How to Buy the Perfect Fitness Tracker

We used all the watches, heart rate monitors, clips, smart glasses, and apps we could get our hands on, so you don't have to

Sep 22, 2015
Outside Magazine
How to Buy the Perfect Fitness Tracker

Recon Jet smart sunglasses display heart rate and other information right before your eyes—if you can deal with the odd looks.    Photo: Recon Instruments

In our exhaustive investigation into the future of smart fitness, here are the 16 wearable devices we looked at—and who is best served by each.

For Casual Enthusiasts

Apple Watch Sport ($350 and up)

  Photo: Apple

The Good: Integrates seamlessly with the iPhone’s communication functions; early-adopter street cred.
The Bad: Quick-draining battery; limited sports tracking. 

Basis Peak ($200)

  Photo: Basis

The Good: Combines features like e-mail and phone calls with sleep and activity tracking. 
The Bad: No GPS; black-and-white screen.

Fitbit Charge HR ($150)

  Photo: Fitbit

The Good: Adds heart-rate monitoring to Fitbit’s category-leading activity monitoring.
The Bad: No GPS, so no Strava glory. 

Garmin Vivo­-Active ($250)

  Photo: Garmin

The Good: Built-in ­features for specific sports, including golf. 
The Bad: Do you really need a watch that tracks your handicap?

Garmin Vivofit 2 ($100)

  Photo: Garmin

The Good: Can go a year without a charge. 
The Bad: Limited to basic activity-monitoring features. 

Lumo Lift ($80)

  Photo: Lumo

The Good: Wearable posture coach. 
The Bad: Does what it says, but who wants to be nagged about posture?

For Weekend Warriors

Fitbit Surge ($250)

  Photo: Fitbit

The Good: Combines the features of an always-on fitness tracker with GPS and heart rate for logging workouts. 
The Bad: Like all wrist-based heart-rate monitors, it can be inaccurate during workouts. 

Moov Now ($100)

  Photo: Moov

The Good: Hyper-detailed form analysis; affordable. 
The Bad: Limited to accelerometer tech (i.e., no GPS or heart-rate monitor). 

Polar M400 ($230)

  Photo: Polar

The Good: Combines ­activity monitoring, heart rate, and GPS tracking; cheaper than the com­petition. 
The Bad: Lacks features like recovery and form analysis.

TomTom Runner Cardio ($230)

  Photo: TomTom

The Good: Simple to use; built-in heart-rate monitor.
The Bad: No ANT+ connectivity limits accessory choices. 

Wahoo Tickr X ($100)

  Photo: Wahoo

The Good: Integrates sports tracking into a chest strap; watch not required. 
The Bad: No screen means there’s no way to follow workouts in real time. 

For Aspiring Pros

Athos ($150 and up)

wearable tech, fitness, outside, gear, tested, review
  Photo: Athos

The Good: Sensors ­embedded in clothing provide an exhaustive look at how your body is working. 
The Bad: You’re locked into wearing their workout duds

Garmin Forerunner 920XT ($450)

  Photo: Garmin

The Good: Aimed at triathletes, it syncs with cycling power meters and analyzes swimming form. 
The Bad: No touch-screen.

Garmin Vector 2 pedals ($1,500)

  Photo: Garmin

The Good: Track power without limiting wheel or crank choice; can break numbers down by left and right leg. 
The Bad: No MTB version. Cost more than a month’s rent.

Recon Jet sunglasses ($499)*


The Good: Displays data like power and heart rate in a convenient, always-visible spot. 
The Bad: It looks like Google Glass’s meat-head older brother. 

Spire ($150)

  Photo: Spire

The Good: The rare wearable that tells you what to do with all the information. 
The Bad: Being told you’re stressed when you already know you’re stres­sed is somewhat, uh, stressful.

*This article has been updated to reflect new pricing on the Recon Jet sunglasses. 

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