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Best GPS watch 2020

While many fitness trackers and smartwatches incorporate location-tracking on the device itself to accurately log outdoor workouts, 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.

Garmin Forerunner 245 Music

(Image credit: Future)

1. Garmin Forerunner 245 Music

Best overall GPS watch

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 this Forerunner model, 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.

While the Forerunner 245 Music costs nearly as much as a new Apple Watch, its in-depth tracking features and better battery life 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.

Garmin Forerunner 25

(Image credit: Garmin)

2. 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. 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.

Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS)

(Image credit: Future)

3. 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. 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.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

4. 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.

Read our full Garmin Approach S20 review.

Garmin Fenix 5

(Image credit: Future)

5. 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 the Garmin fenix 5 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. 

Most impressively, 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.

Read our full Garmin fenix 5 review.

Garmin Forerunner 945 GPS Watch

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

6. 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 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.

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.

  • 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