Whether you need to keep an eye on your weight for medical reasons or for just keeping on top of your health, a bathroom scale is invaluable for regular checks.

As with so many other products scales have undergone a ‘smart’ revolution and you can now buy them with a seemingly unending raft of features including smartphone connectivity and the ability to measure things like BMI, hydration and muscle mass.

Smart features aside, there are two types of bathroom scales on the market today: analog (or spring) and digital scales, with digital rapidly displacing analog in consumer preference for reasons of accuracy; versatility; design and price.

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Analog scales rely on springs and levers to translate the displacement caused by a person stepping on a weighing platform into the movement of a pointer across a dial. They have a long history: Richard Salter invented the first spring-scale around 1770 in the village of Bilston in the Midlands. Richard’s nephew, George, took control of the company (then George Salter & Co.) in the early 19th century and built a factory in West Bromwich where the first scales for bathrooms were developed and manufactured. (Workers from the factory formed a football club, the West Bromwich Strollers, in 1878, which became West Bromwich Albion two years later).

Salter scales were more usually found in medical settings such as doctors’ offices or pharmacies but became a consumer product in the second half of the 20th century as prosperity grew and the population grew more health- and weight-conscious.

Analog scales are susceptible to temperature change and wear which affect their accuracy but they are affordable and, often, more rugged than digital scales.

The principles underlying digital machines were known at the end of the 19th century but were only used in bathroom scales towards the end of the 20th century. Digital scales take advantage of the piezoelectric effect, which is the current generated when a crystal is distorted by pressure. That current can be measured and the result displayed as a weight-reading.

Simple digital scales are inexpensive but, because they make an electrical measurement, manufacturers have been able to add all sorts of features and ‘connectability’ that increase the scales’ utility – and cost. So-called ‘Smart Scales’ send a low-voltage current through your feet to measure the impedance of your flesh and – in addition to your weight – calculate biometrical feedback such as Body Mass Index; Water Weight and Bone Density. This information can then be presented on the scales’ display or in an app via WiFi or Bluetooth.

We understand that some of the biometrical data generated in this way is pretty unreliable but basic digital weight measurement is accurate and not affected by temperature change or mechanical wear.

Measuring your weight is a basic way to monitor one aspect of your personal health but what is important is usually the day-to-day change in weight, rather than the absolute number. Medical professionals always recommend measuring your weight at the same time each day to allow ‘comparability’ and, as long as you use the same scales, the overall accuracy is not crucial: it’s the change – the loss or gain – that matters. This is an argument against throwing out a spring-scale to replace it with an expensive, accurate digital scale (it’s comforting, too, if your old spring scale reads 8 pounds less than your actual weight!).

In putting together our list we’ve considered user-reviews; features; cost and style. We’ve only included one spring scale, for old times’ sake. Digital scales come in a huge variety of ‘looks’, with some even installed flat and disguised as floor tiles, and you will be able to find a design that accurately measures your weight but also looks great in your bathroom.

Salter 145 Mechanical Scales

Salter 145 Mechancial ScalesSalter continues to market several models of mechanical scales. We chose the ‘145’ for its retro-look that inspires memories of childhood visits to the doctor’s office and for its large platform with non-slip mat. The body is metal and there is an easy-to-read, round dial, marked in pounds and kgs, with a red pointer. Our reviewers described the scales as sturdy and robust, and the measurements are consistent. These scales lack frills but should provide good service for many years.

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Best digital bathroom scales

Etekcity Digital Bathroom Scale

Etekcity High precision digital scalesThe Etekcity is an accurate but unpretentious digital scale. The black, tempered-glass platform is 12 inches square and 0.2 inches thick, with a back-lit, easy-read, liquid crystal display. The display’s default reading is in lbs (to the nearest 0.2lb) but it can be set to display in kgs (to the nearest 100g). The display has an auto-off after an 8-second delay. It is a low step onto the scale, with the platform less than an inch above the floor but it can be slippery when wet. The scale uses two AAA batteries that come ready installed with the purchase. If you only want to weigh yourself, then this scale comes at a great price and is all you need. The Etekcity is a best-seller with many excellent reviews and it is an easy pick for our list.

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Salter 9028 Razor Electronic Bathroom Scale

Salter 9028 digital scalesThe Salter 9028’s platform is a single, 0.3 inch thick sheet of tempered glass meaning there are no seams or edges, making it easy to wipe clean. The glass overlays a silver-colored, metal backing. The platform is a little larger than standard at 13 inch square but the scale has a slim overall appearance and weighs only 1.5 lbs. It measures pounds, stones, and kgs in 0.2lb or 100g increments and has auto-zero and auto-off features. The scale is powered by (included) CR2032 lithium batteries that should last more than a year. The LCD display features numbers that are 2 inches tall making it easy to read.

The 9028 is a reliable digital scale from a venerable brand that will look great in any bathroom. Many reviewers commented on the 9028’s sleek design, and we agree. This is a thin modern-looking scale that is a worthy addition to the Salter family, and our list.

Best smart scales

Ozeri Touch Bathroom Scale

Ozeri Touch Digital ScalesThe Ozeri Touch is the first of our ‘best’ choices that demonstrates some of the features that digitization allows. The scale’s built-in memory can store up to eight different user-profiles with individual records of weight, gender, height, and age, allowing users to track their progress towards goals. In addition, the scale combines this basic data with ‘bioelectrical impedance analysis’ and generates measurements of body fat; hydration; muscle mass and bone density. Another neat feature is the Tare measurement that can be used to weigh a baby (or a pet, a parcel or a suitcase): Step on the scale; step off, and step on again while carrying the baby, and the scale will display both weights separately.

The Ozeri Touch is very slim but has a 12-inch square platform, with circular weight sensors installed inside the rounded corners. The platform is available in black or white tempered glass, 0.2 inches thick. The scale has proved accurate in user tests and gives readings to the nearest 100g or 0.2 lb, depending on whether you select metric or imperial. The readout display is an easy-to-read, blue backlit panel, approximately 2-inches square, at the top of the platform, and power is supplied by two (included) lithium batteries.

Nobody makes any claims for the accuracy (or even usefulness) of the data generated by its ‘impedance analysis’, and we think the ‘look’ could be made sleeker, but this is a great gizmo at a very reasonable price, and well worth its place on our list.

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Nokia Body+ Smart Wifi Scale

Nokia Body+ Smart ScalesNokia is obviously better known for making mobile phones but in the last year or so has started to make a play for fitness products including these smart scales. It includes the usual smart scale features for measuring BMI, hydration and bone density etc as well as showing you the weather forecast on the display each morning, as well as the last 8 readings so you can quickly see your progress.

It links up with the accompanying Health Mate app that collects your weigh-ins automatically and charts your progress across its range of measures. You can also use the app to chart nutrition and if you give the app your weight loss targets it will provide you with a calorie budget to help you successfully complete your weight loss journey.

The scale can keep track of up to 8 users’ readings and is powered by 4 AAA batteries – which should provide enough power for 18 months use.

It’s not as expensive as some of the other big name smart scales but it still does cost around $80. It is an investment but is a very good balance between features and price.

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Fitbit Aria Wifi Smart Scale

Fitbit Aria smart scalesThe Aria is a top-of-the-line digital scale with various health management features and WiFi, enabling you to automatically store and track your data on your phone or computer in the Fitbit ‘dashboard’ app, where it can be combined with readings from your Fitbit fitness tracker to provide a total health picture.

The scale measures weight, BMI and body fat percentage and can recognize up to eight different users.

We like the Aria’s design which is simple but sturdy: a plain platform with under-mounted sensors, offered in black or white. The platform is man-sized, measuring 12 inches square, and includes a round 2½-inch digital display toward the top. Weight is measured in 0.2 lb increments but can be reported in imperial or metric terms. The scale uses four AA batteries that are reported to last up to one year in normal use.

Some reviewers have reported problems establishing or maintaining their WiFi connection but we understand that Fitbit has addressed these connectivity issues. Other reports describe the set-up as ‘straightforward’ and ‘easy’.

The Aria is suitable for newcomers to the Fitbit system, who want a good-looking, ‘smart’ bathroom scale along with storage, processing, and display of the data it generates in a Fitbit app. However, we believe its greatest appeal will be to users who already wear a Fitbit fitness-tracker given the opportunity to combine data from both devices into a more comprehensive picture of personal health, diet and exercise. The value of a smart ‘system’ – to present a spread of health information in an easily usable format – makes this a scale worth everybody’s consideration.

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Withings WS-30 Wireless Scale

Withings WS-30 Smart ScalesWithings is a well-regarded competitor of Fitbit that markets two smart-scale models: the WS-30, reviewed here, and the Smart Body Analyzer (that adds monitoring of body fat; heart rate and air quality). Bluetooth and Wifi connectivity allows data to be uploaded automatically and instantly into Withings ‘Health Mate’ app where it can be combined with readings from Withings-brand ‘activity monitors’ and fitness trackers.

Like the Fitbit, the WS-30 is offered with a plain black or white platform, with a rectangular display. The overall look, though, with four under-mounted pressure sensors, is slimmer. It offers a standard range of weight measurements and uses 4 AAA-batteries that reportedly last up to one year.

We like that Health Mate records can be shared with many other fitness apps such as Runkeeper and MyFitnessPal. However, for some reason, only the black model is compatible with Android smartphones (iOS can work with white and black).

Positive reviews would have made it difficult to exclude the WS-30 from our ‘best’ list with reviewers commenting that it represents ‘the current state of the art’; ‘a fantastic buy’ and ‘set-up: no fuss’. It will be particularly interesting to existing users of Withings monitors, but we believe it has great appeal to all techies who are looking for something more than just a weighing machine.

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