Garmin watches grace the arms of professional and amateur athletes alike. The company packs a wide range of health sensors into their smartwatches to optimize the wearer’s training efforts. Models track your runs, let you pre-plan your route, and offer cues as you go with detailed maps. And Garmins keep tabs on far more than your heartbeat and steps, measuring cadence and blood oxygen levels, and sending alerts to your emergency contact if it suspects a fall or accident.
Most importantly, Garmin watches are known for their accuracy, whether you’re wearing a basic model or a top-of-the-line adventure watch. Garmin uses a three-satellite system to maintain a GPS lock, so if you lose your connection with one satellite, there are two more to keep the watch updated. The company has an extensive line, and we’ve put together a list of the best Garmin watches, with models for the competitive athlete and the relaxed weekend warrior.
— Best Overall: Garmin Forerunner 245 Music
— Best for Running: Garmin Fenix 6 Pro
— Best for Hiking and Outdoors: Garmin Fenix 7S Sapphire Solar
— Best for Triathletes: Garmin Instinct 2 Solar
— Best Budget: Garmin Forerunner 45
How We Picked the Best Garmin Watches
Garmin offers a few features that are standard across most of their models, like incident detection, step tracking, and heart-rate monitoring. We looked past those kinds of features to the watch’s size and weight, ease of use, advanced tracking features, and premium integrations to determine the best Garmin watches.
Size and Weight: Garmin offers several sizes and feature options in their smartwatch lines. Models in different sizes and weights give users a chance to find a model that fits their wrist and workout style.
Ease of Use: Touchscreens and easy navigation entered into our considerations. Even if the watch did not have a touchscreen, it should be fairly easy to navigate through the most-used menus.
Advanced Tracking Features: Advanced tracking features include navigation or course assistance, mapping, and workout suggestions or help.
Premium Integrations: Not everyone wants or needs premium integrations. However, for those that do, we looked for watches that could integrate with specialized tracking apps for sports like surfing or golf.
Best Garmin Watches: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Overall: Garmin Forerunner 245 Music
Why It Made The Cut: The Forerunner 245 Music has a few advanced features like music (no need for your phone) but balances them with a relatively affordable price, making it the best Garmin watch.
— Screen Size: 1.2 inches
— GPS Tracking: Yes
— Weight: 38.5 grams (1.36 ounces)
— Accurate GPS tracking
— Course guidance
— Large, bright display
— Plays music without a phone
— Accurate tracking with a few advanced features
— No touchscreen display
— Some menus are difficult to navigate
The Garmin Forerunner 245 Music balances features with price. It also has a few advanced features like the music option (it’s also available without the music option). It stores up to 500 songs, so you can go for a run without bringing your phone.
Health monitoring is advanced with the help of the Connect IQ app. Using the information collected by the watch, it can calculate your fitness age, energy levels, and can send alerts if it detects heart rate abnormalities.
Of course, it does the basics incredibly well, like heart-rate monitoring, distance, and steps. However, the 245 Music goes even further, offering interval training, downloadable workouts with guidance, and training status, load, and effect information.
Course guidance is one of the premium features that runners, even amateurs love. You can enter your course or workout before leaving the house, and the watch offers prompts so you don’t get lost.
While the Forerunner 245 Music is the best choice for the vast majority of people, it does have its issues. It doesn’t have a touchscreen, which is becoming more standard with newer models. Additionally, some of the menus can be difficult to navigate.
Best for Running: Garmin Fenix 6 Pro
Why It Made The Cut: Loaded with features, the Fenix 6 Pro provides all the stats needed to optimize performance and packs an impressive battery life, making it the best Garmin running watch.
— Screen Size: 1.3 inches
— GPS Tracking: Yes
— Weight: 85 grams or 2.99 ounces (steel), 72 grams or 2.54 ounces (titanium)
— Easy to use
— Offers lots of storage
— Packed with high-end features
— Outstanding battery life
— Multiple sizes
— Bulky and heavy
The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro is an improvement on the Fenix 5 in battery life and storage, yet it’s slightly smaller. The size difference is a good thing because one of the few downsides of the Fenix 5 was the bulk and weight. While the Fenix 6 Pro is still on the heavy side, it’s smaller than the previous version but has better battery life and storage.
Keep in mind that a watch with advanced integrations, storage, and battery life is going to be larger and heavier than average. It does come in three sizes, so you can reduce the bulk a bit by choosing a smaller size.
The 6 Pro offers a long list of integrations, from Surfline sessions to PacePro and ClimbPro to Trendline. It can load ski resorts, golf courses, and provide animated workouts on the watch face. Mountain bike metrics, running metrics, surf metrics — the Fenix 6 Pro tracks them all and a wide range of other activities and has features to optimize performance in each.
Battery life is a huge pro. It can traditionally charge but also includes solar charging to keep the battery up during extended workouts. The ‘expedition’ mode can extend battery life up to 46 days. However, there are several battery modes so you can adjust the battery use according to your needs.
The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro may be bulky, and the price could make you wince. However, if you appreciate a watch with plenty of integrations and the ability to last longer than you, it doesn’t disappoint.
Best for Hiking and Outdoors: Garmin Fenix 7S Sapphire Solar
Why It Made The Cut: The Fenix 7S Sapphire Solar can last for days, is packed with integrations and features, including a stamina mode that can prevent overexertion, making it the best Garmin watch for outdoors.
— Screen Size: 1.3 inches
— GPS Tracking: Yes
— Weight: 58 grams (2 ounces) to 96 grams (3.4 ounces), depending on which model
— Stamina mode keeps track of exertion
— Sport-specific metrics for many activities
— Solar charging extends battery life
— Excellent satellite connections
— Cannot take calls or send texts
Outdoor adventurers, prepare yourselves for all that the Garmin Fenix 7S Sapphire Solar has to offer. First, the Fenix 7 line comes in several configurations that vary in size and weight and, sometimes, features. But for those of you with smaller wrists who want a powerful watch with less bulk, you can find one in the Fenix 7S lineup.
This powerhouse of a timepiece does a little of everything, including sport-specific metrics for a very long list of activities from surfing to golf and skiing to traditional smartwatch sports like running and cycling. The Sapphire Solar version also includes solar charging to extend the life of the watch.
The Fenix 7S features an easy-to-use touchscreen and excellent satellite connections for improved accuracy and mapping. We love the onboard maps and option to load maps of golf courses, ski resorts, and other venues.
One of our favorite features is the real-time stamina tool. First, you have to establish your VO2Max using the app. From there, the watch uses that information to predict your stamina, as in how much farther you can go at your current pace. It’s a lifesaver during endurance training or events because you can adjust your pace to make sure you’re still upright at the end.
Get ready for sticker shock with this watch and realize that it cannot take or send calls and texts.
Best for Triathletes: Garmin Instinct 2 Solar
Why It Made The Cut: The Instinct 2 comes in several size options and offers advanced training features for running, cycling, and swimming, making it the best Garmin watch for triathlons.
— Screen Size: 1.3 inches
— GPS Tracking: Yes
— Weight: 52 grams (1.83 grams)
— Multiple size options, including a smaller size
— Impressive battery life
— Slim but durable design
— Advanced training tools
— Excellent GPS tracking
— Poor map display
— No touchscreen
The Garmin Instinct 2 Solar jumps ahead of the triathlon watch competition thanks to its practical, easy-to-use design and rugged build. The battery life alone, which can go on for days thanks to the solar charging, makes it an excellent tool for triathlon training or competition. That rugged build can take a few falls and spills that may happen with off-trail sports. Despite its durable design, it’s surprisingly slim, especially considering the number of features packed inside.
The Instinct 2 offers Garmin’s impressive accuracy when it comes to location, heart rate, and other important factors. However, the map display is basic, which saves battery life but lags behind more expensive course-mapping models. Besides that, there are very few weaknesses.
This model can estimate your VO2Max, fitness age, and estimated recovery time. The Instinct 2 also has advanced training tools for the big three — running, cycling, and swimming like the training status, load, and effect feature, which estimates aerobic or anaerobic workouts. These features help you adjust your training schedule and load to maximize every session.
We only wish it had a touchscreen. Instead, the Instinct 2 has five manual buttons to scroll through menus.
Best Budget: Garmin Forerunner 45
Why It Made The Cut: The Garmin Forerunner 45 keeps tracking simple but accurate, making it the best budget Garmin watch.
— Screen Size: 1.04 inches
— GPS Tracking: Yes
— Weight: 32 grams (1.12 ounces) small; or 36 grams (1.27 ounces) large
— Accurate GPS tracking
— 13 hours of battery life in GPS mode
— Lightweight for running
— Includes adaptive training plans with guidance
— Music control (phone needed)
— Limited sports tracking
The Garmin Forerunner 45 is one of Garmin’s entry-level running watches. It's well known for its accuracy, simplicity, and light weight. Runners can use Garmin’s adaptive training plans and receive guidance throughout your workout on the watch.
While it doesn't have Garmin’s most impressive battery life, in standard mode, it can last 7 days and up to 13 hours in GPS mode. One of our favorite features is the music control. It doesn't store songs as some of the more expensive Garmin watches do. Instead, it syncs with your phone and lets you control your music with your watch, so you don’t have to mess with your phone while you run.
At its heart, the Garmin Forerunner 45 is a running watch, which means it's a little short on tracking other sports. It's got the basics but not much more.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Garmin Watch
How do you want to use your smartwatch? Are you looking for an advanced fitness tracker? Will uploading workouts and using the watch to prompt your next move be helpful? What health stats do you want to monitor? Do you need a waterproof Garmin watch? Think about your style too. Stylish Garmin watches look at home in the boardroom, whereas others are sporty and rugged.
The answers to these questions and a good look at your lifestyle can help you narrow down your choices. You also need to consider the kinds of activities you do. Those who stick mostly to running don’t need a watch that automatically offers insights into 50 types of exercise. The best smartwatches get big the more features they have packed inside. Consider how big (and heavy) of a device you want strapped to your wrist.
Battery life is another feature that can support your life/workout style. Backcountry adventurers may be out of range for hours (or days) but still need features on their smartwatch. Several Garmin watches have solar charging, extending the battery life by days in the right mode. Others may only offer six or seven hours of power if power-sucking features like GPS and music are running.
GPS tracking is one of the most attractive features of any smartwatch. Tracking may mean the watch records your workout and lets you view it when you're done. Others let you upload maps and plan your route before leaving the house, offering course guidance as you go. Consequently, you need to consider the kind of GPS features you need and want.
Several of the Garmin GPS watches are able to play music, too. These watches sync with Spotify and can hold hundreds of songs. Less sophisticated but still good Garmin watches let you control the music on your phone. The watch can then connect to wireless headphones and play music while you run. This feature lets you leave the watch at home.
Features That Improve Performance
Do you want to take calls and send texts like a traditional smartwatch, or do you want a Garmin watch that’s designed for advanced fitness tracking with third-party integrations? You can use a Garmin watch to monitor your heart rate, get alerts of an abnormal heart rate, or get insights into your fitness age. Many Garmin watches also contain incident detection. If the watch detects a fall or accident, it notifies the emergency contacts on your phone.
Some Garmin watches also:
— Provide an energy score to help you adjust your workout schedule
— Send relaxation reminders
— Monitor pulse blood oxygen saturation
— Track splits
— Offer workout guidance or suggestions
Q: How much do Garmin watches cost?
Garmin watches cost anywhere from around $150 to over $1,500 for a premium model. Garmin’s budget watches still offer excellent accuracy and battery life, though they’re not loaded with as many advanced features. Their premium watches contain a long list of recognized activities and training insights and may have incredibly long battery lives thanks to solar charging.
Q: How many years does a Garmin watch last?
A Garmin watch’s life depends on how it’s used. When you tap it for mapping, music, and other advanced features, your Garmin will wear out faster than one that’s worn as a fashion watch and used for light daily exercise. On average, a Garmin watch should last three or four years with regular use. You may get more or less than that depending on your activities.
Q: Do Garmin watches measure blood pressure?
No, Garmin watches do not measure blood pressure. However, there are models that offer many health-monitoring features, such as resting heart rate, respiration rate, pulse ox blood oxygen saturation, energy monitoring, and estimated stress levels.
Q: Does Garmin cost monthly?
Many Garmin features are free and come as a standard package with the watch and Connect IQ app. There are five subscription options available to unlock some premium features. Each subscription is only available with certain watches. For example, the LTE subscription is only available for the forerunner 945 LTE. The subscription allows you to leave your phone at home but still receive phone calls and texts. Other subscriptions provide added satellite network access or specialized features for certain populations like golfers or truckers.
Q: How accurate are Garmin watches?
Garmin watches are known for their accuracy. Their GPS system uses three satellites to stay on course. They all rate well when it comes to heart rates, cadence, and distance accuracy. While there may be some variation among the many health features on each model, overall, Garmin watches perform well.
Q: Does Garmin work with iPhone?
Garmin watches do work with iPhones. But first, you have to download the Connect IQ app and connect the watch. However, there are a few Garmin features that are not compatible with an iPhone.
The Forerunners stay at the front of the pack, with the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music taking the lead. This watch offers the best mix of premium and advanced features for the price. It doesn’t hurt that it can store up to 500 songs so you can exercise phone-free. However, if you’re looking for an entry-level model, the Garmin Forerunner 45 will keep you on track.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.