We've tested the best Garmin watches around to help you find the perfect one for your wrist. Whether you're a dedicated athlete aiming to take your training to the next level and smash your personal bests, or looking for a watch to help you start your fitness journey, we're here to help.
Garmin is best known for making some of the best running watches, but it also makes a huge range of other wearables, from everyday smartwatches like the Venu 2, right through to advanced multi-sports watches like the Epix (Gen 2). Looking for the best cheap running watch? Garmin has you covered with the excellent Forerunner 55.
We've put each one 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.
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, and it rolled out a range of new activity tracking modes for Forerunner watches towards the end of the year as well.
The best Garmin watch
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.
In January 2022, Garmin released the Venu 2 Plus – a new smartwatch that keeps all the best features of the Venu 2 and adds a microphone so you can make calls and access your phone's voice assistant from your wrist. It's an excellent addition, and if you can afford the extra cost, well worth considering.
Read our full Garmin Venu 2 review
We were big fans of the original Garmin Instinct, but it was always a very functional looking watch – chunky and stoic. The Instinct 2 keeps all the best features of its predecessor (including a shockproof fiber-reinforced resin case and exceptional battery life) and tucks it all into a slimmer package that's now available in two sizes: 45mm or 40mm for smaller wrists.
It's a full multi-sports watch, with carefully designed tracking modes for a wide range of activities, and runners, cyclists and swimmers are particularly well served. You get the advanced training tools you'd expect from a modern Garmin watch, including workout suggestions, recovery time guidance, and load monitoring so you can strike the right balance between effort and rest
The Instinct 2 also allows you to download new apps, data fields, and faces from Garmin Connect IQ, and is available in a choice of more fun colors than the original Instinct. It's overall a more wearable watch whether you're working our or not.
The standard Instinct 2 offers impressive battery life, but While the first-gen Instinct Solar could hypothetically keep running indefinitely on a single charge, the company says that it's now a practical possibility if you spend enough time outdoors. We were certainly impressed by its performance in our tests; even with regular workouts, the power meter barely budged when we got enough sun.
The only downside is the fact that its monochrome memory-in-pixel display isn't great for maps, and you'll get far less detail than you would with a watch like the Fenix 7 or Epix (Gen 2). The Instinct 2's mid-range price makes it very tempting though, and it comes highly recommended.
Read our full Garmin Instinct 2 review
The Fenix 7 is a sports watch aimed at serious athletes who enjoy getting stuck into multiple sports and want to push themselves to hit new records. It's packed with advanced training tools, including some new additions like a real-time stamina graphic, which helps you pace yourself during events, and a graph showing how your VO2 max has changed over time.
This is the first watch in the Fenix line to feature a touchscreen, and although it's automatically locked during workouts to prevent accidental touches, it's extremely useful for panning across maps with the watch in navigation mode. There are now lots of free maps available to download, and Garmin has added a new map manager to the watch itself, which makes the process quick and straightforward. Satellite positioning is quick to establish a lock, and proved super accurate in our tests.
The watch's biometric tracking is also impressive; heart rate monitoring is particularly responsive, making the Fenix 7 an excellent tool if you're interested in heart rate training.
It's not quite perfect – the memory-in-pixel display lacks contrast, and the choice of a blue backlight muddies its colors – but it's a thoughtfully designed watch crammed with all the features you need to get your training on track, whether you're a runner, swimmer, cyclist, triathlete, golfer, skier, or something else.
Read our full Garmin Fenix 7 review
The Garmin Epix (Gen 2) essentially takes all the best features of the Fenix 7, and adds a stunning color AMOLED display. The result is a super premium sports watch to help you take your training to the next level, with graphics, maps, and charts all clearly visible at a glance. However, this display is much more power-hungry than the MiP display of the Fenix 7, resulting in much shorter battery life.
It's still very respectable for an AMOLED smartwatch though – particularly one this robust and packed with this many features for both everyday wear and fitness tracking. Garmin describes this as a watch for athletes who want to mix up indoor and outdoor training, and its huge range of workout profiles fit the bill nicely.
When you're training outside, Garmin's heritage in satellite positioning really shines; the Epix (Gen 2) establishes a GPS lock quicker than any other watch we've tested, tracks your runs and rides with impressive accuracy, and helps you find your way with extremely detailed vivid maps.
It's well worth investigating the whole Garmin range before making a choice (you might be surprised by just how much a mid-range Instinct watch has to offer), but if you want the most advanced watch around and your budget can stand the hit, the Epix (Gen 2) is the one for you.
Read our full Garmin Epix (Gen 2) review
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
The Garmin Forerunner 55 is Garmin's new entry-level running watch, and is almost identical to its predecessor, the Forerunner 45 in terms of design. It's the same size, and has the same five-button interface (there's no touchscreen here).
However, once it's on your wrist, you'll discover an array of excellent new training tools inside that'll help you monitor your fitness and optimize your training. These include 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 the prize for Best New Running Watch award in our 2021 awards.
Read our full Garmin Forerunner 55 review
If you don't need a fully-fledged running watch like the Forerunner 55, but still want to get as much data as possible on your health and fitness, the Vivosmart 5 is the Garmin watch for you. It's super small and lightweight, but still provides an impressive stream of stats for you to pore over. In our tests we were particularly impressed by its sleep tracking tools, and the device is so comfortable, you'll forget you're wearing it at night.
Its screen is a small monochrome affair, but Garmin's interface designers have done a truly impressive job of cramming in a wealth of data without things ever looking cramped.
Sure, its not quite as attractive as Fitbit's latest devices, but it's extremely practical and, best of all, there are no features hidden behind a paywall. Everything in the Garmin Connect app is free to access, with no need to subscribe to a premium service to get deep insights into historic data and trends.
Read our full Garmin Vivosmart 5 review
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
The Garmin Forerunner 245 was released in 2019, but has stood the test of time well, and is still a great mid-level running watch that packs a lot of features into a compact package. It has an impressive range of workout modes (including swimming and weight training), provides feedback on your training load, and delivers daily stress insights all on your wrist,
There's no triathlon mode (for that you'll want to upgrade to the Garmin Forerunner 745), but if you're primarily a runner and are looking to upgrade your entry-level watch to something more advanced, the 245 is well worth your consideration – particularly since it's often heavily discounted.
There's no metal bezel, so it doesn't look quite as slick as more modern Garmin watches, but the resin case is lightweight and unobtrusive enough for everyday wear, and is tough enough to shrug off rough treatment.
Read our full Garmin Forerunner 245 review
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
How to choose a Garmin watch
When you're choosing a Garmin watch, there are three key points to consider: what sport are you interested in, what level are you at, and what is your budget?
If you're starting your fitness journey and want a watch that will help improve your habits, that's fantastic – a watch in the Venu line will suit you perfectly. They're quite small and discrete, making them great for all-day wear, and offer a good range of general fitness tracking tools. If your budget will run to it, the Venu 2 and Venu 2 Plus are our top picks thanks to their on-board GPS and fantastic displays.
If you're a beginner or intermediate runner, then the Forerunner 55 or 245 will work very nicely for you, and if you also enjoy cycling, swimming or both, the Forerunner 745 or 945 are superb triathlon watches that will serve you well. Worried about scuffs and scratches? Take a look at the Instinct 2; it's built like a tank and has incredible battery life.
If you're seriously into your training, and want the deepest insights in your health and fitness, the Fenix 7 and Epix (Gen 2) are excellent choices. The latter is particularly good if you want to explore new routes, as its high-res OLED display is brilliant for mapping. It does come at a cost though, and the Fenix 7 (although not cheap) is a more budget-friendly option.
How we test
When testing a Garmin watch, we wear it night and day for at least two weeks so it can build up a full picture of our health and fitness. We enable SpO2 tracking if available, and track an average of one workout per day to give us an idea of how long the watch's battery will last in typical use. If the watch supports app downloads from Garmin Connect, we're also able to use a battery monitor app to check how quickly it drains.
We measure each watch with an electric caliper and weigh it using an electric scale to check its exact dimensions and mass, and compare it to similar watches in the same category (there can be differences between the figures cited by the manufacturer and the actual values).
To test the accuracy of the watch's GPS, we take it for several runs on pre-measured courses, and if it has mapping capability we create a new route using Garmin Connect, sync it to the watch, and use it to navigate the route.
We also take the watch for several indoor cycling classes while wearing a chest strap heart rate monitor so we can compare the values recorded, and see how quickly the watch responds to changes in heart rate during interval training.
We compare the watch's sleep scores to those recorded by the Withings Sleep Analyzer, which measures movement and breathing directly, and produces reliably accurate results.