Best fitness watches 2021: Fitbit, Polar, Garmin - our expert reviews the most popular fitness trackers
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There are now countless ways to measure your performance when it comes to fitness. With a wide range of trackers on the market, measuring a huge range of metrics to improve your performance, there’s an even greater incentive to get out there, get fit and even have suggestions on how to improve your overall health.
More and more, fitness trackers suit our everyday. Of course, they are worn during runs, hikes and cycles, but with sleep-trackers, breathing and meditation functions, step counters and calorie burn measurements they provide vital insights into how our bodies our functioning on a day-to-day basis. They enable us to be more in-touch with our body’s needs, and with a greater awareness comes a far greater impetus to work out.
Should I buy a smartwatch or a fitness tracker?
Of course, it largely depends on what you want to use your device for, but in this article, we’ll be focussing more closely on devices that are designed and engineered more specifically for use in fitness conditions – for example on hikes, runs, swims and cycles.
Smartwatches tend to be more all-round devices, suitable for productivity, call making and taking, calendar organising and app usage. Because they are more general in their approach and include a wider range of different types of technology, these kinds of devices tend to be more expensive than fitness trackers, but we’ve included a range of budget options here.
Key Specs: Weight: 21g, Display Type: Colour, Battery Life: 10 days max, Water rating: 50m
A more consumer, smartwatch orientated product the Huawei nonetheless provides the user with an impressive 10-day battery life, nearly 100 specific workout modes for different exercise regimes, and Sp02 support (allowing you to measure your blood’s oxygen saturation) which is a neat addition on a watch of this price.
It also has built-in GPS, which is nice to see, and feels light and dependable on the trails. A good purchase for the recreational fitness fan or everyday user.
Key Specs: Weight: 53g, Display Type: Colour, Battery Life: 14 days max, Water rating: 50m
The ELEMNT RIVAL features innovative features such as ‘touchless transition,’ which automatically moves between different activities, so this is a great option if you’re into triathlons.
With GPS mode activated, the battery life is about 24 hours of continued use and in normal smartwatch mode, the battery should last for up to 10-14 days.
It has the ability to automatically share between the RIVAL app and the ELEMNT bike computers, and a ‘view zoom’ which we liked, enabling you to focus on the data you want on your workouts.
We liked the appearance of the watch too, with a smart ceramic bezel and ‘gorilla glass’ which means it’s resistance to scratches.
Key Specs: Weight: 14.5g, Display Type: Colour, Battery Life: 7 days typical usage, Water rating: 50m
A stylish option with edge-to-edge glass in a lightweight, comfortable unit, the Amazfit GTS 2e smartwatch is another great option for the day-to-day wearer.
It features much of the same fitness tracker features other watches on this list offer, including heart-rate monitoring and activity tracker, but we were especially drawn to its clear display, always-on display option and the lack of weight.
Its thin design meant that to wear, this felt like one of the most comfortable and easy to live with watches we tested.
Key Specs: Weight: 39.3g, Display Type: AMOLED Colour, Battery Life: 14 days, Water rating: 50m
Oppo are relatively new to the smartwatch game and they’ve introduced their debut, the Oppo Watch, to relative acclaim across the digital watch world, with some stating that this is perhaps one of the best watches’ money can buy outside of the Apple Watch ecosystem.
We would tend to agree to some extent, however it’s worth bearing in mind that this predominantly offers itself up as an all-rounder smartwatch rather than a dedicated fitness tracker. That being said, it is more than worthy of an inclusion on this list as it features everything you’d expect from a fitness tracker – usable through Google’s Wear OS platform.
Although simple, we found the design to be enjoyable to use and easy and comfortable to wear. A great watch and certainly one that gravitates more towards the Android/Google user.
Key Specs: Weight: 94g, Display Type: LED, Battery Life: 12 days typical usage, Water rating: 100m
The Marq is Garmin’s entry into the world of luxury watches, and its particularly sleek , with its titanium casing and bezel, and dome sapphire crystal lens If it weren’t for the silicone strap, it would look every bit the part on James Bond’s wrist, though that strap is a necessity if you’re planning to punish this watch with exercise – which it’s impressive specs demand.
From the absolute plethora of sports it covers, we’ve used it to track running, hiking, a swim, and a trail run, and it captured the data from all with aplomb – it has great visibility, records temperature and elevation, calories, cadence and has GPS. It doesn’t feel too bulky on. Our only caveat is that you’ll be wanting to wear the HR monitor for any accurate cardio recording – it’s wrist HR monitor isn’t worth much cop.
Additionally, there’s outdoor mapping, navigation features, gym modes, and – a feature we’ve found particularly useful – it measures the strenuousness of your activity, to advise over time if you are training productively. It tells you when to pull back and rest more, and how to alter your work-outs to best improve performance.
While the Marq Athlete is made with sports very much mind (and excels in that area) , it also possesses many of the attributes of a smart watch – from Garmin Pay (contactless payments), to music streaming (an impressive 32GB of onboard storage, allowing you to take 1000 tracks running with you offline) , and an easy to read smart notification display.
In short, it’s a joy. We’ve never loved a fitness tracker so much. Also available in a selection of different specs to meet your specific outdoor requirements, from Aviator, Driver, Captain, to Adventurer.
Key Specs: Weight: 45.5g, Display Type: Colour, Battery Life: 25 days typical usage, Water rating: 50m
The Honor GS Pro smartwatch is their offering to the fitness tracker world – providing a hefty, durable-looking outer shell, a water-resistance rating of 50 metres and up to 25 days of battery life and 100 hours with GPS-mode turned on.
We really liked the adventure-orientation of this watch, and for the price enjoyed using it in a variety of conditions on trail runs, muddy walks, hikes, swims and cycles. We’d trust this watch with the worst of the elements, hence it deserving a place on this list.
Key Specs: Weight: 59g, Display Type: LCD Colour, Battery Life: 30 days typical usage, Water rating: 100m
This is a premium offering from Coros, and at its price range it’s likely to appeal to serious and professional athletes but it’s worth featuring on this list for its build-quality, attention to detail and sheer number of useful features when out and about.
Firstly, it’s lightweight and attractively designed, with a sturdy titanium frame, a sapphire-glass screen and an impressive 100 metres of waterproof rating. 40 hours of full-GPS battery life is featured, as well as 24/7 blood oxygen monitoring in altitude mode.
This sets this watch apart from its competition – it’s one of the only watches to provide constant acclimatisation evaluations based on oxygen levels and altitude. If we were heading up a mountain tomorrow, this is the watch we’d choose.
Key Specs: Weight: 32g, Display Type: IPS TFT Colour, Battery Life: 4 days in watch mode, Water rating: 30m
This is another good mid-range offering price-wise.
The Polar Unite offers a really lightweight package with excellent fitness tracker features as found on many of the other watches here, including heart-rate zone monitoring and an especially good feature called Fitspark that offers tailored exercises to match your recovery, fitness levels and training history.
We also liked the Nightly Recharge element which gives you daily feedback on how you recover from workouts while you’re sleeping. Not as good a battery life as some of the competition, however.
Key Specs: Weight: 27.2g, Display Type: Colour, Battery Life: 7 days typical usage, Water rating: 50m
Fitbit are a name familiar to many who have used fitness trackers for years, and for lots of people they are still the go-to brand providing simple, stylish, everyday use fitness companions.
The Charge 4 is one of their most comprehensive offerings, made especially for improving fitness, with the in-built functionality of apps such as Spotify, calendar, call, contactless payments and text available for the user.
We liked the look of the watch, which retains Fitbit’s classic fitness tracker rectangle style whilst providing an intuitive, easy to use screen and customisation options.
Key Specs: Weight: 52g, Display Type: LED, Battery Life: 7 days typical usage, Water rating:100m
This is the second iteration of Polar's flagship multisport model, and they've upped the ante on what their tech can do.
Lighter and longer lasting than its predecessor, with a pleasingly responsive touchscreen and a host of smart training tools, there are few tricks this sports watch can't pull off.
With 130 different modes, it's there to assist you in almost every imaginable sport (we stuck to running when testing) – from sailing to squash, by way of football and cycling. Swimmer? You can see your strokes, laps, pace. Cyclist? There are dedicated sports profiles for road, indoor, and mountain biking.
In addition to usual metrics – GPS, power zones, speed zones, distance and pace – the Vantage V2 is something of a mini PT, offering insights such as daily activity goals, sleep tracking, power and performance tests, and recovery tools to maximise your body's down time.
Training for a marathon? The V2 is your perfect watch.