Oximeters are an important tool for both medical professionals and sports enthusiasts that need a quick and easy method of measuring blood oxygen saturation (SpO2) levels, pulse rate, and pulse strength.
I own one myself, (see the top pick below) and know first hand that accuracy, ease of use and suitable battery life are 3 of the most important factors you need in a reliable oximeter.
Other important issues to think about is whether the finger clasp is suitable for both adult and pediatric use, and how fast the device will take a reading, (this varies widely between products).
As you will find in your own research and via the reviews below, today’s oximeters are generally very affordable and are designed to be compact and portable.
All that aside, I have put together this guide in order to explore the pros and cons of some of the current market leaders.
Below you will find my picks for the best oximeters sold today. The selection is based on my own personal experiences as well as that of my colleagues. I have also consulted verified customer reviews in tandem with intensive product research and analysis.
These are the results…
My Top 5 picks
Pulse Oximeters: The Reviews
My top choice pulse oximeter for 2020 is the excellent and very affordable Innovo Deluxe.
Call me biased but I have been through my fair share of oximeters over the years and this, my most recent purchase, (I’ve had one for about 5 months now), is up there as one of the best I’ve ever had.
First, let’s get through some of the important features and then I’ll get to the reason I like the device so much.
The Innovo has a high-quality OLED screen which is crystal clear even when the battery indicator shows that things are getting low.
On the subject of battery, I don’t think that there’s been one occasion that the unit has stopped working due to low battery, (I generally err on the side of caution with this, changing them as soon as it shows the alert). This offers a great deal of peace of mind.
However, I am jumping ahead of myself there.
The OLED screen…
With six multidirectional display choices, the Innovo takes versatility to a whole new level.
This information helps improve the reliability of the readings considerably and is a major reason that the device has become such a popular choice among medical staff.
I will note here that Innovo does state that this device is meant sports use, rather than medical.
However, reading between the lines this is more to cover themselves from misuse in a medical setting where the consequences of any inaccuracies can obviously be dramatic.
The plethysmograph informs you when the pulse oximeter is fully optimized to take a reading. The PI provides information on pulse strength.
Furthermore, if the PI value is less than 0.2%, this is an indication that the finger being placed inside the oximeter is either too cold or improperly positioned.
This is another feature I can’t help but rave about. It removes any doubt on the reliability of the reading and whether conditions are correct for the oximeter to work as it should.
On top of this, you have an improved sensor.
Admittedly, I am relying on the Innovo spec sheet to tell me this, however, the device can apparently correct for small movements, taking away another variable that can potentially skew results.
The software on the device is something I like too. Everything is clear and intuitive to use, and features such as the auditory alarm that gives a warning on whether the SpO2 and Pulse Rates are beyond set limits is more than beneficial. There’s also an auditory Beep for every detected pulse.
The hypoallergenic finger chamber is made of medical-grade silicone. Finally, the Innovo Deluxe comes with 1-year manufacturer warranty, not the most generous out of the oximeters reviewed here, but good nonetheless.
Overall I have been extremely happy with the Innovo Deluxe. It is accurate and provides quick, reliable readings you can count on.
The battery life is good and it is easy to use. In my (humble) opinion it ticks all the boxes when it comes to having an oximeter at work. Highly recommended. Well it is my top choice after all.
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2. Zacurate Pro Series 500DL Fingertip Pulse Oximeter
Another great oximeter for 2019 is the Pro Series 500DL from Zacurate.
Accurate and easy to use and read this is a device that has proven very popular with customers on Amazon.
I will confess that I haven’t used this one myself, however, the consistently positive feedback that the 500DL has received right across the online outlets where you will find it available, have made it an essential entrant into my top 5.
Let’s take a closer look.
As with all good oximeters, the unit has a large display and will determine your SpO2, pulse rate, and pulse strength within 10 seconds of operation.
The finger chamber is conveniently designed to accommodate both adult and youth sizes, (the manufacturers state the 500DL is best suited on use with 12-year-olds and above).
This versatility is offered via a “SMART” spring system that will hold varying finger sizes in place for the reading.
Another useful feature that aids in the overall accuracy is the addition of Infrared shielding. The device is made from solid ABS plastic, that is designed to block up to 99% of ambient infrared wavelengths.
Again it should be noted that the device is advertised for sports and recreational use, and while the manufacturers do not claim that it can be used for medical operation, there are many instances where the 500DL is used as such.
Whether for home care or as an aid for medical practitioners, the feedback has been good.
As one reviewer states” As a respiratory therapist with an ICU nurse husband we manually were checking HRs to check it’s accuracy and it was dead on every time!”
That being said, there have been a minority of users that have experienced device failure at inopportune times. Something a healthcare professional cannot afford to happen.
Overall the Zacurate Pro Series 500DL Fingertip Pulse Oximeter is clearly a reliable and popular oximeter solution.
And while it is a worthy addition to my top 5, potential customers should take heed of the device failure that some users have experienced.
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3. BEST BUDGET: CMS 50-DL Pulse Oximeter with Neck/Wrist cord
If you’re looking for affordability in an oximeter, than it’s hard to beat the CMS 50-DL.
One of my colleagues uses this device and when they told me it comes in at under the $20 mark I couldn’t help be skeptical on how it would shape up from a performance perspective.
Well, the fact it is my top budget choice probably answers that question. My skepticism was unfounded; this really is a great little unit.
But first the features…
The CMS 50 DL actually takes readings faster than the Zacurate Pro Series 500DL reviewed above; just 8 seconds to provide data on SpO2.
Furthermore, with an accuracy of +- 1% when taking blood oxygen saturation levels and pulse rate, this is a device you can rely on.
The fingertip clasp is a one size fits all, with adults and children being accommodated. I would like to have seen greater levels of design here, as in some instances it just doesn’t feel secure on small fingers.
The CMS 50-DL is ultra-small and portable of course, the design ethos is geared towards outdoor enthusiasts that need to conveniently check their levels while out in the field.
You can take the device into the medical arena too. The readings are accurate and as many customer reviews by health practitioners state, relate closely to other oximeters used in the ward.
However, as with most of the oximeters reviewed in my top 5, the manufacturers attempt to clear themselves of any medical liability by stating that it is for sports and aviation use only.
Take that as you will.
A 12-month warranty is also provided, giving that extra peace of mind no matter the circumstances of operation.
If you are looking for a low budget oximeter that is still reliable and accurate, the CMS 50-DL definitely fits the bill.
Fast readings and easy to use, this device comes highly recommended across the board.
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4. Concord Sapphire Fingertip Pulse Oximeter with Reversible Display
The Concord Sapphire Fingertip Pulse Oximeter is worthy of a mention as one of my colleagues uses one of these and speaks very highly of it.
General customer reviews are also positive, so after careful research and a short trial myself, I feel confident adding the device to my top 7 list.
First, I’d like to mention the fact that a 2-year warranty is offered on the Concord. Not only that, but the USA based company has a proven customer service and technical support system in place should any problems arise.
As yet my colleague has not needed to use this. If they do, I will be sure to update this review with details of their experience and the circumstances of the event.
Concord is another reliable and easy to use oximeter. Blood oxygen saturation (SpO2), pulse rate and pulse strength can all be measured and the finger clasp is suitable for both adult and pediatric use. (It is recommended for use on ages 7 and up.)
The Sapphire has a 2-Way rotating display to make things easier for the user.
The auto power-off function and 30hr battery life is something my colleague has spoken highly of; she hasn’t been caught short using the oximeter yet.
That being said, I expect she is very much like me and is quick to change the batteries as soon as the low level indicator shines.
There’s a lot to like with the Concord Sapphire. Versatile in terms of patient age range, while providing the reliability any medical practitioner seeks; this is an oximeter I highly recommended.
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5. BEST PREMIUM: Masimo MightySat
If technological features are your thing, the Masimo MightySat could well be the oximeter for you.
Substantially more expensive than the other units I have chosen for my top 6, this “Best Premium” option can connect to a cell phone app so that data can be recorded, tracked and analyzed.
Not only that, the device can measure a lot more than just the standard blood oxygen saturation (SpO2), pulse rate and pulse strength levels.
Furthermore, being an advanced, premium device, accuracy levels are increased via what’s called the Masimo SET technology.
Okay, I’ll be honest, this is where the product specifications do lose me a bit. However, from what I can ascertain, the oximeter can measure Oxygen Saturation and Pulse Rate even during movement or low blood flow.
In other words, the SET technology acts as both a stabilizer and an amplifier that helps the device measure readings in less than perfect situations.
The App is where it is at with this oximeter, however. Using the free & easy-to-use Masimo Personal Heath App, users can display, track, trend, and share important data.
For portability (this is another unit designed for sports and aviation use too) there’s a durable carry case with lanyard.
The Masimo also comes with a 2 year limited warranty.
For tech-buffs that want to do more than simply take a pulse reading the Masimo MightSat will come as a real treat.
The increased accuracy via the Sat technology, the additional measurements that can be taken and of course the control center made possible via the app, making this a very interesting oximeter.
Be warned, these extra features do not come cheap however.
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6. BEST FOR SPORTS USE: Deluxe SM-110 Two Way Display Finger Pulse Oximeter
A list of top rated oximeters wouldn’t be complete without a model specifically designed for sports users.
Yes I know, this is a medical nurse blog, however, in the long run, our job is made easier if individuals know our to take care of themselves too.
And besides, I’m not going to take my work oximeter out with me while I’m out mountain climbing or jumping out of an airplane; (okay, okay, I would never do any of those things).
BUT… I hope you get my point.
Okay, on with the review.
For anyone that has owned a Santamedical oximeter before, the oximeter itself will not seem that different from previous incarnations.
This 2019 edition is a redesign of the model that came out in 2015, with the most significant change being the new 2-way display. This enables the user to read the output data in two different directions.
The benefit here, of course, is designed for sports and recreational users that wish to measure pulse rate and strength while on the fly.
Precision is key, no matter what the circumstances of operation. The oximeter needs to be accurate, reliable and has an excellent battery life so that you can be sure the oximeter will power up when we need it.
This is where the majority of users have been especially satisfied by the SM-110. It provides SpO2 readings and pulse measurements and the LED display is large yet battery efficient.
Adding to that overall ease of operation is the self-adjusting finger clamp that slips on without fuss, and then the press of just one-button to take a reading. (This adjustable clamp also means that the SM-110 is suitable for use on both children and adults.)
The portable size of the SM-110 makes it easy to handle and carry. Strap it around your neck or wrist, throw it in your rucksack – whatever takes your fancy you extreme sports fanatic you.
And should your activities damage the device, you can always try and get away with the claiming on the 2-year warranty.
Overall the SM-110 makes for a great, compact and reliable sports-based oximeter. The two-way display makes it easy to take readings while out on the field, and the high level of satisfaction among users speaks for itself.
If you are looking for a way of measuring your pulse strength, rate and blood oxygen saturation (SpO2) levels on the fly, this is the best way to do it.
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7. Mibest Silver Dual Color OLED Finger Pulse Oximeter
The final pulse oximeter to make my list for 2019 is this elegant offering from Mibest.
Much like the other devices I have chosen, this is easy to use and reliable. The monitor is operated using just one button and the screen is especially good.
Mibest clearly understands that being able to see the results clearly is just as important as them being accurate in the first place.
Here the user has access to 4 display modes with 10 levels of adjustable brightness. The Sp02 readings also display in 4 directions.
Data is represented via a pulse bar graph, and of course, the normal pulse rate, strength, and Sp02 are measured.
There’s also the all-important battery level indicator so that you can change the batteries as required without the unit failing when you need it most.
The MiBest also has the advantage of being both adult and pediatric ready.
For sports enthusiasts or busy nurses, the oximeter comes with a neck lanyard for ultimate portability. That being said, the manufacturers do state (for legal liability reasons) that the oximeter is for recreational sports use only.
A 12-month warranty comes with the device and along with the required AAA batteries, this is ready to go straight out of the box.
The Mibest pulse oximeter delivers where it matters most; easy to use with clear and accurate data, all in a simple, elegant device. However, the fact it can take a number of seconds to obtain a reading makes it difficult to recommend for medical use.
What to look for when buying a pulse oximeter
There’s a number of things to consider before buying a pulse oximeter. Whether you are requiring one for on the spot checks in emergency situations or to measure your own heartbeat while trekking up a mountain, certain variables will always apply.
I covered the 3 main ones in the introduction to the review roundup, accuracy, reliability and portability.
With so many models on the market today that comfortably cover those issues, you will also need to look further.
Here’s a quick guide on what pulse oximeters are mainly used for and what you should consider before buying one.
What are pulse oximeters used for?
Finger pulse oximeters are a great way of assessing the vitals of an individual, (yourself or a patient) providing important data on the current status of the heart rate, oxygen saturation levels, and blood flow.
The same devices can also be used to accurately detect hypoxia during low perfusion and motion, and other serious conditions related to blood flow.
This makes a finger pulse oximeter great for conducting basic assessments whether in the ward or in-home care.
They are also a popular choice for athletes who engage in recreational activities where monitoring such vitals is important.
Now we have covered the general use of the pulse oximeter, here are some tips and advice that should help you buy the correct device for your needs.
In my opinion, the most important factor you need to check before buying a pulse oximeter is its level of accuracy.
You shouldn’t rely on only manufacturers’ specifications and marketing copy for this. Each will clearly sing the rooftops that their device is incredibly accurate.
Reviews such as the one I have put together here, as well as the countless customer opinions you will find online will help narrow down your options.
At the very least current feedback will ensure that you don’t buy a dud.
Speed of reading
Devices do vary in the speed in which they can take a reading. Generally the faster the reading the better (as long as accuracy is not impaired).
Some devices will provide information to alert you if a less than accurate reading has occurred, (this can be due to the patient having cold fingers, or too much movement has occurred).
While this will make for a longer process, the peace of mind that comes from owning a device that will alert you to an incorrect reading is valuable; especially in a medical setting.
Again spec sheets should be taken with a pinch of salt. Look to the reviews for an unbiased opinion on the speed of an oximeter.
Devices will also vary in the amount and type of features they include.
Some may be highly relevant to your needs, while others could be superfluous.
All users benefit from features such as an easily readable display, audible and programmable alarms and things like battery power indicators.
More premium pulse oximeters may also offer a history save feature, or in the case of my top pick Masimo Set, will allow you to track all data via an easy to use the app.
Automatic shut down to save power and one-button operation are also good features to look out for, as are things like OLED, adjustable screens and multi-directional readings.
Paying attention to what features an oximeter has will help you pick the right model for you.
Portability and build quality
Most finger pulse oximeters are very portable in design. Look for models with a neck lanyard or other means to carry the device without fuss.
This is helpful to both medical professionals and recreationists; easy access when you need to use it, but not in the way when you don’t.
Build quality is important to; a device that is cheaply made will not last long. A robust case and electrical components that won’t malfunction are clearly important prerequisites to a reliable purchase.
Price & warranty
The price of a device will often vary depending on its level of accuracy, the number of available features and the build quality; everything we have covered above basically.
That being said, it is still possible to pick up a good, reliable oximeter for as little as $15.
For history tracking, app connectivity and other perks you will definitely have to pay more, however.
Brand recognition is another variable that can make for a higher-priced purchase.
Warranty length should be considered too. A 2-year warranty is clearly better than just one. Avoid anything that doesn’t provide a decent level of return duration.
The fact that help and support are available in the USA should things go wrong is another benefit.