Comparison: Best Wearable Fitness Trackers

Check out this comparison of this year’s most popular health and fitness gadgets to see how they rate. Bottom line: you can learn a lot from these clever devices, and if you persist in wearing them they can help you fine-tune your activity levels, diet, and sleep strategies.

Nike-Fuelband-blackNike+ FuelBand ($150)

BASICS: This rubber bracelet—perhaps the most sports-oriented of the lot—gives you a rundown of steps and calories burned via flashy LED readouts and a single button on the wristband’s front. It pairs with Nike+ Connect software, and the driving stat is an activity-based, Nike-specific currency called NikeFuel.

PROS: For users who like to keep tabs on their progress, the LED display will be a big plus—one that the Up and the Larklife are missing. It comes with two additional connector links of different sizes to ensure a perfect fit. The red-to-greed lights on the band allow for easy progress check-ins, and those who like having a cheering squad will appreciate the FuelBand’s exuberant blinking “GOAL” when you reach your ideal step count for the day. Bluetooth syncing means your data is always available. Tons of other social media-based options, including progress-sharing and gaming via NikeFuel Missions.

CONS: Though the Larklife is bulkier, it at least has a thinner bottom band portion that doesn’t inhibit typing. The FuelBand is uniform in size, which means it often was left on the desktop after typing with it became too uncomfortable. The design isn’t subtle or sleek—it looks like an exercise device—and while some seem to like the LED display, it’s a bit over-the-top. Lack of sleep monitoring is a bummer.

BOTTOM LINE: Excellent straight-up fitness-tracker, with a surprise bonus: a built-in watch!

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Up-Jawbone-stackJawbone UP ($130)

BASICS: This rubber wristband is, like its competitors, fueled by an accelerometer that tracks movements throughout the day and night. It syncs data to your phone using a headphone jack plug-in and companion app, which offers meal and mood tracking on top of the usual data rundown. There’s no display on the band itself save a small LED light that illuminates when the endcap button is pressed to indicate wake or sleep modes.

PROS: As a slim, display-less band, the Up is one of the less obtrusive devices. The one-touch sleep button is handy (as is the Power Nap mode) and circumvents the annoying wake-to-sleep band transition encountered by the Fitbit and Larklife. A smart alarm allows users to set a window in which to be woken up, and the UP chooses a time when sleep is lightest to gently vibrate and wake the user. The app is simple, intuitive, and visually appealing. A single charge takes just over an hour, and the battery lasts forever—about ten days—before a recharge is needed.

CONS: The design beats out Nike and Lark’s, but as a bracelet, it’s still fairly obvious. If you’re not keen on regular syncing, the lack of a wireless sync option could be frustrating. If you’re looking for food tracking, this isn’t the place to find it—the Up’s tracking model requires multiple clicks just to select items or search and is a general disappointment on the ease-of-use front.

BOTTOM LINE: If you don’t mind the bracelet form, it’s a solid option in a saturated field—but ultimately it’s a big price to pay for an app and a pedometer. This one excels in sleep-monitoring and the vibrating alarm.

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fitbit-one-black-burgundy-side-view-1347661592Fitbit One ($100)

BASICS: It’s a super-basic pedometer/accelerometer in a small stick—roughly an inch or so long. It hooks into your pocket during the day, then slips into a soft sleepband at night to track your ZZZs and wake you with gentle vibrations. It syncs through a wireless dongle plugged into your USB drive—either let it sync automatically or select the icon in the taskbar to force sync, then check your data on Fitbit.com or the app. A tiny screen cycles through time, floors, distance, calories, and a flower showing how active you’ve been for the day.

PROS: The biggest pro is the same reason the Fitbit is more likely to stay in use: it’s discreet. If the whole purpose of these trackers is to wear round-the-clock, you’ll want something that works with your lifestyle around the clock, which often rules out sporty-looking wrist gadgets or bulky blue bracelets. For considerably less money than some challengers, the Fitbit provides much the same kind of data and motivation—but subtler.

CONS: When you’re tuckered out after a long day, the last thing you want to do is remember to break out the soft nighttime wristband. But after a few days, habit kicked in, and we could set up the Fitbit for sleep with our eyes closed. Food tracking still leaves something to be desired—if that’s your main aim, you’re better off using a site like sparkpeople.com or myfitnesspal.com to track intake.

BOTTOM LINE: If you’re trying to jumpstart a healthier routine and want a basic tracker, the Fitbit One is still your best bet, value-wise. Still, it’s only as good as its user—once the thrill of the data tracking wears off, you’ll have to find your own motivation, because the Fitbit doesn’t do much to help in that department.

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Excerpted from a Men’s Health article by Lila Battis

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