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The best Garmin watches you can buy: Expert tested

We tested the best Garmin watches to help you decide which smartwatch is the right option for you, no matter your budget.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer
Garmin Epix Pro | Best Garmin watch overall
garmin-epix-pro-2
Garmin Epix Pro
Best Garmin watch overall
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Garmin Forerunner 165 | Best Garmin watch for casual runners
garmin-forerunner-1655
Garmin Forerunner 165
Best Garmin watch for casual runners
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Garmin Instinct 2X Solar | Best Garmin watch for long battery life (plus an LED flashlight)
garmin-instinct-2x-solar-6
Garmin Instinct 2X Solar
Best Garmin watch for long battery life (plus an LED flashlight)
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Garmin Venu 3S | Best Garmin smartwatch to compete with Apple and Samsung
Garmin Venu 3S on wrist
Garmin Venu 3S
Best Garmin smartwatch to compete with Apple and Samsung
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Garmin Vívomove Trend | Best budget Garmin watch
Charging the Garmin Vivomove Trend on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra.
Garmin Vívomove Trend
Best budget Garmin watch
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Garmin Vívoactive 5 | Best Garmin watch for casual athletes
garmin-vivoactive-4-5.jpg
Garmin Vívoactive 5
Best Garmin watch for casual athletes
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Garmin Instinct Crossover | Best hybrid Garmin watch
garmin-instinct-crossover-4
Garmin Instinct Crossover
Best hybrid Garmin watch
View now View at Amazon
Garmin Approach S70 | Best Garmin watch for golf
garmin-approach-s70-3
Garmin Approach S70
Best Garmin watch for golf
View now View at Garmin
Garmin Forerunner 965 | Best Garmin watch for triathletes
garmin-265-965-6
Garmin Forerunner 965
Best Garmin watch for triathletes
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Show more (4 items)

Garmin GPS sports watches aim to help you improve your health and wellness by collecting data from your daily lifestyle and using the Garmin Connect ecosystem to analyze and present the data in useful ways. Garmin has significantly improved its track record for supporting previous models with the latest software features while also releasing new smartwatches with innovative features. 

What is the best Garmin watch right now?

I've tested nearly every popular Garmin watch on the market, evaluating their features, durability, battery life, price, and more, to help you determine which model is best for your fitness, wellness, and other tracking needs. I typically run, row, ride, hike, walk, sleep, and live with the watches for weeks at a time before providing my final evaluation of the watch. 

My pick for the best Garmin watch overall is the Garmin Epix Pro, thanks to its long battery life, AMOLED display, support for all Garmin activities, and LED flashlight. Read on for the rest of my tested picks for the best Garmin watches available now.

Best Garmin watches of 2024

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • AMOLED display
  • LED flashlight
  • Three size options
  • Long battery life
  • High-end materials
Cons
  • Pricier than other models
More Details

Garmin Epix Pro features: Battery life (GPS): 42 hours | Display technology: AMOLED | Unique feature: LED flashlight | Size: 42/47/51 mm 

The Garmin Epix Pro brings together some of the best features from previous models and combines them all, except for solar charging, into one of the best Garmin watches ever made. The Epix Pro comes in three different sizes, which isn't often the case for flagship models like this, making it accessible to a wider range of people. 

The Epix Pro has a brilliant AMOLED touchscreen display, a powerful LED flashlight, high-end sapphire glass (or save some money with the Gorilla Glass options) and titanium materials, and support for just about every activity you will take on. The Epix Pro 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. 

I've been running, swimming, biking, walking, sleeping, and living with the Garmin Epix Pro for several months and find it to be the perfect watch for serious athletes.

Review: Garmin Epix Pro

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Small and light
  • AMOLED display
  • 19 hours of GPS tracking
  • Colorful options available
Cons
  • Limited activities are supported
More Details

Garmin Forerunner 165 features: Battery life (GPS): 19 hours | Display technology: AMOLED | Unique feature: Affordable with advanced running metrics | Size: 43 mm 

In the early days, Garmin watches were popular primarily with runners. Today, there are dozens of Garmin watches to choose from, many priced at $400 or more. But the new Garmin Forerunner 165 gets back to the basics with an affordable, $250 watch focused on providing exactly what the majority of recreational runners need to track their performance.

Even at this affordable price, Garmin's Forerunner 165 includes a brilliant AMOLED touchscreen display for that elegant smartwatch visual experience found in Apple and Samsung smartwatches. It's also a perfect watch for those with smaller wrists, especially in a market full of big, bulky watches.

Of all the sports and fitness plans, the Forerunner 165 is most focused on supporting runners, with features like adaptive training plans, wrist-based running power and dynamics tracking, training effect, course support, and more. You'll also find 25 activity profiles for activities like swimming, pickleball, yoga, and pilates.

A feature I particularly enjoyed using was "Morning report," which provides a summary of my previous day and evening's tracking, along with the training plan for the day of. Sleep monitoring with sleep scores and nap detection were also welcome features. 

Review: Garmin Forerunner 165 Music

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Unlimited battery potential with solar charging for smartwatch mode
  • 100-meter water resistance
  • Mid-range price
  • LED flashlight
Cons
  • No offline music or maps
More Details

Garmin Instinct 2X Solar features: Battery life (GPS): 60 hours, 145 with solar | Display technology: Memory-in-pixel monochrome | Unique feature: LED flashlight, 2nd window | Size: 50 mm 

The Instinct 2X Solar is a GPS Garmin watch with features tailored to outdoor pursuits. Its ABC sensors help users better navigate trails, and the trackback routing feature makes it easy for hikers and runners to get back to their starting points. Multi-band and multi-frequency support is provided too. It is built to withstand the elements and its rugged design isn't just for looks.

With solar charging built-in, the Instinct 2X has the potential to run near-limitless on outdoor adventures without needing to constantly top off and charge. Garmin has significantly improved the software on the Instinct 2X, even including support for activities like golf, surfing, and obstacle course racing. The more I used it while testing it out, the more I enjoyed it, particularly the small secondary display in the top right corner that provides clear at-a-glance information.

Additionally, this mid-range price model includes many health monitoring features, such as sleep and stress tracking and women's health capabilities.

Review: Instinct 2X Solar

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Brilliant AMOLED display
  • More than week long battery
  • Exquisite design, fit, and finish
Cons
  • Expensive
More Details

Garmin Venu 3S features: Battery life (GPS): 21 hours | Display technology: AMOLED | Unique feature: Calls and voice assistant | Size: 41 mm 

Garmin's watches are typically GPS sports watches focused on helping you improve your health, fitness, and performance. While they offer some features that rival other smartwatches, the Venu 3/3S is clearly the best Garmin to take on the Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch. I tested the Venu 3S for several days, as did my daughter, and it convinced her to make the switch from her Fitbit thanks to its longer battery life and sleek look. 

The Venu 3/3S is extremely well built, has a brilliant AMOLED display, lasts for more than a week, lets you accept and make calls from the wrist, and supports voice assistants via a connected smartphone.

In addition to its smartwatch functions, the Venu 3/3S supports all of the amazing Garmin functions and vast ecosystem. This includes subscription music support, Garmin Pay, Connect IQ app support, and the superb Garmin Connect smartphone application.

If you are looking for a health and wellness watch that lasts longer than one or two days, the Garmin Venu 3S is tough to beat.

Review: Garmin Venu 3S

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

Garmin Vivomove Trend features: Battery life (Smartwatch): Five days | Display technology: OLED | Unique feature: Minute hands and wireless charging | Size: 40 mm 

Garmin's Vívomove line is known 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's reviews editor June Wan 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 to support wireless charging in general. 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 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 the companion app provides for any other model, so you won't miss out on every Garmin feature by going with more style here.

"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," Wan wrote about the watch.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Budget-friendly
  • Brilliant AMOLED display
  • Responsive touchscreen display
Cons
  • No larger size
More Details

Garmin Vivoactive 5 features: Battery life (GPS): 21 hours | Display technology: AMOLED | Unique feature: Animated workouts | Size: 42 mm 

Garmin's Vivoactive 5 joins other modern smartwatches with a brilliant high resolution AMOLED display replacing the memory-in-pixel displays of all past Vivoactive models. It's comparable in design to the new Venu 3 series with the Venu focused on challenging smartphone with phone call and voice assistant support. The Vivoactive 5 is much more affordable than the Venu 3/3S with its focus on casual athletes.

The Vivoactive 5 is a lovely watch available now for $300 in four color options with one size available for all users. Garmin also included significant software upgrades with support for Body Battery personalized insights, Sleep Coach, workout benefit, recovery time, and more. 

More than 30 sports modes, support for wheelchair activities, nap tracking, and more make the Vivoactive 5 a fantastic GPS sports watch option for the masses.

garmin-instinct-crossover-4
https://www.garmin.com/en-US/p/819761/pn/010-02730-13
Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Long battery life
  • Always present luminescent hands
  • Innovative hand/display synchronization
Cons
  • Expensive
More Details

Garmin Instinct Crossover features: Battery life (GPS): 25 hours | Display technology: Memory-in-pixel monochrome | Unique feature: Minute hands and center display | Size: 45 mm 

The Instinct Crossover provides long battery life and rugged features with a classy iconic design. If you like wearing a watch primarily to always provide you with glanceable time and want a watch that tracks all of your health and activity data, then the Instinct Crossover may be just what you are looking for. It also helps that Garmin incorporated a new GPS chipset with much more accurate performance than the Instinct 2 series.

The nice thing about a watch like the Garmin Instinct Crossover is that it functions primarily as a watch and then captures your health and activity data passively as you work out and live. Open up the Garmin Connect smartphone application and then you will find all of your data in full color with extensive capability to create reports and analyze your data. This includes blood pressure data from the new Garmin Index BPM device.

It takes a few days to fully appreciate the Garmin Instinct Crossover and for me it took viewing the watch in low light conditions where the hands and hour marks were always crystal clear, watching the hands dynamically switch whenever the content needed to be viewed, and the complete lack of thought about battery life. I continue to fall back on watches that last for weeks and will never fully embrace a watch that only lasts for one to three days again.

Review: The Garmin Instinct Crossover grew on me. I just wish it had this one killer feature

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Complete golf experience
  • Brilliant AMOLED display
  • Support for extensive number of activities
Cons
  • Pricey
  • Limited battery life
More Details

Garmin Approach S70 features: Battery life (GPS): 20 hours | Display technology: AMOLED | Unique feature: 18-hole status indicator | Size: 47 mm 

The Garmin Approach S70 improves on the previous S62 with an AMOLED display, 42 and 47mm size options (people with smaller wrists can now enjoy this complete golf experience), improved PlaysLike features (temperature and barometric pressure accounted for), green contours with Garmin Golf subscription, and improvements in other health and fitness aspects of the Garmin ecosystem outside of golf. 

Some of the golf features found on the Approach S70 that are not available on other Garmin watches include custom targets, PinPointer, PlaysLike distance, Swing Tempo, green contours, and shot dispersion. Shot dispersion may be one of my favorite new features as it displays a box on the watch to show where your selected club shot may end up, based on your golfing history. 

I thoroughly enjoyed my time on the course with the Garmin Approach S70 and have yet to find another golf watch that offers as much as it does. If you're passionate about golf, and you want a watch that can help you with other fitness activities just as much, then this is the watch to consider.

Review: This Garmin golf watch has one key feature that makes it indispensable for my game

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Triathlon-geared features
  • Vivid AMOLED display
  • Multiple GPS protocols, including onboard mapping
  • Recovery time meter
Cons
  • No LED flashlight
  • No support for Garmin CT10 golf club sensors
More Details

Garmin Forerunner 965 features: Battery life (GPS): 31 hours | Display technology: AMOLED | Unique feature: Advanced training metrics | Size: 47 mm  

The latest in its triathlete-tailored Forerunner series, the Garmin Forerunner 965 builds on the extensive training features from its predecessor. Aside from the impressive performance metrics like outlining your running routes, showing training effects, and measuring VO2 Max, the 965 has a brilliant AMOLED display that is sure to turn heads.

Improved GNSS tracking with multi-band and multi-frequency support, managed via SatIQ, ensures your exact location is always accurately tracked. Bold color mapping is available for turn-by-turn navigation, trail running, and more.

While the Forerunner 965 is focused on the runner, there is also extensive support for golf so you don't need a separate watch to recover from your running on a local course. However, Garmin's unique product lineup strategy leaves CT-10 golf club sensors off the list for compatibility with this watch.

What is the best Garmin watch?

Based on my hands-on testing, I chose the Epix Pro as the best Garmin watch overall because it includes nearly every feature from Garmin, and supports tracking of all activities in the Garmin ecosystem. 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 

Price 

Solar charging 

Battery life (GPS)

Epix Pro Sapphire

$700

No 

42 hours

Forerunner 165

$250

No 

19 hours

Instinct 2X Solar

$350

Yes 

60 hours, 145 hours with solar

Venu 3S

$450

No 

21 hours

Vivoactive 5

$300 

No 

18 hours

Vivomove Trend 

$270

No 

Five days (smartwatch mode)

Instinct Crossover

$340

Yes 

25 hours 

Approach S70

$650 

No 

20 hours

Forerunner 965 

$565

No 

31 hours

 *Lowest price at the time of writing. Please note that prices may vary based on retailer and available promotions, sales, or discounts.

Which is the right Garmin watch model for you?

Choose this Garmin watch model…

If you want...

Epix Pro Sapphire

ZDNET's choice for best Garmin watch overall. It houses the most features and functions, has a brilliant AMOLED display, and a built-in LED flashlight.

Forerunner 165

There are not many options available for those with smaller wrists who want a light weight watch, but Garmin hit it out of the park with this Forerunner 165 that provides the full package in a small form factor. The lovely AMOLED display, colorful watch body and band options, metrics focused on casual runners, and a $250 price make this an easy one to recommend.

Instinct 2X Solar

The Instinct 2X Solar is built for the outdoor adventurer who puts their watch to the test with inclement weather, rough conditions, and yet wants a watch that lasts forever. The solar charging support and integrated LED flashlight make it the watch for campers, hunters, fishers, and more.

Venu 3S

If you want a smartwatch, but are not interested in an Apple Watch or Samsung Galaxy Watch then the Venu 3S is the one for you. You can make and receive calls, use your voice assistant, have 3rd party apps, and more with a watch that lasts more than a week between charges.

Vívoactive 5

A fully functional GPS smartwatch with an emphasis on exercise and health features. It's also one of the most affordable Garmin watches available yet still has that lovely AMOLED display.

Vívomove Trend

A hybrid smartwatch with the flexibility of wireless charging. The Trend nicely blends both digital and analog features, making it a great option to wear from work to workout.

Instinct Crossover

This hybrid watch is perfect for those who like to see physical analog hands on a watch yet still be able to enjoy the vast Garmin ecosystem for health and wellness. The battery lasts a long time and the Instinct Crossover is a great watch for G-Shock lovers.

Approach S70

If your preferred activity is golf, then no other Garmin watch beats the experience provided by the Approach S70. If you use the watch as designed, you don't have many excuses left to not improve your game. Vast amounts of data is collected by the watch, especially when connected to the CT10 club sensors.

Forerunner 965

A triathlon-geared smartwatch. The Forerunner 965 is packed with extensive fitness tracking for running, biking, swimming, and more. It also now sports a modern AMOLED display and despite having other Garmin watches on hand the Forerunner 965 keeps finding its way back on my wrist.

Factors to consider when choosing a Garmin watch

Before you choose a Garmin watch, you should consider the following: 

  • Primary activity: As you start your search for a Garmin watch, it is important to start with identifying the main activities that you want to track with your watch. Garmin watch series are primarily organized by the type of your intended activity with watch designs optimized for those activities.
  • Size: Do you want a large watch or a small watch? Garmin offers several different varieties, ranging from slim and sleek to larger and more utilitarian. 
  • Screen type: Do you want a brilliant AMOLED display that rivals a smartwatch or would you like longer battery life with a memory-in-pixel always-on display that looks great in direct sun?
  • Price: One fantastic aspect about Garmin's lineup of watches is that they vary in price in $50 increments from about $150 all of the way up and over $1,000. Buyers can also save money by picking up models from previous years, and with Garmin providing improved software support for these models, you should consider saving some money for functional older watches.

How we test Garmin watches

These Garmin watches were tested and 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. 

When we test Garmin watches, we consider the following: 

  • 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 Epix Pro is the "best overall," and the Forerunner 965 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?

Yes. 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 Epix Pro are water-resistant to 100 meters. All of them can be used in the rain, while sweating as you work out, and even while swimming.

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. 

At CES 2024 Garmin announced a redesign of the Garmin Connect experience and we've been running it in beta form for a month. It offers a fresh look at your data and helps provide information in tiles via the At a Glance screen. Stay tuned for the public release of this refreshed application and website.

If you want a larger view of your data with access to many reports, you can also log in to the Garmin Connect website and take a deep dive into all of the data captured by your Garmin watch.

Are Garmin watches the best for marathon and triathlon training?

Thanks to Garmin watches' extensive tracking features and athlete-oriented metrics, Garmin watches are a highly popular choice among marathon runners and triathletes, especially its Forerunner series. 

"I really like the data the Garmin connect provides from all my past activities, I can see the progress I've made over time and look back to previous training schedules, similar runs, Routes, etc," says two-time Iron Man competitor and avid marathon runner, Jeramie Pinter

Pinter, who completes one to two marathons a year, has been using his Garmin to train since 2011. He specifically utilizes Garmin's training mode for certain workouts like track and tempo runs, measuring his pace zones for the given workout. 

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:

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