Fitness watches are similar to fitness trackers, but they have a few key differences. While many fitness tracker bands lack a numeric display, a fitness watch will have a screen that displays the current time. Think of a fitness watch as a wearable that has features of both a smartwatch and a fitness tracker, all rolled up into one streamlined unit. Fitness watches can vary quite a bit in terms of form factor, but almost all of them will track steps/distance and calories burned. They may also track GPS, elevation, or be waterproofed in some way to protect them from sweat. If you’re looking for a fitness watch, we’ve rounded up five of our favorite models. The following fitness watches are great for runners, cyclists, swimmers, or anyone who simply wants to be more active.
Want to see even more options? Check out our guide to the best Fitbit competitors, or peruse our Fitbit comparison post to find the best Fitbit for your unique fitness goals. You might also want to read our guide to the best smartwatches you can buy in 2015.
1. Fitbit Surge
The Fitbit Surge is the most expensive Fitbit model currently available. It offers GPS, unlike the rest of the Fitbit line. GPS can pinpoint your location, providing more accurate fitness data. However, since GPS relies on satellite signals, it may not work perfectly indoors, during storms, or in areas where trees or buildings cause signal interference.
In addition to GPS, the Surge also monitors your heart rate, tells the time, and gives you call and text notifications. Unlike some other fitness trackers out there, the Surge doesn’t need to be told when you are going to sleep, since it has automatic sleep detection functionality. If you’re looking for a smartwatch that’s rugged enough to handle your workout regime, this “superwatch” is a solid choice.
Check out the video above to see how the Surge stacks up against the more expensive Apple Watch.
- Available in three sizes to ensure best fit
- Touchscreen display
- Works with over 150 leading smartphones
- Kind of bulky
- Only about seven days of battery life (some users may prefer wearables with a replaceable battery)
- Some users find battery depletes rapidly when using GPS
2. Polar V800 GPS Sports Watch With Activity Tracker & Heart Rate Monitor
Looking for a beefy sport watch for training? The Polar V800 is a fitness watch that’s perfect for runners and cyclists, but also offers training target support for less popular activities like kitesurfing, sailing, dancing, and disc golf. You can expect 14 hour rechargeable battery life in training mode, or up to 50 ours in GPS low power mode.
Polar provided us with a sample of this fitness watch so we could go hands-on for an extended period of time. There’s a lot to like here, including the perforated band, which does make this tracker feel more comfortable against your skin. There are multiple fitness tests you can do while wearing this band, which makes it ideal for people who are just getting into fitness, or those who need to closely monitor their health for other reasons. While it is a bit expensive, this fitness watch is packed with lots of features.
There’s real-time multisport guidance and in-depth data to help you analyze both your training and your recovery periods. When you’re trying to build muscle, recovery is just as important as training hard. You can also make use of altitude, ascent, and descent monitoring with the barometric altimeter. For serious athletes who are seeking a feature-rich fitness watch, this is a good choice. However, with so many features, some technophobes may find the UI too complex to navigate.
Price: $352 for watch with heart rate monitor (32 percent off MSRP)
Learn how to set up this feature-rich fitness watch in the video above.
- Tracks heart rate and GPS
- Can be purchased with or without HR monitor
- Combines training load with 24/7 activity data for true recovery status
- Waterproof to 100 feet
- No touchscreen display
- Battery can drain quickly with heavy use
- Watch face UI and Polar Flow UI can be frustrating and confusing
Find more Polar V800 GPS Sports Watch With Activity Tracker & Heart Rate Monitor information and reviews here.
3. Samsung Gear Fit
The Samsung Gear Fit is the slimmest of all the Galaxy Gear smartwatch offerings, and it has a form factor that’s perfect for people with delicate wrists. The Gear Fit allows you to quickly respond to notifications and track your heart rate. You can easily customize the look of your Gear Fit, which makes your workout experience feel more personalized. If you want a fitness watch with a full-color display, this is a nice option to consider.
Check out this in-depth review of the Gear Fit to learn more about its features and functionality.
- IP67 waterproof rating
- Built-in heart rate monitor
- Not compatible with iOS devices, some Android devices
- Small-ish display
- Not shockproof
- Some find UI a bit clunky
4. Pebble Time
We previously outlined some of our favorite things about the Pebble Time in our post on the Apple Watch vs. Pebble Time. Some of the best features in this Pebble wearable are waterproofing, a lower price tag than similar wearables, and battery life. This full-color e-paper display makes this wearable pop on your wrist. You can expect about a week’s worth of battery life. There are over 8000 apps on the Pebble app store, along with hundreds of different watch faces.
If you’re looking for a wearable that feels more like a smartwatch than a fitness watch, the Pebble Time will fit the bill. It may be built like a smartwatch, but it’s still got plenty of fitness appeal thanks to activity tracking apps from Jawbone, Fitocracy, Runkeeper, and Misfit.
Check out the Verge’s review of the Pebble Time in the video above.
- Built-in microphone
- Battery lasts all week
- Water resistant to 30 meters
- Lots of customization options
- Could be more rugged
- Some users have found battery life is more like three days
- Bulky bezel
- Some users report case scratches easily
5. Nike+ SportWatch GPS Powered by TomTom (Certified Refurbished)
Looking for a cheap fitness watch, or simply want a fitness tracker that doesn’t have too many bells and whistles? This Nike+ SportWatch may be the inexpensive wearable you’ve been hunting for. This Certified Refurbished product includes a 90-day warranty for better peace of mind.
This sports watch includes GPS, which makes the low cost even more impressive. GPS is often a feature that you only see on premium, high-end fitness watches. The watch can also work with a heart rate monitor to give you even more fitness data. The GPS does run down the battery a bit, but you’ll still get about eight hours of battery life. Plus, there’s enough battery to keep your device juiced for up to 50 days on standby.
Price: $84.99 (50 percent off MSRP)
- Features TomTom GPS for accurate speed and distance information, even if the GPS signal gets interrupted
- Personal coaching features help motivate you
- Older device
- Does not include a Nike+ Foot Sensor or HR monitor, which really enhance the experience
Find more Nike+ SportWatch GPS Powered by TomTom (Certified Refurbished) information and reviews here.