8 Best Garmin Watches for Sports and Running in 2021

Premium Pick

Garmin Fenix 6X Pro: The Best Garmin Watch for Sports

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Garmin Venu Series

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Best Choice

Garmin Vivoactive 4

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In the world of wearables that Apple Watch and Fitbit dominate, Garmin watches reserve a special place on the wrists of those who enjoy the great outdoors. How could it not be? Apple Watch seems like the best wearable to make you look good on occasions. Meanwhile, Fitbit is great for tracking your physical pursuits. So where do Garmin watches fit in the narrative?

Banner photo of Garmin Watches for running
Photo from buy.garmin.com

The answer lies in wanting a watch for daily use but also a watch that can help you track your physical activities. This is because Garmin is the handsome choice in the catalog of fitness watches in the market today. And in this article, we will be covering the best Garmin watches to choose for active pursuits in 2021.

Also read: 13 Best Budget Smartwatches to Get Now

 

Best Garmin Watches for Sports

So as you may have already figured out, there is a Garmin watch best fit for sports like swimming, cycling, multisport, etc. And in this section, we will go over the Garmin Watches fit for sports.

1

Garmin Fenix 6X Pro: The Best Garmin Watch for Sports

At a quick glance at the new Garmin Fenix 6X Pro including its general quality, one could conclude that it really is not different from the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus. However, the screen on the Fenix 6X Pro does look different and better than the previous generations of this watch. What we love about this new generation of the Garmin Fenix is that it is loaded with sports tracking and activity options while leaving you with an added option to add others not found on the list.

On a micro level, what changed in the Fenix 6X Pro from its previous generations is that you’d be able to see graphical data points on the screen of the watch. This is something we have not quite appreciated before but it’s there on the screen which gives this watch better productivity compared to other Garmin watches.

However, the biggest change is the ability to have eight tracking fields display on the screen at once. This is the reason why the Garmin Fenix 6X Pro is best for hikers or cyclists. You get to see data trackers for heart rate, distance, temperature, battery level, the time elapsed, and time of the day, and the likes at once.

Lastly, the power saver mode in this device has been improved to the point that it can save battery life significantly to suit your custom needs. The widgets on the device are well arranged and easy to access compared to their previous generations. It’s also a plus that the screen looks crisp even in high light environments, which, on other Garmin watches, may cause the screen to display poorly.

Pros

  • 1. More widgets to choose from.
  • 2. Better screen display + variety of watch faces.
  • 3. Improved battery management tools.

CONS

  • 1. This watch is pricey.
  • 2. Some features on the Fenix 5X are better than those in the Fenix 6X.

 

2

Garmin Venu Series

The Garmin Venu is Garmin’s fitness-focused smartwatch which is equipped with a full OLED display. This is something we don’t normally see on most Garmin watches in the market.

The OLED display gives the Venu crisp and bright screen display. This also makes a 3D illusion on the user interface especially when it draws the animations on the screen. However, this can quickly deplete battery life, which can only last three to five days depending on the activities you use the watch for.

What we love about Garmin Venu is its tracking accuracy. Users were quick to report how accurate the Venu was in tracking sleep patterns including the Pulse Ox feature, which tracks your respiration.

And since this is a fitness-focused Garmin watch, the Venu has sports profiles, indoor and outdoor, to choose from. And it really helps that the Venu has this animated guides to workouts.

PROS

  • 1. Garmin Pay-compatible.
  • 2. Has an offline music store that allows music to be stored on the device.
  • 3. Good at counting reps during exercise due to Garmin’s Strength Training Activity Profile feature.

cons

  • 1. System hiccups can occur at times, especially when tracking activity for an extended period of time.
  • 2. Garmin’s Strength Training Activity Profile feature somehow lacks when trying to identify what exercise is being done.

 

3

Garmin Vivoactive 4

The Garmin Vivoactive 4 and 4S are some of the powerful fitness Garmin watches in the market today. Not only does it feature the best capabilities in a fitness watch, but it also comes in two variables: 40mm and 45mm versions.

This generation of the Vivoactive watch makes a departure from having just one configuration button on the side. This watch has two side configuration buttons allowing a user to navigate the watch easily and make out the most of the functionalities of the Garmin Vivoactive 4 watch.

And since this is a fitness watch, there are a number of widgets in the watch that will allow you to track your fitness and physical profiles. This watch is particularly powerful because of the latest Garmin Elevate heart rate sensor that is capable of reading your heart rate and respiration accurately.

PROS

  • 1. UI makes it easy for a user to navigate from one widget to another.
  • 2. Features animated guided workout videos.

CONS

  • 1. Uses two companion apps to get your widgets and watch faces.
  • 2. Battery life may deplete fast because of configurations needed especially the tracking capabilities.

 

4

Garmin Forerunner 945

The Garmin Forerunner 945 still features advanced training metrics. This metric tracker allows users to track their VO2 Max or the maximum oxygen intake during exercises, as well as the amount of time they take to run a certain distance. It is also equipped with the latest Garmin Elevate heart rate sensor, which also tracks blood oxygen saturation.

While the main alteration to the Forerunner 945 is its slightly bigger dimension, the majority of its features and displays remain similar to its predecessor, the Forerunner 945.

What we love about this watch is it features full offline mapping capabilities —something that is missing on other Garmin watches. This means you can navigate through any course directly from your wrist without using an actual computer or mobile device. And even with this feature, the Forerunner 945 still has better battery life compared with the Forerunner 745.

Pros

  • 1. Can store music directly into the watch storage.
  • 2. Garmin Pay-compatible.

Cons

  • 1. GPS capabilities are less accurate compared with the Forerunner 745.
  • 2. Heart rate accuracy is also less accurate compared with the Forerunner 745.

 

Best Garmin Watches for Running

Running is a physical activity that involves no other equipment (save for running indoors using a treadmill). It’s comparatively less taxing than doing multisport activities. However, it is widely preferred by many to keep their body moving considering the busy schedules we have.

In this section, we will go over some of the best Garmin watches for running.

 

5

Garmin Forerunner 745: The Best Garmin Watch for Running

Garmin Forerunner 745 sits between its predecessors, the Forerunner 245/645 and the flagship Forerunner 945. This smartwatch is a multisport watch but has always been good for running. It’s also preferred by those who want some features found in the 945 and also advanced features such as open water swimming and triathlon.

The Forerunner 745 is equipped with Garmin’s Elevate heart rate sensor as well as the Pulse Ox sensor that is capable of tracking the oxygen level in your blood. Additionally, you’d also be able to monitor your calories with a breakdown of your active calories in a chart view.

It comes with offline music storage and playback capabilities. This allows you to store music in the device and stream them when doing your run. Other than that, you can view your calendar and weather information when paired to your phone.

Pros

  • 1. Gets one-way notification when paired with the user’s iPhone.
  • 2. Can reply to text messages using pre-defined responses when paired with an Android phone.
  • 3. Gets good battery life depending on your use.

Cons

  • 1. Can receive a call but has to use the mobile device to answer the call.

 

6

Garmin Enduro

Enduro is Garmin’s first solar-powered ultra-performance GPS multisport watch. At first glance, it does look smooth and premium with titanium bezels locking the watch face punctuated by green accents. It’s a plus that this watch resembles the Garmin Fenix series watch slide but we’d rather focus on what the watch can do.

We love the number of activity profiles and training menus you can have on this watch. This is particularly good for those who love physical activities indoors and outdoors due to the tracking and monitoring capabilities of this watch.

One new feature that Garmin equipped the Enduro with is the Trail Running VO2 Max, a capability that makes oxygen monitoring during trail running more accurate, especially in challenging terrains. The previous VO2 Max monitor was more designed for monitoring running on flat surfaces for road running.

With its good battery life, it does market itself best for those who love extended time outdoors.

PROS

  • 1. VO2 Max is turned on by default, which works seamlessly with any trail run profiles.
  • 2. Watch can get full 200 hours of use with the max battery options turned on using the Power Mode.

CONS

  • 1. Enduro seems like a watered-down Fenix 6X Pro Solar watch sans the maps, Wi-Fi, and music features.

 

7

Garmin Instinct Series

Garmin Instinct is a watch developed by Garmin to come in between the other Garmin watches. It blends all the features under a different design that is a departure from what a signature Garmin watch would normally look like.

The watch is made of plastic but is not supposed to be belittled because it is US military-grade built to 810G for thermal shock and water-resistant down to 100 meters. Still, it is a lightweight watch and should fit a variety of wrists.

It’s a little bit off that the display is monochromatic through and through but it has a good contrast display which makes it good for reading under direct sunlight.

This is one of those Garmin watches that is loaded when it comes to the basics you need in a fitness watch. For one, it comes with open water swimming, live track, and trail run auto-climb profiles. Another is that it has a hunt/fish calendar widget, sun and moon info, and dual grid coordinates among other cool features perfect for outdoor activities. Plus, we did not have issues with its GPS capabilities and its solid tracks features.

 

PROS

  • 1. Made out of chemically strengthened glass.
  • 2. The screen display is well thought of despite it being monochromatic.
  • 3. Screen display is customizable.
  • 4. Has good battery life which is perfect for outdoor runners.

Cons

  • 1. Screen display feels too loaded and constricted because of the bezels.
  • 2. Does not have the VO2 Max feature.
  • 3. No mobile payment compatibility.
  • 4. No offline music streaming storage.
  • 5. Does not have Connect IQ.

 

8

Garmin Vivoactive 3 Series

The Garmin Vivoactive 3 watch is so slim, you’d tend to forget it’s there on your wrist. This is despite the fact the heart rate sensor is at the rear of the watch. It’s perfect for running because of this feature and yet it works in the way it should.

It does look sleek and premium with its Gorilla Glass 3, which is highly scratch-resistant. It also reads well even under direct sunlight similar to other Garmin watches.

It is a good watch for active people who run and cycle a lot, thanks to its battery life that lasts five full days. This is an average count especially if you are using your GPS a lot during activities. The watch, though, is marketed to last for seven days but five full days of active use is a good count.

It comes with the Garmin-native sports profiles pre-installed. Moreover, the GPS accuracy in the Vivoactive 3 watch is also pretty good.

Pros

  • 1. Lightweight.
  • 2. Side-swipe feature allows uses to navigate the watch efficiently.

Cons

  • 1. Not compatible with HRM-Tri, HRM-Run, and HRM-Swim.

Final Word on Garmin Watches

It does not escape us that the Garmin watches we listed here may be a lot for some pockets. However, if you want a watch that does not only cost and look premium but performs premium, it’d be wise to go for these units.

Meanwhile, there are honorable mentions; these Garmin watches do not only cost less but also perform like top-tier watches by Garmin. Watches like the Garmin Vivosmart 4, Garmin Vivosport, and Garmin Vivofit also come with GPS capabilities, Garmin Elevate heart rate sensors, and the usual active profiles. Choosing any of these would not leave you worse off.

At the end of the day, what matters most is you stay fit and any of these watches will help you track your fitness.

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