Skip to main content

The best Garmin watch 2021: super accurate GPS for any sport

Included in this guide:

Three Garmin watches
(Image credit: Future)

We've tested the best Garmin watches around to help you find the perfect one for your wrist. Whether you're a runner, swimmer, cyclist or someone just starting to look after their fitness, we're here to help.

There are currently some great Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals that make buying a new wearable from the company much easier: plenty of Black Friday Garmin watch deals are live in the US and UK, saving you money on the top models. Check them out at the bottom of this introduction.

We've put all of these watches through rigorous real-world testing, weighing up the accuracy of their GPS tracking, the responsiveness of their heart rate monitors, and the quality of their training tools. We've also evaluated their battery life, plus display quality, and overall design so you know how each one will feel to wear and use during workouts and in everyday use.

We've also found the lowest prices right now for each of the watches in this list, so you can be confident you're getting the best deal, whether it's the (award-winning) entry-level Forerunner 55 or the flagship Fenix 6

Whichever watch you pick, it's likely to get even better with time, as Garmin regularly adds new features through firmware updates. For example, in September 2021, it added a new Adventure Racing profile for the Garmin Enduro.

Garmin Fenix 6 Pro: $649.99

Garmin Fenix 6 Pro: $649.99 $449.99 at Amazon
Save $200
- The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro is one of Garmin’s top wearables and right now it’s available for a hefty 32% discount, saving you $206 off the standard price. This highly capable multisport watch can track just about any activity you can do, so even without the discount it justifies its price tag.

Garmin Forerunner 245 Music: $349.99

Garmin Forerunner 245 Music: $349.99 $249.99 at Amazon
Save $100
- This affordable wearable from Garmin is now even more affordable, with a saving of 29%. The Garmin Forerunner 245 Music includes advanced training features and running dynamics, and as the name suggests it can also connect to music streaming services.

Garmin Lily: $249.99

Garmin Lily: $249.99 $199.99 at Amazon
Save $50 - The Garmin Lily is a sleek, attractive smartwatch designed with women in mind, and right now you can get this Light Gold model with a white leather band for just $199.99, knocking 20% off the standard price. In our review we praised the bright screen and great companion app, but noted that there's no onboard GPS or contactless payment support, so bear that in mind.

Garmin Instinct: £269.99

Garmin Instinct: £269.99 £119 at Amazon
Save £150.99 - The Garmin Instinct is available for 56% less than usual in this deal, bringing this already affordable wearable down to an impulse purchase price. With a comfortable design and solid sports tracking performance there's a lot to like here, though it lacks full mapping features.

Garmin Fenix 6 Pro: £599.99

Garmin Fenix 6 Pro: £599.99 £379 at Amazon
Save £220.99 - The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro is a supercharged multisport watch that's way more than most people need, but with 37% off this black model it's at a price that many will be able to afford. It can track just about any activity you can do from running and cycling to skiing and beyond, and with more precision than many devices. This is a big saving so it's worth snapping up if you think you'll make good use of it.

Garmin Vivoactive 4: £279.99

Garmin Vivoactive 4: £279.99 £179.99 at Argos
Save £100 - The Garmin Vivoactive 4 is a mid-range multisport watch that offers many of the same tools as Garmin's top-end models, and allows for the tracking of over 20 different activities, from jogging to golf. It's a great smartwatch for anyone with at least a passing interest in fitness then, and right now you can get the black/gunmetal model at a triple-figure discount, so it's a great time to buy.

The best Garmin watch

Garmin Fenix 6 with black band

The Garmin Fenix 6 is a powerful, feature-packed multi-sports watch, and is our pick for the best Garmin watch of 2021 (Image credit: Garmin)

The best Garmin watch overall

Specifications
Screen size: 1.3-inch diameter
Touchscreen: No
Battery life using GPS: 36 hours
Battery life on standby: 14 days
Onboard storage: 64MB
Bluetooth connection: Yes
Smartwatch capabilities: Yes
Multisport: Loads of them
Reasons to buy
+Can't be beaten for outdoor tracking+Accurate activity tracking
Reasons to avoid
-Very expensive-Not the most stylish of watches

The Garmin Fenix 6 is perhaps the ultimate multi-sport smartwatch, and certainly the ultimate one offered by Garmin. Or, well, the Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Solar is anyway, but the entire Fenix 6 range is truly top-end as wearables go.

The Garmin Fenix 6 will track almost any outdoor activity you could possibly want, with GPS along with a heart rate monitor that even works underwater.

GPS locks on fast and works reliably in our experience, battery life is impressive, and the watch feels robust – if bulky.

The high price will put many people off and if you’re not sure you really need the Garmin Fenix 6 then, well, you probably don’t. In that case, consider one of the cheaper options elsewhere on this list, but for serious athletes and adventurers, particularly those who don’t stick to just one sport, the Fenix 6 comes highly recommended.

We're eagerly anticipating the launch of the Garmin Fenix 7, which may arrive later in 2021. We'll keep you updated as soon as we know more.

Read our full Garmin Fenix 6 review

Garmin Forerunner 945 with black band

The Forerunner 945 is a top-notch Garmin watch for triathletes, with all the training tools you could ask for and a rugged build that will take all the knocks you can throw at it (Image credit: Garmin)

The best Garmin watch for serious athletes

Specifications
Screen size: 1.2-inch diameter
Touchscreen: No
Battery life using GPS: 36 hours
Battery life on standby: 14 days
Onboard storage: 16GB for maps, 4GB for music
Bluetooth connection: Yes
Smartwatch capabilities: Yes
Multisport: Dozens
Reasons to buy
+Very accurate GPS and heart rate+Useful full-color maps
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Iffy swim tracking

The Garmin Forerunner 945 is the best of Garmin’s running-focused smartwatches. It’s not quite as feature-packed as the more multi-sport oriented Fenix 6, but if all you care about is running then this should have everything you’ll need and then some.

We found the GPS and heart rate monitor to both be exceedingly accurate in our review, and also praised the Forerunner 945’s full-color maps and up to two weeks of battery life.

And while this is a runner’s watch through and through, that’s not to say it can’t track other sports. In fact, there are tracking tools for over 30 different activities built-in.

But if you’re not primarily running – and at a high level – then you’ll probably be better off with a cheaper or more general-purpose Garmin watch, as this costs a lot, and goes deeper into what it tracks than most casual runners will want or need.

Read our full Garmin Forerunner 945 review

Garmin Venu 2 with gray band

The Garmin Venu 2 is a great-looking watch for everyday wear and workouts, and will suit more casual athletes (Image credit: Garmin)

The best Garmin watch for all-day wear

Specifications
Screen size: 1.3-inch or 1.1-inch diameter
Touchscreen: Yes
Battery life using GPS: Up to 8 hours with music, 22 hours without
Battery life on standby: Up to 12 days
Onboard storage: 200 hours activity data, 650 songs
Bluetooth connection: Yes
Smartwatch capabilities: Yes
Multisport: Dozens
Reasons to buy
+Available in two sizes+Superb AMOLED display+Great fitness tracking features
Reasons to avoid
-Limited app support

The Garmin Venu 2 strikes a tricky balance between smartwatch and sports watch, successfully delivering the best of both worlds. Its design is understated, and doesn't scream 'sports watch', but it's packed with an impressive array of training tools including accurate GPS (supported by Galielo and GLONASS), quick access to Garmin Coach training plans, sensitive heart rate monitoring, cadence, splits, and more. There are plenty of indoor training modes too, and the watch even syncs with compatible gym equipment, plus third-party fitness and diet apps.

On the smartwatch front, there's on-board storage for 650 songs, plus third-party music apps from Deezer and Amazon Music. You can view your day's schedule at a glance, check your heart rate, water intake and stress level, log period symptoms, receive smartphone notifications (and send replies) and more.

This is all made possible by the super high-resolution AMOLED display, with three brightness settings and an optional always-on mode that allows you to see a huge amount of data at a glance, without digging out your phone. A superb all-purpose Garmin watch, the Venu 2 comes highly recommended.

Read our full Garmin Venu 2 review

Garmin Forerunner 55 with white band

The Garmin Forerunner 55 is packed with tools to help new runners advance their training, including smart workout suggestions (Image credit: Garmin)

The best Garmin watch for new runners

Specifications
Screen size: 1.04-inch x 1.04-inch
Touchscreen: No
Battery life using GPS: 20 hours
Battery life on standby: 14 days
Onboard storage: 200 hours of data
Bluetooth connection: Yes
Smartwatch capabilities: Yes
Multisport: Cycling
Inbuilt heart-rate monitor: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight+Good value
Reasons to avoid
-Limited sport profiles-Plastic-heavy build

The Garmin Forerunner 55 is Garmin's new entry-level running watch, and is almost identical to the Forerunner 45 in terms of design and operation. Instead of a touchscreen it's operated using five buttons around the circumference of the case, but they're thoughtfully designed and clearly labelled to avoid confusing new users, and avoid fumbling mid-run.

There are some big upgrades though, including new suggested workouts based on your past activities, which help give your training some structure even if you're not following a dedicated plan. After a workout, you'll also see advice on how long to rest and recover before your next effort.

The Forerunner 55's standout feature is Garmin's signature GPS accuracy, which makes it a great entry point for anyone upgrading from a Fitbit to a dedicated sports watch - and it won our Best New Running Watch award in our recent prize-giving.

Read our full Garmin Forerunner 55 review

Garmin Enduro

The Garmin Enduro doesn't feature a touchscreen, but its long-lasting battery life more than makes up for it (Image credit: Garmin)

The best Garmin watch for battery life

Specifications
Screen size: 1.4-inch diameter
Touchscreen: No
Battery life using GPS: 70 hours / 80 hours with solar
Battery life on standby: 50 days / 65 days with solar
Onboard storage: 64MB
Bluetooth connection: Yes
Smartwatch capabilities: Yes
Multisport: Dozens
Reasons to buy
+Superior battery life+Great overall sports tracking
Reasons to avoid
-Missing full mapping support-Cheaper options out there

If battery life is your main priority, you need the Enduro. As this name suggests, this is aimed at endurance athletes and offers the best battery life of any Garmin watch. It can go either 50 or 65 days in smartwatch mode, depending on whether you factor in solar power, and offers between 70 and 80 hours of GPS battery life. Plus, if you really pare usage and features down, your watch can run from anywhere from 130 days to a whole year.

In general, you’ll find a strong set of features here, including full satellite support, a heart rate monitor, a pulse ox monitor, 24/7 fitness tracking and smartwatch features like notifications and payments.

Be aware, though, that it doesn’t have full mapping support or a built-in music player. It lacks a touchscreen, too, and in general this isn’t the most feature-rich watch in the Garmin collection. But on the plus side, it’s beautifully light, has excellent sports tracking abilities, and offers superb battery performance.

Read the full Garmin Enduro review

Garmin Vivoactive 4S with pink band

The Garmin Vivoactive 4S is a smaller version of the Vivoactive 4, ideal for smaller wrists, and offers a good blend of everyday smartwatch features and essential workout tracking tools (Image credit: Garmin)

The best Garmin watch for affordable style and practicality

Specifications
Screen size: 1.1-inch diameter
Touchscreen: Yes
Battery life using GPS: 5 hours
Battery life on standby: 7 days
Onboard storage: 4GB for music
Bluetooth connection: Yes
Smartwatch capabilities: Yes
Multisport: Dozens
Reasons to buy
+Full GPS for exercise tracking+On-watch music streaming
Reasons to avoid
-No training load monitoring-Spotify integration needs work

Some Garmin watches are pretty utilitarian in design, and even though the face of a Garmin Instinct Solar (below) isn't any larger than a typical smartwatch, its overall look can be overwhelming on a slimmer wrist. 

That's where the Garmin Vivoactive 4S comes in. At just 40 x 40 x 12.7mm, it's essentially a scaled-down version of the smart and versatile Vivoactive 4.

Like its larger counterpart, the Vivoactive 4S boasts excellent fitness tracking with on-board GPS that locks on in just a few seconds and gives an accurate record of your runs and rides, rather than smoothing out the route as some trackers do.

It's smart enough to wear all day, and with sleep tracking and an SPO2 sensor to monitor blood oxygen levels, you'll want to keep it on all night as well.

Read the full Garmin Vivoactive 4 review

Garmin Instinct Solar with black band

The Garmin Instinct Solar is a super tough sports watch with extremely impressive battery life courtesy of Garmin's Power Glass (Image credit: Garmin)

The best Garmin watch for battery life

Specifications
Screen size: 0.9-inch diameter dual display
Touchscreen: No
Battery life using GPS: 30 hours, or 38 with solar
Battery life on standby: 56 days, or unlimited with solar
Onboard storage: 16MB
Bluetooth connection: Yes
Smartwatch capabilities: No
Multisport: Dozens
Reasons to buy
+Remarkable battery life+Super robust design+Innovative dual screen
Reasons to avoid
-Very chunky design

The Garmin Instinct Solar isn't the only watch capable of receiving regular top-ups through its Power Glass screen, but it's definitely the most impressive when it comes to sheer longevity, and can theoretically last indefinitely between charges when in power-saving mode. In real-world use that's unlikely to happen, but a few hours of sunlight mean that even with GPS enabled, you'll be able to use the Instinct Solar for days rather than hours,

Another of the Garmin Instinct Solar's best features is its dual display, which shows contextual information in a small cut-out, making it far easier to navigate the watch's myriad settings and options. In our tests we found it extremely useful, particularly since the Instinct Solar has a frankly enormous number of activity tracking and fitness monitoring options.

The only downside is that it's nor particularly attractive, with a chunky design that would look out of place in the office, but this is a Garmin watch designed for the great outdoors and that robust build means it'll take more than a few knocks when you're hiking, trail running, kayaking, camping or hiking. Tough and extremely practical.

If you're on a slightly tighter budget, check out the original Garmin Instinct. It's also super tough and practical, but lacks the Power Glass to keep its battery topped up.

Read our full Garmin Instinct Solar review

Garmin Venu Sq with orchid band

The Venu Sq is one of Garmin's best looking watches, and is ideal as a sports-focused, affordable alternative to an Apple Watch (Image credit: Garmin)

The best entry-level Garmin watch for everyday wear

Specifications
Screen size: 1.3-inch
Touchscreen: Yes
Battery life using GPS: 14 hours
Battery life in smartwatch mode: 6 days
Onboard storage: 200 hours activities
Bluetooth connection: Yes
Smartwatch capabilities: Yes
Multi-sport: Yes
Inbuilt heart-rate monitor: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Light and comfortable to wear+Feature-packed+Works with external sensors
Reasons to avoid
-Missing altimeter-Slightly archaic watch UI

The Garmin Venu Sq is one of the most affordable watches Garmin has released in some time, but certainly doesn't look it, with an attractive design and bright color screen that defy its modest price tag.

It’s packing all those core sensors like built-in GPS, a heart rate monitor and pulse ox sensor. There’s dedicated modes for the likes of running, cycling and swimming to make it a solid sports tracking companion, though in our tests we found that picking up a GPS signal took a little longer than we'd like.

There are two versions available: the regular edition, and one with a built-in music player. Whichever you pick, you'll get contactless payments, downloadable apps from the Garmin Connect IQ store

If you're looking for an entry-level watch for sports tracking then the original Venu will serve you better, but if value is your main priority than the Venu Sq comes highly recommended.

Read our full Garmin Venu Sq review

Garmin Vivomove 3 with gray band

The Garmin Vivomove 3 has a hybrid display, with analog hands and a hidden digital screen to show key workout stats. A solid choice for fans of classic style (Image credit: Garmin)

The best Garmin watch with a hybrid design

Specifications
Screen size: 8.9 x 18.3 mm (hybrid face)
Touchscreen: Yes
Battery life using GPS: N/A
Battery life in smartwatch mode: 7 days
Onboard storage: 7 timed activities / 14 days activity tracking
Bluetooth connection: Yes
Smartwatch capabilities: Yes
Multisport: Yes
Inbuilt heart-rate monitor: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Great looks+Affordably priced
Reasons to avoid
-No on-board GPS-Display shows limited data

The Garmin Vivomove 3 looks similar to the Garmin Vivoactive 4 at first glance, but is a hybrid smartwatch, meaning it has an analog face, with hands that move out of the way automatically to display smartphone notifications and fitness stats on a hidden digital display. It's a great-looking watch, though lighter on fitness features than the Vivomove.

There's no on-board GPS, for one - instead you'll need to carry your phone to track outdoor workouts. The smaller than usual digital display also means that you get less information than with a more conventional Garmin. To drill down through your daily activity stats, you'll need to delve into the Garmih Connect app.

If you're looking for a smart alternative to a Fitbit, then it's definitely worth checking out, particularly now that its price has dropped significantly. If you're looking for a serious sports watch then a Forerunner will be a better choice.

Should I buy the Garmin Vivomove 3

Garmin Lily with sand colored band

The Lily is Garmin's first watch aimed specifically at women, with an extra slim, lightweight design, though it lacks on-board GPS (Image credit: Garmin)

The first Garmin watch built specifically for women

Specifications
Screen size: 1 inch
Touchscreen: Yes
Battery life using GPS: N/A
Battery life in smartwatch mode: 5 days
Onboard storage: 200 hours activities
Bluetooth connection: Yes
Smartwatch capabilities: Yes
Multi-sport: Yes
Inbuilt heart-rate monitor: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Very attractive design+Slim and lightweight
Reasons to avoid
-No on-board GPS-No NFC for contactless payments

The Garmin Lily is designed specifically for women, with a super slim design that's a big departure from the typical chunky design of most smartwatches.

You can receive smartphone notifications through the Lily, it packs an impressive range of activity-tracking profiles, and there's a pulse ox sensor as well. It also puts women's health features front and center; Garmin's period-tracking app is installed as standard, and available with a quick tap of the smart monochrome display.

Unfortunately, there are some major setbacks, the most significant of which is the lack of on-board GPS. Instead, you have to connect the Lily to your phone and allow it to piggyback off your handset's satellite positioning. It works well, but is a shame for anyone who wants to walk, run or cycle without being dragged down by a bulky phone.

There's also no on-board music storage, or support for contactless purchases via Garmin Pay. Its a shame, because the Lily is a lovely device. Hopefully future iterations won't sacrifice so much functionality in the interests of style.

Read our full Garmin Lily review

Cat Ellis

Cat is the fitness and wellbeing editor at TechRadar. She's been a technology journalist for 11 years, and cut her teeth on magazines including PC Plus and PC Format before joining TechRadar. She's a trained run leader, and enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the pavement. If you have a story about fitness trackers, treadmills, running shoes, e-bikes, or any other fitness tech, drop her a line.