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Best Heart Rate Monitor Watch: Walk With the Pulse of Technology

Best Heart Rate Monitor Watch
Dennis Owens
Written by Dennis Owens

Have you ever found yourself wondering after a good workout that you might be missing that one key element that could give you the perfect picture of your performance? Is that key element your heart rate? First generation fitness watches are not able to provide this kind of information, as the technology was premature, but we are finally at a stage where we can select some of the best heart rate monitor watches.

A good fitness watch should be able to tell your exact heart rate and not just basic information like the number of steps you took or the distance you have traveled (maybe with a thrown-in calorie counter on top). But with so many models on the market, which one should you prioritize?

Heart Rate Watches

To make things easier, we have decided to compile this list of fitness watches to help you decide which ones are worthy of your attention. Added to this list is also a handy guide in which you will be able to look through all the important technical specifications that should be taken into consideration when looking for the best fitness watch with built-in heart rate tracking capability.

Our Top Picks

ProductScreen TypeBattery lifePhone notificationsPrice
AK1980 Fitness TrackerOLEDUp to 5 daysYesCheck price on Amazon
Fitbit Charge 2 Heart Rate MonitorOLEDUp to 5 daysYesCheck price on Amazon
Polar FT7 Heart Rate MonitorLCDUp to 7 daysNoCheck price on Amazon
arVin Heart Rate WatchOLEDUp to 7 daysYesCheck price on Amazon
Letsfit Fitness Tracker HROLEDUp to 7 daysYesCheck price on Amazon
TomTom Spark 3 CardioLCDUp to 14 daysYesCheck price on Amazon
Fitbit Surge Fitness SuperwatchLCDUp to 10 daysYesCheck price on Amazon
Torntisc Fitness TrackerOLEDUp to 8 daysYesCheck price on Amazon

Things to Consider Before Buying

Heart rate monitoring is not a particularly new technology, but squeezing it all into a fitness watch is something that was achieved fairly recently. Even so there are several big brands that are manufacturing them in thousands of different configurations.

As with every modern electronic gadget, the most important characteristics might not be the ones that we tend to see at face value, so let’s look at what exactly are the key components that make a heart rate monitor enabled watch a good proposition.

Heart Rate Monitor Punctuality

Obviously, the high punctuality of the heart rate monitoring is one of the most important aspects, and this can vary in quality. Most heart rate monitors will not give you an absolutely exact result from the first use and they need to track for a couple of hours or sessions until they can give you valid results.

Fitness Watch with Heart Rate Monitor

For this reason, many manufacturers do take into consideration historical data when tracking the heart rate and do not rely only on the local, mechanical data. The best results will be shown after you upload you freshly gathered data to your smartphone, PC or even cloud application.

Others compensate with connected smartphone data (working with them in real time) or with other trackers on the side. These can be chest, leg or a second arm tracker, it all depends on the manufacturer.

No matter what reliability the ad promises it is always good if the device doesn’t only rely on a unidimensional set of data for heart monitoring. This is also something to take into consideration when looking at blood pressure monitoring.

Sunto Watch

Also, you should never forget, that most researchers agree that these trackers are not medical tools, they are never 100% reliable. Even so, they should be good enough to give you a fairly solid idea of how well your old ticker handles physically strenuous situations.

Fitness Tracking Options

Having a good heart rate monitor is great, but getting the benefits of a full fitness tracker might just be the cherry on the cake. Oftentimes these watches can have a variety of different functionalities just like smartwatches, and a wide variety of fitness programs are preinstalled.

Depending on your needs, you might be more than fine with a limited number of pre-built fitness tracking programs (like jogging, yoga, tennis or swimming) that a basic fitness watch can offer. But if you need more than just extra pedometer data, calorie burn or the amount of time you have exercised there are plenty of higher-end models that can help you out.

Fitness Watch with Heart Rate Monitor

Some models offer even options like full GPS data gathering or barometer-based altitude calculations. Information like this might be highly valuable for a professional athlete, so if the budget is not a real constraint, these extra options might be worthy to consider.

Water Resistance

Water resistance is something that not many heart rate monitors can get right, not even in 2017. There is a huge gap between being splash resistant or being usable during a swim session. This is a fairly important distinction that you should think about before purchasing any fitness watch.

The truth is that not many heart rate monitor watches are capable to track in a quality manner while being submerged, while others are specialized on this exact thing. While most will be more thank OK during a rainy jog or being covered in sweat, some can be disrupted even by a light shower.

Waterproof Watch

Be especially vigilant if you need heart rate tracking while you swim. Just because some trackers are fully water resistant, it does not necessarily mean that they are also capable of heart rate monitoring in the water.

Connectivity Benefits

In a modern, connected world very few gadgets lack the option to connect to our smartphones, or at least to our PC’s. This is a nice bonus as those devices have a far greater processing power than a fitness watch. In some cases, they have extra sensors that can be used in tandem for data gathering.

The connectivity benefits that you might get can vary in quality and quantity. Some heart rate monitors only send data to built-in trackers (like Google Fit) while others have separate applications developed for them, often very professional ones as well.

Smart Watch Phone Syncing

These can have special algorithms that were developed exclusively for the device that you just bought, and because of this, the data that you record might be more targeted to your needs or the tracking options that it has might be developed for a certain module niche, that more popular models might not have.

Battery Life

As with most electronics, battery life estimates are often given by the manufacturer in a more optimistic manner, based on more optimistic results the device can achieve. Of course, these results might not always be replicable on everyday usage, given the many unique routine variables.

The rule of thumb for what is considered to be a good time for average usage is around the one-week mark. Note that this is mostly measured by light, urban exercise routines, that usually do not take more than one to two hours per day.

Activity Tracker

If you plan using the heart rate monitor functionality in a more intensive manner, you could easily see that time drop to under a day. If you are preparing for a marathon and manage to run a good six to seven hours, don’t be surprised if by the time you get home the battery will be dead. This does not mean that the battery life is necessarily bad, just that it varies from user to user.

24/7 Capability

Full day tracking capability can often reveal some fairly surprising stats about our daily habits or about our sleep patterns. This is especially true if it is paired with a good heart rate monitoring system, that can provide crucial data for a lifestyle application.

Not all fitness watches that have a built-in heart rate monitor offer this functionality, as this is very draining on the battery, and even seemingly simple tasks like differentiating between sleeping or awake state can be hard for a sub-par hardware.

Heart Rate Monitor Watch

Always keep in mind to look for a full 24/7 tracker (not just a fitness watch with sleep tracking on the side) so you will have the most concrete results about the state of your body and even mental health.

Modularity

How many attachments you receive with your new heart rate monitor or how many more you can buy, is a fairly important aspect when it comes to future proofing. This is something that might be more common at established brands, but there are plenty of universal accessories as well.

Anything from being able to change the battery, to choose the size and color of the band could mean a lot if you plan to use them for a long amount of time, or maybe to pass it on to a family member or friend, once you buy a new model.

Heart Rate Monitor Attachment

Image credit: imore.com

Some will come pre-packed with extra trackers or give you the possibility to buy one for a fairly good price. Even if at first you might not be interested in these options, one day this might not be a bad option to have.

Best Products on Today’s Market

Now let’s take a look at what we consider some of the best heart rate monitor watches out there, the ones that will more than likely satisfy a large segment of the market.

AK1980 Fitness Tracker

Price: Approx. $35 – $40AK1980 Fitness Tracker

Weight: 0.9 ounces

Dimensions: 10 x 0.8 x 0.5 inches

Specific features: Heart rate monitor, Bluetooth connection, fitness tracking, GPS integration, message notification, vibration alarms, sleep tracking, blood pressure monitoring

Best use: Jogging, indoor fitness routine, biking, sleep tracking

If you don’t like how the big name manufacturers stamp a high price on every one of their latest gizmos, you might want to look into the AK1980 Fitness Tracker.

This tracker that also has a built-in heart rate and blood pressure monitor comes at a surprisingly affordable price and boasts a fairly strong build quality and style as well. Because of the silicon that is used throughout the entire body, the watch is also surprisingly light.

As a fitness tracker, it does a fairly good job and the mobile application that it uses also offers several extra features that will most definitely expand the usability for most buyers. The tracking itself goes from highly accurate (for things like the pedometer) to not quite on the mark (heart rate and blood pressure).

Even if the tracking itself in some instances might not be as exact as for some more expensive models, all in all, the data that it gathers can still be used to get an approximation. And this data is more than enough for complementary information for your daily fitness routines.

PROS:

  • Sturdy build quality
  • Affordable price
  • Decent waterproofing
  • Good selection of fitness programs
 CONS:

  • Smartphone connection is hit and miss
  • Heart rate tracking could be better

Related: If you are left with a little extra cash after purchasing your new fitness watch, you might want to look into a good fitness media player as well, something similar to the Sony NWZWS613BLK MP3 Player. This sports MP3 player is waterproof and was made with workouts in mind. Many people don’t like to exercise for the simple reason of getting bored. This player will make certain that this won’t be the case, as it offers a built-in memory for storing songs and it can also stream them directly from your phone.

Check the price on Amazon

Fitbit Charge 2 Heart Rate

Price: Approx. $150Fitbit Charge 2 Heart Rate

Weight: 1.3 ounces

Dimensions: 9.9 x 0.9 x 0.5 inches

Specific features: Heart rate monitor, fitness tracking, message notification, vibration alarms, auto sleep tracking, guided breathing sessions

Best use: Jogging, indoor fitness routine, sleep tracking, heart rate monitoring

The name Fitbit is for many synonymous with fitness watches and for reasons that make the Fitbit Charge 2 Heart Rate Watch a pretty recommendable product. As soon as you will open the box it comes with it will be obvious that this is not a low-end product.

The design is sleek and classy. Everything about it screams quality. Yes, it might be a bit on the pricey side, but the taught that went into its ergonomics will be noticeable the first time you put it on your arm.

And this is not just a nice looking and comfortable body. It also has the specifications to be a pretty reliable tracking device as well. The company was one of the first to offer highly reliable heart rate tracking and the results are visible in the Charge 2 as well.

On the offside, the watch has no water resistance whatsoever. Even a light shower can make you lose the warranty, so if you go with this option do take care. Then there are the fairly few fitness and tracking options pre-installed, especially when compared to some of its rivals.

In all fairness though, what it does it does well, and in some instances (like heart rate monitoring and sleep tracking) it is arguably one of the more solid options out there. Plus, you also have several color options if you get tired of the tried and true black design.

PROS:

  • Accurate heart rate monitoring
  • High-end design
  • Good exercise options
  • Good auto sleep tracking
 CONS:

  • No waterproofing whatsoever
  • Many core functions are locked behind a smartphone
  • Fairly expensive

Related: Smart devices are amazing until they run out of battery, and to get ahead of that with your new heart rate monitor watch, you could opt to purchase an Aresh Fitbit Charge 2 Charger. This inexpensive little docking station will stand near to remind you of the cruel reality of a short battery life. It has a 3.3 feet long USB cable, so you can plug it in even to the back of a desktop PC. And as a bonus it can also act as a near-universal smartphone stand, just to have both of your most important gadgets in one place.

Check the price on Amazon

Polar FT7 Heart Rate Monitor

Price: Approx. $100Polar FT7 Heart Rate Monitor

Weight: 1.1 ounces

Dimensions: 9 x 1.2 x 0.6 inches

Specific features: Heart rate monitor, fitness tracking, sleep tracking, swim tracking, extra heart rate sensor

Best use: Jogging, outdoor fitness, cycling, swimming, sleep tracking, heart rate monitoring

Polar was never about the classy design, and that is noticeable with the Polar FT7 Heart Rate Monitor as well. But don’t get fooled by the old-school look, this is one capable fitness watch, and it does most things without the need to pair it with a smartphone.

With close to a hundred so-called “training files” (Polar’s term for workout routines) most fitness needs are covered as soon as you start it up. To make sure that all of them work in every condition, they made this watch fully waterproof as well, and if you were wondering, yes, you can swim with it.

The heart rate tracking results are also surprisingly reliable, and this is down mostly to the fact that you will also receive a separate H1 Heart Rate Sensor, one that you will have to strap on your chest. Do not worry, the strap is comfortable and you will barely notice the fact that it is there.

On the downside, this watch doesn’t really have any real smart device integration. While this equals the fact that everything you want is on the watch from day one, this also means that future proofing with firmware updates is pretty much gone.

The watch also works with separate lithium batteries, so it’s not easily rechargeable as others, that have built-in ones. This can be both a good thing (you can always have a spare one) or a bad thing (batteries do cost extra) depending who you ask.

PROS:

  • Good tracking accuracy
  • Usable for swimming
  • Includes a chest strapped H1 Heart Rate Sensor
  • Includes 99 training files
  • Good battery life
 CONS:

  • Bulky design
  • Non-impressive LCD screen
  • No real smart-device integration
  • Needs separate lithium batteries

Related: If you decide to go with the FT7, you might also want to order a pack of Energizer CR2025 Lithium Batteries. They come in a pack of five, so they should last you for around a month even if you have a fairly intensive workout regime. As an added bonus Energizer also offers a guarantee that their batteries have a shelf life of ten years, so even if you postpone some of that physical activity for next year, the batteries should still be fully functional.

Check the price on Amazon

arVin Heart Rate Watch

Price: Approx. $35arVin Heart Rate Watch

Weight: 1.1 ounces

Dimensions: 1.7 x 1 x 0.5 inches

Specific features: Heart rate monitor, fitness tracking, sleep tracking, built-in pedometer, vibration alarms, blood oxygen monitoring, water resistance

Best use: Jogging, outdoor fitness, cycling, step tracking, sleep tracking, heart rate monitoring

If you want a tech Swiss-knife at an affordable price, the arVin Heart Rate Watch might just be for you. With a large selection of workout routines and an IP67 waterproof rating, this heart rate monitor can be considered a pretty decent bet.

The small plastic casing hides several fairly advanced functions, like a heart rate monitor and a pedometer, but it is also capable of measuring your blood pressure and oxygen level.

This is not a medical equipment and it shows, as the heart rate monitoring is there but mostly to get a general idea about your performance. Even so, some extra work could have gone into either the sensor or the tracking software to get somewhat better results.

The application, via what it syncs with your smartphone, manages to gather a pretty large amount of useful data, and the charts that it displays are fairly graphical and easy to understand.

The issue here comes in the form of connectivity. You might find yourself often in a situation where the watch desynchronizes with the smartphone and you will have to re-set the connection manually. It won’t take a lot of time, but it could still be somewhat of a hassle.

Considering the amount of money this device costs, this fitness watch can still be a pretty decent choice and with future application updates, this might evolve even further.

PROS:

  • Affordable price
  • Attractive design
  • Comfortable strap
  • Good screen
 CONS:

  • App synchronization is hit and miss
  • Heart rate tracking could use some improvements

Related: One of the benefits of a fully connected device is the capability to stream music with it, and that would be a nice feature to have while jogging, a feature that can become reality with the arVin True Wireless Earbuds. This waterproof earbud fully supports both iOS and Android, can work in tandem with your new heart rate monitor and it also comes with a 1000 mAh battery box, for on the road charging.

Check the price on Amazon

Letsfit Fitness Tracker HR Monitor Watch

Price: Approx. $30Letsfit Fitness Tracker HR Monitor Watch

Weight: 0.8 ounces

Dimensions: 9.4 x 0.8 x 0.4 inches

Specific features: Heart rate monitor, fitness tracking, sleep tracking, built-in pedometer, built-in USB plug, water resistance

Best use: Jogging, outdoor fitness, cycling, heart rate monitoring

Yet another contender for the heart rate monitor throne, the Letsfit Fitness Tracker HR Monitor Watch comes out as a pretty solid option for anyone that is interested in a low-risk investment. Best of all, this is a brand that tries to position itself for every age, including kids.

The heart rate monitoring is automatically started (so does the sleep monitoring) and the data that is gathered can be of great use. You will be able to see your entire day heart rate with visually pleasing curves, so the information will be understandable at a glance.

Issues do appear sometimes, and this is mostly down to the application that it uses. Even if the watch gathers a fairly impressive amount of data about your workout, it seems that the application does not fully utilize it. This could, of course, improve with later updates.

The design is fairly child-safe. It has a built-in USB plug, so anyone can easily and safely charge it from a PC or smart device. The bands are easily removed and they remain stable even after re-attachment.

There are also options available to buy them in a bundles with several extra pairs of different colored armbands. This option is for some reason not available without the watch, something that comes down as an odd choice. Even so, this watch still remains a decent choice for everyone on a tight budget.

PROS:

  • Kid-friendly design
  • Changeable straps
  • Decent battery life
  • Water resistant
 CONS:

  • Small amount of data gathered by the application
  • Hard to get hold of extra straps

Related: If you want to get ahead of an unexpected drained battery situation, you could always opt for an Anker PowerCore+ mini Portable Charger. This small lipstick-sized charger packs a fairly serious amount of juice at 3350 mAh. The battery also comes in several color variations and thanks to its high-speed charging technology (called PowerIQ) it will get your heart rate monitor back on track in no time.

Check the price on Amazon

TomTom Spark 3 Cardio Fitness Watch

Price: $150 – $200TomTom Spark 3 Cardio Fitness Watch

Weight: 2.6 ounces

Dimensions: 9.6 x 1.5 x 0.6 inches

Specific features: Heart rate monitor, fitness tracking, sleep tracking, built-in pedometer, built-in GPS, swim tracking

Best use: Jogging, outdoor fitness, cycling, swimming, heart rate monitoring, marathon running

Even if TomTom is mostly known for their GPS devices, they most definitely did not skimp on TomTom Spark 3 Cardio Fitness Watch. This large-screened and sturdy watch is a serious contender when it comes to fitness trackers for a couple of reasons.

The heart rate tracking is arguably one of the better we have tested, and the manufacturers are correct in their assessment that the band needs no separate sensor to gather exact data.

The step and distance tracking are also highly accurate, and this is down mostly to the high-quality GPS sensor, that can also tell you the altitude and extra routes that you might take during your daily jogging, so you can always see new sites.

If jogging is not for you, do not worry, as the Spark 3 can also be used by swimmers. Yes, this is not simply water resistant, this is a full waterproof watch. This feature is also coupled with a strong battery, that even with regular use can last for two whole weeks.

The downside of this comes in the form of its price, and there are several bundle options that can cost even more (even size and color differences might add some extra cost). But even with this in mind, it’s still a reliable fitness band with a highly punctual heart rate monitor to boost.

PROS:

  • Good heart rate monitoring
  • Built-in route exploration
  • Good build quality
  • Possibility to track swimming
  • No need for chest strap
 CONS:

  • Fairly expensive
  • Easily scratchable screen

Related: If you don’t want to scratch that nice looking screen, you might want to invest in a pack of QIBOX Tempered Glass Screen Guard. The pack contains three screen protectors, all of them being multi-layered, shatterproof and anti-bubble. The hydro and oleophobic protector is also very slim, coming in at under 0.1 inches, so it will be barely noticeable on your brand new watch.

Check the price on Amazon

Fitbit Surge Fitness Superwatch

Price: Approx. $170Fitbit Surge Fitness Superwatch

Weight: 1.1 ounces

Dimensions: 6.9 x 1.4 x 0.6 inches

Specific features: Heart rate monitor, fitness tracking, sleep tracking, built-in pedometer, built-in GPS, silent alarm, water resistant

Best use: Jogging, outdoor fitness, cycling, heart rate monitoring

Description: Yet another watch from Fitbit, but this time around the somewhat more premium Fitbit Surge Fitness Superwatch. This fairly advertised fitness watch has several good tracking options down its sleeve, but there are some minor gripes with it.

The heart rate monitoring works in a pretty reliable fashion, especially for a wrist-based heart rate tracker. It also transfers this data to the smartphone or PC app, and soon after, you will have a slew of other graphs, that will showcase a vast variety of facts about your workout and how they influence your heart rate.

The built-in GPS helps you to select several different routes and also tracks your number of steps, distance, and elevation, and it does a surprisingly good job. You do not even need a connected smartphone to do all this, as the watch alone is more than enough.

Even with all these benefits, the fitness tracker still has a couple of issues. Compared to its price tag, the water resistance (a first for a Fitbit product) is fairly limited, and even a light shower can damage it. Also, the size of the watch might turn some people off, but at least they crammed a fairly good battery inside the body.

Taken everything into consideration, this heart rate monitor watch can be a pretty good choice, if you want a relatively accurate tracker with a nice and easily readable display.

PROS:

  • Good battery life
  • High-contrast display
  • Accurate heart rate monitoring
  • Good software support
 CONS:

  • Bulky build
  • Water resistance is somewhat sub-par
  • On the pricey side

Related: As with all gorgeous screens that need protection, we highly recommend you to also think about the ArmorSuit MilitaryShield for Fitbit Surge. This anti-glare and anti-bubble screen protector comes in packs of two. It’s highly scratch-proof, and it also benefits from a self-healing technology that can eliminate most minor scratches. As an added bonus, ArmorSuit backs this product with a lifetime replacement warranty, so you will have protection for several years to come.

Check the price on Amazon

Torntisc Fitness Tracker Heart Rate Monitor Watch

Price: Approx. $30Torntisc Fitness Tracker Heart Rate Monitor Watch

Weight: 1.1 ounces

Dimensions: 8.9 x 0.9 x 0.5 inches

Specific features: Heart rate monitor, fitness tracking, sleep tracking, built-in motion sensor, vibration alarms, water resistant, built-in USB plug

Best use: Jogging, outdoor fitness, yoga, cycling, heart rate monitoring

The Torntisc Fitness Tracker Heart Rate Monitor Watch is arguably one of the cheapest options you can go with and still manage to have a reliable heart rate tracker. The watch itself also comes with a nice goodie, in the form of a different colored replacement band.

The heart rate monitoring relies only on one sensor, and given this, it is surprisingly accurate. This won’t replace your medical grade monitor, but it manages to give you a good idea of how your heart rate fluctuates during workouts.

It comes with 14 built-in exercise types, a fairly small selection compared to other fitness trackers, but the good news is, that it does a pretty good job with most pre-sets, so you won’t have to toggle the settings for days in a row until you get the desired results.

But to get the most of its functionality we would recommend this band to be constantly synced with a smartphone, as the application works best if it can gather data real-time. Even if this might be a bit cumbersome at least you won’t have syncing errors on a regular basis.

So even with a fairly small selection of exercises and a somewhat sub-par build quality, this might be a pretty good choice, and in all honesty, you will be hard-pressed to find a far better option at this price.

PROS:

  • Very affordable
  • Streamlined design
  • Decent battery life
  • Good heart rate tracking
 CONS:

  • Small selection of exercise types
  • Low build quality

Related: If jogging is your game than a good pair of sunglasses, like the Vibius Triton Sports Sunglasses, might be a requirement for you. The lenses can fully filter up to UV400 protection class and they are also good for UVA and UVB elimination. It also comes with a nice pouch and two interchangeable lenses that can be used for running, cycling and even driving.

Check the price on Amazon

Wrap Up

With this, we have arrived at the end of our list. Yes, it might seem like a whole lot of information at first, but knowing the exact details and differences between models is a key point to being able to choose the best heart rate monitor watch that suits your needs.

Heart Rate Monitor Watches

Right now, we feel that you have managed to gather all the basic knowledge you need, to make the right decision, and buy the best tracker for yourself. If you are budget conscious or you simply want the best the market has to offer, we feel that we have managed to cover all categories and give you some good options to choose from.

But as always, the internet of things market is a quickly evolving one, and every day tens or even hundreds of new products can appear. If you feel that we have missed out on an essential heart rate monitor watch, please share it with us, as we would love to be up to date with everything that can be considered an essential purchase.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dennis Owens

Dennis Owens

Dennis Owens is a graduate of National Camping School and REI Outdoor School. He knows everything about what gear to take with you, how to plan your trip to stay safe and what to do if you get lost in the mountains. We are lucky to have Dennis with us as he is a ‘walking encyclopedia’ when it comes to the wilderness.