Buying Guide for Christmas 2017

Every year I receive dozens of emails asking for advice on selecting fitness trackers & sports watches as Christmas gifts. All the key brands have released their latest products in time for Christmas 2017 so now is a good time to start looking. To help you make the best choice I have focused on the very best watches in each category. The prices given are an approximate guideline and may go up or down.

 The aim of CardioCritic.com is to ensure you get the latest product at a great price, or a previous model at a seriously reduced price.

I have split the categories as follows

Before we Start …

Are you simply looking to add heart rate monitoring to your smartphone. If so, all you need is an iOs (iPhone / iPad) or Android device and one of the many FREE fitness training apps.  The choice of apps is huge including Polar Beat, Google Fit, Strava, MapMyRun etc. Add to that the Polar OH1 Armband heart rate sensor and you have a fully functional heart rate monitor with GPS (from your phone). The Polar OH1 (Optical Heart Rate) – an armband style heart rate sensor can be worn on the upper or lower arm. Heart Rate is accurately acquired from the 6 x LED sensors. This heart rate data is then either BROADCAST to compatible Bluetooth devices or STORED internally for download to Polar Flow at a later time. In this storage mode the Polar OH1 armband HRM sensor can be used as a standalone device recording up to 200 hours of total training data.

  • Polar OH1

    approx £69 / $79

    An innovative optical heart rate sensor that is worn on the upper or lower arm. If you want to monitor your heart rate in your phone or other Bluetooth compatible device but do NOT want to wear a chest strap this Polar OH1 armband heart rate monitor is a great alternative. Accurate and easy to use. The OH1 can either STORE your training session for download later or BROADCAST heart rate data to a compatible device – or BOTH at the same time. The Polar OH1 has been awarded a 5 Star Review Rating from CardioCritic …

    REVIEWED here …

    AMAZON Price …

 

Not a Chest Strap in sight

For the first time in 18 years all the products listed below* utilize the wrist based heart rate sensors – LED’s on the back of the watch that acquire heart rate directly from the wrist (no need for chest strap). I have personally tested the heart rate accuracy of all the products on this page and confirm that they are all fit for purpose and measure your heart rate to a high degree of accuracy.

* with the exception of the Polar V800

The Best ALL ROUND fitness watch?

If, like me, you like to dabble in many sports then you may be looking for a sports watch that is suitable for ANY SPORT whether running, cycling, sailing, kayaking, football, squash, hockey, gym, aerobics, crossfit, HiiT etc. If so, then we recommend the brilliant Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR or new Garmin Vivoactive 3. I tested the Suunto Spartan Trainer wrist HR for over 4 weeks confidently recommend it to EVERYBODY and ANYBODY looking for a GPS multi-sport watch with wrist based heart rate. The same can be said for the 5 Star Reviewed Garmin Vivoactive 3 the perfect all-round sports training partner for 95% of customers (with the exception of triathletes). 

  • Garmin Vivoactive 3

    approx £269 / $299

    CardioCritic loved the functionality of the original Vivoactive and then the added convenience of wrist based heart rate found on the Vivoactive HR. Garmin have improved the Vivoactive 3 by radically changing it’s style in to a cleaner ROUND case and adding some great new fitness features like 24/7 Stress Testing. The Garmin Vivoactive 3 is for anyone who takes their training seriously looking for a small to mid-sized smart & stylish GPS sports watch with off the wrist heart rate. Over 15 sports supported including running, cycling, yoga, pool swimming and SUP …

    REVIEWED here …

    AMAZON Price …

  • Suunto Spartan Trainer

    approx £199 / $269

    A truly stunning piece of training kit at a very sensible price. The Suunto Spartan Trainer with wrist HR & GPS is almost HALF the price of it’s bigger brother the Spartan Sport wrist HR but it runs IDENTICAL firmware. If you’re in the market for a new performance monitoring training watch whether you’re a triathlete, runner, cyclist, walker, rower, sailor … whatever your sport Suunto have it covered. If you only look at one Suunto watch, take 5 minutes to browse the Spartan Trainer, you won’t be disappointed …

    REVIEWED here …

    AMAZON Price …

  • TomTom Spark 3

    approx £109 / $109

    The TomTom Runner 3 (Spark 3) adds route exploration to the Runner 2 model. With all the same functions that made the Runner 2 one of my favourite GPS running watches the Spark3 features built-in heart rate sensor, 24/7 activity tracker, sleep monitor and internal memory for music storage. TomTom have a real battle on their hands with competition from Apple, Garmin, Polar etc. As such, you get EXCELLENT value for money with the Spark 3 / Runner 3 ….

    REVIEWED here …

    AMAZON Price …

 

The Best Health & Fitness Trackers

This is the most popular category for general fitness, well-being and health. The aim of these fitness trackers is to discretely monitor your daily activity levels, motivating the wearer to increased activity and improved fitness. All the watches listed below perform better when paired with the relevant APP on your iPhone or Android device. The products listed below have all been selected from our comprehensive list of the best Fitness Trackers of 2017

Price Range £20 – £90 ($30 – $120)

When shopping at the lower end of this category you need to shop with caution. I have tested half a dozen fitness trackers under £40 that really are JUNK. You won’t find them on this website as they simply don’t perform to an acceptable level. HOWEVER, there is one that stands out as EXCEPTIONAL value for money with great performance. The Letscom ID101HR is a brilliant fitness tracker with wrist based heart rate, steps, calories and an easy to install APP.

For those looking for the VERY BEST value for money I have selected a fitness tracker here that has recently been replaced by a newer model. The price of this tracker has been reduced by almost 50% making it a genuine bargain. I tested the Garmin Vivosmart HR for several months in 2016 and loved it. The newer model is the Garmin Vivosmart 3, currently about £129. At this low price the Vivosmart HR is a far better option than the Fitbit Alta HR ….

  • Letscom ID101HR Fit Band

    approx £23 / $30

    An affordable, accurate and easy to use alternative to Fitbit, Garmin and other similar more expensive Fitness Trackers. The Letscom ID101HR features all the essential features of more expensive alternatives including wrist based heart rate, daily step tracking with calories burnt and distance travelled. At this price it’s excellent value for money …

    REVIEWED here …

    AMAZON Price …

  • Garmin Vivosmart HR

    approx £75 / $99

    One of the best activity trackers / fitness bands on the market. Built-in off the wrist heart rate monitoring is what does it for us. The Vivosmart HR has optical HR sensor (using Garmin Elevate) to get accurate heart rate without the need for a chest strap. It also features a barometric pressure sensor to measure the number of stairs climbed per day ….

    REVIEWED here …

    AMAZON Price …

 

Price Range £90+ / $120+

The best fitness trackers have extra functionality like guided breathing and all day heart rate monitoring. There are 3 fitness trackers in this category that are all brilliant and come highly recommended. The difference between them all is quite minimal and it has to be said that they each include all the essential features and functions expected from a top of the range tracker. The three best fitness trackers in the £90+/ $120+ category are the Fitbit Charge 2, the Garmin Vivosmart 3 and the Polar A370.

Best on Test with GPS > If you want your fitness tracker to have the functionality of a running watch with built-in GPS then I strongly recommend the brilliant new Garmin Vivosport (released Oct 2017 to replace the Vivosmart HR+). It currently retails for approximately £169 / $199. Amazon currently have stock of the new Garmin Vivosport and I’d recommend buying ASAP as it’s going to be a very popular Christmas gift

  • Polar A370

    approx £150 / $179

    The Polar A370 takes the A360 and makes it even better. CardioCritic have given the Polar A370 a 5 Star Review. Steps, calories burnt, distance walked, smartphone notification, 24/7 heart rate and more. If you are in the market for a stylish, feature packed fitness tracker the A370 could be for you  ….

    REVIEWED here …

    AMAZON Price …

  • Garmin Vivosmart 3

    approx £129 / $149

    If you’ve read the CardioCritic review of the Vivosmart HR it is clear we loved that fitness tracker, more probably than the GPS equipped Vivosmart HR+. So, what could Garmin add to the new Vivosmart 3 to make it better? They have changed the display technology to something that works better in bright daylight, it’s been slimmed down, lost some weight and they’ve added WORKOUT feature for rep counting in the gym ….

    REVIEWED here …

    AMAZON Price …

  • Fitbit Charge 2

    approx £109 / $149

    We all know how popular the original Fitbit Charges were, so it was going to take some major changes to get customers to invest in the Fitbit Charge 2. Those changes have taken the Charge to another level putting it among the very best fitness bands. The large, clear VERTICAL display is brilliant, coupled with off the wrist heart rate & smartphone GPS sharing, we have something to compete with the Vivosmart 3 ….

    REVIEWED here …

    AMAZON Price …

  • Garmin Vivosport

    approx £169 / $199

    Best on Test

    If you want your fitness tracker to include a built-in GPS & wrist based heart rate monitoring the Garmin Vivosport should be at the top of your shopping list. We liked the Vivosmart HR+ plus but this new model is even better. The Garmin Vivosport comes packed with new features like VO2 max, Stress Tests, HR broadcast and much more. It’s also an excellent watch for runners with auto-laps, personal records, pace alerts and heart rate zone control …

    REVIEWED here …

    AMAZON Price …

 

The Best GPS Running Watches

Another highly contested category are these GPS watches aimed specifically with runners in mind. . All the watches listed here features built-in GPS, wrist based heart rate, auto/manual laps and splits and training upload to smartphone (via Bluetooth). I was tempted to include the Garmin Forerunner 235 here and it’s certainly one to consider, however, I’m quite certain it will be replaced with a newer model very soon. All the GPS running watches featured below were released in 2017. They have all been selected from our extensive reviews of the best GPS Running Watches

  • Suunto Spartan Trainer

    approx £219 / $279

    A truly stunning piece of training kit at a very sensible price. The Suunto Spartan Trainer with wrist HR & GPS is almost HALF the price of it’s bigger brother the Spartan Sport wrist HR but it runs IDENTICAL firmware. If you’re in the market for a new performance monitoring training watch whether you’re a triathlete, runner, cyclist, walker, rower, sailor … whatever your sport Suunto have it covered. If you only look at one Suunto watch, take 5 minutes to browse the Spartan Trainer, you won’t be disappointed …

    REVIEWED here …

    AMAZON Price …

  • Polar M430

    approx £175 / $219

    Just what we were waiting for … the probable permanent replacement for the M400. This is the new Polar M430 GPS running watch with wrist based Heart Rate. With a 6 x LED array for accurate heart rate monitoring and a large display it look great. An all-in-one device, Polar M430 provides wrist-based heart rate, integrated GPS plus core running metrics, sleep tracking and recovery metrics ….

    REVIEWED here …

    AMAZON Price …

  • Garmin Forerunner 35

    approx £145 / $180

    The Forerunner 35 is the perfect watch for anyone who runs for fun / fitness but isn’t too worried about the technical aspects of running.  As well as built-in GPS the FR35 features Garmin Elevate wrist based heart rate sensors. It’s also a 24/7 activity tracker / sleep monitor with smartphone notification alerts and connectivity to Garmin Connect smartphone App. More technical runners might prefer the Forerunner 235 ….

    REVIEWED here …

    AMAZON Price …

  • Polar M200

    approx £99/ $119

    Just when I thought Garmin had stolen the show again with their latest Forerunner model Polar have pulled this beauty from their hat. The Polar M200 is a water-resistant (swim-proof) GPS running watch with wrist based heart rate and 24/7 activity tracker. It includes Bluetooth connectivity providing smartphone alerts & notifications. Specifically aimed at people who primarily RUN whether for fun, to keep fit or to compete …

    REVIEWED here …

    AMAZON Price …

 

The Best Triathlon Watches

This is a very special selection of GPS sports watches. They all have a dedicated TRIATHLON sports mode which means they can switch from SWIM to BIKE to RUN at the press of a single button. All data is stored in ONE session with a breakdown of each discipline’s performance including transition time. The products listed below have all been selected from our comprehensive list of triathlon sports watches

NOTE – the entire range of Suunto Spartan watches can be used for Triathlon. The main difference between the Spartan Trainer and Spartan Sport is the materials of the case and watch face. The Spartan Ultra is intended for those exercising / racing for more than 12 hours ….

  • Spartan Sport Wrist HR

    approx £270 / $498

    This is the Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR with heart rate off the wrist, no chest strap required. The Spartan Sport Wrist HR is aimed at multisport users performing activities up to 8 hours. Those undertaking FULL Ironman Distance should consider the Suunto Spartan Ultra with 18 hours battery life. A highly recommended GPS outdoor sports watch. If you’re trying to stick to a budget, please consider the cheaper Suunto Spartan Trainer wrist HR (approx £219 / $279) ….

    REVIEWED here …

    AMAZON Price …

  • Garmin Forerunner 935

    approx £499 / $499

    The Forerunner 935 takes all the very best features and functions from the Garmin Fenix 5 and the Garmin Forerunner 735XT. With everything from waypoint to waypoint navigation, true multisport Triathlon mode and a barometric pressure sensor – the new Forerunner 935 caters for ALL serious sports adventurers. The Forerunner 735XT is a cheaper alternative, expect to pay around £310 / $400 ….

    REVIEWED here …

    AMAZON Price …

  • Polar V800

    approx £250 / $275

    The Polar V800 for professional athletes & demanding amateurs, as used by World ITU Triathlon champion Javier Gomez. The V800 combines your workout training load with your regular daily activities, giving you a true picture of your required recovery. The dual transmission Polar H10 HRM belt providing heart rate feedback while swimming. NOTE – the Polar V800 acquires heart rate from a CHEST STRAP. It is not currently available with wrist based HR sensors ….

    REVIEWED here …

    Amazon Price …

 

The Best Outdoor Adventure Watches

These watches are designed for the true outdoors sports person. They all feature the essential ABC functions of a genuine adventure sports racing watch.

  • A – Altimeter
  • B – Barometer
  • C – Compass.

They also all feature built-in GPS, activity tracker and wrist based heart rate. They all have the ability to store GPS locations, navigate from A to B (pre-saved points, “as the crow flies”) and guide you across a GPX route/track. The Fenix 5 LARGE even comes equipped with high resolution MAPS …

  • Garmin Fenix 3 HR

    approx £340 / $400

    Although recently replaced by the Fenix 5 the Fenix 3HR is still an excellent watch at a seriously competitive price. The Fenix range have the perfect balance of fitness, navigation and tech / connected functionality to satisfy most outdoor racers, explorers and performance athletes. The Fenix 3 Sapphire HR is a stylish, yet exceptional robust, GPS sports watch that can withstand harsh environments being water rated down to 100m. Featuring Garmin Elevate off the wrist heart rate, no need for a chest strap ….

    REVIEWED here …

    AMAZON Price …

  • Suunto Spartan Ultra

    approx £359 / $399

    The best GPS outdoor adventure / ABC /multisport watch of 2015/2016 was the Suunto Ambit3 Peak. That has now been replaced with the Suunto Spartan Ultra with high colour touchscreen display. Like the slightly less functional Spartan Sport the Ultra is a top quality GPS multisport watch designed with ULTRA Triathlon and other ultra endurance events in mind ….

    REVIEWED here …

    AMAZON Price …

  • Garmin Fenix 5

    approx £450 / $575

    The most successful range of ABC watch, the Garmin Fenix, moves to version 5. The Garmin Fenix 5 is available in 3 case sizes making it more attractive for those with small wrists. The Fenix 5 features altimeter, barometer, compass and Garmin Elevate wrist based heart rate sensor. Suitable for adventurers, elite athletes, orienteers and triathletes …

    REVIEWED here …

    AMAZON Price …