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Best GPS Watch 2019

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.

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 (October 2019)

  • Garmin's new $349 Vivoactive 4 and Vivoactive 4S are excellent smartwatches for fitness buffs, though marathon runners and devoted cyclists will want to invest in the Forerunner series for more advanced metrics and button-based navigation.
  • Golfers, take note: The best GPS watch for scoring rounds is now Garmin's Approach S20, which offers lengthy battery life in a lightweight design.
  • Garmin's Fenix 6X Pro Solar, the company's next-generation go-anywhere GPS watch, comes with a solar panel built into its face, which will help lengthen its battery life for up to 120 days. However, the Solar edition only comes in a massive 51mm case size, and costs $1,150. The Fenix 6 and Fenix 6s (both starting at $599) lack the solar charger, but come in smaller 47mm and 42mm sizes. 

Best Overall

Garmin Forerunner 245 Music

(Image credit: Future)

Garmin Forerunner 245 Music

Best 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 its mid-priced Forerunner, which offers advanced run-tracking features, solid battery life and offline Spotify support in a stylish package. Its big, bright, full-color display makes it a perfect outdoor running companion.

Best Value

Garmin Forerunner 25

(Image credit: Garmin)

Garmin Forerunner 25

Best 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
Easy to use
Waterproof
Inexpensive
Simple display
No heart rate monitor
No sleep tracking

If you don't need extra bells and whistles and you're on a budget, consider the Garmin Forerunner 25. 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, the Forerunner 25 can also be your everyday timepiece, and will still work when you need it for those impromptu jogs.

Best GPS Smartwatch

Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS)

(Image credit: Future)

Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS)

Best GPS Smartwatch

Battery Life in GPS Mode: 18 hours | Water Resistance: 165 feet | Bluetooth: Yes | Smartphone Notifications: Yes | Heart Rate Monitor: Yes

Excellent fitness-tracking features
Faster Siri
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. You don't need to splurge on the pricey $399 Series 5 to have access to excellent health- and fitness-tracking features with 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.

Best Golf GPS Watch

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Garmin Approach S20

Best Golf GPS Watch

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

Impressive battery life
Great partner app
Lightweight make
Affordable
Boring design
Crude course maps

For a no-frills, affordable golf watch, Garmin's Approach S20 gets the job done. The watch offers lengthy battery life — up to 15 hours of course-tracking — and is preloaded with more than 40,000 courses around the world for tracking every round accurately. The built-in GPS picks up your location for selecting the right course. You'll find more features in pricier golf watches, like Garmin's Approach S60, but you can't beat the cost of the S20.

Best For Outdoors

Garmin Fenix 5

(Image credit: Future)

Garmin fenix 5

Best For Outdoors

Battery Life in GPS Mode: 24 hours | Water Resistance: 330 feet | Bluetooth: Yes | Smartphone Notifications: Yes | Heart Rate Monitor: Yes

Durable design
Outdoor-readable display
Long battery life
Customizable display
Expensive
Low-resolution screen

Not only did this watch accurately track us whether we were in the Canadian Rockies or New Jersey, but we loved its durable yet not-too-bulky design and bright outdoor-readable display. We also liked that we could change its watchface using Garmin's ConnectIQ system, and receive smartphone notifications on our wrist. Lastly, the fenix 5's battery life is an epic 24 hours using GPS at its highest setting. Starting at $599, it's not cheap, but worth the coin for those who spend a lot of time in the outdoors.

Best for Triathletes

Garmin Forerunner 945 GPS Watch

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Garmin Forerunner 945

Best 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
New music and payments features
Multisport support
Offers similar features to Garmin Fenix 5x line, but more affordable
Expensive

Garmin's latest GPS watch for triathletes improves upon the 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 the 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.

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.