The Best Fitbits

Editor's Note
  • September 21, 2018 - Both the Fitbit Blaze and Fitbit Surge are no longer sold through Fitbit’s website but are still available for purchase through some third-party retailers, like Amazon. Additionally, Fitbit has released an upgraded version of our top pick, the Charge 3, which we will be reviewing in the near future along with Fitbit’s newest smartwatch, the Versa.

The best Fitbit for you will comfortably and accurately track your vital signs and movements while blending seamlessly into your lifestyle. We brought in every Fitbit and their most popular accessories and tested them over three weeks to find out which ones combine reliable statistics and easy style for a fitness tracker you’ll love.

The 3 Best Fitbits

Best Overall Fitbit
Fitbit Charge 2
Charge 2
The Charge 2’s accuracy, many features, and easy navigation make it one of the best Fitbits (and fitness trackers) on the market.
Pros
Impressive, easy-to-use functionality
Integrates with daily life
Tracks miles accurately
Comfortable, sleek style
Cons
Heart rate accuracy
Wristband durability
Broad screen

Why we chose it

Impressive, easy-to-use functions

The Charge 2 has just enough features to track all your fitness goals without being overwhelming. It records steps, calories burned, distance, heart rate, and offers activity tracking. It’s easy to click through to see your daily steps, calories, and current heart rate, as well as activate a run exercise, use the stopwatch, start Fitbit’s guided relaxation exercise, or even check your vitals. Many of our testers commented that the Charge 2’s button to cycle through the display options was also much more reliable than the tap method of the similar Alta and Alta HR.

When you start up an exercise routine, the Charge 2 will isolate the data and sync it to your Fitbit app so you can see how effective your workout was outside of your daily statistics. There’s also a responsive tap mechanism to switch between activity types, so you can label your exercise as Run, Weights, Treadmill, Workout, Elliptical, Bike, or Intervals. It even reminds you throughout the day to move, sending you alerts encouraging you to take 250 steps per hour.

Integrates with daily life

With a small buzz, you’ll be able to see any texts or phone calls on the Charge 2’s screen and can decide whether to stop your workout for an important message, or leave your phone in your gym bag. If you’d prefer your gym time (or any other time) to be strictly offline, it’s easy to disable notifications, too.

Tracks miles accurately

The Charge 2 was highly accurate at estimating how many miles we traveled, although it gave us a few extra steps (an average of 4% more) for every hundred steps we actually took. It’s not perfect, but it’s also unlikely to disrupt your daily fitness goals.

Comfortable, sleek style

Additionally, the Charge 2 comes with a watch-style band that’s comfortable and easy to adjust. Our testers initially thought that the Charge 2’s default silicone-like band would be uncomfortable or pull on arm hair, as it did with the Altas, whose slim bands move more often across the wrist. However, while the Charge 2 is made of the same material, its broader band reduces this movement resulting in a better fit. Replacement bands are also available through both Fitbit and Amazon.

Points to consider

Heart rate accuracy

The Charge 2 consistently underestimated our heart rate (both average and maximum) by about 10%. This can lead to misleading results, especially when it comes to accuracy in calories burned during your workout. We aren’t the only ones critical of this feature: A study published in PLOS ONE also found the Charge 2 underestimated heart rate. While ballpark heart rates may be fine for lowkey everyday use or general exercise, if you want to get serious about your stats you may be better off with a more accurate chest strap wearable.

Wristband durability

There are also concerns about the Charge 2 band’s insecurity. After a year of use, the band tends to pop off the body of the Fitbit, making it increasingly difficult to wear during workouts. Some of our testers experienced this, and the Fitbit Community forum contains similar complaints. In some cases, Fitbit may send you a replacement band, but keep in mind you’ll probably be on the hook to buy a new band at some point.

Broad screen

Most of our testers liked having the broader screen of the Charge 2 compared to the Altas. It fits more information on the screen at a glance, and because it’s broader, it lies more evenly on the wrist. However, if you’re looking for something less conspicuous and don’t need a screen, consider the Flex 2 for half the price.

The new Fitbit Charge 3

In October 2018, the new Charge 3 model will be available. Fitbit boasts the Charge 3’s high-resolution touchscreen is 40% larger and brighter than the Charge 2’s and also brings the most advanced health and fitness features to the table, like female health tracking, personalized insights, 24/7 guidance and motivation, among others. We’ll be testing this model in the future to see if it’s worth the upgrade, but for now, we still think the Charge 2 is the best Fitbit for most people.

Best Incognito
Fitbit Flex 2
Flex 2
This small Fitbit tracks your vital signs and activities without drawing attention to itself.
Pros
Basic functionality
Modest design
Cons
No heart rate tracker
Difficult band

Why we chose it

Basic functionality

The Flex 2 has many of the same functions as the Charge 2, it just communicates with a series of lights instead of a screen. Both have reminders to move (hourly check-ins to make sure you get in Fitbit’s recommended 250 steps per hour), track steps and miles, and notify you of texts and calls. Plus, the Flex 2 is swim proof for up to 100 m deep.

Modest design

Except for its small, color-coded lights, the Flex 2 isn’t flashy, which is great if you want a fitness tracker that doesn’t look like a fitness tracker. The device itself, which pops into a silicone band, is tiny — smaller than a AAA battery. This makes it one of the easiest to customize, as both Fitbit and Amazon offer a variety of bands, jewelry-styled bangles, or necklaces for your Flex 2.

Points to consider

No heart rate tracker

The biggest drawback is that the Flex 2 doesn’t have a heart rate tracker, and while it was more accurate than some devices (the Alta HR, the Blaze, and the Alta) for steps and miles, it’s not in the overall top five for accuracy, either. It underestimated steps by up to 13% (potentially robbing you of more than 1 of every 10 steps) and inconsistently over- and underestimated our miles by a similar margin. While we weren’t fans of this disparity, the Flex 2 is the only low-profile, budget Fitbit that has almost all of the features of its larger siblings. For more accuracy, you can opt for fewer features — like the Zip, a dedicated step-counter — or upgrade to either the Charge 2 or the Ionic, both of which offered better, although still not perfect, accuracy.

Difficult band

We fought to put on the Flex 2 and, once on, also struggled to take it off, which made finding the right fit a challenge. One tester with sensitive skin ended up with a small rash where the Flex 2 rubbed against her skin as she pried it loose. Testers universally preferred the buckle clasp of the watch-style bands: They were easy to put on, take off, and adjust. If you go with the Flex 2, consider upgrading the band as a priority.

Best Smartwatch
Fitbit Ionic
Ionic
This Fitbit smartwatch combines a fitness tracker with a music player and credit card.
Pros
Step and distance accuracy
Bonus workout features
Cons
Inconsistent heart rate tracking
Uncomfortable band

Why we chose it

All-in-one device

The Ionic has all of the features of the Charge 2 and then some. As a smartwatch, the Ionic comes with a few bonus features: You’ll be able to store music directly on it and stream straight to a pair of bluetooth headphones, so you don’t need to carry your phone with you on your morning walk. It has a high-definition color touchscreen that’s really responsive, as are three navigation buttons. Plus, you can make payments with it, if you feel like leaving your wallet at home.

Step and distance accuracy

The Ionic is remarkably accurate. This smartwatch almost perfectly counted our steps, off by less than 1% (only one step was miscounted for every 200). It tracked distance with near-similar precision (98%); only the Charge 2 beat it for accuracy in this arena (99%).

Bonus workout features

You can use your Fitbit Ionic watch to guide you through a series of preset workouts via Fitbit Coach. The app gives you a preview of the workout on your watch so you can observe how to complete each move properly, and your watch will vibrate when it’s time to start and stop. We liked this interactivity and this feature is great for those looking for extra guidance for their workouts. The Fitbit Coach subscription costs $40 per year and has flexible customization options so you can choose which workouts to store on your watch.

Points to consider

Heart rate accuracy

The Ionic struggled a bit with measuring heart rate, underestimating average heart rates by up to 14 bpm and misreading maximum heart rate by up to 12 bpm. The comparable smartwatch at the time of testing was the Blaze, which did a little better with average heart rate, only underestimating by up to 10 bpm, but varied more wildly when it came to maximum heart rate results. (Hopefully, Fitbit’s latest foray into smartwatch territory, the Versa, will do a better job and record more accurate results. Stay tuned for upcoming testing.)

Uncomfortable rubber wristband

Our testers had mixed feelings about the comfort of the Ionic. They universally preferred the extra accessory leather band (purchased separately) over the silicone-like band that comes standard. The soft leather helped the Ionic blend in as a watch more than the sporty-like rubber wristband did. This doesn’t bode well for exercising, though, as you might not want to get your sweat on while wearing a leather band.

Guide to Fitbits

How to find the best Fitbit for you

Think about your exercise preferences

If you like tracking your exercise metrics and seeing concrete numbers after a long run or hot yoga session, then you’ll probably enjoy using a more in-depth fitness tracker (like the Charge 2 or Ionic) to keep up with your fitness journey. For those of you who gauge fitness success by how you feel, having access to numbers on your progress at all times might be overwhelming — you could try a tracker that goes less in-depth, like the Flex 2. It’s important to note that fitness trackers can help improve heart health by showing you how much activity you’re actually fitting into your day, which can help you make decisions on whether, and how, to adjust your existing routine.

Consider what functions you want

If you get enough screen time and use exercise as a way to escape the omnipresent grip of your smartphone, tablet, or computer — a tracker with basic functionality (step counting, distance tracking), like the Flex 2, might be your best bet. But if you want a way to track your heart rate, floors climbed, control music, make payments, and even read a few messages all while hiking up a step climber, then you’ll probably want to consider a smartwatch, like the Ionic.

Compare Fitbits

If you’re down to two or three of your favorite Fitbit products and can’t make a decision, Fitbit has a comparison tool that lays it all out for you. Think about what matters to you most — whether it be sleep tracking, receiving smartphone notifications, guided breathing sessions, or simply counting steps — and see how your own top picks stack up.

Know Fitbit accuracy will vary

Even if Fitbit measured all of its promised data accurately, there are a lot of variables that go into how your particular body consumes, uses, and stores energy that affect calorie tracking, for example. Fitbit currently doesn’t calculate or adjust for individual metabolisms.

Although no Fitbit is going to be completely accurate all of the time, the company does have a slew of resources to help you understand the science behind its products. Wrist-based devices leave more room for error when it comes to step count because they also have to account for arm movements, whereas a device that clips to your torso might get you a more accurate number. Looser wrist devices will also vary your data — they might miss a few steps or heartbeats. We suggest learning the best ways to manage, wear, and use your product in order to yield the most accurate results.

Get familiar with the app

We love the Fitbit app. When you first open it up, you’ll be directed to the Dashboard, which has all of your statistics for the day so far. As you get closer to your personal daily goal, the blue track meter fills up. Clicking on any of these small icons (steps, floors, miles, cals, and minutes) will show how often this week you’ve completed each goal and how that compares to your past data.

Dashboard for Fitbit

Clicking on the Sleep Tracking icon brings you to a detailed analysis of how you slept the previous night. You’ll be able to see how often, how long, and when you were awake, in REM, light, and deep sleep, and track your patterns over time (as well as how these compare to averages for your demographic).

Sleep for Fitbit

There are also weight, water, and food icons, where you can input what you’ve had to eat or drink so far today, as well as track your weight. If you purchase Fitbit’s Aria 2 scale, it’ll sync your weight data automatically. The Food Tracker lets you scan a barcode or manually enter what you ate for lunch. You get a summary of calories consumed alongside a break down of nutrients into carbohydrates, fats, and protein.

Join the Fitbit community

We tend to feed off of other people’s behaviors, especially when it comes to exercise and leading a healthy lifestyle. The community is one of the best things about Fitbit. In addition to being able to link to your friends, you can connect to various groups based on shared interests. Once in a group, you can see recent posts people have made about their own fitness journeys, ask questions, receive tips, and chime in with your own advice and encouragements.

Community for Fitbit

Fitbit FAQ

What does a Fitbit do?

A Fitbit is essentially a fitness tracker that monitors your health — from exercise and weight to your diet and sleeping habits. But it does more than crunch the numbers on your fitness progress; you can sync your statistics to your phone and set goals for yourself. You’re also not an island in your fitness journey with these products, either. Fitbit places great emphasis on community and even lets you start challenges with friends and family to reach certain goals.

How does Fitbit track heart rate?

Fitbit’s “PurePulse” technology uses the LED lights on your Fitbit to reflect back onto the skin and scan for changes in blood volume. Apple uses a similar technology (photoplethysmography) for its smartwatches, using LED lights to detect changes in blood flow. As your heart beats, more or less light will be absorbed depending on whether your heart is expanding or contracting. By flashing green lights at your skin, Fitbit tracks when less light is absorbed than usual and estimates your heart rate from that.

How do I get the most accurate data from my Fitbit product?

You can always adjust your settings, so if you feel your Fitbit isn’t giving you accurate data, start with the basics — like making sure your height and weight are entered accurately. Then, check and see if you’re wearing your device the right way.

What is the best way to wear a Fitbit?

This will largely depend on the product — you obviously won’t wear a clip-on the same way you would a wristband or necklace. For most of the day, it’s best to make sure you can fit two or three fingers between your Fitbit and your wrist to ensure a comfortable fit. But during exercise, you’ll want to wear it snugly against your wrist in order to get more accurate heart rate tracking.

The Best Fitbits: Summed Up

Fitbit Charge 2
Fitbit Flex 2
Fitbit Ionic
Best Overall
Best Incognito Fitbit
Best Smartwatch Fitbit
Floors climbed

(to 50m)
Waterproof

(to 50m)
Heart rate
Visible screen
Step accuracy*

approx. +4% (extra 4 steps for every 100)

approx. -1% to -13% (minus 1-13 steps for every 100)
approx. -0.05% (<1 step for every 100)
Distance*
100% accurate

92% accurate (inconsistently +/-)

97.6% accurate (approx. -2.4%)
Heart rate avg.

approx. -10% (-5 to -10 bpm)

n/a

approx. -10% (-6 to -14 bpm)
Heart rate max

approx. -8% (-11 to -19 bpm)

n/a
approx. -8% (-1 to -12 bpm)

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