Best Garmin watch in 2024

Garmin makes some of the most reliable and well-respected fitness-focused smartwatches around. With more than a dozen models to choose from, we've tested and assessed them all to help you choose the best Garmin watch for your needs, from the beginner and wallet-friendly Forerunner 165 to the golf-centric Approach S62

The best Garmin watches range in price from $149 to $1000+. And the features, smart and fitness-focused, vary, too. They all track steps, sleep and heart rate but some models, like the Forerunner 265 and 965, are more focused on training, rest and recovery. Still, they're all water-resistant and boast multiday batteries, 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 guide you in deciding which is right for you. 

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
+
Good battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
More expensive than 255
-
Limited number 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 change 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 have 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 and 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 of 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

+
Affordable price tag
+
Workout suggestions
+
Bright screen 
+
Easy-to-read stats 
+
Solid battery life 

Reasons to avoid

-
No onboard music storage 
-
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. However, even on the sunniest days, we could see the Forerunner 55’s transflective MIP display without an issue. But, if you're worried, consider the Garmin Forerunner 165 instead. 

Battery life: A fully charged Forerunner 55 can last up to two weeks in smartwatch mode and 20 hours in GPS mode, a significant increase from its predecessor. This is especially impressive compared to the latest Apple Watch Series 9. However, 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 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★★★☆☆

Best Garmin for hikes

The best Garmin for hikes

Specifications

Heart rate monitor: Yes
GPS: Yes
Water resistance: 50 meters
Display: 1.2" AMOLED
On-board music: Yes (Garmin Forerunner 165 Music, only)
Mobile payments: Yes
Sleep tracking: Yes
Battery life (GPS mode): 11 days (19 hours)

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight and comfortable design
+
Bright AMOLED touchscreen
+
Accurate GPS and heart rate sensor
+
Advanced training and recovery tools
+
Good battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
GPS can be slow to initially connect
-
Limited sport profiles compared to higher-end Garmins
-
Not a ton of smart features
Buy it if

 You want an affordable watch with a bright screen: The Forerunner 165 boasts a lovely ALMOED screen that's easy to view in bright daylight 

✅ Physical buttons make you happy: In addition to a touchscreen the Forerunner 165 features five tactile buttons around its case, making the device a breeze to operate, even with sweaty hands. 

✅ You want to view maps on your watch: For hikers, runners, joggers and walkers, onboard maps make it easy to find your way. 

✅ You want insights into training and recovery: The Forerunner 165 inherits many of Garmin's best training features from higher-end models like Training Effect, Body Battery and recovery time suggestions.

Don't buy it if

❌ You want a smartwatch with the most smart features: The Forerunner 165 has lots of tools for recording activities and reaching fitness goals, but it doesn't have many smart ones.

❌ You want to track multi-sport activities: Triathletes will need to step up to a higher-end Forerunner model to track complex multi-sport activities. Consider the 265 or 965 instead.

❌ You're a swimmer: With just 50 meters of water resistance, the Forerunner 165 is okay submerged for short periods but shouldn't spend too much time in the wet stuff. 

The bottom line

⌚ The Garmin Forerunner 165 is a comfortable and lightweight GPS smartwatch with a bright AMOLED touchscreen, lots of physical controls, satisfactory battery life, precise health sensors and advanced training tools borrowed from higher-end Garmin wearables.

What you need to know

The Garmin Forerunner is marketed as a GPS watch for first-time marathon runners and while it's perfectly well-suited for this task thanks to a solid balance of health-tracking tech and training features, I've also found it to be the perfect smartwatch for weekend hikes. 

Lightweight and comfortable to wear for extended periods, the Forerunner 165 boasts a bright AMOLED touchscreen that's highly visible, even in direct sunlight, a five-button design for easy navigation and accurate GPS tracking. 

Battery life when using the GPS is good for up to 19 hours, more than enough for even the most challenging day hikes. Plus, the 165 keeps tabs on sleep, recovery, menstrual health and stress. It can also automatically alert emergency personnel if you fall while out on the trail.  

Design: 

The Forerunner 165 shares nearly the same design as the Forerunner 265 with three buttons along the left side of the case and two on the right. The 1.2-inch AMOLED touchscreen has a resolution of 390 x 390 pixels and is noticeably higher quality than the screen on the Forerunner 55. Water resistance is 50 meters, which is more than enough to survive sweat, splashes and short submersions. 

Battery life: 

With a full charge, which takes roughly two hours, the Forerunner 165 has enough juice in smartwatch mode to last roughly 11 days or 19 hours using the GPS to track a hike, walk, run or bike ride. This is a bit less than both the Forerunner 55 and 265 but still respectable. When using a mix of smartwatch mode and GPS tracking, you can expect it to last roughly one week. 

Training features: 

The  Forerunner 165 has a lot of Garmin's best training and recovery features. For runners, PacePro can assist you in maintaining an ideal cadence. Body Battery is another useful tool that can help inform daily workout plans. Speaking of which, the Forerunner 165 provides workout suggestions, along with recommendations for post-workout recovery times, insights into sleep quality, stress and overall well-being.

Read the full review: Garmin Forerunner 165

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Ratings scorecard
TestNotesHow it stacks up
Battery life11 days (smartwatch), 19 hours (GPS)★★★☆☆
FeaturesWorkout suggestions, Live Track, Incident Detection, Body Battery, Training Effect, Sleep tracking★★★★☆
Design1.2-inch case with five physical buttons and 50 meters of water resistance★★★★☆
Display390 x 390 pixels AMOLED touchscreen★★★★★

Best Garmin for triathletes