Effectiveness Of Fitness Trackers | Should You Really Trust Them?

I have read a lot about the effectiveness of fitness trackers and about the fact that they aren’t so accurate and couldn’t be trusted on.

But is it the case in 2020 and which fitness tracker/running watch is the most accurate?

These interesting tests and comparison involving the best multisport fitness trackers available today – SUUNTO 9 BARO, GARMIN FENIX 5X, and POLAR VANTAGE V will help you with these questions.

Very interesting tests were conducted by Run Panel which is the biggest running blog in Israel involving the premium GPS running watches of Garmin, Suunto, and Polar.
2 different accuracy experiments were done in order to check and compare the 2 most important features for runners – HR and distance.

The watches participated in the tests with links to your local Amazon store

1. SUUNTO 9 BARO

2. GARMIN FENIX 5X

3. POLAR VANTAGE V


If you are familiar with my blog then you know that I try to give my honest opinion based on my own experience or based on reliable studies that I find.
I have decided to shortly translate the main results and conclusions from these interesting tests for you in this article.

GARMIN FENIX 5X

Most Accurate GPS Running Watch – The Big Fitness Trackers Accuracy Comparison Tests That will Show us How Effective Are They In Measuring Distance And Heart Rate.

Like I have mentioned, two different tests were conducted – one for HR accuracy and the other for distance.

The tests were performed with 3 of the most popular and “serious” sport watches in the market today – Suunto 9 Baro, Polar Vantage V, and Garmin Fenix 5X(there are newer versions available now), the latest is the Fenix 6 – we will talk about it and on the main differences between the versions later in the article.

Distance accuracy test and comparison using the built-in GPS

In order to check the distance measuring accuracy, the testers used a mechanical measuring device – a meter measuring wheel, which with it they were able to measure and mark very accurately a 1000 meters of a straight line.

An example of a measurement wheel used in the test

With the 3 watches on the same hand, they performed 5 measurements in which they walked the 1000 meters.

The watches were all set on accurate one to meter measuring and a GPS turned on.

These are the results:

Watch SUUNTO 9 BARO GARMIN FENIX 5X POLAR VANTAGE V
Total deviation in meters in 5 tests10080
Estimated deviation at 42.2 kilometers84.40675.2
Place in the accuracy test213

The winner of the distance accuracy test was the GARMIN FENIX 5X which provided an impressive accuracy with no deviation at all in all 5 measurements!

To the second place arrived the Suunto which provided also very impressive results of 4 perfect measurements with no deviation at all and one measurement with a minor deviation of 10 meters.

It is important to say that A 10 meters deviation is nothing to be bothered from and A GPS measurement in itself as limitations so we can feel confident by saying that the SUUNTO is very accurate!

And to the third-place arrived the POLAR VANTAGE V which in all the measurements provided a small deviation of between 20 to 30 meters to 1 KM.

How Accurate Are Wrist-Based Heart Rate Sensors?

HR measurement accuracy test and comparison using the wrist-based HR sensors

The wrist-based HR sensors accuracy tests were performed by 2 different runners with age difference and pulses of about 15 years.

The tests were conducted by a professional operator from the Sports Medicine Institute Medix in Israel.

The subjects were connected into an ECG device and the tests were performed on a treadmill when the watches were set on treadmill mode.
Overall, the tests provided 30 HR readings from each watch with a protocol from the ECG machine to the same second of measurement.

These are the results

Watch SUUNTO 9 BARO GARMIN FENIX 5X POLAR VANTAGE V
Place in HR test312
Average deviation(in Pulses numbers) 2.5 Pulses 1.4 Pulses 2.1 Pulses

The results of all the watches were very impressive (an average of 1-2 percent deviation) and if we taught until now that HR wrist-based sensors are not accurate then these tests changed our opinion.

According to these tests, the deviations in HR readings in all 3 watches were very small and you can count on them with great confidence while using them in your runs.

So, can we finally get rid of the annoying chest strap?

Well, it’s important to say the tests were performed in a relatively linear way, meaning that the runners ran in a quite steady pace.

While running in short intervals the chest strap provides much faster and accurate readings than the wrist-based sensors and if the tests were involving short fast intervals than I’m confident that the deviations were much bigger.

So in case, you are a long runner who is running at a steady pace then these tests are great news for you and you can definitely get rid of the chest strap.

It is important to say that there are ways to make your sport watch/fitness tracker more accurate, read more about how to make your sport watch more accurate in this article that I recently wrote.

It is important to mention that the wrist-based HR readings are depended on many variables such as Skin color, blood vessel nature, positioning on the wrist and more.
So, in different tests with different subjects, we might get different results but the overall conclusion is that in 2019 we can definitely count on wrist-based HR readings.

Let’s know a bit the watches participated in the accuracy tests

1. Suunto 9 Baro:

Click on the image to check it on your local Amazon

Release Date: June 2018

Price: $600

Features and Specifications:

Suunto Baro 9 along with its impressive design has a lot of features to offer you. It is not just another watch. Instead, it is a multifunctional watch with so much to offer. The best way to explain Suunto 9 Baro is a smartwatch to open doors to smart life.

  • GPS Tracking:

The GPS tracking system works great when it comes to tracking your route and distance.

  • Long Battery Life:

The long-lasting battery of the Suunto 9 Baro will enable you to access its functions all the time. Moreover, it has many battery modes to suit your usability.

  • Touchscreen Display:

The impressive touchscreen display of Suunto 9 Baro is extremely nice. It enables you to access the data which you will be able to see even in daylight.

  • Heart Rate Sensor:

To add to its functionality, it enables you to track your heart rate.

  • Bluetooth Connectivity:

You can simply connect your watch to any device of your choice to access your data there.

2. Polar Vantage V:

Click to check it on your local Amazon

Release Date: December 2018

Price: $499.90

Features and Specifications:

To help you determine the vast range of usability functions is that most people even consider it even better than Garmin. Let’s see if it fits the statement.

  • Touchscreen:

The touchscreen integration is quite good but somewhere the display might lack in some aspects. As you might not be able to comprehend the data display in bright sunlight. But you can easily access the data as simple swiping leads you to check your data.

  • Sleep Tracking:

The sleep tracking works quite well. It shows you the sleep duration of last night to help you maintain a healthy sleep routine, being a precise fitness tracking watch.

  • GPS system:

The integrated GPS system allows it to completely become a smartwatch.

  • Accuracy and Precision:

One thing that Polar deeply focuses on is the accuracy of the watches. Polar Vantage V is certain to enable you accurate timing in all circumstances.

  • Color Availability:

It is available in three colors, orange, black, and white.

3. Garmin Fenix 5x:

Click to check it on your local Amazon

Release Date:

Price: $599.9

Features and Specifications:

With the long list of features, Garmin Fenix 5x works quite great as an everyday watch.

  • Multi-Sport Systems:

Counted among one of the best smartwatches of today, Garmin Fenix 5x has integrated GPS system and multi-sport systems to track your progress and activities. If you are a sports person, this watch is for you. Whether you’re in for running, cycling, swimming, or simply an outdoor adventure, this watch it for all.

  • Attractive Design:

With the impressive and well-fitting design, Garmin Fenix 5x has all the right looks you need.

  • Tracking Tools:

The many tracking tools and sensors, heart rate, run tracking, and calorie tracking is included in the package.

  • Battery Life:

The long-lasting battery life of Garmin Fenix 5x enables an easy route to smart life.

Garmin Fenix 6:

Release Date: August 2019

Price: starts at $599.9 on Amazon

Features and Specifications:

The long list of features of Garmin Fenix 6 enables you an exceptional smartwatch that will let you have all the nice things working at your service.

Heart Rate Sensor:

The accurate heart rate tracking and other sensors help Garmin Fenix 6 to stand out.

  • Display:

The total outlook of Garmin Fenix 6 portrays it as a huge and smartwatch with a transflective display. The LCD will make sure that watching the data even in sunlight easier.

  • Solar Charging:

With the solar power and solar charge ability, the battery life extends to a longer one.

  • Customization:

One thing you might feel missing in the other watches was the customization. But Garmin Fenix 6 takes care of that too.

Comparing Garmin Fenix 5x, 5x Plus, and 6:

Well, all these three Garmin watches work exceptionally great. But these have slight differences that you might want to look at to grasp a better look at what you are getting and what might you miss.

Garmin Fenix 5x Garmin Fenix 5x Plus Garmin Fenix 6
Sapphire glass Sapphire glass lens No Sapphire glass
No Solar Power Charge No Solar Power Solar power enabled
98g weight 96 g weight (Titanium version: 87 g) 83 g weight

I hope that you find these fitness trackers accuracy comparison and tests as helpful with understanding which is the most accurate GPS running watch.

If you have any comments, please share them with us in the comments section below.