Five fitness trackers that score low marks for comfort, cost, and functionality.
It seems like every day a new fitness device hits the market. Many of these wearable pieces of technology can truly boost the efficiency – and effectiveness – of your workouts. They make measures like heart rate, pace, and intensity available at the push of a button, and then assemble those metrics into data you can use to fine-tune your fitness plan.
Yet not all devices are created equal. Some offer limited functionality for a hefty price tag. Others are so cumbersome you’ll have a hard time concentrating on your workout while wearing them.
Since you do have so many options available, don’t waste money buying the wrong device. Here are five fitness trackers experts say may not be worth the investment.
Razer Nabu X
Razer appeared to be suffering an identity crisis when it introduced the Nabu X. After all, a fitness tracker seemed like a strange fit for a gaming company. But this tracker is aimed at gamers — at least, the ones who are willing to separate from their keyboards and controllers long enough to work out. The Nabu X does have some unique features going for it, including one cool social function where, if you shake hands with or high-five a fellow Nabu X wearer, you’ll instantly swap personal info via Facebook or share fitness stats. The price is reasonable, the silicone strap is light and comfortable, and the device has decent functionality — tracking steps, distance walked, calories burned, and sleep. Yet it’s not a standout among its competition in any of these categories. One of the biggest complaints about Nabu X is that all notifications, from emails to texts to Facebook friend requests, produce the same alert — three blinking LED lights. “This is where using the Nabu X starts to become infuriating. There’s absolutely no way to distinguish what app notifications are coming in,” wrote Chris Welch of The Verge. Overall, critics had a tepid response to Razer’s fitness device. Lily Prasuethsut of Techradar concluded, “There’s not much I can find to outright hate about the Nabu X. But it doesn’t make me want to jump up and down, telling people to get rid of their current fitness trackers. Instead, it just leaves me feeling indifferent.”
Under Armour, the company that made its name gearing up weekend warriors and professional athletes alike, has also staked its claim in the fitness tracking market. Yet critics complain that its Armour39 chest-strap heart-rate monitor offers little functionality for its hefty price tag. The trouble with this gadget starts as soon as you try to strap yourself in. “It connects with a bra-style hook on the right side and after trying to hook it in place we eventually realized you just have to hook it in front and then slide it around until the strap is in place,” wrote Lee Crane of Digital Trends. Once you are finally able to wriggle into the strap, you start by taking an assessment of your resting and maximum heart rate. Based on the results, you’re assigned a WILLpower score — are you a full-throttle athlete, or a barely-above-couch-potato type? The app then tracks your workout intensity, but beyond that “it’s a letdown.” You can’t upload your results to a website or compare stats with your friends because Armour39 lacks any social media capability. You might not even be able to look at your own stats, as users claim the monitor struggles to pair with its smartphone app. And if you want long battery life, look for another heart-rate monitor. Reviewers have referred to the Armour39 as a “battery eating machine.”
LG Lifeband Touch
LG — the company best known for washing machines and refrigerators — has entered the smart fitness band market, but its Lifeband Touch “falls short of the finish line,” writes one reviewer. For starters, the rigid, heavy band looks like it “wouldn’t be out of place on the set of a sci-fi movie,” according to Digital Trends. They also complained about the display, which is almost unreadable outdoors in direct sunlight. “During a run, we were constantly forced to search for a shady spot when we wanted to check current stats.” The LG Fitness App does earn points for its easy setup and pairing process, and its comprehensive activity tracking capabilities, although one critic complained it was “buggy,” crashing often and sometimes failing to record certain activity metrics. The Lifeband Touch can’t measure heart rate on its own, but it does pair with a very cool —albeit pricey — set of heart-rate-sensing earphones. Overall, the awkward band and unreadable readout make the Lifeband fall short of its competitors in a very crowded field. The total package of the Lifeband Touch feels neither here nor there: not as good as dedicated fitness bands, and not as smart as smartwatches or ‘smarter’ fitness trackers like the Gear Fit,” wrote c|net’s reviewer.
Runtastic Moment has a modern soul in a classic body. On the outside, it resembles an elegant wristwatch with a stainless steel analog face and leather strap (on its higher-end Classic and Elite models). Inside are sensors that can track everything from steps to calories burned to sleep. To see those stats, you’ll need to pair the Moment with its Runtastic Me app because there’s no display — other than an extra hand on the watch that tracks your progress toward your goal. While the app has good functionality, merging most of the stats you’ll need onto one screen, many of its best features hide behind a paywall. You’ll need to fork over an extra monthly fee if you want to access them. One reason the Runtastic Moment “misses the mark” is its inaccuracy. Reviewers say it grossly overestimates or underestimates steps, and records any time spent in bed — even if you’re reading or watching TV — as sleep. Among the biggest complaints, particularly with the Elite model, is the rigid strap and chunky band, which one reviewer called, “the most uncomfortable watch I’ve ever worn. Ever.”
The Jawbone UP3 isn’t a total wash, although the company’s attempt at fully waterproofing the device was a dismal failure (it’s water-resistant, but not fit for the pool). To this version of its fitness tracker, Jawbone added a new wave of sensors – accelerometer, bioimpedance, skin temperature, resting heart rate, automatic sleep tracking – but they “aren’t very useful at all,” and offer “only minor improvements over Jawbone’s last model,” writes Engaget. The slim, light, flexible band offers a comfortable fit, although without a display, the UP3 is more “jewelry than gadget,” according to Wareable. C|net concludes that the lack of display and lackluster heart-rate monitor aren’t “worth the high price.”
January 21, 2016