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19 October 2020

How to buy the best bathroom scales

Our expert guide explains the four main types of bathroom scales and their pros and cons
Withings smart scale 424654
TM
Tom Morgan

Although there are hundreds of bathroom scales available in various shapes and sizes, they broadly fit into four categories: traditional mechanical scales; electronic or digital scales; body fat analyser scales; and internet-enabled smart scales. 

While mechanical and digital scales give you a basic reading of your weight, body fat scales give you more information about your body composition. Smart bathroom scales are even brainier, allowing you to log your weight and track changes remotely on your smartphone. 

Deciding which is the best one for you largely comes down to how much you want to know about your weight and body. Keep scrolling for the details.

Smart bathroom scales explained

Smart bathroom scales can connect to your smartphone or tablet, enabling you to view, store and track your vital statistics through an app.

Different scales offer varying degrees of smart functionality, but almost all of them transfer your weight and other body measurements to an app when connected to your device using Bluetooth and/or wi-fi.

What can smart bathroom scales do?

As well as measuring your weight, most smart bathroom scales give a wide range of body composition readings, such as body fat percentage, body water percentage and muscle mass. 

These scales use Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) to get the job done, which involves sending a small electric current around your body. As a result, it's recommended that you don't use one if you have a pacemaker or other internal medical devices, or if you're pregnant.

Some of the key measurements and readings offered by smart bathroom scales are:

  • Body fat percentage The proportion of your body fat to your overall weight.
  • Body water percentage The total amount of water in the body expressed as a percentage of your total body weight.
  • BMI Some body-fat scales give you a BMI reading, based on the height you enter and your weight.
  • Muscle mass The percentage of your body's composition that's made up of muscle.
  • Visceral fat This is also known as 'abdominal fat'. A higher amount of visceral fat is linked with an increased risk of several health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer's disease and heart disease.

How different apps show you this information varies between the different brands, but common functionality includes graphs showing how your measurements and weight has changed over time. Some apps can also feed your measurements into other health-tracking apps, if you wish, so that you can see all the health data you're interested in, in one place.

How much do smart bathroom scales cost?

Over time, the number of brands producing smart bathroom scales has surged. This is good news if you're looking to buy, as there's plenty of options even if you're on a tight budget.

Popular retailers that stock smart scales include:

  • Amazon stocks hundreds of smart bathroom scales. Featured brands include Fitbit, Kamtron, Renpho and Withings.
  • Argos sells affordable smart scales from Fitbit and Salter. Prices exceed £100 for smart bathroom scales from Garmin, Tanita and Withings.
  • John Lewis has a small selection of bathroom scales on sale and a couple of them are 'smart'. The Fitbit Aria Air Bluetooth Smart Scale is a popular pick at around £50.
  • Robert Dyas stocks smart bathroom scales from Salter and Tanita. Prices range from £50 to around £160.

Which smart bathroom scales work with iOS and Android?

As with all smart devices, not all smart scales are compatible with all operating systems. For example, some work with Apple's iOS but not with Android – so you'll need to check operating system requirements before buying.

Also consider which other smart health gadgets (such as an activity tracker) or apps you already use to track your health, and whether you'd appreciate the ability to sync your bathroom scales data with these.

Body fat scales

Price range: £15 to £200

As well as measuring your weight, body fat scales are designed to display your body fat percentage, to help you differentiate between fat loss and weight loss.

As well as body fat, some also give you further readings such as your bone density, body water percentage and BMI. You'll need to enter some vital statistics, such as your height and gender, for the most accurate body measurements.

 

To measure body fat, the body fat scales send a very small electric current around your body. The current moves more slowly through fat and quicker through muscle, so the speed in which the current passes through your body enables the scale to calculate your body fat and muscle density, displayed as percentages. 

Because of the electrical current, you shouldn't use a body fat analyser if you have a pacemaker or other internal medical devices or if you're pregnant. They're not recommended for use for children under the age of 10, either.

You can spend anything from around £15 to £200 on a set of body analyser scales. Pricier models tend to offer more in terms of the number of measurements given, which might include visceral fat content, total body water percentage and muscle mass. Some models come with detachable screens.

Pros: Body fat analysers give you much more detail about your body composition than mechanical or digital scales, and you can find some pretty cheap ones. Typical body fat analyser scales have a memory function, and you can even buy ones with smart functionality.

Cons: They can't be used by everyone, especially those with internal medical devices and pregnant people. More feature-packed body fat analysers are pricey.

Digital scales

Price range: £10 to £50

Digital bathroom scales are mainly used to measure your weight. Unlike mechanical scales, you shouldn't need to squint your eyes to work out your weight from the dial – that information is displayed on an electronic screen in either imperial or metric measurements

 

Some digital scales offer extra features, such as user memory: after a certain number of people have stored their data, the scales are designed to recognise the user and then monitor the difference in weight between each reading for each person.

You can expect to spend between around £10 and £50 on a set of digital scales, with the price determined by extra features or a bigger display to read your weight more clearly.

Pros: Easy to read, lots of choice of styles and prices, good for those who want to take quick weight measurements, some can show fractions or decimal points of pounds or kilos for a more precise reading.

Cons: Like mechanical scales, most electronic versions can't tell you about your body fat, body water or BMI, battery needs replacing every now and then.

Mechanical scales

Price range: £5 to £40

Mechanical bathroom scales are designed to do the simple job of measuring your weight, and they don't tend to come with any extra bells or whistles.

 

On a set of mechanical scales, the dial display typically shows your weight in both imperial (stones and pounds) and metric (kilograms) measurements at the same time.

Most mechanical bathroom scales cost between £5 and £40, but it's possible to spend more. Pricier mechanical scales are more likely to be made of stronger material, such as steel rather than plastic, and have a more stylish design.

Pros: Mechanical scales can be dirt cheap, most let you see your weight in both imperial and metric measurements at the same time, there's no battery to replace. 

Cons: Some mechanical scales can be hard to read if the markings are small or close together, and you'll have to check that the scale is set to zero before you get on each time to make sure you get an accurate reading. Mechanical scales won't tell you your BMI, body fat composition or store your readings, so look elsewhere if you want this extra functionality.

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