Fitbit, Garmin and more on a budget

Table of Contents The best cheap fitness trackers 2021Why buy a fitness tracker?What makes a…

If you didn’t snap a post-workout pic of a fitness tracker on your wrist for the ‘gram, did you even do any exercise? Modern models can tell you all sorts of handy stats to help you get the most out of each session, from cals burned to distance covered, and even how well you slept. But, as is so often the case, most of them are waaaay too spenny for our liking.

Thankfully, our ever-enthusiastic fitness gurus were more than willing to answer our pleas for a cheap alternative, and made it their mission to find us a few bargains.

The best cheap fitness trackers 2021

Why buy a fitness tracker?

We usually feel like we can take on the world after a bit of exercise, but dragging ourselves away from cosy duvets and *insert streaming service of choice here* has become an almost impossible task during lockdown. That’s where fitness trackers come in.

The pocket-sized workout pals can track your steps throughout the day, helping you set movement goals and more, to give you the motivation you need to get active. Some will even give you a gentle nudge to swap the sofa for your running shoes, vibrating if you’re not on track to hit your targets.

Most link to natty apps, showing your stats in all their glory on your phone, and allowing you to share step-counts on social media for ultimate bragging rights. Some apps allow you to track what you’re eating too, working out if you’re in a calorie surplus or deficit throughout the day.

A word of warning though; fitness trackers can only estimate how many calories you’re burning, based on factors such as height, weight and heart-rate. So take data with a pinch of salt, rather than as an exact figure.

What makes a good fitness tracker?

As tech companies continue to step up their game year after year, we now expect more than ever from our fitness trackers. At the very least you’ll want one that can accurately monitor your steps taken, distance covered and heart-rate.

Some models will be swim-proof, or have fancier features such as detailed sleep tracking — which can be great if you’re a sucker for numbers.

Phone connectivity, how easy the relevant app is to use, comfort and battery life should also be at the back of your mind when you’re picking the perfect one.

How we test

Our resident health expert took a deep dive into the fitness tracker market, digging out a range of market-leading options for testing. They then played them off against one another, seeing how accurate each was when counting steps, recording distances, tracking sleep and monitoring heart-rate. They also took into account battery life, comfort, style and more, before settling on this final eight…

1

Best fitness tracker

Fitbit Charge 4

Sleek, sophisticated and at the top of its game. No, not us unfortunately, we’re talking about the Fitbit Charge 4. It might be at the higher end of our budget, but it’s very good at what it does (what do you expect from the fitness tracker trailblazers?). 

This Fitbit can track 22 different exercises (including swimming) and also logs “active minutes” when your heart rate spikes throughout the day — which ours did during a particularly vigorous car-washing session, apparently. It’s accurate at measuring distance covered, thanks to its in-built GPS, and the app is really easy to use. It also comes with 12 months of Fitbit Premium, providing workout and nutrition plans.

Key specifications:
Screen size:
1.57 inch
Works with:
Apple and Android
Strap material:
Elastomer
GPS:
Yes
Weight:
28g
Number of exercises tracked:
20

2

Best looking fitness tracker

Huawei Watch Fit Elegant

Style or substance… who says you’ve got to choose? The Watch Fit Elegant lives up to its name, and has no shortage of fancy features to keep our inner geek entertained. The responsive touch screen allows you to receive calls and messages without having to fish your phone out of your pocket, and we also found it really easy to read, no matter what time of day it was. 

The battery can last for more than 10 days and it can track 96 different exercises, while in-built GPS allows it to map runs with impressive accuracy. 

Key specifications:
Screen size:
1.64 inch 
Works with: Apple and Android
Strap material:
Silicone
GPS:
Yes
Weight:
21g
Number of exercises tracked:
96

3

Best fitness tracker for battery life

Fitbit Inspire 2

Another impressive option from Fitbit, the Inspire 2’s swim-proof design makes it a perfect pool companion. As with the Charge 4, “active zone minute-tracking” and 12 months of Fitbit Premium come as standard, with the app providing programmes to help you get a sweat on. 

It can even help you stop snacking on sweet treats with a mindful eating programme — much-needed after our Oreo-laden lockdown. However, unlike our top tracker, you’ll need to keep your phone with you during runs and bike rides if you want to record your pace and location details.

Key specifications:
Screen size:
1.4 inch
Works with:
Apple and Android
Strap material:
Elastomer
GPS:
Yes, via phone
Weight:
17g
Number of exercises tracked:
20

4

Best fitness tracker for weight training

Garmin Vivosmart 4

The petite Vivosmart 4 is a *ahem* smart pick for gym-goers who love grinding through heavy hip-thrusts. Its innovative “Move IQ” feature automatically detects your sets and reps in the gym, and you can control your guilty pleasures gym playlist from your wrist — ideal.

Key specifications:
Screen size:
0.39 inch
Works with:
Apple and Android
Strap material:
Elastomer
GPS:
Yes, via phone
Weight:
17g
Number of exercises tracked:
9

5

Best Fitbit on a budget

Fitbit Inspire

So, you want a Fitbit? We get it, they’ve been at the top of the tracker game for years, but your bank balance is unlikely to thank you for splashing out on the latest release. Enter: the Inspire. It was only released in 2019 but, thanks to the release of its successor last year, its price has plummeted to less than £50. 

The Inspire can still record running, cycling, HIIT sessions and more, and even has a menstrual health feature to follow your cycle. However, it does lack a few of the bells and whistles features of more recent models. It can’t control your music and, despite being swim-proof, it won’t give detailed feedback on pool sessions. Still, at this price we don’t think it’s a deal-breaker. 

Key specifications:
Screen size:
1.4 inch
Works with:
Apple and Android
Strap material:
Elastomer
GPS:
No
Weight:
17g
Number of exercises tracked:
20

6

Best fitness tracker under £30

Honor Band 5

Simple and accurate, this band is perfect for anyone looking to track their steps, distance travelled and sleep — without spending an arm and a leg. It will vibrate to remind you to get off the sofa, and it also has a find my phone feature — which was called into action an embarrassing amount during testing. However, there’s no GPS, so it can’t map any runs or bike rides.

Key specifications:
Screen size:
0.95 inch
Works with:
Apple and Android
Strap material:
Elastomer
GPS:
No
Weight:
22.7g
Number of exercises tracked:
9

7

Most discreet fitness tracker

Samsung Galaxy Fit E

This slim white band supplied accurate stats on heart rate, steps taken and distance travelled. It’s easy to cycle through these figures on the tracker (just double tap the black and white screen). 

The Fit E will automatically start tracking walks and runs when it detects a spike in your movement and heart rate, however all other activities need to be started manually. It doesn’t have GPS, and the compatible iOS and Android apps have different names, which is a bit confusing. But, for the price, this is still a very solid option. 

Key specifications:
Screen size:
0.74 inch
Works with:
Apple and Android
Strap material:
Elastomer
GPS:
No
Weight:
15g
Number of exercises tracked:
18

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