If you’re an active person, the data provided by activity trackers (AKA fitness trackers) is incredibly valuable for logging, improving, and understanding your fitness. But among the many devices out there, finding the right activity tracker can be difficult.
That’s why we’ve put together this breakdown of the top activity trackers available in 2016 to help you choose the right tracker to fit your lifestyle. This list is compiled in no particular order, as each of these trackers has its pros and cons, depending on how you want to use it.
If you’re a fitness addict looking for what Fitbit calls the “Ultimate Fitness Super Watch”, the Fitbit Surge could be just what you need. The Surge is a powerful tracker that offers the features of practically all of Fitbit’s other products combined.
Within the Fitbit Surge (read our full review) are sensors that can track more than just the basics of distance traveled, calories burned, active minutes, and steps. The device also has an altimeter, wrist-based heart rate tracking, multi-sport modes, sleep tracking, and control music functions.
Most impressive, however, is the built-in GPS that can map workouts on Google Maps, even if you don’t have your phone with you.
- Claimed Battery Life: Up to 7 days, or 10 hours if using GPS.
- Screen: Black and white LCD
- Works With: Android, Windows, Mac, iOS, or browser
- Verdict: 5/5 from PC Mag. 8/10 on Reevoo. 7/10 from Wired.
- Expect to Pay: $250
Jawbone UP2 [No Longer Available]
For anyone looking for a basic, but super-affordable fitness tracker, the Jawbone UP2 is still a great option. Its longevity isn’t just because of its subtle design, but also because of its ease of use, and better value compared to the UP3.
As the Jawbone UP2 doesn’t have a screen, this is pretty much a set-it-and-forget-it option which, according to Wearable.com, “gets the basics right and that’s enough”.
During the day, the splash-proof UP2 tracks calories burned, steps, and exercise intensity. During the night, it tracks the length and quality of your sleep, while also offering an alarm that wakes you up during the lighter part of your sleep cycle. All data collected can be reviewed within Jawbone’s impressive mobile app (which can also track food eaten).
- Claimed Battery Life: 10 days
- Screen: None
- Works With: Windows, Android, iOS,
- Verdict: 4/5 on Wearable.com, 4/5 on CNET, 7.8/10 on The Verge.
- Expect to Pay: $30–50
With similar features compared to the Fitbit Surge, the Garmin Vivoactive is aimed at those who take their workouts seriously.
This 8mm thin, lightweight sports watch features a built-in app that allows you to review your activity and sleep data without needing to turn on your phone. The Vivoactive requires manually setting each exercise, so you must let the device know when you’re biking, running, walking, working out indoors, swimming, or even golfing. You’ll then be able to keep track of steps, speed, pace, calories burned, distance, and a whole lot more. The built-in GPS also maps workouts without needing access to your phone. Unfortunately, there is no built-in heart rate monitor, but the device does work with some chest straps.
The Vivoactive also syncs with your smartphone so that you can see incoming notifications on your wrist. You can even download various screens and widgets so you can review things like the weather, or stock prices.
- Claimed Battery Life: 3 weeks, or 10 hours if using GPS.
- Screen: Sunlight-readable color dot-matrix LCD touchscreen
- Works With: Android, Windows, Mac, iOS
- Verdict: 4.5/5 from PC Mag, 4/5 from Wearable.com, 4/5 from TechRadar.
- Expect to Pay: $150–250
Since this article was released, Garmin has released a new model of the fitness tracker, the Garmin Vivoactive HR.
Regarding functionality and affordability, Microsoft’s curved-screen Band 2 is up there with the Fitbit Surge, making it great for those who want to take their tracking a bit further than just the basics.
Microsoft Band 2 tracks pretty much everything you’d expect. This includes sport-specific exercise tracking (from running to yoga), calorie burn, heart rate, stairs climbed, and sleep quality. You can even download guided workouts to the tracker, along with other sports specific apps.
As with other relatively higher-end trackers. The Band 2 sports a GPS sensor, along with a barometer, and UV sensor. Users can also view their workout data on a browser or mobile app (including VO2 Max calculations), so you can analyze your results, and work on ways to improve them further.
This device works best with newer Windows phones, but many features that don’t require using Cortana are still available on Android and iOS.
- Claimed Battery Life: 48 hours, less when using GPS
- Screen: AMOLED
- Works With: Microsoft, Android, iOS, or browser
- Verdict: 4/5 from TechRadar, 3.5/5 from TrustedReviews, 3.5/5 from Wearable.com
- Expect to Pay: $130-$200
The TomTom Spark GPS fitness watch is comparable to others in its fitness tracking functionality. But its 500-song music storage capacity makes this a sensible choice for those who use playlists to push their workouts even further.
Regarding tracking, the Spark Cardio tracks sleep, steps, heart rate, distance (using GPS), pace, and you can quickly select which sport you’re doing from the touch screen menu. You can also set daily and weekly goals, and quickly see how you’re progressing toward each of these.
When it comes to loading music on the device, you can do this via iTunes or Windows Media Player. You can then stream this music wirelessly via Bluetooth headphones (included), so there’s no more wrestling with wires at the gym.
All stats sync to the TomTom MySports app, which also integrates with other apps such as MyFitnessPal and NikePlus.
- Claimed Battery Life: up to 3 weeks for activity tracking, up to 5 hours if using GPS and music.
- Screen: Black & White LCD
- Works With: Android, Windows, iOS
- Verdict: 4/5 from PC Mag. 4/5 from Wearable.com. 7/10 from Tom’s Guide
- Expect to Pay: $250
Since the article was published, TomTom has released a new model, the TomTom Spark 3 Cardio.
Where the Fitbit Surge helps you improve performance, the Fitbit Charge is for more general lifestyle improvements. Users can track their vitals and contribute to making life-improving choices.
Track the most important stats, including steps, floors climbed, calories burned, distance, active minutes, sleep, and heart rate with the Fitbit Charge HR.
This is an affordable tracker that automatically detects the kind of activity you’re doing (this isn’t perfect), as well as when you’re asleep. You can also set a silent alarm, and take a glance at how much time you’ve spent active or sedentary each day.
Once all this data is synced up with the Fitbit app, you’ll have an impressive, graphical understanding of your fitness to help you make better decisions in the future.
- Claimed Battery Life: 5 days
- Screen: OLED
- Works With: Android, Windows, iOS, Mac, or browser
- Verdict: 4.5/5 from PC Mag. 4/5 from CNET. 7/10 from Wired.
- Expect to Pay: $125
With the Gear Fit2, Samsung, at last, has a fitness tracking device to contend with the others on this list. Unfortunately, it’s only compatible with Android phones.
The Gear Fit2’s design permits exercise out without needing your phone anywhere near you. The tracker can still map your runs and bike rides using GPS. And you can store music on the device to listen to using Bluetooth headphones.
Along with this is a continuous heart rate monitor, and auto-detection of the kind of exercise you’re doing (running, cycling, rowing machine, etc.). The stats you’ll have access to include steps, distance, pace, calories burned, and sleep quality.
Pairing the Gear Fit2 with your phone using Samsung’s S Health app gives users full access to their biometric workout data. Within the app, you can log plenty of other metrics such as caffeine intake, as well as integrate this with many other third party apps (including Spotify).
- Claimed Battery Life: 3–4 days, 9 hours if using GPS.
- Screen: OLED
- Works With: Android
- Verdict: 7.3/10 from CNET. 4/5 from PC Mag. 4/5 from TechRadar.
- Expect to Pay: $150-180
Since this article was published, Samsung released a new version of this model, the Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro
Which Fitness Tracker Will You Choose?
The differences between most fitness trackers are pretty small. Which one you choose depends on exactly what exercises you hope to track, and whether or not you want to store music on your tracker.
If you want to take your health and fitness tracking even further, there are a range of fitness gadgets that can shine even more light on your current health to help you improve your performance even more.
Which fitness tracker will you be choosing?