Many people strap on a fitness tracker or sportswatch to monitor how active they are, and in the hope it will help motivate them if they turn out to be more sloth-like than they'd expected. But which one is going to be right for you? Here New Atlas looks at some of the best activity and fitness trackers available in 2016.
There's a wide range of fitness trackers available at the moment, ranging from simple devices which count your steps, to those which also measure your heart rate, body fat, and offer sport-specific insights. Here we're going to look at the more general activity and fitness tracking devices rather than high-end offerings better suited to serious athletes.
Fitbit Flex 2
The name Fitbit is synonymous with activity trackers, in the same way GoPro is with action cameras, so it's not surprising that the brand will crop up a couple of times in this article. The first is the Fitbit Flex 2, a slim, entry-level tracker which offers activity, sports, and sleep tracking, along with waterproof credentials and a five day battery life.
While there's no screen on the Flex 2, there is a LED display which shows your progress towards a daily activity target in lights. You also get to use the Fitbit app, which is one of the best in the industry, and makes using the device easy. While you don't get heart rate or GPS tracking, the US$100 Flex 2 can be worn in a standard wristband or more jewelry-like bangles and pendants.
While most activity and fitness trackers focus on, well, tracking activity and fitness, the TomTom Touch adds something else into the mix by also measuring your body fat and muscle mass, so you can see if all that exercise is paying off. A touchscreen makes it easy to swipe through your stats, or receive smartphone call and text notifications on your wrist.
Activity tracking covers all the usual things like steps, active time, calories burned and distance walked, as well as including a sports mode. Heart rate monitoring can also give you a better understanding of your fitness levels. The splashproof TomTom Touch costs $120 and users can mix up the look a bit with customizable straps.
Samsung Gear Fit 2
The Samsung Gear Fit 2 is part fitness tracker, part smartwatch, and with a curved 1.5 inch AMOLED screen it certainly looks smarter than most activity trackers. The touchscreen is good for monitoring tracking and reviewing exercise data, as well as displaying smartphone notifications, which can also be replied to using pre-written messages. Fitness tracking is solid and reliable, though we did think that the companion app has room for improvement.
The Gear Fit 2 also packs a lot of tech into a small and water resistant package. Heart rate monitoring gives a better understanding of your fitness, while GPS tracking means you can map that run or bike ride and get more accurate distance data. There's even 4 GB of built-in music storage so you can take your tunes with you, while leaving your phone at home. In our tests, battery life on the $180 device was limited to around three or four days.
Fitbit Charge 2
When we tested the Fitbit Charge HR last year, we were left impressed. The Fitbit Charge 2 is a follow-up which offers a number of upgrades including a bigger and better OLED screen. This allows custom watch faces and call, text and calendar notifications to be displayed on the wrist, though there's always the Fitbit Blaze if you want a more smartwatch experience.
As you would expect from a mid-range Fitbit, the Charge 2 offers great activity and sport tracking and compatibility with the Fitbit app. It has the benefit of heart rate monitoring which enables a Cardio Fitness Level feature to give you a better understanding of your fitness levels. There's also the option of on-screen guided breathing sessions to help you relax. The Fitbit Charge 2 costs $150 and comes in a number of color options.
Garmin Vivoactive HR
The Garmin Vivoactive HR offers the most comprehensive fitness tracking of the devices in this roundup, and a good companion app too. In addition to activity and an array of sport-specific modes, it packs heart rate monitoring and GPS tracking which can combine to give a much more meaningful insight into your exercise. The one drawback when using these features is that the battery life drops from eight days to as little as 13 hours, as we discovered during our tests.
Waterproof credentials mean you can use the Vivoactive HR while swimming (so it's certainly going to be okay in the shower) and the large touchscreen enables smart(ish) watch features. These include receiving smart notifications, running various widgets (to do things like remember where you parked your car), and controlling music playback on your phone. While the $220 Vivoactive HR may be overkill for those just wanting a basic activity tracker, if you are getting serious about fitness it could be the wearable for you.
Mi Band 2
Just like the YI 4K made it into our roundup of action cameras thanks to its price, the Mi Band 2 does the same here. Given it has a price tag of around just $35, the Mi Band 2 offers a truly impressive feature list including a heart rate monitor and an OLED display which lets you view your activity data and use the device as a watch.
In addition to general activity, steps and heart rate monitoring, the Mi Band 2 features sleep tracking and offers an idle alert to tell you when to get up off your butt. It is also splash resistant and will last an impressive 20 days between battery recharges. While the companion app isn't anywhere near as slick as the Fitbit one, it is still functional enough.
Product page: Mi Band 2
While we feel that we can't quite recommend the Moov Now as a straightforward fitness tracker (it annoyingly insists on measuring activity in active minutes rather than the usual metrics of steps or distance) it still deserves an honorable mention here. This is because it doubles as a wearable personal sports coach, and left us impressed (and more than a touch exhausted) when we tested it earlier this year.
After strapping a Moov Now onto your wrist or ankle, the companion app can then give you audio instructions through a number of workouts which change based on your movements.
In our tests we found the Moov Now to be a great motivator during a run or bike ride, where it can tell you to land softer or pedal faster. So, if you think motivation to push that bit harder during a workout would be more beneficial to you than telling you what you've done, it might still be one to consider. The Mooov Now costs $60.
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