We highly recommend the Fitbit Versa for a wide variety of styles and uses, the Garmin Vivosmart 4 for outdoor and hardcore athletes, and the Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro for high-tech, stylish fitness fans.

Here are the best fitness trackers of 2019:

  1. 1. Fitbit Versa — Best overall
  2. 2. Fitbit Charge 3 — Best budget smartwatch
  3. 3. Garmin Vivosmart 4 — Best slim, sporty design
  4. 4. Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro — Best screen and UI
  5. 5. Garmin Vivosport — Best for outdoor adventures
  6. 6. Fitbit Alta HR — Best budget heart rate monitor
  7. 7. Fitbit Ionic — Best fitness tracker/smartwatch combo
  8. 8. Samsung Galaxy Watch — Best for style
  9. 9. Garmin Forerunner 235 — Best GPS running watch
  10. 10. Fitbit Flex 2 — Best for casual athletes

Best Overall

Fitbit Versa

A well-rounded smartwatch

The first thing we noticed about the Versa is that it looks like an Apple Watch. But this fitness tracker lacks the Apple Watch's steep price tag and still comes with plenty of features like a color screen, heart rate monitor, and a music player. We're stoked.

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.

Swapping out the band aside, 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.

Fitbit third-party apps: MyFitnessPal, Strava, Peloton, Amazon Alexa, WeightWatchers, MapMyRun, and more

Best Budget Tracker

Fitbit Charge 3

An all-around great wearable on a budget

The Fitbit Charge 3 gives the Charge line a touchscreen and improved ergonomics without sacrificing its core competency of being an outstanding fitness tracker. It tracks 15 types of workouts, can dive 50 meters into the water, gets seven days of battery life, and does notifications from your iPhone or Android device. It's a truly versatile product for a very reasonable price.

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.

Fitbit third-party apps: MyFitnessPal, Strava, Peloton, Amazon Alexa, WeightWatchers, MapMyRun, and more

Best Slim Design

Garmin Vivosmart 4

Slim and sporty while still getting the job done.

Pairing the Vivosmart took a few attempts—if you run into this issue, try taking your tracker off the charger and then plugging it back in to reboot it. Once we got it up and running, the Vivosmart quickly grew on us. Along with screen taps and swipes, it uses arm gestures to turn on. This is a nice feature if you can't manage to tap the screen while running on the treadmill.

Garmin Vivosmart 4 features

  • Heart rate monitor
  • Altimeter
  • 7-day battery life
  • Sleep tracking
  • Stress monitoring
  • Wearable while swimming
  • Grayscale screen
  • Compatibility with Android, iOS, and Windows

One thing we'd change about the Vivosmart is the screen size. It's just a tad too small, and we found it difficult to get our swipes and taps in just the right spot. But if you prefer a band that doesn't get in the way, the Vivosmart's slim design fits the bill.

The feature that caught our interest most was Garmin's Body Battery tracker. It measures your energy via indicators like heart rate variability, stress, and sleep quality. The idea is to identify when your body is at high energy levels and ready for a workout versus when you need rest and relaxation.

Along with the Body Battery, the Garmin Connect app lets you track a variety of activities, compete in virtual races by connecting to Strava, and track calories by pairing your account with MyFitnessPal.

Despite not having built-in GPS like pricier Garmin fitness trackers, the Vivosmart still offers robust fitness tracking for your average athlete.

Garmin Connect third-party apps: MyFitnessPal, Strava, Endomondo, MapMyRun, Nike+, and more

Best Screen

Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro

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

Setting up the Gear Fit2 Pro is simple. If you prefer, you don't even need your phone to start tracking or check results. If you do decide to pair it with your phone, be prepared to download two separate apps: Samsung Health and Samsung Gear Fit. The Health app lets you track your exercise, while the Gear Fit app sets up your tracker and monitors battery life, storage capacity, and RAM.

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.

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.

Samsung Health third-party apps: Strava (Note: We couldn't find a place to connect Samsung Health to Strava, but search results say it's possible.)

Best for Adventures

Garmin Vivosport

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

The Vivosport isn't as fancy as the Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro, but you'll get the same number of features—if not more—for the same price. And where the Gear Fit2 Pro is large and sleek, the Vivosport is small and rugged. This is the fitness tracker we'd take on a hike through Utah's Bryce Canyon.

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.

Garmin Connect third-party apps: MyFitnessPal, Strava, Endomondo, MapMyRun, Nike+, and more

Budget Heart-rate Monitor

Fitbit Alta HR

An easy, budget-friendly way to watch your heart-rate.

With detailed on-screen statistics and a heart-rate monitor, the Alta HR is one step up from the Fitbit Flex. It still doesn't have built-in GPS, though—you'll need to upgrade to the Fitbit Ionic for that.

Fitbit Alta HR features

  • Heart rate monitor
  • 5-day battery life
  • Sleep tracking
  • Wearable in the shower
  • Grayscale screen
  • Replaceable band
  • Compatibility with Android, iOS, and Windows

We did notice we had to jiggle the strap a little to get a heart rate reading. This is a minor nitpick, though, and we still think the Alta HR is a pretty good deal that comes with Fitbit's sleep tracking technology and a good price.

As a mid-range Fitbit, the Alta HR gives you enough details to maximize your workouts. If you like to hop on the treadmill or elliptical and keep an eye on your heart rate while you run, it'll do the trick. That said, it's probably not for hardcore athletes or anyone with serious goals at the gym.

Fitbit third-party apps: MyFitnessPal, Strava, Peloton, Amazon Alexa, WeightWatchers, MapMyRun, and more

Best Smartwatch Combo

Fitbit Ionic

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

We were excited to see the Ionic comes in colors other than black and gray—the 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, and it tended to slide around on smaller wrists. For anyone who likes a bigger screen, this one's all you.

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

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.

Fitbit third-party apps: MyFitnessPal, Strava, Peloton, Amazon Alexa, WeightWatchers, MapMyRun, and more

Best for Style

Samsung Galaxy Watch

Don't sacrifice style when wearing your fitness tracker.

Sometimes we want a fitness tracker that doesn't look like a fitness tracker. The Samsung Galaxy Watch is one you can sneak into corporate meetings without making anyone the wiser. The main screen is a traditional watch face, and you'll use the bezel to switch between apps or check notifications.

Samsung Galaxy Watch features

  • Heart rate monitor
  • Altimeter
  • 3- to 4-day battery life
  • GPS monitor
  • Step and calorie counter
  • Water resistance to 50 meters
  • Replaceable band
  • Compatibility with Android and iOS

For an elegant-looking wearable, the Galaxy Watch comes stuffed with the fitness features you need to get your sweat on, like GPS and a heart rate monitor. All that said, though, we'd be reluctant to do any hardcore lifting or outdoor adventuring with it for fear of scratching the watch face. Besides, it's just too pretty for the rugged life.

Unlike the Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro, the Galaxy Watch pairs up with the Samsung Galaxy Watch app, which offers a more robust third-party app library. We much prefer this approach because it lets you track the way you want to track and with the apps you prefer.

Samsung Galaxy Watch third-party apps: UA Record, Strava, Speedo On, MapMyRun, and more

Best GPS

Garmin Forerunner 235

The GPS in the Forerunner 235 is better than the rest.

The Forerunner 235 is ideal for its namesake: runners. It features only four types of activities: running, running indoors, biking, and the catch-all of "other." Each activity type lets you monitor time, distance, and heart rate zones—or you can swap to the heart rate screen and keep tabs on how long you've been in the aerobic zone with a performance graph.

Garmin Forerunner 235 features

  • Heart rate monitor
  • Up to 9-day battery life
  • GPS monitor
  • Music player
  • Water resistance to 50 meters
  • Color screen
  • Compatibility with Android, iOS, and Windows

You'll also get to count your steps if it's a rest day. Even on downtime, it's great to keep your body moving, and it's nice to have this reminder in the same place you track your runs.

The Garmin Connect app also lets you integrate with several runner-friendly third-party apps. You can stay connected with your Strava account, log your workouts in MyFitnessPal, or keep tabs on your running routes in MapMyRun.

Garmin Connect third-party apps: MyFitnessPal, Strava, Endomondo, MapMyRun, Nike+, and more

Best for Casual

Fitbit Flex 2

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

You can't get a better value than the Flex 2—any cheaper and you'll lose out on quality. We started with a Flex a few years back, and we have to say the simplistic approach is excellent for casual activities like walking.

Fitbit Flex 2 features

  • 5-day battery life
  • Sleep tracker
  • Water resistance to 50 meters
  • No screen
  • Replaceable band
  • Compatibility with Android, iOS, and Windows

The low price doesn't mean you miss out on some of Fitbit's more popular features. You'll still be able to track your sleep, steps, and active minutes. We used our Flex 2 to invite our friends to step challenges and keep an eye on how active we've been through the day. (Only two dots lit up? Time to take a walk.)

Though it may be too simple for gym rats and professional athletes, the Flex 2 is great for anyone who needs a reminder to get up and get moving—or wants to try a fitness tracker without spending a hundred bucks or more.

Fitbit third-party apps: MyFitnessPal, Strava, Peloton, Amazon Alexa, WeightWatchers, MapMyRun, and more

Recap — There's a fitness tracker out there for everyone

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 variety of styles and uses, Garmin trackers for outdoor and hardcore athletes, and Samsung for high-tech, stylish fitness watches.

How to pick the best fitness tracker

If you're looking for the best fitness tracker, 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. If you're looking for something simple, the Fitbit Flex 2 and Fitbit Alta 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 women?

The best fitness watches for women are ones with bands that can be easily adjusted to smaller wrists. We've had the best luck with Fitbit, since most, if not all, of its workout watches, have replaceable bands.

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

4 best fitness watches for women

  1. Fitbit Alta HR — A step up from the Flex 2, the Alta HR comes with a heart rate monitor, low price, and slim profile.
  2. Fitbit Charge 3 —If you're looking for more of a smartwatch-style, the Charge 3 strikes the perfect balance at the perfect size.
  3. Garmin Vivosport —We love the color screen and slim-yet-rugged fit of the Vivosport, both of which make it ideal for outdoor activities.
  4. Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro —Unlike the Samsung Galaxy Watch, which looked monstrous on our wrist, the Gear Fit2 Pro is compact and features our favorite screen and UI.

What are the best fitness trackers for men?

If you're looking for the best fitness trackers for men, you may run into the opposite problem as your lady friends. Small screens and small wristbands just won't cut it.

So what's a guy to do? We think these activity trackers fit like a glove—er, watch:

4 best fitness trackers for men

  1. Fitbit Ionic —The Ionic's large profile is perfect for larger wrists, and it offers a number of fitness and smartwatch features too.
  2. Fitbit Versa —Smartwatch or fitness tracker? Get both with the Versa, which comes with replaceable bands for just the right fit.
  3. Garmin Forerunner 235 — Hit the pavement with the Forerunner 235. The large screen and roomy band give it a snug fit without compromising on utility.
  4. Samsung Galaxy Watch — Don't let its traditional watch face fool you—the Galaxy Watch comes packed with fitness and smartwatch features.

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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