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The best fitness trackers to buy in 2021


Table of contents:

  1. The best fitness tracker: The Xiaomi Mi Band 6
  2. Fitness trackers for joggers: Huawei Band 4 Pro and Band 4e
  3. Fitness tracker for swimming: Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro or Fitbit Charge 4
  4. Best value for money: The Xiaomi Mi Band 5
  5. Best smartwatch alternative: Huawei Band 6
  6. Fitness tracker with good battery life: Amazfit Bip
  7. Fitness tracker with SpO2 sensor: Xiaomi Mi Band 6 and Huawei Band 6
  8. Things to consider when buying a fitness tracker
  9. Do fitness trackers have an impact on mental health?
  10. Where is the best place to buy your fitness tracker?

Before we begin with our tip for the best fitness tracker, we need to discuss two basic differences in brief. This article is about fitness trackers, which are discreet wristbands that feature sensors to measure heart rate or counting the number of steps taken. Smartwatches, on the other hand, tend to be clunkier, have additional ‘smart’ functions, can connect to the Internet even without a smartphone, and are covered in our comparison of the best smartwatches.

The best fitness tracker: The Xiaomi Mi Band 6

Xiaomi Mi Band 6
Xiaomi Mi Band 6: The king of fitness trackers / © NextPit

Ratings

Bewertung Design and Handling

Pros

  • Larger display
  • SpO2 sensor (oximeter)
  • Comfortable to wear
  • Value-for-money
 

Cons

  • No GPS receiver
  • Loses out to the Mi Band 5 in battery life

The Mi Band 6 is an improved version of the Mi Band 5. Despite sporting similar dimensions as its 2020 predecessor, the display here is larger at 1.56-inches. It sports a resolution of 152 x 486 pixels, which means Xiaomi has also increased the pixel density without losing any of the brightness on the display.

Concerning additional features, the Chinese consumer electronics giant has added a SpO2 monitoring sensor into the Mi Band 6 and removed the button below the display along the way. This means there are no more physical buttons to press, so you will have to get used to gesture controls. This resulted in a reduction in battery life, which now stands at 10 days. However, this is a very minor gripe because it is still long-lasting, don’t you think so?

If we had one major gripe about Xiaomi’s latest generation fitness tracker, it would be a missing integrated GPS feature. Therefore, in order to keep track of your running or cycling route, you will still need to carry your smartphone with you while wearing the Mi Band 6 in order to keep tabs on where you’ve gone. 

Finally, if you are currently using Mi Band 5, you don’t necessarily need to upgrade to the Mi Band 6 unless the larger screen is an important enough factor for you. For everyone else who wants to step into the world of fitness trackers while working with a limited budget, we heartily recommend the Mi Band 6 without a second thought. The 6th generation of the category leader is better than ever!

Currently, the Xiaomi Mi Band 6 can be found for less than $50, and there is a tiny discrepancy in pricing if you would like to import one. 

Fitness trackers for joggers: Huawei Band 4 Pro and Band 4e

Huawei Band 4 Pro
The Huawei Band 4 Pro and the Huawei Band 4e / © Huawei

Pros

  • Records combined GPS, heart rate, and running behaviour.
  • Band 4e displays unique running data such as stress zones, ground contact and G-forces
 

Cons

  • Two devices that you have to charge frequently

Because of the Huawei Band 4 Pro and the Huawei Band 4e, you are able to keep track of very unique vital signs each time you pound the pavement. In the past, I was able to test both devices separately and also use them in combination together. As a passionate runner, I noticed an advantage, which I have recommended to every regular runner since then: The Huawei Band 4e can be clipped onto your shoe so that it can measure the stress zones of your feet.

It also shows just how well or badly the shape of your shoes are, as well as analyse your running style and figure out whether your shoes can cushion the impact of your own body weight adequately.

Running while striking the ground with your heels in particular will strain your feet in the long term, and as I found out during my review back earlier on that I had a poor running posture. Hence, the Huawei Band 4e is useful in helping you train yourself to end up with a healthy and efficient running posture.

Together with the Huawei Band 4 Pro, you can also measure the load on your cardiovascular system and the distance covered. Like a classic fitness tracker, the Huawei Band 4 fits on your wrist and measures your heart rate via a light pulse. The GPS function works automatically, allowing you to leave your smartphone indoors if you so require, while the Band 4 Pro is able to record the oxygen content of your blood to boot.

Together, you can purchase both devices for approximately €70 ($85), where the breakdown would see the Huawei Band 4 Pro going for €50 while the Huawei Band 4e would be €20 or less. You also opt to also purchase these devices individually, and for regular runners, I strongly advise you picking up the Band 4e and giving it a chance.

Fitness tracker while swimming: Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro or Fitbit Charge 4.

Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro
The Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro offers a powerful swimming mode / © NextPit

Rating

Bewertung Design und Handling

Pros

  • Design
  • Very good AMOLED screen
  • Suitable for swimmers
 

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Annoying setup process
  • Inaccurate pulse measurement

Swimming is a whole lot easier on the joints than jogging, and if you do it regularly, it’s worth buying either the Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro or the Fitbit Charge 4. At this point, I’m listing two fitness trackers for you, as the Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro is already a bit older and therefore cheaper. You can find the device on the net for prices starting from €110 ($133), while the Fitbit Charge 4 costs about €40 ($49) more.

Both fitness trackers offer a waterproof rating that makes them suitable for swimming, where the respective manufacturers advertise them being worthy of functioning without missing a beat up to 50 meters deep. While there are many fitness wristbands that you can leave on your wrist when jumping into the water, Fitbit and Samsung offer an important, additional feature.

Because with both fitness trackers, you can manually set the length of the lanes and have them tracked automatically. This means you don’t have to count the number of laps yourself and can evaluate the times afterwards. If you also jog in addition to swim, both fitness trackers have a GPS sensor as well as a heart rate monitor.

Best value-for-money: The Xiaomi Mi Band 5

Xiaomi Band 4
The Xiaomi Mi Band 5 comes with a color display and a great battery life / © NextPit

Ratings

Bewertung Design und Handling

Pros

  • Unbeatable price-performance ratio
  • Long battery life
  • Bright AMOLED display
  • Automatically detects workouts
  • Waterproof
 

Cons

  • No built-in GPS
  • Very small font

If you are looking for a fitness tracker in 2021, the Xiaomi Mi Band 5 will most likely meet your expectations and needs – and beyond. This is because the fitness tracker comes with a long battery life, measures your heart rate and steps reliably, offers all of the important primary functions as with the rest of the market, with tracked data processed by the Mi Fit app accurately, all the while being very accessible. In our opinion, all of the important data is kept tracked off very well and in a complete manner, which is further assisted by a long battery life.

This is because the amount of time that the Mi Band 5 spends at a power outlet is very low. In addition, the device is also very affordable, so you would not be too perturbed by the possibility of ruining this compared to a more expensive smartwatch alternative. At the same time, the AMOLED screen is highly legible even under direct sunlight. Since this is a fifth-generation device, you are also able to charge the Mi Band with a magnetic charging accessory. For more information, check out our review of the Xiaomi Mi Band 5.

The Mi Band 5, unfortunately, does not come with a built-in GPS tracker, and this is something you should take into consideration before purchasing one. Therefore, in order to keep track of your running or cycling route, you will need to carry your smartphone and have it connect to the Mi Band 5. Only then does the fitness tracker access your smartphone’s GPS receiver via Bluetooth to track your route.

Currently, Xiaomi Mi Band 5 can be found for less than $30, with a tiny variation in price should you risk picking up an imported unit. 

Best Smartwatch Alternative: Huawei Band 6

Fitbit Charge 4
A bigger screen makes everything better / © NextPit

Rating

Bewertung Design and Handling

Pros

  • AMOLED display
  • Simple design
  • Excellent Huawei Health app connection
  • All-day SpO2 tracking
  • Long battery life
 

Cons

  • No built-in GPS
  • Period cycle tracking available only on HMS devices

The Huawei Band 6 excels at tracking fitness activity and vital statistics. This can be attributed to its support for 96 sport modes, 24-hour SpO2 monitoring, and a long battery life. In our review of the Huawei Band 6, we were able to confirm that both the operation and handling of the fitness tracker are excellent.

Like the Xiaomi Mi Band 6, however, there is one downside here: the absence of a built-in GPS chipset. Another downside would be the fact that Android smartphones that support Google services are unable to take advantage of period cycle tracking, as that is available only on HMS devices.

However, in favor of the Huawei Band 6, we have a water-resistant rating of 5 ATM, which allows you to wear the wristband in the pool without any worry. You can also adjust the screen brightness manually, where the entire experience is more fluid than the Samsung Galaxy Fit 2.

In addition to this, the Huawei Band 6 offers long battery life and fast charging capability. Both are fantastic in their own right, as this fitness tracker’s display is relatively large compared to the rest of the competition. The Huawei Band 6 can be found online for $90 thereabouts.

Fitness tracker with good battery life: Amazfit Bip

Amazfit Bip
Fitness tracker with a smartwatch look: the Amazfit Bip / © NextPit

Pros

  • Long battery life of up to 45 days as a watch
  • Up to 4 months battery life with sleep tracking
  • Inexpensive
  • GPS on board
 

Cons

  • Design is more of a smartwatch
  • Display is not very bright

The Amazfit Bip is a real gem when it comes to the carefree use of a fitness tracker. According to the manufacturer, the “Bip” has a battery life of up to 45 days if you use the device as a watch and for the occasional recording of your jogging route. Sleep tracking is also included in this runtime, and if you use the watch exclusively for monitoring your sleep rhythm, the manufacturer claims up to 4 months of battery life before requiring a trip to the nearest power outlet.

The design of the Amazfit Bip leans more toward the lines of a smartwatch, though. Although the manufacturer also boasts of this device as a smartwatch, we would place it under the fitness tracker category. That’s because without a connected smartphone, the device cannot connect to the internet and thus comes without the battery life that’s usually expected of smartwatches. On the other hand, the watch is also significantly cheaper with a current list price of just under €45 ($54.75).

Fitness tracker with SpO2 sensor: Xiaomi Mi Band 6 and Huawei Band 6

Garmin vivosmart 4
Both the Xiaomi Mi Band 6 and Huawei Band 6 are excellent SpO2-enabled fitness tracker options / © NextPit

Both the Xiaomi Mi Band 6 and Huawei Band 6 have already appeared in this list. While we consider the former to be the best fitness tracker in the market for 2021, the latter is a worthy alternative to the former. It is that simple, really. Hence, nothing is more logical than to point to either one of the two for those who are on the lookout for an excellent experience with a SpO2 sensor on a fitness tracker.

Xiaomi didn’t need to reinvent the wheel with the Mi Band 6, but tacked on a blood oxygen saturation monitor (SpO2 measurement), which was one of the most important functions built into the new generation. This is really relevant when considering the value of this fitness tracker. In our review of the Mi Band 6, the integration of the SpO2 sensor was considered to be a relevant feature as indicated by the fitness tracker’s purchase price.

The Huawei Band 6 also comes with a heart rate monitor that can also measure your blood oxygen saturation levels. The good thing about Huawei’s offering is, it performs this function 24 hours a day. 

Note: SpO2 values ​​are provided only for reference, meaning they should be used as a guideline and not as a means of medical diagnosis. Always look for a medical expert before making any decisions.

Things to consider when buying a fitness tracker

If you haven’t quite arrived the end of your search for a suitable fitness tracker with this list, we’ll tell you a few more basic points when choosing fitness trackers below. You can look for suitable smartbands yourself at Saturn, Media Markt, Amazon, and the like.

Do you need a GPS receiver?

If you always take your smartphone with you when jogging for safety reasons or to listen to music, you don’t need a GPS receiver in your fitness tracker. After all, just about every fitness tracker offers the ability to record distance traveled when connected to your phone.

Fitbit Collage
Fitness trackers like the Fitbit Charge 4 can accurately record your jogging route thanks to GPS / NextPit

The GPS receivers in modern smartphones are often even more accurate than the modules in fitness trackers. In my experience, fitness trackers with an integrated GPS module will drop their connection and you end up running through walls and over houses in a split second based on the recording. In such cases, the recording of your jogging route is, of course, rendered unusable and ends up being more annoying than useful. 

Music control or music player?

Another pitfall in choosing the right fitness tracker is the difference between music control and music player. A built-in music player allows you to download songs to built-in memory and lets you listen to them on the go without the need for a smartphone. Bluetooth headphones or true-wireless headphones can usually be connected to the fitness tracker for this purpose.

If a manufacturer sells its fitness tracker with integrated music control, you can assume that you can also control your music via your wrist. You can control the active playback on your smartphone and leave the phone in your pocket. Also, look for Spotify-exclusive music controls on Fitbit, which is what you can find on the Fitbit Charge 4.

Is the SpO2 sensor really useful?

Keeping an eye on your oxygen saturation while on-the-go sounds like a great feature at first. However, my colleague Stefan, who once trained as a fitness trainer, explained to me once again during this comparison test that blood oxygen hardly fluctuates in healthy people. It is therefore more advisable to check it when exercising in mountainous areas or when you are under extreme stress.

If you do not intend to do this, you should rather disregard a corresponding sensor. In any case, it is available in only a few models, so this should not be a compulsory feature in your purchase decision.

Which interface does my fitness tracker use?

The entire range of collected data can only be viewed in the apps that come with fitness trackers. To do this, the information must first be transferred from the tracker to your smartphone or PC. At the very least, your fitness tracker should therefore have a Bluetooth interface so that you can transfer the data to your handset seamlessly.

In this list you will only find models that have Bluetooth at the very least. However, it is also practical if Wi-Fi support is integrated in your fitness tracker. This way, the data will end up in the cloud as soon as you get home after your workout. If you can also download music to the device, where the downloading process via Wi-Fi is even faster. If such functions are indispensable for you, it’s almost advisable to go for a smartwatch.

Sleep tracking and mindfulness

A healthy lifestyle isn’t just about pumping iron, running, and swimming! You also need to get some rest and fortunately, fitness trackers do help you with that too. The most common and useful feature for this is sleep tracking, which monitors the duration and quality of your sleep. Human sleep consists of different phases: light sleep, deep sleep, and the so-called REM sleep phase.

Each sleep phase is characterised by certain movement patterns, and since you wear the fitness tracker around your wrist during your sleep, it can monitor you. As convenient as this feature is, a fitness tracker can be annoying while you sleep. Besides the device itself gets in the way of a cozy sleeping position, and wearing a fitness tracker at night also ends up as a hygiene issue. A cloth band that has just been completely drowned in sweat is probably not something anyone wants to take to bed with them.

On the topic of mindfulness, by the way, certain fitness trackers also boast of meditation features or breathing exercises. These often rely on your pulse and sees if it changes during the planned rest period.

Compatibility with other hardware

If you want to do more than just run while wearing your fitness tracker, but also want to keep an eye on your pulse during a martial arts session or gymnastics training, you should pick a model from Huawei or Garmin. In the Huawei Health app and Garmin’s Forerunner watches, you can use additional devices like chest straps with heart rate monitors. Especially during movements, for example, when you bend your wrist or the fitness tracker slips for other reasons, errors can occur in the measurement. In addition, Garmin’s HRM Run models can also record vertical movement and your ground contact time.

Special features like notifications, contactless payment or telephony

As mentioned at the beginning, it’s getting harder and harder to distinguish between fitness trackers and smartwatches. That’s because with new features introduced all the time, there are also new selling points, and hence features like wireless payments or microphones and speakers for making phone calls have now landed in fitness trackers as well. While these features are still rare, you can access your notifications, set an alarm, or tell the time with almost all commercially available smartbands.

NextPit Fitbit Charge 4 side
If your fitness tracker supports GPS, you can also make contactless payments on your wrist with the right service / © NextPit

In addition, there are models can be personalised with their own watch faces. This is where your taste comes in and an objective argument for a purchase cannot really be derived based on the available designs. Even if manufacturers advertise the insane numbers of available watch faces.

Materials, case and weight

The design of fitness tracker is similarly unique and depends on your taste, although there are also practical matters to take into consideration. When it comes to leather straps, fabric straps or straps made out of plastic, each of them has their own advantage and disadvantage depending on the type of activity that you are heavily involved in. When swimming, for example, a fabric band can quickly become disgusting, and it is obviously not the most comfortable to wear when you are sleeping at night.

However, bands can usually be bought new and easily replaced, the weight and dimensions are set right from the get go. If you have the opportunity to try out a fitness tracker at an electronics store, I would definitely recommend it!

What impact does fitness trackers have on mental health?

Exercise is a healthy recommendation for most people, not too many people will disagree with me on this matter. But is it really advisable to keep a constant eye on your heart rate and vital signs like blood oxygen rate? In my opinion, the psychological consequences of a fitness tracker are not considered to be a deal-breaker in this kind of purchasing advice, and for this reason I would like to share some findings with you for your (running) journey.

Concerning this matter, a study by the University of Copenhagen in August 2020 suggests that fitness trackers definitely led to more motivation in a test group consisting of people with heart disease between the ages of 28 and 74. At the same time, however, concern for their own health increased as the obtained data was interpreted without medical advice.

Patients tend to treat data from the watch as medical advice and did not see that such data needs to be interpreted by a medical professional. Although the subjects were people who already have a pre-existing condition, vital signs such as resting pulse or heart rate zones are not adequately explained on many fitness trackers.

So buying a fitness tracker is not a substitute for going to the doctor if you’re an active person who wants to slowly get used to an active lifestyle. Of course, your body image is still the best indicator of your health. If every step hurts, you should ignore your fitness tracker’s attempts to motivate you.

Where is the best place to buy a fitness tracker?

Last but not least, I’ll give you a few tips on buying a fitness tracker. As already mentioned in the section about size, the devices are often released with just one standard size. It is rather rare to come across fitness trackers with different case sizes, which is far more common on smartwatches. So if you have either a particularly thick or thin wrists, the bands might end up being a poor fit.

It is therefore advisable to try out the desired device before buying it. You have the advantage that fitness trackers are not only sold by electronics retailers, but there are also devices from Fitbit, Garmin and others in sports shops. The staff on duty there can also help you out with accessories or additional products. In addition to the store staff who are trained to attend to your questions, you can also ask your doctor for assistance or recommendations. They may not be able to give you technical advice, but you can ask them to help interpret your vital signs.

Your doctor may be able to share some of his or her own experience and tell you which manufacturer’s protocols he or she has worked with.

Finally, we hope that after reading this article, you have either already found a fitness tracker or at least know how to home in on the right model for you. What are your requirements for a fitness tracker and what insider tips should we include in this list for the next update? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section.

More best lists on NextPit:

This article was completely rewritten and published on August 26, 2021. Previous comments have been retained.



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