The best fitness trackers for 2016

In the name of good health, you deserve a new fitness tracker

Update: The Fitbit Flex 2 is now out ready for Black Friday and Christmas 2016. Look down below to see how it ranked in our best fitness band round-up.

A fitness tracker is the perfect way to monitor your activity easily and with unmatched accuracy. Think of it as an electronic finger on the pulse, constantly measuring your vitals, quality of sleep and step count.

Today's fitness band market is stuffed with compelling devices, most of which can do a pretty good job at the basics of tracking. But frankly, we're only concerned with the best, and you should be too.

We won't be looking all techy wristwear here - check out our best smartwatch guide too. 

If you're looking for a fitness tracker recommendation though, you've come to the right place. Here, we'll showcase the best devices out there, and explain how they rank against each other in terms of stand-out features, price, design and the quality of their companion software – all of which are worth considering when monitoring something as important as your health.

1. Fitbit Charge 2

The best fitness tracker you can buy

Size: Three sizes | Display: OLED | Weight: N/A | Compatibility: Android, iOS | Battery: 5 days | Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0

Big screen
Comfortable strap
Limited phone notifications
No GPS

The Fitbit Charge 2 is the best fitness tracker you can buy right now. It's more expensive than most of the other options from Fitbit, but if you're looking to go jogging this is a great choice that won't cost you as much as a traditional running watch.

It connects with the GPS on your phone, has a large screen to display your data, a heart rate tracker and new fitness features we've only previously seen on the Fitbit Blaze.

Read the full review: Fitbit Charge 2

Samsung Gear Fit 2

2. Samsung Gear Fit 2

Samsung's wearable has never been more Fit

Size: 11.2mm x 24.5mm | Display: 1.5-inch AMOLED, 216 x 432 | Weight: 28g | Compatibility: Android | Battery: 3-4 days | Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0, GPS

Works on all Android phones
Impressive value
No iOS support
Barometer issues

Samsung's Gear Fit 2 has made hefty changes to its wearable line both inside and out and the result is an Android-friendly device that does a whole lot for your money.

It has a gorgeous design, a big display and doesn't cost all that much money compared to some other fitness trackers. The only problem is it won't work with your iPhone or Windows device, you'll need to have an Android to use the Gear Fit 2.

Read the full review: Samsung Gear Fit 2

Microsoft Band 2

3. Microsoft Band 2

Excellent mix of step counter and proper gym/running/cycling companion

Size: 12.8mm x 32mm | Display: 320 x 128 AMOLED | Weight: 55g | Compatibility: Windows, Android, iOS | Battery: 2 days | Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0

Powerful, versatile fitness tracking
Looks much better than the v1 Band
It's not cheap
Short battery life

With a better screen, greater comfort and a better look than the first Microsoft Band, this packs 11 sensors (one new one: a barometer to measure altitude and track stairs and hills climbed, plus an accurate optical heart rate sensor, 3-axis accelerometer, gyroscope, GPS, ambient light sensor, skin temperature sensor, UV sensor, capacitive sensor, microphone and a galvanic skin response sensor). There's full Cortana integration on Windows Phone, while Android and iOS devices get calendar and message notifications.

It's as good for the gym, running, cycling, golf and other sports as it is for counting steps and tracking sleep. The two-day battery life (less if you hit the GPS hard) is not amazing, but it does charge fast, hitting 80% in 30 minutes and 100% in 90. Apart from the Fitbit Surge, it's more powerful than everything else here put together.

Read the full review: Microsoft Band 2

4. Fitbit Flex 2

Fitbit's Flex is back for round two

Size: Two sizes | Display: N/A | Weight: N/A | Compatibility: Android, iOS | Battery: 5 days | Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0

Fun software
Comfortable and light
Battery life not great
Slow to charge

Looking for a simple fitness tracker to take note of your steps on a day-to-day basis? 

The Fitbit Flex 2 is the best choice for you and ranks at number four in our best fitness tracker list.

You'll get a comfortable and light device, but the battery life isn't fantastic. It is water resistant though, meaning you'll be able to go swimming with the Flex 2 and track how well your dip in the pool has gone.

If you're after a waterproof and low price Fitbit, you should go for the Flex 2.

Read the full review: Fitbit Flex 2

Jawbone UP3

5. Jawbone UP3

Impressive design, oodles of features and sensors

Size: 220mm x 12.2mm x 3.0mm-9.3mm | Display: N/A | : | Compatibility: Android, iOS | Battery: 7 days | Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0 LE

Impressive UP app
Good sleep tracking
Sensors under-utilized
Awkward charging mechanism

When it comes to fitness tracker style, not many players are on the same level as Jawbone. The UP3 may have shifted how the UP bands connect to your wrist, but it still manages to exude the same Yves Behar flair of its predecessors.

Additionally, the fact Jawbone has managed to cram so many sensors into the body of the UP3, while somehow maintaining almost a week's worth of battery life is to be commended.

Read the full review: Jawbone UP3

UA Band

6. UA Band

Under Armour and HTC team up for a feature-packed tracker

Compatibility: Android, iOS | Display: 1.36" PMOLED | Thickness: 11.2mm | Battery: 5 days | Charging method: via proprietary USB charger | Waterproofing: 2ATM | Connectivity: Bluetooth LE

Lightweight, seamless design
Responsive touchscreen
Doesn't break the mold
Slightly expensive

Under Armour and HTC's joint efforts have produced a solid fitness tracker that demands your attention. If not just for its looks alone, its performance with and without the companion app, UA Record, makes it a cohesive, smart buy for those looking to get fit.

I'd recommend this fitness tracker for anyone on the market who is looking for a stylish and fun to use device. The UA Band costs a small premium, but with that extra cash you might have saved, you'll be buying into a fantastic mashup of hardware and software.

Read the full review: UA Band

Withings Go

7. Withings Go

An affordable tracker that doesn't skimp on novelty

Size: fits wrists up to 230mm | Display: 1-inch e-ink | Weight: 9g | Compatibility: Android, iOS | Battery: Eight months | Connectivity: Bluetooth LE

Sets you free from your phone
Eight-month battery life
Cannot show time by default
Screen lacks backlight

If simplicity is key, the Withings Go is a fine fitness tracker. While there are other models that accomplish a lot more, this versatile wearable offers a surprising amount for a rather small cost.

Read the full review: Withings Go

8. Fitbit Charge HR

A touch cheaper after the Charge 2

Size: two sizes, S, L, L is 20.8x2x1cm | Display: 0.7-inch OLED | Weight: 22g | Compatibility: Android, iOS, Windows Phone | Battery: 5 days | Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0

Excellent app
Discreet and comfortable
Weird cycle and run tracking
Pulse monitoring not reliable

Now able to auto-detect exercise such as cycling and running – although you're still better off telling it what you're doing if you want total accuracy – and with improved pulse tracking and the ability to set more demanding weekly fitness goals, the Charge HR is now better than ever. With a screen, an altimeter to tell you how many steps you've climbed, a pulse counter for more accurate calorie counting during exercise, plus Fitbit's excellent app and social ecosystem, this remains the best fitness band you can get.

The proper watch-style strap means it stays on and is comfortable, while the design is deliberately neutral and discreet. Some of the stats it pulls out are a bit odd at time, with a definite whiff of inaccuracy about them. However, it is consistent in the ways it is inaccurate, so you can still clearly see if you're getting better or worse at hitting fitness goals.

Now the Fitbit Charge 2 is out, this model should begin dropping in price pretty rapidly - expect it to be something of a budget by for the holidays this year.

Read the full review: Fitbit Charge HR

9. Garmin Vivofit 2

Long battery life is the MO of this simple, inexpensive step tracker

Size: 152-210mm | Display: 25.5 mm x 10 mm | Weight: 25.5g | Compatibility: Android, iOS | Battery life: more than a year | Connectivity: Bluetooth

Good battery life
Very cheap
Not very comfortable
Lacks extras

A neat little fitness tracker whose battery life and waterproofing means you never need to take off. And if it were just that bit more useful and more comfortable, you would never want to take it off, either. 

You do have to accept that all it really usefully does is count your steps and issue reminders to stay active. It has a stab at run tracking and sleep monitoring, but neither impresses. Still, it's a very solid effort for the price.

Read the full review: Garmin Vivofit 2

10. Withings Activite Pop

An attractive analogue watch with step counting built in

Size: Not quoted, but medium-sized watch size | Display: analogue watch face plus analogue step-count dial | Weight: 37g | Compatibility: iOS, Android | Connectivity: Bluetooth

Suave design
Eight-month battery life
Sluggish syncing
Spotty tracking accuracy

A very clever mix of analogue watch and step counter, the Activité Pop takes a different approach to most fitness trackers. As well as counting steps accurately, it also has a go at counting running distances and monitoring sleep (though less successfully), and has a vibrating alarm. It works very well as a motivational device. The hand on the secondary dial on the watch face sweeps round from 0 to 100% of your step goal (set at 10,000 by default) as the day goes on.

The associated app is pretty good, but syncing can be very slow and unreliable. We suspect it's using a very low-powered Bluetooth connection to save battery power, because the Pop runs on a standard watch battery and lasts for eight months, which is not to be sniffed at. Bottom line: if you want a step counter that looks as good as a watch, this (or a smartwatch of course) are your only current options.

Read the full review: Withings Activité Pop

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cameron is the US mobile editor at TechRadar, covering the tech that's in your pocket, wrapped around your wrist, and strapped to your face. He's based in New York City.

Find him on Steam, or listen to some of his favorite tunes on Google Play Music.