Most new fitness trackers and smartwatches incorporate location-tracking on the device itself, rather than relying on your smartphone. That's incredibly useful for accurately logging outdoor workouts like running. Still, serious athletes are investing in dedicated GPS watches. Even the most basic devices track and map your routes, and use the data to calculate your pace and speed. Extra features, such as heart rate monitors, altimeters, preloaded maps and Bluetooth capabilities can come at a premium.
Our favorite GPS watch is Garmin's Forerunner 245 Music, which offers advanced run-tracking metrics, solid battery life, on-board music storage with Spotify support and a bright, colorful display in a sleek, stylish package.
For those on a budget, we recommend the Garmin Forerunner 25, a no-frills watch that accurately tracks your runs.
Similar to fitness trackers, the line that separates great GPS 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.
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.
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.
Latest News and Updates (June 2019)
- Apple just revealed new fitness-tracking features coming in watchOS 6, a software upgrade for Apple Watches due this fall. Soon the Apple Watch's Activity app will show you how your recent activity trends compare to your past year of workouts, along with other features like period-tracking and an independent watch app store.
How We Test GPS Watches
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.
If the GPS watch also happens to be a smartwatch, we evaluate the included software, app ecosystem and special features like mobile wallet capabilities.
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