Best Garmin Watches Reviewed & Rated for Quality
When we think about the concept of time and watches, inevitably we create an image of a watch a digital or a classical one, and more or less that’s it. However, as the concept of time has changed, thus have changed the conceptual design and functionality. Design and overall performance of watches have constantly changed as well. Today’s watches can’t even closely be compared with the ones from about 20-30 years ago and they differ in many aspects. Among the leaders who imposed the ultimate watch change, or let’s say the ones who set the transition towards 21st-century technology we see Garmin, the company which is specialized in GPS tracking devices for vehicles, marine, and army.
- Fenix 5 Plus Series
- Battery Life
- Forerunner 935
- Forerunner 235
So, it is not a surprise to see all that hi-tech technology implemented in the watches they offer transforming them in fitness devices that track your overall body rhythm, health system, sports performance, tracks and courses data, smart notification, wi-fi and Bluetooth connection, apps and many more features which transform your watch into an intelligent partner. Garmin watches, not only do they tell the time, but they are also packed with a GPS so that they provide location tracking, they track your progress, measure your heartbeat and oxygen level, use various apps that improve your sports lifestyle and some even offer music on the go . Doing sports has never been more organized and easier when you are equipped with such a device.
10 Best Garmin Watches
1. Fenix 5 Plus Series
One of the greatest features of this watch is its multi-sport GPS function which means that it can be used for various sports from running to golf, climbing to swimming and it uses Elevate wrist heart rate technology, meaning greater accuracy without using additional strips. You can upload your success rate, stress scores, training status, training effect, full insights for VO2 Max and much more so that you advance your training to another level. There are even topographic maps in this upgraded version which was previously an option just for Fenix 5X models. In addition to this update, there is also another feature which makes this watch an ultimate choice, that is the pulse ox acclimation sensor which is specially added for climbers and hikers for better adjust-ability when going to higher altitudes. You can use your watch for payment, listening to music with Spotify, be socially active since it offers the latest top-end features. It is water resistant to 10 ATM, which means it is not intended for diving.
Even though the watch is a bit robust and with a bigger screen, you can still wear it all day without any problems, in any kind of events with any kind of outfit without giving an impression of inconsistency. It is water resistant and it has a colored Garmin Chroma display which is perfectly visible even under direct sunlight. It comes in three sizes with various choices of silicone, metal or leather straps. It doesn’t have a touch screen but it is managed by five buttons positioned on the sides. On the back side of the watch, there is the Elevate-heart rate optical sensor which is highly accurate.
How long the battery will last depends on how often and in which mode you use the watch. It is stated that a single charging will last for 12 days if you use it in a smartwatch mode, about 18 hours in GPS mode and only 8 hours in GPS mode with music. It can be set in GPS Ultra Track mode which is a battery saving mode and for greatest durability, when needed, you can extend the battery life if you turn off the smart notifications too.
Cost and Value
If you single out its price, the immediate impression you get that it is too high. However, bearing in mind that it satiates the most adventurous appetites in many extreme conditions, the price seems to be in accordance with what it offers. There is no doubt that you get great value for the many and this watch is not going to disappoint even the pickiest buyers.
Multisport tracking features
Attractive rugged design
Onboard maps which let you navigate without your phone
Music, smart notifications and contactless payment
2. Forerunner 935
As said above it is a multi-sport GPS watch that allows you to track almost anything you are up to. It has extremely accurate heart rate monitor and it provides you with the performance conditions. There are many high-end functionalities regarding data it provides and you can opt from many different screens, from health issues, tips, weather conditions and connection to your phone through Bluetooth on Garmin Connect app, so that you could create personalized training sessions. It tells you whether you are below or above your pace. It can measure speed and distance, cadence, power, stroke types when you are swimming and many other metrics which are worth having. All the stats are instantly uploaded to the Garmin app and Strava.
If you’d like to wear lightweight, refined and yet not very intrusive watch, then this one seems a good option. It is sleeker and less robust compared to our top model selection, having five protruding metal buttons on the sides, which means it is not a touchscreen phone. It can be managed very well, the screen is 1.2” which is large enough to read all data from it in various circumstances, even on a direct sunlight. You can download additional watch faces from Garmin Connect, change the stripes and wear it with different types of outfit.
What this watch can really be proud of is the durability of its battery life. It is officially stated that you can use it for 14 days without the GPS on, and if you turn the GPS daily just for running then you can use it to maximum 12 days and if you have the smart function on, GPS and the Bluetooth than the optimal hours you can get is 24 and that is actually more than what other models could offer.
Cost and Value
If it hadn’t been for the design, lesser functions it offers and the lower number of installed maps and tracks it would definitely have been the first choice. It is by no means an inexpensive watch, however, if you are into sports and you need a reliable partner doing for you more than you can do about yourself in terms of checking your health system, heart rate, or turning on the lights of your bike, just to name a few, then definitely it is worth the money.
Great battery life
Excellent multisport features
Very accurate GPS
Lightweight and stylish
No music or contactless payment
3. Forerunner 235
It is a GPS watch that tracks your running productivity and overall performance in a way that it has a heart -rate track monitor which is fairly accurate, but in case you want additional accuracy you can pair ANT+ straps. It can boast with one of the best 24/7 heart rate tracking and it is can detect potential colds or over-training. It has VO2Max reader which indicates the amount of oxygen, fitness level and progress. It has four modes and it can be set for indoor activities tracked by on-board accelerometer and outdoor activities tracked by GPS and GLONASS. You can measure your distance, pace, calories, cadence and time and in addition to this, you can store about 200 hours of activity which can come handy when you’d like to compare previous performance. In one word it is an activity tracker which monitors your daily activities and is able to set your future goals based on the patterns it detects. It offers a smart connection to your mobile, connects to Garmin Strava, Connect IQ and can display smart notifications.
It has a round classical 1.2” color screen which is controlled by five metal side buttons. You can choose from three color combinations and it is a very stylish watch, even though it gives an overall plastic impression. The straps are flexible and silicone, however, the overall comfort is a bit lowered due to the fact that the sensor which is placed on the back side protrudes more deeply to your skin and the other thing that could compromise your comfort is the tightened strap in case you’d like to get better accuracy of the built-in optical heart rate sensor. It is one of the most lightweight watchesItstrong>
Its average battery life is about a week if used moderately, having the GPS on for limited point of time. It is stated that it can last for 9 days when it is used as a watch and about 11 hours used in full GPS and smart mode.
Cost and Value
The overall performance of this watch is more than satisfactory and it can be used as a personal guide for better performance. There’s nothing luxurious or pompous about it, and yet it is very reliable and it is more than just an ordinary watch. Given the fact that its older than most of GPS watches you get a good deal for your money and that’s what most costumers have said.
Heart Rate Monitor tracking
Storage of 200 activities
The battery life is not impressive
4. Approach S60
Specially designed to please golfers, it is packed with detailed 40 000 golf courses showing yardages and holes which can be updated in real time. The Auto-shot feature automatically detects the shots, logs them in the system and thus provides the players the opportunity to analyze their game afterward. There are many other features that allow you to measure the distance of the holes, to position the pin of the day so that you get practice measurement, there is a SwingTempo that measures the relationship between your downswing and upswing. You can connect it to many other apps and synchronize it with your smartphone. It can show you weather alerts smart notifications, HRT, oxygen level, fitness level, overall health system and much more.
Many consider it to be one of the most stylish watches on the golf course, but that’s not all since it can be transformed into a watch for any occasion thanks to the easily interchangeable bands made of silicone, leather or stainless steel. No matter which is your preferred choice of band, they are all lightweight and comfortable to wear. The watch displays three main screens and all of them are easy to reach even in the sunniest days. It is a color and a touchscreen and there are three side buttons to ease the navigation.
Garmin states that if you use your watch in golf mode constantly, the Approach 60 will give you up to 10 hours and if you use it in watch mode you will have about 10 days between the charges. However, the customers say that it lasts around 30 holes, which is about 7 hours and that is the only issue of this watch.
Cost and Value
Even though pricey, this watch is one of the best-rated watches by customers, especially golfers, since it is not only a GPS tracker but it is a real tech-aid including maps, courses descriptions, hazards, smart notifications, success tracking, and too many additional features. Some even say that it abounds with way too many features in fact, but that’s called value for money, isn’t it?
Intended for golfers, suitable for any sport
40,000 golf courses included
5. Fenix 3
Along with the standard measurements and tracking read-outs, this watch is equipped with many other features that go above standardized ones. No matter which sport you’ll pick, or what you are up to exercising, the level and the difficulty of your session, Fenix 3 can monitor almost everything. Accuracy is its biggest asset and it measures distance, time, pace, cadence, calories, recovery period, vertical oscillation, OX2 Max, and has vibration and sound alert to keep you motivated to reach your goal. Since it is waterproof up to 100 meters it is also useful for swimmers. The GPS automatically calibrates barometer, altimeter and a 3-axis compass. Since it is a smartwatch it keeps score and connects to Garmin Connect, LiveTrack and other apps which provide you with the best experience. You get smart notifications, such as e-mails or messages, weather alerts, synchronized data on your phone and an option for social media share.
Peculiar and very stylish, giving an impression of wearing a regular watch, not a fitness one, that is how many customers have described it. It is a bit robust but unobtrusive, lightweight and aesthetic with a handy analog interface. It has a color 1.2”screen that can be read without any problems on direct sunlight, easy to handle interface and it is navigated by analog side buttons. It comes in one size, however, it can be worn by anyone since it has a very flexible silicone band which provides comfort in different conditions such as rain, cold, sweat and so on.
It has impressive battery life which lasts to 20 hours when used in GPS mode for training or 50 hours when used in UltraTrack mode which is a battery saving mode on account of precise GSP tracking since it pings for GPS signal every minute instead of every second and up to unbelievable 5 weeks when used in standard watch mode.
Cost and Value
High-quality materials used in this watch, its highly functional hi-tech features and the versatility it provides justify the price that this watch is being sold. It is a high-end watch which marks style and performance and it certainly is an investment if you truly would like to use everything that it offers.
Very accurate tracking system and data
Easy to navigate
A bit overpriced
6. Vivoactive 3 Music
The official label says that it is a multi-sport watch which can track your performance in various sports such as swimming, cycling, skiing, and snowboarding, but nevertheless, its best performance is in fitness. This means the watch offers GPS activity tracking, heart-rate sensor, VO2 Max monitor, smart notification and payment system, sleep and real-time stress tracking, keeping tabs on various sports activities through many apps.
This updated music version comes only in black color and it looks sporty and yet elegant as if it was a regular watch, not a fitness one. It has a circular design, flexible and comfortable strap and it can be easily worn all day, even at night. The face of the watch is 1.2” and 240X240 pixels with a color transflective screen which makes it easier to read and at the same time saves the battery life. It has one button on the side, the rest is managed on the touch screen which is very handy and can be even used with gloves on.
Regarding battery life, Garmin claims that it will last for seven days for regular use and u to 13 hours with constant GPS use. Definitely, it is not the best battery in the world, but charging your watch once a week seems reasonable durability when used moderately.
Cost and Value
This watch combines multi-sport GPS tracking, health, and lifestyle, so it is a good choice for those who combine various sports and interests. You can enjoy a sport, track your scores and improve your performance, have an overview of your health system and enjoy music, all that in a watch. Having said that, we can certainly say that it is by no means overpriced and that you get good value for your money.
Touchscreen and all day fitness tracking
Storage for 500 songs
GPS activity tracking
VO2 Max monitor for measuring oxygen level
Limited design options
Only one music service
7. Forerunner 735XT
It is labeled as multi-sport watch, even though it is claimed to be the best triathlon watch on the market. When it comes to its functionality we can say that its accuracy is almost perfect and that connects the GPS within seconds. Among many functions it provides, we will mention running dynamics, live tracking, virtual pacing, heart rate alerts, lap and pace customization's. As a special feature, it offers HRVT (heart rate variability tracking) which actually detects your body status, how you feel and the transition from aerobic to an anaerobic state. However, the pulse monitor positioned on the wrist is not flawless. As it is a smartwatch, you can get smart notifications on it, connect it to your phone and download apps from Garmin Connect, Map-My-Fitness and Strava.
It is a very comfortable, lightweight and sleek watch with a bit of a bulky face which might be a problem for some people who have small wrists. It comes in many color choices and the band is silicone which ensures comfort and reduces the feeling of being sweaty after wearing it for many hours in sports mode. The screen uses a trans-reflective screen which uses available light for clarity of your display and you can read the screen without any problems in all light conditions.
When it comes to battery life we can say it is much better compared to many other watches out there on the market. If you have the GPS turned on, you will get about 14 hours of battery life, but in case you use it daily with some GPS connection it lasts for about 5 to 6 days. When it is used in standby mode it can last for 11 days.
Cost and value
If you are looking for a highly compatible and reliable multi-sport watch which is packed with a wide range of features and compatible with many apps and accessories that this watch has it all. The price might be high for some, however, the accuracy, the features, and the overall performance won’t disappoint you.
Live tracking, social media sharing and audio alerts
Supports training data for further analysis
Good battery life
HRVT for body status
8. Vívoactive HR
The best about this watch is the ability to track almost any outdoor sport, including golf, snowboarding and even paddle-boarding and some indoor activities, such as the treadmill for example and you can include cardio and strength modes. It is waterproof, however, it does not support open water swimming. It provides weather data, smart notifications, vibration alerts, and tracking scores. However, it considered to be middle range due to its lack of Vo2 Max and race predictability. It is a smartwatch which notifies you on messages, calls and other smart notifications.
It is a rather big watch and those who have smaller wrists say that it feels uncomfortable at some points and there is no option to change the band in case you dislike it. The watch comes in one color-black and it is mainly made of plastic the rectangular screen is made of glass. It is advisable to get yourself a screen protector for the glass since there have been reports that the glass breaks easily. Since it connects to Garmin Connect, you can download many faces for your watch and make it suit your preferences. There are two sizes offered, regular and extra large.
The battery is more than averagely durable and when it is used with constant GPS tracking it lasts for 13 hours whereas without GPS its life extends to 8 days which is fairly long battery life for a watch that offers that much, including the heart rate monitoring.
Cost and Value
This watch is a nice watch that offers plenty for less. It isn’t complicated, provides many versatile features and it is very affordable.
Great battery life
24/7 heart rate tracking
Not very comfortable
9. Forerunner 35
Regarding its performance, it is a fitness watch which accurately monitors the heart rate, Vo2Max which measures the level of oxygen in the system and the overall fitness performance. It has a feature called Move IQ which recognizes and monitors the exercise you are doing at a given point of time. Besides this it measures your distance and time, calories burned, strength, training intensity, steps, sleep tracking and more. It has basic smart functions such as messaging and call notification. It can synchronize with Apple and Android phones and get most of it.
It has rectangular form with round corners and it is navigated by four buttons, two on the sides which means it is not a touch screen watch, nor is the color screen, but it is very clear. The design is simply modest and not intrusive at all and intended mainly for sports activities. The overall look of the watch is sporty and thick. It has silicone strap and with holes in the middle. When it comes to comfort customers say that it is rather uncomfortable at night or when worn for longer period of time due to its thickness. However, that should not be a greater concern or a deal breaker.
It is stated that the battery will last for 5 days in watch mode and 8 hours in GPS training mode, even though some users say that the battery lasts even longer in some occasions. However, that’s not an excellent performance of the battery to be honest, yet, since it is a truly budget watch we can’t have very high expectations.
Cost and Value
The watch represents an impressive running tracker which offers great features and provides various metrics and data for a very inexpensive price. The screen is big and clear and you can easily read the display. Starters and those who enjoy fitness, running or cycling can benefit greatly from it without putting themselves to high expenses.
Great accuracy of GPS tracking
Fast charging and good battery life
Excellent tracking features
The display is monochrome
10. Forerunner 645 Music
When it comes to the functions it offers, well, there are many. Saying it is appropriate to track various sports besides the usual ones such as triathlon, cycling, and hiking, it does provide tracking for yoga and paddle sports. It has one of the most accurate heart rate monitors. GPS locks fast and the synchronization with your smartphone is stable and reliable. With this watch, you can control turbo trainers, bike lights, cameras or any other devices that can be connected and synchronized which saves time and increases motivation. It has an accelerometer to monitor motion and altimeter for elevation and you can even use gym simulator machines but the tracking here isn’t very precise.
Only a glance at the watch is needed for a trained eye to notice that it is maybe the most beautiful of all Garmin watches. It is a watch which has a very elegant design, smooth elegance of a metal rim surrounding the Corning Gorilla 3 1.2” glass cover of the display. Like many other Garmin watches the screen uses transflective technology and the screen can be easily read in different settings. The colors seem to be muted but that is the effect that transflective technology creates on the account of improved battery life.
What many customers find frustrating is the very poor battery life of a watch that can offer so much. When used in GPS and heart rate tracking it lasts only up to 5 hours and when on standby it can be used for maximum seven days and that’s probably it’s biggest flaw and the reason why it is rated in this position even though it offers so much. Customers have complained that they can’t feel confident enough to have intensive training which might last for a longer period of time unless they charge it to 100%.
Cost and Value
Here we get to the tricky part in terms of how to properly value the phone. It is a have-it-all watch whose greatest boast is the huge amount of music storage which can be extended not only to music but audible books, stories and podcasts and that’s where the bait is. However, it does have some flaws such as poor battery life and the slow interface. The price from one point of view reflects the overall quality of the watch and yet, some customers consider it to be way too high.
Very elegant and stylish design
Onboard storage music for 500 songs
Multisport tracking features
Poor battery life
Criteria Used in Choosing the Best Garmin Watches
When it comes to hi-tech watches then it is more than obvious that they are intended for customers who definitely need what the watches provide and who are highly likely to implement those features in their daily sports life. Reliable performance is something that makes a watch desired, so the more reliable a watch is the more watch type will be sought by customers. You don’t want to get lost out there when hiking, or have incorrect measurements when running, right? The overall systematic functionality of the watch is something that puts a higher value on it, as well the customization of the features which might be the key of your success.
Depending on the included features, we can distinguish good watches from the not-so-good ones. The ones that we have on the top of our list are those who abound in high-tech multi-sport features. The more sports a watch can track in a highly reliable and accurate manner the better the watch will be and the overall performance of the watch will be ranked highly. Basically, mid-range watches will have a GPS tracking system and will measure the distance, time, pace, steps, calories burnt and are expected to provide weather data. Some better ones will add altimeter, barometer, gyroscope, live tracking, race predictability and the best will have all that plus some more, like preinstalled maps, tracks and courses, HRVT (heart rate variability tracking), VO2Max monitors to detect oxygen levels, overall body and health system tracking, spiced up with music, smart notification and internet connection, even contactless payment.
There’s no point in spending hundreds of dollars on a device that is likely to get broken in a few months, so the quality of the product, the materials used and resistance to scratches and breaking is worth paying attention to. Top watches have bands made of stainless steel, high-quality silicone or leather instead of plastic and the display of the watch is made of Corning Gorilla glass or Amoled and some even offer glass cover to protect the glass from scratching.
When selecting a good watch, one of the key factors to consider is having a good battery life. Even though there are power sources everywhere, you might consider this as a top priority if you often run or hike in unknown tracks or if you a mountain climber who needs a long-term battery. It is true that battery life depends on how frequently you turn the GPS tracking system on, and yet, the best watches offer longer battery life even when you have the GPS on and you use some other features at the same time.
Style and Design
Different people have different styles and indisputably the preferences can vary regarding size and color. However, there is a wide range of colors that you can choose from and the top raking watches come in different sizes too. Some even provide the opportunity to quickly change the band of the watch to make it fit your outfit. The bigger screen in color means better readability of the display, but make sure it doesn’t look too bulky or inappropriate, especially those with smaller wrists should pay attention.
A very important factor when choosing the right watch for you. You don’t want to spend a month on getting to know your watch by trial and error and definitely, you don’t want to spend a week on studying the instruction manual. While it is highly recommendable to read the manual, the ease-of-use and customization of the feature are crucial for the ultimate pleasure of the users. Navigation through different modes will enable you to better use all the available features on your watch and turn it into a fitness partner. Failing to correctly read the data will lead to frustration and elderly adults need to be careful when choosing the right one. If you don’t really need a watch with so many features and you are a person who does minor sporting exercises it is advisable to stick to less complicated watches.
Other important factors to consider when selecting the best choice for you
A watch is something that you’ll have on your wrist throughout the day, so you’d agree that it has to be comfortable and light. If you have a constant feeling of uneasiness, discomfort or if it disturbs you while you are doing your tasks, then that’s not the right watch for you. Good watches are mainly light, comfortable and tend to ‘blend with your skin’ to a level that you don’t feel it. Bear in mind that many of the watches now have sensors on the back and some sensors can protrude into your skin.
This is a highly recommended feature even if you don’t intend to use your watch for swimming exercises. In case you use the gym or have a shower, you don’t have to take off your watch every time, or if you live in areas which have rainy seasons or humid weather then this feature will have your watch protected and you wouldn’t have to worry too much about its safety. It is also recommended if you are a hiker, mountain climber, cyclist, i.e. if the weather conditions are changeable and you are out there. By the way, we all sweat when doing any sport, so why not having a watch which won’t be influenced by any kind of moist?
The Internet represents an integral part of our life and it would be great if we could connect our watches on the internet too so that we could use most of the apps relevant for our personal needs, download music, synchronize with our other devices and get smart notifications. There are watches which have wi-fi connectivity options and some connect through Bluetooth and synchronize with the smartphones.
Have you ever thought that you could pay with your watch, listen to the music from your watch or read an audiobook, take a call or send messages? Well, the best watches can do exactly that! And that’s not all! If you are a golfer you can have a detailed presentation of thousands of golf courses, you can be navigated to preferred routes if you are a hiker or the watch can be set to be your very persistent ‘coach’ that will remind you on your set goals and score your performance.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is the Elevate Heart Rate Monitor accurate enough or straps are required?
A: Mainly that depends on which model you are using, but all in all, the testing has shown that Elevate Heart Rate Monitor is as accurate as the straps except in some environments (where indicated) where you need SWIM band or TRI band. For more detailed information refer to the user manual that is specific for your model.
Q: Can I connect my Garmin watch with all smartphone types and share my stats online?
A: Regarding all Garmin watches reviewed here, the answer is yes, there are compatible with Android and IOS phones. You can synchronize your watch with your phone through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connection and download some of the apps for this purpose on Garmin Connect. For other Garmin watches please visit the official Garmin site.
Q: What is Pulse Ox and why do I need it?
A: Pulse Ox stands for Pulse Oximetry and it is a method that measures the saturation of oxygen in the bloodstream by a combination of red and infrared lights. The sensors are situated on the back of the device and typical readings vary from 85-100 but they are determined by many factors. It can be very useful to b aware of your SpO2 because in that way you can understand the reaction of your body in various situations and can be an indicator of some changes in your health. However, bear in mind that it is a recreational device, not a medical one.
Q: What is Garmin Connect?
A: Garmin Connect is an app that represents a source for your fitness and health data. What you need to do first is to pair your Garmin device with it your tracking can start. Through it, you can create workouts, check your status, create virtual fitness trainer, and compete with your friend.
Q: I go jogging from time to time, but I’d like to create a scheduled plan and increase the intensity of my training. Can Garmin help me in the realization of this plan and what type of Garmin watch do I need?
A: You can certainly benefit from having a Garmin watch in many ways. First of all, Garmin watches are made to provide support and boost your performance by tracking your score, creating a training plan and reminding you that you need to do a certain activity. Once your data is uploaded and stored then you can analyze your performance and set up an additional workout plan. Regarding the type of the watch you need, take into consideration your preferences, desired and expected features each model provides and your finances.