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Best sports watches in 2020

best sports watches

The best sports watches are worthwhile if you're getting serious about outdoor activities like running, hiking and rock climbing. 

While many of the best fitness trackers and best smartwatches incorporate location-tracking on the device itself to accurately log outdoor workouts, dedicated sports, also known as GPS watches, have features that can provide you much more data about what you're doing, and last much longer on a charge.

Even the most basic sports watches track and map your routes, measure your heart rate, and use the data to calculate your pace and speed. Extra features, such as altimeters, preloaded maps, advanced metrics, and music storage can come at a premium.

While the majority of the best sports watches are aimed at runners, there are specialized models for triathletes, golfers, endurance athletes, and those who go hiking and skiing. 

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.

What are the best sports watches?

After testing dozens of models, the best sports watch is the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music. Aimed at runners — but able to track other outdoor activities — the Forerunner 245 offers advanced run-tracking metrics, solid battery life, and on-board music storage. The Forerunner 245 also supports Spotify, so if you subscribe to that music service, you can download playlists to the watch, too.

For those on a budget, the best sports watch is the Garmin Forerunner 25. This no-frills watch costs less than $100 and lacks a heart rate monitor, but it has a bright monochrome display, accurately tracks your runs, and lasts up to 10 hours when actively using GPS. 

Polar is launching a challenger to the premium Garmin fenix 6: The Polar Grit X is a multisport outdoor watch with a battery that will last up to 40 hours with all of its features (including GPS) activated. The Polar Grit X is available $429 — much less than the starting price of the $599 fenix 6.

Fitbit is bringing some new GPS watches to the arena, too. The Fitbit Sense ($329) and Fitbit Versa 3 ($229) both have on-board GPS, multisport tracking and voice assistant integration. The Sense has a skin temperature reader, stress detection and an ECG monitor for detecting AFib, although it's not FDA-approved yet.

The best sports watches you can buy today

Best sports watch: Garmin Forerunner 245 Music

(Image credit: Future)

1. Garmin Forerunner 245 Music

Best sports watch overall

Battery Life in GPS Mode: 6 hours (with music) | Water Resistance: 165 Feet | Bluetooth: Yes | Smartphone Notifications: Yes | Heart Rate Monitor: Yes

Bright colorful display
Onboard music storage
Good battery life
Loads of training metrics
Menus can be difficult to navigate

Garmin hit a home run with the Forerunner 245 Music, which offers advanced run-tracking features, solid battery life and offline Spotify support in a stylish package. You have to subscribe to Spotify Premium to be able to use this feature, but non-subscribers can also sideload music onto the Forerunner 245. 

The Forerunner 245's big, bright, full-color transflective display makes it easy to read, even in sunlight, and its sharp 240 x 240 pixels makes it a perfect outdoor running companion.

While the Forerunner 245 Music costs nearly as much as a new Apple Watch, its in-depth tracking features and better battery life — up to six hours when using GPS — make it the choice for serious runners. And the onboard music storage can be a welcome companion on those long runs.

Read our full Garmin Forerunner 245 Music review.

Best sports watch: Garmin Forerunner 25

(Image credit: Garmin)

2. Garmin Forerunner 25

Best sports watch value

Battery Life in GPS Mode: 8-10 hours | Water Resistance: 165 feet | Bluetooth: Yes | Smartphone Notifications: No | Heart Rate Monitor: No

Long battery life
Waterproof
Inexpensive
No heart rate monitor
No sleep tracking

If you don't need extra bells and whistles, the Garmin Forerunner 25 is the best sports watch for those on a budget. It's an inexpensive, yet accurate, GPS watch that tracks distance, speed and pace, and it notifies you at every mile you run. 

With nearly 10 weeks of battery life in watch mode (and about 10 when actively using GPS), the Forerunner 25 can also be your everyday timepiece, and will still work when you need it for those impromptu jogs. However, it lacks a heart rate monitor, which may be a deal-killer for many.

You'll want to look elsewhere if you demand a lot of features from your GPS watch, but this is the best choice for someone who just wants an easy-to-use device from a trusted brad.

Read our full Garmin Forerunner 25 review.

Best sports watch: Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS)

(Image credit: Future)

3. Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS)

Best sports watch/smartwatch

Battery Life in GPS Mode: 6 hours | Water Resistance: 165 feet | Bluetooth: Yes | Smartphone Notifications: Yes | Heart Rate Monitor: Yes

Excellent fitness-tracking features
LTE is convenient while you're working out
Apple Music streaming
Cellular activation issues
Short battery life when connected to cellular

If you own an iPhone, the best smartwatch with GPS is the Apple Watch Series 3. Even though it's not as advanced as the $399 Apple Watch Series 5, you don't need to pay up to get the excellent health- and fitness-tracking features available on Apple's smartwatches — especially since last fall's release of watchOS 6.

Even though the Series 3 is a couple years old, it still features a built-in heart rate sensor, swim-tracking capability, smartphone notifications (including the ability to reply to text messages), on-board music storage, Apple Pay functionality and more. This is the GPS smartwatch to get when you've bought into Apple's ecosystem.

Read our full Apple Watch Series 3 review.

best sports watches: Garmin Approach S62

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

4. Garmin Approach S62

Best sports watch for golfers

Battery Life in GPS Mode: 20 hours | Water Resistance: 50 meters | Bluetooth: Yes | Smartphone Notifications: Yes | Heart Rate Monitor: Yes

Works as an everyday smartwatch
Accurate GPS measurements
Virtual caddy analysis
Expensive

The Garmin Approach S62 offers a sharper appearance, larger screen and lengthier battery life than its Garmin Approach S60 predecessor. Plus it supports a Virtual Caddie feature, which offers club suggestions and other shot tips based on your past rounds. Though it’s not guaranteed to improve your golf game, the insight provided by Virtual Caddie doesn’t feel gimmicky and might benefit you if you tend to experiment with your club choices. 

The Garmin Approach S62 lasts about 14 days without a charge, although you’ll get just 20 hours in continuous GPS mode. We made it through week with 3 rounds before needing to recharge the S62, so it’s safe to say you can leave Garmin’s proprietary charger at home for a weekend golf trip.

Read our full Garmin Approach S62 review.

best sports watches: Garmin fenix 6

(Image credit: Garmin)

5. Garmin fenix 6

Best sports watch for the outdoors

Battery Life in GPS Mode: 25 hours | Water Resistance: 330 feet | Bluetooth: Yes | Smartphone Notifications: Yes | Heart Rate Monitor: Yes

Durable design
Outdoor-readable display
Long battery life
Very customizable 
Expensive

The ultimate in outdoor sports watches, the Garmin fenix 6 is designed to track you anywhere you go, and survive everything you do. But, you'll pay for it. The fenix 6 series starts at $599 and goes all the way up to $1,149 for the fenix 6X Solar, which has a solar panel built into the display, which helps to extend its battery life. The fenix 6 series is available in three case sizes: 42mm, 47mm, and a big, honkin' 51mm. This is one heavy watch, though, weighing in at 58 grams.

The fenix 6 is water-resistant to 10 ATM, and comes packed with sensors: GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, a heart rate monitor, altimeter, barometer, compass, gyroscope, and thermometer. So, it can measure just about everything about you. It also has sport-specific features for running, biking, swimming, hiking, climbing, skiing/snowboarding, XC Skiing, Stand Up Paddleboarding, rowing, kayaking, and more.

Most impressively, the fenix 6's battery life is an epic 25 hours using GPS at its most active setting; in Expedition mode, where it doesn't update as frequently, you can get up to 20 days of battery life. Now that's endurance. 

Read our full Garmin fenix 6 review.

Best sports watch: Garmin Forerunner 945

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

6. Garmin Forerunner 945

Best sports watch for triathletes

Battery Life in GPS Mode: 36 hours | Water Resistance: 165 feet | Bluetooth: Yes | Smartphone Notifications: Yes | Heart Rate Monitor: Yes

Lengthier battery life than past models
Music and payments features
Multisport support
Expensive

Garmin's sports watch for triathletes improves upon the older Forerunner 935, which we loved. In addition to all the usual sophisticated Garmin Forerunner 900-series features, including advanced metrics for running, cycling and swimming, the Forerunner 945 adds on-board music storage and mobile payments. The watch also now uses heat and altitude to gauge the difficulty of your run, and uses that information to calculate your training-load status. 

Garmin improved the battery life of theForerunner 945 by 50% over its predecessor, so now you can squeeze out 36 hours of GPS usage on a charge. The 945 is worth splurging on if you're a serious athlete. At $599, it's expensive, but best in class.

Read our full Garmin Forerunner 945 review.

Garmin Forerunner 745 Review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

7. Garmin Forerunner 745

A solid multi-sport watch

Battery Life in GPS Mode: 16 hours | Water Resistance: 165 feet | Bluetooth: Yes | Smartphone Notifications: Yes | Heart Rate Monitor: Yes

Easy to set up and use
Robust activity and training data
Comfortable
Small display
Battery life

There’s a lot to like about the Garmin Forerunner 745. The watch is easy to use, the activity features are robust, and Garmin Connect provides a snapshot view of activity data as well as training recommendations. And while the Forerunner 745 doesn’t have the most advanced smartwatch capabilities, it does support mobile payments and music storage so athletes can leave their phones at home during a workout.

Overall, the Forerunner 745 is one of the best sports watches for multi-sport athletes. If there’s a downside to the watch, it’s that devices such as the Polar Vantage 2 and Garmin’s own Forerunner 945 promise a better battery life. But at 16 hours in GPS mode, the Forerunner 745’s battery shouldn’t be a dealbreaker for most users.

Read our full Garmin Forerunner 745 review.

Best sports watches: Amazfit T-Rex

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

8. Amazfit T-Rex

An affordable sports watch with a bright display

Works with: Android, iOS | Display: 1.3-inch AMOLED | Heart Rate: Yes | GPS: Yes | LTE: No | Battery Life: 20 days | Water Resistance: Up to 50 meters | Mobile Payments: No

Affordable for a GPS watch
Rugged design
Impressive battery life
Bad haptics

With a large display, on-board GPS, built-in compass and enough durability certifications to survive Jurassic Park, the Amazfit T-Rex one of the best sports watches you can get without breaking the bank. At $140, it’s less than half the price of the Garmin Instinct and other popular GPS smartwatches, making it an affordable alternative.

The T-Rex offers an impressive battery life, variety of sports modes and sleep tracking – all wrapped in its impenetrable shell. With all the sensors you could want, the T-Rex is a beast to be reckoned with, plus who doesn't want a device named after a dinosaur?

Read our full Amazfit T-Rex review.

best sports watches: Garmin Approach S62

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

9. Garmin Approach S20

The best budget golf watch

Battery Life in GPS Mode: 15 hours | Water Resistance: 50 meters | Bluetooth: Yes | Smartphone Notifications: Yes | Heart Rate Monitor: No

Great partner app
Lightweight make
Affordable
Simple design

The Garmin Approach S20 is one of the best sports watches on the market. Its modest design is balanced by seamless functionality and a neat Garmin Golf app. And priced below $200, it's one of the most affordable golf wearables available.

It's the golf watch to get if you don't care about the bells and whistles of more modern-looking wearables. Someone who golfs often will appreciate the hardware's long battery life and AutoShot data. Those who play less frequently aren't overspending for a gadget they'll be happy to have on the occasions they hit the links.

Read our full Garmin Approach S20 review.

How to choose the best sports watch for you

Because sports watches span a wide range of outdoor activities, you want to pick a sports watch based on what it is you plan to do. Runners will want a sports watch that's light and easy to read while your arms are pumping back and forth.

If you're into other activities, such as cycling or triathlons, you'll want a sports watch that can track swimming, and be paired with the ANT or Bluetooth sensors on your bike. It goes without saying that it should be waterproof.

Those who do more extreme sports, like endurance runs and alpine skiing will want to look for a sports watch that's not only durable, but has extremely long battery life. Some of the best sports watches for outdoors, like Garmin's fenix series, let you adjust the frequency at which their GPS pings a satellite, which can extend their battery life to days, and not just hours.  

How we test sports watches

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

For each sports 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.

If the GPS watch also happens to be a smartwatch, we evaluate the included software, app ecosystem and special features like mobile wallet capabilities.

  • 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
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • RussellFiola
    Garmin FR 230
    Reply
  • cvishal581
    TomTom Spark 3
    Reply
  • venkymadurai
    The straps on tomtom are CRAP. See what others say at https://en.discussions.tomtom.com/spark-and-spark-3-runner-2-and-runner-3-473
    Reply
  • gphoenix
    I have had a TomTom spark 3 with music for 9 months now. I had 2 straps break in this period. They are not cheap to replace and they are pretty flimsy. The earphones do not fit all types of ears and they keep falling off. The fitness age concept i think we can all agree is a joke and from what I read in forums, not a funny one. At this point I'm looking for a new gps watch with music but not really sure where to go. I don't recommend spark 3 as you will definitely be disappointed with the flimsiness of the strap.
    Reply
  • rugora
    Samsung Gear Fit 2 or Fitbit Charge 2. Both of these measure heart rate, which is extremely important to me.
    Reply
  • test_purch1
    Test Automation comment 1527244785924
    Reply
  • codyteddy
    20758727 said:
    I have had a TomTom spark 3 with music for 9 months now. I had 2 straps break in this period. They are not cheap to replace and they are pretty flimsy. The earphones do not fit all types of ears and they keep falling off. The fitness age concept i think we can all agree is a joke and from what I read in forums, not a funny one. At this point I'm looking for a new gps watch with music but not really sure where to go. I don't recommend spark 3 as you will definitely be disappointed with the flimsiness of the strap.

    That's a bummer! Thanks for the tip, though.
    Reply
  • marvelartlover
    Very informative thread, I improve my knowledge by this thread.
    Reply