Technology has advanced to a stage where we’re now able to wear it; activity tracker watches and Smartwatches are the very best examples. But today we are going to focus on the best activity tracker watch.
Having something that smartly tracks how many steps we’ve climbed, the distance we’ve covered, heart rate, speed of running or records our blood pressure makes it so much easier to keep a log of our activity levels and adjust them to reach our fitness goals.
However, before you succumb to the razzle-dazzle of spanking-new fitness trackers, let’s see some of the aspects to consider.
Things to Note Before Buying An Activity Tracker Watch
Generally, good activity trackers are in the $50- $250 range. Before you get drawn to one online which costs less than $50, stop and question the quality of that product. With these sub-par trackers, you can forget about accuracy or a display monitor which lets you easily see check your stats. In this case, you’ve to check your smartphone to know your stats. That’s rather bothersome if you ask us.
However, don’t bet your hard-earned money on an expensive one with lots of bells and whistles either. Consider your activity level and fitness goals first.
Activity level and fitness goals
If you’re a casual exerciser whose main activity is walking, it’s not necessary to splurge on a fitness tracker with a built-in heart rate monitor or GPS. There’s no point spending a substantial amount on one whose functions are going to be under-used.
There are more affordable options in the $49- $149 range that can fulfill basic functions such as track the number of steps you’ve climbed, distance walked and help you keep tabs on your general well-being just as well.
For exercise enthusiasts and athletes, it’s natural that you want more advanced features to keep track of your performance and keep you motivated. Buying one with sophisticated features will probably set you back about $150. However, it’s well worth it considering the various advanced features which will be able to tell you a great deal about the effectiveness of your training:
- Heart rate monitor tells you your level of exertion and whether you need to slow down or speed up to maintain stamina and performance.
- An accelerometer lets you know how fast your position changes (great for competitive cyclists or runners)
- GPS logs distance, speed and exact location (fantastic for long-distance runners, cyclists or golfers who want to measure yardage on a golf course). A water-resistant activity tracker watch specially designed for competitive swimmers can even measure the number of strokes and distance.
- Multi-sport tracking is a feature that will be very useful for tri-athletes. Gone is the hassle of having to buy one fitness tracker for each activity as multi-sport tracking can help athletes track various metrics while they’re swimming, running or cycling.
Clip-on, Watch, or Bracelet?
Activity trackers usually come in the above three forms.
This is an important aspect to consider before getting one so let’s look at some of the pros and cons of each one.
- Pros: They’re smaller (thus more discreet) and you can easily clip it on your wrist, T-shirt or sports bra.
- Cons: They usually don’t have a display monitor which you can conveniently check your activity level – you’ll have to check your smartphone instead. Moreover, clip-ons may fall off easily.
Watch and bracelet
- Pros: They can be easily worn on the wrist like a normal watch. And there isn’t the possibility of it falling off like a clip-on.
- Cons: While an activity tracker watch or bracelet doesn’t fall off, it may bother you having it on 24/7. If that’s the case, you’re better off with a clip-on. Moreover, the activity tracker watch may not always complement your wardrobe.
An Activity Tracker Watch that Meets Your Sporting Needs
Different athletes look out for different features on their activity tracker watches. If you’re serious about your sports and performance, you’d probably look for activity tracker watches that are designed for specific sports.
How good is the app?
Whether it’s web-based or mobile-based, the app of an activity tracker watch is where you make sense of all the information collected.
Do you want something which tracks all types of health information (eg. sleep, allergy severity, stress level, glucose readings, weight) which many other fitness trackers don’t? Consider what types of data you want to track so that you don’t end up buying one which you’re likely to leave many of its features in the cold. It’s also good to note that the more sophisticated a fitness tracker, the more expensive it will be.
Try Before Buying?
We’re not just talking about wearing the fitness tracker for a couple of seconds in the store before opening your wallet. Anyway, hands up those of you who still prefer to shop in physical stores. We believe there wouldn’t be a lot of hands in this age of superior online shopping.
However, how do you ensure that the activity tracker watch you’ve been eyeing on is what you really want? Lumoid is a wonderful service that lets you try five fitness trackers for a week before committing to one.
If you’re a true beginner who doesn’t know if a fitness tracker is the thing for you, use a mobile app that lets you count your steps. This way, you get a taste of how an activity tracker works before spending money on one.
Now that we know what to look out for when shopping, let’s check out which are the most sought-after ones currently in the market.
If The Budget Is Less Than $200
There are three candidates which make it to the below $200 range in our list. There are some laudable features which may inspire you to get one and take your gym sessions more seriously.
Polar M400 GPS Smart Sports Watch – $157.36
Size (thickness): 0.45”
Weight: 1.99 ounces
- When paired with a compatible phone, the M400 lets you read incoming messages, answer calls if you wish to and stay in-the-know with social media alerts right from your wrist.
- 24/7 recording of your every move and step, encouraging you to stay active daily and pushing you to your best form.
- GPS keeps track of pace, distance and altitude while “Back to start” feature lets you explore and run new routes safely.
- Efficiently records all your training data and you can review your progress online or using a mobile app anytime you want.
- Smart Coaching features and timers let you hit individual training targets and let you know whether you’ve outdone yourself.
- Keeps track of your running cadence from the wrist so that you could hit your best times while avoiding injuries.
- A Running Index analysis predicts your 5K, 10K, half marathons and marathons finish times based on your long-term progress, so that you can always finish comfortably in your best times.
Suitable for: active people who love to run or would like to keep track of daily activities. People who love a bargain will love the M400 too as it combines the simplicity of fitness bands while offering high-end features such as measuring heart rate and GPS activity tracking – and it’s a mere fraction of the cost of super-duper high-end activity tracker watches.
Cons: a chest belt is needed to measure heart rate, and that could be a little uncomfortable to wear. Though the M400 is water-resistant up to 30m, there’s no underwater heart rate monitoring. Moreover, some people feel that the USB cover and main strap of the watch is made of cheap, flimsy material that will wear out very quickly.
Samsung – Gear Fit2 GPS Smart Fitness Band – $179
Size (LWH): 6.42” x 2.72” x 3.62”
Weight: 3.84 ounces
- Auto tracking tracks speed, distance and duration for cardio exercises while multi-sport tracking keeps tab on hiking, cycling, lunges, crunches and a range of other activities and exercises.
- Built-in GPS automatically tracks pace, route and distance without the need of your phone.
- Lets you listen and store up to 500 songs on Spotify so that every workout is a pleasure.
- S Health lets you set up solo competitions with your friends, see weekly summaries of your performance and share your results.
- Send and receive messages, calls, get calendar alerts and stay connected with app notifications – with a few easy taps from your wrist.
- Ergonomically curved for superior comfort and style, the 1.5” Super AMOLED display lets you read even in bright sunlight.
- Its battery life goes the distance, giving you up to 4 days of usage from a single charge. So use the Gear Fit2 24/7 – from tracking activities during the day to telling you about the quality of your sleep at night.
- Perspire all you want or even run a little in the rain as the Gear Fit2 is water-resistant up to 30 minutes in 5 feet of water.
Suitable for: avid exercisers who like to stay stylish while engaging in their favorite sports.
Cons: the biggest bugbear is that the Gear Fit2 only works with certain Samsung phones. You’re stuck with the apps that come pre-loaded as there isn’t a choice for loading apps. The long display, though stylish to look at, displays text rather awkwardly so it’s not at all reader-friendly.
Fitbit Blaze Smart Fitness Watch – $184.99
Size (LWH):10” x 1.7” x 0.4”
Weight: 1.4 ounces
- A range of unique accessory bands, frames and clock faces let you choose the look that matches your mood and style that day.
- PurePulse™ Heart Rate measures your heart rate accurately during workouts without the discomfort of chest straps. This is a breakthrough feature as heart rates are used to monitor a number of critical aspects – calorie burn to maintain ideal weight, maintain intensity to ensure that you exert correctly throughout, maximize training time and performance as well as optimize health.
- FitStar on-screen workouts provide animated step-by-step instructions – almost like a professional coach on your wrist which you can reach out to whenever you need it.
- GPS on the Fitbit Blaze lets you easily map routes and displays stats such as duration and pace.
- The Multi-sport displays real-time stats for cardio, running, cycling and other popular modes.
- The workout goals and summaries feature gives you a summary upon completion of a workout to let you see your progress and achievement of fitness goals.
- Long battery life lets you wear the Fitbit Blaze for up to five days without a charge.
Suitable for: fitness buffs who can’t do without their smart fitness trackers.
Cons: not everyone will love the Blaze’s stainless steel frame, all-black rubber strap and square watch face. The somewhat geeky appearance may not be the most stylish accessory for formal occasions. However, leather and metallic optional straps are available. Another complaint is that the display isn’t always on and will only blink to life when it detects you raising your wrist. That could be irritating for some users who expect a seamless, intuitive user experience.
If The Budget Is Less than $300
Three activity tracker watches made it to our less than $300 list. Superior in functionality and sometimes in looks, these are mid-range trackers are made for fitness enthusiasts who love getting some top-end features without having to spend all that much.
Fitbit Surge Fitness Superwatch – $219.99
Size (LWH): 8.2” x 1.4” x 0.6”
Weight: 2.7 ounces
- SmartTrackTM and Multi-sport functionalities let you track runs, rides or other types of workouts automatically.
- In-built GPS tracking measures useful things such as pace, split times, distance, elevation and review routes.
- PurePulseTM Heart Rate automatically measures continuous and wrist-based heart rate without the inconvenience and discomfort of a chest strap.
- See text, social media or call notifications on the display. There’s also the added advantage of controlling songs from your mobile playlist.
- All-day tracking of number of steps, distance walked, calories burned, floors climbed, hourly activity and even stationary time. The more you know, the more you’re able to better tweak your lifestyle and training sessions.
- Auto Sleep monitors your sleep and set a silent alarm. You may make your alarm clocks history.
- Intelligently syncs your workout data to your smartphone and computer so that there’s always a backup of your exercise data on your frequently-used devices for review later.
Suitable for: serious fitness enthusiasts who want to bring their training and performance up a notch.
Cons: its touchscreen and pumped-up features make the Fitbit Surge look bigger than it really is. The 1980s design may not be everyone’s cup of tea as well. Moreover, you’ve to use a proprietary charger and it’s known to have a weaker battery life – downsides which you may want to take note of.
Garmin Forerunner 230 – $249.99
Size (LWH): 1.8” x 1.8” x 0.5”
Weight: 1.44 ounces
- When connected to a compatible phone, audio prompts such as number of laps and lap times help you keep pace.
- Smart notifications let you see incoming messages, call alerts, incoming email, among others while you’re in the midst of a workout.
- A 44% larger screen than its predecessor means you can comfortably see your results and performance.
- Activity tracking makes the 230 a smart watch as well as an activity tracker. It counts your number of steps, distance walk and calories. It’ll even intelligently prompt you to get up and move if you’ve been stationery for too long.
- Please note: heart rate monitor is not included. Sold separately.
- VO2 Max, when used together with a heart rate monitor, tells you the maximum amount of oxygen you can be using during an activity so that you know you’re breathing in the right way during training.
- Auto Sync automatically transfers your workout data to your computer for review later.
- The Advanced Workout feature lets you create personalized, training plans with professional expertise.
- Being waterproof means that you can go from running to swimming or pop into the shower immediately without having to remove it.
- Has a longer battery life than its predecessor with up to five weeks in watch mode and 16 hours in training mode.
Suitable for: people with active lifestyles and don’t mind paying a little more for top-end features.
Cons: Should you want audio prompts, you’ll need to sync your Garmin 230 to a compatible smartphone and an audio playback device such as headphones or use the speaker on your phone, which may not be the most convenient thing to do.
When you want to activate the VO2 Max feature, you need to have a traditional heart rate strap which may not be the most comfortable or convenient experience. Moreover, there’s no multi-sport mode.
Garmin vívoactive HR GPS Smart Watch, Regular fit – Black – $249.99
Size (LWH): 2.2” x 1.2” x 0.5”
Weight: 1.6 ounces
- Convenient built-in heart rate monitoring from the wrist means no external devices or chest straps are needed to be connected to the Vivoactive HR. Smart, accurate, hassle free.
- Sunlight readable, high resolution color touchscreen means reading or adjusting the fitness watch under the glare of the sun is very easy.
- A variety of built-in sports app lets you enjoy swimming, cycling, running, skiing. golfing and a whole range of exciting activities without having to connect to a compatible smartphone. For example, the built-in accelerometer and GPS lets you to run both indoors and outdoors. For cycling, the GPS-enabled app measures useful metrics like time, distance, speed and calories. Moreover, you can easily improve your swing without breaking a sweat with 40,000 worldwide golf course maps from the vivoactive HR’s golf course database.
- Smart notifications ensure that not a text message, call or social media alert, among others, will be missed while you’re in the midst of an activity.
- Intensity minutes compare your activity progress against aerobic activity goals recommended by authority organizations such as the American Heart Association. This means you can be very sure when you should slow down or can exert a little more during your workouts.
- Connect IQTM store lets you have fun customizing your vivoactive HR with free watch face designs, apps and custom widgets.
- Long battery life with up to 13 hours using GPS and up to 8 days in activity tracking or watch mode. So it saves you the hassle of having to keep charging it.
Suitable for: active folks who love a multi-sport fitness watch
Cons: The feature-packed vivoactive HR is slightly bulkier than most fitness trackers. So it may not look good on people with slender wrists. Moreover, the wrist-based heart rate isn’t always accurate as there might be a slight delay of between five and seven seconds compared to heart rate data measured on a chest strap.
If The Budget Is Over $300
Now, for the ultimate super-watches in activity tracking! Packed to the brim with the latest software and sporting cool looks that speak volumes of the wearer’s taste for the finer things in life (and size of wallet), take a look and see if these two champions fitness trackers inspire the serious athlete in you enough to shell out the money.
Suunto Ambit3 Peak Outdoor Watch With HRM – $329.99
Size (LWH): 1.97” x 1.97” x 0.71”
Weight: 11.2 ounces
- Having both outdoor training and sports functions, this means you can be the relentless fitness junkie as well as the daredevil adventurer who aspires to go where few men have gone.
- Advanced outdoor and multi-sport functions offer accurate and reliable altitude and weather information to let you stay informed and guided throughout your journey.
- Equipped with a built-in barometer, altimeter, compass and GPS with 100m water resistance to prepare you for all terrains in all weather conditions.
- Boasts 200 hours battery hours and has one of the longest battery lives among fitness trackers of its range in the market.
- Sync the Ambit3 Peak wirelessly to your iPhone or iPad and use the free Suunto Movescout App to visually share your adventures on-the-go and then relive them with your loved ones.
- Make a Sunnto Movie of your adventure with 3D maps, key metrics and photo highlights to share with your friends instantly (and make them envious).
Suitable for: true adventurers and ambitious athletes who want the best performance out of every training session and journey.
Cons: with the feature-rich Ambit3 Peak, you can really get lost in the manual when trying to figure out how to get something to work. Moreover, in multi-mode, the Ambit3 Peak is really a battery guzzler. Some people may also find the GPS band a little difficult to fit.
Garmin Fenix 3 HR, Gray – $599.99
Size (LWH): 2” x 2” x 0.6”
Weight: 3.2 ounces
- When you’re engaged in an activity in a challenging terrain, having only GPS may not cut it. Which is why the Fenix 3 HR is equipped with the omni-directional EXOTM antenna with GPS/GLONASS satellite reception for spot-on tracking wherever you are.
- Discoloration-resistant and durable black silicone strap ensures stylish appearance no matter how much you sweat or salt water it has been exposed to .
- 2” sunlight visible, high resolution color Chroma Display makes sure that you can read the watch face all the time.
- 10ATM water rating lets you swim or snorkel without the worry of damaging your device.
- Protective stainless steel bezel and buttons make your sleek Fenix 3 HR durable even in the harshest conditions.
- Elevate wrist heart technology allows you to monitor your heart rate without having to wear an uncomfortable chest strap, making it quick and convenient for you. With heart rate measured, the Fenix 3 HR accurately calculates calories burned and tells you the intensity of your workouts.
- WIFI connectivity means you can immediately upload or sync your data with Garmin Connect or update software.
Suitable for: adrenaline lovers who expect performance from their Garmin Fenix 3 HR, Gray and don’t mind paying a little more for brilliant features, solid hardware and outstanding software.
Cons: its big size may not endear it to everyone. Seemingly targeting at only high-end users of activity tracking watches, its high price is not a crowd-pleaser either.
There you have it. Have you spotted the best activity tracker watch that suits your needs in the list? Whatever it is, we hope we’ve got you thinking about what you truly value in a fitness tracker and empowered you with knowledge to make better decisions when you’re shopping for one.