Today we present to you the best fitness bands, trackers, watches, and even the best chest strapless heart rate monitors of 2017. There are already many great wearables out there so we would like to create some order in this jungle of wearables. Hopefully we will be of help with the selection.
This article includes our favorites according to our taste of the latest equipment from various categories of sports electronics. We will use sport categories such as running, cycling, swimming, multi-sport or even equipment categories such as fitness band and smartwatch, among other things.
Over the course of the year, the following list will be extended and/or existing entries replaced by new ones, if a new tracker can push an existing one off the throne, in our opinion.
Best Fitness Tracker
With the fitness bands, it is difficult to pick favorites, because the market now offers a large number of devices, which are similarly accurate and in which some functions differ. Here are some of our top favorites:
Best All-Rounder Fitness Band: Fitbit Charge 2 (Our Charge 2 Review)
The successor to the popular Charge HR has been significantly improved in many places and also equipped with additional features. Among the highlights are integrated heart rate measurement, cardio fitness level functions, and various sports profiles. There are also suitable options for runners: If necessary, the smartphone’s GPS can be used and the distance, pace and average pace can be recorded. Furthermore, the Charge 2 provides movement reminders, smartphone notifications and just reminders in general.
Best Fitness Band for Runners: Garmin Vivosmart HR + (Our Vivosmart HR + Review)
The waterproof Vivosmart HR + has an integrated heart rate sensor, a GPS receiver, Move IQ for automatic activity detection as well as extended running functions. A Virtual Pacer and Run/Walk timer round off the extended run functions. A floor counter is also included. The Vivosmart HR + also provides a 24×7 activity tracker (pulse, sleep, steps, calories, distance, floors and day targets) and can forward the data of the heart rate sensor to compatible devices, for example, to the bike computer via ANT +. It supports smartphone notifications such as incoming calls, various messages and calendar entries of the smartphone. The software (web platform and app) is very good overall.
Best Fitness Band Value for Money: Garmin Vivosmart HR (Our Vivosmart HR review)
Like the Vivosmart HR +, but without GPS, without extended running functions, and without Move IQ (But since version 3.40 it has Move IQ.), much cheaper though.
Good All-Rounder: Polar A360 (Our A360 review)
The A360 has an integrated heart rate monitor and supports many sports profiles, fully automatic sleep analysis, steps, calories, distance and day goals in the training mode. It also supports smartphone notifications such as incoming calls, various messages, and calendar entries on the smartphone. One highlight is the high-resolution color display with support for typing and swiping gestures.
Fitness-Armband with Very Good Battery Life: Garmin Vivofit 2
As an alternative, the Vivofit 2, which no longer has the weak points of its predecessor, also convinces many. In addition to the 24×7 activity detection (steps, calories, distance, day targets, fully automatic sleep tracking), it also supports HR sensors, surpassed with a running time of more than one year and is waterproof (5 ATM).
Best Fitness Tracker: Running
Best All-Rounder: Garmin Forerunner 235
This is currently probably the best running tracker with GPS and an integrated heart rate monitor in the trade, which convinces us that it is a complete package (price/performance ratio). Furthermore, it is waterproof, supports smartphone notifications, current weather data, and can be coupled optionally with ANT + running and bike sensors (cycle mode available). The good Garmin app and the web portal offer a lot of evaluation possibilities. The cheaper version without an HR sensor is the Forerunner 230.
For Professionals: Garmin Forerunner 630
There is no other GPS-running watch out there which provides so much fitness data for runners and at the same time supports smart functions like the FR630. In addition to standard data such as time, laps, speed and distance, it determines efficiency factors such as step frequency, ground contact time, vertical movement, step length, vertical ratio, balance ground contact time as well as lactate threshold, performance status, stress score and current fitness level (VO2max). The FR630 also has a recovery guide (optimal regeneration time), provides a best time prognosis, and can use audio instructions (in conjunction with Garmin Connect) to guide the athlete through their training. Furthermore, various alarms (acoustic and vibration), an activity tracker and smartphone notifications are available.The music player of the smartphone can also be controlled by the FR630.
Flexible Watch: Garmin Fenix 3
Garmin’s high-tech product is not the most affordable option, but one that is suitable for professionals, it is versatile, and accurate in terms of speed, GPS, and more. It also makes a very good figure while running, but also supports numerous other (outdoor) sports. A good app and the good web portal complete the GPS sports watch.
Watch with local music memory: TomTom Spark (Cardio)
The only GPS fitness watch with local memory for your playlists in the field. Via Bluetooth Smart you can connect your own TomTom in-ears wirelessly with the Spark Cardio, so you can run without cable chaos. Other features included in the Spark: optical heart rate monitor, 24×7 activity tracker, heart rate and bike sensors, good battery life, GPS + GLONASS and much more. The Spark is also available without HR sensor and even cheaper without the local music storage.
Cheap Running Watch: Polar M400 (Our M400 Review)
It is a little cheaper and is specifically designed for running. The Polar App and the web portal are also good and easy to use.
Best Fitness Tracker: Cycling
Best compatibility with fitness and bike sensors as well as fitness platforms: Wahoo ELEMNT (Our ELEMNT Review)
Highly compatible cycling computer, which is compatible with many fitness sensors (ANT + as well as Bluetooth 4.0) as well as fitness platforms such as Strava or Garmin Connect and is also very easy to use and setup. Much of this is configured and automated by hand so the cyclist does not have to deal with fiddly adjustments. A further strength is its always very easy to read display. We would have liked a bit more navigation features, but for most, the available possibilities for orientation are sufficient.
Best All-Rounder GPS Rad Computer: Garmin Edge 520
Very compact and versatile GPS bike and training computer with support for Strava live segments. It also stores the performance-related anaerobic threshold and provides a VO2max calculation and the specification of the recovery time for cycling when used with a power meter and a heart rate sensor. A wide range of online (live) options complete the entire package.
Cheap All-Rounder: Polar M450
The M450 has built-in GPS, a barometer, and is characterized by its water-resistant housing.
GPS Rad Computer: Polar V650: (Our V650 review)
Still new in the market, but promising and similarly equipped as the Garmin Edge 1000. However, it only has a Bluetooth Smart and no ANT + interface.
Velocity Level/Cadence Sensor: Wahoo Blue SCv2
With its ANT + and Bluetooth Smart interfaces, the Blue SCv2 is compatible with many sports and fitness watches and bike computers. It is easy to mount, can be quickly moved to another bike and can also be easily used with the included or a compatible favorite smartphone app.
Best Fitness Tracker: Swimming
Flexible Swim Watch, also suitable for professionals: Garmin Fenix 3
The Garmin Swim is also a good watch, but the Fenix 3 offers much simpler ways (Smartphone/WLAN) to synchronize the float units.
Versatile Swim Watch: Garmin Vivoactive HR (Our Vivoactive HR Review)
A lot of (configurable) swimming options / data fields, integrated heart rate sensor, Move IQ for automatic activity detection, floor counter, supports many other sport arts, smart functions and configurable smartphone notifications like calls, email, SMS, calendar, Twitter, Facebook, sports news and much more. In addition, the Vivoactive HR has an activity tracker, a color touch display, a good battery life, supports many sports sensors, and is expandable and customizable with sports apps/widgets.
Cheap Swim Watch: Garmin Vivoactive
Like the newer Vivoactive HR, but cheaper and with better battery. Compared to the Vivoactive HR and Fenix 3, it has a few features, but it also supports many (configurable) smartphone notifications such as calls, email, SMS, calendar, Twitter, Facebook, sports news and much more. In addition, the Vivoactive has an activity tracker, a color touch display, a long battery life (about 3 weeks), supports many sports and sports sensors and is expandable and customizable with sports apps/widgets.
Swim watch (Open water:) Suunto Ambit 3
The models Ambit 3 Peak and Sport are recommended. Free-float swimmers will love the Ambit 3 Peak/Sport, because hardly any other GPS multi-sports watch does this job so well. With the Ambit 3 Peak and the sport, the main difference lies in the barometric altimeter.
Best Triathlon/Multi-sport Watches
Flexible Multi/Triathlon sports watch: Garmin Fenix 3 and Garmin Forerunner 735XT
There is no passing by one of these Garmin’s high-tech products, because they offer a multi-sport mode, which enables triathletes to record their activities seamlessly. These fitness watches are versatile, and very accurate with the measured values (like GPS, speeds etc.) A good app and the good web portal round off the GPS-Multi-sport. Both watches are suitable for everyday use, with the 735XT being a light weight.
Cheaper Triathlon watch: Suunto Ambit 3
Some Suunto models also support a seamless multi-sport mode. The Ambit3 Run should be avoided, because it does not support swimming or the coupling of bike sensors. The models Ambit3 Peak and Sport are recommended.
Free-float swimmers will love the Ambit3 Peak/Sport, because hardly any other GPS multi-sports watch does this job so well. The main difference between the Ambit3 Peak and the Sport lies in the barometric altimeter.
Cheap Multisport Watch: Polar V800
Polar’s top product for versatile athletes. GPS, many sport arts, activity tracker, integration of many sports sensors possible. It has an overall good software environment. Since it has been on the market longer, it is cheaper.
Best All-Rounder Multi-sport: Garmin Vivoactive HR (Our Vivoactive HR Review)
It has a built-in HR Sensor, Move IQ for automatic activity detection, floor counter, supports many sports, smart features and configurable smartphone notifications such as calls, emails, calendars, Twitter, Facebook, sports news and much more. In addition, the Vivoactive HR has an activity tracker, a color touch display, a good battery life, supports many sports sensors, and is expandable and customizable with sports apps/widgets.
Good Value (price-performance ratio) All-Rounder Multi-Sport: Garmin Vivoactive It can be used as a GPS receiver, an activity tracker with wake-up function, supports many sports (including golf) and smartphone notifications, as well as sports sensors, sports apps, widgets.
Cheap Multi-Sport Watch for Hobby Athletes/Beginners: Fitbit Surge
This is less suitable for professional athletes, but rather for the “normal” everyday sportsman. GPS, integrated optical pulse meter, activity tracker, good software environment and comparatively favorable.
Best Optical HR Sensor
Best All-Rounder HR strap: Mio Fuse
A very reliable and accurate heart rate sensor that makes the chest strap superfluous. Since the Fuse supports ANT + as well as Bluetooth Smart, it is highly compatible with apps, sports watches or cycling computers. In addition to the HR sensor, the fuse can also be used as a 24×7 activity tracker (steps, calories, distances).
Simple Heart Rate Sensor Watch: Mio Alpha 2
Similar to the Mio Fuse, but has a classic display. However, ANT + does not support them.
Heart Rate/Optical Pulse Meter: Scosche Rhythm +.
Very flexible pulse strap with the proven technology of the manufacturer. Since the band is flexible, it does not have to be worn on the wrist like most other pulse bands with integrated optical heart rate sensor. It is also highly compatible with other devices and apps. It has ANT + as well as a Bluetooth smart interface.
Best Smartwatch for Athletes
The market offers a good selection. The following Fitness Smartwatches are currently the best for us:
Best Fitness Smartwatch: Polar M600 (Our Polar M600 Review)
Building on one of the smartest platforms, the Polar M600 is likely to be the fitness watch with the best combination of fitness and smartwatch features. It builds on Android Wear and provides the well-known polar training functions as an app for Android Wear. Other highlights include the Accurate 6-Way LED Pulse Sensor, GPS, WLAN, Smart Coaching functions (such as training), a local 4 GB memory for music, and music playback via cordless Bluetooth headphones that can be directly coupled to the M600 and much more. The smartphone can stay at home.
Best Smart All-Rounder Multi-Sport: Garmin Vivoactive HR (Our Vivoactive HR Review)
Built-in HR Sensor, Move IQ for automatic activity detection, floor counter, supports many sport arts, smart features and configurable smartphone notifications such as calls, emails, calendars, Twitter, Facebook, sports news and much more. In addition, the Vivoactive HR has an activity tracker, a color touch display, a good battery life, supports many sports sensors, and is expandable and customizable with sports apps/widgets.
Best Value for Money Smartwatch: Garmin Vivoactive
Supports many (configurable) smartphone notifications such as calls, email, SMS, calendar, Twitter, Facebook, sports news, and much more. In addition, the Vivoactive has an activity tracker, a touch display, a long battery life, supports many sports and sports sensors and can be expanded and customized with sports apps/widgets.
Looks Best: Withings Steel HR
The Withings Steel HR we mention here is for people who look for a sports watch that comes closest to a classic watch and looks the best. Although the other tracker referred to in this article are usually more accurate and their fitness data can be better evaluated, they are not as good looking and the battery life as durable as the Steel HR. As an everyday fitness companion with very good wearing comfort and integrated heart rate sensor, it is definitely worth a closer look.
Best All-Rounder Action Cam: GoPro Hero4 Silver. Currently offers the best balance between price, video quality, battery life, features, weight and accessories.
Best Action Cam for Sports Metrics: Garmin VIRB XE: Versatile GPS Action Cam
Best Running Sensor: Adidas miCoach Bluetooth Smart Running Sensor