Garmin Forerunner 235 vs. Vivoactive 3: Which is better for you?

With so many fitness trackers, GPS watches and GPS fitness-tracking smartwatches to choose from, it can be tough to figure out which device is worth your money.

Tom's Guide forum member Larry Greg said he's disappointed in his Fitbit Charge HR and wants to buy a Garmin, but he's unsure which one to get:

"I decided to purchase a Garmin in hopes of getting a better device. I researched for a while and was set on the [Forerunner] 235. Now I see the vivoactive 3 is available."

So which Garmin is better? It depends on what you need from your watch.

The 2-year-old Forerunner 235 is an extremely good running watch that shares many features with the newer Vivoactive 3. Both devices look more like traditional watches with round faces than like blocky smartwatches, and both offer built-in GPS and heart-rate sensors.

Garmin Forerunner 235

There are two big differences, though: The Vivoactive has a touch screen and a mobile-payment service, which the Forerunner does not.

The Forerunner is focused more narrowly on fitness, specifically running. The Vivoactive is more of a multisport device for tracking a variety of workouts. Both devices are swim-proof. But the Forerunner's battery lasts much longer than the Vivoactive's — more than a week, compared to the Vivoactive's three-ish days, at least in our testing.

Garmin Vivoactive 3

Both the Forerunner 235 and Vivoactive 3 have a few drawbacks: The devices aren't great at tracking sleep; they're pretty pricey, at $300 each, and they both lack onboard music storage, so you'll need your phone nearby if you want to listen to playlists while exercising.

If you're looking for a full-fledged smartwatch that excels at fitness tracking and you don't mind how the device looks, check out the Fitbit Ionic. It has a wider array of big-name apps and allows you to store songs on the device and listen to them using Bluetooth earbuds when you're away from your phone. The Apple Watch Series 3 without LTE is slightly more expensive than the Forerunner 235, Vivoactive 3 and Ionic, but it's the best smartwatch for most iPhone users.

If you're a hardcore runner, the Forerunner 235 is your best bet, while the Vivoactive 3 is a solid smartwatch if you're a fitness enthusiast with broader interests.

Caitlin is a Senior editor for Gizmodo. She has also worked on Tom's Guide, Macworld, PCWorld and the Las Vegas Review-Journal. When she's not testing out the latest devices, you can find her running around the streets of Los Angeles, putting in morning miles or searching for the best tacos.