Once the titan of GPS devices, Garmin has expanded its product line into new territory: watches.
Following the success of FitBit, Apple Watch, and the like, Garmin now offers a full line of smartwatches for active and adventurous consumers.
They come in a wide variety of styles and feature sets. While the options are great, they can also be a little overwhelming. Which features fit which tasks?
Can a watch meant for one purpose also serve another well? And what should we be looking for in a smart watch anyways? Fortunately, we’ve got the answers. Here is a guide to choosing the best Garmin watch.
Considering Your Needs
- Comfort: Everyone’s different, and a high-end smartwatch is only as effective as its comfort level. Garmin knows this, and offers its watches in a variety of sizes and shapes.
Their products are light, with most of them weighing in at less than two ounces. Some feature partially mesh bands, while others are composed of silicone. Most of the screens tend to be surprisingly large, helping reduce eye strain.
- Durability: Whether you are a frequent rock climber or work in a hard-labor position, there are a variety of reasons to consider a rugged design. Watches take their fair share of abuse and are often damaged by small bumps that would likely go unnoticed with a bare wrist.
Fortunately, Garmin understands this and offers several rugged options. They are carefully engineered to endure the abuse of hard work and rugged fun.
- Water Resistance: Some watches are waterproof. Others, water resistance. The extent varies among models, allowing them to offer options between price and necessity.
Of course, fitness watches will face some exposure to moisture, but the extent of its resistance should be considered when planning activities.
Most Important Features
The features of Garmin’s lineup tend to be pretty vast. It is certainly designed for the high-end user in mind, though options are available for the budget-conscious consumer as well. Garmin understands the varying needs among athletes and has developed a product line to match.
It’s also important to mention that each of these features are included with the initial purchase; no additional fees or subscriptions are necessary. Here are a few of the most important features:
- GPS: True to its legacy, many of Garmin’s watches feature GPS capabilities. It may sound strange, but these do actually come in handy when used for specific purposes.
The best Garmin GPS watch will help users navigate their immediate area. GPS can also be used to more accurately measure distance and elevation change. Most of Garmin’s watches have GPS built directly into the watch, allowing them to function independently of a smartphone (at least in this respect).
- Display: Consistent with the industry, Garmin offers a variety of displays with its lineup. Some feature the traditional hands and dial. Others, a touchscreen. Several displays are also customized for the task at hand.
For example, runners will enjoy their Vivo lineup, which features a similar display to the Fitbit. A few even feature a wide display for easier viewing, though it may have an impact on comfort for some.
Touchscreen displays come in both analog and color. On watches that do not feature a touchscreen, navigating the screen is usually done with buttons or touchpads.
- Health Tracking: Watches provide a convenient and accurate method of tracking personal fitness. Garmin’s lineup can track steps, elevation, heart rate and calories burned.
Certain watches can also wirelessly connect with specialized heart monitors for even more reporting. Email and text alerts will help users stay fit once the watch has been synced.
- VO2 Max: Many of Garmin’s fitness watches can estimate a user’s maximum oxygen consumption, or VO2 Max. This is important because strenuous exercise requires more oxygen, but the amount that a person can consume is limited by physical constraints.
However, physical activity can help improve VO2 Max. Additionally, VO2 Max can be used to help determine whether your fitness regimen is too strenuous. Of course, it’s only an estimate, so when in doubt, check with a doctor and remember to print some reports from the Garmin Connect app.
- Garmin Connect: It takes motivation to maintain an effective fitness regimen, and that’s just what users will find in Garmin Connect. This feature connects the watch with a smartphone app and online community.
The app can be used to track and share fitness milestones with friends and social media. You can, if you wish, even receive personalized feedback and advice from others within the fitness community based on your fitness goals and habits.
Some watches even offer personalized electronic coaching to help you reach your goals. Additionally, Garmin Connect can inform users of incoming messages from email, text and phone calls.
Activity Specific Watches
Many of Garmin’s watches have been customized for specific solutions. These include sports and fitness activities alike.
For the athlete who loves to do it all, there are watches to match, though they’ll come at a much higher price. Here are a few of the most common:
- Running: Runners love stats, and they are arguably the ones who drove interest in fitness watches. Garmin’s options offer the stats that we have come to expect from accurate, real-time fitness measurement apparel.
They also provide customizable features and reports to help enhance workouts even further. Additionally, the running watches tend to offer many of the features, including GPS and water resistance, that are most useful in the company’s lineup.
- Swimming: From backyard pools to ocean waves, swimming is a sport conducted under varied conditions. Depth, currents, visibility and temperatures are just a few of the special considerations that accompany watersports.
Saltwater and chlorinated pools also present their own challenges to technology. Garmin has a line of fitness watches that cater to the unique needs of swimmers, able to provide accurate feedback while also enduring the abuse of watersports. Most watches will include maximum depth information in the manual.
- Golfing: Golf requires focus. It’s counterproductive to stress over the minute details that can be measured and stored with a smart watch. Garmin’s solutions feature watches that have been preloaded with over 40000 course maps from around the world.
Some even offer useful information regarding your swings. Of course, they also feature a glove-friendly design.
- Children: Kids have unique needs, and Garmin offers watches to match. They feature unique styles that appeal the eye of a child and even display fun animations that kids will enjoy. They even offer a reward system to keep children motivated. Of course, their activity, rewards and all else can be monitored and controlled through a special app for parents.
Proper Watch Care
While Garmin’s watches tend to be versatile, they still need to be cared for. First, users should consider the intended use of each watch. Some are more rugged to others. Also, each watch tends to have a varying resistance to water exposure. Even for waterproof watches, Garmin recommends not pressing any buttons while submerged.
After regular use, the watch should be clean with a lightly damp cloth and mild soap. This should also be done if a watch is exposed to excessive dirt or chemicals, including alcohol and salt water. It should then be given time to completely dry before using it again. Never attempt to clean the watch with a sharp point.
Product Reviews Among Garmin’s Best Selections
So we’ve gone over the features and variety available with Garmin’s lineup. We’ve also shown you a few features to look for and how to match them with your own fitness needs. Now, we’d like to help you find the best Garmin running watch. Here’s a list of some of Garmin’s most effective watches:
Garmin Forerunner 35 GPS Running Watch
Weight: 1.6 Ounces
Dimensions: 0.5 x 1.4 x 1.6
Design Features: Fitness monitor, GPS connection, Music controls, Messaging Capabilities
Best Use: Running, cardio classes, cycling, marathons
Description: True to its name, The Garmin Forerunner is at the forefront of your running regimen. The forerunner is all about you – it tracks your heart rate, movement and favorite fitness locations.
It’s all about your motivation – messaging, music controls and alerts are easily controlled from the watch and app. And, it’s all about customization community – share your progress, message your friends and challenge them to competitions through Garmin Connect.
Its downside is that while the Forerunner 35 is resistant to sweat, it cannot be used to track watersports.
Garmin Forerunner 25 GPS
Weight: 4 ounces
Dimensions: 6 x 4 x 3 inches
Design Features: Built-in heart rate monitor, step counter, virtual pacer, waterproof, GPS
Best Use: Quick workouts, short marathons
Description: A more budget-friendly option, the Garmin Forerunner offers a great start for those only needing a basic solution. Garmin Forerunner 25 GPS is a great option for those who would rather track specific workouts rather than daily activity.
It measures distance and speed while monitoring heart rate and calories burned. It also connects with an online community through Garmin Connect Mobile. At only 8-10 hours, it has a relatively short battery life and, if used to track all activity, will likely need to be charged on a daily basis.
However, by turning off its GPS, it can last up to 10 weeks while still tracking and displaying workout statistics.
Garmin Forerunner 920XT
Weight: 2.08 Ounces
Dimensions: 0.5 x 1.9 x 2.2 inches
Design Features: Stylish black and blue color scheme, button control, color display, waterproof
Best Use: Running, swimming, cycling
Description: Garmin’s 920XT offers excellent versatility, especially for triathlon competitors. The price is a little below the average of the company’s options, but lack much to make up for it. It doesn’t have a touchscreen display, but the navigation buttons are actually intuitive.
It comes bundled with an HRM-Run heart monitor, which offers even more feedback than available with any fitness watch. In fact, it can go so far as to measure VO2 Max and recommend how much rest should accompany each workout.
It can also provide VO2 feedback on a bike when used with a power meter. IT’s also waterproof and provides real-time feedback while swimming.
Garmin Forerunner 620 GPS Running Watch
Weight: 1.6 ounces
Dimensions: 1.8 x 1.8 x 0.5 inches
Design Features: 1 inch color touchscreen display, advanced GPS, accelerometer, wireless pairing
Best Use: Running, indoor workout routines
Description: The Forerunner 620 is another great choice for cautious budgets. It offers feedback for a variety of metrics, even including cadence, oscillation and the degree of bounce.
The partially mesh strap is as breathable as it is comfortable. It also features both a touchscreen and touchpad for easier use. The screen splits information into segments, allowing users to keep track of multiple data sets simultaneously.
It works with a variety of training plans carefully designed by fitness professionals for Garmin Connect. In fact, these plans even provide coaching, offering athletes the benefit of private training without the cost.
Garmin Forerunner 630
Weight: 1.44 ounces
Dimensions: 1.8 x 0.5 x 1.8 inches
Design Features: 1.23 inch screen, advanced running dynamics, audio prompts, music controls, recovery advisor
Best Use: Running, cycling, indoor fitness
Description: The Forerunner 630 is an upgrade over the 620. It comes at a higher price, but also offers new features to match. The screen is larger at 1.23 inches and more vivid. Despite this, it actually weighs less than its predecessor, making it one of Garmin’s lightest watches.
Charts displayed right on the screen offer useful information based on your activities and are designed with ease of understanding in mind. A stress score will help you determine whether you are pushing yourself too little or too hard.
Garmin Forerunner 230
Weight: 1.44 ounces
Dimensions: 0.5 inches, 1.8 inches, 1.8 inches
Design Features: Audio prompts, smart notifications, accelerometer, VO2 Max reader
Best Uses: Running, Indoor track, treadmill
Description: When bundled with your smartphone, the Forerunner 230 offers everything you need to measure and enhance your fitness regimen. The larger screen provides a split view of pertinent information.
It keeps track of steps, calories and even inactivity; a friendly vibration informs you when your body has been at rest for too long. It will also keep track of your pace and even offers a timer function. It also keeps you connected with text, email, call and even calendar notifications.
The 230’s software can be further enhanced with downloadable upgrades, including widgets and even applications.
Garmin Forerunner 235
Weight: 1.6 ounces
Dimensions: 0.5 x 1.8 x 1.8 inches
Design Features: Lithium ion battery, 24/7 tracking, classic watch design, color touchscreen display, GPS, audio prompts, wrist-based heart monitor
Best Use: Running, cycling
Description: The Forerunner 235 uses GPS technology to provide accurate information for your workout regimen. In addition to measuring steps and distance, it can even offer feedback regarding elevation change.
It also tracks physiological metrics, including calorie loss, VO2 Max and sleep patterns. The 235 even offers weather updates, allowing you to quickly change your fitness plans accordingly.
And you can do it all while keeping up with real-time message alerts via Garmin Connect. Most importantly, you won’t have to worry about pushing yourself too hard because the 235 offers recommended recovery times based on your unique physiology.
Garmin Forerunner 735XT
Weight: 1.6 ounces
Dimensions: 0.47 x 1.75 x 1.75 inches
Design Features: Support for a variety of activities, silicone band, VO2 Max measurements, lithium ion battery, color display, button controls
Best Use: Running, hiking, kayaking, cycling, weight-lifting and skiing
Description: One of the best features of the Garmin Forerunner 735XT is its customized settings for a variety of sports. Keep track of your running distance with a step counter. Count the number of laps with its swim settings. Measure elevation as you hike mountains, or speed while cycling.
You can even measure paddle sports, weight-lifting and skiing. A specially designed silicone band keeps it comfortable and durable through it all.
Regardless of your chosen activity, it will also keep track of your heart rate throughout the day all on its own. It can be connected with your smartphone for automatic information storage, music controls and message notifications.
The 735XT comes with a higher price tag, but it is certainly worth the extra cost for the most enthusiastic and versatile athletes. Experts will find the 735XT’s ability to estimate race times particularly useful.
Ultimately, Garmin’s running watches offer enough versatility to prove useful for a variety of functions, so they’re probably the most practical choice for most non-watersport uses. They offer all of the necessary metrics for a pretty solid reading and are compatible with Garmin Connect.
However, athletes who dedicate significant time to a particular sport may benefit more from a specialized watch. Those with health problems may also need to consider the specific metrics measured and whether or not a chosen watch can wirelessly connect with certain external devices.
Even then, users must remember that some physiological measurements are estimates only. No fitness watch should ever be used to replace or interfere with equipment recommended by a doctor.
If you have a story to share with us, please visit the comments section below and share your experiences with us.