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The best Garmin watches: Fenix, Forerunner, Venu, and more compared

ZDNET tested popular Garmin watches to help you figure out which smartwatch is the best option for you.

Garmin watches deliver high performance in a sleek format, both in structure and interface. And similar to features found on the ever-popular Apple Watch and other fitness trackers, Garmin integrates advanced fitness tracking tools such as a heart rate monitor that detects irregularities. Plus, if you're interested in tracking your sleep, Garmin's Morning Report is fantastic in helping you track sleep quality and the Training Readiness metric can even help you plan recovery times. 

Also: The best smartwatches, according to fitness experts and marathon runners

Having tested and reviewed six of the most popular Garmin Watches, we've now selected which are best for you and your fitness, wellness, and overall tracking needs. These watches were evaluated by display, functions, interface, battery life, durability, and price.

Pros & Cons
  • Solar charging
  • Wide range of features, namely for skiing, surfing, climbing, and mountain biking
  • LED flashlight
  • Pricier than other models
More Details

Garmin Fenix 7X: Solar Edition features:  Battery life: Solar charging yields up to 14 days | Heart rate monitoring: Yes | Garmin's full performance metric suite: Yes 

The Garmin Fenix 7X Solar offers the latest in Garmin GPS watch technology, packing in just about everything Garmin wearables have to offer. The Fenix 7X includes a broader array of supported sports than any other series of Garmin, including in its repertoire skiing, climbing, mountain biking, and surfing, all in addition to the more "traditional" sports and exercises like running and biking.

Review: Garmin Fenix 7X Solar

Solar charging features add a layer of suave functionality to the already robust lineup within this sporty smartwatch. The Fenix 7X Solar Edition allows for some solar charging while out and about, making this watch last longer for those who prefer to do their sports and exercise in the great outdoors. The Fenix also includes the whole suite of Garmin's extensive health monitoring features, such as heart rate monitoring, stress tracking, pulse ox reading, women's health features, and more. 

Ultimately, ZDNET's reviewer was "[V]ery pleased with GPS performance, heart rate performance [accuracy], crystal clear playback, long battery life, vast assortment of sports and activities, and the quality materials." 

Pros & Cons
  • Budget-friendly
  • 20 preloaded sports apps
  • Screen encased by Gorilla Glass 3
  • Relies on multiple smartphone apps
More Details

Garmin Vívoactive 4 features Battery life: Up to eight days | Heart rate monitoring: Yes | Garmin's full performance metric suite: Yes 

This sleek GPS watch is oriented more towards health and fitness than traditional smartwatch features. While this is generally true for most Garmin GPS watches, it's a more pronounced reality with the Vívoactive 4. Still, that doesn't mean this isn't a smartwatch, only that it is a highly specialized one. This watch can pair with smartphones and uses multiple smartphone apps to achieve many functions beyond its primary health and fitness purpose.

The Vívoactive 4 specializes in sports, exercise, and health monitoring. The watch and bands are built for durability and exposure to the outdoors. On top of numerous other health metrics, this watch has both respiration and pulse oximeter tracking.

Review: Garmin Vívoactive 4 watch

I selected the Vívoactive 4 for "best value overall" due to its extensive sport and health features, long battery life, and relatively low price point. While $350 may still be expensive, it's a fairly middle-range for the smartwatch industry and low for Garmin.

Pros & Cons
  • Excellent battery life thanks to the hybrid design
  • Motorized hands that adapt to what's on-screen
  • Supports wireless charging
  • Not as rugged and durable as sportier watches
  • Only comes in a 40mm watch size
More Details

Garmin Vívomove Trend features:  Battery life: Five days | Heart rate monitoring: Yes | Garmin's full performance metric suite: Yes 

Garmin's Vívomove line is notorious for blending the natural mechanics of a traditional analog watch with its latest digital features. This makes models like the Vívomove Trend ideal for users who prefer a subtle and timeless smartwatch design. 

ZDNET tested the latest Vívomove Trend and found it to strike a good balance of in-app health and fitness features, battery life, and charging tech. Speaking of which, the Trend is the first Garmin watch in general to support wireless charging. That means you can plop the wearable on any Qi-enabled charging pad and it'll power up nicely. (There's also a wired option included in the box if that's more of your cup of tea.)

Also: Garmin's Vívomove Trend fixes my biggest issue with its smartwatches

With a hybrid design, the Vívomove Trend's motorized hands will adaptively rotate around the watch face as you interact with it, from swiping through fitness metrics to changing sound and vibration settings to starting a workout. Auto workout detection is still a thing, as is Garmin Pay and the slew of data that the companion app provides for any other model, so you won't miss out on every Garmin feature by going with more style here.

Also: The best fitness apps with live and on-demand workout classes

ZDNET's June Wan, who contributed to this article, put it best when talking about this hybrid option, "In ways, I appreciated the focus on digital well-being here, with the lack of bright, distracting, and colorful screen animations, alongside my daily health metrics."

Pros & Cons
  • Perspiration and hydration tracker
  • Voice assistant capabilities
  • Wireless call and text with a paired smartphone
  • Pulse oxygen sensor
  • Fitness age calibration for custom exercise patterns
  • High price point
More Details

Garmin Venu 2 Plus features: Battery life: Up to nine days | Heart rate monitoring: Yes | Performance metric suite: Houses activity-tracking metrics, Body Battery, sleep score, hiking and climbing modes, and Health Snapshot

Garmin included more traditional smartwatch features in the Venu 2 Plus than in most other Garmin watch series. This smartwatch can pair with your smartphone, which by itself isn't unique even for a Garmin. What sets this watch apart from other Garmins is that it allows for wireless calls and text messages when paired with a smartphone. While not uncommon for the smartwatch industry as a whole, it is a newer function on Garmin watches. The Venu 2 Plus also includes a broad array of health monitoring technology and sports-based apps and hardware.

Review: Garmin Venu 2 Plus

Its features make the Venu 2 Plus uniquely suited to people who combine their sports and exercise with work, writing, or digital socializing. Wireless notifications on the watch screen from your smartphone are also supported, as is using the voiceless assistant from your phone. With this technology, you can observe important health metrics while exercising and dictate a reminder or memo through your watch at the same time.

We chose the Venu 2 Plus as the "best for business-focused athletes" due to its combination of sport, health, and clerical functions. While its cost is higher than some alternatives, the host of features can more than balance this out. That holds especially true for people who want a top-of-the-line, fitness-focused smartwatch that will still allow them to keep track of work.

Pros & Cons
  • Extensive features for triathlon training in a lightweight form factor
  • Multiple GPS protocols and advanced GPS performance
  • Animated on-screen workouts
  • Recovery time meter
  • Shorter battery life compared to other models
  • Does not support onboard maps
  • Pricey
More Details

Garmin Forerunner 745 features: Battery life: Up to 24 hours | Heart rate monitoring: Yes | Performance metric suite: Analyzes pace, heart rate, and heart rate variability (HRV), and asses performance ability compared to average fitness level stats

Garmin designed the Forerunner 745 with triathlete workouts and competitions in mind. This watch has a remarkable lineup of features specifically geared towards this exercise style. And while it doesn't support onboard map features, the Forerunner 745 does utilize multiple GPS protocols for higher accuracy and greater spread of usable terrain.

Also: The best sports watches

The Forerunner 745 has an extensive list of measurement tools and systems, including intensity minutes, running dynamics, heart rate, cycling power, training status, training load, performance condition, race predictor, V02 Max, recovery time, and training effect. This watch is the lightest Garmin model, with the sleekest form factor, to include all these features. Additionally, the watch has Garmin coach training features, a recovery meter that accounts for your body and previous workouts, and preloaded activity workouts specific to triathletes. 

While the cost puts this Garmin into the upper-middle range of smartwatches, it offers the greatest array of triathlon-focused features in the slightest form of any Garmin watch. On top of its other Garmin features, its heavy focus on bicycling, running, and swimming are why we chose the Forerunner 745 as the "best for triathletes."

Pros & Cons
  • Unlimited battery potential with solar charging for smartwatch mode
  • 100-meter water resistance
  • No offline music or maps
  • No voice control functionality
More Details

Garmin Instinct 2: Solar Edition features: Battery life: Up to 28 days on a single charge; unlimited with solar charging | Heart rate monitoring: Yes | Performance metric suite: Houses activity-tracking metrics, stress tracking capabilities, sleep score and sleep monitoring functions, Body Battery energy monitoring, Pulse Ox, and the fitness age feature

Not every Garmin GPS watch is built with the intense athlete in mind. The Instinct 2: Solar Edition can fill that role, yet it's designed to have outdoor adventures and hobbies as its specialty. This watch includes many of the health monitoring features, such as sleep and stress tracking and women's health capabilities. It also includes outdoor-specific activity functions like ABC sensors to help you better navigate trails, trackback routing to help you get back to your starting point, and multi-GNSS support. 

With solar charging built-in, the Solar Edition of the Instinct 2 has the potential to run near-limitless on outdoor adventures without needing to stop back by cavillation. Although power banks are a common resource for modern hikers and explorers, having a GPS smartwatch that essentially charges itself is a boon that can't be understated.  

Review: Instinct 2: Solar Edition

The Instinct 2: Solar Edition was selected as "best for outdoor adventures" due to its solar charging capabilities, health monitoring tools, and hobby tracking features. With a middle-range price point, this watch could appeal to many outdoor enthusiasts who might not care for the more extensive exercise focus in other Garmin watches.

What is the best Garmin watch?

The Fenix 7X Solar was chosen as the best overall because of its comprehensive sports functions, solar charging ability, and extra features. Few, if any, other Garmin watches are designed to handle as many sports, circumstances, and environments as this one. While its steep price may be a deterrent, this watch delivers more in function than most Garmin alternatives.

To compare all of our top choices to see what best fits your budget and battery life needs, here is a chart for a quick comparison. 

Garmin Watch model 


Solar charging 

Battery life 

Fenix 7X: Solar Edition 



Solar charging yields up to 14 days

Vívoactive 4



Up to eight days

Vívomove Trend 



Five days

Venu 2 Plus 



Up to nine days

Forerunner 745



Up to 24 hours

Instinct 2: Solar Edition 



Up to 28 days on a single charge; unlimited with solar charging

Which is the right Garmin watch model for you?

Choose this Garmin watch model…

If you…

Fenix 7X: Solar Edition

Want the Garmin watch with the most features and functions. The Fenix 7X also supports solar charging, allowing you to stay out for longer.

Vívoactive 4

Want a fully functional GPS smartwatch with exercise and health features that won't break the bank. It's one of the most affordable Garmin watches available.

Vívomove Trend

Prefer a hybrid smartwatch with the flexibility of wireless charging. The Trend comes in enough colors and styles to accommodate nearly every user.

Venu 2 Plus

Are often digitally social or working while exercising or doing sports. The Venu 2 Plus supports voice assistant controls, too.

Forerunner 745

Are a triathlete or want to train like a triathlete. Forerunner 745 is packed with extensive fitness tracking for running, biking, swimming, and more.

Instinct 2: Solar

Want a health and exercise-focused GPS watch that has solar charging while still being in the middle price range for Garmin watches.

How did we choose these Garmin watches?

These watches were evaluated by display functions, interface, long battery life, durability, supported activities, and price. Not all attributes were given equal weight, however. Supported activities, functions, and battery life were given more priority than interface, display, and price. High durability in design was a common theme throughout the considered Garmin watches and did not always vary significantly between many of the products.

  • Display functions and interface:  Each Garmin interface on this list has slight variations. Depending on whether you're using the watch to train for a triathlon or run outdoors, you may want different functions, such as trail trackback capability. 
  • Long battery life: Your watch is only as powerful as it's alive and working. We considered solar and wireless charging options that provide ultimate battery life as you train and track, along with other options with a battery life that is well over 20 hours on a single charge. 
  • Durability: You'll need a watch that withstands your environment, especially if you're training outdoors and in the water. 
  • Supported activities: We considered the array of activities -- outdoor and indoor -- you'll be wanting to track with your Garmin. 
  • Price: Smartwatches can cost a pretty penny -- especially quality models -- so we were sure to include mid-range models as well as the units with a more luxury price tag.   

Once our top pick from each series was determined, they were then compared to each other and reviewed within this guide using the same criteria as above. Each of the five was selected as superlative in some role or for some audiences. For instance, the Fenix 7X is the "best overall," and the Forerunner 745 is the "best for triathletes". These rankings are the opinion of the reviewer in the context of the review, based upon the above-stated criteria.

Are all Garmin watches waterproof?

Most Garmin GPS watches are water resistant from up to 50 or 100 meters. Less expensive and older models tend to be water-resistant up to 50 meters, although this can vary by model and series. The more expensive and newer models like the Fenix 7X are water-resistant to 100 meters.

What happens if my Garmin watch breaks?

If the watch breaks within the first year and your limited consumer warranty covers it, then you may be able to have Garmin fix it for free or for a small fee. However, if it breaks outside of that warranty, you'll likely need to have it repaired. 

You can request a repair through the Garmin website and mail them your GPS watch for repair. There are also third-party repair businesses that may work on Garmin GPS watches.

Does my Garmin watch have a warranty?

Through most mainstream distributors, Garmin watches will include a limited warranty. However, this is a blanket warranty for Garmin watches, and specific models can have different warranties. The base warranty is a one-year manufacturer's warranty, and Garmin does not offer extended warranties in most situations.

What is the Garmin Connect app?

The Garmin Connect app is your digital hub for compiling all your fitness stats in one place. After downloading it on your phone, you can use a compatible device (like a Garmin sports watch) to see daily step totals, max heart rate during workouts, and much more. Further, the "Last 7 Days" gives you a weekly average of your physical activities, sleep, and average heart rate. 

Are there alternative Garmin watches worth considering?

While we tried to include a wide array of Garmin watches in our review, there are many more to consider than what we can represent here. Consider one of these three alternatives for those who didn't find the Garmin watch they want above. 

Here are some alternatives, from the most affordable Garmin GPS watch to one of the most stylish to the most expensive:


Best solar-charging alternative

Garmin Enduro 2

A runner-up to the Fenix 7X, the Enduro 2 features Garmin's signature, rugged design, and a slew of health tracking capabilities.

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The Garmin Vivofit 4 watch is seen here.

Best affordable alternative

Garmin Vívofit 4

The Garmin Vívofit 4 is a fitness tracker versus a fitness watch, but it's still reliable for keeping track of time and your workout statistics. It only costs $80.

View at Amazon
The Garmin Lily Classic is seen here.

Best stylish alternative

Garmin Lily Classic

Like the Vívomove Trend, the Garmin Lily Classic has a more stylish look and feel than your typical Garmin. 

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