Best Garmin watches 2024: Our top picks for fitness fanatics and outdoor enthusiasts

Garmin Enduro 2 being tested by Live Science contributor Andrew Williams
(Image credit: Andrew Williams)

Whether you are a professional triathlete, passionate hiker or occasional exerciser,  investing in one of the best Garmin watches can be invaluable to achieving your health and fitness goals. From highly accurate heart rate sensors and countless sports modes to GPS navigation and digital maps, these state-of-the-art wearables are packed with features designed to help you excel. 

Garmin has a reputation for making some of the best fitness trackers on the market. However, there are plenty of Garmin watches on offer, and most of them come with steep price tags. If you are unsure which model should you invest in, read on. We have personally tried and tested some of the best Garmin watches out there, so you can find a model that fits into your lifestyle.

We looked at price, design, smart features, durability, ease of use, and battery life. Here is our ultimate roundup of the best Garmin watches we have reviewed so far, from budget-friendly options like the Vivosmart 5 and Vivomove Sport, to the more premium Fenix 7 and Enduro 2. 

But if you are looking for something more affordable, check our guides to the best Fitbit and best budget fitness trackers

The quick list

The best Garmin watches we recommend in 2024: Fully tested by our experts with real-world experience

Why you can trust Live Science Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best ones for you. Find out more about how we test.

The best Garmin watch overall

Best overall: This stylish and durable all-rounder offers excellent tracking features and long battery life.

Specifications

Size: 47mm
Screen: 1.3-inches 260x260 MIP
GPS: Yes, multi-band GNSS
Water resistance: 10ATM
Weight: 79g
Battery life: Up to 18 days

Reasons to buy

+
 Excellent battery life 
+
 Encyclopaedic feature set 
+
 Great HR tracking 

Reasons to avoid

-
 Standard model may feel bulky for 24/7 wear 
Buy if

✅ You are looking for a swimming watch: It has 10ATM water resistance.

✅ You want an outdoor watch: It comes with downloadable maps, reliable GPS and a sturdy design. 

✅ You want in-depth health and fitness stats: The Fenix 7 is an excellent tool for boosting exercise performance.

Don't buy if

❌ You are on a budget: The Fenix 7 costs from $599 to $999.
❌ You want to track your sleep: It may be too bulky for comfortable overnight wear.

What the users say

The Garmin Fenix 7 is rated a respectable 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon, with 78% of users awarding it the highest score. Positive reviews praise this watch for its design, long battery life and accurate workout tracking features. Some buyers, however, disagree on its solar charging capabilities.  

The Fenix 7 is our all-time favorite Garmin watch. This mainstream flagship model is not the most expensive or advanced wearable the money can buy, but if you want the encapsulation of what a Garmin watch is, the Garmin Fenix 7 will not disappoint you. It is sturdy, stylish and packed to the brim with tracking features — and it boasts excellent battery life. 

What does it offer over cheaper Garmin fitness watches? It has excellent on-watch maps and enough internal storage for huge amounts of data. No mobile internet required. 

Moreover, the Fenix 7 gets the latest generation of Elevate heart rate tech, introduced in the Venu 2. We were impressed by how well it keeps up with changes in exertion, and how closely it tracks with our benchmark chest strap band.

A Fenix 7 also provides deeper connections to outboard kit than, say, an Instinct 2. It can control a smart turbo trainer, for example. 

During our Garmin Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar review, we found it heavy and bulky for comfy sleep tracking, but there are solutions within the range. The Garmin Fenix 7S is a smaller version, or you can upgrade to the standard-size Fenix 7 with a titanium casing and Sapphire glass. It is noticeably lighter. 

The main point to think about here is whether a Fenix 7 will be overkill. Unless you are a fitness fiend you may be as happy with a Venu 2 Plus. And aside from maps and a couple of connectivity extras, the Instinct 2 may do the trick. 

Best mid-range Garmin watch

Best mid-range: This Garmin watch strikes a great balance between price and functionality.

Specifications

Screen: 1.1-inches or 1.3-inches AMOLED screen
GPS: Yes, multi-band GNSS
Water resistance: 5ATM
Weight: 46g
Battery: Up to 15 days

Reasons to buy

+
Good battery life
+
Light and comfortable  
+
Slightly more affordable than 955

Reasons to avoid

-
No golf or downloadable maps
-
Plastic shell design is not as snazzy as the Venu series’s  
Buy if

You want in-depth workout tracking features: This watch tracks more than 100 activities and provides a detailed overview of exercise performance.

You are looking for a running watch: It is light and comfortable to wear.

Don't buy if

You want exceptional durability: Its casing and bezel are made of plastic. 

You want downloadable maps: This watch will show you your 'breadcrumb' trail, but it will not store the data on the watch itself.

What the users say

The Garmin Forerunner 265 is rated an impressive 4.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon, with 85% of users giving it a full five stars. Positive reviews praise this watch for its long battery life, bright display, connectivity and workout tracking features. Negative reviews tend to cite issues with individual devices.  

The Forerunner 265 is an enthusiast fitness watch that has an OLED screen instead of the transflective style seen in almost all Garmins until recent years. An athlete-grade fitness watch with brilliant fitness tracking features, we rated it highly in our Garmin Forerunner 265 review, enjoying its versatility as a sports watch.

Wondering how it fits in the range? The Forerunner 265 is a Forerunner 255 with OLED. It is a Garmin Epix alternative that puts much less of a dent in your savings. Or it is a Garmin Venu 2 that trades in a little design gloss for some more advanced fitness features.  

We reviewed the pink Forerunner 265S 42mm, the smaller alternative to the standard 46mm version. It is still larger than the Pixel Watch. 

The watch is very similar to the Forerunner 255. Its casing and bezel are plastic — fiber-reinforced polymer as Garmin calls it — and the screen is toughened glass. It is an older type, though, Gorilla Glass 3. You lose the stainless steel bezel of the Venu 2 series, but this does help keep the weight low. 

Weighing 40g, the Forerunner 265S is 6g lighter than the standard Forerunner 265. As a result it is a comfortable watch, although you can likely improve it further by switching out the strap. The supplied silicone strap does a great job during sports activities, but if you tighten it up for a more precise heart rate reading, it may leave a trail of indentations on your wrist. We found it somewhat hard not to over-tighten this watch, for some reason.

The screen is the star of the show here, though. It is a 1.1-inch 360 x 360 pixel OLED, or a 1.3-inch 416 x 416 pixel one in the Forerunner 265. While it does not fill out the front of the watch like the Apple Watch Series 8’s display, this little screen has everything we are looking for. 

It is very sharp, super-colorful, and easily bright enough to work for outdoors exercise sessions on sunny days. This screen’s job is to make an argument for itself over the Forerunner 255’s transflective screen, and it is pretty persuasive, particularly when it is a touch display too. The Forerunner 255’s is not. 

Best Garmin watch for smartwatch features

Best for smartwatch features: This premium Garmin watch offers top-notch functionality.

Specifications

Size: 47mm
Screen: 1.3-inches 416x416 OLED
GPS: Yes, multi-band GNSS
Water resistance: 10ATM
Weight: 76g
Battery life: Up to 16 days (6 days always-on)

Reasons to buy

+
Colourful and bold OLED screen
+
Extensive features
+
Offers the best Garmin maps experience

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive
-
Always-on screen mode lowers battery life significantly
-
Lacks size options of the Fenix 7
Buy if

You are looking for a swimming watch: It features 10ATM water resistance. 

You want a reliable outdoor watch: The Epix 2 offers excellent on-watch maps. 

You want a stylish smartwatch: It works just as well with casual wear as it does with gym gear.

Don't buy if

You are on a budget: It costs from $600 to $1100.

You want exceptional battery life: This watch lasts around a week on a single charge.

What the users say

The Garmin Epix 2 scores a massive 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon, with 82% of users awarding it the highest rating. Buyers praise this watch for its customizable design, performance and long battery life, but a handful of users disagree on its durability and value for money. As one buyer said, "The Epix speaks for itself. It’s large, crisp display, and versatile as a fitness watch and casual wear. Just buy it."

For more than five years, the original Garmin Epix was the watch to buy for hikers who needed on-watch maps. You can now get great maps in other watches, so the second iteration of this flagship model is best described as a Fenix 7 with a lovely OLED screen. During our Garmin Epix 2 review, we were impressed by its combination of in-depth tracking features and smartwatch functionality. 

It is sharper, bolder and more colourful, and this helps how those maps look on-screen, too. However, after a few weeks of living with the Epix 2, we appreciated its OLED screen most when at home. It makes the Garmin Epix 2 a flashier-looking, more smartwatch-like watch than the Fenix 7. All the main features are the same, though. You get great depth and heart-rate accuracy and GPS that is fast to connect.

Where’s the catch? The Garmin Epix 2 is pricey, starting much higher than the base Fenix 7. Were they priced the same the Epix would be sitting at the top of this list. 

One final thing: an OLED screen means the Epix 2 does not last as long as the Fenix 7 in its always-on mode, where the screen stays lit. It lasts around six days between charges, not the two weeks and change you will see from the Fenix. Some will find this off-putting, but we review full smartwatches that last a day or so regularly. In that context just under a week of use does not seem remotely off-putting.


Best Garmin watch for daily use

Best for daily use: This sleek smartwatch is light, comfortable and stylish.

Specifications

Size: 43.6mm
Screen: 1.3-inches 416x416 OLED
GPS: Yes, with GLONASS and GALILEO
Water resistance: 5ATM
Weight: 51g
Battery life: Up to 9 days

Reasons to buy

+
Sleeker design than most Garmin 
+
Light and comfortable 
+
Sharp and colorful OLED screen 

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks a few advanced features of the hardcore series
-
Always-on display mode shortens battery life significantly 
Buy if

You want good value for money: It offers excellent tracking features and thoughtful design at a reasonable price.

You want a running watch: It is light and comfortable to wear.

Don't buy if

You want in-depth health stats: It offers a lighter approach to data than premium models like the Fenix 7. 

You want an outdoor watch: This watch does not support downloadable maps.

What the users say

The Garmin Venu 2 is rated 4.4 out of 5 stars on Amazon, with nearly three quarters of users giving it a full five stars. Positive reviews praise this watch for its exceptional durability, long battery life and a multitude of workout tracking features. Negative reviews tend to cite its bulky design and poor connectivity with music apps. 

The Venu series sees Garmin branch out from its running watch roots to explore smartwatch-like designs. This watch is slimmer, lighter and — as a result — many folks will find it more comfortable than the flagship models. It is also more stylish and reserved than the Garmin norm, making the Venu 2 Plus a great choice for 24/7 wear. 

This watch has a sharp and punchy OLED screen, which looks far more vibrant than the transflective displays of the Forerunner, Fenix and Instinct series, particularly indoors. 

Is it a slam dunk for smartwatch tech, then? Not quite. If you want the screen to stay lit all day, you will see the battery life halve from 7-9 days to around four days. Not bad for a smartwatch, but plenty of Garmin alternatives last longer.

During our Garmin Venu 2 Plus review, we also found that it lacked the full on-watch maps. The Forerunner 955 features them, and it does not differ much in price. While you get maps of your runs and hikes in the Garmin Connect app on your phone after the fact, you can’t fully navigate on the watch itself. 

It is less of an adventuring watch as a result, but excels as a wearable to enjoy all through the day, and for exercise around your local area. The heart rate hardware is effectively the same as that of the more expensive Garmin watches, for example. 

The Garmin Venu 2 Plus has a few special tricks too, like an on-board speaker and voice support for Google Assistant, Apple Siri and Samsung Bixby. It feels a bit clunkier than interacting with Siri on an Apple Watch, but is a first for Garmin. If those digital assistant smarts do not appeal you may also want to consider the “non Plus” Venu 2. It is a bit cheaper, perhaps looks a little less slick, but otherwise has a very similar set of features. 

Best Garmin for triathletes

Best for triathletes: Out top choice for swimming, running and cycling.

Specifications

Size: 45mm
Screen: Dual display style, 176 x 176 MIP
GPS: Yes, with GALILEO and GLONASS
Water resistance: 10ATM
Weight: 52g
Battery life: Up to 28 days

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent battery life with solar charging
+
Rugged design with great water resistance
+
Good tracking accuracy  

Reasons to avoid

-
Chunkier than most 
-
Monochrome display may seem dated
-
No music playback 
Buy if

✅ You want long battery life: It lasts up to a month on a single charge.
✅ You are looking for a swimming watch: This watch features 10ATM water resistance.

You want good value for money: It costs from $200 to $400.

Don't buy if

❌ You want music on the go: It does not support music apps.
❌ You want something small and inconspicuous: This watch has a relatively chunky build. 

What the users say

The Garmin Instinct 2 Solar scores a massive 4.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon, with 80% of users giving it a full five stars. Positive reviews praise this watch for its user-friendly design, long battery life and performance. Negative reviews tend to cite its large size and inaccurate sleep tracking, and some users complained about its poor value for money.    

You can probably tell the Garmin Instinct 2 angle from a glance. This is a super-rugged, chunky outdoor wearable for those who do not care if their watch looks a bit bulky. In return, the Instinct 2 can last up to a month between charges and has 10ATM water resistance, double that of most other good wearables at the price — everything triathletes may want from a watch. 

The Instinct 2 is hard to beat for long hiking weekends away from a charging point. However, there are reasons the Instinct 2 only costs half as much as some flagship Garmin. The screen is relatively small and monochrome, although the little inverted porthole is a great way to highlight one particular stat, like your heart rate. We grew to love this little circle during our Garmin Instinct 2S Solar review.

The Garmin Instinct 2 also lacks full map support, which is a major drawback in an adventuring watch like this. You can see a “breadcrumb” trail of where you have been, but not the surrounding terrain and roads because the watch does not store its own mapping data. It can help you avoid getting hopelessly lost, but will not let you map routes on the fly. 

There is no local music playback either, the Instinct 2 can only control music played on your phone. 

We found several reasons to pick another model. But the Instinct 2’s tracking accuracy is great and the sheer low-maintenance breeziness of a watch that seems to last forever between charges and is happy to truck on wherever you go should not be underestimated.

Best budget Garmin watch

Best on a budget: Great tracking accuracy and comfortable design without breaking the bank.

Specifications

Size: 19.5 x 10.7 x 255mm
Screen: 88X154 OLED screen
GPS: Connected GPS
Water resistance: 5ATM
Weight : 26.5g
Battery: Up to 7 days

Reasons to buy

+
Good heart rate reader 
+
Exercise modes are more robust than most 
+
Affordable option from Garmin line-up 

Reasons to avoid

-
No on-board GPS 
-
Basic monochrome, plastic screen 
Buy if

✅ You do not need the frills: It tracks all the basic health and workout stats — and it does it well.  
✅ You want something light and comfortable: No chunky design.

✅ You are on a budget: It costs $150.

Don't buy if

❌ You are looking for an outdoor watch: No GPS or on-watch maps.
❌ You want exceptional durability: This watch is made largely out of plastic.

What the users say

The Garmin Vivosmart 5 is rated a respectable 4.1 out of 5 stars on Amazon, with nearly two thirds of users giving it the highest score. Buyers praise this watch for its ease of use and excellent connectivity, but they have mixed opinions on its design, features and battery life. As one user said, "I can think of a couple of ways that the tracker software could be tweaked a bit more to make it better, but, all-in-all, I have been pretty happy with this tracker."

If you are set on Garmin as a brand but do not want a big-faced watch, the Vivosmart 5 is a reliable and affordable band, making it suitable for people looking for something small, light and unobtrusive. 

For a small watch, it has got a lot of good features. It can record your heart rate and steps, and it estimates your stress and breathing rate. It also monitors your sleep overnight and it can look at your blood oxygenation. 

However, it does not have its own GPS so it can’t be used for phone-free runs. The screen’s top layer is plastic too, which is much softer than a good toughened glass and more likely to pick up scuffs and scrapes.

During our Garmin Vivosmart 5 review, our tester undertook a handful of long workouts with the Vivosmart 5 on one arm and the Garmin Enduro 2 on the other. Each time, both watches recorded the exact same maximum heart rate, and each time there was only a slight disparity in the average heart rate across the session, by a margin of 1-2 bpm. The Vivosmart 5’s step counts seemed fine and the stress tracking feature is good — although we found stress graphs are much better viewed in the Connect app on your phone than the band’s own tiny screen.  

Overall? The Garmin Vivosmart 5 performs well for a casual fitness tracker and offers better tracking accuracy and more thoughtful software than the vast majority of trackers of this style.


Best Garmin watch for occasional exercisers