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What's behind our heart-rate monitor Ratings?

Experts at our National Testing and Research Center tested 12 models in heart-rate monitors to see which ones perform best.
We look for:
  • Overall score
    Overall score is based on accuracy and ease of use.
  • Type
    Indicates whether the model employs a chest strap mounted sensor that transmitts to a watch, a chest strap mounted sensor that transmits to an iPhone app, a watch that requires the user to touch the rim or button to take an intermittent reading or a watch that takes continuous heart rates from the user's wrist.
  • Accuracy
    Accuracy was measured against a highly accurate electrocardiograph; the higher the accuracy score, the more often the monitor displayed the same heart rate as the reference did.
  • Ease of use and features
    Ease of use includes features, clarity of instructions, and convenience as judged by panelists who used the devices.
  • Sport versatility
    Sports versatility indicates whether a model is difficult or easy to use for all or most sports.


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Recommended heart-rate monitors

Recommended heart-rate monitors are standout choices with high scores. They include CR Best Buys, which offer exceptional value. When narrowing your choices, weigh features, price, and attributes that matter to you.
  • Buying Guide
  • Price & Shop
Vigorous exercise might yield greater health benefits than moderate workouts. A heart-rate monitor can help you track the intensity and make sure you don't go too far outside your target zone. If you're looking for information about heart-rate monitors, Consumer Reports is your best resource. Consumer Reports’ heart-rate monitor reviews will give you honest buying advice that you can trust. Use our heart-rate monitor buying guide to discover which features are most important to consider. We also provide unbiased ratings and heart-rate monitor reviews to help you choose the best heart-rate monitor for your needs.

Heart-rate monitor buying guide

Vigorous exercise might produce greater health benefits than moderate workouts. But working out too hard isn't a good idea. A heart-rate monitor can help make sure you reach your target heart rate, but stay in your safety zone. We tested 11 new models, ranging in price from $29 to $200, and found that all had excellent accuracy.

Our test included six chest-strap models, which you wear along with a device on your wrist or in on case a special iPhone app to see your heart rate; four wrist-only models, which you have to touch to get a reading; and one wrist model that provides a continuous heart-rate reading.

Our volunteers wore each monitor while resting and while walking on a treadmill at various intensities. To assess accuracy, we compared heart rates on the monitors with those measured by an electrocardiograph, a device similar to the kind doctors use. Staffers also took the monitors home with them, so we could see how easy they were to use outside of our labs.

All provided a consistently accurate heart-rate reading, but check out the section on types below to pick one that best suits your workout routine. For example, some are better for activities like biking. Swimmers should check with the monitor's website or the user manual. The manual for one model we tested says it's only "splash proof," while others say you can use the device while swimming as long as you don't press any of the buttons while you are in the water.

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