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The best Garmin watch 2021: find the right Garmin fitness tracker for you

The best Garmin watch
(Image credit: Garmin)

Choosing the best Garmin watch needn’t be hard, as we've rounded up the very best options for every user – whether you're a seasoned road runner, just getting into regular workouts, or love hitting the trails on the weekends. If you’re just starting out you might want to consider the Garmin Forerunner 30 for example, while serious athletes might opt for the Garmin Fenix 6.

There are many, many other great Garmin watches to consider, and for each of them we’ve included an overview, a specs list, and the main good and bad points, so you can easily narrow down the options.

Ultimately, you shouldn’t go too wrong with any of the Garmin watches below, but for a closer look at any, make sure to click through to our full reviews.

And if you’re not sold on any of Garmin’s output, head over to our best smartwatch or best running watch guides for other options. Oh, and check back regularly, because we’ll be updating all these guides whenever new contenders emerge.

Garmin Fenix 6

(Image credit: Garmin)

1. Garmin Fenix 6

The best Garmin watch overall

Specifications
Screen size: 1.3-inch diameter
Touchscreen: No
Battery life using GPS: 36 hours
Battery life on standby: 14 days
Onboard storage: 64MB
Bluetooth connection: Yes
Smartwatch capabilities: Yes
Multisport: Loads of them
Reasons to buy
+Can't be beaten for outdoor tracking+Accurate activity tracking
Reasons to avoid
-Very expensive-Not the most stylish of watches

The Garmin Fenix 6 is perhaps the ultimate multi-sport smartwatch, and certainly the ultimate one offered by Garmin. Or, well, the Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Solar is anyway, but the entire Fenix 6 range is truly top-end as wearables go.

The Garmin Fenix 6 will track almost any outdoor activity you could possibly want, with GPS along with a heart rate monitor that even works underwater.

GPS locks on fast and works reliably in our experience, battery life is impressive, and the watch feels robust – if bulky.

The high price will put many people off and if you’re not sure you really need the Garmin Fenix 6 then, well, you probably don’t. In that case, consider one of the cheaper options elsewhere on this list, but for serious athletes and adventurers, particularly those who don’t stick to just one sport, the Fenix 6 comes highly recommended.

Read our full Garmin Fenix 6 review

Garmin Forerunner 35

2. Garmin Forerunner 35

The best cheap Garmin watch

Specifications
Screen size: 0.93-inch x 0.93-inch
Touchscreen: No
Battery life using GPS: 13 hours
Battery life on standby: 9 days
Onboard storage: 7 activities
Bluetooth connection: Yes
Smartwatch capabilities: Yes
Multisport: Cycling
Inbuilt heart-rate monitor: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Heart rate measured at the wrist+Long battery life
Reasons to avoid
-A touch overpriced-Confusingly replaced

Jumping up another price bracket now, and we’re faced with the Forerunner 35, a more fashion-conscious mid-range unit that's packing some powerful functions.

The most obvious difference between the 35 and all of the watches detailed above is the introduction of Garmin’s Elevate technology, which enables heart rate monitoring at the wrist.

This addition means you don’t have to go to the trouble of donning a chest strap before every run, and it also enables the unit to measure your heart rate throughout the day, building up a detailed profile.

While this is clearly of benefit, the wrist-based heart rate monitoring of this Garmin watch is not without its faults, particularly when it comes to tracking heart rate during interval sessions. 

When compared to the heart rate readings of a traditional chest-mounted monitor, the wrist-based version is a little slow to react to rapid rises and falls in heart rate, although it performs well on steadier runs.

Garmin Forerunner 945

(Image credit: Garmin)

3. Garmin Forerunner 945

The best Garmin watch for serious athletes

Specifications
Screen size: 1.2-inch diameter
Touchscreen: No
Battery life using GPS: 36 hours
Battery life on standby: 14 days
Onboard storage: 16GB for maps, 4GB for music
Bluetooth connection: Yes
Smartwatch capabilities: Yes
Multisport: Dozens
Reasons to buy
+Very accurate GPS and heart rate+Useful full-color maps
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Iffy swim tracking

The Garmin Forerunner 945 is the best of Garmin’s running-focused smartwatches. It’s not quite as feature-packed as the more multi-sport oriented Fenix 6, but if all you care about is running then this should have everything you’ll need and then some.

We found the GPS and heart rate monitor to both be exceedingly accurate in our review, and also praised the Forerunner 945’s full-color maps and up to two weeks of battery life.

And while this is a runner’s watch through and through, that’s not to say it can’t track other sports. In fact, there are tracking tools for over 30 different activities built-in.

But if you’re not primarily running – and at a high level – then you’ll probably be better off with a cheaper or more general-purpose Garmin watch, as this costs a lot, and goes deeper into what it tracks than most casual runners will want or need.

Read our full Garmin Forerunner 945 review

Garmin Forerunner 45

(Image credit: Garmin)

4. Garmin Forerunner 45

The best Garmin for new runners

Specifications
Screen size: 1.04-inch x 1.04-inch
Touchscreen: No
Battery life using GPS: 13 hours
Battery life on standby: 7 days
Onboard storage: 200 hours of data
Bluetooth connection: Yes
Smartwatch capabilities: Yes
Multisport: Cycling
Inbuilt heart-rate monitor: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight+Good value
Reasons to avoid
-Limited sport profiles-Plastic-heavy build

Then there's the Forerunner 45, which is a reworked version of the Forerunner 35 and was released in the first half of 2019. There are a few additional wellness features that make the Forerunner 45 stand out compared to the other devices you've read about above.

It comes with everything you'd expect in terms of a heart rate sensor, sleep tracking and a variety of smartwatch features, but the highlight here may be the new Body Battery functionality.

This is a metric that Garmin debuted on the Vivofit 4 and combines stats such as stress, heart rate variability and your general activity data to work out your overall energy levels so you can find the optimum time to train and ensure you're not pushing yourself too hard.

Overall, the Forerunner 45 isn't the most capable Garmin watch on this list but considering it isn't as expensive as some of the devices coming up on this list you may want to go for it.

Read the full Garmin Forerunner 45 review

Garmin Vivoactive 4S

(Image credit: Garmin)

5. Garmin Vivoactive 4S

The best Garmin watch for smaller wrists

Specifications
Screen size: 1.1-inch diameter
Touchscreen: Yes
Battery life using GPS: 5 hours
Battery life on standby: 7 days
Onboard storage: 4GB for music
Bluetooth connection: Yes
Smartwatch capabilities: Yes
Multisport: Dozens
Reasons to buy
+Full GPS for exercise tracking+On-watch music streaming
Reasons to avoid
-No training load monitoring-Spotify integration needs work

Some Garmin watches are pretty utilitarian in design, and even though the face of a Garmin Instinct Solar (below) isn't any larger than a typical smartwatch, its overall look can be overwhelming on a slimmer wrist. 

That's where the Garmin Vivoactive 4S comes in. At just 40 x 40 x 12.7mm, it's essentially a scaled-down version of the smart and versatile Vivoactive 4.

Like its larger counterpart, the Vivoactive 4S boasts excellent fitness tracking with on-board GPS that locks on in just a few seconds and gives an accurate record of your runs and rides, rather than smoothing out the route as some trackers do.

It's smart enough to wear all day, and with sleep tracking and an SPO2 sensor to monitor blood oxygen levels, you'll want to keep it on all night as well.

Garmin Instinct Solar

(Image credit: Garmin)

6. Garmin Instinct Solar

The best Garmin watch for battery life

Specifications
Screen size: 0.9-inch diameter dual display
Touchscreen: No
Battery life using GPS: 30 hours, or 38 with solar
Battery life on standby: 56 days, or unlimited with solar
Onboard storage: 16MB
Bluetooth connection: Yes
Smartwatch capabilities: No
Multisport: Dozens
Reasons to buy
+Remarkable battery life+Super robust design+Innovative dual screen
Reasons to avoid
-Very chunky design

The Garmin Instinct Solar isn't the only watch capable of receiving regular top-ups through its Power Glass screen, but it's definitely the most impressive when it comes to sheer longevity, and can theoretically last indefinitely between charges when in power-saving mode. In real-world use that's unlikely to happen, but a few hours of sunlight mean that even with GPS enabled, you'll be able to use the Instinct Solar for days rather than hours,

Another of the Garmin Instinct Solar's best features is its dual display, which shows contextual information in a small cut-out, making it far easier to navigate the watch's myriad settings and options. In our tests we found it extremely useful, particularly since the Instinct Solar has a frankly enormous number of activity tracking and fitness monitoring options.

The only downside is that it's nor particularly attractive, with a chunky design that would look out of place in the office, but this is a Garmin watch designed for the great outdoors and that robust build means it'll take more than a few knocks when you're hiking, trail running, kayaking, camping or hiking. Tough and extremely practical.

Read our full Garmin Instinct Solar review

The best Garmin watch: Garmin Venu

Garmin Venu (Image credit: Garmin)

7. Garmin Venu

The best Garmin for checking stats on the move

Specifications
Screen size: 1.2-inch
Touchscreen: Yes
Battery life using GPS: 6 hours (with music)
Battery life in smartwatch mode: 5 days
Onboard storage: 200 hours activities
Bluetooth connection: Yes
Smartwatch capabilities: Yes
Multi-sport: Yes
Inbuilt heart-rate monitor: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Vibrant AMOLED display+Full suite of fitness features
Reasons to avoid
-Design is slightly generic-Touchscreen can be fiddly

The Venu is the first Garmin sports watch to feature an AMOLED display. It's bright, clear, and easy to read even when you're outside running in direct sunlight. It can be a little more fiddly to operate than Garmin watches like the Instinct that use physical buttons, but being able to check your pace, distance and time with minimal fuss is a real boon, and you can set custom shortcuts to your favorite tools.

We appreciate the offline music support, which (together with reliable on-board GPS) means you can run without carrying a cumbersome phone, but this isn't just a phone for taking out pounding the pavements - there's a huge array of workout modes, with adaptive training recommendations from Garmin Coach.

The Garmin Venu was released in 2019, but has stood the test of time well, and that truly vibrant screen makes it a great choice for runners who want a dependable sports watch that will also serve as a great smartwatch between training sessions.

Read the Garmin Venu review

The best Garmin watch: Garmin Venu Sq

Garmin Venu Sq (Image credit: Garmin)

8. Garmin Venu Sq

The best Garmin for everyday wear

Specifications
Screen size: 1.3-inch
Touchscreen: Yes
Battery life using GPS: 14 hours
Battery life in smartwatch mode: 6 days
Onboard storage: 200 hours activities
Bluetooth connection: Yes
Smartwatch capabilities: Yes
Multi-sport: Yes
Inbuilt heart-rate monitor: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Light and comfortable to wear+Feature-packed+Works with external sensors
Reasons to avoid
-Missing altimeter-Slightly archaic watch UI

The Venu Sq one of the most affordable watches Garmin has released in some time, but certainly doesn't look it, with an attractive design and bright color screen that defy its modest price tag.

It’s packing all those core sensors like built-in GPS, a heart rate monitor and pulse ox sensor. There’s dedicated modes for the likes of running, cycling and swimming to make it a solid sports tracking companion, though in our tests we found that picking up a GPS signal took a little longer than we'd like.

There are two versions available: the regular edition, and one with a built-in music player. Whichever you pick, you'll get contactless payments, downloadable apps from the Garmin Connect IQ store

If you're looking for an entry-level watch for sports tracking then the original Venu will serve you better, but if value is your main priority than the Venu Sq comes highly recommended.

Read the Garmin Venu Sq review

Garmin Vivomove 3

(Image credit: Garmin)

9. Garmin Vivomove 3

The best Garmin watch if you like classic style

Specifications
Screen size: 8.9 x 18.3 mm (hybrid face)
Touchscreen: Yes
Battery life using GPS: N/A
Battery life in smartwatch mode: 7 days
Onboard storage: 7 timed activities / 14 days activity tracking
Bluetooth connection: Yes
Smartwatch capabilities: Yes
Multisport: Yes
Inbuilt heart-rate monitor: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Great looks+Affordably priced
Reasons to avoid
-No on-board GPS-Display shows limited data

The Garmin Vivomove 3 looks similar to the Vivoactive 4 at first glance, but is a hybrid smartwatch, meaning it has an analog face, with hands that move out of the way automatically to display smartphone notifications and fitness stats on a hidden digital display. It's a great-looking watch, though lighter on fitness features than the Vivomove.

There's no on-board GPS, for one - instead you'll need to carry your phone to track outdoor workouts. The smaller than usual digital display also means that you get less information than with a more conventional Garmin. To drill down through your daily activity stats, you'll need to delve into the Garmih Connect app.

If you're looking for a smart alternative to a Fitbit, then it's definitely worth checking out, particularly now that its price has dropped significantly. If you're looking for a serious sports watch then a Forerunner will be a better choice,

Should I buy the Garmin Vivomove 3

Garmin Lily

(Image credit: Garmin)

10. Garmin Lily

The first Garmin watch built specifically for women

Specifications
Screen size: 1 inch
Touchscreen: Yes
Battery life using GPS: N/A
Battery life in smartwatch mode: 5 days
Onboard storage: 200 hours activities
Bluetooth connection: Yes
Smartwatch capabilities: Yes
Multi-sport: Yes
Inbuilt heart-rate monitor: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Very attractive design+Slim and lightweight
Reasons to avoid
-No on-board GPS-No NFC for contactless payments

The Garmin Lily is designed specifically for women, with a super slim design that's a big departure from the typical chunky design of most smartwatches.

You can receive smartphone notifications through the Lily, it packs an impressive range of activity-tracking profiles, and there's a pulse ox sensor as well. It also puts women's health features front and center; Garmin's period-tracking app is installed as standard, and available with a quick tap of the smart monochrome display.

Unfortunately, there are some major setbacks, the most significant of which is the lack of on-board GPS. Instead, you have to connect the Lily to your phone and allow it to piggyback off your handset's satellite positioning. It works well, but is a shame for anyone who wants to walk, run or cycle without being dragged down by a bulky phone.

There's also no on-board music storage, or support for contactless purchases via Garmin Pay. Its a shame, because the Lily is a lovely device. Hopefully future iterations won't sacrifice so much functionality in the interests of style.

Read our full Garmin Lily review