Top 6 Best GPS Running Watches (March 2017) - Reviews & Buyer Guide
No two runners are the same, and neither are their goals. But whether you are a professional athlete or a sport enthusiast, owning a GPS sport watch can make a great difference.
Even though GPS watches won't turn a bad runner into a champion, they have the ability to track a lot of data that will prove very useful if you are looking to progress and be efficient.
Plus, it looks frickin' great !
Here's the list of the selected products, you can scroll down further to learn about the best GPS running watches complete reviews:
These are all great products, depending on your profile and budget you might choose one or another, this is why we added an "award" column to help you choose.
Some people believe GPS watches are nothing more than a gadget but it couldn't be further from the truth. GPS watches go far beyond their great looks (because hell yeah they look nice) by calculating and keeping track of complex combined data.
If you are into sports you already know the importance of dedication in your progress results.
Well, a GPS watch is the best tool you can have to keep yourself motivated by having a track record of your performance. Especially if you are competitive and want to compare your results with your social circle.
A GPS watch is a mobile device that has an integrated system which receives signals from 24 to 48 possible satellites. This allows to find your relative position in respect to the orbiting satellites. Giving you longitude, latitude and altitude information. Consequently, it can measure how fast you move from place to place, where you are and what distance you cover.
Fortunately, nowadays the best GPS watches are not only for geo-localization. Now with this tool you are capable to perform better and train smarter. Depending on the GPS watch, it can also calculate your running motion, ground contact time, your hear rate, the steepness of your path and much more. Without mentioning the possibility of using it for multiple sports and sharing stats with the world.
Top 6 GPS watches of 2017
After having interrogated multiple running experts, spending hours compiling customer reviews and our own feedback and experience we know everything there is to know about GPS watches in 2017.
With all the feedback and reviews collected we were able to select the absolute best GPS watches.
Indeed, this guide will provide valuable analysis on how to choose the best all-around GPS watch, the best budget GPS watch, the best GPS watch for runners, triathletes, and even for golfers.
Now, let’s get into the heart of the matter of the best GPS watches of 2017.
1. Fenix 3 HR – The Best All-Around GPS Watch
Among the best GPS watches of 2017, this is our number one. Without any doubt the FENIX 3 HR is the king of the kings. This watch has absolutely everything you need and even more. With a solid, beautiful and classy design this watch has gathered all the most important properties of the best GPS watches.
This watch has been made with a stainless steel antenna GPS AND GLONASS satellite reception (GLONASS has a better reception in high latitude like far north or south). Which is a feature rather rare to found in other GPS watches. Consequently giving a VERY high accuracy of your position and extremely strong signal. The Fenix H3 can use around 56 satellites to give you the best accuracy possible.
It's just great!
Opposite from other cheap watches, the Fenix 3 HR is made with reinforced housing and stainless steel. A battery life up to 16 hours in GPS mode and up to 2 weeks in smartwatch mode. Making it by far the toughest and most durable watch. But is not only resistant and beautiful. With a sunlight-visible, high-resolution color LED screen, this beauty lets you receive emails, texts and alerts right on your watch. Even if you're on the trail (perfect for those who still have to be connected when exercising).
Also, you didn’t expect this watch to be only for runners. Did you?. With a capable and smart multisport training option, you can change between skiing, golfing, swimming and paddle sports. Including stand up paddle boarding and rowing (What else could you possibly ask for?).
Fenix H3 For Swimming
You just tell FENIX 3 HR watch the size of the pool you’re swimming in and begin your workout. Tracking your distance, pace, stroke count and more. Also with its water resistance until even 100 meters under the water, you can even take this beauty to open sea. Or even deep inside for scuba diving without having any fear of being useless or damaged.
Fenix H3 For Golf and Skiing
Ski/Board mode puts distance, vertical drop, speed and an automatic run counter (with Auto Pause for the lift line) and more. The feature set for paddle sports includes stroke count, stroke rate and even distance per stroke. Golf mode gives you yardage to the back, front and middle of the green. You can choose between any course you’ve downloaded from the Garmin app.
The FENIX 3 HR watch includes the best elevate wrist heart rate technology, giving you the option to monitor your heart rate without wearing an annoying chest strap. In addition to counting steps and monitoring your sleep, it can check your rate variability. Estimating the maximum volume of oxygen you can consume per minute.
Another cool tool from the Fenix 3 HR are the built-in sensors providing information on heading, elevation and even sudden weather changes.
Therefore, if you are looking for a tough, multi sports, nice looking and smart GPS watch the Fenix H3 is definitely your best choice.
2. Forerunner 920XT – Best GPS Watch For Triathletes and Swimmers
The Garmin Forerunner 920XT is definitely the best waterproof GPS watch. Very popular in the triathlon world and considered by many one of, if not the best GPS watch for the price and the high quality.
Whether you’re out in the open water swimming long distances or just having a small training in a pool, the Forerunner 920XT captures detailed swimming metrics. Including distance, pace, stroke count, stroke rate, and swolf score. Use time alerts to help you hold your pace, or distance alerts to let you know when a set is over. There are even alerts for calories and stroke rate.
While some people see the heart rate monitor you must wear as a disadvantage, other professional athletes think the opposite. That even though the heart rate monitors may be a bit uncomfortable, they can guarantee you will not get a more accurate measures for swimming and running (perfect for professional athletes). You must wear the HRM-Run for optimal running and the HRM-swim under water.
Another feature we have to highlight in the 920XT is its incredible battery life. Up to 40 hours in UltraTrac mode. 24 hours in training mode; and up to 4 months in watch mode. Those are really good numbers and if you don’t have time to charge your watch constantly, the Forerunner 920XT is for you.
Finally, for some people it may seem like a bigger investment than just buying the best all-around watch which is the Fenix 3 HR. Or more uncomfortable to carry because of the straps you must use. However, if you don’t mind these, this pairing allows the 920XT to report 6 running dynamics metrics. Ground contact time balance (the left/right balance of the time each foot spends on the ground). Cadence (total steps per minute). Ground contact time (how much time your foot spends on the ground during each step). Stride length (length of your stride from 1 footfall to the next). Vertical oscillation (amount of “bounce” in your step). And vertical ratio (ratio of vertical oscillation to stride length). Which all together can give you a bigger picture of your training and the spots you can improve. Plus an incredible accuracy that other watches can simply not beat.
3. Tomtom Spark 3 + Music – The Best GPS Running Watch
A specially relevant cool feature about the TomTom spark 3 is the possibility of playing your music with your watch. Without having to bring your bulky phone with you!
Every runner knows that the lighter and simpler, the better. Now this watch has included the music option so you can enjoy your runs even more. You can upload up to 500 songs in the device (it may not seem a lot, but is more than enough unless you are Forest Gump running for days non stop!). It is always a great motivation to have your favorite music to encourage you and push you to higher goals!
It provides the built in heart rate monitor in the wrist band making it much more comfortable and convenient than the ones you need to attach it to your chest. It also provides live stats on the go such as Time, Distance, Speed, Pace and Routes.
TOMTOM For Adventure
In case you get lost, the Tomtom can also tell you the way back with its less accurate than the previous GPS watches but still high accuracy. Even if you are an adventurer like me, you can also explore new routes available.
However, it seems like one of the small issues about the TOMTOM SPARK 3 is that even though its supposed to be a multi sport watch, it can only be used for running, cycling and apparently swimming. But still, there has been many complaints about the inaccuracy of the swimming features. So it should be pretty much just considered for cycling and running, plus the basic features.
As a result, this is one of the best GPS watches for those who don’t want to go too serious and disciplined with sports. But like running regularly and want to use it to count the number of your steps during the day, your heart rate, the distance covered when running or the calories burned when hitting the gym!. Plus a very nice and modern look watch with customizable straps and one control button.
4.Vivoactive – The Best GPS Watch For Golfers
Vivo active is also a great choice for people who want to keep fit and show off a little bit the nice look and high technology of this GPS watch. (I mean, who wouldn’t?). With full color touchscreen and heart rate wrist band included. Plus a super light and thin design this watch provides the basic features as step, time, distance and pace counter. But is also able to function for golf, biking and swimming.
VIVOACTIVE For Golfers
The Garmin Vivoactive is the best golf GPS watch for the golf lovers. You can just pair it with your phone to download the course maps from the database. With more than 38,000 courses world wide (quite a lot huh?). One of the few golf distance watches with and app that keeps maps updated and registers the hole number and par. GPS measures layup and dogleg distances, as well as distances to the front, back and middle of the green, to improve usability over the entire hole. Now you will for sure impress your colleagues when playing a hole.
Another cool feature is the possibility of downloading apps from the IQ store to personalize your watch. Also, stay up to date on your progress for each of the built-in activities with automatic syncs with Garmin apps. You can earn virtual badges for extra motivation, join online challenges and connect, compete and compare with friends and family around the world. View your history and stats right on the smartwatch.
In addition, Garmin has also solved some problems from the previous version of the vivoactive. Which used to have a soft light making it difficult to read sometimes. As a result, it was mostly used in close enviroments like gyms. But fortunately the new Vivoactive HR has a better resolution and brightness so it can be worn anywhere at any time.
To summarize, the Garmin Vivoactive is a good choice if you want to look sporty and modern. If you are into golf its definitely your best choice for the middle range price and what it offers. And definitely if you want and easy and nice looking interface for every day activities such as walking and running.
5. Garmin Forerunner 225 – The Best Bang for your Buck GPS Watch
The Garmin forerunner 225 is our chosen in the low price range-quality best GPS watches . In this edition Garmin has got rid of the heart strap for better comfort but added another interesting things.
It comes with a super cool feature only available in this watch. A colorful gauge identifies your heart rate zone and beats per minute in real time. When it’s gray, you’re in your warm-up zone, which starts at 50 percent of your max heart rate. Green is aerobic. Blue is your easy zone. Orange is threshold. And red is your maximum zone, which starts at 90 percent of the maximum rate your heart can beat.
Another good thing about this watch is the built-in accelerometer that allows you to capture distance and pace data when you’re running on an indoor track or treadmill. Plus, it will remind you to move if you’ve been sitting for more than an hour. A great tool for people who spend long hours sitting in the office.
It of course also comes with the basic features such as tracks distance, pace and heart rate. Activity tracking, counts steps and calories all day. You are able to share your information in the social media, to check your performances and to create workout with different heart rate zones.
The Forerunner was one of the first watches with optical sensor in the wrist, and therefore the big boom when it came out. However nowadays there are much more advanced and accurate GPS watches than this one. But it is still a not so bad choice for a beginner who doesn’t want to spend more money or just want the basic properties.
6. Garmin Forerunner 15– The Best Cheap GPS Watch
Old but gold. As one of the pioneers in the GPS system for watches, the Garmin 15 is a great choice for amateur runners. Also for those who want to keep track on the gym. Much limited in terms of comfort and features. But also its simplicity makes it a good partner if you want to get a basic watch to get started on the GPS watches world.
One of the disadvantages of this sporty watch is the necessity of wearing a chest strap to use many of its functions. Also, if you want to use it for indoors activities you must wear the foot pod which attaches to your shoe laces. However, if you want to check the steps you are taking and the calories burnt over the day when you are not necessarily working out. Now you can do it without a separate tracking device.
Our Final Verdict
I would recommend this great watch for beginners and those of you who just would just use the watch for very basic thing. Such as step counting, calories burnt, pace,time, distance and others. With the possibility of the heart rate monitor.. Having in count that the accuracy may not be the best. Since the Garmin 15 was one of the first GPS watches, is a little bit old fashioned and has outdated technology. So If you are a triathlete, you will need to go up a level to include your swimming and biking.