The best heart rate monitors and watches (January 2021)

Your heart rate is an essential metric when it comes to 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.

The best heart rate monitors and watches (in no particular order):

Editor’s note: We will add to this list as newer heart rate monitors become available.

The best heart rate monitor watches

Apple Watch Series 6

apple watch series 6 review on wrist watch face display

Credit: Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

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.

You can learn more about the Apple Watch Series 6 in our full review.

Withings ScanWatch

withings scanwatch review clock face time on wrist 3

Credit: 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 also 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.

You can learn more about the Withings ScanWatch in our full review.

Garmin Fenix 6 Pro

garmin fenix 6 pro display watch face 2

Credit: Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro is one of our favorite GPS 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. In testing, we’ve found the Fenix 6 Pro’s heart rate sensor to be in-line with other wrist-based heart rate sensors. 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.

You can learn more about the Garmin 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 are 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.

You can learn more about the Fitbit Charge 4 in our full review.

Also read: Fitbit vs Garmin: Which ecosystem is right for you?

The best heart rate monitor chest straps

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 that will 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 is now able to receive over-the-air software updates, features enough built-in memory for one training session, and up to 400 hours of battery life.

Wahoo Tickr X (2020)

wahoo tickr x 2020 heart rate sensor chest strap

Credit: 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 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.

Garmin HRM-Pro

garmin hrm pro heart rate monitor chest strap

Garmin’s new 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.

Scosche Rhythm 24

Scosche Rhythm 24 heart rate monitor chest strap

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.

Why you should trust the editor

Not only does Jimmy Westenberg love wearables, he loves helping people find the right devices to suit their needs. He’s been our resident fitness reviewer at Android Authority since 2016, and in that time has reviewed dozens of fitness products and other wearables.

Through his rigorous testing of fitness products and deep knowledge of health devices and services, you can rest assured knowing Jimmy will give you honest recommendations.

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.

  • Fitbit Sense: The Fitbit Sense features 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 5: The Xiaomi Mi Band 5 actually has a decent heart rate sensor for the price. The Mi Fit 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 Vivoactive 4 and Venu: The Vivoactive 4 and Venu are essentially the same device, aside from their designs and displays. Heart rate monitoring was good, not great, in our testing. Not quite there compared to the newer Forerunner devices.
  • Garmin Vivosmart 4: Again, 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, which makes for a great training platform. However, the Whoop Strap 3.0 itself provided inaccurate heart rate data during our review.
  • Samsung Galaxy Watch 3: The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 is a fantastic smartwatch and has a bevy of fitness features. Again, the heart rate sensor was inaccurate in our testing, though casual users might not mind.

Next: The best smartwatches you can buy