Best GPS Watch 2017

Product Use case Rating
TomTom Spark 3 Cardio + Music Best Overall 8
Garmin Forerunner 15 Best Under $100 7
Garmin vivoactive HR Best GPS Smartwatch 8
Garmin Approach S6 Best Golf GPS Watch 8
Garmin Forerunner 735XT Best for Triathletes 8
Garmin fenix 3 Sapphire Best for Outdoors 8

While some fitness trackers are starting to incorporate some location information, more serious athletes are making the investment in dedicated GPS watches. Even the most basic devices track and map your routes, and use that data to calculate your pace and speed. Extra features, such as heart rate monitors, altimeters, preloaded maps and Bluetooth capabilities come at a premium.

Our favorite GPS watch is the TomTom Spark 3 Cardio + Music, which features not only a built-in heart rate monitor, but it can store 3GB worth of music and comes bundled with a pair of Bluetooth earbuds. That means you no longer have to bring a second gadget with you if you want to listen to music while you run. For those on a budget, we recommend the Garmin Forerunner 15, a no-frills watch that accurately tracks your runs.

GPS watches can be general purpose, or they can be dedicated to specific activities. Golfers will want to opt for a device with preloaded course maps, while triathletes will want to get a multi-sport watch that can not only withstand more than a dip in the pool, but can also measure your strokes and your biking distance.

Similar to fitness trackers, the line that separates GPS watches from smartwatches is blurring with the arrival of devices that incorporate smartphone notifications with GPS, step, distance and calories counts, plus heart rate measurements.

MORE: How to Choose a Smartwatch

To help you choose which device is best for you, we've selected the top GPS watches in various categories, judging them based on performance, ease of use and design.

How We Test

For each GPS watch, we evaluate its hardware design and comfort. The device needs to be comfortable enough to wear during even the most rigorous and lengthy runs. We test for GPS speed and accuracy by grabbing location signals in different areas — in between tall buildings and skyscrapers, as well as in open spaces. We use each watch for an extended period of time to test the manufacturer's battery-life claims. Lastly, we evaluate the device's companion app and the experience of using the watch and app together.

MORE: How to Choose a Fitness Tracker

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  • jay gaffey
    I bought a Forerunner 735XT from Garmin on Friday to use for the Ultra Trail Australia 100km trail run.

    Pros: It was very compact, user friendly and comfortable with a colour screen.

    Cons: It was useless!! The distances were out by nearly 30km, (and those of you who do endurance sports will understand how annoying looking at the wrong distance for hours on end can be), and the battery ran flat at 17 hours even though it was on the ultra track setting that was meant to last for 40hours.

    I called Garmin, and after 20 mins of waiting on the phone, they told me I needed to download the updates (on their new watch), and try it again. They have't replied to my three emails yet.

    This watch clearly has some serious gremlins to iron out. Don’t touch it with a barge pole!

    AND it’s not cheap
  • mprospero
    Jay - Garmin sent me a Forerunner 735XT to test too - I'll see if I have the same problem. Kudos to you for running an Ultra! The most I've ever done is a marathon.
  • RussellFiola
    Garmin FR 230