The 6 Best Pulse Oximeters of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

The Oxiline Pulse 9 Pro is an accurate and easy-to-use pulse oximeter.

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6-best-pulse-oximeters-of-2022-tested-tout

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Before the COVID pandemic, most people probably didn’t have a pulse oximeter at home or think they might ever want to keep one around. But the awareness that COVID infections can cause breathing difficulties—and that those difficulties can be detected at home with these small, handy devices—caused many people to wonder if they should add a pulse oximeter to their arsenal of at-home wellness tools.

Tested & Approved

The Oxiline Pulse 9 Pro is an easy-to-use and easy-to-read device that can be slipped into a pocket or hung, lanyard-style, around your neck for convenience. The Insignia Pulse Oximeter With OLED Display is a budget-friendly pick that doesn’t skimp on fit, display size, or accuracy.

How Pulse Oximeters Works

According to Luis Javier Peña-Hernández, MD, lung health specialist at Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Disorders Institute of South Florida, pulse oximeters work by measuring the color changes of the nail bed with infrared light. The light estimates the oxygen saturation of the blood that is flowing through that tissue. This can provide the user with critical information about their oxygenation, alerting people when chronic breathing conditions (or even COVID or the flu!) have affected their oxygen levels.

“Any patient who has a chronic respiratory illness where oxygen saturation drops would benefit from having a pulse oximeter at home,” says Dr. Peña-Hernández, adding that this includes conditions that require patients to use oxygen at home, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and interstitial pulmonary fibrosis, as well as conditions where oxygenation may be impaired, such as congestive heart failure and chronic renal failure.

What To Look for When Buying

But like any other at-home medical device, there are a lot of pulse oximeters to choose from and it can be hard to know what you need unless you’re a medical professional. At the very least, your pulse oximeter should fit well, be easy to use and interpret, and—of course—be accurate. There’s also a wide range of prices, though the good news is that you don’t always have to spend more for quality; you can opt for an oximeter under $40 and expect a reliable device.

To make all these choices a little easier, the Health team tried 10 pulse oximeters in our Lab to determine which ones were the easiest to set up and use, which fit the most comfortably and gave the most accurate readings, and which made it easiest to read and interpret our results. Based on our testing, here are the best pulse oximeters available.

Best Overall

Oxiline Pulse 9 Pro

oxiline-pulse-9-pro

Oxiline

Why We Like It: This device has one of the easiest displays to read of all the oximeters we tested, plus it's portable and has a quick setup.

It’s Worth Noting: It’s a little more expensive than its competitors.

We couldn’t find anything we didn’t like about the Oxiline Pulse 9 Pro, which is one of the (many!) reasons we chose it as our best overall pick. After inserting batteries, the Oxiline worked quickly and easily to detect our blood oxygen level, and displayed our results on a clear, bright display.

Speaking of our results, the most notable thing we liked in our testing of the Oxiline Pulse 9 Pro was that the results were readable from a variety of directions; it didn’t matter which hand we used it on or which way we were viewing the display. This is a bonus for caregivers who might be using the device, since it allows multiple people to view the readings from different POVs.

In other features, our testers liked that this device came on a lanyard for easy carrying and that it fit well on our fingers, staying in place comfortably while it took our readings. We also noticed that it wasn’t overly sensitive to where it was placed on our finger, which means we didn’t need to adjust it over and over to place or keep it in the exact right location. 

The Oxiline is a bit more expensive than its competition, but the complete ease of use made it stand out to us in testing as a device worth investing in.

Price at time of publication: $67

Product Details:

  • Dimensions: not listed
  • Power Source: AAA Batteries
  • App: No

Easiest to Use

Zacurate Pro Series 500DL Fingertip Pulse Oximeter

5
zacurate-pro-series-500dl-fingertip-pulse-oximeter

Amazon

Why We Like It: It gives quick readings of both blood oxygen and pulse rate levels.

It’s Worth Noting: There’s no real guidance on how to interpret the results.

The Zacurate Pro Series 500DL comes with instructions, but you won’t need them—this oximeter is intuitive to operate and quick to provide a reading, which is why we’ve chosen it as the easiest to use. 

In testing, we appreciated that the Zacurate had a wide range of adjustability to accommodate most finger sizes, but also fit snugly once in place. We also like the large, bright display and the fact that the device clearly marked our blood oxygen and blood pressure readings so it was easy to see which was which. Our testers also remarked that the magenta color was a nice change from the usual oximeter offerings (and it makes it easier to find if you’re searching for it, too!). Basically, we thought this was a simple and straightforward device—but simple is good when it comes to accuracy and usability. “This device was really easy to use: it only required turning on the power button, and it [gave me] the readings shortly after. It's great for anyone who wants a no-frills device they can use without needing an extensive set up,” said our tester. 

Price at time of publication: $23

Product Details:

  • Dimensions: 2.25”L x 1.2”W x 1.25”H
  • Power Source: AAA batteries 
  • App: No

Best Budget

Insignia Pulse Oximeter With OLED Display

insignia-pulse-oximeter-with-oled-display

Amazon

Why We Like It: It offers a snug fit for a wide variety of finger sizes.

It’s Worth Noting: It’s extremely sensitive to movements while taking readings.

In terms of fit, setup, and display, the Insignia Pulse Oximeter scores high marks similar to the other devices on this list, an impressive achievement considering it’s also the least expensive option here. It was quick to get to work as soon as we added batteries, giving us our results on a clear, crisp LED display. One of our testers also noted that it had a “good, snug grip around my finger, and a wide range…to accomodate for a variety of finger sizes.”

The only thing we struggled with in testing was with the Insignia’s sensitivity, which could be seen as either a positive or negative depending on your needs. We found that if we moved our finger slightly or didn’t have it lined up exactly right, the device wouldn’t read our blood oxygen level. This finicky quality did make it slightly frustrating to use the oximeter, although for some, that sensitivity might point to a higher level of accuracy and not necessarily a mere annoyance. And, once the oximeter was placed correctly, we didn’t have any trouble getting it to work. For a budget-friendly pick, we think this one will satisfy the majority of users. 

Price at time of publication: $20

Product Details:

  • Dimensions: 2”H x 3.75”L x 3”W
  • Power Source: AAA batteries
  • App: No

Best Large Display

Accare Fingertip Pulse Oximeter

4.7
accare-fingertip-pulse-oximeter

Amazon

Why We Like It: This oximeter features large, bright red numbers and a clear display for easy reading of results.

It’s Worth Noting: May be too small for people with larger fingers.

Setup was a breeze with the Thrasio Accare Pulse Oximeter, but we really loved the large, bright display and the super visible results, which is why it shows up on our list as the best large display oximeter. While we think this one may work better for people with smaller fingers, as the device doesn’t open up quite as wide as some other models, the speediness with which it detects your blood oxygen levels and the clear way it displays them makes it a worthwhile pick.

“It gives a very clear reading and differentiates between blood pressure and blood oxygen. It has bright red numbers that are easy to read and very clear, [making it] great for anyone looking for a no-frills device who may also have visual impairment,” said our tester. 

In other specs, the Accare oximeter is small and lightweight, and also comes with a lanyard, so it could be taken anywhere. It’s pretty low-tech, but we think that just makes it easier to use for someone who doesn’t want a lot of distractions. 

Price at time of publication: $20

Product Details:

  • Dimensions: not listed
  • Power Source: AAA batteries
  • App: No

Best for Kids

Zacurate Digital Pediatric Finger Pulse Oximeter

4.7
zacurate-digital-pediatric-finger-pulse-oximeter

Amazon

Why We Like It: A kid-friendly design and slimmer size make this oximeter appropriate for use with children. 

It’s Worth Noting: The device doesn’t give much info about its results; kids will need adult help interpreting their readings.

We’ll admit we had a tough time getting the children’s version of the Zacurate oximeter to fit on our fingers, but in this case, that’s a good thing! That means it’s sized appropriately for small hands, and the ultra-cute design makes it less intimidating to kids who might be wary of having their blood oxygen levels read.

In testing, we found this oximeter to be a great fit for kids in other ways, too: it only took a few seconds to take a reading (a huge plus if you have a fidgety kid), a large, bright display, and a protective cover that our testers thought might help keep it functional and clean if a child is using this often, protecting against spills. The one thing we noted is that while the data and results are displayed clearly, there’s no way for a child to know how to interpret them unless they’ve been given instructions or are receiving help from a parent—and there’s no app connectivity for parents to view data themselves. In other words, parental supervision is required.

Price at time of publication: $35

Product Details:

  • Dimensions: 2”L x 1.15”W x 1.1”H
  • Power Source: AAA batteries
  • App: No

Best with App

Wellue Viatom O2Ring Wearable Oxygen Monitor

wellue-viatom-o2ring-wearable-oxygen-monitor

Amazon

Why We Like It: It’s easy to use, app-connected, and offers a ring-style fit for an even more comfortable testing experience.

It’s Worth Noting: All the extra features make this one of the most expensive options out there.

With app-connectivity and a unique design, Wellue Viatom stood out; not only was it stellar at detecting blood oxygen levels, it gave us the tools to track and interpret our data. We were wowed by the design of the Wellue, which slips over your upper finger like a ring instead of clipping onto your fingertip. The ring was comfortable to wear and vibrated when it was done taking the reading, which was both displayed on the ring and sent to the app for review. 

Our tester says, “Despite being a ring shape, it comes with a little extra material that makes it size-adjustable. The silicon-like material on the ring is great for people with different finger shapes and is comfortable to wear.”

As far as the app goes, our experience using it during our testing was positive. It showed us our blood oxygen percentage and heart rate in real time, and it allowed us to store our readings in the app for the future. It has a settings page where we could set reminders to check our blood oxygen, change the vibration and screen brightness on the device, and connect to Apple Health. We also liked that we can use the oximeter without opening up the app, since the results appear on the display screen as well.

Bottom line? Yes, this one is the most expensive option here, but if you’re struggling to take the readings you’re getting from standard oximeters and actually use them to your benefit, this app-connected oximeter makes it easy to view and interpret data over a longer period of time (which you could even share with your healthcare provider, if you wanted). For some people, that’s worth the extra cost.

Price at time of publication: $145

Product Details:

  • Dimensions: 1.5''L x 1.2''H x 1.5''W (ring perimeter adjustable from 2” to 3.2”)
  • Power Source: rechargeable lithium battery
  • App: Yes

Our Testing Process

With the supervision of medical professionals, the Health team tested 10 pulse oximeters in our Lab to see how easily and accurately they could measure our oxygen saturation. We evaluated each device for reading consistency, setup, fit, ease of use, data display, and portability, since these are the factors we determined to be the most important when choosing between pulse oximeters available for at-home use.

All of our testers were asked to abstain from wearing any nail polish on their fingers (it can interfere with test results), and hand warmers were provided to improve the accuracy of test results. 

To assess the reading consistency and accuracy of each device, we performed several tests; first, our blood oxygen levels were measured by a medical professional, and then we compared those results to the results given by each pulse oximeter to see how close the readings were. We also repeated our testing on both hands, five minutes apart, and performed repeated tests before and after 30 seconds of vigorous exercise. 

For setup and ease of use, we evaluated each device to see how ready-to-use it was right out of the box, as well as how quickly and easily the display with our results could be read. As for fit, we considered how accommodating the device would be to many different sizes of fingers and whether we had any discomfort, such as pinching or chafing, while using the device.

On the data display side, we considered both how clearly our results were displayed but also how easy it was to interpret our results. We considered whether the device could store our data over time and whether it came with instructions for understanding readings and telling one type of reading (such as oxygenation) apart from another (like blood pressure or heart rate). For devices with app connectivity, we also assessed how our data was transmitted and recorded in the app, and whether it could be shared with healthcare providers. 

Lastly, we evaluated the portability of each oximeter, noting its size and weight as well as its options for travel (i.e. if it comes with a storage case or lanyard for easy carrying).

What to Know About Pulse Oximeters

What Features to Look for in a Pulse Oximeter

Ease of Use 

Most people aren’t using a pulse oximeter just for fun: if you have one at home, it’s either because you have a chronic health condition requiring you to check your oxygenation frequently, or you have reason to believe that a bout of COVID or influenza could leave you with dangerously low oxygen levels.

That means that, in addition to being accurate, any oximeter you choose should be easy to use. You may not have the time or ability to fiddle with devices that require a lot of setup or constant adjustments on your finger. The oximeter should also be easy to read and interpret, so you’re not left scratching your head over your results. You should also think about whether more than one person will need to use the oximeter, and consider if you need the device to store or record information for one person.

You don’t have to opt for a super high-tech option, but your pulse oximeter should be of a good enough quality to reliably provide you with the results you need. 

Fit 

To increase the likelihood of accurate results, your pulse oximeter should fit well on your finger. This means it should be able to open wide enough to fit your finger, close snugly (but not too tightly!), and you should be able to leave it in place for as long as needed to get a reading. If your oximeter can’t accommodate your finger size, falls off while you’re waiting for a reading, or is otherwise uncomfortable while you’re using it, it might not be the right fit for you.

Accuracy 

According to pulmonologist Thomas Yadegar, M.D., medical director of the intensive care unit at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center, less expensive pulse oximeters do not necessarily correlate to less accuracy—so you should look for a device that’s accurate and easy to use, above all else.  

“Accuracy is the most important feature when choosing a pulse oximeter, so features that highlight [whether] light transmission is sufficient may be a helpful indicator towards better accuracy,” he notes. 

While you usually won’t be able to check your oximeter’s readings against a professional’s, you can test out the accuracy and reading consistency of your device in other ways. Try taking a reading, waiting one minute, then taking another on the same finger (without moving around in between readings). If the reading is the same, or close to it, then that’s an indicator that the oximeter is giving you fairly consistent readings each time you use it. 

Data display 

No matter how accurate your oximeter is, if you can’t clearly view the readings it gives, it won’t be of much use to you. It’s important to choose a device with a display that’s large and clear enough for you to read; if you have any kind of visual impairment, the bigger and brighter the display, the better.

You may also want to consider a device that helps you understand how to interpret your readings (although a healthcare professional can help you with this, too, especially if you have known health conditions that might affect your readings).

“At sea level, for an average person with no other health conditions, an oxygen saturation below 95% is likely abnormal,” says cardiologist David Portugal, M.D., of Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital. “A saturation below 90% would be considered significantly abnormal and could be a sign of a heart or lung condition.”

Lastly, whether the oximeter is app-connected or not is a matter of preference, but many devices don’t have the capacity to be synced up to any kind of app—so if that’s important to you, make sure your oximeter can connect either to its own designated app or the app of your choice, and that the app will actually record and display the information you’re interested in tracking in addition to oxygenation, such as blood pressure and heart rate.

Portability 

Most at-home oximeters are small enough to be stowed away in pockets or purses, but it’s still worth thinking about where you’ll need to use yours. Also consider if you prefer to have a carrying case or lanyard to help you keep track of your device, and make sure it’s not so large, bulky, or heavy that it can’t be easily transported. 

Type

According to Dr. Portugal, the basics of all pulse oximeters are the same: they use the measurement of light waves to measure the concentration of oxygen in the hemoglobin in your red blood cells

The only difference, he says, is how it’s attached to the body: “The most standard pulse oximeter that you will likely find online or at the pharmacy is a clip-on type of device, whereas in the hospital, it is more common to use disposable, adhesive-type oximeters.” 

If you want to streamline your devices, you may also be able to purchase a smartwatch that can serve as a pulse oximeter, Dr. Portugal notes, so you don’t need to keep track of multiple devices.

Your Questions, Answered

Are pulse oximeters expensive? 

Some are, but they don’t have to be to ensure quality and accuracy. Most range between $30 and $60, depending on the features of the specific model, and you don’t have to worry that a cheaper oximeter will automatically be lower in quality, says Dr. Peña-Hernández: “It’s unnecessary to overspend on these devices as long as [you choose] a recognized brand with a good reputation.”

Why should you keep a pulse oximeter at home?

It’s not always obvious when oxygen saturation has dipped below a healthy level, especially if you live with a chronic condition that includes shortness of breath as a common symptom. Being able to take an accurate measure of your oxygenation at-home can both save you an unnecessary trip to your doctor (or to urgent care) and also alert you when you do need to seek emergency medical attention.

“Pulse oximeters are helpful devices that can aid in checking heart rates and oxygen saturations for patients with underlying heart or chronic lung conditions,” says Dr. Yadegar. “With COVID-19, it has shown to be immensely beneficial for patients with or without underlying conditions to monitor their disease progression and help guide diagnostics and therapies.”

Are finger pulse oximeters accurate for heart rate? 

According to Dr. Portugal, pulse oximeters are quite accurate for measuring heart rate. The only issue that may come up, he adds, is if you have an irregular heartbeat or premature heartbeat—sometimes that can temporarily throw off the monitor and make it hard to obtain an accurate pulse rate on the spot.

Who We Are

Sarah Bradley has been a freelance writer since 2017, tackling health commerce articles, product reviews, and shopping guides on everything from dry skin moisturizers and wart removers to menstrual cups and toothbrushes for braces. She personally tests products, so she knows what makes a good product stand out from a great one (and really, really wants to tell you about it).

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