Fitness Watch Reviews by Brand
This page was last updated on 3rd October 2017 to reflect several new models from Polar, Fitbit & Garmin.
The primary aim of this website is to to help you choose the right heart rate monitor watch for your needs at the best online prices. I want to ensure that you are fully aware of new products, obsolete products, the next model up, the next model down etc. I have categorised all the fitness watches by activity type and also by brands, below. Scroll down for a summary of the 2017 product offerings from the main brands. Each product has been tagged with either (WR) or (CH) or (NoH)
Key to Abbreviations
WR = Wrist Based Heart Rate. Heart Rate is acquired directly off the wrist, no chest strap required.
CH = Chest Strap Heart Rate. Heart Rate is acquired with a traditional chest strap sensor (more accurate)
NoH = No option for Heart Rate (NoH)
If you prefer to browse by ACTIVITY please click here
Quick Links by BRAND (most popular first)
- Wahoo Fitness
Scroll down for more details with full current 2017 product range for each brand
Polar Fitness Watches 2017
The newest and most popular fitness products from Polar are:
Chest Sensor > For Heart Rate in your iOs/Android smartphone > Polar H7 (CH)
For more Polar brand information …
Suunto Performance Monitors 2017
The newest and most popular GPS sports watches from Suunto are:
For more Suunto brand information …
Garmin Fitness Products 2017
The newest and most popular fitness products from Garmin are:
Wrist Worn > Vivosport (WR) – Vivoactive 3 (WR) – Vivofit 3 (CH) – Vivosmart HR (WR) – Vivosmart HR+ (WR) – Vivomove – Vivofit Jr – Vivoactive HR (WR) – Forerunner 25 (CH) – Forerunner 235 (WR) – Forerunner 735XT (WR) – Forerunner 920XT (CH) – Forerunner 935 (WR) – Fenix 3 Sapphire HR (WR) – Fenix 3 (CH) – Forerunner 35 (WR) – Garmin Fenix 5 (WR)
For more Garmin brand information …
The newest and most popular fitness products from Fitbit are:
For more Fitbit brand information …
The newest and most popular fitness products from TomTom are:
For more TomTom brand information …
Pebble (Discontinued in 2017 … )
The newest and most popular fitness products from Pebble watches are
Wrist Worn > Pebble 2 SE – Pebble 2 +HR – Pebble Time 2 – Pebble Time Round
The newest and most popular fitness products from Apple are:
Wrist Worn > Apple Watch – Apple Watch 2 (WR)
The newest and most popular fitness products from Motorola are:
Wrist Worn > Moto 360 (WR) – Moto 360 2nd Gen (WR) – Moto 360 Sport (WR)
The newest and most popular fitness products from Huawei are:
Wrist Worn > Classic (WR)
The newest and most popular fitness products from Withings are:
Wrist Worn > Steel HR – Pulse Ox (WR)
The newest and most popular fitness products from Samsung are:
Wrist Worn > Gear S2 (WR) – Gear S3 (WR) – Gear Fit2 (WR)
Wahoo Fitness 2017
The newest and most popular fitness products from Wahoo Fitness are:
For more Wahoo Fitness brand information …
The newest and most popular fitness bands from Mio Global are:
For more Mio Global brand information …
(note > nothing new since 2015)
The newest and most popular fitness products from Epson are:
For more Epson brand information …
(note > nothing new since 2015)
The newest and most popular fitness watches from Timex are:
For more Timex brand information …
More about Polar
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… Polar started it all off in 1977. For 25 years they had quite an easy ride, innovating at their own pace, releasing products when it suited them and providing their telemetry technology to other brands like Suunto to OEM in to their own watches. However, in approx 2003 and 2004 Timex and Garmin appeared on the scene with their OWN telemetry and started offering directly competitive products to Polar’s own. It was really only in 2003 that Polar started to experience real competition.
Branching out to Activity Trackers
In the last 3 or 4 years Polar have pulled up their innovation socks and have climbed back in to the front seat of heart rate monitoring and general fitness tracking. One massive improvement to the Polar products in the last couple of years is their highly improved internet based training software – PolarPersonalTrainer.com and more recently their Polar Flow web service. Add to these online improvements the introduction of integrated activity trackers in the A300 and M400 and the multisport GPS HRM, the Polar V800, and it’s clear to see that Polar have their eye fixed firmly on resurrecting their KING OF THE MOUNTAIN title.
Polar’s Strapless Heart Rate watches
In early 2015 Polar introduced us to their Polar A360. This was Polar’s first OFF THE WRIST heart rate watch, no need for a chest strap. The powerful LED sensors read the pulse directly from the wrist providing accurate heart rate data throughout your training session. This brilliant strapless heart rate technology has now been incorporated in to the Polar M600 smartwatch, another big step forward for Polar using Android Wear operating system and providing built-in GPS as well as heart rate and activity tracker.
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More About Suunto
Suunto have been around forever. They have always been relied upon to provide highest quality, top spec gear at a sensible price. Suunto used to buy the heart rate technology from Polar and original Suunto models like the Advisor used to come with a Polar HRM belt. However, in 2007/8 Suunto brought out their own proprietory version of the Open Platform signalling system ANT+. Unfortunately, it wasn’t generic ANT+, but their own flavour of ANT. Thankfully, in a similar way to Polar, Suunto realised the potential in open source technology and now incorporate Bluetooth connectivity in to their latest products.
Suunto’s outdoor wrist computers with internal GPS are the creme de la creme of training computers. Stunning quality combined with remarkable looks and technical functionality. The Suunto Ambit range was groundbreaking and I still consider it to be one of the best GPS sports watches ever. You can still buy the popular Ambit3 models (Ambit3 Run specifically for runners and the Ambit3 Peak), however, in Sept 2016 they announced the replacement of the Ambit … the Suunto Spartan. The Spartan Sport and Spartan Ultra have yet (Jan 2017) to reach their full potential with new firmware updates coming out every few weeks. It’s a lovely watch and very nearly brilliant.
For the more budget conscious we are waiting to see what Suunto do in 2016/17. They have been relying on their M series since about 2011 and, if I’m honest, it’s getting a bit behind in functionality and tech to really compete with Polar and Garmin. If you are looking to buy an entry level HRM then yes, they do offer the Suunto M2, M5 and Quest models, however, I’d recommend something like the Polar M400 or Garmin Forerunner 25 as an alternative with smartphone connectivity for data upload and integrated GPS / activity trackers.
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More about Garmin
They arrived with a major bang and must have really put the wind up Polar. They were innovative, cheap and had a huge company behind them. From the very start with their Starship Enterprise styled Garmin Forerunner 101 GPS Speed and Distance watch they made a huge impact on the market. From then on, things got better…. more accurate, smaller, cheaper and highly functional. Garmin have managed to win over a tech-savvie customer base with their easy to use, yet highly functional products, most of which incorporate GPS technology. On the latest models it is possible to send session data directly to your iPhone for upload to the GarminConnect website.
The World’s Most Popular Running Watch
If you are thinking of getting a Garmin GPS running then you will be joining a club of thousands. There have been over 15 models in the Forerunner range so we have published a short history of the Garmin Forerunner which compares the main differences between all the models from the original Forerunner 101 in 2003 to the latest products.
The Garmin range is growing all the time. They offer several daily activity trackers like the Vivofit 2 and Vivosmart HR and the excellent Vivoactive HR Smartwatch with built in GPS and off the wrist heart rate. For the runner there has always been the Forerunner range. Garmin now offer a very popular Forerunner 25, and the Forerunner 35 with wrist based heart rate. If your running is getting more serious then they offer the Forerunner 235 (with strapless heart rate sensors) and the mighty 630 with training plans, intervals, internal accelerometers and smartphone connectivity. Want to swim, bike and run all in session and have it all record in ONE FILE? … then that will be the Forerunner 920XT or the Forerunner 735XT with off the wrist heart rate. And finally, if you want your wrist computer to do everything covering all sports in ALL CONDITIONS, on top of any mountain or paddling down the wildest white water, then you need the fenix3 … Jan 2017 update, the Fenix 5 has now been announced… Available in 3 sizes ALL with wrist based Garmin Elevate heart rate.
Garmin Elevate – Off the Wrist heart rate
Garmin were the first of “the big 3” to bring out an OPTICAL heart rate monitor. A heart rate monitor that does NOT need a chest strap. Products in the current line up (excluding older models) that include the Garmin Elevate off the wrist heart rate sensors are : Forerunner 235 – Vivosmart HR – Vivosmart HR+ – Vivoactive HR – Forerunner 735XT – Forerunner 35 – Fenix 5
And the best Garmin Fitness watch is ? …
If you’re short for time and want to know which Garmin fitness watch I think is suitable for 90% of users with built in GPS, off the wrist heart rate, activity tracking (steps, distance, calories and floors) plus seamless smartphone connectivity, look no further than the Vivoactive HR. If you’re looking for something more Fitbit-like without the built-in heart rate or GPS then I’d have to recommend the Garmin Vivofit 3
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More about TomTom
As with all the brands on cardiocritic.com we have tested the complete range of TomTom fitness products and we can say with authority that they offer great value for money for runners and multisport athletes looking for something a bit different. The best value for money is the TomTom Runner 2 (Spark) watch which comes Bluetooth™ ready for direct connection and data download to TomTom’s MySport APP.
In September 2016 TomTom released a whole new line up of GPS sports watches, all with off he wrist heart rate sensors. We will be testing these great new products over the next couple of months including the Runner 3 (Spark 3) and their first Fitbit style activity tracker, the TomTom Touch
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More about Fitbit
First off…. if you happen to work for FitBit and you are reading this… PLEASE get in touch with me so I can get hold of products to test a bit easier… at present I am relying on friends and family and the odd UNWANTED RETURN…
FitBit offer a comprehensive range of fitness monitors and activity trackers ideally suited for everyone from the newbie fitness fan to the local 10K speed merchant. The most popular products in the FitBit range, and what they’re now famous for, are the discrete activity tracking fitness monitors like the FitBit Flex 2 (no display, all data sent to Smartphone) and the Charge / Charge HR (off the wrist heart rate) and the wonderful FitBit Surge (wrist based Heart Rate and internal GPS). My sister in law was given a Surge for a Christmas present and she genuinely believes it has changed her life for the better. As someone who just needed a nudge to get her off the sofa in the evening and take the dog for a job/walk or do a quick 2 mile power walk round the block it has worked wonders.
Fitbit don’t release products at the same speed as Garmin but the latest products have been very well received. The Fitbit Alta is a discrete and stylish activity tracker with an OLED display. The Fitbit Blaze has some innovative features like FitStar and GPS sharing (using your smartphone’s GPS while running/biking to give accurate speed and distancwe feedback). Of all the Fitbit products currently available my personal favourite is the Fitbit Charge 2 with a larger and clearer display then the original Charge HR.
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More about Wahoo Fitness
Wahoo Fitness are focused on the provision of sensors to enable complete body fitness tracking in Smartphones, in particular the iPhone and Android phones. In the last year or so their best selling product has been the Wahoo Fitness Tickr a Bluetooth Low Energy (Smart / BTLE) heart rate sensor that is compatible with the iPhone / Android range of smartphones.
All the iPhone owners needs is one of MANY Apps and the Tickr belt to add heart rate monitoring to their runs/rides. The iPhone already has the GPS, so that means the user has speed, distance and HR all in one app. The range of APPS supported by their products is huge. If you’d prefer to keep your iPhone tucked safely away in your jersey pocket then they Wahoo RFLKT could be just what you’re looking for. The RFLKT head unit mirrors the data from your iPhone’s GPS, sending it via Bluetooth to the RFLKT unit
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More about Mio
Update – Jan 2017 > Great news. Mio have a new product. Details of the Mio Slice to come very soon !!
Not a company to sit back on their laurels we now have another major innovation in fitness tracking. The Mio Slice is the world’s first fitness band to include PAI technology. PAI (Personal Activity Intelligence) is a measure of heart rate throughout the day. Rather than simply count daily steps, the Mio Slice wants to see periods of elevated heart rate and awards your PAI score based on that.
Having been involved with heart rate monitors since 1999 we have seen fashions, trends, gimmicks and peculiar products come and go. There is ONE thing that we have been asked for more than anything else. CONTINUOUS heart rate monitoring directly OFF the WRIST without the need for a chest strap… never going to happen we used to say..
Luckily Liz Dickson didn’t take the same approach. Liz’s innovative solution was to use OPTICAL sensors, high powered LED’s that look for the actual blood pump under the skin. Unlike traditional chest strap HRM devices that monitor the ELECRTRICAL activity around the heart, the Mio optical sensor looks at, for all intents and purposes, the PULSE.
If you have any doubt how accurate these sensors are, you can rest assured they are brilliant accurate. So much so that they are used by TomTom in their GPS sports watches and now by Garmin in their FR 225
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More about Epson
Update – Oct 2016 > Unfortunately, like Mio, I have downgraded the Epson product range. It was good when new in 2014/15 but it has not seen a product update for some time. For that reason, I’d recommend looking at alternative product from Polar, Fitbit or Garmin, TomTom.
Just like TomTom, Epson have one weapon of mass destruction in their armoury.. STRAPLESS heart rate monitoring. Your heart rate is taken directly off your wrist. Unlike TomTom who have to pay Mio for the use of Mio’s technology, Epson have patented their own continuous optical heart rate sensor.
Epson have a great range of products in their Runsense and Pulsense ranges. The Pulsense is for anyone looking to increase their daily activity and improve their general health and fitness. The PS-100 is similar to the Polar Loop and Garmin Vivofit while the PS-500 is more of a traditional watch with addition of in-built heart rate monitor and stride sensor/activity monitor. The Runsense is an integrated GPS range of sports watches aimed mainly towards runners. The Epson SF-810 is their top of the range with built-in heart rate sensor and integrated GPS.
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More about Timex
Update – Oct 2016 > Unfortunately, after trying several Timex product since 2014 I have been underwhelmed by their performance, innovation and functionality. That doesn’t mean I have stopped reviewing them. At present, I would have to say that the product offerings from Garmin and Polar are stronger than the Timex range….
How many of you reading this have had a Timex watch? Quite possibly more than 90%. Timex had a very successful introduction in to GPS heart rate monitors around 2003/4 and 5… but then Garmin arrived and really spoiled their party. The problem at that time was that they had a separate GPS unit, it had to be worn on the arm and synchronised with the watch unit. Needless to say, when offered a similar priced ALL IN ONE unit like the Garmin Forerunner, customers took to integrated GPS option. It has taken almost a decade for Timex Ironman to get back to the top of their game, and their latest versions of Timex Easy Trainer and Timex Run Trainer – all with integrated GPS, are becoming more and more popular.
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