The Best GPS Smartwatch

Updated on 18 November 2022

We spent 34 hours comparing 51 smart sports watches and tested 21 of them, recently released, to conclude that the Garmin Venu 2S offers the best price-quality.

This comparison is certified 100% impartial and follows our selection process.

Our choice, Best mid-range

Garmin Venu 2S

It is a complete and versatile watch that is equally convincing for health, sport and everyday use. Its sensors are precise, its ergonomics are well thought out and its design is both comfortable and elegant.

£ 349.99 on Amazon

Garmin Venu 2S

Lightweight and comfortable, the Venu 2S stands out for its many features that make it suitable for sports, health and everyday use. Highly compatible, versatile and motivating, it acts as a real sports coach while ensuring your safety. Aside from its limited battery life, we particularly liked its good screen quality and overall performance, such as its reliable GPS and accurate heart rate sensor. It can also store music.

 

 

Best budget

Garmin Forerunner 55

It's the best choice if you're just starting in running or if you're happy with simple data. Its training and safety features, GPS accuracy and comfortable design are its main assets.

£ 179.99 on Amazon

Garmin Forerruner 55

With a good quality/price ratio, this watch is aimed at runners and more specifically at beginners who want to make progress (in the absence of more advanced metrics). It perfectly combines comfort and simplicity and acts as a real sports coach with its programmes and training suggestions. While not perfect, it has support functions and an accurate GPS, and its companion app is quite comprehensive. However, in our test we found it to be quite dependent on the companion app and in our opinion, the quality of the display could be better.

 

Best high-end

Garmin Forerunner 955

It is the most complete for those who practice sports regularly. Its wide range of functions and ultra-precise GPS justify its high price.

£ 477.00 on Amazon

Also available in a Solar version, this watch offers a convincing autonomy (about 7 days) but is not revolutionary. Although it takes a bit of getting used to and its price is very high, this version integrates a touch screen as well as a large number of sports functions more suitable for runners and athletes of a more advanced level. These include a highly accurate multi-band GPS and new information (such as HRV calculation and training preparation) that further enhance the sporty design of the watch.

 

Budget alternative

Coros Pace 2

This watch is pleasant to wear (thanks to its lightness), fairly durable and has good sensor accuracy: three essential elements for a regular sportsman.

£ 179.00 on Amazon

Coros Pace 2

Very enduring, lightweight and comfortable to wear, it offers cool training plans with additional sensors for a complete activity report. Whether in terms of design or functionality, this is a typically sporty watch that is very reliable in its measurements. In our eyes, it is definitely a model to be favoured by running and triathlon enthusiasts, but following our test, we found it more limited in some health and connected functions, and it slightly lacks ergonomics. It also lacks SOS functions and support for routes.

 

Our selection

Our choice, Best mid-rangeBest budgetBest high-endBudget alternative
Garmin Venu 2S Garmin Forerunner 55 Garmin Forerunner 955 Coros Pace 2
It is a complete and versatile watch that is equally convincing for health, sport and everyday use. Its sensors are precise, its ergonomics are well thought out and its design is both comfortable and elegant. It's the best choice if you're just starting in running or if you're happy with simple data. Its training and safety features, GPS accuracy and comfortable design are its main assets. It is the most complete for those who practice sports regularly. Its wide range of functions and ultra-precise GPS justify its high price. This watch is pleasant to wear (thanks to its lightness), fairly durable and has good sensor accuracy: three essential elements for a regular sportsman.
£ 349.99 on Amazon £ 179.99 on Amazon £ 477.00 on Amazon £ 179.00 on Amazon

 

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How did we do the tests?

To begin with, we wore each watch for several days to evaluate them in terms of actual daily use. This allowed us to judge the comfort and design in various conditions (evening, sports sessions in the sun or at night, in the gym…). The quality of the display was also tested. By scrolling through the menus of each watch and each application, we were able to analyse the reactivity of the interface, the fluidity of the operating system and the intuitiveness of the application.

We then focused on the functions and more specifically on those related to sport (heart rate, GPS, multisport mode, activity detection, etc.). To check the accuracy of the sensors, we varied the intensity of the sessions and compared them with the results of other recognised and reliable accessories. Finally, in terms of battery life, we have taken care to alternate periods of inactivity and more active times with the activation or deactivation of certain measures.

 

How to choose your GPS Smartwatch?

More complete than the smart band and more specific than the classic smartwatch, the GPS smartwatch is the essential tool for sportsmen and women. However, there are a multitude of models at different prices that offer specific functionalities for each athlete. Some can still be suitable for those who do not have the soul of a sportsman.

To help you in your future purchase, we have drawn up a list of criteria you should pay attention to:

  • GPS accuracy: this is the most important criterion of the watch. The quality of the tracker depends on its response time and also on its geolocation system. Some models benefit from a multi-satellite system which offers more effective position fixes because there are three of them.

Xiaomi Watch S1

  • Battery life: most GPS smartwatches are powered by lithium-ion batteries. This means they have enough power to last between 10 and 12 hours before they need to be recharged. Factors such as the backlighting of the screen or the activation of the GPS significantly affect the battery life. With GPS enabled, the battery can be depleted between 5 and 12 times faster.
  • Resistance: for this, you need to identify the use for which the watch is intended. If you practice a sport, you should check its certification index as this determines its water resistance. Thus, for swimmers, it is advisable to opt for immersion in water up to 50 metres, 100 metres minimum for diving (with warnings provided by vibrations), while for a jogger, resistance to rain and bad weather is sufficient.

Montre sportive

  • Data synchronisation: most GPS smartwatches can download your training data to your computer, either via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or ANT+. Some even offer automatic synchronisation. The software on which your data is stored differs from brand to brand. In general, each manufacturer has its application that has its features and can tolerate personal key settings.
  • Memory: all GPS smartwatches have a memory that records your results (heart rate, duration of effort, distance covered, calories burned, etc.). If an internal memory allows more regular recording, the data takes up more space and you need more storage capacity.

Xiaomi Watch S1 Active

  • Features: there is a heart rate monitor that measures your heart rate during an activity. A Pulse OS sensor calculates your blood oxygen level and is useful for high-altitude trails. Lastly, most models send you notifications, allow you to listen to music or make payments, act as a compass, etc. These options should not be neglected and their use depends on your objectives.
  • Comfort: this criterion is linked to the watch’s weight, volume and strap. The lighter it is, the more comfortable it is on the wrist. To avoid discomfort, the dial should not exceed the size of your wrist. Lastly, the strap is supposed to have a certain flexibility, especially for sports activities. For this, plastic and silicone seem to be the most suitable. Similarly, a touch screen has the advantage of making navigation easier.

Suunto 9 Peak

  • Aesthetics: for this element, you should pay attention to the quality of the screen (OLED is often the best). Smaller wrists will appreciate the thinness and the nice finishing. For thicker wrists, it is the opposite. But the most important thing is that you like the colour and design of the model. However, this is a subjective and individual characteristic.

 

Other models we recommend

Xiaomi Watch S1 Active (£109.00 upon publication): a lot of comfort on the wrist. It is the quality of its screen, its great autonomy, its connected functions and its simple and reactive interface that make it stand out. If you take away the inaccuracy of the heart rate, the poor software and the few shortcomings that should be addressed in future updates, this is a good option for a user who has a more active lifestyle.

Garmin Forerunner 245 (£159.00 upon publication): designed for running, but not for trail running or triathlon. It has a nice ergonomic design and is not only easy to use, but also quite well equipped with features. Above all, it is a real companion for regular runners because it accompanies them with convincing precision (just like the reliable GPS) and looks after their recovery. In addition, it acts as a sports coach and has safety functions. However, the lack of an altimeter and a multi-sport profile makes it unsuitable for runners and triathletes.

Suunto 9 Peak (£386.30 upon publication): 100% dedicated to mountain sportspersons. It has serious qualities for sportsmen and women, especially through its modern design, its elaborate navigation system, its numerous information and its endurance in GPS mode. It is ideal for mountain sports and triathlon enthusiasts. However, due to its less developed health and connected functions and its sometimes tedious pairing, we do not recommend it for daily urban use.

Garmin Venu 2 Plus (£377.09 upon publication): a hybrid (sport/urban) model. It has almost the same features as the Venu 2S, but has a larger, higher resolution screen, barometer, multi-sport mode and call answering. In testing it, we were impressed by its beautiful design and touchscreen, versatile functions, long battery life (up to 9 days) and accurate sensors. However, the charger lacks modernity and its few additional sports functions compared to the 2S do not justify the price difference in our opinion. 

Garmin Forerunner 255S (£410.99 upon publication): complete and accurate data. This watch has a comfortable design, the display is easy to read in any environment and it has several health and training functions (running power, training readiness level, etc.). Its application is comprehensive and both the GPS and heart rate indications are accurate. During our test, we also appreciated its endurance (up to 10 days of battery life and 30 hours with GPS). However, we regret the lack of certain connected functions and the inferior quality of the display (given its price…).

 

Other models tested

Polar M430 (£169.90 upon publication): a somewhat aged mode. It is primarily aimed at runners with its comprehensive running profile and the creation of personalised programmes. But while it is easy to use, it has been on the market for some time and therefore does not have all the features and technology seen in the latest models. It also lacks automatic data synchronisation and the design is disappointing.

Xiaomi Watch S1 Active (£182.00 upon publication): comfortable to wear. The quality of its display, its long battery life, its connected functions and its simple and responsive interface are its main strengths. If we exclude the inaccuracy of the heart rate and its software (a little outdated, but that could be fixed with future updates), it is one of the best in its range.

Suunto 7 (£342.98 upon publication): too bulky. With its numerous maps, accuracy, robustness, new sports data and smart functions, the Suunto 7 is a good watch for both urban and sports use. Still, its battery life isn’t great (about two days) and its design might be annoying if you have thin wrists.

TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra (£217.99 upon publication): with a somewhat fickle GPS. With its overall good performance, its robust design and its combination of two screens, one would expect to have found a model that guarantees reliable performance. It also excels when it comes to its health functions. Still, not everything is perfect. Its design is aimed more at a male audience and its GPS, while accurate, was sometimes a bit fickle during our tests.

Garmin Venu Sq 2 (£229.00 upon publication): less focus on design. With impressive battery life, a nice touchscreen and fairly accurate health and sports tracking, it has a lot going for it, especially as it’s moderately priced for a watch in the Venu range. Its square face is comfortable to wear and its GPS is reliable and efficient. However, it does not have an altimeter or audible alerts, and we would have expected to find a magnetic charger.

Garmin Instinct 2 (£289.00 upon publication): good for extreme sports, but with a disappointing display. It stands out for its excellent battery life, its ultra-rugged and waterproof design, its wealth of mountain features, and its reliability and data tracking. However, while it can be viewed relatively well in all environments, its non-touch monochrome display and interface can be improved, and it takes up a lot of space on the wrist.

 

 

Translated by Aylin Akturk

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