Smartwatches come in all shapes, sizes, designs these days – and all manner of price points too. And if you find yourself wincing at the triple-figure sums that many brands are asking of their top-end wearables – well, you’re not alone.
The thing about wearables is that consumers often find it hard to invest large sums of money on a wearable when they’ve already spent so much on another smart device – you know, the one that you keep in your pocket. Indeed, a major challenge for manufacturers in the early days of smartwatches was justifying their need when set against a perfectly good smartphone. Of course, years of canny R&D have now established smartwatches (well, the good ones at least) as the perfect complements to the phones they’re paired with, which is why we see so many people with top-of-the-line phones also boasting top-of-the-line wearables too.
But here’s the thing: you really needn’t splash the cash to pick up a fantastic quality smartwatch. Indeed, if you’re mostly interested in basic fitness tracking, we would advise against it. All the same, there’s a staggering amount of choice at the budget-friendly end of the smartwatch market – and it can be hard to know where to start looking. That’s why we put together our list of the best budget smartwatches and fitness out there. You’ll find options from major brands including Apple, Samsung, Garmin, Huawei and Fitbit, each with its own particular strength.
And once you’re done reading? We suggest you head over to our smartwatch deals list to see if any of our selections are currently on offer since there’s nothing better than a budget smartwatch with an extra price drop on top.
How to choose the best budget smartwatch
If you’re looking for a budget wearable, but you’re not sure which is the right one for you, there’s a few bits of basic information that you need to know about spending in this price category.
- Budget is relative. You’ll find wearables from as little as £39 to as much as £279 in our best budget smartwatch list. That’s because lots of brands offer lite versions of pricier flagship, a case in point being Apple and its Watch SE (an acronym whose details are still a mystery). These are wearables you would class as smartwatches. But lots of budget smartwatches are, strictly speaking, fitness trackers, which offer a more limited range of features focused primarily on tracking metrics such as your heart rate, step count or distance covered.
- Think carefully about what you want from your smartwatch. If you’re looking for some basic tracking on your daily run or workout, then there’s little reason for you to spend outside of double digits. If you’re looking for a super-smooth extension to your smartphone – and one with all the latest features – we’re going to point you in the direction of our best smartwatch and best Android smartwatch lists.
- Is style or customisation important to you? It’s worth considering that budget-friendly fitness trackers tend to be rather simplistic affairs, often consisting of a strap and watch face that is moulded into one unit. That being said, many of the entries in our round-up are there because, among other reasons, they look pricier than they are or have swappable straps.
- Battery life. It’s probably our strongest case for choosing a budget smartwatch over a higher-end one. With less features and less complex working parts, low-spec fitness trackers can last for impressive lengths of time before they need charging. While flagship wearables like the Apple Watch 6 and Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 will guzzle their power in less than a day, you’ll find options below that will potentially last for a fortnight. Something to think about if you’re that person who always finds their device is on its last legs before you head out for the day.
Best budget smartwatch at a glance
Here’s a quick run-down of each of the budget smartwatches you’ll find in our expert round-up. We’ve arranged them in price order below:
- Best budget Samsung smartwatch: Samsung Galaxy Fit 2, £39
- Best budget smartwatch for display: Honor Band 6, £45
- Best value budget smartwatch: Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 6, £45
- Best budget smartwatch for workouts: Huawei Watch Fit, £69
- Best budget fitness tracker: Garmin Forerunner 45, £159.99
- Best budget Apple Watch: Apple Watch SE, £279
The best budget smartwatch in 2021
Apple Watch SE, £279
Best budget Apple Watch
- A wealth of reliable features
- Highly intuitive UI
- No visual difference to Apple Watch 6
- Limited 18-hour battery life
- No ‘always-on’ display
- Still no Android compatibility
We think there might be lots of people out there asking themselves what on earth a £269 wearable is doing on a best budget smartwatch list (especially from a brand that is hardly known for its affordable products). Ultimately, the Watch SE takes its place here for two reasons. Firstly, we know plenty of Apple-lovers wouldn’t dream of wearing any other brand on their wrist. Secondly, the Apple Watch SE is genuinely an excellent affordable alternative to the Watch 6, which starts at £379.
Our experts loved the ultra-smooth UI, the wealth of metrics and other features available. You won’t get the ‘always-on’ display or the blood oxygen and ECG apps of the flagship Watch 6 – but besides that, there’s very little to distinguish the two watches apart. Except for that £110 price difference.
Read our full Apple Watch SE review.
Samsung Galaxy Fit 2, £39
Best budget Samsung smartwatch
- Exceptionally long battery life
- Highly affordable
- Effective and reliable tracking features
- Limited watch face and strap personalisation
- Icons on 2.78cm display may be hard for some users to see
By contrast, Samsung’s Galaxy Fit 2 doesn’t have anywhere remotely near the features and capabilities of the flagship Galaxy Watch 3 – which should come as no surprise, as it’s almost a tenth the price. Instead, the Galaxy Fit 2 is positioned very much as a no-frills fitness tracker for those who aren’t looking for particularly advanced metrics (it offers movement tracking, sleep monitoring and sleep/REM tracking). And it happens to be a very good one too.
Samsung’s pedigree as one of the world’s leading tech brands is what really makes the Fit 2 shine: it boasts the easy-to-use UI, reliable features and crystal clear display that we’ve come to expect from the brand. We would have loved the option of a swappable strap – the Fit 2 is one moulded rubber band – but at the recently reduced price of £39, we know it’s a tall order.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Fit 2 review.
Honor Band 6, £44.99
Best budget smartwatch for display
- Larger display than Band 5
- Reliable heart rate and sleep tracking
- Fast battery charge
- Dubious stress tracker
- iOS compatibility issues
If you were to put the Honor Band 5 and Band 6 side-by-side, you might well find it hard to believe that they are adjoining generations in the same range. Such was Honor’s real revamp of their Band range with the 6, which boasts a display that’s 148% bigger and a far classier-looking design that screams ‘smartwatch’ versus ‘fitness tracker’. These updates, plus an exceptionally fast charging time, were enough to make us see past an unconvincing stress-tracking feature and some compatibility issues with iOS with Huawei’s Health app (the troubled Chinese company was, until the end of last year, the parent owner of Honor). Plus, we really liked the series of watch face designs that you can pick from, like the retro option featured in the picture above.
Read our full Honor Band 6 review.
Huawei Watch Fit, £69.99
Best budget smartwatch for workouts
- Clear and easy to navigate
- Straight-forward and accessible work-outs
- Sleek, lightweight design
- Music control function not currently compatible with iOS
- Set up process could be smoother
The Huawei Watch Fit is a great option for fitness fans seeking a budget-friendly option but want a level of features and metrics that are a step above the most basic wearables out there. It features a SpO2 (blood oxygen) sensor that you won’t get from cheaper wearables, along with an animated personal trainer that will guide you through an impressive 12 different sets of workouts. Our experts also appreciated the sleek design, larger-than-average display size, comfortable fit and 10-day battery life.
Read our full Huawei Fit Watch review.
Xiaomi Mi Band 6, £45
Best value budget smartwatch
- Clear, easy-to-use UI
- SpO2 sensor
- Swappable straps
- Comes empty of charge
The latest generation from Xiaomi’s Mi Band series of wearables is just a little more expensive than the Samsung Fit 2. And while lots of people might gravitate towards the well-established name of Samsung over an emerging company whose name we’re still unsure how to pronounce, we genuinely think they rank pretty equally in terms of design, features and value for money.
Our experts loved the crystal-clear AMOLED display of the Mi Band 6, the user-friendly app (which puts Huawei’s clunky affair to shame), along with the fact you can pop the watch face from the rubber strap and insert it into one of another colour – you’ll find a fun, bright-coloured range of straps out there.
Read our full Xiaomi Mi Band 6 review.
Garmin Forerunner 45, £159.99
Best budget fitness tracker
- Super-accurate metrics
- Unique design among fitness trackers
- Push-button UI not for everyone
A cursory glance at that Garmin Forerunner 45 might suggest it’s a digital watch from, say, 1995 or thereabouts – but it costs £179.99. But beneath the distinctly old-school facade of Garmin’s budget-friendly fitness tracker is a device with a hugely reliable series of tracking features that will keep all but the most metric-obsessed among you content.
Those born of a time when swiping across touchscreens was already the norm might be a little taken aback by a watch with (gasp) five separate touch buttons to operate, but those more familiar with classic digital wearables will likely feel very comfortable indeed with the Forerunner 45.
Read our full Garmin Forerunner 45 review.
How we tested budget smartwatches
At RadioTimes.com, we don’t just review smartwatches – we also test out phones, tablets, earbuds, soundbars and printers. As you can probably tell, we’re big tech fans.
That’s why we take our testing processes as seriously as we do. We’ve learned that it’s very easy to oversee a product’s drawbacks favouring its weaknesses – or vice versa, for that matter. That’s why each time we review a smartwatch, we always use the same series of criteria.
Our experts award the product a star rating out of five to one decimal point in each of our smartwatch reviews. Our criteria include the watch’s range of features, the performance of each of those features, the battery life, the design and build quality, and how easy it is to set up. And finally, we assess the smartwatch on its value for money since a mid-quality product can easily be redeemed by a great price tag, while an excessive price tag often spoils a big-brand winner.
Our team of experts constantly puts all the newest products to the test, quite often before they hit shelves. To stay up-to-date with our latest reviews – along with the latest tech news and deals – you can sign up for our newsletter below.
Want to find a really affordable wearable? Take a look at our pick of the best smartwatch deals. If you are an Amazon Prime member don’t miss out tech device offers available during Amazon Prime Day 2021.