Updated June 2017
Welcome to the quickly evolving world of fitness watches! This summer we updated our GPS watch review and upped our selection to include nine contenders. The Garmin Fenix 5 earned the coveted Editors' Choice award, while the Garmin Forerunner 35 secured a new spot as the Best Buy. We've also added a Best Buy on a Tight Budget for a meager $130 and a Top Pick for Daily Use. Our list of award winners is brand spanking new at a time when the explosion of fitness trackers and smart watches has blurred the category.
Best Overall Competitor
Garmin Fenix 5
Comprehensive feature set
Good battery life
At the top of a very big heap sits the Garmin Fenix 5
. At OutdoorGearLab, we evaluate lots of categories of products. In many categories, we assess the features included by the manufacturer. Manufacturers often have a long list of features they can include and some of them are usually omitted. Sometimes the omitted features are complicated, heavy, or expensive to include. It is very rare that a product, in any category, includes all the possible features we can think of. Garmin equips the Fenix 5 with all the major features that we feel are possible on a GPS Watch. The standard, bare-bones features of a GPS Watch are time keeping and GPS distance, speed, and data recording. The Fenix has all of that. In addition, it counts steps, tracks sleep, monitors heart rate, communicates with external sensors, measures air pressure and altitude, measures temperature, and has smart watch functions. No other product we tested has all these features, and no other product has any different or additional features. Now, all these features would be useless in a package that is too big, too finicky, or with too little battery power. Further good news is that the Fenix 5 is easy to use, comes in three different sizes, and has more than adequate battery power, given the other attributes.
Read full review: Garmin Fenix 5
Best Bang for the Buck
Garmin Forerunner 35
Effective distance, pace, and route tracking
Good-enough battery life
With virtually no reservations, we can recommend the Garmin Forerunner 35
to any and all consumers looking for basic run tracking. You will have access to the important data fields while on the go, and be able to sort through the data post-event with one of Garmin's proprietary services or any of a whole host of data management services. The price isn't the lowest in our review, but the value is high. This is a proven product from a proven manufacturer.
Read full review: Garmin Forerunner 35
Best Buy on a Tight Budget
Only the most basic features
The TomTom Runner
was a late addition to our award selection. It is by far the simplest product and is clearly the least expensive. It wasn't until we tested the accuracy that it really stood out. In our repeated, repeatable running track test, we found the GPS sensor of the TomTom to be exactly accurate. Over multiple .5 mile test iterations, the TomTom demonstrated no error. No other watch we tested was so accurate. Aside from the accuracy, we found the budget price and basic function set to be welcome with appeal to the dedicated runner.
Read full review: TomTom Runner
Top Pick for Daily Smart Watch Use, With Exercise
Apple Nike+ Sportwatch
Extensive smart watch features
Just the right sensors for most runners
Poor battery life
The Apple Watch
, co-branded with Nike and tested in its 38mm format (there is also a 42mm model, with a larger screen and at least slightly better battery life), wins our Top Pick Award as a smart watch for daily use that also serves very well in normal running training. The battery life is limited, so this cannot be used for ultra-distance training or events, but for typical runs, there is enough juice. The infinitely customizable set of apps available for the Apple Watch (and mandatory iPhone) mean that users of all types can find the data management and motivational resources they want.
Read full review: Apple Nike+ Sportwatch