LifeTrak Zone C410 Review

(From $42.00 Best)

This is a surprisingly inexpensive wrist-worn fitness tracker that doubles as a watch and includes a heart-rate monitor, offering consumers the features of a high-end tracker without the cost.

LifeTrak Zone C410 reviews point to the built-in heart monitor as one of the factors that makes this inexpensive fitness tracker stand out in a crowded field of offerings. The device can also track steps taken, distance traveled, and estimated calories burned. Automatic sleep tracking is another notable feature, as is water resistance up to 30 meters. This is a solid choice for someone who wants a wrist-worn device that tracks the basics and includes a few bells and whistles.

The LifeTrak Zone C410 (starting at $42, Amazon) doubles as a watch, telling the time, day, and date with a large digital display on the front. Although the screen does have a backlight, the low-res display draws some criticism. There is also some discrepancy in presentation, as older models had a black screen with white characters and newer screens are white/gray with black characters. Although the switch was supposed to improve readability, some reviewers strongly preferred the other color scheme. Regardless, many also marvel at the wealth of useful information right at their wrists: steps, distance, calories, daily activity, sleep information, and a chart of the past seven days' activity, in addition to current heart rate.

Heart rate and other data can be tracked over time using the LifeTrak app, available for recent Apple and Android mobile devices, or a compatible third-party app (the Zone C410 can't sync with computers). A review of the older LifeTrak Move C300 by TechHive highlights the Argus app as a well-designed and easy-to-use companion for this brand of fitness tracker. Some owners report that they prefer the MapMyFitness app for uploading their data. The LifeTrak iOS app can also now integrate with the Apple Health app.

According to a CNET reviewer, the accuracy of both the step tracking and the heart-rate monitor are very good for a wrist-worn device, and unlike some trackers that struggle to get pulse readings, the LifeTrak Zone C410 proved easy and reliable in testing. This may be in part because the manufacturer is the same company behind many of the heart-rate monitors built into fitness equipment in gyms around the country. Reviews of the band's performance on the sleep-tracking front are mixed, however. The primary flaw, users say: The automatic sleep detector reads any prolonged period of inactivity (for example, sitting at a desk) as sleep. One undisputed positive is the extended battery life -- up to one year. This can end up saving users money compared with other trackers that require much more frequent battery changes.

Overall, the LifeTrak Zone C410 is a feature-laden option for consumers on a budget. The heart-rate monitor helps wearers stay within a fat-burning or aerobic-training "zone" during exercise and increases the accuracy of the data on calories burned. Not all wrist-worn fitness trackers include a display, and the screen enables the Zone C410 to double as a watch while providing immediate fitness data. Overall consumer and expert reviewers find this a comfortable, informative, and motivational addition to a fitness plan.

Fitbit Zip Review

(From $50.00 Best)

The Fitbit Zip is the cheapest option from one of the biggest names in fitness tracking. This easy-to-use clip-on device excels at displaying the collected data and works well with other apps.

Fitbit makes an entire line of fitness trackers, but only the Zip (starting at $49, Amazon) falls within the Cheapism price range of $50 or less. Fitbit Zip reviews are generally very positive, with many users reporting an increase in their physical activity as a result of buying the device. The Zip is a small, water-resistant, clip-on tracker with a screen that displays the day's steps, distance, and estimated calories burned. Collected data can be automatically synced to a computer using an included USB dongle and to apps on select Apple and Android devices. After syncing, users will find informative graphs, charts, and tools to help them understand their activity, see trends over time, and check progress toward a goal. One Zip user reports on the Best Buy website that she has become so committed to reaching her daily step goal that she walks around the house in the evening if need be, and even reviewers posting lower ratings for the Zip say they find it motivating. Fitbit builds in a little extra encouragement by awarding wearers badges for daily, weekly, and lifetime achievements, such as total steps taken. Friends and family can connect to each other to share stats, encourage each other, and participate in friendly (or not) competitions. The community support that comes with the device actually seems to be its very best feature. Groups of users from around the world keep each other committed to their fitness goals.

During a product test by CNET, the tester found that the Zip logged more steps than a competitor on an identical walk and may have given him a little too much credit. Regardless, CNET concluded that the Fitbit Zip is the best fitness tracker you can buy for less than $60. User reviews are likewise mixed when it comes to accuracy, but most report that the device is accurate and doesn't register movements other than walking as steps, a common problem among cheap trackers. One user conducted step tests with the device and reports on Amazon that in multiple counts of 200, the tracker was rarely off by more than 10 steps. Not all reviews are so positive. A few reviewers found that the estimated distance was off compared with the distance they knew they had walked; steps were logged while they were sleeping; or steps were not logged while they were walking. Some owners aren't concerned one way or another as long as they have a goal they can strive to achieve every day.

One advantage of the Zip over other trackers is the ecosystem Fitbit has created to support all its devices. Wearers can use Fitbit's online tools to log meals, water intake, and their current weight. Combined with estimated calories burned, a number provided by the Zip, users can track net caloric intake and take measurable steps (no pun intended) toward reaching a weight goal they set. Some users posting on a MyFitnessPal message board report that Fitbit's calorie count is too high, but other users point out that Fitbit includes baseline calories burned -- those that you burn just by going about everyday life -- in the total. By logging onto the Fitbit site, users can see a more precise breakdown of the information. Fitbit also lets users export their data to other popular fitness-tracking apps, such as Endomondo and Runkeeper, and transfer data to and from MyFitnessPal, SparkPeople, Lose It, and MapMyFitness.

In terms of style and comfort level, the Fitbit Zip is small and lightweight enough that users forget they're wearing it. The device can be clipped onto an undershirt, a bra, or the inside of a pocket and no one else will know it's there. There's a downside to this, though: An all-too-common reason a Zip stops working is that it's tossed into the wash while still attached to dirty clothing.

That's not the only way the Fitbit Zip has been known to break down. One-star reviews come from consumers who have had the battery die or the device simply stop working after only a few weeks of use. In many cases, customer service is quick to respond and send a replacement, but some reviewers say they received two or three faulty devices in a row. Other common complaints include the device erasing progress during the day (it's supposed to reset in the middle of each night), trouble opening the back to install the battery, and a lack of included instructions.

Complaints make up a small portion of Fitbit Zip reviews in total, though. From what we read in comparing the tracker to others in the same price range, the Fitbit Zip is one of the best options.

Jawbone Up Move Review

(From $14.00 Good)

This disc-shaped activity tracker can be attached to a wristband, clipped on, or placed in a pocket. Jawbone's app is one of the best out there, with diet tracking and tips to keep users motivated.

The Jawbone Up Move (starting at $24, Amazon) is the least expensive device in Jawbone's popular fitness tracker lineup. The company's robust ecosystem makes this a good contender for best cheap fitness tracker, although the device has its limitations, according to Jawbone Up Move reviews.

The Up Move is small disc powered by a watch battery that lasts about six months. It's available in several colors and designs and can be worn in a clip, on a wristband, or in a pocket. Although a PCMag reviewer appreciates the flexibility of the design, she says, "It's not stylish." It's also not waterproof and can't be worn in the shower or for swimming. It is water-resistant, so sweat shouldn't harm it.

The Up Move doesn't have a display screen to show precise progress toward a step-count goal. Instead, several LEDs that light up to show the wearer's progress, the time, and whether the device is on sleep mode. The Up Move tracks sleep time and efficiency, including deep vs. light sleep, although it must be switched into sleep mode before you close your eyes. Pressing the display twice and holding activates stopwatch mode, used to track other activities such as cycling or a fitness class. A user who reviewed the Up Move on Amazon has found the resulting data accurate, even when the device is in a pocket instead of being worn on the body. Expert reviewers seem to agree that the readouts are fairly spot-on.

One of the best parts of owning a Jawbone device, reviewers say, is the accompanying mobile app. It's available for recent iPhone and Android devices and lets users easily sync a Jawbone fitness tracker to a mobile device. Within the app, users can see precise step counts, set goals, get details on their sleep patterns and physical activities, tag Stopwatch mode activities, and connect with friends for competition. The Smart Coach feature monitors activity and provides tips and motivation to keep users on track. An expert reviewer at Tom's Guide says the Up Move detected that he took 31 minutes to fall asleep and the app suggested a relaxing guided meditation for the following evening.

The Up app can also create a meal log, incorporate that data into an overall health score, and suggest improvements. Some users still find it too tedious to bother logging their meals, although a barcode scanner (using the camera on a mobile device) and an in-house food database help simplify the process. Anyone already counting calories with a tool such as MyFitnessPal can sync their data with the Up app. Jawbone also has an Up Coffee app that helps users monitor the effect of caffeine on their sleep patterns.

Ultimately the Up Move is the cheapest tracker for Jawbone's excellent software platform -- by a long shot: It's half the price of the bracelet-style Up2.

Where to buy

Kohl's
$49.99
Kohl's
$49.99
Kohl's
$49.99
Shopping.com

Misfit Flash Review

(From $17.00 Good)

With a versatile design that mirrors the successful Misfit Shine, the Flash is a water resistant fitness tracker that users wear proudly. It monitors a variety of exercises and automatically tracks sleep.

Misfit's Shine activity tracker, a mid-range option released in 2013, was praised for its fashionable look, versatility, and waterproof design. The Misfit Flash (starting at $20, Amazon) falls into the budget category and offers many of the same features. It is available in seven colors and can be clipped on, worn on a wristband, attached to a key ring, or placed in a pocket or shoe. It tracks steps taken, distance traveled, estimated calories burned, sleep length and efficiency, and other fitness activities. It's water resistant to 30 meters and runs on a watch battery that can last up to six months.

One of the reasons this activity tracker is cheaper than its predecessor is that the Flash is plastic, rather than aluminum. This has pluses and minuses, as CNET points out in a Misfit Flash review. The plastic design doesn't scratch or pop out of its case as easily (which happens sometimes when users press it to see their progress or the time), but it has a cheaper feel. The most notable complaint in reviews on Amazon is the quality of the included wristband. Many users report that it quickly broke after they started using the Flash. Although the option to buy a new one provides an easy remedy, it frustrates consumers that a band costs $10 when the device itself costs only $20.

The company seems to have taken this frustration into account in creating the Misfit Flash Link (starting at $18), which is basically the same product with no wristband. But given that the price is almost the same, the trade-off doesn't seem worth it. There’s a lot to be said for having the option to wear the tracker as a wristband, no matter how flimsy.

The Misfit Flash outdoes competitors in the same price range with its tracking capabilities. Though labeled as merely "splash proof," it's said to be able to track swimming, along with eight additional activities ranging from dancing to basketball. Users must remember to switch the device into "activity mode," or go into the app later and tag these activities. On the other hand, the Flash automatically detects when the wearer goes to bed and switches into sleep-tracking mode on its own.

Like the more expensive Misfit Shine, the Misfit Flash doesn't have a screen; rather it uses a ring of 12 LED lights to indicate progress toward daily goals (a number of steps or within a point system developed by Misfit) and show the time. A review on Pocket Lint notes that it's hard to tell which way is "up" on the device without checking the logo on the back.

Without a screen, users must sync the Flash to an iOS or Android mobile device via Bluetooth for an exact readout. There is no web app for taking a deep dive into the stats, but the mobile app provides an in-depth look at each day, showing steps taken, estimated calories burned, miles walked, and sleep patterns. Users can tag activities and take a broader week- or month-long look. The Misfit app integrates with Runkeeper, MapMyFitness, IFTTT, Spotify, Lose It, Walgreens Balance Rewards, and other apps. For example, users can import relevant data to a weight-loss app or pause a Spotify song by pressing the Flash -- helpful mid-exercise. Connecting the device to the Misfit Link app turns it into a remote control for a phone camera as well as a slide show tool. The device can even control a Misfit Bolt smart light bulb from across the room. (Forgive us, however, for questioning how turning a fitness tracker into a high-tech Clapper is going to get users off the couch!)

Although the Misfit Flash lacks a built-in screen, it's a stylish device that tracks the basics and can be made to do so much more.

iFit Act Review

(From $14.00 Think Twice)

With a battery that seems unreliable at best and an app interface that many can't manage to sync with their devices, this is an option some consumers have scrapped right out of the box.

iHealth Wireless Sleep and Activity Tracker Review

(From $20.00 Think Twice)

This cheap activity monitor offers sleep tracking and can be worn with a clip at the waist or as a watch. However, it's so heavy and cumbersome that many owners don't bother using it.

The iHealth Wireless Activity and Sleep Tracker (starting at $29, Amazon) is being slowly retired from shelves but still attracting buyers on Amazon. Based on the box, it should be one of the best activity monitors in the budget price range, but reviews tell another story.

The device can be slipped into a clip that attaches at the waist or into a band that fits around the wrist, where it doubles as a watch and displays the time. It's water-resistant and tracks steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, and, as the name implies, sleep patterns. The device can even be set with a vibrating alarm to silently wake the wearer. The battery lasts about five to seven days before it needs to be recharged via USB cable.

Given all its functions and the option to wear it with a clip or on the wrist, one might expect iHealth Wireless Activity and Sleep Tracker reviews to shower the device with praise. It's very inexpensive compared with popular fitness trackers that offer the same features, yet consumer reviewers find several faults. The first of these is the physical design of the device. Not all fitness trackers are comfortable or stylish, but some are better than others. One reviewer posting on Amazon says after just a week, the weight of the tracker had become a nuisance, especially in bed at night. Others comment on the size of the device when worn on the wrist and describe it as bulky and uncomfortable enough that they can't fall asleep while wearing it (it gathers sleep data only when worn on the wrist). One reviewer has a different objection to the design: He says the device looks and feels cheap -- so much so that he feels unsure about wearing it in public. Although generally we shied away from considering style in favor of utility in this comparison, a comment like that is noteworthy. Remarks about the tracker's weight, appearance, and bulky form lead us to recommend that potential customers see this tracker in person, and try it on if possible, before making a purchase.

IHealth Activity and Sleep Tracker reviews generally don't complain about the device's accuracy when measuring steps taken throughout the day, although a few recommend using it as a clip-on rather than a watch to increase accuracy. When it comes to counting calories burned, however, this tracker uses the same guesstimating method as many others that don't have a heart-rate monitor. The calorie count is based on step count and stats put in by the wearer (age, sex, height, and weight). It doesn't consider factors such as the intensity of the workout unless the wearer inputs a workout via the app.

One of the biggest selling points is the sleep-tracking function. Aside from the fact that the tracker may be too uncomfortable to wear during sleep, reviewers are generally pleased with the results. In sleep mode, the iHealth tracker collects data on when the wearer falls asleep, wakes up throughout the night, and is in deep sleep. However, without a heart-rate monitor, the data are based solely on movement.

IHealth Activity and Sleep Tracker reviews that mention the iHealth MyVitals app generally find it useful for more than just syncing and accessing data. The app adds the option of manually recording and tracking meals, for example. But some wish it would offer more a more detailed understanding of the data being recorded. Several reviewers mention the fact that it's free, a plus over a few competitors. Creating an account with a login and password provides access to the data via a web browser.

Our initial excitement at seeing an inexpensive fitness tracker that monitors sleep and can be worn as a clip-on or watch was drained after we dug into iHealth Activity and Sleep Tracker reviews. The world of fitness trackers is filled with options that consumers forget they're wearing or are proud to show off, and the iHealth is neither. Plus, without a heart-rate monitor, the sleep data aren't especially reliable. It's a nice try, but if you really want all these features in a useful, appealing form, you'll need to pony up a bit more cash.

Just don’t spring for the upgraded iHealth Edge AM3S (starting at $63). This version may be slightly more technologically “with it” than its predecessor -- it can now provide instant assessments at the end of workouts -- but what it makes up in data accessibility, it apparently loses in reliability. Selling for more than twice as much as the original model AM3, the AM3S Edge receives constant complaints about functionality in reviews on Amazon, even from customers given the device for free in exchange for their reviews. Many said the devices they purchased were faulty and they couldn’t get them to work at all.

Buying Guide

Many consumers swear by fitness trackers for motivation to work out, as well as accurate and easily accessible overviews of their exercise habits and overall health. Sales more than doubled in 2015, according to the NPD Group, and the average selling price increased to $109. But some of the biggest names in the game, including Fitbit, Jawbone, and Misfit, offer fitness tracking devices (also commonly referred to as activity trackers or activity monitors) for less than half that price. To save some legwork for shoppers in search of good cheap fitness trackers, we've scoured expert reviews, consumer feedback, and product specifications to find the best offerings under $50.

Choosing a Cheap Fitness Tracker

In reviews of cheap fitness trackers, experts and consumers say that simply strapping on a fitness tracker encourages longer and more frequent workouts, as well as increased mobility throughout the day -- enough to recommend giving one of these wearables a try. For many users, however, the novelty fades, and a high-priced, super-loaded band can end up gathering dust on a dresser. This guide focuses on entry-level fitness trackers, so buyers who ultimately don't use them won't be plunged into ice-cream-binging despair over wasted money.

Even the cheapest activity monitors typically track steps taken throughout the day, distance traveled, and estimated calories burned, acting more or less like high-end pedometers. A few of the best inexpensive models can also track sleep patterns or heart rate, and most pair with a mobile app to provide deeper insight. The more wallet-friendly models generally focus on activities such as walking, running, and cycling, but a select few can give users feedback on swimming, as well.

Our top picks, the highly rated Fitbit Zip (starting at $50) and LifeTrak Zone C410 (starting at $43), are inexpensive yet reliable trackers from tried and trusted brands. The Zip can be clipped to clothing or tucked in a pocket, while the Move C300 is a wristband. Two other recommended models, the Misfit Flash (starting at $17) and Jawbone Up Move (starting at $14), can be worn all three ways and also garner positive reviews. Consumers should think twice before opting for the iHealth Wireless Activity and Sleep Tracker (starting at $20) or the iFit Act (starting at $14), as both lag behind in terms of features and performance.

Other Fitness Tracker Brands.

Critics have been singing the praises of Garmin fitness bands, the brand of choice for many hardcore workout buffs. The sleek Vivosmart HR (starting at $120) is fully waterproof for swimming, with sleep tracking as well as a heart rate monitor. The band doubles as a pseudo smartwatch, pairing with a smartphone to remotely control music and display any texts, emails, or notifications that come in during a workout. Step up about $30 more to the HR+ and you'll get GPS integration. The original Garmin Vivofit is a more basic product with no heart monitoring or "smart" notifications, but it does boast an LCD screen that displays time, steps, distance, and estimated calories burned and has received accolades from experts and consumers alike. Even better, it recently dropped below our $50 price ceiling on Amazon, although Vivofit models tend to fall in the mid-range.

Moov, a line born out of a crowdfunding project in 2014, has a fully waterproof design, multisport tracking capabilities, and active coaching features. It garnered positive buzz out of the gate, but reviews from consumers are mixed. While the original version is still available starting at $40 on Amazon, it's been discontinued, and the upgraded Moov Now remains outside our price range (starting at $69). If you're willing to pay a bit more, however, it's certainly worth looking into this uniquely hands-on, and now more streamlined, option.

Xiaomi is a mega seller in China that recently made its debut in the United States. The company's Mi Band 2 deserves a mention for delivering a display screen, smart notifications, and heart-rate monitoring at a ridiculously low price (starting at $45). The band does have its flaws, including an accompanying app that many find unfriendly and rather quirky performance at times on the tracking front, but many say it remains a bargain that's hard to beat. We'd like to see how it fares after a little more time on the U.S. market before rendering a verdict.

Home Try-On.

Before buying any fitness tracker, shoppers might consider taking some out for a test drive. For a fee of $35, Lumoid lets consumers choose up to three trackers to try at home for two weeks (some more expensive items carry additional fees). At the end of the trial period, those who decide to buy receive $25 of their money back as a credit toward the purchase price of their chosen model. All our top choices, with the exception of the FitBit Zip, can be sampled using this service.

This might also be an opportunity to try some of our picks' pricier cousins. The Misfit Shine (starting at $35) is a higher-end version of the Misfit Flash that sports time display and phone notifications. With the launch of the Misfit Shine 2, prices on this model have fallen into our range. Now is also a particularly ideal time to consider a trial run of the Jawbone Up line, as a recent sell-off from the manufacturer has put several of the brand's sleek bracelet models within reach of fitness (and fashion) fanatics on tighter budgets. Or, consumers can or the Moov Now.

A hands-on, head-to-head comparison between products could help determine whether to make a larger initial investment. One caveat: Some of the final prices listed on Lumoid are slightly higher than we found at other retailers. But the extra money may be worth the assurance that you've chosen the right band.

Features Comparison Buying Guide continues below table

(from $49)
Tracking Capabilities Calories, distance, steps
Display Monochrome LCD screen
Compatibility PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, web
Water Resistance Water resistant
Design Clip-on, pocket
Battery Watch battery
(from $42)
Tracking Capabilities Calories, distance, steps, sleep, heart rate
Display Monochrome LCD screen
Compatibility iOS, Android
Water Resistance Water resistant to 30 meters
Design Wrist
Battery Watch battery
(from $20)
Tracking Capabilities Calories, distance, steps, sleep
Display LED indicator lights
Compatibility iOS, Android
Water Resistance Waterproof
Design Wrist, clip-on, pocket
Battery Watch battery
(from $21)
Tracking Capabilities Calories, distance, steps, sleep
Display LED indicator lights
Compatibility iOS, Android
Water Resistance Water resistant
Design Wrist, clip-on, pocket
Battery Watch battery
(from $29)
Tracking Capabilities Calories, distance, steps, sleep
Display AMOLED screen
Compatibility iOS, Android, web
Water Resistance Water resistant
Design Wrist or clip-on
Battery Rechargeable (5-7 days)
(from $28)
Tracking Capabilities Calories, distance, steps, sleep
Display LED indicator lights
Compatibility iOS, Android, web
Water Resistance Water resistant
Design Wrist, pocket
Battery Watch battery
(from $40)
Tracking Capabilities Calories, distance, pace, cadence, range of motion, laps/strokes (swimming)
Display LED indicator lights
Compatibility iOS, Android
Water Resistance Waterproof
Design Wrist, ankle, pocket
Battery Rechargeable (8 active hours, 1 month inactive)
(from $45)
Tracking Capabilities Calories, distance, steps, sleep, heart rate
Display OLED display
Compatibility iOS, Android
Water Resistance Water resistant
Design Wrist
Battery Rechargeable (20 days)

What We Looked For

Advanced Tracking Capabilities.

Although just about every activity monitor tracks the basics -- steps taken, distance traveled, and estimated calories burned while walking, running, or biking -- some add more to the mix. The waterproof Misfit Flash can track swimming and automatically detects when the wearer is going to sleep. The LifeTrak Zone C410 has a built-in heart monitor, which increases the device's accuracy when tracking calories and can help wearers target heart-rate "zones" when exercising.

Keep in mind that the readings provided by built-in heart-monitoring systems shouldn't be considered exact. In a recent lawsuit, Fitbit conceded that the heart-rate monitors on some of the brand's more expensive models couldn't claim 100 percent accuracy. Still, the company countered that its devices are better than the monitors found on gym equipment, which provide active-heart-rate stats without the benefit of resting-heart-rate information. If heart-rate monitoring is extremely important to you, consider purchasing a dedicated strap for that purpose. Many third-party products can be readily paired with fitness trackers including the Garmin Vivofit and Moov.

With various workout-specific apps, the boon of the Moov trackers is that they can analyze not only running/walking and biking but also swimming, boxing, and other specialized workouts. Here's the rub: The original Moov band works only when you're active and it's been paired with an app. Unlike the upgraded Moov Now, it doesn't do double duty as a basic pedometer and track steps throughout the day, which defeats the purpose for many who are more interested in just getting moving, as opposed to monitoring a particular type of workout.

Clear Data Presentation. Even the best fitness tracker is pointless if the wearer can't interpret the data the device collects. With some activity monitors, users can easily glance down and see specific stats on a display, and a good portion of the cost of the Fitbit Zip and LifeTrak Zone C410 is tied to the convenience of that screen, which doubles as a digital watch. The least expensive trackers are more rudimentary when it comes to visuals. The Misfit Flash, Misfit Shine, all models in the Jawbone Up series, Moov, Moov Now, and iFit Act rely on LED lights that change pattern or color to indicate progress toward daily goals.

With the LifeTrak Zone C410, fitness stats can be reviewed directly on the screen, but most fitness trackers require a proprietary mobile and/or web app to give users detailed access to the data the device has collected -- the Zone's app offers a glimpse into results for an entire year. Fitbit's app resources are among the most enjoyable and educational, and the Jawbone Up system is also a popular option. Whereas many popular trackers offer only a mobile app, Fitbit features a web interface, as well. An online portal and profile provide ample insight into users' physical activity and are lauded by reviewers. The iFit Act is a particular failure on the software front, with widespread complaints of inability to sync with the app and much griping over membership fees required to access data online.

The iFit Act also has a closed ecosystem, unlike the Fitbit Zip and many other trackers, which can sync up with third-party apps such as Runtastic, MapMyFitness, and the popular calorie counter MyFitnessPal. Although the latter app is helpful on its own, a review on the fitness site BuiltLean says incorporating data collected by a tracker makes MyFitnessPal an even better tool for people trying to lose weight.

Convenient Syncing.

Some trackers require users to connect to a smartphone or computer and press a button to upload all the data they've gathered. Our top picks use Bluetooth to sync wirelessly when they're within range of a compatible device. In most cases this happens automatically; the LifeTrak Zone C410 requires opening the app and pushing a button on the tracker. Although automatic syncing is a more seamless process, it may drain the battery more quickly.

Keep in mind that not every tracker can connect to every device. Most trackers sync using Bluetooth 4.0 or Bluetooth Low Energy technology, which is available on recent Apple devices and select Android devices. It's important to check the packaging or company website to see if a fitness tracker supports your phone, computer, or tablet. The Fitbit Zip offers the most flexibility: It wirelessly syncs to a multitude of Apple, Android, and Windows mobile devices and to computers via a USB dongle.

Water Resistance.

The best cheap fitness trackers are designed to motivate wearers to build up a sweat, so they are also designed to resist moisture. Most of our more substantial water exposure Consumers who want the added convenience of being able to wear the device in the shower or track swimming have more limited options. Only two of the activity trackers we reviewed claim to be water resistant to 30 meters, suggesting they're suitable for swimming: the LifeTrak Zone C410 and the Misfit Flash. Countless reviews from both experts and users vouch for the ability to wear each of these while swimming, although the manufacturer cautions that the Misfit Flash can remain on while "dishwashing or splashing in shallow waters, not snorkeling or diving." Perhaps this is an attempt to deflect any complaints suggesting the device is not quite watertight, or to encourage consumers to upgrade to the Misfit Shine, which is "swim-proof" up to 50 meters. LifeTrak says users can swim and bathe wearing the Zone C410 (and a promotional video shows a woman wearing it in the water).

What We Ignored

Calorie Counting Capability.

Activity monitors often estimate calories burned, but the number shouldn't be taken as fact. When a Quartz tech reporter wore four activity trackers at once, she found that each was consistent in accounting for ups and downs in her activity level, but the totals varied greatly among devices. Some allowed her to enter the type of activity she was doing and measured her heart rate, temperature, and sweat levels in an attempt to get a better read. Regardless, she concludes that calorie counts can be motivational, but the only sure way to get an accurate count is with a laboratory-grade calorimeter.

The cheap fitness trackers recommended here use information such as age, sex, weight, height, and the amount of time the wearer has been active to reach an estimate. Some consider only steps taken, while others let users go back and specify what form of exercise they were doing, which can increase accuracy. A heart-rate monitor within a device such as the LifeTrak Zone C410 can also improve accuracy, but the calorie number is still only an estimate.

Fitness Tracker Reviews

In our research, we read fitness tracker comparisons by experts at CNET, PCMag, and other tech-focused sites, as well as consumer reviews on popular e-commerce sites such as Amazon and Best Buy. Some reviewers have owned several different devices over the years and offer insight into a specific model's strengths and weaknesses. More often than not, though, fitness tracker reviews come from first-time buyers, so these must be read with a discerning eye. Although reviewers recognize that our picks are much cheaper than high-end activity monitors, they don't cut them any slack. A lower price tag means fewer features but shouldn't mean worse performance.

Comfort.

Fitness trackers are meant to be worn all day, and sometimes all night, so it's important they be lightweight, comfortable, and unobtrusive. Most budget fitness trackers take the form of either a clip-on or a bracelet. Some wrist-worn devices double as a watch, which some users consider a perk, while clip-ons are often lighter and less noticeable. Which to choose is a matter of personal preference and, for some, style. Some newer devices, such as the Misfit Flash and Jawbone Up Move, are small discs that can be placed into a clip, on a wristband (or ankle band, in the case of the Moov), or in a pocket. The versatility is handy, especially for tracking more localized movements -- for example, clipping to a shoe during a running workout. On the flip side, the trackers can fall off, be misplaced, or accidentally be thrown into the wash.

Although the packaging might claim that a device is easy to clip on and forget about, fitness tracker reviews provide more insight into reality. An example of what can go wrong is the Fitbit Force, a popular model that was recalled because it caused skin rashes on some wearers. The good news is that most reviews are positive when it comes to comfort. The Xiaomi Mi Band 2 fares particularly well in this respect, with reviewers saying they often forgot they were even wearing the band. One exception is the iHealth Wireless Activity and Sleep Tracker, which many users say is so heavy and awkward that they can't be bothered to wear it.

Accuracy.

What good is an activity tracker if it can't track activity accurately? Reviews are mixed when it comes to step count or distance accuracy on the inexpensive devices we researched. Most trackers provide a good general picture, although no two are likely to generate the exact same numbers. Inaccurate readings often seem to result when users don't realize they can, and need to, calibrate a tracker to their step length or alter the device's sensitivity. The accuracy of a clip-on fitness tracker also varies based on where it's worn. Fitbit recommends keeping the Zip as close to the body as possible and suggests clipping it onto a belt, bra, or pocket. When the iFit Act continues counting active calories burned and steps walked while in sleep mode, however, it can't be the fault of the reviewer -- unless he or she is a somnambulist.

Motivation.

Reviewers often speak to a tracker's ability to motivate them to be more active. The option to set goals and track progress throughout the day, try to complete a new challenge, or compete against others online can inspire extra effort. Most fitness trackers include all three of these elements and some also display motivational messages during the day. The popular Jawbone and Fitbit ecosystems have plenty of users and friendly competitions. Fitbit sends weekly email reports to users containing fitness stats and notification of badges earned for accomplishing milestones. Even the critics most bullish on the Garmin brand admit that, for all the boons of its hardware, Garmin just can't match the user-friendly and interactive features of Fitbit's apps and automatic computer syncing. The Chinese Xiaomi Mi Band 2 has been dinged by many a reviewer for the accompanying app, which doesn't provide much motivation, makes it difficult to connect with friends, and is prone to crashing.

Battery Life.

Our top picks, as well as the iFit Act, are powered by watch batteries that last up to six months. Others sometimes rely on rechargeable batteries. The reviews we read generally support the manufacturers' estimated battery life -- anywhere from three to 11 days for the rechargeable devices. Most battery-related complaints seem to concern a faulty unit that won't hold a charge at all. Such reviews often note that the product was completely replaced by the manufacturer at no charge. The exception here is, again, the iFit Act. Battery issues seem inherent to the entire line, with several reviews claiming that the battery needed replacing within a very short time. The Garmin Vivofit band, on the other hand, is a standout for its incredibly long battery life; batteries on this one should not have to be replaced for more than a year. The LifeTrak Zone C410 similarly claims up to a year of battery life.