Best Garmin watch in 2024

Finding the best Garmin watch depends on your needs and your budget. Whatever your goals are this January, we've found the best Garmin watches on the market to help you reach them. While some of the devices on this list are more of a fitness tracker, designed to count your steps, distance and calories burned, others are clearly designed with hardcore athletes and outdoor enthusiasts in mind. If you're looking to use a Garmin watch to reach your fitness goals, you've come to the right place.

Garmin watches range in price point, from the $149 Garmin Forerunner 55 to the $1099 Garmin Epix Pro Sapphire Solar Edition, and the features will vary, too. It's worth understanding what you'll need from your Garmin before investing and whether you'll use some of the fancier features. 

If you're new to Garmin watches, they all track steps, sleep, and heart rate and they're all water-resistant, although some are specifically designed for swimming. Garmin watches also come with batteries that will last for days on a single charge even when using GPS, so you can venture outdoors with confidence. 

These models also sync to Garmin Connect, which provides a wealth of health and fitness data to help you reach your goals. After much running, biking, and sweating, we've hand-picked the best Garmin watches on the market, to help you decide which is best for you. 

Recent updates

The mid-range Garmin Forerunner 165 watch was announced on February 20, 2024. We're in the process of reviewing it — read our Forerunner 165 initial impressions — and plan to roll out our final verdict soon, at which point, you may see it added to this guide. For now, initial impressions are positive. 

Written by
Staff photo
Written by
Jane McGuire

Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness Editor and she's spent years writing about all things health and fitness. She crossed the finish line of her last marathon in 3:38, with the Garmin Forerunner 965 on her wrist. 

The quick list

The best Garmin watches you can buy today

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The best Garmin overall

The best all-round Garmin watch

Specifications

Heart rate monitor: Yes
GPS : Yes
Water resistance: 50 meters
Display: 1.1-inch/1.3-inch AMOLED
On-board music: Yes
Mobile payments: Yes
Sleep tracking: Yes
Battery life (GPS): 24 hours (265S) and 20 hours (265)

Reasons to buy

+
Two sizes available
+
Bright, beautiful AMOLED screen
+
Accurate GPS
+
Advanced training metrics

Reasons to avoid

-
More expensive than 255
-
Still not a huge amount of smartwatch features
Buy it if

You want a mid-level Garmin: The Garmin Forerunner 265 is a perfect training companion for anything from a 5K to an ultramarathon. It has plenty of advanced training metrics to help you PR your next race.

You want a bright screen: The Forerunner 265 has a bright, AMOLED screen, which is easy to see in direct sunlight. It does mean, however, the battery life isn't as long as watches with an MIP display. 

Don't buy it if

You want a smartwatch: Like a lot of Garmin's the Forerunner 265 isn't the most exciting from a smartwatch perspective. That said, you can still view phone notifications, download music, and use Garmin Pay.

You're a golfer: If you spend your weekend's on the green, there's no golf support on the Forerunner 265. There is on the Forerunner 965, however.

The bottom line

The Garmin Forerunner 265 is a wonderful watch, that'll help you train for your next race, and give you a lot of Garmin's advanced training features, without costing the earth.

What you need to know

The Garmin Forerunner 265 is Garmin's latest mid-level running watch, replacing the Forerunner 255 — check out our Forerunner 255 vs Forerunner 265 face-off here if you're struggling to decide between the two watches. The main changes Garmin made to the watch was the screen, which is now a wonderfully bright, AMOLED touchscreen. 

The Forerunner 265 comes in two different sizes — the Forerunner 265 has a 1.3-inch display, with a resolution of 416 x 416 pixels, and the Forerunner 265S has a 1.1-inch display, with a resolution of 360 x 360 pixels. During testing, we were blown away by how bright this little watch was, even in direct sunlight. 

This is an excellent watch for most runners — it's got a lot of the training tools of the more expensive watches on the market, yet it's far more affordable than the likes of the Fenix, or the Forerunner 955/965. The bright touchscreen also makes it feel more like a smartwatch if you're planning on wearing your Garmin 24/7. 

Design: Like all of Garmin's touchscreen watches, the touchscreen is automatically disabled in sports modes, meaning you can still navigate around the watch using the buttons — three on the left, and two on the right. This makes it easier to start, stop, pause, or lap the watch with sweaty fingers, or when wearing gloves. 

The Forerunner 265 is lightweight and comfortable around the wrist, and the smaller size option is beneficial for runners with petite wrists. 

Battery life: Despite the brighter display, the battery life of the Forerunner 265 has pretty much stayed the same. The 265S has a 15-day battery life in smartwatch mode, and a 24-hour battery life in GPS mode. The 265 has 13 days in smartwatch mode, and 20 hours in GPS mode. Normally, it’s the larger of the two watches that has the longer battery life, but it seems with the bigger and brighter screen, the larger 265 will need charging ever so slightly sooner. 

Training features: Aside from the screen, the only other difference between the 265 and the older watch is Garmin's Training Readiness Score. The score shows you at a glance how ready you are for a difficult day of training based on sleep, recovery time, HRV status, acute load, and stress. Each category carries a different weight, so your Training Readiness might go up during the day, as your needed recovery time goes down.  

The Forerunner 265 has Garmin’s Elevate V4 sensor — the green light records heart rate, the red light records blood oxygen levels (referred to as Pulse Ox on the watch). This sensor is used to calculate breathing rate, HRV, and stress. It also has Garmin’s Morning Report feature, which gives you a snapshot into how well you slept, how hard you’ve been training, and a look at the weather for the day ahead.

Read the full review: Garmin Forerunner 265

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Ratings scorecard
Test NotesHow it stacks up
Battery life 15 days/ smartwatch, 24 hours GPS (265S), 13 days smartwatch, 20 hours GPS (265)★★★★☆
FeaturesMultisport mode, Body Battery, Training Readiness Score, Race day widget, Suggested workouts, LiveTrack★★★★☆
Design1.1-inches (265S), 1.3-inches (265)★★★★★
Display 416 x 416 pixels (265), 360 x 360 pixels (265S) AMOLED touchscreen ★★★★★

Best Garmin for beginners

Garmin’s best entry-level running watch

Specifications

Heart rate monitor: Yes
GPS : Yes
Water resistance: 50 meters
Display: 1.08-inch MIP
On-board music: No
Mobile payments: No
Sleep tracking: Yes
Battery life: 14 days/20 hours with GPS

Reasons to buy

+
PacePro suggested workouts
+
Bright screen 
+
Easy to read stats 
+
Battery life 

Reasons to avoid

-
No onboard music storage 
-
No interchangeable bands 
-
Only available in one case size 
Buy it if

You're looking for an entry-level watch: The Garmin Forerunner 55 is an excellent watch if you want to keep an eye on your running training and sleep, without all the extra bells and whistles. It's simple, and easy to use.

You're on a budget: Unlike some of the other watches on this list, the Forerunner 55 won't cost you a month's rent. It's definitely the most affordable Garmin for runners. 

Don't buy it if

You want to listen to music from your watch: There's no built-in music storage on the watch, so if you want to leave your phone at home, you won't be able to here.

You want to record strength workouts: There's no strength training mode on the Forerunner 55, so you'll have to record strength workouts as 'Other'. 

❌ You want to make contactless payments from your wrist: Unlike other watches on this list, the Forerunner 55 doesn't support Garmin Pay contactless payments. 

The bottom line

The Garmin Forerunner 55 is a basic running watch that definitely isn't to be sniffed at. Sure, it doesn't have Training Readiness or Garmin Pay, but it'll give you suggested workouts, connect with Garmin Coach, and let you get a better idea of how well you're sleeping. 

What you need to know

If you’re starting to get into running, chances are you want a device that’s a step up from a basic fitness tracker but also won’t overwhelm you with too many features. Among Garmin watches, the Forerunner 55 is a clear choice. It's a simple, easy-to-use running watch that'll help you keep an eye on your running stats, heart rate, and sleep from your wrist. 

The watch doesn't have some of the high-end training features you'll see in other watches on this list. There's no Training Readiness Score, for example, and the watch doesn't let you listen to music, or pay for groceries from your wrist, but don't let this put you off.

Design: The Forerunner 55 looks like most of the other Forerunners in the Garmin collection — it doesn't have a touchscreen, so you'll need to navigate around the watch using the buttons, three on the left, and two on the right. The watch only comes in one size, and has a 1-inch, MIP display, with a resolution of 208 x 208 pixels. Even on the sunniest days, we could see the Forerunner 55’s transflective MIP display without an issue

Battery life: A fully charged Forerunner 55 can last up to two weeks in Smartwatch mode and 20 hours in GPS mode, which is a significant increase from its predecessor’s battery life expectations. This is impressive when compared to the Apple Watch Series 8, which requires charging ever8 18-hours, but the screen on the Forerunner 55 isn't anywhere near as bright as Apple's smartwatch. Either way, you could go away for a weekend marathon without worrying about packing your charger.

Training features: The Forerunner 55 has Garmin's new PacePro technology, which gives you gentle speed and cadence alerts on the run. There are also suggested recovery times and workouts, based on your training history, fitness levels, and recovery.

Like most of the watches on this list, you can also use Garmin Coach on this watch, which lets you download free training plans from one of Garmin's coaches. We've used a Garmin Coach training plan over the marathon distance, and have been impressed.

Read full review: Garmin Forerunner 55

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Ratings scorecard
Test NotesHow it stacks up
Battery life 2 weeks smartwatch/ 20 hours GPS★★★★☆
FeaturesGarmin Coach, Pace Pro, Cadence alerts★★★☆☆
Design1-inch screen★★★☆☆
Display 208 x 208 pixels MIP display★★★☆☆