The best smartwatch should serve a number of purposes, with health and fitness tracking as the primary focus for most users. But the reason to opt for a smartwatch over a fitness tracker is enhanced interactivity with your phone through notifications, messaging and more.
The challenge with most of the smartwatches on the market is that they function best, or only function, with the matching phone. This is true of many of our favorites like the Apple Watch, Galaxy Watch, and Pixel Watch, but we’ll address options for those that use other phones or perish the thought of switching between iPhone and Android.
Beyond compatibility with your phone, the main features to consider with a smartwatch include battery life, fitness tracking, health tracking, and the overall size of the smartwatch. It’s not good to have a watch that is either dramatically too big or too small for your wrist.
Let’s dive into our picks for the best smartwatch based on our testing and reviews.
While it's limited to iPhone users, the Apple Watch Series 8 remains the clear pick for the best overall smartwatch on the market in 2023. The UI is outstanding and navigation both via the touchscreen and using the Digital Crown remains superior to the competition.
Apple's newly enhanced sleep tracking and the addition of menstrual and ovulation tracking offer a broadening appeal for the Apple Watch. Apple continues to lead the pack when it comes to a blend of both fitness and health tracking, making it an ideal choice whether you are looking to monitor your training for a triathlon or just keep an eye on your heart rate.
Other additions like satellite-based SOS functionality could give it added appeal to outdoor enthusiasts, although we'll address the Apple Watch Ultra later on if a rugged smartwatch is what you're after.
Battery life remains our biggest complaint with the Apple Watch. It will get most users into a second day, but unless you are pretty sedentary or shut down most notifications, you aren't going to get through a full second day, meaning a daily top-up is necessary.
Samsung has been the steady hand behind the wheel of Android smartwatches for the last several years and the current Galaxy Watch 5 is no exception. Like the Apple Watch Series 8, the Galaxy Watch 5 isn’t a massive departure from its predecessor, sticking to just a few small quality-of-life upgrades.
The sleeker and sportier design of the Galaxy Watch 4 returns, but Samsung reshaped the watch slightly in order to ensure better contact with your skin for improved reliability on heart rate and other sensor readings.
Samsung’s AMOLED display remains an absolute standout with up to 1,000 nits of brightness and excellent contrast that make colors pop and allow the darkened screen to blend seamlessly with the bezel. The display also features a more durable sapphire crystal protecting it.
Samsung added a skin temperature sensor this year, which is just the latest addition to the full “BioActive Sensor” suite that includes heart rate, ECG, SpO2 monitoring, sleep monitoring, and body composition analysis. Samsung has made up significant ground on the health tracking side of health and fitness tracking.
As with the Apple Watch, the biggest challenge for the Galaxy Watch 5 remains battery life. If you shut off the always-on display, you can get yourself to three days of usage, but making use of the full features puts it at roughly the same 1.5 days of use as Apple’s wearable, so you’ll need to find time to charge it daily. Thankfully, if you have a Samsung phone, this is pretty easy as you can drop it on the back of your Galaxy S23 Ultra (or any Galaxy S since the S10) and use reverse wireless charging.
Google didn’t nail everything with the Pixel Watch, but it is an absolutely astounding first smartwatch from the company that comes up just shy of the perennial contenders in the category. The look of the Pixel Watch is its crowning achievement as it delivers a legitimately new design for the smartwatch world, which has a modern look that is also incredibly functional.
Pairing it with the Fitbit platform for fitness tracking was the right move as Wear OS has always felt behind in that regard, while Fitbit is widely accepted as among the best. For Pixel phone owners or Android users that want a smaller smartwatch, the Pixel Watch is one of the best options out there.
This takes me to one of my critiques of the Pixel Watch, which is that it;s too small for large users. Google only released a single 41mm size, while Apple and Samsung offer a 45mm or 46mm option for those who prefer a larger watch. You can, of course, use a larger strap, so it’s not a question of fit, but rather just the size of the display relative to your wrist, which also means you are missing out on potential screen real estate.
I’m going to sound like a broken record, but battery life is the other concern as it, again, will get you through a little more than a day on a single charge. Fitbit fans were hoping the Pixel Watch would pick up the 3-5+ days that the Google-owned company’s wearables deliver, but sadly that’s not the case.
Don’t care about the larger and brighter always-on display, ECG monitoring, skin temperature sensor, or emergency satellite connectivity of the Apple Watch Series 8? Good news, you can save $150 by going with the Apple Watch SE.
Apple’s more affordable, though still not cheap, smartwatch still offers the same outstanding software and UI as its pricier sibling, which is sufficient for many users. You even get the exact same powerful chipset found inside the Apple Watch Series 8, which should guarantee you years of software support.
Like the Series 8, the battery life is the biggest complaint that you can levy at the Apple Watch SE. It won’t get you much more than a single day on a charge. If you have a heart condition, the fact that it drops the potentially life-saving ECG feature will mean this isn’t the right choice for you. However, the lost feature that will irritate more users is the lack of an always-on display as it means you’ll occasionally have a blank watch screen if it doesn’t register raising your wrist.
Are you planning a switch from Android to iPhone or iPhone to Android — and you’d rather not have to switch your smartwatch too? The Fitbit Sense 2 is the answer. It’s also one of the best options if you like a social component to your fitness tracking as Fitbit remains the best at gamifying and sharing fitness tracking with fellow users.
The Fitbit Sense 2 also offers arguably the most robust health tracking of any watch on this list after the addition of an electrodermal activity (EDA) sensor. Fitbit is targeting a more proactive approach to your health with recommendations given throughout the day to help you listen to your body when you may not sense the need yourself. That’s, of course, on top of the typical robust fitness tracking that we’ve come to expect from Fitbit.
One of the huge advantages that Fitbit has over the rest of the smartwatches we’ve covered so far is its multi-day battery life. The Fitbit Sense 2 can last for up to six days on a single charge. Past experience tells me it will be closer to 3-4 if you use GPS and the always-on display, but regardless, it far outstrips the competition, which makes it a much better sleep tracking companion.
Fitbit also finally gains the benefits of being owned by Google with the addition of Google Maps and Google Wallet, pushing it definitely out of the realm of simple fitness trackers and into smartwatch contention.
The Apple Watch Ultra debuted last year at a somewhat startling price of $800, but once the sticker shock wears off, you can see why it might be worth the price of admission. The Apple Watch Ultra takes what makes the Apple Watch great and adds true multi-day battery life, a more rugged design, and a larger display. All of that makes it perfect for the right user and will rule it out completely for others.
If the price doesn’t make you dismiss it, the enormous size of the Apple Watch Ultra might do it. The outsized 49mm smartwatch simply doesn’t fit every user. If neither scares you away though, there’s a lot to recommend.
Our reviewer was particularly swayed by the new look with the flat display, durable titanium shell, and the new action button that can be assigned to virtually any task you like. The display is perhaps the star of the show with the 1.92-inch LTPO OLED offering a mind-blowing 2,000 nits of peak brightness and a sharp 338ppi resolution.
The dual-band GPS holds onto a signal where the Series 8 and most other smartwatches will struggle, and in the event of an emergency, you have that satellite connectivity to fall back on along with a loud alert siren. Battery life is roughly double that of the typical Apple Watch, meaning you can get through three days on a single charge, which is a massive improvement.
Beyond the price we have no universal complaints about the Apple Watch Ultra, but given that it’s double — and in some cases — triple the cost of the competition, that isn’t a small hurdle. If you don’t mind the cost or size, this is clearly the best Apple Watch.
How we test the best smartwatches
Why you can trust Laptop Mag Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.
Our smartwatch testing involves at least a week of using the smartwatch paired with our primary phone to get a complete sense of its features, comfort, and whether it’s fit for a variety of different work and social situations.
We observe both the health and fitness tracking results and compare them against other smartwatches that we’ve used to determine the efficacy of the tracking. This will include workouts, typically running, swimming, or cycling and of course sleep tracking.
We also install all relevant apps from our phones to determine what kind of support the platform offers and whether it gives enough extended functionality beyond just the health and fitness tracking that you could get from a more affordable device.
Taking this all together, we rate the smartwatch on our 0 to 5 star rating scale:
1 to 2.5 stars = Not recommended
3 to 3.5 stars = Recommended
4 to 5 stars = Highly recommended