereas the Fenix has a memory-in-pixel (MIP) display. The Epix casing, on the other hand, is quite large, and the display consumes a lot of power. Instead, I’d go with the Fenix.
Over the years, several reviewers have praised the Fenix series. With sporadic sunlight throughout a cloudy Oregon winter, this year’s iteration had greatly increased battery life with solar charging—I got two weeks off one charge. It determined my location with extraordinary speed and accuracy, even in the rain and under cover of trees, thanks to multiple GPS systems. It can track every biometric for each sport imaginable. And, to be honest, the maps on the MIP still seem very good. It is, however, still quite pricey, and older variants frequently go on sale.
For various reasons, the Withings ScanWatch is special. Many other trackers, such as the Apple Watch Series 7 and the Samsung Galaxy Watch4, have a SpO2 sensor that may detect atrial fibrillation and measure blood oxygen levels. Before marketing it in the United States, however, Withings had to get approval from the US Food and Drug Administration. While the majority of the trackers on our list may go for several days without needing to be charged, the ScanWatch can go for up to 30. The Health Mate app does not require a membership to use all of its features.
Finally, unlike most fitness trackers resemble fitness trackers, the ScanWatch resembles a traditional analog watch. This is the finest everyday fitness tracker for someone who doesn’t want to reveal how many hours they slept each night to the rest of the world. Simon Hill gives it the highest Gadget Lab rating possible—still he’s wearing it after nine months.
The Most Attractive Timepiece
Garmin offers a fashion watch line, but they’ve always been a little wacky in comparison to their sporting rivals. When I tilted my wrist toward my face, for example, the screen of this attractive wearable didn’t reliably come on, and the touchscreen wouldn’t reliably respond to my finger when I intended to start an activity. The sport version of the Garmin Lily, on the other hand, is certainly beautiful. With a swipe and a tap, you can see incoming notifications and track activity on the 34-mm casing.
Unfortunately, nocturnal pulse-ox sleep tracking significantly reduces the expected battery life of five days. If you’re not altitude training or worried about getting sick (obligatory disclaimer: this is not a medical gadget), you should probably disable that option.
Fitbit offered the Luxe ($100) earlier this year as an alternative. It’s a fantastic daily step tracker with a stunning AMOLED display, comfortable attachments, and Fitbit’s simple software, according to my testing. When tracking activities with sweaty fingertips, though, I found the bezel and touchscreen to be a little weird.
Owners of Android devices will appreciate this.
Wear OS 3, the operating system Google is co-developing with Samsung and Fitbit, is the most intriguing development in the fitness wearable market. Julian Chokkattu, the reviews editor, got some hands-on time with the Galaxy Watch4, the first wearable to utilise it. You can use more apps, such as Google Maps for navigation, than in earlier versions.
We prefer the Watch4 over the Watch4 Classic since it is less expensive. The Watch4’s fitness and health metrics, such as SpO2, heart rate, and ECG, were all comparable to those of competitors such as the Apple Watch, and the wearable did an excellent job of auto-detecting workouts. Unfortunately, this only works on Android phones, and ECG tracking (along with blood pressure monitoring, which isn’t accessible in the US currently) is only available on Samsung phones. We’re largely looking forward to what’s next. Because of the massive concentration of smartwatch operating systems, more developers may soon begin creating good apps for Google’s platform, which has hitherto lacked in that area.
My Favorite Timepiece
The Instinct 2 is the one of these timepieces that I would wear if I didn’t have to test it. My wife is a fan of the original Instinct. It’s one of Garmin’s most popular backpack watches, and it blends outdoor performance with a bulky, technical appearance (and great colors!). With the Instinct 2, you gain access to Garmin’s many satellite systems and navigational features, as well as excellent battery life and the ability to track a variety of sport-specific parameters… without having to spend extra money on frills like a large light-up screen.
Improved solar charging, a high-resolution display, and a new, compact 40-mm casing size are the primary upgrades to this year’s Instinct 2. Because of its reduced size, it fits much better on my wrist and under my jacket sleeve, and the high-resolution display is easier to view. It’s also available in a variety of colors and sports-specific styles. For example, the popular Surf Edition (there’s also a Tactical and an Esports edition) is compatible with Surfline, a well-known surf forecasting firm. You can check the tides and keep track of your surfing. (It also has the most attractive colors.)
We also suggest
We loved a few more watches that didn’t make our top ten list.
- For $150, you can get the Garmin Forerunner 35. Garmin makes the greatest running watches, both before and after Coros, and they’re simple to find on bargain. This is the company’s entry-level model, but as you move up the product line, they get lighter, smaller, and more feature-rich.
- Halo View for $80 on Amazon: The latest fitness tracker from Amazon is inexpensive and comfortable to wear, and the app is simple to use. However, I don’t like how it strongly promotes commercial relationships or tells you to strip down to your underwear to calculate your body fat percentage.
- For $100, you can get a Mobvoi TicWatch GTH Pro. One of my colleague Julian Chokkattu’s favorite smartwatches is the Mobvoi Pro 3 with GPS. Arty, a feature of the GTH Pro that combines two light sensors to monitor your heart health, is a noteworthy feature. The Withings watch, on the other hand, has received FDA approval, although the GTH Pro has not. Occasionally, the screen would go blank.
- The Polar Ignite ($230): I appreciate the Ignite’s low profile and granular data collecting, which allows you to see how parameters like heart rate variability, breathing rate, and heart rate all work together to activate your autonomic nervous system.
- $83 for the Timex Ironman GPS R300: This is one of the most basic and cost-effective GPS watches available. It also allows you to adjust the distance measurement after your run in case the GPS miscalculated your mileage.
- Suunto Peak 9 for $575: We recommended the Suunto 9 Baro for bikepacking, and the Peak 9 has all of the same capabilities in a smaller, more attractive form. It’s too sensitive to be a good daily tracker (it informs me I’ve walked 400 steps before I’ve even gotten out of bed), but it’s a fantastic adventure watch.
- For $330, get the Wahoo Fitness Elemnt Rival: The watch’s capabilities were rather basic; for this price, there are far more powerful trackers. It does, however, work with Wahoo’s smart indoor trainer system, which is fantastic.
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