If you're in the market for a new smartwatch, the first one that likely comes to mind is the Apple Watch, widely considered the best smartwatch available. So why look further? For reasons like functionality and price, many people seek alternatives to Apple's popular wearable. One worthy contender is Garmin's line of sport-oriented smartwatches, which are popular with a variety of athletes — runners, cyclists, triathlon competitors, and other outdoor sports aficionados — for their accuracy, precision, and durability.
Navigation is a strong suit for Garmin watches, and the company has a good reputation for longevity. Its watches stand up to wear and tear for years, and the company continues to upgrade them long after their release dates. Digital Trends has kept a close eye on a number of Garmin watches and gathered them together in this list to give you a better idea of which ones might serve your needs.
Best Garmin watch for battery life
- Mind-blowing battery life
- Outdoors-focused sports tracking
- Comfortable nylon strap
- Roomy, readable display
- No topographical maps
- Expensive cost
Why you should buy this: It's a durable outdoor watch that keeps on going.
Who it’s for: This watch caters to sports enthusiasts who want to track their performance and progress.
Why we picked the Garmin Enduro:
Battery life is the hallmark of the Garmin Enduro, Garmin's niche sports watch targeted at endurance runners, bikers, and hikers. The hybrid watch provides a 70-hour runtime on a single charge. With normal usage, the Enduro lasts more than a month between charges. Battery life is derived from an integrated solar cell embedded underneath the glass display to provide supplemental power. The Enduro's rugged stainless steel bezel and metal-polymer casing defy the elements. While it's chunky for smaller wrists, it is relatively lightweight, with the steel version weighing 71 grams. It wraps your wrist in a comfy nylon strap. The Enduro has a large, easy-to-read 1.4-inch color display, but the hues are entirely utilitarian for information or stats. The widget-based interface lets you view the weather, sunrise/sunset times, and calendar items. The Enduro may be overkill for the gym or yoga, but hardcore outdoor fanatics will appreciate its support for climbing mountains and long-distance running and hiking. Despite its fitness and outdoor features, you cannot respond to calls or notifications without an Android phone.
Garmin Venu 2 Plus
Best premium Garmin watch
- Rock-solid connectivity
- Phone calls and assistant
- Battery life
- Strong GPS
- A ton of data
- High price
- Unintuitive UI
- Missing some services
Why you should buy this: This watch will keep you on schedule and looking stylish.
Who it’s for: Business or pleasure, take your pick. This watch looks good and functions superlatively anywhere.
Why we picked the Garmin Venu 2 Plus:
Garmin's Venu 2 Plus is a really nice wearable that provides a high level of health data and functionality in an admittedly pricy $450 package. It's lovely to look at, with a bright, crisp, easy-to-read 1.3-inch AMOLED screen. The watch has a Gorilla Glass 3 face that's compatible with swimming up to 5 ATMs or about 50 meters. While somewhat thick, it's comfortable to wear. The Venu 2 Plus is the first Venu smartwatch to make and receive phone calls around the house and also control your phone’s Google assistant. Its solid connectivity over relatively long distances is convenient. Music service support includes Spotify and Deezer, though not YouTube Music.
Exercise data automatically includes a map of your route, speed, average heart rate, ascents, pace, and more. Battery life is quite robust at nine days of battery life, with a full AMOLED display and heart tracking that measures several times per second. The battery will deplete faster if you add in GPS and music streaming, but for most everyday use, this watch is a trooper.
Garmin Vivomove Sport
Best value Garmin sport watch
- Looks like a fashion watch
- Screen entirely hidden when not in use
- Gesture controls are reliable
- Comprehensive health and activity tracking
- OLED screen is low resolution
- Battery life is only average
Why you should buy this: If you want a traditional look at the office, but look forward to pickup basketball after work, this is the watch for you.
Who it’s for: Anyone who seeks a traditional-looking watch face and hands, but craves smartwatch functionality at a reasonable price.
Why we picked the Garmin Vivomove Sport:
Garmin’s 2022 Vivomove Sport is a subtle, go-anywhere hybrid smartwatch with physical hands that move around the dial and a screen that stays hidden until summoned. The dial is simple, with six hour markers and chronograph markings on the bezel. The case is made from fiber-reinforced polymer, also used for Garmin's Fenix models, with a curved glass covering over the edge. The screen comes alive when you raise your wrist or double tap on the glass, to show the time, battery status, and date. The battery lasts for five days. The OLED screen is bright, but low resolution at 72 x 154 pixels. Connection and syncing are flawless, despite lacking features like Google Assistant or Siri integration.
The Vivomove Sport features menstrual cycle tracking and pregnancy tracking, a liquid intake log, phone-based GPS tracking, location sharing, and mindful relaxation features. The Body Battery feature estimates your energy level to determine if it’s a good time to work out. The Garmin Vivomove Sport is an excellent everyday hybrid smartwatch, with comprehensive health and activity tracking features. The accurate gesture controls and bright OLED screen make it easy to use, plus it works with Android and iOS.
Garmin Quatix 6
Best Garmin watch for water sports
- Multiple fitness sensors
- Battery life
- Build quality
- Music storage
- Day to day usability
- Only one size
- No touchscreen
Why you should buy this: If you're out on the water sailing or boating, you'll always know where you are and how to get where you want to go.
Who it’s for: Anyone into maritime activities or the active lifestyle will appreciate the functionality of this watch.
Why we picked the Garmin Quatix 6:
The Garmin Quatix 6 signature Captain Blue silicone band and brushed stainless steel bezel with touches of red offer some variety to the classic all-black options. The Quatix 6 tracks steps, calories burned, sleep, and stairs climbed. It connects with either an iPhone or Android device for notifications. It also features GPS, a heart rate monitor, barometric altimeter, compass, thermometer, accelerometer, Pulse Ox, and gyroscope. What makes the Quatix 6 special isn’t that it has all of those sensors, though, but the fact it's customized for seafarers. You'll always know where you are with coastal charts and inland maps. Its preloaded apps specialize in boating and fishing, as well as workouts. You can sail for up to two weeks on a single charge in smartwatch mode. The Quatix 6 also comes in a titanium version, which features a sapphire crystal lens, titanium bezel and band, and a slightly lower weight.
Garmin Vívomove HR Sport
Best value Garmin watch
- Strong battery life
- Great activity tracking
- Smart features
- No built-in music service
Why you should buy this: It's a budget watch in price only.
Who it’s for: Anyone looking for a capable sports watch with extensive features that doesn't cost a fortune.
Why we picked the Garmin Vivomove HR Sport:
The Vívomove HR Sport is a stylish hybrid touchscreen smartwatch with precision analog hands that show the time and dynamically move when you swipe through your messages, heart rate, and other screens. Its style fits into the office or any sports you're into. Use it to count your steps or track your calories and stress level. It estimates heart rate with Garmin's Elevate heart rate technology and features monitoring tools like a relaxation timer, advanced sleep monitoring with REM sleep, steps, calories, distance, heart rate, intensity minutes, and VO2 levels. The battery lasts up to five days in smart mode and up to two more weeks in watch mode with only hands indicating the time. You can connect with smart features like auto uploads, smart notifications, and music controls. The Vívomove HR Sport also works on Android and iOS and has 50-meter water resistance.
Garmin Forerunner 645 Music
Best Garmin watch for soundtracks
- Offline music playback
- Extensive fitness tracking capabilities
- Doesn’t require a tethered smartphone for its full features
- 5- to 7-day battery life
- Buckle showed wear and tear after two weeks
Why you should buy this: This standalone watch caters to folks who move from home to office to store to gym, providing an array of everyday capabilities.
Who it’s for: Music lovers who want to hear their tunes anywhere, anytime.
Why we picked the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music:
If you're running with tunes in your head, you will appreciate the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music, which lets you download songs to your watch with playlists from your Spotify, Amazon Music, or Deezer subscription. Among this watch's major selling points is syncing music from select streaming services for offline listening during your routine. It also facilitates the Garmin Pay contactless payment feature, so you can use your watch for purchases when paired with supported cards from participating banks. It supports many advanced running dynamics, including speed and distance, stride length, cadence, vertical ratio, ground contact time, and balance. For swimming, it tracks laps, distance, stroke count, and lap pace. Garmin rates the Forerunner 645 with its silicone strap as waterproof to 50 meters. The battery lasts up to seven days in smartwatch mode, but only five hours in GPS mode with music.
Garmin Fenix 6S Pro
Best small Garmin watch
- Slimmed-down design
- Altitude-savvy pacing data
- Extended battery life
- Easy-to-use interface
- On the heavy side
Why you should buy this: It may be small in size, but it's huge when it comes to fitness features.
Who it’s for: Anyone looking for an unobtrusive, reasonably priced fitness watch.
Why we picked the Garmin Fenix 6S Pro:
The Fenix 6S Pro is the smallest watch in Garmin’s Fenix lineup, measuring 42mm for the case and weighing 61 grams. It is slimmer and lighter than previous Fenix watches, but it is still a rugged watch. When you first wear the Fenix 6S, you can feel the weight of the watch on your wrist, but it’s not so heavy that it’s burdensome; in fact, it’s quite comfortable. The Fenix 6S Pro is an adventure watch, so it also attends to the wellness of the outdoorsy and physically active. You get all the major metrics like sleep stage tracking, stress monitoring, and pulse ox, as well as daily respiration tracking and sweat loss monitoring during workouts. The 6S Pro has a compact design, refined interface, and useful features that make it attractive to folks looking for a fitness watch with a strong outdoor focus.
Best rugged Garmin watch
- Plenty of outdoors features
- Rugged design
- Low-resolution display
- No third-party apps
Why you should buy this: This watch stands up to extreme terrain, harsh climate, and uncertain circumstances at a reasonable price.
Who it’s for: Anyone venturing out into a threatening environment can count on a military standard casing that won't break down.
Why we picked the Garmin Instinct GPS Watch:
The Garmin Instinct is for the hardcore of whatever activity you're into. This rugged GPS watch — which aligns with U.S. Military standard 810G for thermal, shock, and water resistance up to 100 meters — is built for tough environments. It features a three-axis compass, a barometric altimeter, and multiple global navigation satellite systems like GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo to track your challenging path. You can also use this watch to monitor estimated heart rate, activity, and stress, and train with preloaded activity profiles. When paired with a compatible smartphone, you can connect with notifications and automatic data uploads to the Garmin Connect fitness community. A TracBack feature helps you navigate your route so you don't get lost. The Instinct's battery lasts up to 14 days in smartwatch mode and up to 40 hours in UltraTrac battery saver mode.
Garmin Forerunner 945
Best Garmin watch for runners
- Packs a ton of features into a compact watch
- Onboard maps ensure you won’t get lost
- Pulse Oximeter aids in acclimation
- 24/7 heart rate monitoring with stress mentoring
- Music including Spotify and Deezer
- Strap is difficult to remove
- Limited ability to respond to notifications
Why you should buy this: Runners and other athletes on the go will appreciate the watch's GPS orientation.
Who it’s for: Hardcore athletes in any sport or training mode.
Why we picked the Garmin Forerunner 945 GPS Watch:
The Garmin Forerunner 945 features an always-on, 1.2-inch, 240 x 240-pixel display, meaning you’ll always be able to see your data during your training sessions. This watch tracks a variety of training metrics, including Vo2 Max and training status, altitude and heat acclimatization, training load focus, recovery time, and aerobic and anaerobic training thresholds. The Forerunner 945 is a true multi-sport watch, preloaded with 30 indoor and outdoor sports. Options range from running to skiing and just about everything in between. To provide some inspiring music while you train, the Forerunner 945 has you covered. It’s compatible with Spotify, Amazon Music, and Deezer, meaning all your favorite tracks and playlists can come along for the ride, which means you can leave your bulky smartphone behind. It also features Garmin Pay, just in case you need some mid-workout fuel to keep you going. It also includes full-color mapping, so if you find yourself off-route, you can easily find your way home. The battery lasts up to two weeks in smartwatch mode and up to 60 hours in UltraTrac mode.
Garmin Forerunner 45S
Best Garmin watch for newcomers
- Color display
- Accurate GPS tracking
- New sports modes and metrics
- 5-button navigation
- Two sizes for different wrists
- No interchangeable bands
- Display may be prone to scratching
- No advanced running metrics
Why you should buy this: This is a simple watch to use, yet it covers way more than the basics for extensive multi-sport functionality.
Who it’s for: People who are new to smartwatches will do well starting off with the Garmin Forerunner 45S.
Why we picked the Garmin Forerunner 45S:
Forerunner 45S is an entry-level sports watch. Everything is geared towards casual runners who want to improve their fitness but don’t want to crunch numbers. The watch measures all the metrics you need in a running watch including distance, pace, speed, cadence, calories burned, and heart rate. New to the model is a V02 max calculation that approximates your cardiovascular fitness level, like those on Garmin’s other Forerunner watches. These metrics are easy to understand and easy to track. The Forerunner 45S tracks your health and wellness, a useful complement to the running metrics. The heart rate sensor tracks your heart rate 24/7 allowing you to monitor your resting heart rate and calculate your stress level throughout the day. The Forerunner 45S also tracks your sleep and breaks down your sleep into stages: Deep, light, REM, and awake.
Garmin Vívoactive 4
Best Garmin watch for athletic instruction
- Great exercise tracking
- Music streaming from watch
- Stats galore
- Music integration a bit user unfriendly
- No condition monitoring
Why you should buy this: This watch offers unique fitness assistance in helping you get and stay in shape.
Who it’s for: Folks looking to deep track their fitness routines.
Why we picked the Garmin Vivoactive 4:
The Garmin Vivoactive 4 not only monitors several critical biometrics — like your energy levels, Pulse Ox, respiration, menstrual cycle, stress, sleep, heart rate, and hydration — but it also functions as a virtual coach. The smartwatch uses compelling animations to coach users on how to safely do different movements by sharing the proper form for each exercise. The Vivoactive provides users with a host of workouts ranging from strength training to yoga poses. Overall, there are 20 sports apps to choose from, which include both indoor and outdoor activities. The Vivoactive 4 also supports apps like Spotify, Amazon Music, and Deezer, so you’ll be able to work out with your favorite playlists. We just recommend that you keep your wireless earbuds nearby, so you can listen without your smartphone.
If you decide you want to bring your phone along, then rest assured with Vivoactive 4’s added safety features. You can use incident detection and real-time tracking to stay on top of where your phone is. Users also have access to thousands of free watch faces, apps, and widgets through the Connect IQ store. The smartwatch has a battery life of up to eight days in smartwatch mode and up to six hours in GPS and music mode. The Vívoactive 4 is available in two sizes — 40mm and 45mm.
Some do. Devices like Garmin Vivoactive 4 have a speaker and microphone function so you can answer calls without using your smartphone. For this to happen, make sure you have the right settings turned on. Open the Garmin Connect app, select Devices, tap the name of your smartwatch, and turn on notifications. You get three options: All notifications, Calls Only, and Calls and Texts. If you only want to answer calls on the go, choose #2, but if you'd like to see both calls and texts, choose #3. This way you can use your Garmin smartwatch for calling.
It's tempting to buy the best-looking watch from a selection, but this isn't always the most suitable choice. If you truly want to make the most out of your smartwatch, we recommend prioritizing specs. Think: Which features do you need for your daily fitness lifestyle? For instance, if you spend a lot of time outdoors, rugged smartwatches like the Garmin Instinct could be a good option for you. Similarly, if you're quite new to the world of smartwatches and just want an affordable option to test the waters, go for models like the Garmin Forerunner 45s which are easy on the wallet but also offer great functions for a beginner.
As more and more companies enter the field of smartwatches and fitness trackers, users are treated to new models with super-advanced features. This sounds great in theory, but not all of us actually use those high-end features. For example, users who don't frequently participate in sports don't need so many levels of data analysis about their performance. In fact, having too much data can make it difficult to understand what's happening, especially if you're a beginner. That's why we recommend making a list of the daily activities you do and checking them against your desired features to understand if you truly need a smartwatch with the most advanced features.
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