Best of the Best
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|Accurate and dependable functionality at a great price.||Easy-to-use interface and excellent connectivity between chest strap and watch.||Great generalized fitness management and HRM.||Accurate, wrist-only HRM for under $100.||Incredible features list, beautiful and comfortable design.|
|Fewer added features.||Least attractive display and limited color options.||Uncomfortable chest strap.||Bulky wrist-piece and limited design options.||Wrist-only heart monitoring may falter with intense workouts.|
|For a simple, no-frills device, this is the HRM for you.||This device helps improve overall fitness through deep HR analysis.||Unbeatable price using total fitness management.||If you're sick of chest straps, this is an affordable, dependable alternative.||This device is a tech-junkie's dream, and accurate enough for most.|
Heart rate monitors provide an amazing convenience to modern athletes, allowing them to wear a small, simple device that records their heart rate and other vital statistics. The best monitors will be easy and unobtrusive to wear, and include features like the ability to link up with other devices for comprehensive analysis. The ultimate goal of using a heart rate monitor is to gain more control over your workouts, and get more out of every minute you spend sweating.
The products on this list represent the best on the market today. They exemplify superior ease-of-use, comfort, style, vital statistics, and connectivity. We've provided a range of devices for use by different athletes and different lifestyles, but they are all a solid choice for those looking to improve the effectiveness of their workouts.
Those who are serious about their health usually don't mind spending a couple extra dollars to achieve their goals. Thankfully, heart rate monitors usually don't take advantage of athletes' willingness to spend, and usually cost between $50-100. Advanced, luxury devices can be hundreds of dollars, however.
Heart rate monitor manufacturers have begun adding extra features beyond vital statistic monitoring. For instance, almost all of them double as watches, but also include features like water resistance, Bluetooth compatibility, apps, and activity timers. These features can mean all the difference in how much benefit you get from your new device.
For the purpose of this review, we will be looking at all the vital statistics these monitors are able to effectively track. This can include BPM, calorie burn count, base metabolism rate, and even your quality of rest. Extra features can be fun and useful, but they also tend to use more charge than a simple heart rate monitoring device.
Some heart rate monitors must be strapped to your chest while in use, while others simply need to be worn on the wrist like a watch. Additionally, you will want to consider the material of the heart rate monitor, and how well it will react to movement and sweat. The more comfortable a heart rate monitor is, the more likely you'll be to use it, so pick one with wearability which matches your level and type of activity.
The latest version of Timex's Personal Trainer Heart Rate Monitor starts at $57.98, making it a relatively thrifty option. Knowing that this device will also be a dependable time piece is a definite bonus which further justifies the price. It may not have as many features as other models on this list, but it does provide accurate heart rate and calorie-burn monitoring. Solid construction also promises this watch won't fritz out from a simple fall.
As another budget device, this HRM starts at $57.97 new, and can be purchased used for around $40. This is comparable to the Timex Personal Trainer, but the Polar FT4 Heart Rate Monitor has a few more features. One of the biggest differences is that the Polar FT4 connects to compatible gym equipment. For 30-minute a day training sessions, this watch's battery is meant to last a full year.
New in one of 6 bold colors, the Garmin Vivofit Fitness Band is $54.44. It's also available used for around $30 and refurbished for $45. For its price, this model provides exceptional functionality, and is meant to last over a year before needing to replace the battery. Its price point is also perfect for gifting that special athletic someone. You may also like this model as your first, more introductory fitness band.
Marketed for “serious athletes”, the Mio Alpha Heart Rate Monitor Sports Watch starts at $89.99. Used devices can be purchased for about $45. For the higher price, consumers expect quality construction and a flawless monitoring system. The Mio Alpha doesn't disappoint, focusing on informative HRM analysis without the need of a chest strap. This convenience is highly appealing to some athletes and worth the extra money.
Amazon currently has the Fitbit Surge Fitness Superwatch listed for $216.82 new, already representing a significant decrease from list price. For that much money, you would expect a small computer, capable of full fitness management, and this device delivers. The long-lasting battery charge life, alongside high-quality construction materials, make this a true luxury device. Of course, it also gives you continuous HRM without the use of a chest strap.
This watch and chest-strap set are about as simple as it gets. The watch face is large, well-lit and clear. This device also suggests proper cool-down times, adjusting as your heart rate slows. Additionally, the Timex Personal Trainer Heart Rate Monitor is waterproof up to 30M underwater, even in chlorine pools. As with many Timex pieces, this watch also features Indiglo technology for better visibility in the dark.
Goal tracking is important to many athletes and fitness enthusiasts, who want a concrete way to measure improvement. The Polar FT4 Heart Rate Monitor gives real-time results, letting you know when you've become more fit based on your heart rate. It also has analysis for after a workout, and long-term follow-up analysis. The Smart Calorie technology also provides more accurate calorie burn rate than standard fitness monitors. Our one complaint is that the display looks dated.
Going beyond heart rate monitoring, the Garmin Vivofit Fitness Band hosts many generalized fitness features. These features include the Move Bar (which encourages you to move at least a few minutes every hour), a mobile app, goal development and tracking, sleep monitoring, and step counting. Clearly intended to be a comprehensive fitness monitor, this HRM lets you analyze general statistics about almost every move you make. This device is also capable up to 50M underwater, though users reported less reliable data while swimming, especially heart rate monitoring.
With a focus on heart rate, this watch needs no additional device to provide continuous monitoring. It has easy Bluetooth syncing with your smartphone or mobile device, so statistics can be uploaded to your favorite fitness apps. Like the other watches on this list, it is waterproof and acts as a watch when you're not training. Notably, this device only has power to monitor 24 hours of training, and must be recharged at a dock regularly. Charging takes a couple hours but users report that it will last about a week of regular use afterward (between watch and training modes).
As the most expensive HRM on this list, the Fitbit Surge Fitness Superwatch is true to its name and offers a wide variety of additional features. One of the best features is continuous GPS tracking, which monitors not just your distance and position, but also your elevation. We also really like the Smart Notifications, letting you control your music player and view smartphone notifications with the press of a button. The Fitbit Surge also features activity and sleep tracking, high-speed charging, and a large, bright display.
As mentioned in the features section, this isn't the most advanced HRM on the market. It only monitors your heart rate, calories burned and cool-down time. That said, it is accurate and the functions are all easy to reach. A single button changes the display, and input is just as easy. You can set target heart rate zones for easy management, so you can keep working out and let the device calculate feedback.
With the use of a chest strap, this watch syncs to display accurate heart rate and calories lost during a training session. Manually enter your heart rate zone, or let the device choose for you based on age. The Polar FT4 has two displays for heart rate, either as a percentage of max or as a number set between your chosen range. This device also tracks up to 10 past sessions for a comprehensive review of your progress.
Fitness enthusiasts do typically prefer the chest strap method of HRM because it is more accurate. The Garmin Vivofit Fitness band uses such a chest strap, providing dependable results with easy syncing between devices. There were no complaints about dropped data between the two, but users did feel the chest strap was uncomfortable and difficult to place. If you don't like the Garmin Vivofit chest strap, the wrist device is compatible with ANT+ heart rate monitors.
Users are generally pleased by the accuracy of this device, citing that it is within 5 BPM of the actual number. This is highly accurate for a wrist-only HRM, especially under $100. Problems may arise when there is too much activity at the wrist, but it is still ideal for cyclists, runners, and hikers. This device does not store past user information, but that information can easily be sent to another device. The post-workout report is a nice touch that lets you track how well your time was spent.
Like the Mio Alpha, this device offers users an alternative to constricting chest straps. This is a wrist-only HRM that continuously monitors your activity level and BPM throughout the day. Users report that the quality of the results depend on the placement, and that the device must be snug to the wrist for best accuracy. Through rigorous exercise, this device may not get dependable results, highlighting the discrepancy between wrist and chest HRMs.
We agree with users that the Timex Personal Trainer Heart Rate Monitor is a well-fitting, comfortable watch. It looks most like a plain watch of all the devices on this list, and it's not too bulky. The wrist strap is made to truly fit most sizes, from the thinnest to thickest wrists. Unfortunately, the chest strap comes undone with rigorous activity, and many users report needing the aid of electrode gel for optimum performance.
Easily one of the more comfortable HRMs on this list, the Polar FT4 Heart Rate Monitor's chest strap is made from a flexible, body-conforming material that stays with you through any activity. Connectivity between the watch and chest strap is strong, with very few people reporting issues or the need for electrode gel. This device only comes in one of 4 colors, though, which may be limiting to some customers. The watch-face is also not as stylish as other devices, nor does the display look as polished.
The wrist piece is comfortable, but a little thicker than its competition. We agree with users that the thickness is not an issue, however, and enjoy the Garmin Vivofit Fitness Band's sleek, minimalist design. The body of the device is also removable, so you can easily replace the wrist strap if necessary. The HRM chest strap is not as comfortable as the watch, and doesn't work as well as other functions while swimming.
Without a chest strap, this watch comes a little bulkier than others. Some users find it becomes uncomfortable during intense workouts, especially when sweat is caught between the silicone and skin. While the strap is clearly designed to fit almost anyone, it also doesn't breathe well and can't be removed. The design of the Mio Alpha does not necessarily encourage users to wear it outside of the gym, as it only comes in black and does not resemble a traditional watch.
Arguable the most comfortable watch on this list, many users agree that it is more comfortable to wear outside of training, during exercise, and while sleeping. The watch face is very large, giving you a bright display for easy viewing, without seeming too bulky on the wrist. This is in part due to the lightweight, thin construction of the wrist band. This is also one of the best, most versatile overall designs, and you won't be embarrassed to wear it with casual clothes.
For those fitness enthusiasts looking to uncover analysis for their every waking and sleeping moment, the Garmin Vivofit Fitness Band is the perfect choice. Although everything about this device, from the design to the price, seems geared toward a younger audience, we think it's also a fine choice for any fitness enthusiast.
Users especially enjoy the gentle encouragement from the Move Bar, and like the extensive but generalized statistics about their activity throughout the day. The device is always on, constantly counting your steps, calories lost, sleep patterns and more. The HRM functionality is an great bonus, especially for the price, allowing users to step up their fitness management with trustworthy results from a chest strap.
The Garmin application is a useful addition, allowing you to get a broader perspective of your fitness and edit the functionality of your devices. It also encourages users with personalized challenges based on fitness level, maximizing motivation! All these features and more make the Garmin Vivofit Fitness Band an incredible value for its price.
When you just need a device to monitor your heart rate, nothing yet beats the accuracy of a well-synced chest strap and wrist piece. Timex is trusted for their precision, and they bring this attention to detail to the Timex Personal Trainer Heart Rate Monitor, foregoing unnecessary features in order to focus on the most important thing.
This watch is one of the longest lasting in the group, in part to the simplicity of its function. You provide the input, and the Timex Personal Trainer gives you unerring results regarding BPM, estimated calories burned, and time spent “in-zone”.
We also love how easy this device is to wear outside of training. It has one of the smoothest, simplest, brightest displays available, and certainly one of the most comfortable wrist bands. For under $60, you can't go wrong with this HRM.