Reviews You Can Rely On

Best GPS Watch of 2022

We tested the best GPS watches from Garmin, Coros, Suunto, and more to help you find the perfect companion for your adventures
Best GPS Watch of 2022
Slight design differences can make a big difference on those super long days out.
Credit: Matthew Richardson
Friday April 29, 2022
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more

Our review authors and testers have spent the last 8 years testing close to 40 of the best GPS watches, with the top 12 in this review. We've developed a testing plan which focuses on analyzing the features, battery life, ease of use, accuracy, and design. We look at both the internal user interface and the external hardware to give you the best recommendations. We know everyone has different priorities, so we delve into various use cases to help you decide which watch will be best for your lifestyle and budget.

If you're also in the market for some new hiking gear or camping supplies, we're here to help you out. We conduct complete testing and offer reviews for everything from hiking poles and sleeping bags to water bottles and chest-style coolers. If you're hoping to get really remote and want to pair your watch with a satellite messenger or solar charger, we've tested those too.

Editor's Note: This review was updated on April 29, 2022, to add in new top-tier models, tested head-to-head against established favorites.

Recent software updates by the brands tested could cause some of our remarks to be out of date. Manufacturer product pages will have the most up-to-date software feature changes. Our thoughts on these new software features will be updated in our fall 2022 review, which will also include newly released products. Stay tuned!

Top 12 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 12
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Awards Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award  Best Buy Award Top Pick Award 
Price $699.99 at Amazon
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$699.00 at Amazon
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$600 List
$399.00 at Amazon
$399 List$450 List
$450.00 at REI
Overall Score Sort Icon
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76
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Pros Excellent battery life, great interface, advanced health metrics, beautiful screen resolutionDurable, incredible battery life, large screen, great appLightweight, thin profile, intuitive, fully featuredGood battery life, comfortable, easy to use, great valueReliable, durable, excellent battery life, simple design
Cons App could be better, calibration of ABC difficult, expensiveHeavy, expensive, limited touch function, resume later function not enabled across all activitiesExpensive, plain design, blood oxygen sensor has questionable accuracyLacks some toolset functions, scroll wheel has unintended clicksPlastic body, straps not removable, may be less comfortable for smaller wrists
Bottom Line The best GPS watch for everyday use and extended adventures in backcountry terrainThe most rugged expedition-ready watch we tested with insane battery life in a large 51mm caseIf road and urban running is your top priority there is no watch on the market better than this modelA fully-featured GPS watch at a great price makes this one of our top recommendations for all user typesA rugged GPS watch with potentially unlimited battery life, this watch has all the features you need and nothing you don't
Rating Categories Garmin Fenix 7 Coros Vertix 2 Garmin Forerunner 945 Coros Apex Pro Garmin Instinct 2 S...
Features (20%)
9.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
Battery Life (20%)
8.0
10.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
Ease of Use (20%)
9.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
Accuracy (20%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
Design (20%)
9.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Specs Garmin Fenix 7 Coros Vertix 2 Garmin Forerunner 945 Coros Apex Pro Garmin Instinct 2 S...
Watch Face Material Corning Gorilla Glass DX Sapphire Glass Corning Gorilla Glass DX Sapphire glass Power glass
Bezel Stainless steel Grade 5 titanium alloy with PVD coating Fiber-reinforced polymer Titanium Alloy Fiber reinforced polymer
Case Fiber-reinforced polymer with metal rear cover Titanium Alloy with PVD Coating Fiber-reinforced polymer Alumnium Fiber reinforced polymer
Strap Material Silicon Silicon or nylon Silicon Silicon or nylon Silicone
Tools Required to Change Band? No No Yes No Yes
Model Tested Standard Standard N/A Standard Solar
Size Tested 47mm One size only One size only 47mm One size only
Measured Main Body Size (diameter) 47mm 50mm 46mm 47mm 45mm
Measured Thickness 15.5mm 16mm 13mm 13.4mm 15mm
Measured Screen Width 33mm 35.5mm 30mm 33mm 23mm
Measured Weight 2.75 oz 3.17 oz 1.7 oz 2.0 oz 1.87 oz
Measured Charging Time 168 min 128 min 75 min 80 min 123 min
Battery Type Rechargable lithium ion Rechargable lithium ion Rechargable lithium ion Rechargable lithium ion Rechargable lithium ion
Measured Battery Life With GPS On 56 hours 135 hours 28 hours 36 hours 30 hours
Manufacturer-Reported Battery Life Smartwatch mode: 18 days;
GPS: 57 hours
Smartwatch mode: 60 days;
GPS: 140 hours
Smartwatch mode: up to 14 days ;
GPS mode w/ music: 10 hours;
GPS w/o music: 36 hours
Smartwatch mode: 30 days;
GPS mode: 40 hours;
UltraMax mode: 100 hours
Smartwatch mode: 28 days and unlimited w/ solar;
GPS: 30/48hrs
Navigation Built In? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Satellite Networks Used GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, Beidou, QZSS GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO GPS, QZSS, GLONASS, BEIDOU GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO
Maps? Yes - detailed Yes - detailed Yes, detailed Yes - basic No
Back to Start Navigation? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Water Resistance (max depth) 100m 100m 50m 100m 100m
Music Control? Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Music Storage? Yes - 1000 songs Yes - 32gb storage Yes - 1000 songs No No
Daily Fitness Tracking? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Touchless Payment? Yes No Yes No Yes
Sleep Tracking? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Blood Oxygen? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Compass? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Barometric Altimeter? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Temperature Sensor? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Main Software App Garmin Connect, widgets for other features Coros App Garmin Connect, widgets for other features Coros App Garmin Connect, widgets for other features
Can Software Cross Over to Different Software Ecosystems? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes


Best Overall GPS Watch


Garmin Fenix 7


88
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Features 9.0
  • Battery Life 8.0
  • Ease of Use 9.0
  • Accuracy 9.0
  • Design 9.0
Weight: 2.75 oz | Battery Life: 18 days in smartwatch mode, 57 hours in GPS mode
REASONS TO BUY
Best features and user interface
Exceptional battery for most distances
Premium materials and rugged design
Accurate dual-frequency GPS
REASONS TO AVOID
Expensive
Garmin Connect app feels dated

The Garmin Fenix 7 is the best GPS watch we've ever tested. This model is intuitive and accurate, with a battery life that'll last through most ultra-distance events. The Garmin user interface is our favorite, and the extensive feature helps improve our time outdoors without being annoying or difficult to use. We appreciate the durable design, sleek look, and bonus features like massive music storage, Garmin Pay, onboard maps, and integration with Garmin's robust online ecosystem.

While this is a great watch, the price is high, and many will find better value in other lower-priced options that don't have as many features. Taking the time to learn all about the feature options and how to set them up is a time investment as well. That said, if you can afford it, this is the best GPS watch in today's market.

Read review: Garmin Fenix 7

best overall gps watch
Ski touring-specific modes are common on high-end models like the Fenix 7. There are even sub-modes for the up and the down.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Best Bang for the Buck


Coros Apex Pro


76
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Features 7.0
  • Battery Life 7.0
  • Ease of Use 8.0
  • Accuracy 8.0
  • Design 8.0
Weight: 2.0 oz | Battery Life: 30 days in smartwatch mode, 40 hours in GPS mode
REASONS TO BUY
Great GPS and smartwatch battery life
Fantastic accuracy across different profiles
Thin light design perfect for running and intense activity
REASONS TO AVOID
The scroll wheel can misclick requiring locking the screen
Can be hard to read at speed

The Coros Apex Pro is a favorite choice and one we'd recommend to anyone who wants a GPS watch but doesn't need the newest features and technologies. We think this is one of the best GPS watches on the market when comparing price versus performance. While still not super cheap, this watch has everything you need and recently got a software upgrade to include new navigation features. The Coros ecosystem is great and easy to use, and the battery life makes this model contend even with the premium-priced models.

A few complaints are that the data fields are a bit difficult to read when moving at high speeds or working out intensely. Also, the health metrics offer no scores or helpful descriptions of the evaluated data, unlike the Garmin products. Still, we are impressed with this model and its ability to do almost everything the top models do at a lower price point.

Read review: Coros Apex Pro

gps watch - best bang for the buck
The Coros Apex Pro is a high value choice because of its great features and more-than-fair price.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Best on a Tight Budget


Coros Pace 2


68
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Features 5.0
  • Battery Life 7.0
  • Ease of Use 8.0
  • Accuracy 8.0
  • Design 6.0
Weight: 1.2 oz | Battery Life: 20 days in smartwatch mode, 30 hours in GPS mode
REASONS TO BUY
Exceptionally lightweight
Battery life is long
Fantastic accuracy
Very easy to use
REASONS TO AVOID
Limited sports profiles
Plastic construction

The Coros Pace 2 can't be beaten when it comes to value. It has a smaller watch face that fits even the most petite wrists and hardly feels like it's there. The features are streamlined to provide exactly what you need, with excellent fitness and health tracking options. It has an incredible design that is intuitive and simple to use. For the price, there is no other watch that compares to its level of quality. Battery life is sufficient for a faster 100-mile race or any endurance event, lasting 29 hours in our tests. The Coros app also crosses over to other platforms and offers one of the easiest-to-use interfaces we've seen thus far. If you're looking for a heck of a deal, look no further.

Unfortunately, this isn't a fully-featured watch with contactless pay or other exotic upgrades. It doesn't host a breadcrumb trail map but surprisingly does have ABC (Altimeter, Barometer, and Compass) functions. If you're in search of the best software features, look instead to the Garmin Forerunner 55, which comes in at a similar price point. But for those that don't care so much about features and are just interested in an easy-to-use and accurate watch with loads of battery life, we wouldn't recommend any other.

Read review: Coros Pace 2

gps watch - best on a tight budget
The Coros Pace 2 has great features, a lightweight design, and is great for those on a tight budget.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Best Battery Life


Coros Vertix 2


86
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Features 8.0
  • Battery Life 10.0
  • Ease of Use 8.0
  • Accuracy 9.0
  • Design 8.0
Weight: 3.17 oz | Battery Life: 60 days in smartwatch mode, 140 hours in GPS mode
REASONS TO BUY
Industry-leading GPS and smartwatch battery life
Fantastic accuracy across different profiles
Easy to use with precise and fluid scroll wheel
Massive screen and rugged look in a thin case
REASONS TO AVOID
Expensive
The touch screen is not enabled throughout the entire interface

If battery life is your biggest consideration, the Coros Vertix 2 is for you. This large and rugged watch offers all the features you need to train for your next adventure, including a pulse oximeter, touch screen, bread crumb trail, several workout profiles, workout creation, route navigation, and more. No other watch in our lineup has this level of excellent battery power, making it a favorite for ultra adventurers that need their power to keep going all day and through the night.

While we love this watch, the size may be a no go for most people at 51mm. With the case size and never-ending battery life, it's noticeably heavy, and it may not be the best option for runners and people that do activities with lots of arm movement. The cost is also significantly higher than both the Coros Apex and Coros Pace 2, two other high-value options. Still, if you desire the commanding look of this model, we think you will not be disappointed — it's perfect for hiking, and we could see it working perfectly in expedition settings.

Read review: Coros Vertix 2

gps watch - best battery life
Testing the Coros Vertix 2 in snowy running conditions. No battery life loss was detected due to the cold temps.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Best Solar for Expeditions


Garmin Instinct 2 Solar


76
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Features 7.0
  • Battery Life 8.0
  • Ease of Use 8.0
  • Accuracy 8.0
  • Design 7.0
Weight: 1.87 oz | Battery Life: Endless in smartwatch mode w/ sun, 30 hours in GPS mode
REASONS TO BUY
Solar panels charge watch quickly
Most features are already built into the watch
Basic navigation options
Seemingly endless battery life in smartwatch mode when there's sun
REASONS TO AVOID
No noticeable charging with the GPS running
Fixed watch straps may not fit everyone

The Garmin Instinct Solar 2 stands out as one of the best GPS watches for daily use, with solar panels integrated right into the screen. So long as it is exposed to the sun, using it in smartwatch mode will require few to no charges every month. Over three months of testing, we only had to charge it once — after we ran the battery down on purpose. As a result, it's a great option for expeditions or longer treks where you might not be able to find an outlet. This design has simplified features but still offers nice navigational perks like sight n' go, coordinates, and a breadcrumb trail.

While we have little negative to say about this model, some may find the design a bit tactical, and it may not fit those great with smaller wrists. One other downside is the lack of solar charging while actively recording GPS; this could be an issue if you find yourself reaching the limits of its 30-hour recording time. Luckily with Garmin's 'resume later' feature, you can stop the workout and put it in the background for solar charging. Then you can pick up where you started without losing your activity.

Read review: Garmin Instinct Solar 2

gps watch - the solar instinct 2 is rugged, durable, and perfect for running and...
The Solar Instinct 2 is rugged, durable, and perfect for running and scrambling missions in our backyard.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price Our Take
88
$700
Editors' Choice Award
The screen, case, and interface are exceptional on this watch and the battery life is excellent for the case size
86
$700
Top Pick Award
One of the largest we tested, this watches is bombproof and features insane battery life with multi-satellite support
78
$600
This mega-thin fully-featured GPS watch is perfect for those who desire a sleek design and minimal weight
76
$399
Best Buy Award
This watch scores high in all of our test metrics while costing a lot less than the most premium models
76
$450
Top Pick Award
This rugged GPS watch is simple yet includes all the essential features found on the most premium models
74
$300
This easy-to-use watch offers amazing battery life and a design that is light and low profile, without all the extras
72
$300
A surprising amount of features are packed into this model which clearly puts emphasis on design
68
$200
Best Buy Award
A low-cost GPS watch boasting excellent accuracy, battery life, and ease of use
68
$500
This touchscreen watch has the features you need with extensive battery life for ultra-endurance events, but the price is too high to easily recommend
68
$569
A watch for those who know they want to stick with the Suunto brand, though the performance vs. value isn't high enough for our recommendation
64
$200
An entry-level GPS watch that does everything you need without the advanced features found on the most premium models
56
$400
While it does have nice features and a crisp touchscreen, we were less than pleased with the difficulty of use and high price

gps watch - putting the apex pro through the san juan test on a bluebird day.
Putting the Apex Pro through the San Juan test on a bluebird day.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Why You Should Trust Us


This review is brought to you by a team of expert testers headed up by Matthew Richardson. Matthew works with maps for a living and spends his free time in the outdoors surrounding Durango, Colorado. He uses a GPS watch daily and has completed some big outings, such as a solo ride on the Colorado Trail and linking up Chicago Basin 14ers in a day.

Also on the testing team is Amber King. Amber is a professional outdoor educator who spends lots of time navigating the great outdoors. She is also an ultra trail runner who loves to challenge herself with big, steep, and long runs and fastpacking adventures. She uses a GPS watch daily for trail running, open water swimming, mountain biking, and backcountry skiing.

Before selection occurs, we spend hours looking through the best options on the market and delve into the research to determine the best. Once we've found a handful that we think represents the best on the market, we buy them and start testing. From days out running, skiing, climbing, and biking, we analyze the features, accuracy, and usability to give you our recommendations on what's best. Our team is proud to provide our thoughts and aid you in searching for the best GPS watch to fit your needs.

Our lead tester on a solo trip on the Colorado Trail summer of 2021...
Our lead tester on a solo trip on the Colorado Trail summer of 2021. Seen here at Kokomo Pass.
Our lead tester Matthew putting some miles in, in Durango, Colorado.
Our lead tester Matthew putting some miles in, in Durango, Colorado.
Matthew our lead tester doing the classic chimney boulder in the...
Matthew our lead tester doing the classic chimney boulder in the kraft boulders in Las Vegas, NV.

Analysis and Test Results


There are many GPS watches on the market these days, and finding the one that fits your needs can be a tough project. We took a sample of the market's current best and tested them to see how they compare side-by-side. We evaluated each for features, battery life, ease of use, accuracy, and design.

gps watch - our main tester heads out of the canyon with the vantage m2 tracking...
Our main tester heads out of the canyon with the Vantage M2 tracking his cycling metrics.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Value


GPS watches are an investment, and your level of usage should determine what your price point should be. If you're looking to get into the entry-level GPS watch market and want a watch purely for distance and heart rate tracking, we suggest the Coros Pace2 or Garmin Forerunner 55. These are great entry-level models which will satisfy most users.


The Coros Apex Pro is a middle-ground option for those who don't want to spend top dollar but still want basic navigation features and a well-designed watch interface. A must-have for our usage is breadcrumb mapping, return to start, and turn-by-turn with preloaded routes. This pricepoint provides these features and offers a stellar battery life that will last for all but the longest adventures.

Wait for last season's watch to go on sale. These are typically loaded with many of the same functions, and you can get them for a fraction of the retail cost.

Features


The variety of feature sets in today's market mimics the wide range of pricing. Across all the devices, we tested roughly 1-second interval GPS recording, and a heart rate monitor is a minimum. A higher price tag generally equates to more internal software features. The most advanced watches have features like blood oxygen readings, topographic maps, and a suite of smartwatch-enabled features. Some features lend themselves to urban usage, others expeditions into unfamiliar terrain. Keep in mind your usage scenario and try to purchase a watch based on the features you will actually use.


The Garmin Fenix 7 received the highest score in this category, with the Garmin Forerunner 945 close behind. Both models feature advanced GPS tracking (MULTI GNSS), lots of activity profiles, advanced health metric stats, and premium topo maps for navigation. When you take a close look, these are very similar in performance and quality. Both will sync to your smartphone to deliver notifications, calendar updates, and weather forecasts. The Coros Vertix 2 also scores highly in this category, but it lacks some features found on the Garmin models that we end up missing.

gps watch - the garmin forerunner 945 high above the streets of durango, colorado.
The Garmin Forerunner 945 high above the streets of Durango, Colorado.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

These differences are important to us, but they could be meaningless to you. We suggest checking out the spec sheets via each brand's website to view the most current up-to-date features and any software updates. The user interfaces found on the brands we tested are similar to a phone ecosystem — each has its own style of operating system (OS). For example, an iPhone model behaves similarly to other iPhones and vice versa for Android. This is the current state of the GPS market when comparing brands. Because of this, we will run down some general trends and features which make us prefer the premium Garmin products over the premium Coros products:
REASONS TO BUY
Resume later function enabled on all activities
More ANT+ integration and inReach compatibility
Find my phone via watch toolset
Health metrics provide a score and descriptive explanations
Garmin Pay wallet integration for contactless payment
Spotify download for music vs. manual upload
Easy to access Battery Modes and GPS settings via quick prompts
Touchscreen enabled throughout the device
gps watch - garmin inreach support is a huge feature for us. you gain easy...
Garmin inReach support is a huge feature for us. You gain easy access to the SOS / preset message features right from the watch.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

This isn't to say that Coros doesn't have its own benefits in terms of features, but for us, the above items make us prefer the Garmin feature lineup mostly across the board. Cheaper models do not have some of the above features, so, again, make sure to check the brand's official product spec sheets to confirm you're getting what you want.

The Suunto 7 also scores highly here with Google Wear OS products built-in. You can use a host of Google Play apps, in addition to its basic GPS functionality. Unfortunately, we cannot recommend this for anything other than its feature set due to it being incredibly difficult to use, compounded with poor battery life.

gps watch - deep in the canyons of utah, our lead tester hiked through the...
Deep in the canyons of Utah, our lead tester hiked through the riverbed finding the hardest place for satellites to reach.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Battery Life


For any distance athlete, battery life is probably one of the biggest factors affecting your decision to buy a watch. Battery life is affected by many things, including the route you're on, GPS signal, coverage, the number of apps you have turned on/off, the battery mode you have set, and how long you run your device. As a result, we appreciate that many of the watches we tested have battery modes and profiles that make it easy to turn on/off various features at once without having to dig through the menus.


We performed many battery tests. The first was a more subjective in-field test where we charged up the battery and used the watch normally day in and day out. We noted how long the watch took to die while incorporating 2-3 activities each week, about 1-3 hours in length. We then compared manufacturers' claims to the actual results that we got.

gps watch - getting in some road miles on the coros pace 2 before heading home...
Getting in some road miles on the Coros Pace 2 before heading home after a long weekend.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Then, we tested GPS by setting each watch out in the same area under the open sky and running them down until they turned off. We noted the time taken to reach this point and if any went into battery saver mode to enhance battery life. We realize this test won't tell you the specific number of hours you'll get during real GPS activity, but it gave us an idea of which watches last longer than others and the quality of the data. In addition, we also took each watch on at least 50 miles of activities, noting the amount of battery used for the time of the activity.

gps watch - the coros vertix 2 has the best battery life out of any of the...
The Coros Vertix 2 has the best battery life out of any of the models we tested and was our favorite for hiking.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

For this category, think about the types of adventures and the length of time you anticipate using your device. Most of these models can charge while recording, but we would recommend choosing the one that best fits your needs to avoid having to do this. We think 24 hours of GPS tracking is a good place to start for most people and to increase only if you know you'll need more. Realize that a battery is a trade-off in terms of features gained/lost or changes to the case size.

If your priority is a smartwatch that never dies, then consider the Garmin Instinct Solar 2. You will want to have reliable solar energy available to charge the watch, and little to no percentage gains are made while GPS is running, so you will want to have a power backup if you are planning to use a lot of GPS tracking. This is another instance where the 'resume later' features on Garmin can be beneficial during rest periods out on the trail.

gps watch - solar intensity is displayed in a widget on the instinct 2 solar...
Solar intensity is displayed in a widget on the Instinct 2 Solar, letting you know how much sun your watch screen is receiving in changing conditions.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

For maximum battery usage, the Coros models excel across their range. The battery life on the Vertix 2 is insane, with almost 90 hours of MULTI GNSS tracking. Some people could complete the entire Colorado Trail on their bike without ever charging their watch! Coros products are known for their battery life, and it's clearly a priority throughout their whole range.

We kept everything set to default settings when running our battery tests - in the condition that most people will start using their watches. Turn off notifications and other functions you don't need before your activity to extend battery life.

We appreciate the battery saver options and modes found on the Garmin products. These are easy to use and enabled in the tools after a long press of the back button. When starting an activity, the battery options are clearly labeled, and you can visually see how each mode will impact watch functionality. This may be less of a priority for Coros to implement, given their industry-leading battery life.

gps watch - double wristing the coros pace 2 and garmin forerunner 945 up a...
Double wristing the Coros Pace 2 and Garmin Forerunner 945 up a steep hike in Durango, CO.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

The Suunto products generally scored lower, with the Suunto 7 having the worst battery life due to the abundant smartwatch features and bright screen. Both the Suunto 9 Peak and Suunto 9 Baro have all-day battery lives at 25 hours for their 'Best' recording mode. Instead of Best/Better/Good/Okay, we wish there were more descriptions of what is gained and lost under these settings.

gps watch - the suunto 9 baro features a standout large screen. unfortunately...
The Suunto 9 Baro features a standout large screen. Unfortunately, this model fell a bit short in most of our test metrics.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Across our entire lineup, there is a GPS watch that fits anyone's battery needs. If your main priority is battery life, the Coros models are the clear winner. Think of the longest time you expect to be out and use our comparison chart to view the various battery lives of these models.

gps watch - our main tester got high above santa fe testing the garmin...
Our main tester got high above Santa Fe testing the Garmin Forerunner 55.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Ease of Use


Ease of use is important when using a watch both during activity and during your daily life. These products should enhance your life, not make it more difficult. Models which scored highest are those we felt were the easiest to use and provided the best user experience. Integration of mobile apps was also taken into consideration when determining user experience. Like any product with this many features, learning the ins and outs will take some time.


Similar to features, there are lots of similarities between brands, with the interface on the cheapest watches mimicking those found on the top-of-the-line models. You will see there isn't as much spread in our rankings for this metric — this is due to the similarities of the interfaces. If you can use the Vertix 2, you will instantly be able to use the Coros Apex, same for the Fenix 7 and Forerunner 55. That said, there are a few items that give Garmin the lead in terms of usability:

GARMIN +/-


REASONS TO BUY
Dedicated buttons reduce accidental presses and don't require screen lock
Touch screen, if available, is activated throughout the watch menus/screens
Easy to access Battery Modes and GPS settings via quick prompts
Ability to delete activities on the watch
Workout resumes even after turning the watch on/off
REASONS TO AVOID
Restarts are required to reset compass calibration
Garmin Connect is less user friendly

COROS +/-


REASONS TO BUY
Scroll wheel is fluid and precise
Mobile application is more refined and modern
The larger screen on the Vertix 2 is better for navigation
Easier calibration of ABC (Altimeter/Barometer/Compass)
REASONS TO AVOID
Touch screen only available on data screens and navigation
The scroll wheel requires a lock to prevent unintended scrolling
Health metrics don't provide scores or analysis

All of the Garmin products feature dedicated buttons, with the Fenix 7 having a touch screen. All of the Coros models feature their signature scroll wheel, with the Apex Pro and Vertix 2 having a touch screen. Unfortunately, the touch screen on the Coros models is not enabled throughout the device, only on certain screens such as swiping data fields and using navigation.

Ultimately it's hard to say which brand is easier to use because they are both different yet similar. Their method of interaction is the biggest difference, and we would suggest deciding on whether you like the idea of a scroll wheel or dedicated buttons. Internally, the menu systems are essentially the same, with just some minor differences listed above.

gps watch - backpacking in winter gets dark quickly. our cozy sleeping bag is...
Backpacking in winter gets dark quickly. Our cozy sleeping bag is the perfect time to mess around with various functions on the Vertix 2.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

The Suunto products all scored poorly here as we felt their menu systems were the hardest to learn and use. Even after hours of using their products, the menus still felt unintuitive compared to the competition. Both the Suunto 9 Baro and Suunto 9 Peak have very nice touch screens that aid in ease of use, but we can't recommend them for this feature alone. The Suunto 7 was the hardest to use, and we found the Google OS features to be overwhelming.

gps watch - we cannot understand why suunto did not make their menus a loop...
We cannot understand why Suunto did not make their menus a loop. Once you get to the bottom you have to scroll back up to the top. Frustrating.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Apps are another consideration in this metric. Of all the manufacturers we reviewed, Garmin Connect has the most features, but the design left a bit to be desired, in our opinion. Suunto, Coros, and Polar have apps that are more stripped-down, less integrated, and overall easier to use. Suunto has a really beautiful layout that integrates photos, which we enjoyed. These apps were easier to figure out compared to Garmin, though none offer the same social ecosystem. Luckily they all cross over to different ecosystems like Strava.

gps watch - a look at the different home screens for each app. left: garmin...
A look at the different home screens for each app. Left: Garmin. Middle: Coros. Right: Suunto.
Credit: Amber King

Accuracy


We know that accurate GPS recordings and metrics are important. Nobody wants wonky elevation data or elevated heart rate stats, especially with the cost of today's devices. We've been impressed with the watches in our test group, each performing adequately across the price ranges. Luckily all of the watches we tested now feature multi-band GPS satellite recording, with some even working in multi-frequency. GPS signal strength, satellite location, watch fit, and internal hardware all have a large impact on device accuracy.


To evaluate accuracy, we ran, biked, and hiked known distances to compare our watches and their track metrics. We also tested the watches deep in the canyons of Utah. Canyons are notoriously bad for GPS watches due to the limited open line of sight. All of the GPS watches we tested had good accuracy that we would trust. Most gave us smooth tracks that consistently stayed within 1-3% of the actual measured distance. Multi-band satellites produced the best results; those with dual-frequency performed even better. It's important to keep in mind that these advanced features generally use more battery, but these devices already have sufficient battery life to perform these tasks. Thanks to their dual-frequency recording, the Garmin Fenix 7 and Coros Vertix 2 had the best GPS data.

We tested the GPS watches in deep canyons which are normally plagued...
We tested the GPS watches in deep canyons which are normally plagued with a bad line of sight but our top models had no difficulty achieving a satellite connection.
A 3D Google Earth look at the GPS track captured by the Fenix 7.
A 3D Google Earth look at the GPS track captured by the Fenix 7.

Heart Rate Monitor Accuracy

Testing heart rate monitors is quite a challenge. We observed heart rate data during runs and compared this to the information we received from a heart monitor chest strap. While most watches can accurately track the relative ups and downs you might experience while exercising, few are as accurate as a chest strap. This is largely due to variable fit on the wrist and a myriad of other factors. None of the heart rate monitors we tested were spot on. If you want precise heart rate readings, be sure to purchase a chest strap. That said, some did better than others, with the Garmin brand being a touch more accurate than others.

gps watch - a look at the heart rate monitors across several of our top-scoring...
A look at the heart rate monitors across several of our top-scoring watches.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

The Forerunner 945 and Fenix 7 were almost spot on with a good fit on our wrist and an average variation of just 0-4 beats per minute. The Polar Vantage M2 is also very accurate, with a variation of only 0-2 bpm (one of the best tested). The Suunto 9 Baro and Suunto 7 had variations of 3-5 bpm and 1-7 bpm respectively. Both are larger watches, and we noted that both of these would lose a heartbeat during exercise more than others. The Coros watches always seemed to have higher readings, with variations of up to 20 bpm. We're not sure if this is because of the smaller design, but we weren't too impressed with this accuracy.

gps watch - a look at the captured tracks of our top models - as you can see...
A look at the captured tracks of our top models - as you can see, they all did a great job.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

One important thing to note regarding optical heart rate monitors is that they do not provide quality data for people with dark skin, tattoos, or large amounts of hair or sweat under the monitor. This issue applies to every watch with an optical heart rate monitor because they use photoplethysmography (PPG), where light reflected from your arteries indicates your heart rate. Outside light, bursts of activity, interference from hair, tattoo ink, sweat, etc., can all affect readings.

Design


When considering design, we took a close look at the way each watch fits on the wrist and any notable issues with it during use. This included looking at the size and thickness of the body, using under clothing, accidentally turning buttons on and off, and the clarity of the screen. We also considered aesthetics which will vary from person to person. Pick the design you like best that fits your budget and see how the externals stack up between each model.


We used these watches for all-day use, and our opinions will reflect that. If you have a dedicated wristwatch that will take priority over your active GPS watch, take that into consideration. We put priority on premium materials and a good design since this is something we wear 24/7 except while charging.

The sleekest design and best for small wrists are the Suunto 9 Peak and Polar Vantage M2. We are impressed with the amount of technology packed into these units. The Garmin Forerunner 945 also has a super-thin design that works great for running.

The Vantage M2 puts an emphasis on design and we think Polar did a...
The Vantage M2 puts an emphasis on design and we think Polar did a great job.
The Suunto 9 Peak is one of the best externally-designed watches we...
The Suunto 9 Peak is one of the best externally-designed watches we tested - we just wish the internals matched the exterior.


We recommend the Fenix 7 or Vertix 2for those looking for a more rugged design. Both of these watches are made with the most premium materials and are durable enough to withstand years of abuse. The 51mm case size of the Vertix 2 is great for those with a bigger wrist or who like the commanding-looking screen and bezel. If your primary activity is running, we would stick with the 47mm case size of the Fenix 7 and Coros Apex Pro. The weight difference is noticeable for activities with a lot of arm movement.

gps watch - the award winners side-by-side. which data screen design do you like...
The award winners side-by-side. Which data screen design do you like the best?
Credit: Matthew Richardson

The Fenix 7 has an excellent screen design, with the best contrast and brightness out of any of the screens we tested. The data fields pop, and the numbers are bolder than those on the Coros models. We found glancing at the data fields while running technical terrain to be the most fluid and natural. If you aren't doing intense activities, this may be less of a priority for you.

gps watch - the fenix 7 had the best contrast when looking at data screens...
The Fenix 7 had the best contrast when looking at data screens. Perfect for when running hard on technical terrain.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Similarly important, the dedicated buttons on the Fenix 7 made accessing the data screens easier while under intense activities. The scroll wheel found on the Coros models tends to be bumped accidentally, requiring a lockout mode to be enabled. This is easily disabled if you personally don't have issues. This extra step of unlocking the device while on the move felt annoying and one extra unneeded step. We like the action and sureness of dedicated physical buttons. If you use the swipe touch screen feature or auto-scroll, this may be less important to you.

our lead tester matthew went backpacking in colorado testing out the...
Our lead tester Matthew went backpacking in Colorado testing out the various GPS watches in this review.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Conclusion


Buying a GPS watch is a big decision and a significant investment. Take a look through our reviews for a more in-depth look at the various models we tested. You might find yourself researching for weeks or even months before finding the right one at the right price. We hope that our insights and in-depth comparative research have helped you find confidence in taking the plunge into this investment. Take our thoughts and use cases and determine what's most important to you. There is a GPS watch here for everyone, and we hope this makes your decision process a little easier. Have fun out there!

gps watch - testing gps capabilities and satellite reception deep in the canyons...
Testing GPS capabilities and satellite reception deep in the canyons of Utah.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Matthew Richardson and Amber King


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