Best activity trackers and fitness watches
Top five fitness watches for 2019
By Alison Potter
Article 2 of 6
Analyse your exercise data and track your preferred sports to the fullest with these top-performing GPS fitness watches
Looking for the perfect fitness watch to track and analyse the sports and exercise you do? We've rounded up the best devices from our in-depth lab testing, along with expert advice on what to look for to find an excellent fitness watch.
The table below contains the highest-scoring GPS fitness watches from our rigorous testing. We rate how comfortable each device is to wear, how easy it is to use and accurate it is at monitoring your daily activity.
Recommended fitness watches provide easy-to-understand and precise data on the accompanying app, as well as useful tools to motivate you to move more. But if a watch understates heart rate, calories or distance, or if it struggles to reproduce data and is all over the place, we'll warn you of the dangers so you don't waste your money.
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Best fitness watches 2018
It’s excellent for in-depth running analysis and activity tracking, as well as the usual running data. This slim and lightweight watch studies your stride length and how you run, to provide detailed information to help you improve your running form. It's not so good for other sports though.
Pricing, recommendations and test scores correct as of June 2018.
Not found the product for you? Browse all of our fitness watch reviews to find a wearable you'll want to wear.
5 reasons not to trust your fitness watch
Fitness watches are a useful tool to monitor your activity and lifestyle. They also motivate you to think about the exercise you take and the things you eat, as well as helping you to set both short- and long-term health goals.
While this is undoubtedly a good thing, our rigorous tests show that not every watch can be relied upon to provide accurate data. We buy four of every fitness device and put them through several rounds of testing in various scenarios, simultaneously checking the data they produce against measurements we take using specialist equipment.
From our in-depth lab testing we have identified five areas where the information could be misleading. Read on to find out more and ensure you choose a watch that will track your progress properly.
1. GPS/distances Fitness watches have built-in GPS, which is useful if you want to exercise without your phone and still accurately record distance. But not every watch is equal in terms of the time it takes for them to establish a satellite connection before embarking on a long run or bike ride. On the whole we’ve found GPS itself to be pretty accurate, but make sure to read our reviews to find out how well this feature works for each individual fitness watch.
2. Steps Accelerometers in fitness watches pick up your arm movements, and during our tests we’ve found watches that are confused into clocking up steps when you’re just moving your arms. So you may think you're hitting your step targets but your overall fitness won't improve. Some fitness watches are right on the money in terms of correctly calculating steps, but others have been surprisingly bad and we’ve seen some overstate steps by as much as 35%. Make sure you don’t pick up a watch that leads you to believe you’ve covered more distance than you actually have.
3. Calorie burn Our tests have unearthed significant discrepancies in terms of calorie burn. Our testers wear a face mask connected to a gas analysis system to precisely measure the oxygen consumed when running, walking and simulating household tasks. This enables us to check if the calorie burn data on your watch is correct because calorie burn relates directly to the oxygen you consume. It’s not ideal if your device overstates calorie burn as it could lead to overeating if you’re on a strict calorie-controlled diet
4. Heart-rate monitor Being able to see at a glance how your resting heart rate changes in response to sleep, exercise or nutrition is a really useful tool. Many athletes use heart-rate information and heart-rate zones to calculate whether they’re pushing themselves enough. The Garmin Fenix 3 HR and Garmin Forerunner 935 have heart-rate monitors so you can chart your fitness levels. But you'll need to read our reviews to find out just how accurate they are at recording your heart rate at rest, as well as during low-intensity and high-intensity exercise.
5. Reproducibility Each fitness watch review will show you if a particular device has a tendency to understate or exaggerate your measurements. But we also test how it fares in terms of reproducibility: whether the watch is consistent in its error margins, so you can generally trust it to tell you if you’ve improved on the previous day, or if it’s all over the place and wide of the mark by a different amount every time. Generally reproducibility is pretty good with all the fitness watches we’ve tested, but in a few cases the distances recorded varied by as much as 10%.