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The best heart rate monitors and watches (September 2021)

From Apple to Wahoo, here are the best heart rate monitors and heart rate monitor watches you can buy.
September 1, 2021
garmin fenix 6 pro heart rate sensor
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

Your heart rate is an essential metric for leading a healthy lifestyle and improving your fitness training. Thankfully, tracking your heart rate is pretty easy, as most activity trackers and smartwatches come with a built-in heart rate monitor. This offers a very convenient way to measure your heart rate quickly, though no wrist-worn tracker will ever be perfectly accurate (read this explainer to find out why). Fortunately, there are also dedicated chest straps for heart rate monitoring if you’re looking for something a little more accurate.

But with so many different heart rate sensors on the market, which one should you buy? We’re here to help! We’ve rounded up the best heart rate monitors in products like chest straps, running watches, and fitness trackers.

How to choose the right heart rate monitor for your needs

People need heart rate monitors for different reasons. Some simply need to keep an eye on their resting heart rate throughout the day, others need it for sleep tracking, and some people need the most accurate heart rate data possible. But not all heart rate sensors are created equally, and the model you choose will depend on your specific needs.

If you’re after the most accurate heart rate data during your workouts, you’ll want to buy a heart rate monitor chest strap. Chest straps are more accurate than wrist-worn wearables and are able to more quickly pick up on some of the nuances when you’re working out.

If you’re after all-day heart rate monitoring or would like something to track your data during sleep, you should opt for a wrist-worn fitness tracker or fitness watch. Most modern wearables can track your resting and active heart rate throughout the day. While they might be more convenient than a chest strap, they’re also less accurate. Many factors can sway wearables’ heart rate data, such as skin tone, the amount of hair you have, and how you wear it on your wrist. Not that those factors don’t affect chest straps, but they’re more prevalent on wrist-based heart rate sensors.

The best heart rate monitors and best heart rate monitor watches

  • The Apple Watch Series 6 is the best heart rate monitor watch you can buy. During the testing period, the Apple Watch provided nearly identical results to those of the Wahoo Tickr X chest strap.
  • The Withings ScanWatch is a great heart rate monitor watch to buy for keeping up on your all-day heart health. It can monitor your ECG and blood oxygen levels, too.
  • The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro offers reliable heart rate readings for all-day resting heart rate, active readings during workouts, and at night.
  • The Fitbit Charge 4 is our favorite fitness tracker on the market, and it has a fairly accurate optical heart rate sensor onboard.
  • The Polar H10 is the best heart rate monitor chest strap you can buy. It’s the most accurate one we’ve tested.
  • The Wahoo Tickr X (2020) comes in second place in our list of the best heart rate monitors. The 2020 model is smaller and lighter than the original.
  • The Garmin HRM-Pro is the best heart rate monitor chest strap for those already in the Garmin ecosystem. The HRM-Pro has Bluetooth, advanced Running Dynamics, and storage for offline workouts.
  • The Scosche Rhythm 24 is a few years old, but still a fantastic heart rate sensor armband. The Rhythm 24 specifically offers great battery life and plenty of storage.

Apple Watch Series 6

apple watch series 6 review on wrist watch face display
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority
Apple Watch Series 6

The Apple Watch Series 6 has one of the best wrist-based heart rate sensors we’ve ever used. Seriously.

During our testing, the Apple Watch kept up with our Wahoo Tickr X chest strap quite well, even during interval runs and HIIT workouts. Sure, it tripped up when our heart rate climbed above ~170bpm, but that’s to be expected.

Furthermore, the Apple Watch Series 6 syncs with many other popular fitness apps, so you can continue using Strava, Training Peaks, and other apps if Apple’s Fitness app isn’t your favorite.

Apple Watch Series 6 press image
Apple Watch Series 6
Last-gen Apple Watch at a fair price
The Apple Watch Series 6 adds a pulse oximeter, a brighter always-on display, and two new colors. This was Apple's highest-end smartwatch in 2020 and may be a solid alternative to the pricier Series 7.

Check out our full review to learn more about the Apple Watch Series 6.

Withings ScanWatch

withings scanwatch review clock face time on wrist 3
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

If you want a good heart rate monitor watch that is more focused on daily heart health as opposed to workouts, you’ll want to check out the Withings ScanWatch.

The ScanWatch’s heart rate sensor will be fine for most people during workouts, but it really excels in its residual heart-monitoring features. It has a medically certified ECG monitor and SpO2 sensor. Later in the year, it’ll receive certification for sleep apnea detection. In our review, we called it one of the most sensible wearables you can buy. However, due to the medical certification process, it’s only available in select countries, and the US isn’t on the list at this time.

withings scanwatch black hybrid smartwatch
Withings ScanWatch
The new Withings ScanWatch is taking health tracking to the next level. It has built-in ECG and SpO2 sensors to help detect early signs of AFib and sleep apnea. Plus, it acts as a hybrid smartwatch, giving you notifications, HR data, and more on your wrist.

Check out our full review to learn more about the Withings ScanWatch.

Garmin Fenix 6 Pro

garmin fenix 6 pro display watch face 2
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro is one of our favorite running watches, and that’s primarily due to its generally accurate and reliable heart rate monitoring.

Garmin’s latest-generation Elevate heart rate sensor provides heart rate data for the company’s scarily accurate Body Battery energy monitoring feature, as well as all-day heart rate, heart rate variability data, and advanced sleep monitoring. We’ve found the Fenix 6 Pro’s heart rate sensor to be in line with other wrist-based heart rate sensors in testing. Unfortunately, the Fenix 6 Pro’s exorbitantly high price tag doesn’t get you the best of the best heart rate sensor out there, but it will be more than good enough for most people.

garmin fenix 6 pro render
Garmin Fenix 6 Pro
Garmin's do-everything watch
The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro is one of the most durable and powerful outdoor smartwatches on the market. It's preloaded with maps and ski routes, and the battery lasts up to 14 days with full functionality enabled.

Learn more about the Fenix 6 Pro in our Garmin buyer’s guide.

Fitbit Charge 4

fitbit charge 4 review watch face on wrist 1

The Fitbit Charge 4 is the best fitness tracker you can buy, and it has a decent heart rate sensor. During our testing, the Charge 4 was mostly able to keep up with the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music during interval runs but fell behind a bit with quick sprints.

Fitbit threw in some additional heart rate features with this new fitness tracker. First, Active Zone Minutes is Fitbit’s new way of making sure you’re getting enough weekly exercise. The Charge 4 will notify you of the time spent in each heart rate zone after your workout. The goal is to reach the American Heart Association’s recommended 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each week. And after each GPS-enabled workout, you’ll also see a new workout intensity heat map in the Fitbit app that shows your running or biking route as well as which heart rate zones you were in at any given time.

fitbit charge 4
Fitbit Charge 4
One of the best fitness trackers in the business
Jump headfirst into fitness tracking with the flexible Fitbit Charge 4. This latest version of the iconic fitness tracker is water-resistant to 50 meters with over 20 different exercise modes to choose from.

Check out our full review to learn more about the Fitbit Charge 4.

Polar H10

heart rate monitor

Coming in at just under $90, the best heart rate monitor chest strap you can buy right now is the Polar H10.

Polar has made a name for itself by producing high-quality, accurate heart rate sensors, so it should come as no surprise that the H10 is at the very top of our list. The H10 uses an entirely new algorithm from previous Polar monitors, and the included Polar Pro strap has been updated as well. It includes extra “interference-preventing electrodes” to help make sure heart rate data is accurately captured. It also sports a new buckle mechanism and silicon dots to help keep it in place when you’re working out.

The H10 also offers quite a few new improvements over its predecessor, the H7. The H10 can now receive over-the-air software updates, features enough built-in memory for one training session, and up to 400 hours of battery life.

Polar chest strap
Polar H10
Packing a long battery life, a more comfortable design, and a new algorithm, the Polar H10 is the best heart rate monitor chest strap you can buy.
wahoo tickr x 2020 heart rate sensor chest strap
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

We’ve used the older Wahoo Tickr X chest strap in just about every fitness product review over the last couple of years. The 2020 Tickr X chest strap is even better.

The new model is smaller and lighter than the original and features a more integrated design that should keep the tracker in place while you’re exercising. The indicator lights have also moved to the top of the tracker module.

There are two bigger functional upgrades to the Tickr X (2020). First, it supports multiple simultaneous Bluetooth connections. It can also display in real-time ANT+ running dynamics when paired with a GPS fitness watch.

wahoo tickr x 2020 heart rate monitor chest strap
Wahoo Tickr X
The Wahoo Tickr X ticks all the boxes for those seeking a sleek, chest heart rate monitor with support for multiple apps and devices.

Garmin’s HRM-Pro is its best heart rate sensor chest strap yet and is best suited for those already in the Garmin ecosystem. The HRM-Pro is essentially an upgraded version of the HRM-Tri, which previously held this spot on our list. The HRM-Pro is now geared towards more types of athletes, not just triathletes.

This chest strap finally has Bluetooth, as well as advanced Running Dynamics and storage for offline workouts. The latter feature is certainly overdue, but we’re happy users can finally record workouts phone- and watch-free and sync at a later time.

garmin hrm pro heart rate monitor
Garmin HRM-Pro
The best Garmin heart rate monitor you can buy comes with Bluetooth, advanced Running Dynamics, and storage for offline workouts.

The Scosche Rhythm 24 heart rate monitor armband is a few years old at this point, but it’s still one of the best heart rate monitor armbands you can buy.

It’s not the best-looking armband you can buy, nor is it the smallest, but it comes with some additional features over Scosche’s Rhythm Plus sensor. The Rhythm 24 has NFC for quick-pairing with certain gym equipment, 24 hours of continuous battery life with LED indicators, and onboard memory with up to 13 hours of training stats.

Scosche Rhythm 24 heart rate monitor chest strap
Scosche Rhythm 24
The Scosche Rhythm 24 is an armband packing ANT+ support, NFC for quick pairing with gym equipment, and 24 hours of battery life.

Honorable mentions

Those were our top picks for the best heart rate monitor chest straps and heart rate monitor watches. Here are a handful of devices that nearly made our list.

  • Garmin Venu 2: The Garmin Venu 2 is the first wearable with the company’s new fourth-generation Elevate heart rate sensor. While the sensor could use some refining, it’s an overall capable tracker and mostly accurate for high-intensity activities.
  • Fitbit Sense and Versa 3: The Fitbit Sense and Versa 3 feature Fitbit’s new PurePulse 2.0 optical heart rate sensor. The sensor itself is just okay, but you’ll really want to pick up the Sense for its ECG and overnight blood oxygen monitoring.
  • Xiaomi Mi Band 6: The Xiaomi Mi Band 6 actually has a decent heart rate sensor for the price. The Xiaomi Wear app isn’t our favorite, but the device itself is a capable budget fitness tracker.
  • Garmin Forerunner 245 Music: The Forerunner 245 has the same Garmin Elevate optical heart rate sensor as Garmin’s top-tier running watch, the Forerunner 945. In our testing, the 245’s sensor performed noticeably better than Garmin devices that came before it.
  • Garmin Vivosmart 4: We found the Vivosmart 4’s heart rate sensor to be acceptable but not quite on par with Garmin’s newer devices.
  • Whoop Strap 3.0: The Whoop platform provides plenty of interesting data on recovery, strain, and sleep, making for a great training platform. However, the Whoop Strap 3.0 itself provided inaccurate heart rate data during our review.
  • Samsung Galaxy Watch 4: The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 is a fantastic smartwatch and has a bevy of fitness features. Tts heart rate sensor was more accurate than its predecessor in our testing, but it is let down by some Samsung-specific features.