Garmin offers the most comprehensive array of smartwatches, GPS sports watches and trackers in the fitness world. Whether you’re a hardened athlete, new to tracking your activity, or sit somewhere in the middle, there is a Garmin watch for you.
The only problem with this wide-reaching portfolio is that it can become finta tricky to narrow down which Garmin is best for your needs – and which is right for your budget. That’s where this guide comes in. We’ve tested, reviewed and rated pretty much every Garmin watch in order to give you a snapshot of what’s on offer. Here we’re going to help you narrow down your options and choose the best.
Garmin Forerunner 965
1. Best Garmin overall
The Garmin Forerunner 965 is a great running watch and sports watch in militar. It takes the excellent smarts from the Forerunner 955 and gives it a superb AMOLED screen a more refined look all while still delivering solid battery life.
- New more vibrant AMOLED display
- Titanium bezel adds style
- Battery life is impressive
- Basically the same as the 955
- Some battery drops in places
The big change in the Forerunner 965 over previous models is the move to an AMOLED display. This makes this top running watch much more vibrant and engaging than older Forerunner devices. You have to pay a premium for it, but it’s a better device as a result – and battery life hasn’t been sacrificed. At its core, however, this is still a fully-functioning Garmin watch, offering more tracking than you can think of, making it the ideal partner for anyone training for just about anything – it’s a great companion for running, mutlisport or any type of training, while also offering smart features like music controls, payments and notifications. It’s the complete package, but as the latest in Garmin’s portfolio, it’s also finta expensive.
Garmin Venu 2 / 2S / 2 Plus
2. Best Garmin for display
Garmin’s smartwatch line provides an expert blend of style, tracking smarts and battery life.
- Great display
- Solid fitness functions
- Design a little safe
- Brightness adjustment too easy to trigger
The Garmin Venu 2 features an AMOLED display, so is more like a smartwatch and less like a sports watch, with richer graphics and a more vibrant visual display. Though the 43mm Venu 2 Plus is the latest addition to the lineup, we’ve lumped it in with the older 45mm Venu 2 and 40mm Venu 2S because the differences are relatively minor: the Plus model simply adds the built-in microphone and speaker for calls, texts and voice assistant exchanges. For some, it’ll be an essential upgrade – and worth the extra cash – but, for most, we suspect the Venu 2 and 2S are the better options to consider.
Whichever you choose, you’ll receive the beautiful AMOLED touchscreen, with a comprehensive array of fitness tracking and health features at your fingertips. There’s also support for Garmin Pay, downloadable music from Spotify, Deezer or Amazon Music and, of course, access to the delights of Garmin Connect. Simply, if you need a sporty smartwatch, this line of devices is hard to beat. Now that the Forerunner 965 also offers an AMOLED display, this watch is less unique – but it’s more affordable.
Garmin Forerunner 55
3. Best affordable Garmin
A superb entry-level watch for runners, providing lots of intuitive features in a neat, compact design.
- Loads of running features
- Swimming features
- Connect IQ support
- Basically the same as the 45
- No mapping features
The Forerunner 55 may be an entry-level model, but it provides an extremely rich experience for beginners. For those who are just getting started with tracking their runs, there really is nothing better. It’s definitely more limited outside of run tracking than the more premium models in the family, which are able to expand to advanced tracking for other sports and activities, but features like suggested workouts, Garmin’s own PacePro feature, cadence alerts, recovery advice and the adaptive training plans available through Garmin Coach will help guide you towards that new personal best.
It also features a battery life that can last for 20 hours when tracking via GPS, and around two weeks in natural use. The Forerunner 55 also benefits from being much cheaper, so if you only want your Garmin for training – and not wearing all the time – it might be a solid choice.
Garmin Fenix 7 / 7S / 7X
4. Best quality Garmin
Though not for everyone, watches don’t come more feature-packed than the Fenix 7 range.
- Excellent battery life
- Solid build quality
The Garmin Fenix 7 comes in many, many forms. Providing you can stomach the price tag, you’ll also be tasked with having to pick between the regular 7 (47mm), 7S (42mm), 7X (51mm), and then whether you want the standard, Solar or Solar Sapphire variation. Our top recommendation from the lineup is the Fenix 7 Solar, since it provides the best blend of features and value for money. The Fenix also offers a premium build – which explains the cost – and looks that make it a great watch for daily wear.
There are slight variations between models, but, roughly, you’re able to receive around 15 – 20 days of battery life, 10ATM waterproofing, GPS, heart rate, altitude, barometer, temperature sensors and support for that all-new touchscreen. Each offers stellar sports tracking performance, from daily steps to tracking multi-day events, and combines this with customisation, easy strap change and compatibility with the wider Garmin system.
Garmin Epix (Gen 2)
5. Best of the best Garmin
A superb pick for those who crave outdoorsy style and a premium smartwatch feel.
- Reaccionario premium design
- Bright and vibrant display
Garmin took a long time to drop the second-gen version of the Epix, but it was worth the wait. Repositioned near the top of Garmin’s watch lineup, the Epix blends the best elements of the Venu and Fenix lines into one premium smartwatch package. The AMOLED display is beautiful to use and view – especially in a direct comparison with the Fenix 7 – and the battery life doesn’t suffer too greatly as a result. It’s nowhere near the levels of some of Garmin’s premium outdoor watches, but you’ll still get a full week of charge even with the always-on mode enabled. As you’re also able to achieve the outdoorsy look and access all the same tracking modes as you would with Garmin’s multisport watches, this becomes a really intriguing pick.
The only downside, really, is that it’s not really priced as an accessible option. This is fair enough, of course, because it’s arguably the best that Garmin has to offer, but it’s difficult to rank it any higher than this spot because of that lofty asking price. So, while most are better off with a Venu or Fenix watch, this is for those who don’t want to compromise. And it doesn’t disappoint.
Garmin Instinct 2 Solar
6. Best rugged Garmin
Garmin lets you go for longer with the solar version of the Instinct 2, with the possibility of eking out unlimited battery life.
- Excellent battery life
- Fun rugged design
The Garmin Instinct 2 Solar is another evolution based on the same premise as Garmin’s other long-lasting, all-tracking watches, but it’s designed to be slightly more rugged. While the Fenix normally takes up this position, the Instinct 2 meets Mil-Std 810G protection, proofed to 100m and also being shock resistant. It also offers 14 days of battery that can be topped up throughout time in the sun.
It’s a little chunkier than some other Garmin devices, but, at its heart, it will give you the same GPS, heart rate and activity tracking. The downside to this emphasis on tracking is the lack of smartwatch features – there’s no music support – but there are other watches to explore if that’s on your wishlist.
Garmin Forerunner 255
7. Best Garmin for runners
One of the attractive things about the Forerunner 255 is the option for a Music model to take tunes on the run.
- Light and comfortable
- Blends features and affordability
- Music version costs extra
- Music streaming drains battery fast
The Garmin Forerunner 255 is technically Garmin’s mid-range runner’s watch. It’s often the choice for those who want more than the Forerunner 55, but don’t want to pay for the Forerunner 955. Fortunately, it offers pretty much all the tracking that the top of the range does, only missing out on things like golf features, realtime stamina reporting and live segment tracking. Many also choose the Forerunner 255 because there’s a Music version, so you can connect via Bluetooth and take tunes on the run.
There’s no touchscreen here like the 955, but you do get Garmin Pay, so you can buy that coffee on the way back from your workout.
What is the best Garmin watch?
Within the many families of Garmin devices are multiple generations, different case sizes and standard or premium versions. This makes the task of ranking the top Garmin watches even more difficult, since, often, older models of premium lines (like the Fenix or Forerunner) are still exceptional picks.
In fact, for those who have a rough idea of what Garmin device they’re suited to, it’s sometimes worth considering the last-gen model. These often age very well, since Garmin supports discontinued devices with software updates, and can come with a handy price discount.
To help keep things simple and relevant for you here, though, our ratings largely reflect the current generation of Garmin products – with 2023 models soon to be added to the list as soon as they are reviewed.
How to choose the right Garmin watch
Before you can really know which Garmin device is right for you, it’s important to understand who each range is aimed at.
- Fenix – Premium multisport watches for those who want the best of everything
- Venu – Garmin’s smartwatch line, providing an alternative to the Apple Watch and others
- Forerunner – Top-tier GPS sports watches with a focus on catering for runners
- Vivoactive – Everyday fitness watches that are best for gaining basic insights into all kinds of activity
- Vivomove – Hybrid watches that can track activity discreetly
- Instinct – Rugged GPS watch designed for the outdoors
Naturally, Garmin has plenty more devices for specific sports – such as its Approach golf wearables, the Swim and Descent series’ or the Vivo fitness bands – but the above are the most common models we would recommend. If you are looking for something specific, the chances are strong that Garmin has a tracker for the job. Marq, Epix and Enduro also bolster the premium end of the market.
What Garmin features do you need?
Garmin has a wide range of features, fully supported and accessed through the Garmin Connect app that runs on your smartphone. Fitness tracking is a given on all Garmin models, including steps, calories, GPS route tracking, heart rates, heart rate zones, coaching and sleep tracking for recovery. Some models offer colour mapping, some will offer a touchscreen and some offer button controls only.
As you step up through the models, you’ll find more advanced features. While all offer smartphone notifications, you’ll get Garmin Pay on many models, support for music on tops devices – although on some mid-range devices, you’ll have to choose a «music» edition of the watch. Beyond that, top models offer a wider range of dynamics for athletes – especially runners – so you can get more out of your workouts and recovery.
There’s also a wide ecosystem of devices supporting Garmin, including additional sensors such as heart rate strap for greater accuracy through to bike sensors for those in the saddle. While many watches will support these sensors and integrate the data into Garmin Connect, it’s again worth checking that your watch of choice will do everything you need it to.