Best Garmin Watches in 2022: Which GPS Tracker is Right for You?

man running with a garmin watch


One of the beautiful things about running is its simplicity. Don a pair of shorts, a t-shirt, and a decent pair of running shoes, and you're all set. While some might simply head out the door and run without caring about distance, time, or pace, for most runners those metrics are a key part of the sport.

It's true that a GPS watch isn't strictly necessary, especially for beginners, but if you've committed to the sport, using one can make your workouts more fun and much more effective. So, if you're in the market, you'll definitely want to consider a Garmin watch. Garmin has been the industry leader in GPS navigation and wearable fitness tech for more than three decades.

While Garmin watches have long been considered essential gear for many runners, in recent years, the company has expanded its product line for athletes across a wide range of sports.

We researched nine Garmin watches, each with unique features designed for a specific type of user. With so many options to choose from, there's bound to be a Garmin watch that's right for you.

Why Trust Us?

The ACTIVE Reviews Team is made up of fitness experts that include athletes, coaches, and certified trainers who bring their years of knowledge and experience to each review. More importantly, each member of our team is a fitness enthusiast. Fitness may be our job, but it is also our passion. Therefore, we strive to bring you products that we trust and would personally use.

Best Garmin Watches in 2022 – Our Top Picks

By clicking on the product links in this article, we may receive a commission fee at no cost to you, the reader.

Best Overall Garmin Watch - Garmin Fenix 7

Garmin Fenix 7

SPECS

  • Face size: 3 options: 42mm, 47mm, 51mm
  • Touch screen: Yes
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, ANT+, WiFi
  • Operating system compatibility: iOS, Android (see compatible devices here)
  • Global positioning: GPS, GLONAS, Galileo, Compass
  • Band material: Silicone
  • Battery life: Smartwatch only = 18 days; GPS = 57 hours; GPS + Music = 10 hours
  • Memory/History: 16 GB
  • Music storage: Up to 2,000 songs
  • Sleep tracking: Yes, advanced metrics including sleep score and insights

Check Price

If you're looking for the one watch that can do it all, the Fenix 7 is it. This Garmin watch combines the company's best technology for your indoor workouts and all your outdoor adventures, making it our overall Garmin pick.

The Garmin Fenix 7 is ideal for multi-sport athletes who want to track splits across a number of different activities in a single workout or event. But wait! It's also got specific features for skiing, golfing, cycling, surfing, or just about any other adventure sport you might choose.

As their flagship all-in-one, the Garmin Fenix 7 offers top-tier navigation and can track just about any physiological metric you can think of. While some users find the watch to be a bit bulky, that's largely due to its durable design, amazing battery life, and the fact that it's absolutely loaded with features. If you're the sort of person who loves being active in many ways, the Fenix 7 could be the Garmin watch for you.

PROS

  • Touch screen and button navigation
  • Advanced wrist-based heart rate, pulse, and blood oxygen sensors
  • Free downloadable maps
  • Free access to Garmin Connect and Garmin Coach
  • Great battery life, even when using GPS

CONS

  • Expensive
  • At the time of publication, limited color options available for immediate purchase

BUY: Garmin Fenix 7

Best Garmin Watch for Battery Life - Garmin Instinct Solar

Garmin Instinct Solar

SPECS

  • Face size: 45mm
  • Touch screen: No
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, ANT+
  • Operating system compatibility: iOS, Android (see compatible devices here)
  • Global positioning: GPS, GLONAS, Galileo, Compass
  • Band material: Silicone
  • Battery life: Smartwatch only = 54 days; With GPS = 145 hours
  • Memory/History: 16 MB
  • Music storage: None, controls music through your smartphone
  • Sleep tracking: Yes, advanced metrics including sleep score and insights

Check Price

Explorers, backpackers, and ultra-endurance athletes will want to check out the Garmin Instinct Solar, our top pick when it comes to battery life. Boasting up to 54 days between charges in smartwatch mode and 145 hours in GPS mode, this Garmin watch surpasses the others at similar price points. Incredibly, in Battery Saver Watch Mode and under the right outdoor sunlight conditions, you could theoretically wear this watch continuously without ever having to take it off to charge it.

Battery life isn't the only impressive thing about the Garmin Instinct Solar, though. With military-grade construction, three different GPS sensors, robust smartphone connectivity, and tracking for a host of indoor and outdoor activities, this Garmin watch can handle whatever you throw its way.

PROS

  • Long battery life
  • Durable, built to military 810 standards
  • One of the more affordable Garmin GPS watches
  • Free pairing with Garmin Connect and Garmin Coach
  • Trackback feature ensures you always find your way back

CONS

  • No storage means no capability to download maps or music
  • Button navigation only, no touch screen
  • Only 1 size to choose from

BUY: Garmin Instinct Solar

Best Garmin Watch for Athletes - Garmin Forerunner 935

Garmin forerunner 935

SPECS

  • Face size: 47mm
  • Touch screen: No
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, ANT+, WiFi
  • Operating system compatibility: iOS, Android (see compatible devices here)
  • Global positioning: GPS, GLONAS, Galileo, Compass
  • Band material: Silicone
  • Battery life: Smartwatch only = 2 weeks; With GPS = 24 hours
  • Memory/History: 64 MB
  • Music storage: None, controls music through your smartphone
  • Sleep tracking: Yes, Advanced metrics including sleep score and insights

Check Price

Athletes looking for advanced performance metrics will be impressed by the Garmin Forerunner 935. This Garmin watch provides the necessary data to help runners and multisport athletes train and perform at their best. This smartwatch gives the wearer feedback on cadence, stride length, ground contact time and balance, vertical oscillation, and vertical ratio in real-time. Plus, its lasting battery life means you can train longer between charges.

As with the other Garmin watches on our list, the Forerunner 935 offers top-tier navigation, smart device capabilities, and health tracking that monitors your movement all day and your sleep at night. What the Forerunner 935 lacks in extra functions—there is no touchscreen or music storage—it makes up for with training, planning, and analysis features. So, if you're looking to achieve a new PR during that next road race or triathlon, this Garmin watch is worth a closer look.

PROS

  • Lightweight
  • Has downloadable watch faces and easy to swap straps
  • Unisex design
  • Advanced training metrics
  • Free pairing with Garmin Connect and Garmin Coach

CONS

  • No storage means no capability to download maps or music
  • Button navigation only, no touch screen
  • Only 1 size to choose from

BUY: Garmin Forerunner 935

Best Garmin Watch for Beginners - Garmin Venu SQ

Garmin Venu SQ

SPECS

  • Face size: 40mm
  • Touch screen: Yes
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, ANT+
  • Operating system compatibility: iOS, Android (see compatible devices here)
  • Global positioning: GPS, GLONAS, Galileo, Compass
  • Band material: Silicone
  • Battery life: Smartwatch only = 6 days; With GPS = 14 hours
  • Memory/History: 200 hours of activity data
  • Music storage: Music edition stores 500 songs, basic edition controls music through your smartphone
  • Sleep tracking: Yes, advanced metrics including sleep score and insights

Check Price

Ideal for beginners, the Garmin Venu SQ is simple but powerful and so much more than just an activity tracker. It comes with Garmin's superb GPS navigation and more than 20 indoor and outdoor sports. Even better, beginners will love the preloaded workout plans. What could be easier than tapping your wrist and following along to get a great Pilates, yoga, cardio, or strength workout?

The lightweight—under 38 grams—and sleek Venu SQ is also among Garmin's most affordable watches. Or, for an extra fifty dollars, you can upgrade to the Music Edition that has a storage capacity of up to 500 songs. That's an excellent value for a watch that accurately tracks your position, heart rate, pulse, and oxygen level, while you groove to the music, all without having to bring your smartphone along.

PROS

  • Easy to use, yet feature-rich
  • Basic model is extremely affordable
  • Size and color options
  • Smartphone notifications and Garmin Pay from your wrist
  • Free pairing with Garmin Connect and Garmin Coach

CONS

  • Basic model size and aesthetics are geared more toward women
  • Larger sizes, round face only available in more expensive premium models
  • Voice functionality with premium models only

BUY: Garmin Venu SQ

Best Lightweight Garmin Watch - Garmin Vivosmart 4

Garmin viviosmart 4

SPECS

  • Face size: 15mm x 10.5mm
  • Touch screen: Yes
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth Smart, ANT+
  • Operating system compatibility: iOS, Android (see compatible devices here)
  • Global positioning: None
  • Band material: Silicone
  • Battery life: Up to 7 days
  • Memory/History: 7 timed activities, up to 14 days of activity data
  • Music storage: None, controls music through your smartphone
  • Sleep tracking: Yes, advanced metrics including sleep score and insights

Check Price

Weighing just over half an ounce, it's easy to see why the Garmin Vivosmart 4 is our pick for the best lightweight Garmin watch. At just $129.99, it's also the most affordable—but Garmin has packed a lot of functionality into this diminutive device.

When you wake up each morning, you can check out your sleep data from the night before, then see what your personalized step goal is for the day. The wrist-based heart rate and Pulse Ox sensors also help you keep tabs on your stress levels and can even prompt you with a reminder to relax.

With no GPS or storage on board, you'll have to rely on your paired smartphone for location tracking, maps, and music, but the Bluetooth Smart capability makes that a breeze. If you've been sitting too long, the Vivosmart 4 can prompt you to get up and move, and when you do, Garmin's Move IQ system ensures that you get credit for that workout, even if you forget to tap the start button. While serious athletes will likely want a more robust GPS watch, the Vivosmart 4 works well for the average fitness enthusiast.

PROS

  • Lightweight, sleek design
  • Very affordable
  • Wrist-based heart rate, oxygen, and stress tracking
  • Free pairing with Garmin Connect
  • 2 wrist strap lengths fit wrist circumferences from 4.8"-8.4"

CONS

  • No onboard GPS or music storage
  • Not as many preloaded activities as other Garmin watches

BUY: Garmin Vivosmart 4

Best Stylish Garmin Watch - Garmin Forerunner 45

Garmin watches

SPECS

  • Face size: 2 options: 39mm, 42mm
  • Touch screen: No
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth (via Garmin Connect App), ANT+
  • Operating system compatibility: iOS, Android (see compatible devices here)
  • Global positioning: GPS, GLONAS, Galileo
  • Band material: Silicone
  • Battery life: Smartwatch only = 18 days; GPS = 57 hours; GPS + Music = 10 hours
  • Memory/History: 80 hours of activity data
  • Music storage: None, controls music through your smartphone
  • Sleep tracking: Yes, advanced metrics including sleep score and insights

Check Price

Garmin's workhorse GPS watch, the Forerunner 45, ticks all the boxes for runners or cyclists who want to look stylish while tracking metrics. Although it's considerably less bulky than the other running watches in their Forerunner series, the Forerunner 45 has the same ultra-accurate, three-factor GPS navigation sensors and smart device connectivity as the other Garmin watches on our list.

With two size options, downloadable watch faces, and five stylish colors to choose from, the Garmin Forerunner 45 is as much a fashion piece as a training companion. But this Garmin watch is more than just a pretty face—out on the road or the trail, the Forerunner 45 provides precise time, distance, pace, and route information, while the interval and lap functions are handy for track workouts.

PROS

  • Sleek, stylish look. Customizable watch faces.
  • Lightweight (39mm = 32g, 42mm = 36g)
  • Play music, get texts, and more when paired with a compatible smartphone
  • Free pairing with Garmin Connect and Garmin Coach
  • Affordable GPS watch

CONS

  • Smartphone pairing must go through the Garmin Connect App
  • Fewer health, activity, and indoor workout features that some other Garmin watches

BUY: Garmin Forerunner 45

Best Garmin Smartwatch - Garmin Forerunner 745

Garmin forerunner 745

SPECS

  • Face size: 43mm
  • Touch screen: No
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, ANT+, WiFi
  • Operating system compatibility: iOS, Android (see compatible devices here)
  • Global positioning: GPS, GLONAS, Galileo, Compass
  • Band material: Silicone
  • Battery life: Smartwatch only = 7 days; GPS = 16 hours; GPS + Music = 6 hours
  • Memory/History: 200 hours of activity data
  • Music storage: Up to 500 songs
  • Sleep tracking: Yes, advanced metrics including sleep score and insights

Check Price

With the Garmin Forerunner 745, you can leave your phone at home while you sweat it out at the track, trail, or pool, pay for your coffee and catch up on any emails or texts you were too busy to read—all while you jam to your favorite tunes. Those features are a few examples of why the Forerunner 745 is our pick for the Best Garmin smartwatch, but this watch is smart in many other ways, too.

With the Forerunner 745, Garmin has packed in nearly as many health and training features as the Fenix 7, but in a sleeker, more lightweight device, all with a price tag of $200 less. While it doesn't have the touchscreen or the same battery life as the Fenix 7, with up to seven days in smartwatch mode, 16 hours using GPS, or 6 hours with GPS plus music, this Garmin watch has plenty of juice for your long workouts.

Speaking of workouts, if you don't feel like running, biking, or swimming, follow along with one of the Forerunner 745's animated HIIT, yoga, Pilates, cardio, or strength workouts, courtesy of the free Garmin Connect app.

PROS

  • Garmin's lightest Forerunner watch weighs only 47 g
  • Smart features include onboard music storage, Garmin Pay, downloadable watch face options
  • Well suited for runners and triathletes, tracks tons of performance metrics
  • More affordable than the Fenix 7
  • Free pairing with Garmin Connect and Garmin Coach

CONS

  • Only comes in 1 size
  • No touch screen
  • Good value for the money, but still pricey

BUY: Garmin Forerunner 745

Best Garmin Watch for Golfers - Garmin Approach S42

Garmin Approach S42

SPECS

  • Face size: 43mm
  • Touch screen: Yes
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth smart
  • Operating system compatibility: iOS, Android (see compatible devices here)
  • Global positioning: GPS only
  • Band material: Silicone
  • Battery life: Smartwatch only = 10 days; With GPS = 15 hours
  • Memory/History: 64 MB
  • Music storage: None
  • Sleep tracking: Yes, advanced metrics including sleep score and insights

Check Price

Golfers can take their game to a new level with the Garmin Approach S42. For starters, this Garmin watch has over 42,000 US golf courses preloaded and the capability to get updates on the courses you play most. That means you'll always know the exact layout and distances for each hole on the course you're playing.

The Approach S42 takes things to a whole other level, though, by allowing golfers to track and record each long shot using Garmin's Auto Shot technology. Get even more detailed feedback on all your shots, including putts and chips shots, by pairing the watch with the optional CT10 club tracking sensors. When you reach the green, switch to Green View mode, then easily drag and drop the pin to the day's precise location, then you're all set to view the incredibly accurate Green Contour map.

The technology in Garmin's best watch for golfers is impressive, but it also looks great both on the course and back at the clubhouse. Combine that with Garmin's accurate GPS sensor, long battery life, and smart notifications, and we think you'll agree the Approach S42 is a golfer's dream.

PROS

  • A GPS watch made specifically for golfers
  • Displays yards to green, measures shot distances, has a digital scorecard complete with handicap
  • Has basic health and fitness tracking
  • Free pairing with Garmin Connect and Garmin Golf app
  • Wrist strap length and color options for men and women

CONS

  • Non-golf activity features are limited
  • Can't control music from the watch

BUY: Garmin Approach S42

Best Garmin Watch for the Outdoors - Garmin Instinct 2

Garmin Instinct2

SPECS

  • Screen size: 2 options: 40mm, 45mm
  • Touch screen: No
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, ANT+
  • Operating system compatibility: iOS, Android (see compatible devices here)
  • Global positioning: GPS, GLONAS, Galileo, Compass
  • Band material: Silicone
  • Battery life: Smartwatch only = 28 days; GPS = 30 hours; Expedition GPS Mode = 32 days
  • Memory/History: 32 MB
  • Music storage: None, controls music through your smartphone
  • Sleep tracking: Yes, includes sleep score and insights

Check Price

Here's a GPS watch built for those who love the outdoors. With its rugged construction, top-tier navigation, built-in safety features, and Expedition GPS mode battery life of up to 32 days, the Garmin Instinct 2 easily earns our pick for the best watch for the outdoors.

Whether you're mountain biking, bouldering, back-country skiing, or long-haul trekking, the Instinct 2 can track your location, alert designated contacts when it detects an incident, and lead you back home with its Trackback breadcrumb feature. But if your idea of outdoor fun looks more like a soccer match or a track workout, no problem—with over 30 preloaded sports profiles, this Garmin watch makes a great training partner for just about anyone.

The watch is available in two different sizes, a wide range of fun colors, and gives you the option of downloading the digital watch face you prefer. While there's understandably no touchscreen on this Garmin watch, you can use button navigation to receive and read texts, emails, and alerts right on your wrist. Moderately priced, we think the feature-rich Instinct 2 is of top-notch value for the money.

PROS

  • Extremely durable, thermal and shock-resistant
  • Feature-rich, great value
  • Build your own: 2 size options, customizable digital faces, QuickFit band compatible
  • Great battery life in smartwatch or GPS mode, and even better in Battery Saver or Expedition GPS mode
  • Free pairing with Garmin Connect and Garmin Coach

CONS

  • At the time of publication, limited color options in stock
  • Music controls, safety, and tracking features require you to carry a paired smartphone

BUY: Garmin Instinct 2

Why Wear a Garmin Watch?

While there certainly are many other, more affordable fitness watches on the market, this is a case of "You get what you pay for." With all of the Garmin watches on our list, what you get is a durable sports watch that also tracks your daily activities with the detail and accuracy you'd expect from an industry leader.

Track Your Daily Activity

For starters, all of Garmin's watches—from the most affordable base model to the top-tier Fenix 7—include both a state-of-the-art accelerometer and barometric altimeter to track your every movement. Far beyond basic step counting, Garmin watches count your reps during a strength workout at the gym and, using Move IQ, can detect specific activities and automatically start timing your workout.

Garmin also uses proprietary wrist-based sensors to measure your heart rate and estimate your blood oxygen saturation level. Garmin watches also keep tabs on your stress levels throughout the day by constantly measuring your heart rate and can give you "relaxation reminders" if you choose to set up that function.

Advanced sleep monitoring can help you determine which nighttime habits are helping or hurting your sleep cycles and recovery. This feature, taken together with stress, heart rate, and activity monitoring, allows Garmin watches to let you know when you've been pushing it a little too hard and need to dial down your workout or take a rest day.

Measure Distance, Time, Pace, and More

Garmin has long been a pioneer in GPS navigation, so if you're looking for a device that can accurately track your location, distance, time, and pace, why not trust the brand professional explorers have been using for decades?Of course, most of the Garmin watches on our list can give you a lot more insight than just distance, time, and pace. By combining GPS, altimeter, and accelerometer readings along with heart-rate data, these devices can help you train in the proper heart-rate zones, track your fitness levels through VO2 Max, and get an accurate estimate of how many calories you've burned during a workout.

The only watch on our list without a built-in GPS sensor is the Vivosmart 4, but by pairing it with your GPS-enabled smartphone, it does a great job of providing the basic running metrics you need.

Get Notifications from Your Smartphone

Garmin watches help you stay connected, no matter where you are. Thanks to smart notifications, you can receive and read text messages, emails, and alerts right on your wrist while active. Keep in mind that while not all the watches on our list allow wrist-based text response or call rejection, many do. Unfortunately, due to licensing restrictions, those features are only available on compatible Android devices, but not iPhones, currently.

What to Consider When Buying a Garmin Watch

With so many different features, models, and price points, it's important to decide what you want in your Garmin watch before purchasing one. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you shop.

Weight

When you are logging tons of miles out on the trail or road, every ounce of gear that you are carrying matters, especially when strapped to your wrist. Luckily, Garmin watches have come a long way in terms of weight. Gone are the days of those clunky, square devices that start to feel heavy a few miles into a run.

Nowadays, Garmin's GPS watches are sleek, lightweight, and stylish. Still, there are significant weight differences between models. Generally speaking, the more durable and feature-rich the watch, the heavier it may be. That's why it's no surprise that the heaviest device on our list is the Fenix 7, weighing in at 63 grams for the smallest size (42mm). All those bells and whistles do add up when you're counting every gram, so if weight is a concern, choose a watch with only those features you will use.

Appearance

If you're going to drop hundreds of dollars on a GPS watch, wouldn't it be nice if you could wear it when you're not working out, too? We think so, and so does Garmin. While their primary focus will always be on features and functionality, they've also thought about appearance.

Many of the watches on our list allow you to download custom digital faces and quickly swap out bands using Garmin's QuickFit system. Some were designed with everyday wear top of mind, specifically the Vivosmart 4 and the Venu SQ. If you need a watch with more robust sports capabilities, you'll have to weigh those features against appearance to arrive at the best option for you.

Battery Life

Here's another area where Garmin watches have made huge strides in recent years. You used to have to charge your GPS watch after every long run. Now, all the watches on this list can go for hours, days, or even weeks in smartwatch or GPS mode, before running out of juice.If you head out on multi-day adventures, you'll want to consider watches with Battery Saver, Expedition GPS or UltraTrac modes, such as the Fenix 7, Forerunner 745, Forerunner 935 and Instinct 2. Of course, if you'd prefer to never worry about plugging in to recharge, the Instinct Solar offers unlimited battery life when in Battery Saver Mode and exposed to sufficient sunlight for three or more hours per day.

Features

Last, but not least, you'll want to consider the features you'd like in a GPS watch. This will depend primarily on your active pursuits. Runners, cyclists, and triathletes will have different needs than hikers, golfers, skiers, and surfers. If you enjoy mixing it up, look for a Garmin watch with lots of preloaded sports profiles. The Fenix 7, Instinct Solar, and Instinct 2 are loaded.

As mentioned before, the more features in a Garmin watch, the bigger and heavier it will be, and the higher the price. So, you'll need to balance those considerations against the features you want and need.

FAQs About Garmin Watches


Are Garmin watches worth it?

If all you want is an activity tracker that counts your steps or records basic workout data, there are cheaper watches available. Also, if what you want is a smartwatch totally in sync with your smartphone or tablet, something like an Apple or Samsung watch might be a better fit. But if you're looking for a watch that can take your active pursuits and performance to the next level, it's hard to beat a Garmin.

The superb GPS technology in Garmin watches gives them a leg up on other sports watch brands. And, while their wrist-based sensors have the same limitations common among all fitness watches, those with ANT+ connectivity can be paired with an optional Garmin heart rate chest strap for precise heart-rate measurements and fitness metrics.

Can Garmin watches make phone calls?

While all the Garmin watches on our list allow you to read texts, emails, and alerts, and certain models allow Android phone users to reply to messages or reject phone calls using text, none of the Garmin watches reviewed here can make phone calls at this time. If that's something you're looking for, though, the brand-new Garmin Venu 2 Plus has that capability, and it probably won't be long before more Garmin watches do as well.

What features do Garmin watches have that other smartwatches don't have?

While there are many common features typical among similar products by other brands, there are a few proprietary features unique to Garmin watches. Garmin's Body Battery energy monitoring combines sleep data, activity data, and heart rate variability to give insights about your energy levels and recovery status.

For ultra-endurance athletes, backpackers, or anyone else who spends days outside, Garmin's UltraTrac and Expedition GPS battery modes will keep tabs on where you are while cutting off other features to significantly prolong battery life.

Garmin's maps are another big feature that sets their watches apart. The Approach S42 and Fenix 7 give users access to over 42,000 golf course maps, while the Fenix 7 provides a bird's-eye view of over 2,000 ski resorts, plus downloadable maps for road, water, and trail worldwide.

To get the most out of your Garmin watch, though, be sure to download and use your watch's apps. Garmin Connect is the home base for a multitude of functional extras and training tools. Garmin Coach gives you a personalized training plan for your next race—completely free. Garmin also has apps specifically designed for golfers, skiers, surfers, climbers, and more. If it's an activity with a measurable metric, Garmin probably has an app for that.

Are Garmin watches compatible with iPhones?

Garmin watches are compatible with all iPhones, iPads, and iPods running iOS version 13.0 or higher. There are currently some limitations to Garmin watch features for iPhone users, most notably, the inability to reply to messages or reject phone calls using text. This is a licensing restriction from Apple.

Discuss This Article