Advertisement

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Advertisement

Garmin UK watch models explained: Our pick of the best Garmin sports watches you can buy

Advertisement

Garmin has a dizzying array of sports watches, but what do you need and how much should you spend?

Think of Garmin and you’ll almost certainly think of sports watches. The fact that the US giant is synonymous with fitness wearables is no mean feat considering that it’s been around for nearly 30 years and also specialises in technology for land, sea and air vehicles.

Still, it’s sports watches, especially running watches, that have really stuck – and it's no wonder. The company’s products are known for delivering the things athletes care about: durability, accuracy and heaps of stats.

Even paired with the company’s most basic Forerunner 30 watch, the Garmin Connect app will give you insights on average pace, average moving pace, best pace, maximum speed, moving time, elapsed time, average heart rate, max heart rate, average cadence, maximum cadence, average stride length, elevation gain, elevation loss, minimum elevation, maximum elevation and calories burned, among other stats.

Consider that Garmin Connect also interfaces with Strava and MyFitnessPal and for fitness nerds, this is about as good as it gets.

The trouble is that the company has an awful lot of products and it’s not clear to a novice what does what and how much you actually need to spend. In this guide, we'll explain the key features of each, while giving you an idea of how much you need to spend to get everything you want.

The Venu 2 is now just £263

Here's a great Garmin deal: Our favourite Garmin smartwatch, the Venu 2, is down to just £263 on Amazon (discounted from an average of £308).
Amazon
Was £350
Now £263

The best Garmin watches: At a glance


Garmin watch models explained: Decoding the brands

Broadly speaking, Garmin watches can be divided into six categories. Technically, there are more than six, but for most punters, Garmin’s range includes the Fenix, Forerunner, Vivoactive, Vivosport, Vivosmart and Vivofit Junior brands.

In truth, there’s an awful lot of crossover in features and design, with nearly all of Garmin’s watches for adults offering basic fitness features such as step counting and sleep monitoring, along with smartphone notifications. But there are some differences, too.

For starters, if the name has “Vivo” in it, chances are you’re looking at a fitness tracker, rather than a specialist sports watch. Of these, only some contain built-in GPS (the Vivosport and Vivoactive), so be sure to check or you might end up having to piggyback location data from your phone to get accurate workout stats.

The Vivoactive is the main exception to this rule because it’s a smartwatch, rather than a fitness band. As such, it offers most of the same insights, albeit on a bigger screen.

The Forerunner range is a bit easier to explain: the brand is chiefly aimed at runners, although you can increasingly use the watches to track a multitude of sports. They all pack GPS, so you can go ahead and leave your phone at home and run without bulk. They cost from around £100 all the way up to £520 for the Forerunner 945.

Further up the Garmin totem pole is the Fenix range, which has all of the features you could want in a more rugged, outdoorsy frame. They’re premium watches with premium prices to match, though they fall short of the truly astronomical prices you’ll see in Garmin’s Marq range, which starts at £1,400 for the Marq Athlete and tops out at £2,250 for the Marq Driver.

Garmin watch models explained: The best Garmin watches

With so much choice, it’s quite hard to pick out a definitive “best Garmin watch”, but these are the wearables we feel offer the right balance between price and features.

1. Garmin Forerunner 55: Best Garmin watch on a budget

Price: £179 | Buy now from Wiggle

The entry-level option in Garmin’s Forerunner range is generally your best bet when it comes to finding a great, cheap sports watch, and the Forerunner 55 certainly lives up to that billing. It nails all the basics of sports tracking, with built-in GPS, accurate distance and heart rate tracking plus customisable workouts, and it offers 20 hours of GPS tracking from a single charge, which is impressive from such a small device.

However, the Forerunner 55 goes well beyond these basics, too, with features like daily suggested workouts, a recovery advisor, race time predictions and an estimation of your VO2 max. The 55 is a worthy improvement on previous models like the 35 and 45, but it’s worth also saying that if your budget doesn’t stretch to £180, then looking for those older models in sales will still net you a very solid running watch that has all the essential features.

Key specs – Screen size: 1.04in; Weight: 37g; GPS? Yes; ANT+ support? Yes; Waterproof? 5ATM; Battery life: 14 days smart mode, 20 hours GPS

Buy now from Wiggle


2. Garmin Fenix 6 Pro: Best Garmin watch if money is no object

Price: £600 | Buy now from Garmin

The Garmin Fenix 6 range is full of incredible watches, and there is a case for saying that the 6X Pro Solar is the one to go for if money truly is no object, since it adds the ability to extend its formidable battery life though solar power on top of all the features of the Fenix 6 Pro. However, the Fenix 6 Pro is a lot cheaper than the 6X Pro Solar, which starts at £850, and it still has a massive battery life, so we’re going to stick with our pick.

Garmin has packed pretty much everything into the 6 Pro, which has best-in-class sports tracking and training analysis, plus space for music (and the ability to sync wirelessly with Spotify Premium accounts), on-board colour maps and NFC payments through Garmin Pay. The watch also introduces Garmin’s new PacePro feature, which can help you pace a race perfectly using a split-by-split breakdown that adjusts the target pace of each kilometre (or mile) based on your overall goal time and the elevation of that kilometre.

The battery life is also immense at 36 hours of GPS, and although it’s still a chunky device, Garmin even managed to reduce the weight of the Fenix 6 Pro by 3g compared with the previous model – the Fenix 5 Plus.

Key specs – Screen size: 1.3in; Weight: 83g; GPS? Yes; ANT+ support? Yes; Waterproof? 10ATM; Battery life: 14 days smart mode, 36 hours GPS, 10 hours GPS and music

Buy now from Garmin


3. Garmin Vivoactive 4: Best Garmin watch for all-rounders

Price: £200 | Buy now on Amazon

The Vivoactive 4 offers Garmin’s excellent sports and everyday activity tracking in an attractive package that will have more appeal outside the running and triathlon community, with a bright touchscreen and smart features like music and Garmin Pay. The latest Vivoactive is also especially good for beginner runners and those new to the gym, with training plans for the former and a series of pre-made guided workouts including on-screen animations for the latter.

While it doesn’t have as much depth when it comes to sports tracking as something like the Forerunner 245, the Vivoactive 4 has all of Garmin’s best everyday activity tracking features, including Body Battery, which provides a snapshot of your overall energy ratings throughout the day via a simple score out of 100.

Key specs – Screen size: 1.3in; Weight: 50.5g; GPS? Yes; ANT+ support? Yes; Waterproof? 5ATM; Battery life: 8 days smart mode, 6 hours GPS and music.

4. Garmin Vivosport: Best Garmin fitness band

Price: £110 | Buy now from Amazon

If you want something a little more discrete, the Garmin Vivosport fitness band is for you. It manages to pack in the vast majority of watch features into a slim package with a teeny-tiny touchscreen. In fact, the screen is so small that the sausage-fingered may want to pass.

Still, runners and cyclists with a pianist's fingers will find a lot to love. It has an always-on colour display, as well as providing GPS, heart rate tracking and smart notifications. You can also track your progress with VO2 max, fitness age and stress-tracking – not bad for a wearable that’ll last seven days between charges. Note that, although you can keep it on in the pool, there’s no swim tracking.

Read our full review of the Garmin Vivosport

Key specs – Screen size: 0.38 x 0.76in; Weight: 27g; GPS? Yes; ANT+ support? Yes; Waterproof? Swimproof; Battery life: 7 days smart mode, 8 hours GPS.

5. Garmin Forerunner 245 Music: The best Garmin running watch

Price: £300 | Buy now from Garmin

Garmin took its time in updating the massively-popular Forerunner 235, which was the go-to watch for many runners, but when the Forerunner 245 did arrive it certainly didn’t disappoint. Garmin has added music storage to the watch, which can also sync wirelessly with Spotify Premium accounts. It’s also beefed up the feedback you get on your training, including info on whether your load is productive and how much recovery time you need after a session.

That’s on top of the stellar run tracking offered by the 245, which is reliably accurate when it comes to distance and heart rate. It provides all your key stats at a glance plus live feedback on your running technique when paired with a footpod. The 245 also connects to Garmin Coach, a feature in the Garmin Connect app through which you can set up training plans for running events, which sync to the watch so you can follow workouts from your wrist.

Of course, runners don’t just run, and you can rest assured that the Forerunner 245 also tracks an array of other sports, including cycling, swimming and pretty much everything else you can think of.

Key specs – Screen size: 1.2in; Weight: 38.5g; GPS? Yes; ANT+ support? Yes; Waterproof? 5ATM; Battery life: Seven days smart mode, 24 hours GPS, six hours GPS with music

6. Garmin Forerunner 945: The best Garmin watch for triathletes

Price: £500 | Buy now from Garmin

The Forerunner 945 is the most advanced watch in the Forerunner line-up and makes a pretty fair case for being the best watch that Garmin makes full stop. It’s certainly the option keen runners and triathletes should opt for, with all of the premium features of the very expensive Marq Athlete packed into a slighter plastic frame that’s more comfortable to wear during exercise.

Those features include the most advanced training load analysis we’ve come across on any wearable, including details on how balanced your train is between anaerobic and aerobic work, and how well you’re acclimating to altitude or heat. Triathletes will also welcome the open water and multisport modes that are absent on Forerunners lower down the range.

On top of its sports tracking features, the 945 also has colour maps and the ability to create routes on the go, NFC payments through Garmin Pay, and music storage and syncing with streaming services like Spotify.

It does more or less everything, then, while still being a slim, comfortable watch with a long battery life. Unless you prefer the premium design of the Fenix 5 Plus Series, this is the best sports watch you can get.

Read our full review of the Garmin Forerunner 945

Key specs – Screen size: 1.2in; Weight: 50g; GPS? Yes; ANT+ support? Yes; Waterproof? 5ATM; Battery life: 14 days smart mode, 36 hours GPS, 10 hours GPS with music

7. Garmin Venu 2: Best Garmin smartwatch

Price: £350 | Buy now from Garmin

The Venu 2 is the standout pick in Garmin’s line-up for those who want a gorgeous display that can rival the likes of the Apple Watch or Samsung Galaxy Watch range. The AMOLED touchscreen display on the watch is a joy to look at and interact with, though it’s worth noting that it's still not nearly as ‘smart’ as a true smartwatch owing to the very limited amount of apps available in Garmin’s Connect IQ store.

However, what it loses in terms of smarts the Venu 2 makes up for in terms of sports tracking when you compare it to other smartwatches. The native Garmin sports tracking is just as solid as ever on the Venu 2, and it has a host of health tracking features like stress and sleep tracking and a Pulse Ox sensor to check your blood oxygen saturation.

While the battery life suffers on the Venu compared to other Garmins owing to its large, vivid display, it’s still pretty solid at 11 days in watch mode, although that number comes down quickly if you add in some outdoor sports tracking.

Key specs – Screen size: 1.3in; Weight: 49g; GPS? Yes; ANT+ support? Yes; Waterproof? 5ATM; Battery life: 11 days smart mode, 8 hours GPS

Buy now from Garmin


8. Garmin Instinct Solar: Best Garmin for the great outdoors

Price: £320 | Buy now from Garmin

The rugged, plastic design of the Instinct range demonstrates its purpose as a watch built for the great outdoors, and the addition of solar panels to the Instinct Solar only enhances its appeal for the adventurous, because the battery life is substantially increased in sunny weather.

That battery life is impressive even under clouds at 24 days or 30 hours of GPS, and it grows to 54 days and 38 hours of GPS with enough sun. Furthermore, in expedition mode, which turns off some features, the Instinct Solar can last indefinitely if there’s enough sun.

The watch has a fairly small screen compared to other Garmins, but still tracks all your sporting endeavours with accuracy, and it offers breadcrumb navigation and customisable workouts. It lacks the detailed training analysis you get on devices like the Forerunner 245, but for many that will be a fair trade in order to get the huge solar-powered battery life.

Key specs – Screen size: 0.9in; Weight: 53g; GPS? Yes; ANT+ support? Yes; Waterproof? 10ATM; Battery life: 24 days/54 days with solar, 30 hours GPS, 38 hours GPS with solar

9. Garmin Enduro: Best Garmin for battery life

Price: £700 | Buy now from Garmin

The Enduro is built to last, both in terms of its durable, fibre-reinforced polymer case and the massive battery life it offers. With up to 80 hours of GPS in full tracking mode, and up to 300 hours in low-battery tracking modes, it offers more juice than any other watch we’ve tested. In our testing it lasted 23 days when running almost every day and logging over 100km a week, along with other indoor activities.

In many ways the Enduro is like the Fenix, being the same size and having a similar (though lighter) design as the Fenix 6X Pro while offering the same sports tracking and training analysis features. Unfortunately, the Enduro is also missing the colour maps that you do get on the Fenix Pro watches, and there’s also no music storage, which helps to increase its battery life.

The Enduro does still offer breadcrumb navigation and Garmin’s ClimbPro feature to give you guidance on the elevation of your courses. There’s also a back-to-start pointer if you do get lost when out on the trails, and you have the assurance of knowing there’s very little chance of the watch running out of battery before you do find your way home.

Key specs – Screen size: 1.4in; Weight: 71g (steel), 61g (titanium); GPS? Yes; ANT+ support? Yes; Waterproof? 10ATM; Battery life: 50 days/65 days with solar, 70 hours GPS, 80 hours GPS with solar

Buy now from Garmin


10. Garmin Venu SQ: Best budget Garmin smartwatch

Price: £180-£230 | Buy now from Garmin

There are two options in the Venu SQ range. The more expensive version costs £230 but brings a key feature to the table in the shape of music storage, including the ability to sync and store your Spotify playlists for offline playback.

Both versions of the Venu provide a good sports tracking experience, too, as you would expect from Garmin at any price, and it actually provides most of what you get from pricier smartwatches like the Vivoactive 4 and Venu. However, the design is inferior, especially when it comes to the TFT screen, which is far less bright and colourful than the OLED screen of the Venu. The Venu SQ is also missing an altimeter, which means it won’t track the floors you climb during the day – a fairly standard feature on Garmin watches these days.

The less impressive design is to be expected given that the Venu SQ is far cheaper than the Venu, though, and if you opt for the music edition you will be getting a very capable sports watch with added smarts at a good price.

Key specs – Screen size: 1.3in; Weight: 37.6g; GPS? Yes; ANT+ support? Yes; Waterproof? 5ATM; Battery life: 6 days, 14 hours GPS, 6 hours GPS plus music

Buy now from Garmin