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Best Glucometers

By: Lisa Maloney on February 06, 2018

Compact, easy-to-use glucometers are the norm

When it comes to blood glucose meters, fewer steps mean fewer mistakes. So the best glucose meters are those that make the basic process of testing your blood sugar as foolproof as possible: Insert test strip, prick finger, apply blood, read result.

The tiny FreeStyle Freedom Lite (Est. $25) blood glucose meter -- itself no bigger than a pack of gum -- goes one step further by requiring only 0.3 microliter of blood for each sample. Users love the small sample size, which they say makes the testing process much less painful and intimidating. They also appreciate that the meter beeps once you've added enough blood and that if you don't get enough blood onto the test strip with your first try, you have up to 60 seconds to add more. Once you've added enough blood, the meter returns results in about 5 seconds. There's also no need for manual coding when you open a new set of test strips, which helps cut down on possible errors.

Even more important than its comfort and user-friendly features, the FreeStyle Freedom Lite was accurate more than 99 percent of the time in a study published in the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, and it draws Excellent ratings for its accuracy, repeatability and convenience in a comparative test from Consumer Reports. Although this isn't the newest meter on the block, users love it for its reliability; some have been using the same meter for years with no problem. They're also quite positive about its performance overall. What initially look like complaints about the meter often turn out to be unhappiness with the lancing device and the fact that no test strips are included with the meter; you have to buy them on your own.

Other features that make the FreeStyle Freedom Lite so popular include its simply two-button operation, the ability to store up to 400 readings and calculate averages that show your blood glucose trends over time, extra-large digits on the display, and a data port that lets you download your readings into a Windows or OS X computer using FreeStyle's Auto-Assist desktop program. The program compiles several types of reports including meter settings, meal event averages, daily statistics and a snapshot report.

The Freestyle Freedom Lite uses FreeStyle Lite Test Strips (Est. $40 per pack of 50), which are on the pricey side. But Abbott, which manufacturers the FreeStyle Freedom Lite, offers a co-pay program that can limit your payments to as little as $15 per box of 50 strips if you qualify.

If the FreeStyle test strips or meters are too tiny for you, consider the Accu-Chek Aviva Plus (Est. $38), which draws a lot of praise for its ease of handling. The Accu-Chek Aviva Plus's test strips are a little larger than most others, and both strips and meter are so easy to hold and manipulate that the Accu-Chek Aviva Plus was the first glucometer to earn an "Ease of Use" award from the Arthritis Foundation. If you happen to touch the testing surface on the strip, it won't skew the results and thus waste the test strip.

The Accu-Chek Aviva Plus also has a solid reputation for accuracy, breezing past a slew of clinical trials, passing a tough comparative test from the Diabetes Technology Society that involved more than 1,000 subjects, and garnering Excellent scores for accuracy and convenience from Consumer Reports. It requires a reasonable 0.6-microliter blood sample -- about twice that of the FreeStyle Freedom Lite -- and returns results in about the same amount of time: 5 seconds.

The Aviva Plus actually draws more expert kudos than the Freestyle Freedom Lite, but we couldn't put it in the top spot because of user complaints about frequent error messages that waste expensive test strips. Some also say it's hard to figure the controls out. That might be why it only earned a Very Good rating from Consumer Reports for its repeatability, a notch lower than its scores in other categories.

That said, if the Aviva Plus works for you it packs an impressive suite of features, including a 500-reading memory function, four customizable alerts, before- and after-meal markers, and the ability to calculate average readings. You don't need to code the meter when you open a new vial of test strips.

The Accu-Chek Aviva Plus also has an infrared data transfer port for transferring your data to a computer, but most people will have to purchase the required infrared reader to make use of that function. Don't worry; you can still use this glucose meter without it. If you do spring for the infrared port, you can manage, track, analyze and share your downloaded readings with Accu-Chek's Diabetes Management System (Est. $55, PC only), which also comes with the necessary infrared reader.

One note: The Accu-Chek Aviva Plus is sometimes marketed simply as the Accu-Chek Aviva, which was also the name of a previous model. Always double-check the labeling to make sure you're actually getting the Aviva Plus meter and Aviva Plus test strips. Although the information is no longer available online, the regular Aviva test strips were included in the FDA's 2009 warning to patients about GDH-PQQ (glucose dehydrogenase pyrroloquinoline quinone) test strips, which can interact with some non-glucose sugars to give falsely high blood sugar readings.

Speaking of test strips, Accu-Chek Aviva Plus Test Strips (Est. $40 for pack of 50) are also pricey, and its parent company, Roche Diagnostics, doesn't offer a savings program. They do have the Guide SimplyPay program, but it applies to just one meter: the new Accu-Chek Guide (Est. $16), which hasn't yet generated enough feedback for us to form a picture of its accuracy, reliability or usability. We'll keep an eye on its performance for next year's report but in the meantime, be aware that the Guide SimplePay program is also restricted only to those with private insurance.

If a small meter and simple functionality are your highest priorities, you might like the OneTouch Ultra Mini (Est. $35). It receives Excellent scores for accuracy and repeatability from Consumer Reports and users love its small size and ease of use. The OneTouch Ultra Mini can store 500 glucose readings in its memory, but that's about it as far as features go; there's no backlight on the display, and users aren't thrilled that it requires a fairly sizable 1-microliter blood sample. The manufacturer warns that if you use less, your results may be inaccurate.

OneTouch Ultra Mini Test Strips (Est. $40 for pack of 50) are expensive, but many users say this is one of the few meters their insurance company will cover. We did see some reports that a meter this small is hard to use for those with arthritis or shaky hands. Still, if you're looking for a simple, functional and highly portable meter that's typically covered by insurance, this is a good option.

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