Whether you’re a hardened athlete, new to tracking your activity or sit somewhere in the middle, there really is a Garmin watch for every type of user.
The only problem with this wide-reaching portfolio is that it can become quite tricky to narrow down which Garmin is best for your needs – and, of course, your budget. That’s where this guide comes in.
We’ve tested, reviewed and rated pretty much every Garmin watch in order to give you a snapshot of what’s on offer. You can check out our full Garmin reviews for the in-depth story on each device, but this is a great place to narrow down your options and get familiar with the lineup.
How to choose the right Garmin watch
Before you can really know which Garmin device is right for you, it’s important to understand who each range is aimed at.
- Fenix – Premium multisport watches for those who want the best of everything
- Venu – Garmin’s smartwatch line, providing an alternative to the Apple Watch and others
- Forerunner – Top-tier GPS sports watches with a focus on catering for runners
- Vivoactive – Everyday fitness watches that are best for gaining basic insights into all kinds of activity
- Vivomove – Hybrid watches that can track activity discreetly
- Instinct – Rugged GPS watch designed for the outdoors
Naturally, Garmin has plenty more devices for specific sports – such as its Approach golf wearables, the Swim, Epix and Descent series’ or the Vivo fitness bands – but the above are the most common models we would recommend. If you are looking for something specific, the chances are strong that Garmin has a tracker for the job.
What is the best Garmin watch?
Within the many families of Garmin devices are multiple generations, different case sizes and standard or premium versions. This makes the task of ranking the top Garmin watches even more difficult, since, often, older models of premium lines (like the Fenix or Forerunner) are still exceptional picks.
In fact, for those who have a rough idea of what Garmin device they’re suited to, it’s sometimes worth considering the last-gen model. These often age very well, since Garmin supports discontinued devices with software updates, and can come with a handy price discount.
To help keep things simple and relevant for you here, though, our ratings largely reflect the current crop of Garmin products.
- Garmin Venu 2 / 2S / 2 Plus
- Garmin Fenix 6 / 6S / 6X / 6 Pro / Solar
- Garmin Forerunner 55
- Garmin Forerunner 945 / 945 LTE
- Garmin Vivoactive 4 / 4S
- Garmin Venu Sq
- Garmin Forerunner 245 / 245 Music
- Garmin Instinct Solar
- Garmin Vivomove
- Garmin Enduro
Garmin Venu 2 / 2S / 2 Plus
The Venu 2 family is our current pick for the top Garmin watch to consider, with each model offering a superb blend of essential features and a clean design that can rival any smartwatch in the industry.
Though the 43mm Venu 2 Plus is the latest addition to the lineup, we’ve lumped it in with the older 45mm Venu 2 and 40mm Venu 2S because the differences are relatively minor. Unlike the significant jump in performance between the original Venu and the second generation, the Plus model simply adds the built-in microphone and speaker for calls, texts and voice assistant exchanges.
For some, it’ll be an essential upgrade – and worth the extra cash – but, for most, we suspect the Venu 2 and 2S are the better options to consider.
Whichever you choose, you’ll receive the beautiful AMOLED touchscreen, with a comprehensive array of fitness tracking and health features at your fingertips. There’s also support for Garmin Pay, downloadable music from Spotify, Deezer or Amazon Music and, of course, access to the delights of Garmin Connect.
Simply, if you need a sporty smartwatch, this line of devices is very hard to beat.
Garmin Fenix 6 / 6S / 6X / 6 Pro / Solar
The Garmin Fenix 6 comes in many, many forms – the regular 6 (47mm), 6S (42mm), 6X (51mm) and 6 Pro (47mm, with Wi-Fi, music and mapping). Each size variation is also available in a Solar version, which adds to the already-mammoth battery life.
Our top recommendation from the lineup is the Fenix 6 Pro, since it provides the best blend of features and value for money. Really, though, you can’t lose here. We’d say the hardest part of choosing between the Fenix 6 range is discovering which case size is the right fit for your wrist in daily use.
There are slight variations between models, but, roughly, you’re able to receive around 14 days of battery life, 10ATM waterproofing, GPS, heart rate, altitude, barometer and temperature sensors. Each offers stellar sports tracking performance, from daily steps to tracking multi-day events, and combines this with customisation, easy strap change and compatibility with the wider Garmin system.
All the data is analysed, with feedback given to help improve training performance and recovery, as well as daily stress and sleep efficiency. Mobile payments are also supported.
Though it’s likely to be overkill for most users, those who spend lots of time in the outdoors, partake in multiple sports or want the very peak of tracking performance will love the Fenix 6 range.
Garmin Forerunner 55
The Forerunner 55 may be an entry-level model, but it still provides an extremely rich experience for beginners. For those who are just getting started with tracking their runs, there really is nothing better.
It’s definitely more limited outside of run tracking than the more premium models in the family, which are able to expand to advanced tracking for other sports and activities, but features like suggested workouts, Garmin’s own PacePro feature, cadence alerts, recovery advice and the adaptive training plans available through Garmin Coach will help guide you towards that new personal best.
It also features a battery life that can last for 20 hours when tracking via GPS, and around two weeks in normal use.
Garmin Forerunner 945 / 945 LTE
The Forerunner 945 is now a little long in the tooth, but the watch is still an exceptional pick for triathletes and serious exercisers. Essentially, it offers everything that the 935 did and fills in the gaps.
So, as well as being able to track a wide variety of sports accurately and with detailed feedback, this generation adds support for Garmin Pay and offline music.
The latter means you can connect your headphones via Bluetooth and listen to your favourite songs from services like Spotify, Amazon Music or Deezer.
There’s a small bump in the price over the previous generation, but it also adds full-colour offline mapping and emergency call functions to alert people if you have a problem on your ride or run.
There’s now an LTE version, too, which, aside from keeping you connected and providing support for LiveTrack and more, also features Garmin’s fourth-gen optical heart rate sensor.
Garmin Vivoactive 4
With the emergence of the Venu watches over the last few years, the Vivoactive range has been cannibalised slightly.
With that said, there’s still a place for it – and the Vivoactive 4 is a very strong option for those who want a fitness-first device with a bit more of a smartwatch-like design.
With the Vivoactive 4, there’s a choice of sizes – 42 or 45mm – but, thankfully, there’s only one version of this tracker. With the third generation, there was a version with music and one without, and Garmin has simplified things by bundling in support from the off.
It also packs in Garmin Pay, and, unlike most of the company’s devices, has a touchscreen. The display can’t match the quality of the Venu 2 range, but that’s why it’s cheaper.
Garmin Venu Sq
This is a bit of a left-field option from Garmin, but, considering most of its devices follow the same design language, it’s a welcome one. The Venu 2 range already provides an excellent alternative to the high-end Apple Watch models, and this entry-level, square model is a real competitor to the cheaper Apple models, like the SE and Series 3.
It offers all of Garmin’s lifestyle features, like automatic activity detection, 24/7 heart rate tracking, steps and sleep tracking. There’s also built-in GPS, which not all lower-priced devices feature, and a variety of tracking modes mean it’s able to log your sports training and performance.
Paired with six days of realistic battery life and offering smartphone notifications, it’s a good Garmin for those wanting something that is a little smaller and subtle. There’s a Music Edition, as well, if you want offline music, but this costs a little more.
Garmin Forerunner 245
If the Forerunner 945 models are slightly out of your budget (or requirement), heading further down the range is a safe bet.
While Garmin has the Forerunner 745 as a good upper-midpoint in the lineup – and this is definitely worth considering – we think the Forerunner 245 watches are more attractive for exercisers wanting slightly more than the basics.
You get a very good activity tracking experience, with smartwatch-like notifications, wellness features and sleep monitoring all involved, too.
If you opt for the 245 Music version, you’ll also be able to pair Bluetooth headphones and access offline music from the likes of Spotify. And, providing you have your phone connected to the watch, you can also access the safety function – alerting someone if you have a problem.
Garmin Instinct Solar
The Instinct Solar is another evolution based on the same premise as Garmin’s other long-lasting, all-tracking watches, but it’s designed to be slightly more rugged.
While the Fenix normally takes up this position, the Instinct meets Mil-Std 810G protection, proofed to 100m and also being shock resistant. It also offers 14 days of battery that can be topped up throughout time in the sun.
It’s a little chunkier than some other Garmin devices, but, at its heart, it will give you the same GPS, heart rate and activity tracking. The downside to this emphasis on tracking is the lack of smartwatch features – there’s no Garmin Pay or music support, for instance – but there are other watches to explore if that’s on your wishlist.
Garmin Vivomove HR
The Vivomove is a slightly different approach from Garmin, stepping away from sports devices into something more classically styled. The designs in this family are hybrids, giving you a regular watch face with physical clock hands and a hidden display that can be accessed through a tap.
It started with the Vivomove HR, but there’s now a Vivomove Luxe and Vivomove Style – all are similar in approach, but differ slightly in design. If you’re not really looking for a device that will accompany you on runs, but one that will track your daily activity, then the Vivomove family is likely to be the watch for you.
Despite the subdued looks, it will still track a full range of activity data, reporting back on how active you’ve been and syncing with Garmin Connect on your phone and giving you notifications.
The Garmin Enduro comes in at the top of the range, building on the offering of the Fenix 6 Solar models with a slight increase in the display and body size, while also moving to a wider, fabric strap.
The real gains here are in battery life, with the Enduro designed for ultra-endurance athletes, adding in some trail running features and promising 50 days of battery life in smartwatch mode – more than 3x that of the Fenix Solar. Garmin goes further, saying that it can last a full year in battery saver mode, with solar charging boosting the battery.
Otherwise, it offers all the features and protection you get from the Fenix, with the choice of premium bezel materials.
Writing by Conor Allison.