How to Choose the Right GPS Watch

How Much Are You Willing to Pay?

The least expensive GPS watches start at around $100 and can run as high as $500 or more. The cost of is typically tied to the number of features in the watch.

More: Is Your GPS Watch Accurate? 

While it varies by individual watch, these features are commonly found in each price range:

  • $100 to $150: These tend to be bare minimum watches that only track time, distance, speed, pace and calories. Many are not compatible with accessories like a heart rate monitor. And the least expensive models cannot download workouts to be analyzed on a computer.
  • $150 to $250: These models often support additional accessories including heart rate monitors, foot pods, and bike speed and cadence sensors. Many can also be programed with interval workouts.
  • $250 and up: GPS watches in this price range are often made for specific activities. Some are aimed at runners while others are equipped with triathlete-friendly features. Many also have long-lasting batteries and come with advanced training tools to program complex workouts. 

What Features Do You Want?

There are the four different types of features to consider on a GPS watch:

1. Hardware: 

  • GPS watch battery life varies from 5 hours to over 50 hours. Built-in sensors such as altimeters and thermometers are sometimes included. Screen size varies as well. Smaller screens make for a lighter watch while larger but heavier screens can display more information.
2. Data tracking: 
  • This is the information a watch displays. It includes distance, speed and pace, elevation, heart rate and calories. Some models can track temperature, measure vertical speed (how fast you are ascending or descending), and count swim strokes and laps.

3. Training Alerts and Tools: 

  • GPS watches perform different functions with the data they track. For example, a GPS watch can be programmed to automatically mark a lap every mile and alert you with a beep at each lap. Other features include vibration alerts, on-screen maps, programmable interval workouts and auto pause (this stops the timer when you are not moving).

4. Accessories:

  • Different types of accessories include: heart rate monitors, foot pods that track cadence and measure distance on a treadmill, bike speed and cadence sensors and quick-release mounts that make it easy to move the watch between wrist and bicycle handlebars.

Some GPS watch companies have features unique to their brand. Garmin is well known for their Virtual Partner series of training tools. This function lets you race against a pre-set pace which is displayed on the watch as a "virtual" competitor. Polar has many heart rate-related features and Magellan is known for their highly-customizable screens.

A GPS watch can become your best training partner if you pick a model that matches your needs.

More: How to Run at the Right Pace

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