Smartwatches have been catching a lot of attention lately. And the perks that make these watches “smart” have been getting more useful nowadays. Among all of the features that these have to offer, GPS integration made them famous in the very beginning.
And when it comes to GPS wearables, the manufacturer, Garmin, has been dominating the market for an extended amount of time. However, you would only be able to take full advantage of the feature if you get the best Garmin GPS watch.
Those will have a proper GPS mechanism baked into them. Navigation will be a breeze with them. Alongside that, some of them are going to excel in other features as well, making them truly an all-rounder smartwatch.
7 Best Garmin GPS Watch Review
The manufacturer Garmin has a lot to offer in the market. But when we are strictly talking about the GPS functionality, not all of them will be worth the money that you will have to spend. Considering that, we have picked the worthy ones to make the choosing process a tad easier for you. And they are:
1. Garmin Instinct 3-Axis Compass – Best Overall
GPS functionality is one of the common things that most smartwatches are going to have. However, the rugged build quality that this one has is something that you will not find in all of them.
To start with, the construction of the unit complies with the military standards. It utilizes high-quality material for the build, which makes it withstand harsh and tough environments at ease. The thermal resistance is at 810G. And it can resist shock and water exceptionally well.
Aside from the build quality, it packs smart notifications mechanism. By connecting it with your smartphone, you would be able to connect the device with the online fitness community. After that, you will be able to get notifications right on the screen.
Talking of which, it features a lot of fitness mechanisms. It sports different sensors, which will offer you information regarding your heart rate, stress level, and activity level. You will find different activity profiles inside the UI. Those will enable you to push yourself further and achieve a higher level of fitness.
Apart from the fitness features, the GPS mechanism of the watch relies on the 3 axis compass. Combined with the barometric altimeter and multiple global navigation satellite sensors, it should be able to offer you precise location information.
Even when the environments are a bit challenging, it would not have any trouble in offering you the location services because of integrating that many numbers of sensors. There is a trackback feature that will let you navigate back to the point where you started.
Alongside that, the Garmin Explore app will allow you to plan your trips in advance. Lastly, in the battery saver mode, it can run for up to 40 hours.
- Sports a rugged build quality
- Highly resistant to shock and water
- Packs 3 axis compass
- Offers trackback feature
- Boasts smart notification system
- GPS functionality might not be the same for different versions
- The size might be too large for some users
2. Garmin Forerunner 35 – Best GPS Watch for Running
Having smart features is great and all, but if you are mainly focused on the GPS features, you might not want any other intricate mechanisms that some smartwatches tend to have. Well, that is where this one steps in.
First of all, the operational procedure of the watch is simple and straightforward. It has an easy-to-use GPS functionality, which will be pretty easy for you to use. However, the functionalities are not limited. You are going to find all of the useful mechanisms that a global navigating satellite watch should have.
After connecting this with your phone, you should be able to enjoy the smart notification mechanism. It will automatically upload the track information and other information it collects to the smartphone app. You would be able to access them and see your overall progress.
Aside from that, you will have the ability to access the live tracking mechanism inside the app. Also, it will let you control the music after you pair it with any compatible smartphones. You would not have to press buttons manually to change tracks anymore.
Alongside that, the Garmin community that you will have access to will offer you challenges. Those challenges will enable you to push yourself further into having a higher level of fitness. You can even receive your insights and share your progress with friends and family using the community app. The user friendliness of this app makes it the best running Garmin gps watch.
Other than that, there is an all-day activity tracking functionality. It will track your steps, count the calories you have burnt by doing a certain activity, and remind you to move when you are going through a sedentary phase. The heart rate sensor that it packs offers accurate heart readings as well.
- UI is user-friendly
- Can be connected with a smartphone
- Offers music controls
- Boasts an all-day tracking mechanism
- Sports a decent heart rate sensor
- AutoPause system is a bit finicky
- A bit hard to switch to km reading from miles reading
3. Garmin Vivoactive 3 – Best GPS Watch for Hiking
Wireless payment is something that most users prefer when it comes to making a payment at a mall or somewhere of that type. And the Vivoactive 3 has integrated a proper system for that.
As we have mentioned, it integrates Garmin Pay. It is a contactless paying solution that will enable you to pay for your purchases wirelessly. You would not have to go through the hassle of bringing your card out and swiping it on the swiping device.
Alongside that, you will have full control over the looks of the UI. It will let you personalize the watch using thousands of watch faces that are available in the built-in app. You can even install different apps and widgets after you connect the device with the Connect IQ store.
What makes it an ideal choice for hiking and trekking is the accurate steps and stress counts. It can also check if you are hiking in high altitudes.
Aside from the customizability options, it comes preloaded with a plethora of GPS and sports apps. You are going to find lots of activity profiles inside those apps. Starting from yoga to swimming to running, you will find them all inside the apps. These will enable you to make a huge leap in your fitness progress.
On that note, it integrates a VO2 max fitness sensor. That sensor will keep an eye on the different factors of your health. It will offer you insight into your stress level, burnt calorie amount, and other health factors.
Apart from that, the screen is 1.2 inches in diameter. That amount of screen space is more than enough to get a quick look at the things on display. And it can run for up to 13 hours in the GPS mode and seven days in the normal smartwatch mode.
- Integrates Garmin Pay
- The UI is customizable
- Preloads different GPS apps
- Perfect Garmin gps watch for hiking
- Sports VO2 sensor
- Lasts up to 13 hours in the GPS mode
- Some of the cards might not work with the Garmin Pay
- Step tracking mechanism is not that accurate
4. Garmin Forerunner 235 – Better Visibility
Most of the screens that the watches are going to utilize will suffer from poor visibility under direct sunlight. However, that is not the case with the Forerunner 235, and you will know exactly why after going through the review.
First of all, it utilizes transflective memory in pixel display. This type of screen uses pixels for lighting up the panel. As a result, there is no need to rely on the backlighting just to get proper visibility of texts. So, even if you are under direct sunlight, you should not have trouble viewing the texts on it.
Other than the display type, the screen size of the unit is 1.23 inches in diameter. That amount of screen space is larger than some of the other models, which means you would be able to view more amount of information on it. And the UI is highly customizable. You will have total control over the watch faces.
Aside from that, it integrates Audio Prompts. Because of this mechanism, it will be able to offer you audible notification sounds after you connect it with your phone. Also, you should receive emails, texts, reminders, and other stuff right on the screen for the smart notification functionality.
Alongside that, the battery of the unit is reasonably large in size. The screen consumes a low amount of energy. So, it would last for up to 11 hours in GPS mode. And, you can make the device run for up to 9 days in the normal watch mode.
Lastly, it is baked with plenty of GPS features as well. You will find lap modes, tracking mode, and other activity modes.
- Sports memory in pixel technology
- The UI is highly customizable
- Lasts up to 9 hours in the GPS mode
- Screen size is 1.23 inches in diameter
- Packs smart notification function
- Front glass is not that durable
- Heart rate sensor is not that accurate
5. Garmin Approach S10 – Best GPS Watch for Golf
Most of the smartwatches in the market have different activity modes. However, there are only a few that will have a dedicated golf mode. But if you were looking for one, you should keep the S10 on your consideration list.
To start with, it has a simple and user-friendly UI. Because of how straightforward the UI is, you should not have any trouble navigating through it. In fact, it will be easier to use than most of the other models that Garmin is offering in the market. And the lightweight body will make it easier for you to wear as well.
Other than those factors, the screen packs memory in pixel technology. That technology makes it highly readable under direct sunlight. No matter how scorching the sun gets, there will be no problem reading the texts that are displayed on the screen.
Alongside that, the screen has a reasonably high resolution. For how high the resolution is, each of the texts will seem sharp on the panel. And there is a dedicated sports mode as well. That mode will offer you access to different golf-related functionality, which will offer you a competitive edge on the field.
Other than that, the battery can make the device run for up to 12 hours in GPS mode. And the GPS functionalities are quite plenty as well. You would be able to sync all of the information on the Garmin Express app, which will enable you to scrutinize your progress properly.
Lastly, there are three different color options available. Depending on the looks you are shooting for, you can choose black, granite blue, and powder gray.
- Offers a dedicated golf mode
- Preloaded with different GPS functionalities
- Display is highly readable under the sun
- Capable of uploading the information on smartphones
- The UI is simple
- UI is not customizable
- Some of the functionalities are glitchy
6. Garmin Vivoactive 4S – Classic Design
A classy design is something that most of the models are going to lack. However, if you were on the lookout for a model that has that specific design, then what you were probably looking for is the Vivoactive 4S.
Let us talk about the overall design first. It features a classy round design that makes it resemble mechanical watches. And the white version has rose-gold accents on the front and on the belt, which makes it look elegant. You would be able to roll with style and sophistication by wearing this on the road.
On that note, the unit packs 20 different GPS apps. Those preloaded apps will enable you to track various sports activities. It has yoga, running, swimming, and other sports mode preloaded into it. The UI will also offer you easy-to-follow animated steps for different fitness activities.
Other than the preloaded apps, you will have the option to download other apps that you might need after connecting to the Connect IQ app store. You will also have the ability to customize the UI according to your liking after you pair it with a compatible smartphone.
Aside from that, it integrates Garmin Pay. It is a contactless payment system that would let you make payments for the purchases you are going to make wirelessly. You would also have the option to download songs right into the internal storage, thanks to it being compatible with Deezer, Amazon Music, and Spotify.
Besides that, it packs plenty of different sensors. Those sensors would be able to track different health levels. Starting from the sleep, heart rate, respiration, and hydration level, it should be able to track all of them.
- Sports a classy design
- Preloaded with 20 GPS apps
- Capable of downloading songs
- Integrates Garmin Pay
- The UI is customizable
- Some specific cards do not work with the Garmin Pay
- The display is not that crisp
7. Garmin Forerunner 645 – Dedicated Music
Music is the thing that can make carrying out any of the fitness activities fun. And Garmin decided to integrate a first-party music system right into this watch that they are offering.
As we have mentioned, the unit integrates a dedicated music app. It even has internal storage, which will enable you to download up to 500 songs into the watch. There will be no need to pair it up with your phone just to enjoy your favorite tracks when you are carrying out a fitness session.
Other than that, it is capable of syncing the music from your favorite streaming services. It should be able to sync the songs and let you enjoy the songs when you are not connected to the internet. The unit also flaunts Garmin Pay, which will enable you to make payments of your purchases wirelessly.
It even sports a classic round design. There are five different color options available. It comes in rose gold, black, sandstone, cerise, and finally, slate. All of them look elegant and should make your wrist stand out among the crowd when you are wearing it.
On that note, the unit features a wrist-based heart rate tracking mechanism. The mechanism should provide you proper insights into your training progress, allowing you to push yourself even further into the fitness realm. There are advanced running dynamics, which will enable you to properly track your sessions.
Aside from that, the unit flaunts plenty of different GPS functionalities. It will enable you to track your position, navigate through various tracks and find your way back home when you take an unknown scenic route. And in the GPS mode, it would run for up to 5 hours with the music enabled.
- Integrates a dedicated music system
- Can store up to 500 songs
- Capable of syncing music with the streaming apps
- Utilizes wrist-based heart rate sensor
- Packs Garmin Pay
- Underwhelming battery life
- Range of the Bluetooth chip is pretty poor
What to Look for Before You Buy a Garmin GPS Watch?
Getting a good GPS watch for the money is not that easy, considering how many options there are in the market. However, if you are truly determined to get one of them, you should keep a couple of factors in your mind before you make a purchase decision. And the points are as follows:
Before anything else, you should factor in the build quality of the unit. It is one of the most important aspects of any smartwatch because it is going to dictate the overall lifespan of the device. The better the build quality, the higher the durability is going to be.
And the higher the durability level, the higher the lifespan will be. For this case, the thing that you need to consider is the material utilized for the construction. The units will have better build quality if the materials that are used for the construction are of high-quality.
Aside from the build quality, you need to consider the overall design of the device. You would not want to wear something that looks odd on your wrist, would you? That is why you need to opt for the ones that have good outlooks. The ones that we would recommend you to opt for are the classy ones.
On the other hand, most of Garmin’s models should come in different color options. Choose the one that goes with your overall styling outlooks. Also, do factor in the style of wristbands because they are also important when it comes to the overall outlooks.
Comfort is something that you should give a proper emphasis on when you are purchasing a smartwatch. The comfort is mainly going to rely on the design of the watch itself. And the lighter the watch is going to be, the more comfortable it will be for you to wear it.
Alongside that, you must emphasize on the wristband as well. Make sure it offers a good fit. As you are going to wear it for a considerably long amount of time, you would want to opt for the ones that offer a secure fit. With those, you would not have to worry about it falling off when you are running or doing some other sport activity.
The UI is what makes these devices smart. However, the UI will not be the same for all of the models that you will stumble upon. Some will have a redefined UI, while some will have a clunky UI. The ones that have a clunky UI are the ones that you would not want to have.
Instead of those, you should opt for the ones that have a user-friendly UI. Also, do make sure that the UI is customizable. It will let you modify the system according to your liking, which will let you get a unique user experience.
Most of the Garmin watches should be capable of connecting to the App store. However, some will lack this feature. And this is something that will entirely depend on your personal preference. If you are happy with the preloaded apps that the device comes with, you would not feel the requirement of extra apps.
On the other hand, if you want to get access to different apps that most of the smartwatches have, you would want to get the ones that are compatible with the Connect IQ app store. Those will let you install different types of apps on the device.
One of the primary reasons behind getting one of these is the fitness functionalities that it offers. These functionalities will enable you to track the different factors of your health. And after you get a proper insight into the recorded information, you would be capable of pushing yourself further into the fitness realm.
So, if one of your primary focuses is to make progress in the fitness sector, you would want to opt for the ones that utilize different sensors. Sensors such as heart rate sensors and VO2 max are the ones that one of these should have if you are into fitness.
However, do make sure that the sensors can provide accurate readings. If you happen to get something that provides erroneous readings, you would not be able to make that amount of progress in the fitness criteria.
Another thing that you must put emphasis on is the screen. Different models are going to utilize different types of displays. And the first thing that you need to check for this criteria is the screen size. The bigger the screen, the easier it will be for you to read the texts.
However, do not opt for something that is too large, or else the comfort of the device will degrade substantially. Also, consider the resolution of the screen. The texts will look sharper and will be easier to read if you get the one that has a high resolution.
Alongside that, do make sure that the display is readable under sunlight. However, if you want the screen to be highly visible under the sunlight, you should opt for the ones that utilize memory in pixel technology. This technology will make the texts highly readable, even when you are directly under the sun.
The battery life is another thing that will be different for different models that Garmin is offering. For this case, the screen is going to play an important role. The lower the power consumption of the screen, the better the battery life is going to be. Also, the power management mechanism has a significant role to play.
Nevertheless, you would not want to opt for something that can not offer at least 5 hours of runtime. As you are mainly going to wear these devices for the entire day, five hours of operational time with all of the features turned on is absolutely necessary.
Last but not least, you should consider the accuracy of the GPS reading. Most of these will pack a GPS sensor. However, the ones with better sensors will offer you the most accurate reading. And those are the ones that you would want to opt for.
Also, do make sure that there are plenty of GPS functionalities. Opt for the ones that come with plenty of preloaded GPS apps. Without those, you would not be able to enjoy what a GPS watch actually has to offer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Do all of the Garmin watches have GPS built-in?
Ans: Not really. There are some older models that will have no GPS functionalities. However, GPS is one of the factors that are essential for the smartwatches that are being released nowadays. Considering that, most of the recent devices that are released by Garmin should have GPS sensors baked into them.
However, the number of GPS functionalities will not be the same for all of the recent models that you will stumble upon. Some will have the basic features, while some will have the advanced features.
Q: Is it necessary for a smartwatch to have a good battery life?
Ans: Yes, a smartwatch must have good battery life. As you are basically going to wear one of these for an entire day, you would want the battery to last for a good amount of time. Without having that, you will find yourself charging the device quite often.
Q: Why is the GPS reading on my watch not accurate?
Ans: The accuracy will highly depend on the sensor that it packs. For this case, the better and more advanced the sensor is, the higher the accuracy will be. Most of the advanced models are going to combine other sensors to offer you the most accurate readings.
However, you can try to calibrate the GPS sensor if you are receiving reasonably off readings.
Q: Would I be able to change the strap of a Garmin watch?
Ans: It is possible to change the wristbands of Garmin watches. You need to find the ones that are compatible with the model that you have. Also, you will have the option to choose the straps in different colors as well.
Q: Which watch screen has the highest visibility?
Ans: Display technology is evolving each year. And the watch manufactures have caught on with the evolvement. In our opinion, among all of the types of displays out there, the ones that utilize memory in pixel technology offer the highest visibility. Those are highly visible even under direct sunlight.
Q: What can I do to extend the battery life of my watch?
Ans: The best way will be to turn on the battery saver mode if there is any. However, if the model that you have does not have any battery saver mode, you should turn off other features when you are not using it. It will help to extend the battery life.
Q: Will I be able to customize the watch face of a Garmin watch?
Ans: If the model you have has a customizability option, you should be able to customize the UI according to your preference. However, not all of the models will offer you this capability.
GPS tracking is one of the features that make most of the smartwatches worth using. And if you want to get the most out of what the functionality has to offer, you should opt for nothing other than the best Garmin GPS watch. Those will enable you to get the most of the navigating features that these devices have to offer nowadays.