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8 best fitness trackers and watches: From FitBit, Apple, Garmin and more

Map runs, monitor heart rate, sleep quality and more with these impressive wearables

David RS Taylor
Wednesday 05 January 2022 16:10
<p>Choose from nifty features like water resistance, menstrual tracking and even in-built GPS   </p>

Choose from nifty features like water resistance, menstrual tracking and even in-built GPS

Whether you’re looking to step up your fitness regime, or just looking to take a few more steps in the day, investing in a fitness tracker is the easiest way of reaching your target.

There’s never been more choice, with fitness titans such as Fitbit and Garmin joined by a raft of young pretenders, including Xiaomi and Amazfit.

The fitness tracker you choose depends on what focus you have surrounding your health. Pure step and exercise tracking really should be the base expectation from your device, with many brands now providing either accurate GPS tracking through a connection to your phone, or even an inbuilt GPS, meaning you can leave your clunky handset at home.

The step between fitness tracker and smartwatch has never been smaller. In fact, there’s a strong roster of budget smartwatches that cost less than high-end fitness trackers and give you more lifestyle benefits. For the purposes of this list, we’ve tried to toe the line between sophisticated fitness tracking and more general wearable offerings. It’s a big fitness world out there.

How we tested

We put on our slowly-disintegrating running shoes and pounded the pavement to put these wearables through their paces. We also left them on when we came home to test a variety of features, such as heart rate tracking and sleep monitoring. We’ve never felt healthier.

Read more:

The best fitness trackers for 2022 are:

  • Best overall – Fitbit charge 4: £99.99, Argos.co.uk
  • Best analogue tracker hybrid – Withings ScanWatch: £239, Currys.co.uk
  • Best for iPhone – Apple Watch series 6: From £279, Johnlewis.com
  • Best rugged tracker – Garmin instinct solar: £249, Johnlewis.com
  • Best style – Fitbit luxe: £104, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best budget FitBit alternative – Xiaomi Mi band 6: £32.99, Mymemory.co.uk
  • Best for retro looks – Amazfit neo: £29, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best budget Fitbit tracker – Fitbit inspire 2: £89.99, Johnlewis.com

Fitbit charge 4

Best: Overall

  • Rating: 8.5/10
  • Battery life: Up to 7 days, 5 hours with continuous GPS use
  • Standout features: ECG sensor, SpO2, sleep and menstrual health trackers, stress management tools, built-in GPS, smartphone notifications

Fitbit is still the undisputed king of the tracker realm, and the charge 4 is the best of Fitbit’s dedicated fitness trackers. It’s really much more than a tracker, offering workout modes, an ECG sensor and sleep tracking, alongside features such as smartphone notifications, Spotify and contactless payments – all in a slimline body. The charge 4 also includes an inbuilt GPS, letting you step out of the door without your phone and syncing your workout with the class-leading Fitbit app when you get back. It’s lightweight, durable and sophisticated, a fitness-focused wearable that still packs impressive lifestyle tech into its streamlined design.

The charge 5 (£169.99, Fitbit.com) has just been released, promising genuine improvement on an already-impressive product. Our review of the charge 5 will be coming soon.

Withings ScanWatch

Best: Analogue tracker hybrid

  • Rating: 8.5/10
  • Battery life: Up to 30 days normal usage, extra 20 days in power reserve mode
  • Standout features: ECG sensor, SpO2 and sleep trackers, automatic exercise and activity detection, 50m water resistant

Sometimes, the old ways are the best. Luckily, Parisian brand Withings has managed to combine the best of both worlds in the ScanWatch, a thoroughly-modern health tracker with a pleasingly-traditional aesthetic. To look at it, you wouldn’t expect there to be smarts underneath the face: during testing, multiple people noted their surprise that this was a smartwatch, thanks to the small smart screen switching off when not in use.

The ScanWatch does much of what the best health trackers can achieve, with an impressive partner app that gives users clear information, ranging from oxygen saturation to heart rate. Mental health is a central focus, too, with useful tips and tricks for reducing stress, and a stress tracker for you to keep on top of.

It automatically checks your heart rate throughout the day to make sure you’re in tip top condition, notifying you if it detects a low, high or irregular heart rhythm. The automatic activity detection is a work in progress, with a few instances of either not picking up activity, or thinking that we’re asleep when we’re actually merely engrossed in the fourth episode of a Netflix binge. However, this is sure to improve with more users entering data into the app, and the manual workout modes work perfectly. This is the watch that bridges the gap between the beauty of traditional timepieces and the usability of a smartwatch.

Apple Watch series 6: From 379

Best: For iPhone

  • Rating: 8.5/10
  • Battery life: Up to 18 hours
  • Standout features: ECG, professional-level SpO2 monitor, sophisticated sleep tracking, always-on display

Granted, this is cheating a little. Apple’s watches are much more than fitness trackers, with a price tag that indicates as such. However, for people fully signed up to the all-powerful Apple ecosystem, the series 6 Apple Watch is by far your best bet for tracking.

It’s one of the best smartwatches on the market, so its tracking capabilities are understandably second-to-none. It has an astounding array of fitness metrics, its cellular tech means you can leave your phone at home, and its blood oxygen monitor has recently been compared to commercial, dedicated SpO2 monitors in a study by the University of Sao Paulo – although we should add that Apple stresses it’s not a medical device.

The Apple watch 6 is far and away the most feature-laden wearable on this list, with not much room for improvement. Everything is done well, meaning there’s no particular USP, and previous generations do a good enough job (in fact, the series 7 has just been announced). But, if you’re an Apple user new to wearables and prepared to part with plenty of cash, then the Apple watch series 6 is the best choice for tracking your health.

Garmin instinct solar

Best: Rugged tracker

  • Rating: 8/10
  • Battery life: Up to 54 days in battery saver mode, practically unlimited with solar charging
  • Standout features: ECG sensor, SpO2, body battery energy monitor, menstrual health tracker, military-grade water, thermal and shock resistance

The instinct solar is the SAS of wearable tech. Garmin has a range of extra-rugged smartwatches that would feel right at home in all manner of active situations, and the instinct solar is the sturdiest of them all. Not only does it give you a wide range of features for fitness and everyday life, but its solar battery gives you plenty more juice – unlimited, in fact, when the solar feature is activated. It’s built to US military standards for thermal, shock and water resistance, and Garmin’s body battery energy monitor gauges when you’re ready to get going and when you need to rest.

The instinct solar also supports multiple global navigation satellite systems (GPS, GLONASS and Galileo), to track you more accurately than the rest of the wearables market. The screen is clean and simple, and the solar’s rugged approach pulls you towards your next adventure. It feels indestructible. Bear Grylls probably wears one.

Fitbit luxe

Best: Style

  • Rating: 8/10
  • Battery life: Up to 5 days
  • Standout features: ECG sensor, SpO2, sleep and menstrual health trackers, stress management tools, smartphone notifications

The luxe might look and sound like something you’d see at London Fashion Week and never hear of again, but it’s a seriously impressive fitness tracker. It handles the essentials and more with ease, monitoring your heart rate 24/7, offering 20 exercise modes, tracking menstrual health and managing stress.

It’s the most stylish tracker Fitbit has ever produced, a wearable that would genuinely look equally at home at formal events or the gym, and has the tech to make it an attractive proposition as your next tracker. It’s incredibly slim, so it might get lost on larger wrists, but the stainless steel housing feels sturdy and durable. It looks great and will do you good.

Xiaomi Mi band 6

Best: Budget Fitbit alternative

  • Rating: 8/10
  • Battery life: Up to 19 days
  • Standout features: ECG sensor, menstrual health tracker, stress and sleep monitoring, 30 exercise modes

Xiaomi has been making waves in wearables for a while now, with the original Mi watch earning admirers at IndyBest and beyond for its affordable quality. The Mi band 6 takes this idea and runs with it as an admirably cheap and solid performer in a saturated market.

It offers a huge range of features, pretty much on a par with much more expensive rivals, including an AMOLED display, stress, sleep and menstrual health monitoring, and 30 fitness modes. Add to that 50 metre water resistance and a potential 19-day battery life, and you have a tracker that handsomely outperforms its price.

It’s not perfect with its tracking, especially with sleep monitoring, but if you’re on a tight budget, or are looking to get into the tracker world without spending too much up-front, the Mi Band 6 is a sound option.

Read the full Xiaomi Mi band 6 review here

Amazfit neo

Best: For retro looks

  • Rating: 7.5/10
  • Battery life: Up to 28 days (37 days in power-saving mode)
  • Standout features: 24-hour heart monitor, sleep tracking, 50m water resistance

Fashion is a cycle. Just look at the bucket hat: who would have thought that would become a thing again? It’s the same with watches and wearables, a trend that Amazfit has picked up on with the retro-Casio stylings of the brand’s neo.

While it might look like it’s just stepped out of a track meet in 1995, the neo has plenty of up-to-date tech hiding behind its rectangular face. It offers a 24-hour heart rate monitor, heart rhythm alerts, phone call and message notifications, and sleep tracking. It can even monitor your naps, which is something we especially enjoyed testing out.

The four-week battery life (37 days in power-saving mode) is a great bonus, and as icing on the cake, the neo is also water resistant. It’s a charming and incredibly cheap watch that offers all the basic fitness tracking features many of us need. We love it.

Fitbit inspire 2

Best: Budget Fitbit tracker

  • Rating: 7.5/10
  • Battery life: Up to 10 days
  • Standout features: ECG sensor, menstrual health tracker, stress management tools, 20 exercise modes

Inspire 2 is the purest fitness tracker on this list. It’s the cheapest model from Fitbit’s latest generation, yet provides pretty much every fitness tracking feature Fitbit has developed, including stress management.

What sets this apart from other brand’s trackers is the Fitbit app, which elevates the inspire’s great array of options to another level. Take the in-app workout intensity map, for instance: when synced to your tracker, it monitors your heart rate zones throughout each workout to show when you’re taking it too easy or going a little too hard. This is an impressive tracker at good value for money.

The verdict: Fitness trackers

If you’re looking for a pure fitness tracker that gives you a wide range of health features, it’s hard to look past Fitbit and its roster of top-level trackers. The charge 4 is the best of its generation, with the charge 5 (£149.99, Fitbit.com) rumoured to take things to an even higher level of sophistication.

For traditionalists, the Withings ScanWatch is the best option out there: it’s a beautiful watch that offers users everything you need from a tracker, and is set to get more accurate and high-tech with age.

Voucher codes

For the latest discounts on fitness trackers and other tech offers, try the links below:

We put the Apple series 6 and Apple SE head to head – read our review to find out which smartwatch to buy

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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