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.
If you're looking for a fitness tracker recommendation, 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 HR
Quirks aside, this is the Usain Bolt in this fitness tracking race
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
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.
Read the full review: Fitbit Charge HR
2. 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
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
3. Jawbone UP2
Lower spec but better value brother to the UP3
Size: 220mm x 11.5mm x 3.0-8.5mm | Display: None | Weight: 25g | Compatibility: Android, iOS | Battery: 10 days | Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0
Unlike the UP3 there's no heart rate monitor on the UP2 but it is cheaper and uses the same excellent app to track sleep and steps. The best thing about this tracker is its sheer, fit-and-forget wearability. It's narrow, light, has a long enough battery life and with no screen, it's just generally very discreet and easy to wear. The worst thing, as you'd imagine, is that it doesn't actually do very much, but if all you want is step and sleep counting, this is well worth a look.
Read the full review: Jawbone UP2
4. 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
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
5. Fitbit Charge
A cut-down version of the Charge HR that's also worthy of consideration
Size: two sizes, S, L, L is 20.8x2x1cm | Display: 0.7-inch OLED | Weight: 22g | Compatibility: Android, iOS, Windows Phone | Battery: 7-10 days | Connectivity: Bluetooth
Take the Charge HR. Remove the heart rate monitoring. Make the clasp a bit less reliable. But reduce the price, of course. What you end up with is a very good, if more basic, fitness tracker with the same excellent app as the Charge HR, the same screen and altimeter… And the same endearing quirks. With a longer battery life due to the absence of a pulse counter, it's an excellent product. Even so, its pricier sibling offers more and would narrowly be our first pick, of the two.
Read the full review: Fitbit Charge
6. 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
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
7. Withings Activité 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
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
- Here's how to get the most out of your fitness band
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