Tanita BC-401 Body Composition Monitor review – Keep your body in check for less

It might not be the best-looking or biggest body composition monitor, yet the Tanita BC-401 still offers a lot of bang for your buck

Tanita BC-401 body composition monitor review
(Image credit: Tanita)
T3 Verdict

The Tanita BC-401 is a slightly dated-looking body composition monitor that tracks various body metrics, not just your weight, for an affordable price. The accompanying My Tanita app is user-friendly, although compatibility with more third-party apps would make it even better.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Readings are quick

  • +

    User-friendly app

  • +

    10 body metrics measured

  • +

    Affordable price point

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Small platform

  • -

    Design is dated

  • -

    Can only be synched with Google Fit/Apple Health

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The Tanita BC-401 is one of Tanita's most affordable body composition monitors, yet it offers plenty of data to pore over in your spare time. Since measuring weight is not hip anymore, Tanita chose to market the BC-401 as a 'health monitor' and not as bathroom scales. Either way, it will provide you with plenty of body metrics to work with, regardless of your fitness levels.

There are more advanced Tanita models on our best bathroom scales guide, such as the Tanita RD-953, which is more feature-rich and expensive; in fact, the Tanita RD-953 is three times as expensive as the BC-401. Despite being more affordable, the Tanita BC-401 offers reliable accuracy and many features. Sort of.

Tanita BC-401 Body Composition Monitor review – Design and ergonomics

I wouldn't call the Tanita BC-401 a good-looking device, unlike the handsome (yet not-so-smart) Fitbit Aria Air. If anything, the Tanita BC-401 looks like something from the noughties and hasn't really got any discernible features. It's just like the scales next door: grey-coloured slab with a glass top and a black bezel. You get the four connection boxes in the corner of the scales and four touch buttons in the middle, which you won't often use (measurements can be initiated from the app).

The bottom cover is straight-up black plastic, and so are the legs, and even though they can feel a bit flimsy, the Tanita BC-401 can support user weight up to 150 kg. My biggest issue with this particular body composition monitor was the depth of the platform: it's only 20 cm, so people with shoe sizes larger than 6 might struggle to stand on it without their feet hanging off the platform.

Tanita BS-401 body composition monitor review: screenshots of the My Tanita app

You'll find all your data in the My Tanita app

(Image credit: Future)

Tanita BC-401 Body Composition Monitor review – Features and accuracy

You can initiate readings using the My Tanita app. Place the Tanita BC-401 on the floor, launch the app, tap on 'Measure' and then 'Start measurement'. The phone will then wake up the scale, and you can step on it within a couple of seconds. The reading itself was done really quickly; it took 3-5 seconds each time for my stats to show up in the app after I stepped on the scales. And there are plenty of body metrics being measured:

  • Weight: I hope this doesn't need any further explanation.
  • Body fat %: proportion of fat to the total body weight. Not many of us have to worry about being 'underfat', but if you are 'overfat' – even obese – you might want to try and get back into the green zone.
  • Total body water %: the total amount of fluid in the body expressed as a percentage of total weight. I'm a big advocate of drinking loads of water – I tend to visit the loo once every other hour – so it was great to see that my water levels were on point. Always nice to get some reassurance!
  • Muscle mass: predicted weight of all the muscles in your body. I wasn't expecting this number to be so high, given I haven't got a muscular body, but alas, apart from a stone and a half of other stuff, I'm all muscle, apparently. 
  • Physique rating: this metric assesses muscle and body fat levels and puts you in one of the nine body type categories. The Y-axis goes from lean to obese, and the X-axis from low to high. Ideally, you would like to be in the middle of the chart and avoid the four corners.
  • Bone mineral mass: this metric is called bone mass in the app, and it predicts the weight of bone material in your body. Hopefully, you are not under or over-bony. If you are the former, up your calcium intake. If the latter: not sure. 🤷
  • Basal metabolic rate (BMR): this is also known as resting metabolic rate, and it measures the number of calories your body use without you doing anything. Want to lose weight? Go under. Gain? Go over.
  • Metabolic age: compares your BMR to the average for your age group. If your metabolic age is higher than your actual age, that means your body is not in good shape, and you should start working on getting healthier. Like now.
  • BMI: BMI is a general indicator of health at best times, but in most cases, it's pretty pointless.
  • Visceral fat: the amount of fat located around the vital organs. Middle-aged men tend to have loads of this, and if you are one of those skinny blokes with a pot belly, you probably have too much visceral fat.

Tanita BC-401 Body Composition Monitor review – The My Tanita app

Unlike the Fitbit Aria Air, the Tanita BC-401 body composition monitor can be used without the accompanying app. Nevertheless, I would recommend using the My Tanita app because it is much easier to digest information through the app, using the easy-to-read charts and histograms.

All of the 10 body metrics are explained in the My Tanita app, so even if half of the above list doesn't make much sense to you now, it will look at the data and descriptions in the app. You can also check how the metrics changed over time and set goals for yourself in the app.

One issue with the My Tanita app is the lack of support for third-party apps. You can only sync the app with Google Fit/Apple Health, which is not much consolation if you have been logging your weight in other apps before. I would expect at least a MyFitnessPal integration if nothing else. You can sync your My Tanita data with Google Fit/Apple Health and then sync that with MyfitnessPal, but I feel a more direct approach would work better.

Tanita BC-401 body composition monitor review

(Image credit: Tanita)

Tanita BC-401 Body Composition Monitor review – Verdict

For the price, the Tanita BC-401 Body Composition Monitor offers a heap-load of data in an acceptable-looking package. It might not be the most ergonomic scale in the world, but it won't stop the Tanita BC-401 from doing its jobs quickly and accurately.

Regarding accuracy, it's hard to tell how precise the Tanita BC-401 actually is, but the weight reading is not way off compared to other scales. If you need to know for sure how heavy you are, get a commercial scale, like the Tanita MC-980 Uplus Multi Frequency Segmental Body Composition Analyser. For everybody else, the Tanita BC-401 will work just fine.

All readings from the smart scale are fed into the My Tanita app, where you can follow the trend of every metric the Tanita BC-401 measures. There will be some types of data that won't change very often – like bone mass – but others will, and if they do, you will know by looking at the handy charts. Cheap and cheerful, the Tanita BC-401 is an excellent choice for most people. And if you have tiny feet, all the better.

Matt Kollat
Section Editor | Active

Matt Kollat is a journalist and content creator who works for T3.com and its magazine counterpart as an Active Editor. His areas of expertise include wearables, drones, fitness equipment, nutrition and outdoor gear. He joined T3 in 2019. His byline appears in several publications, including Techradar and Fit&Well, and more. Matt also collaborated with other content creators (e.g. Garage Gym Reviews) and judged many awards, such as the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance's ESSNawards. When he isn't working out, running or cycling, you'll find him roaming the countryside and trying out new podcasting and content creation equipment.