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The best heart rate monitors and watches
Choosing the best heart rate monitor watch comes down to a few questions:
- Do you care what brand makes it or the platform it runs on?
- Are you particularly interested in resting or active heart rate?
- What additional features would you like to see?
- What form factor are you interested in wearing?
Heart rate is an essential metric for monitoring your health and improving your fitness. With more and more fitness trackers and smartwatches offering built-in heart rate sensors, tracking has never been easier. But which wearable is right for you? We’ve reviewed the most popular picks to help you choose the right one. Keep reading to learn more about the best heart rate monitors you can buy in 2024.
The Apple Watch Series 9 is the best heart rate wrist monitor
The Apple Watch Series 9 is the best heart rate monitor you can wear on your arm. While it’s fundamentally similar to the Series 8 it replaces, the Series 9 retains that superb heart rate monitoring accuracy while adding plenty of additional features elsewhere.
We tested the Series 9 with our favorite Polar H10 heart rate strap and Garmin’s new Venu 3 with its Gen 5 Elevate heart rate sensor. Apple’s latest could keep up with both devices. Chest strap monitors are far more accurate than smartwatches, so this result is extremely impressive and cements our view that the Series 9 is a powerful smartwatch and one of the best fitness trackers you can buy.
As it retains many features in the Series 8, the Series 9 also includes medically validated ECG functionality that allows you to take snapshot health readings of your heart’s vitality. You also get high and low heart rate alerts, body temperature monitoring, and irregular heart rate rhythm notifications. Importantly, due to an ongoing legal dispute, the Series 9 is now sold with its blood oxygen tracking sensor disabled.
You won’t find many new health tracking features on the Series 9, but the wearable packs many quality-of-life changes. Siri queries are now processed on-device, letting you use Apple’s assistant without the internet to fetch health data from the watch on the fly. A new double-tap gesture enables you to command open apps with two index finger and thumb taps.
watchOS 10 brings many pleasant UI changes, including a rolling carousel of widgets, additional workout features for cyclists, and a focus on mental health and mood monitoring. As with the Series 8, user interaction with the highly responsive touchscreen is consistently smooth, navigation is intuitive, and integration with the iPhone is seamless. We also can’t say enough about the endless third-party app support. And if you own an iPhone 15 model, you can use the updated ultra-wideband chip to find your misplaced phone more accurately than ever before.
Notably, the Series 9’s built-in GPS performed admirably during our review, tracking in step with the reliable Garmin Fenix 7 Pro. watchOS 10 now features topographical and offline map support for hikers and trail runners. Users can depend on auto-detection for the most common workouts, such as an outdoor walk or run. Once your activity is recorded, Apple’s native apps are easy to navigate to review your stats and, as mentioned, sync well with other apps you may already be using.
There are a few caveats, though. For those who already own a Series 8, upgrading to the Series 9 may not be worth it. Battery life, which remains the same as the Series 8 (18 to 24 hours), isn’t as extensive as other models on the market. The more your device requires a charge, the less frequently it’s on your wrist monitoring your heart rate.
Overall, the Series 9 is the finest Apple Watch yet. It’s uber-refined and the only sensible option for iPhone users. However, it’s not for everyone. Android phone users will have to look elsewhere, while those seeking a more serious outdoor watch or a more extensive fitness tracking kit might consider Garmin. However, it’s a well-rounded watch with a reliable heart sensor. It’s sleek, versatile, and comes in multiple sizes and colors, so you can find the perfect fit for your wrist and style.
What makes it stand out
- Reliable heart rate sensor: This device’s heart rate accuracy is among the best we’ve tested. That includes both resting heart rate and measurements during intense activity.
- All the apps: The fully-packed App Store offers more apps than you can possibly need (and a bunch you don’t). Apple’s third-party support is truly unrivaled.
- Integrated user experience: Device integration is something Apple excels at and the Apple Watch is no exception. The new double tap gesture, on-device Siri processing, and ultra-wideband upgrade adds to its usefulness.
- Accurate health tracking: This device delivers advanced health tracking that’s accurate and helpful, plus companion apps that make analyzing your stats easier than ever.
- Software support: Regular and annual watchOS updates mean new features and tools are delivered right to your wrist for a device that keeps getting better and better.
Best of the rest: 3 other wearables worthy of your consideration
The Apple Watch Series 8 is our top recommendation if you own an iPhone. It houses a reliable heart rate sensor and some of the industry’s top features. If the Apple Watch is not for you, consider one of the devices below.
- Withings ScanWatch: An excellent heart rate monitor watch for keeping up with your all-day heart health, the ScanWatch can monitor your ECG and blood oxygen levels.
- Garmin Fenix 7 Pro: The Garmin Fenix 7 Pro series comes with the company’s new Elevate Gen 5 sensor array, further improving the Fenix series’ solid heart rate tracking accuracy and reliability.
- Fitbit Charge 6: Fitbit’s newest fitness tracker packs all the bells and whistles found on pricier smartwatches. It also has more heart rate tracking tricks up its sleeve.
The Withings ScanWatch is the best hybrid watch for heart rate data
One of our favorite devices for smarts undercover, the Withings ScanWatch is another great option for monitoring heart health. While the Withings ScanWatch 2 is official, we’ve yet to test it and can’t comment on its heart rate tracking performance just yet. Nevertheless, the original model remains a stellar pick.
The device is a hybrid smartwatch, so you don’t have to advertise that you’re tracking anything, let alone your heart rate data. It also offers a beautiful design and a build quality that is all class.
More importantly, it’s a reliable health tool. The watch packs a medical-grade ECG monitor, a pulse oximeter, and accurate 24/7 heart rate monitoring. While you sleep, the ScanWatch automatically tracks blood oxygen levels and uses heart rate and heart variability data to detect signs of sleep apnea. The solace of a clinically approved monitor is a great perk for anyone with sleep apnea concerns.
Similarly, the watch allows you to take ECG readings on demand for anyone with imminent heart health concerns. Afterward, you can also easily share a PDF of your readings with your doctor, just like with the Apple Watch above. The ScanWatch will also keep tabs on your beats in the background and notify you if your heart rate regularly seems too high or too low. This translates to early detection of the warning signs of bradycardia or tachycardia.
Finally, the Withings ScanWatch also performed well regarding heart rate data during workouts. We found it took a few workouts to level out but then had no problem keeping up with other dedicated fitness devices, such as the Fenix 6 Pro. Since the watch can’t connect to an external monitor, this wrist-worn accuracy was nice to see. The ScanWatch offers 30 different sport modes and even features auto-detection for the most popular workouts. Activity data and other daily stats can be found in the Health Mate app, which we found super user-friendly.
Beyond these advanced health tools and fitness tracking features, the ScanWatch is a relatively basic device. You won’t find contactless payment or onboard music, but that is pretty expected for a hybrid device. One major benefit of its simplicity is its long-lasting battery. While putting all its tools and sensors through the wringer, we could clear over ten days without a charge. Plus, when the battery does tap out, the ScanWatch automatically drops into power-saving mode. This allows you to use your device for 20 days longer while it continues to tell time and track your steps and sleep.
Simply put, the Withings ScanWatch is practically a specialty device for heart health. As a hybrid, it won’t offer you a full smartwatch experience, or a detailed fitness tracking suite. However, it’s a beautiful accessory that may be great for your heart.
What makes it stand out
- Certified health sensors: The ScanWatch offers peace of mind. Its ECG monitor and clinically validated AFib provide data that could literally save a life. It’s the best heart rate monitor watch for heart patients largely thanks to its deep focus on cardiovascular data.
- Beauty and brains: We love a classy hybrid. If a sporty smartwatch doesn’t fit your vibe, this device delivers the perfect compromise of smarts and style.
- Track your Zs with ease: Comfortable for overnight wear, the ScanWatch provides in-depth sleep tracking that even compares well to one of our most reliable Fitbit sleep trackers.
The Garmin Fenix 7 Pro is the best heart rate monitoring watch from Garmin
There’s a new top Garmin fitness watch in town. Thanks to an upgraded sensor array, the Garmin Fenix 7 Pro is the best heart rate monitoring watch from Garmin you can buy.
While reminiscent of the Fenix 6 Pro it replaces, the Fenix 7 Pro brings plenty of quality-of-life upgrades to the wearable line, from a more detailed MIP display and upgraded mapping functionality to a surprisingly useful built-in flashlight. Available in three sizes (42mm, 47mm, and 51mm) with Sapphire lens options and multiple colorways, the Fenix 7 Pro should fit and suit practically every wrist.
The Garmin Fenix 7 Pro continues the line’s everything-but-the-kitchen-sink philosophy with PacePro, ClimbPro, ABC sensors, and daily suggested workouts all included, plus a pulse ox sensor, respiration tracking, and a heart rate sensor. The latter is now part of Garmin’s Elevate Gen 5 sensor array, which we discovered to be highly accurate and reliable during our review. It could keep pace with our chest-worn Polar HR monitor on runs, interval training, hikes, and cycling routes. That’s no mean feat for a wearable.
Garmin added several new fitness tracking metrics to take advantage of this new kit, including Endurance Score and Hill Score, to detail the ability to maintain performance over time and when training uphill. Also included is Garmin’s ever-reliable Body Battery feature, which helps gauge energy availability at the start of the day, heart rate variability to assess stress, and sleep monitoring smarts to maximize rest periods.
All these features don’t come cheap. The Fenix line is traditionally one of Garmin’s priciest, and the Fenix 7 Pro is no exception. Prepare to pay up if you’re looking for Garmin’s most accurate heart rate monitoring watch. However, we could still recommend the Fenix 6 Pro ($479 at Amazon) if the budget is of concern. As an older device, you can likely find it on sale. Alternatively, the Garmin Venu 3 ($449.99 at Amazon) shaves a few hundred off both Fenix models’ prices.
What makes it stand out
- Excellent Elevate Gen 5 sensors: The Garmin Fenix 7 Pro is a remarkably accurate heart rate monitoring watch, so much so that it keeps pace with chest-strap solutions.
- Solar charging across the board: All three Garmin Fenix 7 Pro bodies sport solar charging capabilities, maximizing time on the wrist and away from the wall. This is especially useful during long treks in the sun.
- It’s a Garmin: The value of any Garmin device goes beyond the watch itself. Garmin’s companion app is stellar and its reputation for supporting its devices is five star.
The Fitbit Charge 6 is the best fitness tracker for monitoring your heart
The Fitbit Charge 6 has plenty of room for improvement. During our review, we discovered that while its upgraded heart rate sensor made it more accurate than the Charge 5, this performance relies on a tight fit. However, when worn more tightly than you usually would, the device’s GPS accuracy tanks. Essentially, the Charge 6 gives you two choices: accurate heart rate tracking or accurate GPS tracking. We hope Fitbit can addresses this in a future update. Disregarding this for a moment, we think the Charge 6 is a better all-round deal than the Fitbit Charge 4, a legacy fitness tracker that long stood as our heart rate tracking king.
The Charge 6 takes the learnings of Google with the original Pixel Watch and applies them to the new tracker. The result is a fitness tracker that’ll reliably shadow chest straps, like the Polar H10. The Charge 6 also packs another useful heart rate feature. It can sync this data with select gym equipment, making it a helpful tool for treadmills and spinning class enthusiasts.
Beyond its heart rate tracking smarts, the band includes ECG functionality, SpO2 monitoring, skin temperature tracking, and Fitbit’s solid sleep tracking features. It also boasts EDA monitoring, which keeps tabs on the wearer’s stress levels through changes in sweat levels. It’s a better fitness monitor than the Charge 4 and Charge 5.
The Charge 6 makes several UX changes, too. Now, all exercises are available on-device, making it easier to find specific workouts. It also packs Google app integration, including turn-by-turn Google Maps navigation and Google Pay support for wireless payments.
Notably, we’d still recommend the Fitbit Charge 4 if you can find it well below $100 and don’t need all the trimmings of the new model. It’ll still keep up with your heart without fuss.
What makes it stand out
- A great all-round fitness tracker for heart health: With a reliable heart rate monitor, ECG, and SpO2 monitoring, the Charge 6 is a great way to keep tabs on your ticker.
- Comfortable, clean design: The Charge 6 looks good in any color and on any wrist, and it’s supremely comfortable on the arm.
- Accuracy for a low cost: At a very affordable price, the Charge 6 delivers a great entry-level fitness tracking experience with some features you’ll find on more expensive devices.
What to look for in a good heart rate monitor
There are plenty of reasons to shop for a heart rate monitor. Some individuals simply need to keep an eye on their resting heart rate throughout the day. Others need heart rate monitoring for sleep tracking purposes. Some people need the most accurate heart rate data possible. But not all heart rate sensors are created equally. There’s also no guarantee that the latest version of a device will have a more reliable heart rate sensor than older devices, at least in our experience.
For heart rate accuracy, consider a heart rate monitor chest strap above all else. Chest straps are more precise than wrist-worn wearables and can quickly pick up on important and telling nuances when working out. However, for a device with more utility, choose a wrist-worn tracker or fitness watch with a reliable sensor. These accessories offer plenty of data for the average user, plus more tools and features beyond heart rate tracking. Consider the factors below when shopping.
- Resting heart rate accuracy
- Active heart rate accuracy
- Additional advanced health monitoring
- User-friendly companion app
- Battery life
- Sleep tracking
- Fitness tracking
- Built-in or connected GPS
- Training/recovery features
- Voice Assistant
- Digital Payment support
- Form factor
Why you should trust us & how we test
Android Authority has a long history with wearable devices, spanning at least as far as the Pebble in 2013. Since then, we’ve reviewed hundreds of wearables and learned a lot along the way. Our team of dedicated health and fitness experts tests dozens of new wearables and fitness trackers every year, but only the very best make it onto recommendation lists like the one you are reading. How do we determine what’s worthy? When testing we have two main focuses in mind: user experience and accuracy. To that end, we start by utilizing the device as a daily driver:
- We wear the product 24/7, (except for charging time), to evaluate its day-to-day performance, capabilities, and comfort.
- We note everything from strap materials and display brightness to navigation and battery life.
- We tap into as many features as possible, leaving no stone set unturned.
- We set alarms, chat with voice assistants, and fire off texts, follow breathing exercises, sweat through workouts, and much more.
- We test sleep tracking accuracy and wear the watch to bed and compared its data to other products well-regarded for their sleep analysis.
- We test SpO2 sensors against other wearables or a pulse oximeter.
- For heart rate monitoring, we equip chest straps to test the device’s accuracy and push the sensor through interval training workouts.
- We also test GPS accuracy on outdoor runs and rides wearing the device, along with a notably accurate GPS device, to see how the review unit performs.
- When possible, we strap on a comparable device from the current market to analyze how the review subject stands up to similarly-priced competition.
- We dig into the companion app. We look to see how the data is organized and analyzed and evaluate the ease of use.
As you can see, we don’t mess around! There is a ton of variety in smartwatches and trackers, and reviewing each product is quite nuanced. A Garmin Fenix 7 review looks a lot different from a Xiaomi Mi Band review, for example. So, we also determine the wearable’s place in the market in terms of form factor, target audience, and budget. Finally, we check to see if the device is missing anything important that users might expect to see and verify that it lives up to its brand’s (measurable) claims.
You can trust that our experts put every device through its paces. Typically, our review period lasts about a week, but we can sometimes extend it to weeks or months for especially feature-packed devices. We also revisit watches and trackers regularly to ensure they still hold up through the test of time.
Top heart rate monitor questions and answers
The three major options for a wearable heart rate monitor are chest straps, watches, and fitness trackers.
While fitness watches are more convenient for everyday wear, if you truly value accuracy, you will often record the most accurate heart rate data by using a dedicated chest strap. If you are interested in a chest strap rather than a wrist-based tracker, we recommend the Polar H10.
Yes, heart rate monitors can be beneficial to all who choose to use one. A heart rate monitor will allow you to view your heart rate trends over time. Whether you’re fit or unfit, you can then act upon this information and change your lifestyle accordingly.