In this post
— Updated guide summer 2020
New update for the best GPS watch guide for 2020. The Polar Grit X arrival to the market makes it fall into one of the categories, just as it makes Suunto disappear from the entire list (in both cases, on its own merits).
There are not many more changes due to the situation we have experienced and are experiencing because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the pending announcements for 2020 are being delayed so the start of 2020 has been slow.
The choices I make in this article are the same ones I can offer to friends asking me for similar advice. I do not make the list to satisfy any particular manufacturer, nor do any of them ask me to change my impressions or ratings. Like all the work I do on this page, I try to be as objective as possible.
In order to make this selection, I try all GPS watchesbefore. I do not make general recommendations based on the data sheet or the opinions of others. In each section you can find the link to its full review, so I invite you to read those tests carefully once you have chosen the model that best suits your use case.
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Running GPS watches
It's the most populated category and where we have the most to choose from, because basically any running watch starts from this.
The first thing is to cover this basic and elemental function, and from there it is oriented to other more specific uses.
This year we have had some novelties, but everything focused on the high or medium range and the low range has not had too much movement.
New models have entered, the number of features they bring is greater, but in exchange for higher prices.
This means that what yesterday was mid-range, today is almost an access model, which is not bad for the consumer.
As a general rule, the recommendation is, if you are a beginner, opt for a cheaper, basic model , because you probably still don't know where you will want to go.
It is better to buy something cheap and simple and, once you decide which discipline you like best (trail, marathon, ultras, triathlon, etc.), then buy the model that will satisfy your real needs.
There is no point in buying a 600 euro Fenix as your first watch if you still don't know if the mountains and great outdoors are going to give you the most satisfaction.
Be careful, this doesn't mean that if you've fallen in love with a particular model because of its aesthetics, or because you want maps even if you're not going to take advantage of the other features, you shouldn't buy it.
With this brief introduction we'll go through the different categories I have prepared for you.
Best GPS Watch
Garmin Forerunner 245 / 245 Music, Polar Vantage M
They are the two big contenders in the running watch for half marathon/marathon category. All the updates that have been coming to Polar Vantage M caused the entry of this model among the best options. Which is good, more competition for the Garmin Forerunner 245.
The Garmin Forerunner 245, announced in 2019, removed the Garmin FR645out of its seat as the best GPS running watch. And as with the 645, there's also a version capable of music playback straight from the watch, including syncing with Spotify.
Is the Garmin 245 superior to the Garmin Forerunner 645? Well, in some aspects it is: battery life and a new optical heart rate sensor with PulseOx measurement. But there's something that could make you still choose the FR645, mainly the barometric altimeter; but also wireless paymentsor more sports profiles. You can see all the differences between both models in the Garmin FR245 review
At this moment I think it's the best option for the road racer, also taking into account that it's reasonably priced. I would even prefer it over superior models such as the Garmin 945, Garmin Fenix 6 or Suunto 9, at least if what you're going to do is mainly road running.
The Garmin 245 is designed for road running and has no additional features that, if you are not going to use... why do you want them for? And above all, why pay for them?
As for running, the features it offers are the same as on the Fenix 5, but the 245 is a smaller and lighter GPS watch and also comes with the same training metrics as the Fenix 5 (and Fenix 5 Plus, Fenix 6, 945, etc); or the possibility of music playback in 245M.
It also has route navigation , so if you're afraid you won't be able to make a getaway to the mountains or schedule a trail race during the season, don't worry; but I remind you that the altitude data you have will be exclusive to GPS, so you'll have to wait to synchronize the activity to see real altitude details.
The Polar Vantage M was one of the new additions to the 2019 range and, after the update received with sleep and rest metrics, it runs as a full candidate to be considered the best GPS watch for running, with permission of the Forerunner 245.
It has support for measuring running power (although it requires an external device such as Stryd), TrainingLoad Pro can help you plan your workouts and is generally a well-resolved watch.
And as I said earlier, the fact that it added Sleep Plus Stages and Nightly Recharge makes the Vantage M benefit from the best training-oriented platform there is right now.
Unlike the Garmin Forerunner 245, the Polar Vantage M is a multisport watch, so if you plan to do a triathlon in the near future this is another factor to consider. It does not have route navigation nor does it have the possibility of playing music, something that is present in 245 and that can be decisive.
Best cheap running GPS watch
Garmin Forerunner 35, Polar M430
The category of cheap GPS watch is the one that has cost me the most to choose from. There are many valid models in a price range between €100 and €150. All of them with the basics (and not so basic) that you can search for in a GPS running watch.
Of the chosen the Garmin GPS is the cheapest GPS watch because it is often on sale. It is a simple watch with a high contrast display where you will see the information very clearly.
It has optical heart rate monitor on the wrist which, although not the best, is perfectly valid for runs at constant pace, but you'll want to use an ANT+ chest strap for intervals and intensity workouts. It's not that it's something exclusive to Garmin, it's the same for all models on the market.
If you're looking for something as cheap as possible and want the basic features, then the Garmin FR35 is the best choice.
As for the Polar, its wrist heart rate monitoris better than the one from Garmin. It doesn't mean you're going to get rid of the chest strap for everything, but it's true that you'll find it one step above those you find in Garmin or Suunto.
Its strongest point: the different training options it offers, such as the possibility of performing structured intervals or blocking a pace or heart rate zone so that the watch warns us if we go outside it.
It allows a higher level of configuration and there's a greater number of sports supported, but that makes it a somewhat more complicated watch than the Garmin. Since the prices of both models are quite similar, you should consider what you prefer: features (Polar) or ease of use (Garmin)
Other GPS watches to consider
Garmin Forerunner 645, Garmin Vivoactive 4
The Garmin Forerunner 645 was my recommendation as a road running watch until the arrival of the FR245. It would have reasons to continue to be so, but thanks to the fantastic battery life offered by the new GNSS chipset from Sony we find in the 245, it makes me lean more towards the new model.
The only thing I miss in the FR245 that could make me decide for the FR645 is the barometric altimeter. In addition to giving you altimetry data, it would also allow you to use the Garmin Running Power.
However, everything depends on the prices at which each one moves and it is important to take into account the different offers that you find at all times.
One of the most recent developments has been the Garmin Vivoactive 4 (which also comes in two different sizes, 4 and 4s). The truth is that it's becoming more and more like its cousin the Garmin Forerunner 245.
Both are similarly priced and even the Vivoactive 4 offers some things that the FR245 does not: barometric altimeter, sweating and hydration metrics, breathing rate, Garmin Pay, video-guided exercises or music without having to buy a specific version.
So why isn't the Vivoactive 4 up there instead of the FR245? Because of the features that the FR245 does have, which in theory will be more adapted to the road runner with the intention of competing: advanced training metrics, training status, Training Effect, etc. And let's not forget either, the FR245 offers route navigation so it can also allow you to make a slight dabble into the mountains.
However, the Vivoactive 4 is also a very interesting option for the road runner - you simply have to assess whether you need the training status functions or you prefer the smart watch possibilities of the Vivoactive 4.
GPS watch for outdoors
Here I include all aspects of mountain enjoyment: trail, ultratrail, climbing, hiking... In general, outdoor and mountain life. What the Anglo-Saxons understand by ".outdoor lifestyle".
What should you look for in a good outdoor GPS watch? Two things.
You must start with an outstanding battery life , as the average duration of activity when you are on the mountain or running trail is much higher than when you run on the road. Not to mention hiking, where you will be walking several hours, even for a whole day.
Second is navigation, although it will depend on whether you are going to use a handheld navigator (such as the Garmin eTrex 30x) or you are going to entrust everything to the GPS watch. In this sense Garmin has advanced several steps thanks to the inclusion of maps that, beyond showing you a route on a map and being able to see the different intersections more clearly, perhaps the most important aspect is that it opens up a world of possibilities when navigating the route itself.
Best Outdoor GPS Watch
Garmin Fenix 6 Pro, Polar Grit X
It couldn't be otherwise. The arrival of the Garmin Fenix 6 on the market has shifted the Fenix 5 Plus from the list of recommendations. But keep in mind that if you want maps you should opt for the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro, as the normal Fenix 6 does not enjoy them.
There's only one downside: the price. But you already knew that in advance so I'm not discovering anything new to you. It's an expensive watch, mainly because Garmin knows that rivals cannot offer something similar.
Extended battery life, music playback, wireless NFC payments, larger screen reducing the edge of the watch... practically anything you can think of, you're going to find it in the Fenix 6 Pro one way or another.
With the new model Garmin has also added the pulse oximetry sensor, something that was exclusive to the Fenix 5X Plus. This time, for the Fenix 6X an even larger screen (supporting up to 8 screen data) and a solar-charged version have been reserved.
If they get too big on your wrist you can also opt for the Fenix 6S Pro, the same features (although with less battery life) but in smaller size.
Polar has entered the outdoor segment making some noise. The Polar Grit X is its first specific model for those who enjoy hiking or trail running, but the fact that it is its first one does not mean that it's not a watch that stands out.
Quite the contrary, because adding to everything the Polar Vantage V has to offer, the Grit X added a couple of new features called Hill Splitter and FuelWise . Both oriented to use in the outdoors or for long workouts.
The Grit X is a very well made watch, with a very good choice of materials and, above all, a fairly competitive price (given the category in which it militates).
It's not just aesthetics or materials, but also its software. Thanks to TrainingLoad Pro, training control is very intuitive, and the features of Sleep Plus Stages and Nightly Recharge are the most complete right now in terms of analysis and recording of the rest period.
It has a negative point and it's the route navigation. It is not because of the absence of maps, but because despite having received a renewal and compatibility with Komoot it remains a rather poor solution. Although if you don't usually do a lot of specific route navigation, or do it with another device, the Polar Grit X is a fantastic watch.
Other GPS watches to consider
Suunto has a problem right now with their platform. The transition from Movescount to the Suunto App is being painful, but mainly VERY SLOW. This is overly penalizing the entire range, so despite having some model that perfectly can fit within the list of recommendations, the platform and slow development is currently a toll that weighs too much.
Even so, the Suunto 9 may be a third option to consider, especially for the reduced price at which it is generally offered. Be careful, the one usually on offer is the Suunto 9 (not the Suunto 9 Baro), so it is the version without barometric altimeter so you will not have valid altitude data during your training or storm warning.
Despite all this, the Suunto 9 still stands out for its navigation. It is frankly good and has a quality performance. Although it doesn't have the maps of Garmin, it is quite a few steps above what Polar offers in its Grit X.
It may be a rival to consider above the Garmin or Polar mainly for its price. Just remember that the interesting prices are always found in the model that does not have barometric altimeter.
GPS watch for triathlon
This category is reserved for watches that allow for multisport activities, in the sense of being able to chain one after another without having to stop the workout.
When we think of a multi-sport watch we do so with triathlon in mind, but it is not only that. There are many other sports that combine several disciplines in a consecutive way, such as duathlon or aquathlon.
Therefore, they must allow you to switch from one sport profile to another and support specific swimming metrics, both in the pool and in open water. And by the way, if you are looking for a swim watch, any triathlon watch will do perfectly well with what you're looking for.
Best GPS triathlon watch
Garmin Forerunner 945
The Garmin Forerunner 945 continues to occupy the place of best triathlon watch. Aesthetically it is almost identical to the Forerunner 935, but it includes a lot more new features than its slight change of appearance may suggest.
Garmin continues to lead the triathlon segment, if you think of a triathlon watch you think of a Garmin watch. The dominance of the American brand in this segment is simply overwhelming, just take a look at any race transition to realize that Garmin is the most widely used brand in the sport.
Performance wise it is the maximum that is available today, at the same level of the new 1,500€ Garmin MARQ Athlete and very close to the Fenix 6 Pro range (although these have been receiving small updates with new features). And that's in addition to including the novelties of these (music playback, wireless payments and full maps navigation) it also has the new training metrics that, honestly, I'm using now with a lot of.
In fact, 1TP11 could be another of the recommendations as the best GPS watch for mountain, and if I do not include it is because you may prefer the more "rugged" and resistant design of the Fenix or Suunto.
Personally, when I'm not testing any other GPS watch, it's the model that takes up my wrist (replacing the Forerunner 935), and of all the ones I have, it's my choice if I have to race.
Other GPS watches to consider
Garmin Forerunner 935
It is at the same level as the Fenix 5 range, but it is a much lighter watch due to the use of less noblematerials. Oh! and it has WiFi (that in the case of the Fenix 5 you have to go to the version with sapphire glass to have it) and does not suffer the problems of connectivity with external sensors that those have.
It has been until very recently my trusted watch, the one I have used at all times when I was not testing anything else and that has only been replaced by the arrival of the 945. And at an interesting price I certainly would not rule out buying it, even though it has less features than the new model.
Best cheap GPS triathlon watch
Polar Vantage M
The Polar Vantage M repeats on the list and displaces the Garmin Forerunner 735XT that was previously in this section.
The reasons that lead me to recommend it are the same as those seen previously as a road running watch, but we must not forget that it is a complete multi-sport watch, which allows you to set up a specific triathlon profile and has support for open water swimming.
For a basic (and not so basic) use, it fits perfectly whatever your level as a triathlete is. It has more than enough battery life to withstand an Ironman and without any doubt preparing long distance races with many hours of training is where TrainingLoad Pro is going to shine more.
Garmin Swim 2
One of the surprises that 2019 left is that Garmin has resurrected its specific swimming watch. The Garmin Swim 2 is a rare avis, the only one in its kind. There are no other models that are mainly focused on swimmers since, in fact, pure swimmers are not usually watch lovers.
But of course, swimming in the pool is one thing and open water swimming is quite another. In the pool you can be guided by the clock on the wall, in open water you have no other choice than to look at your wrist.
The Garmin Swim 2 is basically a Garmin Forerunner 45 with software adapted to swimming and with some different features that are not present in any other Garmin watch. But being something exclusive comes with a price. I'm not going to lie to you, the Swim 2 is an expensive watch for what it offers.
And precisely because of that high price I never forget the other options. Basically you can use any of those that are multisport, including the Garmin Vivoactive 3.
But keep in mind that the Vivoactive 3 does not have an open water swimming profile. If you need it, I refer you back to the previous section of triathlon watches, they are the ones that usually have an open water profile with a slightly more lucid GPS management, but don't expect wonders, the performance in these conditions is quite limited by how the technology works.
So there it is, there have been a few categories I have reviewed. If you think I'm leaving something just leave your comment below and I'll add it. And remember that you can expand the information of all the models I have included in their individual reviews. Click on any of the links to access them.
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