(Pocket-lint) – By tracking your heart rate during exercise, you open up a whole new form of training. Since beats-per-minute essentially act as the body’s personal exertion detector, a top heart rate monitor will let you know in real-time exactly how hard you’re working, and record how long you spent in each heart rate zone.
However, there are a few key things to understand before you buy. While heart rate monitors are expanding where they track a pulse from, the two most popular forms are still the wrist-based wearable and the chest strap. The latter is undoubtedly more accurate than the wrist, but you do have the comfort factor to consider – and that’s where fitness trackers and smartwatches tend to shine.
It really comes down to what you prioritize when you work out, but to help you edge a little closer to picking the right device for you, we’ve detailed some of the top options below at a range of different budgets.
Top heart rate monitors you can buy today
Apple Watch Series 6
The Apple Watch Series 6 is the most complete smartwatch on the market, and a big reason for that is the heart rate monitor living on the underside of the case.
By our measure, it’s as good as Garmin’s devices when it comes to accuracy from the wrist, with data displayed neatly in real-time and intuitive graphs available post-workout.
However, you get much more than just a heart rate tracker for exercise, with the device also able to provide high heart rate notifications, ECG readings, resting heart rate, walking average, and spot readings whenever you choose.
If you want a powerful smartwatch with well-rounded heart monitoring skills, the Apple Watch Series 6 (and its predecessors) should be the top consideration for most users.
If you’re serious about monitoring your heart rate and don’t mind paying a bit extra for a dedicated device, consider Polar’s H10. For our money, this is the top device on the market.
Not only do you receive peak accuracy – whether you’re taking part in low or high-intensity runs, cycles, or swims – but it’s also widely compatible with third-party apps and wearables, thanks to Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity (which can also work simultaneously).
We wouldn’t necessarily recommend this for the casual exerciser, but those who want to match their sessions to their heart rate zones will not be disappointed by Polar long-standing chest strap champion.
Garmin Forerunner 945
Apple may offer the top true smartwatch, but Garmin’s Forerunner 945 still holds the crown as the top sports watch – and it has built its reputation, in part, due to the excellent heart rate monitoring abilities.
It’s still not quite as accurate as monitoring through a chest strap, but the sheer amount of data you can pull in makes it a great pick for exercise enthusiasts who want something a bit comfier (and not as solely dedicated to HR tracking) to wear without sacrificing expert data.
For those who find the price a little steep, there’s also plenty of other Garmin sports watches to explore – all provide you with similarly solid HR tracking.
Letscom Fitness Tracker HR
If you want an affordable way to squeeze some heart rate monitoring into your exercise, Letscom’s fitness tracker is the ideal option to consider.
It’s able to track real-time figures continuously during workouts, and will also automatically kick in and record during sleep, too, in order to provide estimates on how long you spent in each sleep stage.
Aside from that, it’s a very capable budget tracker, giving you 14 exercise modes to pick between, general activity tracking (such as steps and calorie burn), and smartphone notifications.
Garmin has plenty of chest straps for the seasoned exerciser to pick between, but the HRM-Dual combines tip-top accuracy with relative affordability – making it a great pick for chest strap fans who don’t want to spend mega amounts.
Whether you’re performing some HIIT and need a device that can keep up, or you’re simply training by heart rate zones for big races, the HRM-Dual will fire over live data and allow you to connect to other devices and apps via Bluetooth or ANT+.
With a battery life of around 3-4 years, too, you don’t need to worry about charging it in between uses.
Lintelek Fitness Tracker
Another budget HR monitor comes from Lintelek, with its fitness tracker providing a solid array of basic features.
Heart rate monitoring is displayed during one of the 14 different workout modes – and is also recorded in the background during sleep – with daily activity and notification support present, too.
With battery life stretching to around five days, it completes a package that ticks all the boxes for a first-time user.
If you want a heart rate monitor packed inside a smartwatch’s body, Letsfit again has an affordable device to consider.
Through the 1.3-inch screen, you get a great view of your HR data in real-time, with the monitor also able to track in the background during your sleep. If you want to look back on your performance or sleep, everything is then stored within the VeryFitPro companion app.
There’s also support for music control, stress training, and notifications, with the device able to run for around 10 days before a recharge.
Writing by Conor Allison. Editing by Max Freeman-Mills.