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5 Oct 2021

Pulse oximeters put to the test

We've put ten pulse oximeters to the test to find out which ones you can rely on

If you're ever instructed to buy a pulse oximeter to monitor your blood oxygen levels at home, you'll want to be sure the model you've chosen is effective and accurate. If you need to use it regularly, it'll help if it's comfortable too.

Enter stage right: our expert pulse oximeter reviews. Every pulse oximeter that we test is independently assessed for accuracy, speed, ease of use and comfort.

We've pitted a range of available options - including those from brands such as Braun, Kinetik and Salter - against each other to find out which pulse oximeters are best.

Our tests uncovered two Best Buys which impressed us with their accuracy, speed and comfort, but we also came across some that were slower to produce readings, less accurate or not so comfortable to use (though all models tested met the required minimum accuracy standards).

Head to our pulse oximeter reviews to see the models we recommend, or read on for more advice on what to consider before you buy.

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Do you need a pulse oximeter?

Pulse oximeters are usually used in clinical settings, such as GP surgeries and hospitals, but can also be useful at-home monitoring tools for individuals suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and other conditions.

They gained wider popularity in early 2021 as some health professionals suggested they were useful for monitoring Covid at home.

This is because Covid-19 can cause your blood oxygen levels to drop (in some cases, to dangerous levels) but sometimes people don't feel that unwell so aren't aware of it.

However, it's not advisable to rely on one without input from your GP or health professional.

The MHRA says: 'The MHRA does not recommend that members of the public use oximeters at home unless they have been advised to do so by a qualified clinician, have been shown how to take an accurate measurement, and they are providing results for clinical review.'

If you're thinking about buying a pulse oximeter, it's worth discussing with your GP first if this is right for you. At-home pulse oximetry is no substitute for medical advice and shouldn't be relied upon without clinical input. Plus, if you are likely to be more at risk, the NHS may well provide you with one anyway.

You can find out more in our full story on pulse oximeters and Covid-19. And you'll find useful advice and tips in theNHS guide to treating Covid at home.

Pulse oximeters vs fitness trackers and smart watches

Plenty of fitness trackers and smartwatches include pulse oximetry functions, but these are usually earmarked for recreational rather than medical purposes - such as checking how well your body is acclimatising to high altitudes if you enjoy taking part in alpine sports.

These gadgets take measurements from the wrist, rather than the fingertip, where there is a lower concentration of blood and they're more likely to move around, which can affect accuracy.

Every wearable we've tested that has a pulse oximeter function clearly states that the data should not be used for medical purposes.

Pulse oximeter buying guide - features, costs and tips on getting the right model for you

Pulse oximeter features and prices

We've tested 10 pulse oximeters in total, with prices ranging from £15 to £40. Pricier models tend to include extra measurements or more advanced displays.

Here's a selection of tested models to give you an idea of what features you get at different price points:

Anapulse ANP100, £15

This is one of the more basic pulse oximeters you can buy, and can be used to measure the blood oxygen saturation (SpO2) and pulse rate of anyone over the age of five years old.

Weighing in at just 50g, it's small enough to pop in your pocket or handbag if you ever need to take it out of the house with you. It automatically switches itself off after eight seconds, which will conserve the battery life.

This is the cheapest pulse oximeter we've tested so far, but does it deliver speedy, accurate blood oxygen readings? Read our full Anapulse ANP100 review to find out.

Braun Pulse Oximeter YK-81CEU, £25

A mid-range option, this Braun pulse oximeter has a black-lit OLED display to make it as easy to read as possible. It measures pulse amplitude (the strength of your pulse) as well as the standard SpO2 and pulse rate.

You can rotate the display at the touch of a button to find the orientation that works best for you. On the screen, you'll see your readings in number and graph form, and you'll be able to keep an eye on how much battery you have left.

Discover whether it's quick and effective in our full Braun YK-81CEU review.

Salter OxyWatch Fingertip Pulse Oximeter, £40

This Salter model is one of the pricier pulse oximeters we tested. It has a dual colour OLED display which can be rotated in four different directions.

The pulse bar along the bottom of the screen is handy, and your SpO2 reading will be displayed in large, easy-to-read font. This model also measures perfusion index (strength of blood flow).

Does spending more increase your chances of getting a good pulse oximeter, and do you need the extras? Read our full Salter OxyWatch Fingertip Pulse Oximeter review to find out.

Other pulse oximeters on test

Here are the other models we've tested, you can click on the links to read the full reviews.

To find out more about our testing, head to our guide on how we test pulse oximeters.

Prices correct as of 29 September 2021