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Fitness trackers to avoid buying in the sales

Run (don't walk) away from these low-scoring fitness bands and watches that failed to get our experts' heart rates up.

person checking their fitness tracker
Last updated: 03 January 2024

If you're motivated to get healthy in the new year, you might be considering a fitness tracker to monitor your efforts and motivate you to keep going. 

Or perhaps you're not planning on changing your lounge lizard ways but want to buy a nice gift for the gym bunny in your life. 

Either way, these fitness trackers can be safely removed from your shortlist. They're the lowest scorers in our test of 27 models on the market. 

These fitness trackers might look the business, but their performance leaves much to be desired

They might look the business, but their performance leaves much to be desired. 

"Ease of use, comfort and distance accuracy are key components of our test and these devices stumbled in one, or more, of these areas," says CHOICE tech expert Peter Zaluzny

"Some otherwise decent fitness bands or smartwatches have been let down by their performance in these areas."

We don't want you to end up with a dud buy, so here are the products that scored lowest in our lab tests. Consider becoming a CHOICE member to see the best performers.

The lowest scoring fitness trackers in our tests

If you want to track your progress or you're planning to buy a fitness band as a gift, step away from these four poor performers.

samsung galaxy watch5 bt 44mm with d buckle band

This Samsung smartwatch might be too smart for its own good.

Samsung Galaxy Watch5 (BT) 44mm with D-Buckle band

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 68%
  • Distance accuracy score: 50%
  • Price: $349

This Samsung Galaxy failed to outperform every single other product we tested – even some that cost far less. 

This smartwatch has loads of features – fall detection, find my phone, body fat percentage monitor, skeletal muscle weight monitor, IP68 rating, supports Samsung Pay, and more – but it doesn't do the basics well. 

Our experts rated it at just 50% for distance accuracy, and found that there were significant delays in updating the pace and distance counts while using it. And while it can measure body fat percentage and skeletal muscle weight, it couldn't install the Samsung Health Monitor app which tracks blood pressure and ECG over time. 

This smartwatch has loads of features but it doesn't do the basics well

And if you're thinking about buying it for your wife, girlfriend or daughter, don't: none of our female trialists could get a comfortable fit with this band. 

If you have $350 to spend on a fitness tracker, you could pick many of the models our experts recommend and still have change, so check our reviews to find the best fitness tracker before you hit the shops. 

Read the full Samsung Galaxy Watch5 with D-Buckle band review.

samsung galaxy watch5 bt 44mm with sport band

The Galaxy Watch5 is only marginally better with a different band.

Samsung Galaxy Watch5 (BT) 44mm with sport band

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 70%
  • Distance accuracy score: 50%
  • Price: $349

Same watch, different band – but same issues. 

We tested this separately to the Samsung Galaxy Watch5 above because comfort is a significant factor when using a fitness tracker. 

Fortunately our trialists did find this more comfortable (though it still only scores 58% for comfort), but its other scores are identical to the watch with the D-buckle band. 

Needless to say, it's still not great value for money even though it's cheaper than the buckle strap. You can get far better performance for less money by choosing a better product. 

Read the full Samsung Galaxy Watch5 with sport band review.

google fitbit charge 6

Now owned by Google, will future Fitbits be better?

Google Fitbit Charge 6

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 78%
  • Distance accuracy score: 97%
  • Price: $260

Yes, Fitbit is now owned by Google. While "Google Fitbit" is a bit more of a mouthful than the original, the new ownership could mean more and better features for Fitbits, but the jury is still out on this for now.

Unfortunately the Charge 6 didn't impress our experts: it's one of the lowest scoring fitness bands in our review. The CHOICE Expert Rating of 78% isn't bad, but it's not exactly great either when you consider that a number of the top performers cost the same or even less than this one.

It did perform quite well in terms of accuracy and our experts liked its apps and website, but they had a few quibbles. 

The features on offer with the Charge 6 require an ongoing subscription

The band struggled to sync with the phone during setup, and the date resets when you're browsing old data or drilling down into details which is frustrating when you're trying to track your progress over time. (One or both of these problems occurred with all three Google bands we tested.) And while the band is comfortable to wear, some testers found it a bit awkward to fasten.

The features on offer with the Charge 6 require an ongoing subscription, which may not be appealing for people who just want to count their steps and do some sleep tracking. You don't need a subscription for many features of the Charge 6's predecessor – the Charge 5 – so it might be better value for money depending on what you want from a fitness tracker.

Read the full Google Fitbit Charge 6 review.

garmin vivosmart 5 smallmedium

Garmin's Vivosmart won't keep up with your steps.

Garmin Vivosmart 5 Small/Medium

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 78%
  • Distance accuracy score: 97%
  • Price: $249

This is one to avoid if you're planning to track your steps or distance while walking or running with a pram. While it's very accurate when your arm is swinging free, it doesn't accurately record your distance or step count when your arm is relatively still – so you won't get the credit for all those steps you did while pushing the baby in a pram, or any other activity where you're not moving your arms much. 

On the plus side, it has very good Android and iOS apps for monitoring data, and our testers found it very easy to set up. 

Like the Charge 6 above, there are better fitness trackers to buy if you have a budget of around $250. 

Read the full Garmin Vivosmart 5 review.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.