Best GPS Watch Reviews – Buyers Guide to the Best Running Watch

A watch isn’t just a watch anymore. There are so many styles and extra features that are available today that it can be overwhelming to know which watch is the right one for you. When it comes to picking out the best GPS watch, you’ll want to make sure you get a watch that has a solid structure, fits comfortably, is a decent price, and has a number of features that make it worth the money you are paying for it. In this review of the best GPS watches, we’ll look at 6 of our favorites for you to consider when you are ready to make your next GPS watch purchase: Garmin S3, Garmin Forerunner 630, Garmin Forerunner 230, Garmin Fenix, Suunto Ambit and the Polar RCX5.

What Features do Running Watches Typically Have?

A watch with GPS capabilities first and foremost offers tracking capabilities, so the user can know exactly how far they have traveled while walking, running, or cycling. In addition to this, GPS watches may also have illuminated displays, time display, speed/pacing indicators, mapping, routing, routing trackers, heart rate monitor, cadence monitoring, cycling sensors, weight scales, sports transitions for triathlons, interval training programs, hydration or food reminders, alarms, accelerometers for indoor swimming, touchscreen capabilities and the option to log in to the watches information from a computer, smartphone or other mobile device.

What are the Benefits of a GPS Equipped Watch?

The benefits of a GPS are plentiful. Not only can they help you track and monitor a multitude of exercises and fitness activities, but they can also help you with specific sports endurance and skill improvement. Being able to have a starting point or baseline indicator for fitness can show progression over time and help the user understand where they are gaining or losing speed, cadence, distance and more. What’s more, GPS watches typically have large display screens, and so you can see your progress at a quick glance, rather than having to go into the watch to get data from an app or integrated feature. Another benefit of a GPS watch is that they can be used to locate people; sometimes children or adults with intellectual disorders or disabilities that are a flight risk, can wear a GPS watch and be found if they wander off. Wearing an awesome GPS enabled watch such as the Garmin Tactix Bravo helps you find your way, or helps others find you if you don’t.

GPS vs. Smart Watches

While a GPS capable watch and a Smartwatch can both track fitness levels, provide notifications and provide information on distances traveled, the GPS watch provides these details in a more robust way. A GPS watch is best for people who want to pay attention to the accuracy of the information they are getting from their wrist device. GPS watches provide more accurate data on speeds and distances than a Smartwatch. Smartwatches are trying to be everything to everyone, while a GPS watch is focused on providing the details of one specific area. Some smart watches are not built for swimming, while a GPS watch can be worn in water for tracking laps and distances.

What to Look for When Buying a Fitness Watch

There are several important factors to consider when buying a GPS watch. While many of the features are standard across several different models, there are a few must haves in order for your watch to be worth the price you’re paying for it. These are listed and described below.

Water Resistance

Whether or not you actually plan to swim with your GPS watch is irrelevant. Simply having a GPS watch that is waterproof is worth the extra money it might cost you to get it. Accidents can happen so easily – how many mobile phones have you dropped thinking that would never happen to you? Don’t take for granted that you won’t be swimming or getting your watch wet. Better safe than sorry. Some watches are rated for a few meters, while others are rated as high as 100m of water resistance. Also, “waterproof” is different than “resistant.” Waterproof means it can be submerged, and water resistant means you can probably splash water on it, but don’t submerge it in water.

Heart Rate Monitor

All good GPS watches will have a heart rate monitor. Just make sure the GPS watch can read your heart rate easily and report back easily. If you have to stop to check your heart rate or if you need to do much more than simply look at the screen to get a gauge of where your heart rate is at, leave it on the shelf. Be sure to check to see if your GPS watch has a separate heart rate monitor reader – newer GPS watches come standard with heart rate monitors, but some are not wrist monitors.

Features

You want your GPS watch to deliver on its promises, and when your GPS watch offers a ton of features, you can bet it doesn’t do any of them very well. Stick to a GPS watch with a few really good features that you will use and you’ll be happier in the long run with your purchase. You’ll also want to consider if your GPS watch comes with any accessories or if you need to buy extra accessories. Some watches offer expander pieces for bikes and swimming; however, these generally cost extra. It’s best to aim for a multi-function GPS watch that offers a little more than the basics

Brands

There are a variety of brands manufacturing and promoting GPS watches. Among some of the most popular are Garmin, Suunto, and Polar. We’ll receive these three brands and a number of models from them below

Review of the 5 Best GPS Watches

Garmin S3

This GPS watch is geared toward the golf enthusiast and is preloaded with 27,000 golf courses across the globe. New courses can be added by downloading them, and it offers a number of features including golf-specific features such as green view, lay up distances, yardages and measure shot distances. It’s waterproof and has a rechargeable battery that lasts up to 8 hours.

 

Pros

  • Long battery life
  • Huge selection of golf courses with the ability to add more as they become available online
  • Multiple options for tracking the golfer’s progress
  • Waterproof watch
  • Sturdy design

 

Cons

  • Doesn’t offer full range of features
  • People who don’t golf wouldn’t find it useful
  • Doesn’t always load the proper courses and holes on the golf course
  • No way to manually input the course information

Garmin Forerunner 630

This GPS watch is great for runners who want accuracy and options in one small device. It’s available with or without a heart rate monitor and has a long lasting rechargeable, lithium-ion battery. Focused on running features, this GPS watch offers information on ground contact time, vertical ratio, cadence, vertical oscillation, balance and stride length. It also features notifications for text, email, calls and calendar updates.

Pros

  • Lots of great options for runners
  • Optional heart rate monitor
  • Long battery life
  • Wireless compatibility to smartphones and mobile devices
  • Touchscreen

 

Cons

  • A lot of data could be overwhelming for new runners
  • Not waterproof

Notifications can be distracting while running

 

Pros

  • Long battery life
  • Huge selection of golf courses with the ability to add more as they become available online
  • Multiple options for tracking the golfer’s progress
  • Waterproof watch
  • Sturdy design

 

Cons

  • Doesn’t offer full range of features
  • People who don’t golf wouldn’t find it useful
  • Doesn’t always load the proper courses and holes on the golf course
  • No way to manually input the course information

Garmin Forerunner 230

This GPS watch is built for runners. Tracking time, distance, pace, heart rate and more, the information automatically uploads to your smartphone via a wireless connection and the watch has a large screen. There are a variety of face widgets available to download to customize this GPS watch to your needs. The ability to count calories, track steps, and receive reminders to get moving when you’ve been idol make this a great GPS watch.

 

Pros

  • Automatically tracks indoor vs outdoor running
  • No need to remove foot pod tracker to differentiate between terrains
  • Concise and easy to use
  • Lots of widgets
  • Long battery life

 

Cons

  • Very specific to runners; not good for general activity tracker
  • A lot of information can be overwhelming
  • Need to connect to mobile device to customize tracking

Garmin Fenix

The Garmin Fenix has a water rating of 100m which makes it suitable for swimming. Tracking the heart rate at the wrist, the watch provides accurate and up to date information while you train. The soft silicone band helps reduce sweating, and the silicone won’t smell over time like rubber or fabric bands. Working on wireless internet, you can upload and download information to your mobile device and customize your training options.

 

Pros

  • Great for general tracking and everyday use
  • Long battery life
  • Waterproof
  • No stink band
  • Large display

 

Cons

  • Older generation model
  • Wireless and not Bluetooth enabled
  • Base model doesn’t come with heart monitor reader

Suunto Ambit 3

The Suunto Ambit3 one of the longest lasting batteries in the industry. This GPS watch has a variety of growing features available through the watch, and comes standard with speed, heart rate monitoring, distance monitoring and utilizes notifications from your smartphone to push information to your GPS watch. You can even add photos to it. The Suunto tracks sleep as well as recovery time from a workout.

 

Pros

  • Amazing battery
  • Option to buy add-on tools for bikes and swimming
  • Heart rate monitor is standard
  • Wireless
  • Neat features like photos can be added

 

Cons

  • Low backlight; hard to read screen
  • Struggles to distinguish swimming patterns
  • Difficult interface to navigate for new users

Polar RCX5

This GPS watch is for the serious athlete who wants to up their game and has all of the information to get them from zero to hero fast. This watch will help improve endurance and performance and helps you train with varying intensities across multiple features. It features a heart rate monitor, which will track your heart rate while swimming, you can create workouts quickly, and there are a number of attachments to expand the options for this GPS watch.

 

Pros

  • All around good features
  • Huge display screen
  • Tons of tracking options
  • Heart rate monitor

 

Cons

  • Additional parts needed to get full use of device
  • Display is large and distracting
  • Too many features can be overwhelming
  • Not good for the newbie athlete

Conclusion

Whenever we are looking to buy something new we like to have as much information as possible about the products we want to buy. When it comes to choosing the best GPS watch, the clear winner here is the Garmin Fenix. This GPS watch has the most generally appealing features and is not too intense for beginners looking to get a starting place for a GPS watch; however, it does have enough features that it would be functional and productive for a more serious athlete. It’s waterproof, while some of the other GPS watches are not. It offers a long battery life, a sporty silicone strap and it wears comfortably on the wrist. In choosing the best GPS watch for you, make sure you consider the everyday wearability of your watch, the functions you will use the most often and for which activities you will use them, and pay attention to the battery life so that you get the most wear out of your watch as possible.