Buy it because: It costs only $130, and it’s practically everything we loved about the Force before the devices started giving people blisters. However, with less stainless steel and no exposed adhesives this time around, that shouldn’t be a problem anymore. The basic model here counts your steps, can tell when you’re going up stairs and even integrates with your smartphone, allowing it to display caller ID. It now automatically enters sleep mode when it detects inactivity. The Charge’s battery life will last nearly seven times longer than that of your iPhone 6’s 24 hours.
The downsides: Although a small LED screen sufficed back in 2013 when the original Force came out, we now officially live in a world dominated by large-screened phablets and smartphones. At best, the you can consider the original Charge a sort of Force 2.0—only a few new features, but the same basic concept.
Fitbit Charge HR
Buy it because: The Charge HR model mirrors the same basic features of the regular device, but this time with an embedded heart monitor located on the underside of the strap. The monitor allows the device to measure your caloric burn and workout intensity, even when you’re not making any perceptible movements. The added feature comes for just $20 more, which is quite a steal considering today’s market.
The downsides: An infrared heart rate monitor is great for entry-level users because it requires no extra straps or sensors. However, hardcore fitness buffs familiar with chest-mounted solutions know that optical sensors like this Fitbit’s aren’t typically that reliable nor accurate. The heart rate monitor also takes a toll on the Charge’s battery life, reducing it to five days.
Buy it because: It’s a smartwatch built for athletes, and more specifically, for runners. The $250 “super watch” has a built-in GPS for route tracking on top of all the other features we’ve mentioned, including the heart rate monitor. Smartphone integration is slightly expanded, with texts and music control appearing alongside caller ID. The notifications are displayed on a much larger screen. Most surprising, however, is that Fitbit estimates battery life at around seven days, despite the additional features.
The downside: Even though this device does a bit of everything ,now that Samsung and Apple have raised the stakes for what it takes to be called a smartwatch, the Surge doesn’t seem that smart. $250 is a steep price to pay when Polar offers a similar device for $200. Oh, and you’ll have to wait until early 2015 to get your hands on one of these.