10 Best Activity Trackers Tested & Analyzed
Technology is consistently changing so it hard to invest in a pricey (yet beneficial) product knowing it may soon outdated by newer tech.
GPS watches, activity trackers, fitness trackers, and smartwatches have all been evolving during the past decade. It seems like a new model comes out every season—but their features all remain relatively similar, with only a few improvements or changes here and there.
These products are able to log your specific data and keep track of your activities. They can track critical fitness and improve metrics such as sleep quality, count your steps, how many calories you have burned, your pace, distance, and even your heart rate!
Other models may even provide you with real-time updates and manage your workout music. These have a long way in a relatively short amount of time, with new functions and features introduced all the time. Although it’s hard to keep up, it sometimes works best to focus on what you need.
- Suunto Traverse Alpha
- Built to military standards
- Suunto Ambit 3 Peak
- 200 Hours Battery Charge
- Garmin Forerunner 230
- Reliable GPS tracking
10 Best Activity Trackers
1. Suunto Traverse Alpha
With a GPS tracker in this watch, you can keep track of where you are on a hike. Using breadcrumb technology, you will easily find your way back to safety.
To determine the best hunting or fishing times, there is a moon phase calendar that also detects and shares the temperature.
The Suunto Traverse Alpha has been tested in Finland, and it is built with extreme care, and it has also been tested to military standards, so you can be sure that you will have a durable watch on your hands with the alpha.
Built and tested to military standards
A pricey investment
2. Suunto Ambit 3 Peak
The watch has the ability to track back for route-finding, and when connected to the Movescount App also provides new route discovery with heatmaps and training programs. The Suunto Ambit 3 Peak monitors heart rate while swimming, has Bluetooth features while cycling, and can log multiple sports in one session, making it a crowd-pleaser for triathletes. Smartphone notifications and a variety of language options are available. It also has 5-second GPS accuracy and weather information, and the app allows you to take photos with GPS/workout information that you can combine into a movie.
The manufacturer reports a 30 hour battery life.
The Ambit 3 Peak is not the most expensive Suunto watch, but it certainly carries a higher price tag when compared with watches that don’t track altitude or offer advanced map functions. If you find yourself outdoors and gaining elevation in your workouts, this watch should give you a good bang for your buck.
Great for multi-sport or triathlon training
Altitude and route-finding features for backcountry adventures
Plethora of tracking, mapping and condition features at your fingertips
Good software with Suunto’s connected App
Some find the size bulky
Some have had issues with wireless storm notifications
3. Garmin Forerunner 230
This watch features a 44% larger screen than the popular Garmin 220. It’s been tested and approved by females with smaller wrists and it is one of the lightest GPS watches in its class. The Forerunner 230 also has a useful “Find My Phone” feature and is compatible with android and IOS, with the ability to deliver Bluetooth smart phone notifications. It does not feature a wrist-based heart rate tracker, but does have the option to purchase a chest strap for monitoring your heart rate. Available in three attractive color options: Purple Strike, Force Yellow, and Black & White.
The battery life is excellent (5 weeks battery life in watch mode and 16 hours in training mode).
Given all of the features of this product, most agree it’s a great deal for a reliable middle-level GPS watch.
Lightweight, comfortable design
Long battery life
Excellent water resistance
Reliable GPS tracking
Must be connected to the internet to track elevation changes
No virtual trainer
4. Polar V800
Multi-sport activity tracking, high performance with swimming, running cadence detection, route finding, high speed GPS, and training load and recovery status functions are part of what make this watch hugely popular. It also features a 5-minute fitness test and an orthostatic fitness test, other unique features that are applauded by elite athletes. Polar offers its own series of apps and smartphone compatibility, along with the traditional activity tracking options like calories burned, sleep tracking and a reliable GPS system.
The manufacturer reports the battery life to be 14 hours when the watch is fully utilized. Some reviewers stated that they charged the watch about once a week.
In the same price class as the Garmin 735XT and offering a number of unique features, it’s somewhat easy to sell this based on its advanced level of functions. It may not be the best option for the amateur athlete or those who are looking for their first activity tracker.
Scratch-resistant Gorilla glass lens
Wrist heart rate monitor that works while swimming
Excellent test options
Many features must be must be set up on web first
Steps and sleep only viewable via app
5. Apple Watch Series 3
This watch can do almost anything. From emails to counting your steps to tracking your sleep. If you can think of it then it can probably do it. It is first and foremost a smart watch that has improved its fitness and health tracking this time around.
Unfortunately it has a battery life of less than 24 hours so you will need to make sure you charge it each day.
This is an expensive smart watch that is well worth the cost if you want something with all of the essential and useful features it has to offer.
Great quality and durability
Easy pairing to iphone
Attractive and stylish
poor battery life
6. Suunto Spartan Ultra
In addition to supporting a huge number of different types of sports, the watch features smartphone interchanges, customizable watch faces, 100m water resistance, Suunto Movescount access for a large area of training data including recovery progress, and unique features to compare and tap you’re your community of athletes.
Battery life is reported to range from 26 hours in training mode to 15 days when in watch mode.
The watch is top-notch in its class, but many still consider it too expensive. Expect to pay about twice as much for this watch as the Suunto Ambit 3, but you will have more high-end features.
Fun customizable watch face screen
Better touch screen and buttons when compared to lower end Suunto watches
Great multi-sport use
Easy to see screen in direct sunlight
Advanced features can be tricky to set up
7. TomTom Spark 3: Cardio + Music
The TomTom Spark 3 boasts multi-sport capabilities, plus the traditional activity tracker features like steps, active minutes and calories burned. Monitor your heart rate on the watch screen without the use of a chest strap. Use the GPS in real-time and find your way back to the start if you get lost with route-finding functions. Enjoy all of these features while having access to your music library without having to mess with your phone.
The manufacturer reports that the battery life is up to 3 weeks when not in GPS mode, and 5 hours when all of features are being used simultaneously (music, heart rate and GPS).
Expect to pay more for the heart rate monitor and music headphone bundle version, but the features of this phone exceed the norms for this price class.
Exercise with music without another device
Good GPS performance
Easy to skip over music tracks
Syncs easily to your music library
Heart rate works better for cardio than for weight lifting
No phone notifications
8. FitBit Flex 2
The FitBit Flex 2 includes all-day activity tracking including heart rate monitoring without a chest strap, automatic sleep tracking, distance and steps, calories burned, and is waterproof and swimming-approved. LED color-coded lights and vibration settings notify you when you’ve received a call or a text message and “move” reminders can be set. The removable tracker can be inserted into a stylist bangle or pendant, or users can wear the traditional slim wristband. Sync wirelessly to the app for additional features.
The manufacturer reports that the battery life is good for up to 5 days. Some users reported needing to charge it every 2-3 days, depending on activities and use.
Excellent value given all of the product features. Most reviewers were pleased with what they got out of this device for the cost.
Jewelry options for those who don’t like watches
Waterproof for swimming laps
Wristband has good fit, can be worn loose or snug
Minimalistic yet informative
Strong, effective vibrations
- Unable to view real-time data on wrist band
9. Soleus GPS Pulse + HRM
This device measures the basic metrics we look for in a running workout (distance, speed, intervals, calories, heart rate, and water resistant to 30m). The technology in the wrist heart rate sensor is one of the most popular features of this watch.
Several sources report 8 hours of battery life with continuous GPS use.
The best value for a watch that measures heart rate via wrist sensor. However, don’t expect it to perform like the fancier upper end activity trackers.
Heart rate monitoring via wrist
Materials/quality of design
GPS connectivity can be slow to start up
Difficult to customize settings with use of 4 buttons
Not as many options with apps and data viewing
10. Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro
Very friendly and appealing design features. For visual ease, you get an Amoled-display-face which means instant clarity for seeing those important stats.
You won't need to bring a phone to access GPS capability, this feature is built into the Fit Pro-2. Very accurate and reliable heart rate monitoring through a designed in a high-performing sensor.
A nice vertical interface with highly responsive touchscreen functionality put the apps into sleep mode easily by holding your hand over the full screen.
You get a charging system, designed with fail-proof magnetic tech, whatever the alignment it will charge up. This device can function as a stand-alone source for good music and works with wireless headphones. Comes pre-loaded with MayMyRun, UA Record/Endomondo, Speedy-Go. The upgrade shows Samsung has doubled the earlier IP68-rating, it's now MIL STD 810G level certification.
In the previous model battery life was challenged when constantly using GPS and wi-fi, this was cutting battery life to around 6 to 8 hours. A new software update has been created to tackle this issue and prolong the battery life.
The price is standard and the update makes this a worthwhile consideration for adding to your running gear.
You get off-line support from Spotify
Very nice design with reliable features
Setting up the processor could be more user-friendly
In recent years, the hype around activity trackers has certainly gained momentum. Long gone are the days when fancy GPS watches and paying attention to your heart rate and cardiovascular stats were reserved exclusively for professional athletes. Nowadays, all it takes is a simple trip to the grocery store to realize that many people – who certainly are not all out participating and racing in triathlons – want to track their steps, know their activity levels, record their sleep, and just overall have a trusty arm gadget that helps them home in on their overall health and wellness.
Whether you are a serious athlete training for an upcoming race, a newbie to the fitness world in need of a place to start helping you monitor your heart rate and calories burned, a college student who needs to figure out a more normal sleep pattern, or a busy mom on the go who needs one trustworthy electronic device to keep tabs on it all, our list of activity trackers is bound to have something that meets your needs!
The Criteria We Used To Find the Best Activity Trackers
The Features of Each Activity Tracker
One of the best parts about getting a new “grown-up toy” is all the fun features! Our list of activity trackers are no exception, and the list of bells and whistles on some of these products on the market today seems to be endless. Determining what your specific use (or uses) is for an activity tracker will help you decide which model best suits your needs. Most of the features can be lumped into three different groups – these include features pertaining to health metrics and bodily vitals, the specific sport or activity you are tracking, and then a catch-all “other” category for features that do not fit cleanly into either of the aforementioned categories but which are definitely still important.
Above all, the most important part of having an activity tracker with so many features is being able to depend on it, that they are accurate and reliable. A major component of gauging and ranking the products on our list is not only ranking them off of which features and the number of features that each model comes equipped with, but whether or not these features give you accurate numbers, distances, and scores.
Let’s first talk about vitals and body function tracker features. These include such statistics as heart rate, calories burned, and can possibly get as in-depth as BMI and body fat percentage. These will help you stay in the know about your overall health and how your fitness is improving (or possibly alert you to potential problems or issues you would not have known about otherwise). Take monitoring your heart rate, for instance (which, with some of the activity trackers on our list, means regularly taking an orthostatic fitness test that simply measures and tracks heart rate).
Knowing when it is elevated will alert you to when your activity levels are increasing, the intensity of your training is increasing, and ultimately when you are burning more calories. It will also tell you a bit about your overall fitness level, especially when tracked and monitored over time: if, over the course of several weeks, you start to see a lessened heart rate while participating in the same activities and intensity levels of activities, then this indicates you are increasing your cardiovascular fitness levels (aka “getting into better shape”). However, knowing your heart rate on a consistent day to day basis will also help you know if something is not quite right. For example, if you notice that, while at rest, you have a heart that is well under 60 beats per minute (edging closer to 50) then you might be at risk for having bradycardia – an abnormally slow heart rate that might result in the heart not being able to adequately pump oxygen to your muscles.
Reversely, if your resting heart rate is over 100 beats per minute, you might have tachycardia and be at risk for increased fatigue, dizziness, and even as serious consequences as fainting or cardiac arrest. Activity trackers that are more high end may also provide specific fitness tests. Certain brands, like the Polar Fitness Tracker on our list, will test your VO2 Max, which is the maximum amount of oxygen your body is able to use, and thus, the maximum power output your muscles can generate. The fitter you are, the more oxygen your body can pump, and thus, the greater amount of power you can generate. In short, your VO2 Max will tell you how fit your cardiovascular system is, which is a big deal for endurance athletes. Knowing your health metrics and bodily vitals can be especially helpful for those who purchase an activity tracker to help with weight loss goals.
Other metrics that your activity tracker should include are those that track your sport of choice. Depending on what your needs are, this can mean distance traveled, the number of steps taken, elevation change, and laps swam. Most often this means the inclusion of a GPS and GPS satellite technology. Obviously, base your purchase off of what you need your tracker to do for you. If you’re not sure, or if you want to think positively and create big goals for yourself, why not opt for one that does it all! You never know when you might finally decide to sign up for that triathlon and need to add biking and swimming to your workout routine. Or you might get a serious itch to take a trip and conquer some serious mountain hikes. Whatever your goals are, there is a tracker that will meet them.
Finally, activity trackers often come loaded with some additional features that are not only cool, but play into overall, general health – even if that means your mental health (sanity) by providing you with a top-notch music playlist for your long run. These kinds of features include music storage, a stress score to monitor your stress levels, a sleep tracker that monitors your REM cycles, connection to WiFi and Bluetooth compatibility, and device pairing so that you can access your stats and progress from your other electronic devices as well as stay up to date on your activity tracker’s app, if it comes with one. For the hardcore athletes, you might be interested in the activity trackers that even come equipped with a recovery advisor which will suggest the best methods and form of recovery for you based off your activity and intensity levels.
The Length and Strength of Battery Life
Another metric we based our list of activity tracers off of is battery life, and how long each product will last for you before having to be plugged in again. Obviously, it needs to at the very least stay charged to record the entirety of your workout or run – and for some ultra-marathoners, that’s as long as a couple days! But ideally, it will stay charged longer than that. After all, with so many devices on the market right now that we need to plug in and charge regularly, another one could just really make us go crazy.
Luckily, most of the activity trackers on our list stay charged for several hours if they are being used in full GPS or activity tracking mode, and for several days to several weeks even if they are on battery save mode. Not only does the length of the battery life matter, but so too does the level of difficulty of charging each device. Activity trackers that are overly cumbersome to charge simply will not do. We know that, as a busy runner with an intense training plan on top of an already hectic life, if your device is too difficult to charge then you probably just won’t… and then end up wasting your money if you purchase one! Our activity trackers come with all the charging equipment you need and can easily be plugged into a wall outlet or your computer and then left alone to charge. (But you will still need to remember to charge them, at least every once in a while!)
It is probably a safe bet to say that you are not purchasing an activity tracker to accent your formal attire during a swanky night out on the town. But you also lead a demanding life, and with a packed schedule, you need an activity tracker that isn’t a total eyesore on your wrist as you bounce from the running trails to the store to work and back home again. After all – the majority of them are meant to be worn pretty much at all times if you want an accurate reading of your day’s total steps, calorie burn, etc. In a nutshell, you need an activity tracker that can easily transition from different locations and venues to events and hold up to multiple wardrobe changes.
Our list of activity trackers are some of the most stylish ones on the market. For the most part, they aren’t overly thick or bulky and will not stick out like a sore thumb. Some of the models on our list are totally minimalist – they are designed to look thin and slim so much so that they do not even have a typical watch face or screen but instead, just simple metric readings. However, you might actually want an activity tracker that draws attention (in a tasteful manner, of course). If that seems more your speed, consider purchasing one of our models that comes equipped with a fancier touchscreen and interactive face. Some of the nicer versions even come with customizable faces so that you can really match them to your unique style.
Here is where the good activity trackers are set apart from the totally awesome and over the top activity trackers. Here is where you as a consumer can really decide, do I really need so many features? Is it worth it? We’re talking about cost, and some of the activity trackers on the market can get pretty pricey. The higher end products will cost you a couple hundred bucks, easy. But luckily, the ones that are higher in cost live up to their price tag.
Not only do they come equipped with just about every distance tracker and health and fitness monitor you can think of, as well as a plethora of other fancy features, but they are durable (which is arguably what will add the most value to your activity tracker in the long run). They stand the test of time, and they can endure extreme conditions. From icy and frigid temperatures to sweat and water to heat and dryness, it takes a LOT to get these things to bonk out prematurely. And they come with thick and sturdy faces as well, making it difficult for you to smash or break the exterior. Overall, a decent tracker WILL cost you – but what you get for the money can be worth it, depending on your needs.
Other Important Things Worth Considering
What are your goals?
Determining your goals and priorities will help you narrow down exactly why and for what purposes you would even need an activity tracker, and can thus best steer you in the direction of choosing the model that fits your individual needs. If you are a hardcore endurance athlete, a professional, or training for an endurance race or event, then you will definitely benefit from having an activity tracker that calculates distances and elevations.
Even if you are more of a casual weekly runner, these can be beneficial. But if you are solely interested in monitoring health trackers like heart rate and calories burned, then the right model for you might be different from others. Know what your goals are and what you want out of an activity tracker before you begin the process of purchasing one.
What kind of electronic devices do you have?
If it is important to you to have all of your electronic devices syncing up and displaying the same data, then you will need an activity tracker that can easily join in on that. For instance, it might be critical to you to be able to track and log your run on your cell phone and your computer, and have the ability to access with your personal stats on multiple devices, especially if you are interested in the stats and numbers from a holistic perspective (i.e. monitoring heart rate on longer runs on flatter terrain versus heart rate on shorter hikes with steep elevation changes, and then comparing all that to REM sleep cycles at night). However, if that really is not a priority to you, then you will be able to look at a wider variety of brands and products to find the activity tracker that’s just right for you.
Does it have a compatible app for your devices?
With the use of social media and electronic applications on phones and computers so high (and constantly on the rise), you need to be able to easily stay plugged in able to access your activity tracker’s fitness and movement stats on your iOS devices, Android devices, and desktop. This helps with what we already mentioned about being able to integrate your stats for a more holistic approach to tracking your health and fitness, but it also helps you actively engage in using the product. Apps connect you not only to the device, to the model you are wearing, and to the company that produces it but also to a community of other users who follow the app and actively engage on it.
Do you prefer a visible and interactive face?
Does it have an active community?
Are you intentionally avoiding exercise?
Q: What is the average battery life of these activity trackers?
On average, when set to be in a mode that is not always using the GPS or tracking your health metrics, most activity trackers will last 1-2 weeks without being charged. However, if you train a lot more or just want to have your tracker set to monitor your health metrics more often, then you’ll need to carve out time and/or remember to plug yours in more often.
The lowest battery life on our list is 14 hours, and the longest is 5 weeks (when set in “watch” mode and not in “training” mode”). The Timex Ironman Sleek 50 offers fewer features than some of the other watches but it can be the most practical purchase for those who don’t care so much about features and just want a simplified activity tracker – especially because it requires no charging of a battery at all, and is just run on a replaceable battery.
Q: Do chargers come with the activity trackers? Do they have to be charged on the computer or connected to an electronic device?
If the activity charger requires a charge from a plugin, then the charger will come included with the tracker. Most conveniently come with an adaptable charger that adapts to charge on your computer, or through a compatible wall charger.
Q: How many songs can the music-playing activity trackers hold?
While not all of the models of activity trackers on our list can play music, the ones that can typically hold up to as many as 500 songs – definitely enough for you to get all your favorites downloaded and make a great playlist for even the longest of your runs!
Q: Do they come with any kind of warranty?
Most warranties are limited, especially those warranties that are automatically included with the activity tracker upon purchase. However, many of the more expensive models offer extended warranties which can be bought at an additional cost. For such models as the Apple Watch, the warranted that is included with your initial purchase covers up to “one year of hardware repair coverage.” Extended warranties can be purchased through Apple Care, which will include extended coverage on accidental damage.
For Garmin products, there is a limited one year warranty upon purchase of the product, but will not help you if your activity tracker is damaged due to cosmetic damage (scrapes or dents), consumable parts like batteries, damage caused by water, fire or other external causes, and damage caused by being connected to a power source or using cables that we not originally supplied along with the Garmin product. The bottom line is if you want a decent warranty and to protect your possibly-costly purchase, spring for an extended warranty.
Q: Do the activity trackers that monitor and track heart rate only do so with a chest strap?
Knowing your heart rate is a significant metric to be aware of, especially when you are trying to maximize the efficiency of your work out in terms of intensity and calorie burn. However, if you have ever worn a chest strap before to help monitor your heart rate, you know that they can be less than ideal. Often times they will cause chafing, retain moisture and sweat and end up smelling bad, are a pain to remember to put on and then half the time they are uncomfortable, and especially for women, they can, well, get in the way… And on top of all that, they might lose their signal and not give you accurate data.
So what are you to do when most activity trackers that say they track and monitor heart rate actually only do so if you wear a chest strap? Luckily, there are a few activity trackers that can efficiently and effectively monitor heart rate just through the pulse of your wrist. The Soleus GPS Pulse and Heart Rate watch on our list is one of these. This activity tracker is especially ideal for those of you who want to monitor your heart rate while swimming (as most chest straps cannot be worn underwater).
Q: What colors do the activity trackers come in?
Most of the activity trackers on our list stick to the basics and range from black to grey and/or steel tones. On the whole, a decent activity tracker will probably be a neutral color, but there are a few more colorful and vibrant options for those of you who want to stand out! While the Garmin products have a standard face, there are different colored wristbands that can easily be interchanged, based on your mood or outfit. Colors range from black and white to red, yellow, and green. (It is important to note that these customizable wristbands are an additional expense and not included in your initial purchase of the Garmin activity tracker).
The Suunto Ambit2 Peak HR Running GPS Unit is one of those products that run on extremes: it comes in either a standard black or white, or an electric blue. The ever-popular Apple Watch also comes in a range of colors, though not quite as wide of a range as Garmin. Apple Watches can be bought in black, white, or grey, or a pinkish rose colored tone. And although FitBit products sometimes get a bad rap because they do not have an interactive face and have only limited features, they definitely come in the most color options. From purple and pink to red and orange and yellow and blue, whatever spectrum of the rainbow you want to sport on your wrist can basically happen!
Q: What will one of these activity trackers cost me?
For the most part, if you want to purchase a decent activity tracker, you might need to save up your pennies (or dollars…or twenties…) for a while. Most range in the several hundreds of dollars, from $200 to over $500. On average, you will likely pay somewhere between $300 and $400 if you want a reliable activity tracker that comes fully equipped with all the distance trackers and health and fitness monitoring features that you need for your sport and lifestyle. However, that is certainly not to say that those of us on a more limited budget cannot have a decent activity tracker.
While you will sacrifice some features, (which might not even be necessary for your particular needs anyway) products like the Fitbit Flex 2 and Timex Ironman Sleek 50 will be well under $100 – the Fitbit Flex usually retails for about $60 and the Timex even less around $30 or $40. Whatever your budget, there is an activity tracker that can fit into it!
Check out a few of our sources:
- Tachycardia - Fast Heart Rate, American Heart Association Health Article, Sep 01, 2016 ,
- Bradycardia, The Mayo Clinic Health Article, ,
- Let's Talk Polar - Polar Fitness Test, Product Review Guide, Sep 16, 2016 ,
- The Best Fitness Trackers, The Sweet Home Buying Guide, Sep 01, 2017 ,
- Consumer Limited Warranty, Buyer's Information, ,
- What Apple Watch damage is covered by warranty? Here’s how Apple will determine what’s eligible, Apple Watch Buying Guide, Apr 15, 2015 ,