Best GPS Watch 2018

Product Use case Rating
Garmin Forerunner 645 Music Best Overall 4
Garmin Forerunner 25 Best Value 3.5
Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS) Best GPS Smartwatch 4
Garmin Approach S60 Best Golf GPS Watch 4
Garmin Forerunner 935 Best for Triathletes 4.5
Garmin fenix 5 Best For Outdoors 4.5

Many fitness trackers and smartwatches now incorporate location-tracking on the device itself, rather than relying on your smartphone. 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 645 Music, which packs advanced workout-tracking features in a stylish, round, stainless steel watch frame and offers on-board song storage, which is a first for Garmin. Now that you can listen to music without a phone nearby, Garmin's latest GPS watch is a device that can truly stand on its own.

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 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.

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.

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.

Latest News and Updates (November 2018)

  • Fossil's new Wear OS smartwatch, Fossil Sport ($255), offers built-in GPS, heart rate sensor, NFC and on-board music storage with Spotify preinstalled. The new watch also features the next-gen Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 chip, which should make the device more powerful and longer-lasting than other smartwatches. Fossil Sport, which comes in two sizes (41mm and 43mm), is available to buy now.
  • Polar has launched two new GPS watches, the Vantage V ($499) and the Vantage M ($279); both watches have a new feature called Training Load Pro, which monitors the exertion level of each training session, and tailors the next session accordingly. Both also have new optical heart rate sensors that use both red and green LEDs to penetrate deeper, and help improve accuracy among wearers with darker skin pigmentation, as well as those training in colder weather. The Vantage V also has a Running Power meter, giving runners an at-a-glance number that shows the amount of power they produce with each stride. The Vantage V will last up to 40 hours when using GPS and its heart rate monitor, while the Vantage M will last up to 30 hours.

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.

Related Buying Guides:
Best Headphones and Earbuds
Best Smart Home Gadgets
Best Workout Apps


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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
  • cvishal581
    TomTom Spark 3
  • 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
  • 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.
  • rugora
    Samsung Gear Fit 2 or Fitbit Charge 2. Both of these measure heart rate, which is extremely important to me.
  • test_purch1
    Test Automation comment 1527244785924
  • codyteddy
    Anonymous 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.
  • marvelartlover
    Very informative thread, I improve my knowledge by this thread.