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Fitbit Inspire HR Withings Steel HR Garmin Vivoactive 4

The Best Fitness Trackers

We hope you love the products we recommend! We do a lot of research and testing before making our picks for the best thing to buy in each price-point. Just so you know, BuzzFeed may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. Prices and availability subject to change. For more info on how we choose products and make money, go here.

Fitbit Inspire HR

  • Simple and effective interface
  • Lightweight, slim design
  • The best community features
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Withings Steel HR

  • Looks like a classic analog watch
  • Intuitive companion app
  • Impressive 25-day battery life
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Garmin Vivoactive 4

  • Incredible array of all-day monitoring features
  • Built-in music storage and playback
  • Best workout tracker we tested
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When it comes to fitness, we could all use a little pep talk. While there’s no device out there that’ll suddenly make you swole as heck, strapping on a fitness tracker can help you take control of your health in unexpected ways.

 

Just ask Mike Ishraetel, PhD, a former professor of exercise and sport science who’s consulted on sports nutrition for the US Olympic team. Ishraetel told us that as a whole, fitness trackers won’t give you pinpoint accuracy, “but the good news is that they don’t need to be absolutely accurate to make excellent use of them.”

 

Most trackers, he continued, will be several hundred calories off on any given day. And really, the same can be said about steps, heart rate, and sleep tracking. “But over weeks and months, they are reliable enough to make sure you’re moving enough to support any weight- or fat-loss goals.”

 

In other words, just wearing a fitness tracker won’t do much, but using a tracker to set activity and fitness goals can make you more conscious of how you’re feeling and more engaged in your overall health.

 

With all this in mind, we set about to find the best fitness trackers, looking at everything from ease of use to how well it tracked various activities, from counting steps to recording workouts. We also took into account look and feel, especially for folks who aren’t necessarily fitness buffs (because our testers certainly were not). Below, the best fitness trackers for everyone at three different price points.

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Fitbit Inspire HR

Starting from $99

The Details

Automatic activity and sleep tracking

Heart rate tracking

Call, text, and calendar alerts

Water-resistant up to 50 meters

Up to five days of battery life

Connects to GPS via smartphone

15+ goal-based exercise modes

Robust community options

What / Who It's Best For

  • Fitness first-timers
  • People who prefer working out with a crowd
  • Anyone interested in tracking their sleep

Why We Love It

No other level-entry band offered a better range of capabilities than Fitbit’s Inspire model. As a brand that’s synonymous with health and fitness tracking, Fitbit has spent the past decade motivating folks to get up and move. And in many ways, the Inspire HR feels like a culmination of years of figuring out what the aspiring fitness buff wants — all packaged in a wearable that’s more lightweight and affordable than anything that’s come before it.

Best Fitness Trackers Fitbit

Before we proceed, we should note that Fitbit peddles two versions of the Inspire — with or without the heart rate sensor (hence the “HR”) — and our testers agreed that the Inspire HR is a much better buy. Not only does it offer more nuanced readings, like advanced calorie and sleep tracking via the 24/7 heart rate monitor, it also comes with a higher-quality band.

With so many other Fitbit models, why this one, you ask? Great question! We believe that at $100, the Inspire HR nails all the basics — heart rate monitoring, step counting, and sleep tracking — in a sleek, streamlined wearable. While budget trackers at this price point are troubled by clunky designs, the Inspire HR is delightfully small and comfortable (with swappable bands, if that’s your thing).

A slight flick of the wrist or pressing of the left-hand side button causes the OLED touchscreen to light up, displaying the time and your heart rate. To get to exercise modes and other stats in more detail — including steps walked, distance traveled, calories burned, and heart rate — you simply swipe up and down. That said, the Inspire HR is meant to be basic, so there isn’t much you can do on the watch itself — any information other than surface-level stats needs to be checked on the app.

Best Fitness Trackers Fitbit with app

The Inspire HR’s peewee size does have some trade-offs, like a tiny touchscreen that could be a little strenuous to read at times. The upside is a fitness tracker that’s so low-profile you may forget it’s on you, which especially comes in handy for wearing it to bed and effectively tracking z’s. The Inspire HR does this well, with the ability to analyze your sleep stages (light, deep, or REM sleep).

But what about exercise itself? The Inspire HR claims it’s able to automatically recognize when you’re walking, running, biking, or swimming, but it’s not always accurate. After one of our testers sweated for an hour on a recumbent bike, for example, the app registered the exercise as swimming. So you can’t rely on the Fitbit to always get it right (luckily, you can just adjust the exercise in the app). Additionally, the Inspire HR tracks up to 15 different exercises, from yoga to kickboxing. You can also add in a custom exercise if you need to.

In terms of other features, our testers also loved the Inspire HR’s simple but effective guided-breathing mode, which has the device buzzing to let you know when to inhale, and again to exhale — perfect for a brief meditative moment.

Best Fitness Trackers Fitbit on wrist

In terms of battery life, the Inspire HR is respectable at up to five days on a single charge. If you’re doing intensive workout tracking every day, you’ll definitely be charging it once every five days. But if your version of exercise is lifting 2-pound hand weights while binge-watching Euphoria, then you’ll probably be able to charge it every 10 days or so. If you’re looking for the absolute best battery life in this price range, there’s the Xiaomi Mi Band 4, which runs you about $40 and has a 20-day battery life. But what time you save charging, you sacrifice in functionality. The Xiaomi only features four exercise modes and doesn’t have the same robust online community as Fitbit.

If you’re looking for even more personalized info, you can sign up for the Fitbit Premium program, which goes deeper into your fitness and sleep stats and uses your data to create insights and offer recommendations. But even without all the added benefits of a premium membership, the Fitbit Inspire HR proves it’s worth the money. It’s impressively discreet and easy to use, and offers enough basic learnings to help most people make meaningful changes in their lives.

User Reviews

“So far so good. I’m enjoying the features that it has. No issues with the steps going up when I move my arms, only go up when I walk. I feel it is keeping my heart rate correctly, no issues with syncing to my iPhone. Once I turn on my Bluetooth the watch syncs with no issues. As long as I’m in range of my phone I can see a phone call or text message scroll across the screen of the watch. No problems with the watchband. It has not fallen apart and doesn’t come unhooked from the watch. I’m enjoying my watch.”
— dabannis From Amazon
“The battery charges quickly and does last a week — however, I don't have notifications on or anything like that. It counts my steps and heartbeat and records my sleep. Also, I have not gone swimming, but I have taken the dogs on a walk in the rain and bathed them about a week later while wearing the watch, and had no issues. I wore a Fitbit Blaze for two years with no issues, and I loved it. When it came time to passing it down and getting a new one for myself, I did my research and decided on the Fitbit Inspire HR and I do not regret it. I have been wearing my new Inspire for over a week now. The battery life is awesome. The watch is light and sturdy and gives me all that I need and use and none of the extras. I love it. I do not find the watch too small or the screen too hard to see due to size. It can be hard to see in direct sunlight but then, so can most screens.”
— NamiesBooks From Amazon
“I can’t say enough good things about this fitness tracker — Fitbit finally got it right with this model. It does everything I want and more. I have had several Fitbit models, some I liked, some I didn’t, and also an Apple Watch, but this is the fitness tracker that works best for me. Slim design that I can wear all day and night without irritation. I do take it off to shower but you don’t have to, as it is waterproof to 50 meters. To test that, I have been wearing it in the pool for my water aerobics classes and it works great! What I love best about this design is that it shows me the time and my step count — really all I care about. Bonus things are that it shows the date, my heart rate, calories burned and a few other things I haven’t looked up yet, lol — all by simply tapping on the face. You can buy extra bands to customize it but I haven’t bothered with that yet. It goes several days without needing to be charged and when it does need it, it recharges quickly. Really happy with this and recommend highly if you, like me, are on the road to wellness.”
— SoozeSays From Amazon

Fitbit

Fitness inspiration at its simplest

Where to buy

$99 at Amazon
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Withings Steel HR

Starting from $180

The Details

Automatic activity and sleep tracking

Heart rate tracking

Call, text, and calendar alerts

Water-resistant up to 50 meters

Up to 25 days of battery life

Connects to GPS via smartphone

30+ activities recognized by the tracker

Available in 36mm and 40mm sizing

What / Who It's Best For

  • Those who like to keep their fitness tracking to themselves
  • Anyone who despises the look of most fitness trackers
  • People who always forget to charge their devices

Why We Love It

There’s no denying that fitness trackers have a certain sporty look. Usually featuring black rubber bands and digital displays that scream stats at you in unsightly fonts, most are a reminder that wearable companies are born from the tech world. This wouldn’t be an issue if fitness trackers were designed solely for exercising, but that’s only half the story.

Enter our midrange winner: the Withings Steel HR, which has all the functionality of a fitness tracker but can pass itself off as a classy, everyday timepiece. At first glance, the Steel HR looks like your standard watch (available in 36mm and 40mm sizing), featuring an analog clock with hour and minute hands, but that pretty face also houses a heart rate sensor.

Best Fitness Trackers Withings with cord

Our testers were fond of how unobtrusively the Withings Steel HR displays data and health metrics, even though a few docked points for readability. Every stat you might want to check can be viewed through the small digital display on the watch face. While the circular display is indeed tiny, pressing the side button navigates to stats like steps, heart rate, calories burned, and distance walked.

Holding the same button longer activates the Steel HR’s workout mode, which allows you to cycle through activities like walking, running, cycling, swimming, or “other.” All in all, the Steel HR can track up to 30 activities, which can be programmed via the app. Launching into a workout activates the Steel HR’s continuous heart rate mode, which means it’s taking measurements every second. Otherwise, for day-to-day readings, it’s important to note that the Steel HR measures heart rate every 10 minutes and sends updates to the HealthMate app every half hour.

Best Fitness Trackers Withings

Despite only refreshing its heart rate reading every 10 minutes, we found the Withings reading to be fairly accurate. We wore our budget and high-end picks, the Fitbit Inspire HR and Garmin Vivoactive (both of which offer continuous heart rate monitoring), at the same time as the WIthings Steel HR (yes, it looked ridiculous), and their heart rate readings were within one beat of each other.

Similar to Fitbit’s offerings, Withings accommodates step and fitness goals through its companion smartphone app. As far as fitness-tracker apps go, HealthMate boasts one of the most straightforward interfaces, letting you easily understand and find stats when you need to. The Steel HR is also able to track sleep hygiene based on duration, number of interruptions, and whether you got light or deep sleep. The HealthMate app is also what you’ll be visiting post-workouts to check on intensity and heart rate zones.

Best Fitness Trackers Withings

Also like our $ pick, the Steel HR doesn’t have built-in GPS and must be connected to your smartphone in order to track your path. That is, in a word, annoying, and means you’ll need to carry your phone with you to benefit from location-based features. Hardcore runners or fitness junkies are better off going with our $$$ pick, which offers built-in GPS (not to mention much more in-depth fitness tracking than any other tracker we tested).

We’ll be the first to admit that the Withings doesn’t have as many bells and whistles as other fitness trackers on the market. But it’s hands down the best alternative to your run-of-the-mill fitness band. What it lacks in slick functionality is more than made up for in looks and style. And unless you have specific and intensive fitness goals in mind, this tracker will do the job and then some, and look a helluva a lot better than most doing it.

User Reviews

“I've had the watch for about a week and it is great. The battery life is excellent; I haven't had to charge it yet. I did replace the band it came with a metal mesh band (approximately $14 on Amazon), which was fairly easy to do. The app downloaded easily and synced instantly with the watch. The information display on the app is very user-friendly. I do like the fact that I can easily see my progress towards my daily goal without having to press a button. It's also very easy to get heart rate, by a quick press of the watch nob. I've owned a variety of Fitbits in the past and like this so much better! It provides all of the functionality, but looks so much better, and doesn't need to be charged as frequently.”
— KCAlexandria From Amazon
“I did a lot of research when looking for a new activity tracker and HR monitor. I knew I wanted something that looked like a traditional watch and I could wear to work and meetings with clients. I looked at the Garmin, but the watch face was huge, just looked unnatural, which led me to the Withings. It works great as a step tracker, activity tracker, and HR monitor. I also like that I do get alerted to calls and texts on my iPhone. I get compliments all the time on it and everyone is always so shocked to hear it's an activity tracker. My one complaint: As with all activity trackers (why no one can figure out how to fix this is beyond me), it does a pretty bad job of tracking steps when pushing a stroller. I have to push with one hand so the arm with the watch on it moves in order for them to count. But again, I have found this with every activity tracker I’ve had, from iWatch to Fitbit.”
— cobooth From Amazon
“This is a great product for someone, like me, that wants a regular watch that also has some non-obtrusive health tracking and phone notifications. If you are a triathlete, or need/want a large amount of workout tracking, I can see why this might not be for you. But the watch is super light and slim, comfortable to wear, battery lasts for weeks on a charge (at the end of my first day of wearing it, battery was at 100%), and the health app (at least for people like me) tells you all the key bits of info in a simple way. I tried a few non-Apple smartwatches and besides the bulk and one-day battery life, I found myself just plain distracted by all the "stuff" the watch could do. Did I really need to stare at yet another mini screen to see....next Tuesday’s meeting mtg schedule? Nah. Notifications work well, and I can see who is calling or texting as it scrolls by quickly and clearly without moving my arm very much. I can look at the time during a meeting without moving my arm and staring, which defeats the whole ‘I don't want to look at my phone’ thing. A happy customer. Just bought the scale as well.”
— C. Ostrow From Amazon

Withings

Well-designed without sacrificing function

Where to buy

$180 at Amazon
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Garmin Vivoactive 4

Starting from $350

The Details

Automatic activity and sleep tracking

Heart rate tracking

Call, text, email, and alert notifications

Water-resistant up to 50 meters

Up to a week of battery life

20+ goal-based exercise modes

Built-in GPS

Spotify, Amazon Music, and Deezer integration

Pulse oximeter

Body Battery™ energy monitoring

Respiration tracking

Stress tracking

Garmin Pay integration

Available in 40mm and 45mm sizing

What / Who It's Best For

  • Fitness buffs who want to track a wide variety of workouts
  • App addicts and widget wanters
  • Anyone who wants the most complete picture of their day-to-day health

Why We Love It

If you’re a health and wellness buff looking for a fitness tracker that can go the distance, it’s best that you saddle up with a brand that can get you there with confidence. Garmin knows GPS, and it knows fitness trackers. The Vivoactive 4 is one of Garmin’s latest and greatest, and has a bevy of exciting features that make — dare we say it? — keeping track of your overall health fun.

First, the basics: Garmin has something for everyone when it comes to GPS smartwatches, whether you’re a runner or an avid golfer. The Vivoactive 4 is a multisport offering that’s jam-packed with extras aimed to please both casual and super-active users alike. It does everything you’d expect from a premium hybrid smartwatch and fitness tracker — heart rate monitoring, preloaded and custom workouts, and built-in music playback — all with a level of accuracy (especially for pace and distance) that’s backed by Garmin’s GPS sensor technology.

Best Fitness Trackers Garmin

The Vivoactive 4 separates itself from its predecessor, the Vivoactive 3 (which we also tested), in a couple of ways, the chief among them being size. The Vivoactive 4 is available in two sizes: a 40mm and 45mm version, which makes it accommodating to more folks. Another development is a second physical side button, which gives users better navigational control, especially during workouts. You’d be surprised how difficult it is to use a touchscreen when you’re sweating bullets.

In terms of looks, the Vivoactive 4 is a stylish combination of a traditional watch and a fitness tracker. The color display is outfitted with a stainless steel bezel that you might find on a fancy timepiece, but also comes standard with a silicone band, which can wick away sweat. In addition six finishes (hello, rose-gold bezel!), you’re able to switch up the watch faces and customize much of the onscreen menus to your liking, which definitely cannot be said about most fitness trackers.

From a fitness-tracking standpoint, the possibilities are endless. In addition to the optical heart rate monitor and onboard GPS, the Vivoactive 4 has tracking sensors for days: an accelerometer, gyroscope, compass, thermometer, and all-day pulse oximeter. The device comes stocked with 20 workout modes, and you can make your own via the app. And activating each mode is as easy as swiping on the screen and long-pressing the side buttons.

Best Fitness Trackers Garmin

Beyond tracking all the workouts and providing in-depth analysis, the Vivoactive 4 really excels at tracking day-to-day activity. There’s stress monitoring with the option of receiving “relax reminders” when it senses you’re in a high-stress mode. There’s something Garmin calls a “body battery” reading, which measures how much you’ve “charged” and “drained” of your daily energy (by analyzing your restful and active periods). It even tracks respiration by counting the number of breaths you take per minute throughout the day (our testers also loved Garmin’s guided breathwork feature). Respiration rate is another fitness marker: The average adult apparently takes between 12 and 20 breaths per minute, and the fewer, the fitter. When taken together, the Vivoactive’s cadre of stats gives you an incredibly complete picture of your health.

And that’s even before you start factoring in its extensive range of optional apps and widgets via the Garmin IQ app.

The IQ app integrates seamlessly with the Vivoactive and offers dozens of potential add-ons and upgrades to the watch. Looking to take full advantage of the on-board music storage? Download Spotify, Amazon Music, or Deezer. Want to check on the weather for your next run? Get a weather app. If you’re a fishing fanatic, you can record your catches with a hunting and fishing widget. The Vivoactive also has contactless payment, which we consider a true lifesaver: You won’t have to schlep your wallet around when you’re out for a run if you need to pick up something from the store on the way home.

Best Fitness Trackers Garmin

As you might conclude, the Vivoactive 4 packs in a lot of information and stats, and it all can get pretty overwhelming, especially for anyone who’s never played around with a fitness tracker. While it’s certainly built for advanced users in mind, it’s customizable enough to fit various wants and needs. The pulse oximeter, for example, which tracks the oxygen in your blood, is a nifty feature, but one that might not be necessarily useful for most folks. Many of our testers elected to turn this feature off, which simply meant one less stat to monitor and, in turn, better battery life.

Speaking of battery life: Garmin says its battery can last up to seven days while in smartwatch mode, and up to five hours when using it with both the music and GPS cranked up. As battery life is dictated by personal usage, we found that the battery life on average tends to be closer to four days — for instance, using it to track exercise around an hour a day. Luckily, the watch clearly displays the remaining battery life, so you should never be left mid-run without juice.

Overall, the Garmin Vivoactive 4 garnered high marks from us for the breadth and depth of its tracking, which, honestly, may not be necessary or desired for fitness novices. But if you’re looking for a sleek device with tons of opportunities for customization, the Vivoactive 4 won’t disappoint.

User Reviews

“I bought the slate 4S from Garmin the day it was released. I had the original Vivoactive before this and cracked the screen after 3 1/2 years of continuous use. I am a long-distance swimmer, so I don’t know anything about the music features. However, I love this watch for a number of reasons: 1) All of the functions are contained within one app, unlike the Apple Watch, where you need a bunch. 2) It’s waterproof for swimming and you don’t have to get the water out, also unlike the Apple Watch. 3) You get all notifications that you have given permission to on your phone, unlike any other smartwatch. For example, no smartwatch has the Washington Post’s app, so on all other smartwatches, you can’t receive their notifications. On Garmin smartwatches you can.”
— Partsandplaces From Amazon
“I came to this watch after 18 months in the Fitbit camp; I hope I can offer some helpful observations. Functionally as a smartwatch, the Garmin is vastly superior, it seamlessly integrated with my phone, where updates and confounding sync issues became a constant headache with the Fitbit Ionic. For exercise tracking, there were similar gaps that I no longer experience with the Garmin. No sudden GPS glitches, no hiccups in HR monitoring. It just feels more stable and well-integrated. The time from recording an exercise to reviewing it on my phone is a night-and-day experience, and I found Garmin’s app much more useful and cleanly displayed. The one aspect I can easily give Fitbit a win is in display, but only indoors. Garmin’s display indoors feels antiquated, as it is a display akin to e-inks you'd find on an Amazon Kindle. Outdoors the Vivoactive 4 is beautiful, sharp, crisp, and always on, so no need for a dramatic wrist turn to get the screen to show up, which was a minor, but persistent requirement for the Fitbit. Ultimately the value comes down to your needs and uses. I personally have found the Garmin to be a breath of fresh air, and well worth the extra money.”
— Sean From Amazon
“I am extremely impressed with the watch’s capabilities. The customized workouts are amazing and accurate. I have a smaller wrist so I purchased the 4S for the smaller face plate. I only wish the band had a couple more notches. If you are using the features, you will get about two days of battery, but other than that, this watch is amazing. I love being able to play music directly from my watch. I now leave my phone at home and it makes my runs that much more enjoyable.”
— Techn0 From Amazon
“I've had this watch for one week as a follow-up to an original Vivoactive HR, which died earlier this year at the age of three. Before purchasing the Vivoactive 4, I purchased and returned an Amazfit GTR and a Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2. While both of those watches had really nice displays and smooth experiences, I found the fitness tracking to be off with both. Even though I am not a competitive runner anymore, I still want accurate information about my distances and pacing, especially when investing in an expensive watch advertised as one for fitness and activity. The Vivoactive 4 is like returning to an old friend who is now improved. There are more functions and data provided. The GPS locks quickly, and it measures distances accurately. It seems to be much better during strength training than my original Vivoactive, which never picked up on HR very well when doing weights. My only major criticism is that the automatic set/rep detection when strength training is a complete joke. It can pick up some exercises pretty well, but many others it doesn't notice (even obvious things like chin-ups) and/or undercounts reps really badly. There is a lot to explore on this watch, and I look forward to using it for a few years to come!”
— Bamadave From Amazon

Garmin

A powerful all-in-one workout companion

Where to buy

$350 at Amazon
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