10 Best Activity Tracker Watches Tested & Analyzed
Criteria Used for Evaluation
One of the best parts about getting a new “grown-up toy” is all the fun features!
Our list of best 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 about 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 still important.
Let’s first talk about vitals and body function tracker features. These include such statistics as heart rate, calories burned, and can 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 best 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.
Finally, the best 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 some of the best activity trackers that even come equipped with a recovery advisor who will suggest the best methods and form of recovery for you based off your activity and intensity levels.
To get the most use out of your activity tracker you want to know how long it will last, in terms of both battery life and durability.
Another metric we based our list of the best activity trackers off of is the battery life, and how long you can use each product for before having to be plugged in again. 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 of 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 best 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. The best 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 list of the best 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!)
Here is where the best activity trackers are set apart from the totally awesome and over the top activity trackers.
Here is where you, as a consumer can decide, do I need so many features? Is it worth it? We’re talking about cost, and some of the best activity trackers on the market can get pretty pricey. The higher-end products will cost you a couple of hundred bucks, easy. But luckily, the ones that are higher in cost live up to their price tag.
10 Best Activity Trackers
1. Suunto Traverse Alpha
The Suunto Traverse Alpha has become number one on our list due to its overall strength on the market in terms of customer feedback, testing, and features. We are sure you will love this watch and activity tracking gadget, so have a read below.Read more
This watch is built for style and toughness with the quality nylon straps, waterproofing, and stainless steel bezel. 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 and be able to save points of interest. To determine the best hunting or fishing times, there is a moon phase calendar that also detects and shares the temperature.
This tracker has a rechargeable Li-on battery that, when used in time mode, can last up to 14 days. When in GPS mode, the minimum battery life comes out to about 10 hours. 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.
Although the price of this piece is fairly high, the durability and features that come with it definitely reflect that cost. It is a tracker meant to stand up to the outdoors and is great gear to bring along on any outdoor treks.
2. Garmin Forerunner 645
Garmin Forerunner 645 adds entertainment and easy access to the Forerunner line. You get the GPS and Tracking standard you expect from Garmin with some added entertainment and intelligence while your blasting through a 10K.
Garmin is good at not integrating touch screens to their more running advanced designs. You get an easy button set up so you won't be bothered with sweaty finger interference when trying to get your data on the go.
There is a lot more to be said about this addition to the Garmin Forerunner series. We appreciate a good advancement in keeping our running less monotonous and that is just one noteworthy reason we added it to our 10 Best Activity Trackers.Read more
You can search and search and you will find Garmin at the top of the activity tracking game. And unless you have been under a rock, you’ll know the Garmin's Forerunner line maxes out on features: swimming, cycling, running, etc. Each version tweaks on different activity options for what different consumers are looking for and they do it with high accuracy.
Garmin Forerunner 645 features all that good runner data you want while offering music uploads and contactless payment options when you’re in a rush and need to purchase more running gear. You'll also receive recommendations on recovery times based off of workout intensity. This helps you get the most out of each session.
Although silicone seems to be a favorite, the Forerunner 645 offers a bunch of different quick release band options, making it easy to personalize to your style. This quick release construction doesn't seem to affect its security either or play any interference in the HR monitoring.
Adding Music is easy as well and you have the option of uploading playlist form some streaming services. Garmin Forerunner 645 has the capacity to organize 500 songs at a time, making it easier to add playlists and single songs, working like the old iPod Shuffle used to.
Ease of Use
Because Garmin Forerunner is geared toward the active runner, it uses a button setup to navigate data and smart features. As we mentioned, touchscreens and sweat aren't a good mix; Garmin knows this and when you are splurging on a higher priced activity tracker, it's best to go with what works rather than what seems trendy.
The Forerunner 645 runs on Garmin's coveted user-friendly interface and smooth operating system, so gathering info is a breeze. Their app is very self-explanatory and offers loads of data on everything yo do.
It is even tailored to making your shopping experience that much easier. Add a CC and a PIN and the contactless payment set up will have you reducing your shopping and your running times.
It’s a Forerunner, you are paying for the best. GPS is always on point, reliability is standard and accuracy makes it popular. The Garmin Forerunner 645 is a piece of running equipment, like a treadmill or a good pair of sneaker. You're going get what you pay for with Garmin and with the 645 you'll e able to go ultra concert mode on the trail.
3. Suunto Ambit 3 Peak
Trail runners and mountaineers are drawn to Suunto’s line of watches for their cutting-edge map and elevation features. The Suunto Ambit 3 Peak watch is well known for its compass, altitude monitor and route navigation feature. It’s also popular among other types of athletes for its multi-sport capabilities.Read more
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 with 5-second GPS accuracy. At 1-minute GPS accuracy, the battery life jumps to 200 hours. With water resistance up to 100m, you won't have to worry about water or weather damage in most cases and although the face isn't sapphire crystal it is still mineral crystal and is very durable.
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.
4. Polar V800
This watch was designed for serious sports enthusiasts and professional athletes in mind. The Polar V800 offers a rugged, solid-feeling design with quick GPS activation and device-pairing. It’s one of the first watches to offer heart rate data while swimming without the use of a chest strap and also measures altitude data.Read more
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 makes 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. It is waterproof up to 30 meters making it a good choice for outdoor runners. Users were impressed by the durability of the watch and liked the reliable extended use.
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.
5. Apple Watch Series 3
The third generation of the Apple Watch Series still has all the features the series 2 has to offer while also improving its fitness tracking. For Apple users looking to enhance their activities, this is a great option with endless features.Read more
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 smartwatch that has improved its fitness and health tracking this time around.
Unfortunately, it has a battery life of fewer than 24 hours so you will need to make sure you charge it each day. The battery life is a sign that this watch is probably more convenient for people who like to use technology to manage many areas of their everyday routine. It is also water resistant up to 50m. You will require an iPhone 5s or later to use this device.
This is an expensive smartwatch that is well worth the cost if you want something with all of the essential and useful features it has to offer. It may be more worth the price for runners who would enjoy using a smartwatch in every aspect of their life and less for athletes who want to casually track their fitness.
6. TomTom Spark 3: Cardio + Music
For the athlete that likes to rock out to some good tunes while they workout, the TomTom Spark 3 may be their new favorite sidekick. This watch has the ability to play up to 500 songs from the watch using wireless headphones. Leave your phone at home for a more hands-free music experience to focus on your workout.Read more
The TomTom Spark 3 boasts multi-sport capabilities, plus the traditional 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 the features are being used simultaneously (music, heart rate, and GPS). It's waterproof up to 40m. Many users found that the band that comes with the watch isn't very durable and that they ended up having to replace it.
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.
7. Suunto Spartan Ultra
This product is pre-programmed with 80 different sport options for tracking your training, intervals and competition. It features high-end capabilities, including barometric altitude, with a gorgeous colored touch-screen.Read more
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 face is made of ultra-durable sapphire crystal housed in bezel aluminum.
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 like the Suunto Ambit 3, but you will have more high-end features.
8. Soleus GPS Pulse + HRM
If you’re looking for a simple watch that has the ability to measure wrist heart rate without a chest strap, look into the Soleus GPS Pulse and Heart Rate Watch. This no-frills tracker is not smartphone compatible, but gets the job done when it comes to training monitoring.Read more
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 face is made with durable mineral crystal and is water resistant up to 30m.
The best value for a watch that measures heart rate via a wrist sensor. However, don’t expect it to perform like the fancier upper-end trackers.
9. FitBit Flex 2
This basic FitBit model has more features than meets the eye. It’s the thinnest, most lightweight FitBit on the market at a surprisingly economical price given all of its capabilities. The most unique aspect of this device is that the ultra-thin removable tracker can be worn as jewelry instead of a watch.Read more
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 stylish 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. The water-resistance is good for swimmers and outdoor use. Many users found this tracker to be very durable, getting years of use out of it.
This device has an excellent value given all of the product features. Most reviewers were pleased with what they got out of this piece for the cost.
10. Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro
This is a new model updating from the previous version.
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.Read more
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 battery life. It has a durable silicone band and is water-resistant, making it a great choice for outdoor runners.
The price is standard, and the update makes this a worthwhile consideration for adding to your running gear.
- Tachycardia - Fast Heart Rate, American Heart Association Health Article ,
- Bradycardia, The Mayo Clinic Health Article ,
- Let's Talk Polar - Polar Fitness Test, Product Review Guide ,
- The Best Fitness Trackers, The Sweet Home Buying Guide ,
- 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 ,