Remember the days when you’d just step on a simple analog scale and watch where the needle went? If only modern life were so simple. Buying a bathroom scale now entails sifting through a bewildering batch of options, from hi-tech gizmos that analyze fat, bone, water and muscle mass and sync with smartphone apps, to design-led appliances crafted from bamboo or twinkling with rhinestones. How on earth are you supposed to choose?
When testing the market’s myriad offerings, we put front and center the principle reason for buying a scale: accurate weight readings. We did this by stepping onto each scale several times at five-minute intervals to check consistency, and compared measurements with those recorded at our local health club.
We then took into consideration the price, ease of set-up, aesthetics, and true value of bells and whistles (do you really need your bathroom scales to provide a weather report?). Ultimately, the right scale for you depends on your goals: do you want to minutely track every aspect of your health day in, day out? Or do you just want to keep an eye on how much you weigh? This list includes scales to suit everyone from the most tech-savvy health nut to the everyday luddite.
1. EatSmart GetFit, $39.95, EatSmart
It’s not the most complex model, but EatSmart’s GetFit digital scale packs enhanced functionality (body composition analysis), large memory (stores data for up to eight users) and sleek design (slim profile, black glass platform) into one affordable, unfussy package. Four AAA batteries and two simple touchscreen commands are all that’s required for set-up, and it was one of only two scales tested to return exactly the same weight readings on every try (body composition stats were consistent within 0.2 of a percent).
Composition analysis relies on an electrical pulse sent through the lower half of the body to estimate percentages, based on how fast the pulse travels (an electrical pulse flows more quickly through water and muscle than bone or fat). EatSmart’s user guide was one of only two to readily admit this has limitations (the other was Weight Watchers/ConAir), and provides suggestions for increasing its accuracy (such as paying attention to hydration and room temperature).
Points against include that it only works on hard surfaces and the composition analysis renders it unsafe for pregnant women or people with pacemakers. But as one of the cheapest and most accurate scales we tested, the ‘Best Buy’ label is well-deserved.
2. QardioBase 2: $149.99, Qardio
If you’re set on a fancy ‘smart scale’, the QardioBase 2 is most impressive, if also most expensive. It works on carpet as well as hard floors, runs on a rechargeable battery with USB charging cable included, and looks particularly slick: the glass, circular design includes a hidden display that only appears when in use, and comes in ‘Arctic White’ or ‘Volcanic Black.’ QardioBase 2 also includes safe modes for pregnant users and those with pacemakers. Yes, you have to go through the rigmarole of syncing it with the Qardio app, but this is fairly straightforward and online troubleshooting was fast and helpful when tested. Once you’re synced, the app logs all your weigh-ins, shows you where your BMI is on a scale ranging from underweight to obese, and can integrate with Apple Health. The scale logs information for up to eight users, and returned weight readings consistent within a couple of ounces. Bits we could do without: the digital smiley face that winks every time you get on, and the whirring sound accompanying each weigh-in.
3. Conair TH100s: $39.99, Amazon
If even a digital scale is too techie for you, the TH100s is a good pick for analog fans. The large, 6’5” diameter dial allows users to read measurements easily (give or take a couple of pounds), and the one-paragraph instructions for use make a welcome change to smart scale syncing. Still, it can only be used on a hard surface and we get the feeling the painted silver finish could chip. Accuracy of readings depends how close an eye you keep on the needle - it can jump backwards or forwards at the smallest provocation (such as moving the scale very slightly or standing on a creaky floorboard). But when we started the needle precisely on ‘0’ (using a super-low-tech adjustment wheel at the base), the TH100s gave weight readings consistent with smart scales. That said, it costs about the same as our ‘Best Buy’ pick, a digital scale, so seems a tad overpriced.
4. Aria 2: $129.95, FitBit
One for fitness obsessives, the Aria 2 syncs to the FitBit app (as well as FitBit watches and wristbands), so your weight and BMI measurements will be saved alongside exercise tracking, food logging and goal-setting, and you can even compete with other FitBit users for motivation. It’ll also track trends with charts and graphs. FitBit’s MO is to make fitness an all day, everyday pursuit as opposed to a few hours in the gym - so if that sounds like hell, avoid. If, however, your body is a finely-tuned temple, and you want to track your every move and earn achievement badges, Aria 2 is for you. Design-wise, the scales wouldn’t look out of place on a spaceship - the porthole-like display is fresh and slightly futuristic, and you can choose between a black or white finish for the polished glass platform. It’ll save readings for up to eight users, but for such a high-spec brand, Aria 2 is a bit behind the times: it needs AAA batteries, requires a hard surface, and isn’t suitable for pregnant users or people with pacemakers. Also, our weight recorded slightly differently each time we used it, varying by a few pounds. The FitBit app is beautifully designed, though, and we liked the animated feet icons on the display that prompt you when to get on and off.
5. Weight Watchers Body Analysis Scale: $39.99, Weight Watchers
Perhaps not the prettiest, but, like the EatSmart, this Weight Watchers effort delivers useful functionality at a good price. Users need only tap the glass with their foot to wake up the scales, and use four simple buttons to customize settings: pregnant women and people with pacemakers should use the ‘weight only’ option, while others can track water, fat, muscle and bone percentages, together with BMI scores. The scales are capable of storing data for up to four people.
The booklet also includes a handy guide to what body composition analysis percentages actually mean, according to age and gender. Not so great is that the blue LCD display and chrome/stainless steel accents on glass look a bit dated. But weight readings were consistent within a couple of ounces.
6. Nokia Body+: $99.95, Nokia Health
Finnish communications and IT giant Nokia expanded into digital health products last summer, launching with an app, blood pressure monitor and this Body+ scale. The clean, glass-topped design is slightly bulkier than the Qardio and the Aria, but still pulls off stylish and contemporary; plus, it comes with attachable ‘carpet feet’, so it works on different surfaces. Syncing took a little longer than with other smart scales, but once set up, users can personalize what the scales measure (so you can get rid of the needless weather forecast and track everything from BMI to step count). We like that as well as logging measurements in the Nokia app (which offers wellness programs for weight, sleep, activity, pregnancy and healthier heart/blood pressure), the scales are compatible with other apps like MyFitnessPal and RunKeeper. There’s also a pregnancy mode and even a baby mode for weighing infants. However, no two measurements we took on this scale were the same, with both weight and composition percentages fluctuating slightly. On the other hand, this is the cheapest of our picks in the smart scale category. Operates on AAA batteries and stores measurements for up to eight users.
7. Renpho Smart Scale: $29.99, Amazon
This one's an absolute steal! It looks, works, and feels like something a lot more expensive, but it's not! The same price as the EatSmart basic digital scale, but it comes with all sorts of goodies. 13 essential body measurements, phone connectivity, and is a great pair to any of your apps. This is the type of purchase you feel smart about afterwards.
The Verdict: EatSmart GetFit
Though the smart scales offer all kinds of functionality, this premium-looking body composition scale is around a quarter of the price, and just as accurate (if not more so).
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