We highly recommend the Fitbit Versa for a wide variety of styles and uses, the Garmin Vivosport for outdoor and hardcore athletes, and the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active for high-tech, stylish fitness fans.

Best Overall — Fitbit Versa

Fitbit Versa Features

  • Heart rate monitor
  • Altimeter
  • 4-day battery life
  • Sleep tracking
  • Music player
  • Water resistance to 50 meters
  • Color screen
  • Replaceable band
  • Compatibility with Android, iOS, and Windows

Swapping out the Versa band isn't as easy as some other Fitbit models we've seen. You'll need fingernails to push the tiny pin down and back to get the strap free. Even with fingernails, we struggled for a good five minutes to get it off.

Aside from the band-swapping issue, the Versa is the perfect blend of fitness tracker and smartwatch. You can check texts, calls, and notifications while eyeing the heart rate monitor as you jog down the sidewalk.

There's not much you can't track with the Fitbit Versa. In addition to the basic activity and sleep tracking, you'll also be able to track steps, distance, calories, floors climbed, and swim laps.

Pros:

  • Compact and lightweight
  • Highly customizable
  • Affordable price tag

Cons:

  • No onboard GPS
  • Difficult to swap bands
  • Less battery life than Ionic

Best Overall

Fitbit Versa

A well-rounded smartwatch

The first thing we noticed is that the Versa looks like an Apple Watch. But this tracker lacks a steep price tag and still offers a color screen, heart rate monitor, and a music player.

Best Budget Tracker — Fitbit Charge 3

Fitbit Charge 3 features

  • Heart rate monitor
  • Altimeter
  • Up to 7-day battery life
  • Sleep tracking
  • Water resistance to 50 meters
  • Grayscale screen
  • Replaceable band
  • Compatibility with Android, iOS, and Windows

Straight out of the box, the first thing you'll notice about the Charge 3 is the band. It comes with a watch-style buckle, which is a nice upgrade from the simpler snap clasps on other Fitbit models.

The Charge 3's touchscreen is pretty responsive; you'll need to swipe up or down to check various stats. There are also two buttons on either side of the screen you can press. It's a little awkward pressing these to access the apps and settings, but it isn't something we couldn't get over.

The band on the Charge 3 is replaceable and secures with a buckle, which is a nice upgrade from the Flex 2's snap-style band. So if your dog decides the band is the next best thing to chew on, you're not stuck sporting a fitness tracker decorated with your pup's dental impressions.

One gap in Charge 3's features is a lack of GPS. Of course, you can bring your phone along to track your trail running routes, but that's an extra thing to carry and isn't ideal. Still, the features the Charge 3 does have are impressive—a heart rate monitor, step, distance, and calorie tracking, plus Fitbit's sleep tracking technology. All that said, it offers a more stylish design and a larger screen than the similarly priced Garmin Vivosmart 4.

Pros:

  • Crisp, responsive screen
  • Thin, comfortable design
  • Improved notifications

Cons:

  • No onboard GPS
  • Finnicky side buttons
  • No music controls

Best Budget Tracker

Fitbit Charge 3

An all-around great wearable on a budget

The Fitbit Charge 3 boasts a touchscreen and improved ergonomics without sacrificing key features. It tracks 15 workouts, offers 7-day battery life, and can handle 50 meters of water.

Best Starter Tracker — Fitbit Versa Lite

Fitbit Versa Lite features

  • Heart rate monitor
  • 15+ exercise modes
  • 4-day battery life
  • Color screen
  • Sleep tracking
  • Wearable while swimming
  • Smartphone notifications
  • Compatibility with Android, iOS, and Windows

At first glance, it might be hard to tell a difference from the Fitbit Versa and the Versa lite aside from the color schemes. You're still getting a waterproof device with a nearly identical design, display, and battery life. If you're looking to save a few bucks and can live without a couple of the Versa features, this is an ideal pick.

Fortunately, you won't be missing too much in the way of tracking, which makes the Versa Lite an excellent starter tracker. You'll enjoy all of the basics, such as activity and sleep tracking, 24/7 heart rate monitoring, and female health tracking. The device doesn't offer swim tracking nor does it have an altimeter.

Despite not having built-in GPS like some other more expensive trackers, you can access GPS when you're connected to your smartphone.

Pros:

  • Impressive health/fitness tracking
  • Sleek, comfortable design
  • Android quick replies

Cons:

  • No onboard GPS
  • No music storage
  • Tricky proprietary charger

Best Starter Tracker

Fitbit Versa Lite

Sleek and comfortable while still getting the job done

While it's often known as the slimmed down, affordable version of the Fitbit Versa, the Versa Lite still offers a well-rounded experience, especially for those who are starting out.

Best Screen — Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro

Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro features

  • Heart rate monitor
  • Altimeter
  • Up to 3-day battery life
  • GPS
  • Music player
  • Water resistance to 50 meters
  • Color screen
  • Compatibility with Android and iOS

Speaking of storage, the Gear Fit2 Pro comes with a music player. If you have a Wi-Fi connection, you can sync the fitness tracker to your computer or phone and download those high-tempo, bass-dropping songs that keep you amped up during your workouts. Once it's set up, you'll be able to access your music offline without your phone nearby.

We liked how responsive the Gear Fit2 Pro's screen is. Quick taps and button presses let us access everything from the heart rate monitor to the music player—and the button placement felt less awkward than the Fitbit Charge 3's. Because you can track every location, rep, and step without the Samsung app, you don't need your phone to tag along to get accurate GPS reads of your cross-country trek.

The only thing missing for us was third-party apps. Last year, Samsung removed all third-party apps from its Health app—save Strava. But when we combed through all the Health app settings, we couldn't find a way to connect Strava. This limitation is a huge downside—and pretty much the only thing that kept the Gear Fit2 Pro from earning "best overall" on our list of best activity trackers.

Pros:

  • Onboard GPS
  • Music storage
  • Stunning display

Cons:

  • Difficult setup process
  • No Samsung Pay
  • Cannot respond to messages/calls

Best Screen

Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro

Don't sacrifice visibility just because you're not using the best

You don't need your phone to set up the Gear Fit2 Pro. If you do pair it, you'll need the Health app to track exercise and the Gear Fit app to monitor battery life, storage capacity, and RAM.

Best For Adventures — Garmin Vivosport

Image: Navworld

Garmin Vivosport features

  • Heart rate monitor
  • Altimeter
  • Up to 7-day battery life
  • GPS
  • Sleep tracking
  • Stress monitoring
  • Rep counting
  • Wearable while swimming
  • Color screen
  • Compatibility with Android, iOS, and Windows

One drawback to GPS-enabled activity trackers is the huge drain on the battery. Not so much with the Vivosport—we found it charged quickly and held that charge for days. That's perfect if you're getting off the grid for a few nights camping under the stars.

We also found the Vivosport's slightly larger screen was much easier to interact with than the Vivosmart 4's. More of our swipes and taps registered the first time, so we weren't left urgently swiping and tapping in frustration.

Pros:

  • Onboard GPS
  • Good battery life
  • Small and compact

Cons:

  • Underwhelming design
  • No swim tracking
  • Pricy for what it is

Best For Adventures

Garmin Vivosport

Rough and tough, this tracker can go with you on all your adventures

The Vivosport isn't fancy, but you'll get the same number of features as the Gear Fit2 Pro—if not more—for the same price. It's small and rugged, so it's perfect for an all-day hike.

Budget Heart-rate Monitor — Fitbit Inspire HR

Fitbit Inspire HR features

  • Heart rate monitor
  • 15+ exercise modes
  • Up to 5-day battery life
  • Connected GPS
  • Sleep tracking
  • Wearable while swimming
  • Smartphone notifications
  • Grayscale screen
  • Compatibility with Android and iOS

The Fitbit Inspire HR is so compact and lightweight, you're likely to forget you're wearing it. This tracker also offers a more traditional buckle band as opposed to the peg-and-loop style. The bands are stylish and easy to switch when you feel like changing it up.

You'll need to swipe up to see additional stats and use the single button on the device to return to the home screen. Swipe down when you're ready to start exercising. With all that said, there are some restrictions to having such a small screen. You'll need to go to the app to set alarms and bring your phone with you to utilize GPS.

Pros:

  • Attractive design
  • Generous battery life
  • Lightweight and inconspicuous

Cons:

  • No altimeter
  • No quick replies
  • No Fitbit Pay

Budget Heart-rate Monitor

Fitbit Inspire HR

An easy, budget-friendly way to track your heart-rate

The Fitbit Inspire HR proves good things come in small packages. All of the tracking capabilities and bonus features that come in this tiny device make it a front-runner at a fair price.

Best Smartwatch Combo — Fitbit Ionic

Fitbit Ionic features

  • Heart rate monitor
  • Altimeter
  • 4-day battery life
  • GPS monitor
  • Sleep tracker
  • Music player
  • Water resistance to 50 meters
  • Color screen
  • Replaceable band
  • Compatibility with Android, iOS, and Windows

The Pandora, Deezer, and Strava apps are some that are built right into the Ionic. It's nice to have these right at your fingertips without having to manually add them—or worse, rely on your phone.

While it's not the perfect standalone smartwatch, it still sports built-in GPS, near field communication (NFC), and music storage. (NFC is used for file transfers, making payments, and reading tags.) Plus you won't have to lug your phone along for a full exercise breakdown after you hit the gym.

We're also thrilled to see a Fitbit with built-in GPS, though this does weigh on the battery life, which is shorter than most other Fitbits. Still, there's no better way to keep track of your backcountry ski tour than GPS. The Ionic also comes with personal workouts through the Fitbit Coach app, and these play in beautifully vivid color on the full-color screen.

Pros:

  • Built-in GPS
  • Comfortable
  • Fitbit Pay

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Less stylish than other models
  • Unable to reply to notifications

Best Smartwatch Combo

Fitbit Ionic

The best of both worlds — a fitness tracker and smartwatch all in one

The striking burnt orange and blue model we grabbed was striking. Once we took it out of the box, we were surprised at how large it is. For anyone who likes a big screen, this one's for you.

Best For Style — Samsung Galaxy Watch Active

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active features

  • Heart rate monitor
  • Altimeter
  • 45-hour battery life
  • GPS monitor
  • Sleep tracker
  • Music player
  • Water resistance to 50 meters
  • Bright color screen
  • Replaceable band
  • Compatibility with Android and iOS

Pros:

  • Built-in GPS
  • Samsung Pay
  • View and reply to notifications

Cons:

  • Short battery life
  • Tizen OS learning curve
  • No rotating bezel

Best For Style

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active

Don't sacrifice style when wearing your fitness tracker

A tracker doesn't have to be bulky, which is a point well proven with the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active. You get a ton of features for the price, like built-in GPS, Samsung Pay, and more.

Best GPS — Garmin Forerunner 245

Image: Canadian Running Magazine

Garmin Forerunner 245 features

  • Heart rate monitor
  • Up to 7-day battery life
  • GPS monitor
  • Music controls
  • Water resistance to 50 meters
  • Swim tracking
  • Color screen
  • Compatibility with Android and iOS

Serious athletes will love the level of details that this device is able to provide. It doesn't stop at tracking your stats. It also gives you detailed information about your performance. Gearing up for a race? The Forerunner 245 offers personalized training and recovery insight to help you prepare and reach your goals. If you can't live without music storage on your device, upgrade to the Forerunner 245 Music.

Garmin takes safety seriously, which is why this device is equipped with incident detection. You'll be able to share your location with pre-chosen contacts in case you get hurt or lost and need help. It's also a great feature if you simply want to share your progress with others. The feature can be activated manually or automatically with built-in incident detection.

Pros:

  • Crisp, colorful display
  • Detailed performance tracking
  • Smartphone notifications

Cons:

  • No altimeter
  • No Garmin Pay
  • No gyroscope

Best GPS

Garmin Forerunner 245

The GPS in the Forerunner 245 is better than the rest

The Forerunner 245 is ideal for dedicated athletes who want more from their fitness tracker. You can also take advantage of the free adaptive training plans from Garmin Coach.

Best For Casual — Fibit Inspire

Fitbit Inspire features

  • Activity & sleep tracking
  • 5-day battery life
  • Wearable while swimming
  • Smartphone notifications
  • Color screen
  • Replaceable band
  • Compatibility with Android and iOS

Pros:

  • Automatic exercise recognition
  • Reminders to move
  • Compact, comfortable design

Cons:

  • No heart rate monitoring
  • Less detailed sleep data
  • No GPS

Best For Casual

Fitbit Inspire

This no-frills tracker looks great and does the job well.

For a stylish yet casual fitness tracker that does the basics, you can't go wrong with the Fitbit Inspire. However, if you're seeking tons of details and accuracy, this might not cut it.

Bottom line

So many activity watches, so little time. But hopefully we've helped you find the right tracker—without you having to try them all on for size. As a rule, we highly recommend Fitbit trackers for a wide range of styles and uses, Garmin trackers for outdoor and hardcore athletes, and Samsung for high-tech, stylish fitness watches.

When it comes right down to it, the Fitbit Versa takes the top spot on our list for a variety of reasons. For starters, the number of features you get for the price is simply unmatched. You'll have battery life for days, on-screen workouts with Fitbit Coach, heart-rate monitoring, convenient music storage, sleep tracking, and much more.

While there might be some drawbacks to the lack of onboard GPS and experiencing difficulties when swapping out the band, these concerns don't hold a candle to the slew of features it offers at such an affordable price. You can track each and every step taken, floor climbed, and lap swam all while you listen to music, check notifications, and monitor your heart rate.

How to pick the best fitness tracker

If you're looking for the best fitness tracker for your needs, you may find yourself stuck in one of those infamous internet black holes. How do you know which activity tracker has the features you want at a price you can afford—and won't feel like you've strapped a brick to your wrist?

If you're starting your search, here are a few tips to help you decide which fitness tracker is best for you.

1. Start with price

Depending on which features you want, your new fitness tracker could run you anywhere from $50 to $300 or more. (Yeah, we eyed an $850 smartwatch for a good 30 seconds before our conscience brought us back to reality.)

Be cautious about buying anything under $50. Most cheap fitness trackers are just that: cheap. Even less costly models by well-known brands like Fitbit won't come with a full display, so you'll need to swap to the app to get all the details on your latest workout.

2. Decide on features

Narrow down your search by deciding which features you need. If your primary goal is to track your steps as you stroll around the neighborhood, you probably won't need a heart rate monitor or GPS.

But if you're using your tracker to keep tabs on calories burned, heart rate, and miles traveled while you hit the trail on your mountain bike, you'll want both a heart rate monitor and GPS.

And if you plan on wearing your tracker while you swim laps in the pool, you'll want to pay attention to the waterproof rating. And make sure the model you pick out tracks swimming.

3. Look at the wristband

If you're blessed with average-sized wrists, wristband fit likely isn't an issue for you. But if your wrists are on the slimmer or thicker side, you'll want to pay attention to the bands that come with fitness trackers.

Brands like Fitbit typically offer fitness trackers in different sizes ranging from small/medium to large. Others offer adjustable bands that provide a snug fit for wrists of all sizes.

Another thing to note about the wristbands is the strap style. Is it a traditional watch-style strap with a buckle? Or does it simply "button" together? The button style sometimes feels less secure, especially if we're at the gym tackling three-point rows and deadlifts.

Luckily, most fitness trackers come with band replacements. This lets you upgrade the material, color, and fit if you like. We're all about having choices.

4. Consider style

Are you OK with a fitness tracker that looks like a fitness tracker? Or do you prefer something that looks like a traditional watch?

Activity trackers come in all shapes and sizes, so you can go as simple or fancy, modern or traditional, as you like.

If you're looking for a smartwatch that could fool a coworker into thinking it's an actual watch, we're impressed by the design of the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active. If you're looking for something simple, the Fitbit Inspire and Fitbit Inspire HR are slim and uncomplicated.

5. Don't forget about the apps

Our favorite fitness tracker app is Fitbit, hands down. It's user-friendly and offers a full range of features—it even has female health tracking, which we've never seen on any other fitness tracker apps.

The Fitbit app also integrates well with many popular third-party apps for a more robust tracking system that meets your needs. Here are some of our favorites:

Top 5 health and wellness apps

  1. MyFitnessPal
  2. Calm
  3. C25K
  4. Headspace
  5. Strava

How do fitness trackers work?

Each fitness tracker works slightly differently, but some sensors and technology are fairly common across them all, like altimeters, accelerometers, and optical sensors. Here's some of the technology you may stumble upon if you break into your fitness watch.

  1. 3-axis accelerometer — This measures your movements in every direction and helps track those steps.
  2. Gyroscope — This gets a read on your orientation and rotation as you move. Now it's time for some split squats!
  3. Altimeter — Whether you're tracking your hike up the mountain or climbing stairs on your work break, this keeps track of your altitude.
  4. Optical sensors — These shine light into your capillaries to measure how quickly or slowly your blood is pumping to give you an idea of your current heart rate.
  5. Actigraphy — Ever wondered how activity trackers monitor your sleep? Actigraphy identifies your sleep patterns by monitoring your activity and rest cycles, then gives you an idea of how much you tossed and turned last night.
  6. GPS — The GPS receiver collects data from different satellites to calculate your position as a set of coordinates. This lets you track your terrain and distance after a trail run or day on the slopes.

Of course, not all fitness trackers are created equal when it comes to the accuracy of their sensors. For the most part, actigraphy isn't as accurate as measuring your sleep cycle in a lab, and optical sensors aren't as precise as bioimpedance sensors when it comes to monitoring your heart rate.

What are the best fitness watches for large wrists?

When you're shopping for a fitness tracker, it's important to keep size in mind. Luckily, most bands can be adjusted to fit your wrist without an issue. If you have a particularly large wrist circumference, you'll want to keep an eye out for options that'll work for you.

Out of our list of 10 top fitness trackers, here's what we recommend for large wrists:

4 best fitness watches for large wrists

  1. Fitbit Charge 3 — The size large band will fit comfortably on larger wrists that range from 7.1 to 8.7" in circumference.
  2. Fitbit Versa —While the Versa couldn't look more different than the Charge 3, it can also fit 7.1 to 8.7" wrists.
  3. Fitbit Ionic —If you're seeking a smartwarch combo that can fit a large wrist, from 6.7 to 8.1" to be exact, this one's all you.
  4. Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro —This isn't the biggest tracker on the market, but it can still accommodate wrists from 6.2 to 8".

What are the best fitness trackers for small wrists?

If you've got an especially dainty wrist, it can be even more challenging to find the right fit. The last thing you want is for your tracker to be sliding around as you go about your day.

So what should you do? We think these activity trackers fit like a glove—er, watch:

4 best fitness trackers for small wrists

  1. Garmin Vivosport —The small/medium band can fit wrists as small as 4.8" and as large as 7.4". Now, that's impressive.
  2. Fitbit Inspire — This tracker is lightweight and compact. Did we mention it can fit wrists that measure between 5.5 and 7.1".
  3. Fitbit Inspire HR — Not surprisingly, the souped-up version of the Inspire with heart-rate monitoring can also fit wrists from 5.5 to 7.1".
  4. Samsung Galaxy Watch Active — Our stylish pick will also fit smaller wrists. If you're between 5.9 and 7.1", this will fit nicely.

Now that you've found your fitness tracker match, you're one step closer to running laps around your goals. #YouCanDoIt

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