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While smartwatches often include GPS and can provide casual athletes all they need, dedicated GPS sports watches track more data and provide extensive customization of the information displayed on the watch while working out. Most provide some basic smartphone notifications, but the emphasis is on focused sports and outdoor activity tracking.
Companies are also taking a broader look at your daily life so that sleep, typical activity, and more are incorporated into calculating adequate recovery time for optimal training periods. Exercises and other activities to help you improve your fitness may be presented, while stress measurements, breathing exercises, blood oxygen monitoring, ECG measurements, and more are designed to help you improve your overall health and wellness.
COROS offers affordable GPS sports watches with plenty of power and a record of updates for years. Garmin has a plethora of offerings for athletes who focus on different sports and activities. Polar is known for its heart rate technology and offers new wearables every couple of years with advanced training programs. Suunto also continues to release GPS sports watches with a focus on accurate GPS tracking.
Display: 1.2-inch 240x240 pixels | Battery Life (GPS tracking mode): 30 hours | Dimensions: 42x42x13.57 mm | Weight: 29 grams | Water/Dust Resistance: 50m | Band Size: 20mm
The original Coros PACE was the first GPS sports watch I tested from Coros, and since then, the company has released a few new watches while continuing to provide software updates as it leads all others in this level of support. The Coros PACE 2 is the lightest GPS sports watch available.
The PACE 2 has a 1.2-inch 240x240 color display with Corning Gorilla Glass material. The watch incorporates a 20mm quick-release band system so you can swap it out with your preferred band. The watch weighs in at only 29g with the nylon band and 35g with the silicone band.
Thirty hours of battery life with GPS tracking is provided as Coros continues to set the bar for battery life. Track running, strength training, and even running power from the watch are supported.
Display: 1.2-inch 240x240 pixels | Battery Life (GPS tracking mode): 40 hours | Dimensions: 47x47x14.6mm | Weight: 59 grams | Water/Dust Resistance: 100m | Band Size: 22mm
The Coros Apex Pro is an excellent multi-sport watch with a color display, sapphire glass, titanium/aluminum alloy bezels, long battery life, and phone notification support. The Apex Pro is a larger 47mm watch that has touch screen capability with blood oxygen monitoring.
The latest update includes strength and custom training modes, making this Coros watch one of the best sports GPS watches available today.
Battery life is clearly a differentiator for Coros, where watches of the same size as Coros have double, or longer, the battery life of competitors. There is clearly something comforting about having to charge your watch just once a week or every two weeks compared to every day or every other day.
Display: 1.4-inch 280x280 pixels | Battery Life (GPS tracking mode): 140 hours | Dimensions: 50.3x50.3x15.7 mm | Weight: 89 grams | Water/Dust Resistance: 10 ATM | Band Size: 26mm
After testing out the Coros Vertix for myself a couple of years ago (see our full review), I purchased the cool Ice Breaker model. Coros released the Vertix 2 (see our full review) in August 2021 with an improved larger display, longer battery life, onboard music support, dual-frequency GNSS, and Insta360/GoPro camera control.
The COROS Vertix 2 is available now in Lava or Obsidian colors. COROS also offers four other color bands for $29.99 each, including black, yellow, green, and navy blue.
One of the best features of the Coros Vertix 2 is the battery life that lasts for weeks at a time, including up to 140 hours in GPS mode. There is something to be said of a watch that you can just wear and enjoy for weeks without fussing with a charger every day or two.
Coros also has a powerful smartphone app with EvoLab metrics and widgets, customizable workout programs, training plans, muscle heatmaps, and more. The power of the Coros ecosystem is found in the potential of the software that you have full control over developing for your particular needs.
If you spend time training on oval tracks, then it's tough to beat the Track Mode from Coros. You can customize your workout displays to show the data you need. With a connected Coros POD, you can also view your running power and other dynamic stats from your activities. The Vertix 2 also supports running power from the wrist without the need for the POD, although the POD provides even more data for your analysis and performance tracking.
Display: 1.2-inch 240x240 pixels | Battery Life (GPS tracking mode): 28 hours | Dimensions: 46x46x14.7 mm | Weight: 95 grams | Water/Dust Resistance: 10 ATM | Band Size: 22mm
If you are looking for fantastic GPS sports watches that rival luxury watches and are considered tools by Garmin, then you should check out the Garmin MARQ series. I had the chance to spend a month with the Garmin MARQ Golfer, and it is a stunning wearable.
The MARQ series offers many of the same functions found in the high-end Fenix line, with each watch focused on different sports. There are models for boating, golfing, racing, aviation, driving, and more.
The Garmin MARQ series provides long battery life, oxygen saturation, offline music support, smartphone notifications, and more, but they are very expensive and large watches.
Display: 1.4-inch 280x280 pixels | Battery Life (GPS tracking mode): 122 hours with solar charging, 89 hours without | Dimensions: 51x51x14.9 mm | Weight: 89 grams | Water/Dust Resistance: 10 ATM | Band Size: 26mm (51 mm model)
The Garmin Fenix 7 series is the ultimate GPS multi-sport watch lineup from Garmin, made with premium products and advanced sports tracking features. Data hounds will love the extensive customization options for each display on the watch, so as you participate in your sport, you are sure to find the data you need by scrolling automatically or manually with a press of a button.
Touch screen capability was added to select models in the Fenix 7 line, with the traditional Garmin five-button interface available to access all options and navigate the watch. The Fenix 7 series is available in three sizes - 42mm, 47mm, and 51mm. Three editions are also available - standard, solar, and sapphire solar. A total of 16 different size/edition models are available, with prices ranging from $699.99 to $999.99.
The biggest 51mm Sapphire Solar model, see our full review, includes touchscreen support. An integrated white/red LED flashlight and powerful solar charging.
The Fenix 7 series connects seamlessly to Android and iOS smartphones too, in addition to golf club sensors, bike sensors, and more. Just about every sport is covered, now including pickleball, with an updated smartphone experience so you can customize the watch settings on your phone and sync them over to the watch.
Display: 1.2-inch 240x240 pixels | Battery Life (GPS tracking mode): 35 hours | Dimensions: 44.4x44.4x13.9 mm | Weight: 49 grams | Water/Dust Resistance: 5 ATM | Band Size: 22mm
Garmin's Forerunner series is optimized for runners and tri-athletes with long battery life, advanced running dynamics, standalone music playback support, Garmin Pay, and more. The Forerunner 245 will likely meet the needs of the casual runner, while the Forerunner 745 offers a bit more for serious runners.
The latest Garmin 945 LTE (see our full review) brings connected features for safety and live tracking that you can share with family and friends. The Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE is very similar to the Forerunner 945, but it has a smaller diameter body and includes the next generation of Garmin Elevate heart rate sensor and LTE cellular connectivity. It's also $50 more at launch than the 945.
The Forerunner 945 LTE can be used to send key information through the Garmin (IERCC) International Emergency Response Coordination Center to local emergency services or data directly to your family and friends so they can follow your activity or respond to an incident detection event.
Today, the body Battery, menstrual cycle tracking, Garmin Pay, pulse oximeter, offline music support, and more advanced functions are present on Garmin watches. The Forerunner 945 LTE is optimized for runners and triathletes and supports a wide variety of sports, including biking, golf, yoga, Pilates, swimming, and much more.
Display: 1.3-inch 416x416 pixels | Battery Life (GPS tracking mode): 42 hours | Dimensions: 47x47x14.5 mm | Weight: 70 grams | Water/Dust Resistance: 10 ATM | Band Size: 22mm
Garmin answered the call for all of us, asking for a high-end GPS sports watch with a brilliant AMOLED display like that found in the Venu 2 series. The Garmin Epix is everything I wanted in a GPS sports watch with a vibrant AMOLED display that rivals the Apple Watch and Galaxy Watch models. It offers nearly all that the high-end Fenix has, but it's the display that sets it apart.
Touch screen capability was added to the three Garmin Epix models, while the traditional Garmin five-button interface is available to access all options and navigate the watch. It is available in one size, 47mm, with three model/color options available from $899.99 to $999.99. There are no solar options available since the AMOLED display consumes too much battery power for solar to make much impact at this time.
The titanium model I bought for myself, see our full review, has a sapphire glass display and titanium watch case that makes it fairly light for a large watch. It has been selling well, with orders typically taking 5-8 weeks before delivery since the week it was first announced.
The Garmin Epix connects seamlessly to Android and iOS smartphones too, in addition to golf club sensors, bike sensors, and more. Just about every sport is covered, now including pickleball, with an updated smartphone experience so you can customize the watch settings on your phone and sync them over to the watch.
Display: 1.3-inch 416x416 pixels | Battery Life (GPS tracking mode): 24 hours without music, 8 hours with music | Dimensions: 43.6x43.6x12.6 mm | Weight: 51 grams | Water/Dust Resistance: 5 ATM | Band Size: 20mm
The Garmin Venu 2 Plus, see our full review, builds upon the popular Venu 2 with the addition of phone call and smart assistant support thanks to its onboard microphone and advanced connectivity support with your smartphone. It still has that lovely AMOLED Gorilla Glass 3 display and subtle glass to stainless steel form factor.
In addition to phone calls, you can respond to text messages with your voice and search for information through your smart assistant. Fast charging is also supported with ten minutes of charge, providing up to one day of smartwatch use or one hour of GPS tracking with music playing.
The Venu 2 Plus is a solid upgrade from the Venu 2, but if you don't need the speaker's features, you may want to consider the Venu 2, which has the same functions and features. The Venu 2 Plus may be one of the most attractive Garmin devices for casual athletes and those looking for an excellent daily activity tracker. Garmin's been spending more time offering software to help you track and monitor your sleep, daily activity, running, and much more.
Display: 1.2-inch 240x240 pixels | Battery Life (GPS tracking mode): 40 hours | Dimensions: 47x47x13 mm | Weight: 79 grams | Water/Dust Resistance: 100m | Band Size: 22mm
Polar launched the original Grit X in early 2020, and it was focused on runners who spent time on hills and on the trails, while the Vantage V2 was a bit more focused on runners with various testing options such as running performance and leg recovery tests. With the new Polar Grit X Pro, we see these tests on the watch in addition to more features that make it a fantastic option for athletes.
The first Grit X required planned routes for the Hill Splitter functionality, but now you can see your ascent and descent results when you go for runs without a route. Since I live on a hill and spend most of my time running up and down hills, the Grit X Pro is a perfect wearable for my routine. It's available now in three colors with a titanium option named the Grit X Pro Titan.
The Polar Grit X Pro brings advanced heart rate tracking, up to 40 hours of GPS training time, color display, running and cycling performance testing, music controls, running power from the wrist, excellent durability, navigation with maps, and more. The Polar Flow application and website are fantastic for data hounds who want to track every detail of their activity. Polar Flow also supports extensive training programs.
Display: 1.2-inch 240x240 pixels | Battery Life (GPS tracking mode): 40 hours | Dimensions: 47x47x13 mm | Weight: 52 grams | Water/Dust Resistance: 100m | Band Size: 20mm
The Polar Vantage V2 includes everything Polar offers to help you improve your fitness and achieve your goals. This includes sleep tracking, recovery estimates, running power, and much more.
GPS sports watches are fantastic and collect an amazing amount of health and activity data. Polar takes things a step further by providing you with knowledge and understanding of your data so you can practically use it to improve. Its new tagline is "Knowledge is progress," and with this, you will find Polar coaching you from your wrist.
The Polar Vantage V2 brings advanced heart rate tracking, up to 40 hours of GPS training time, color display, running and cycling performance testing, music controls, running power, and much more. The Polar Flow application and website are fantastic for data hounds who want to track every detail of their activity.
Display: Just under 2 inches 240x240 pixels | Battery Life (GPS tracking mode): 36 hours | Dimensions: 49 mm | Weight: 41 grams | Water/Dust Resistance: 5 ATM | Band Size: 49mm
The Apple Watch Ultra is the newest sports watch to the game, and could become the most impressive of all options available. The new version caters exclusively to athletes. The 49mm titanium display ensures it can handle varied terrains, while providing you the durability you need on your outdoor excursions.
It also contains the longest lasting battery of all Apple watches, running up to 36 hours on a single charge. And, if you run it in low-power mode, you can extend the operating life to 60 hours.
Moreover, the display is robust--being two times brighter than any other Apple Watch display. It features a programmable action button. It allows you to choose quick access to many apps, like Workouts, Backtracks, and much more.
You also receive your choice of bands. Runners will enjoy the thinnest of the group--the Trail Loop Band. There's also an Ocean Band, designed for recreational diving and water sports.
Tying it all together is the watchOS 9. It comes with advanced metrics for stride length, ground contact time, and running power. Overall, it's Apple's most complete offering for athletes, allowing swimmers, divers, runners, mountain climbers, and more access to Apple's most robust tools.
The Apple Watch Ultra retails for $799 and is available on September 23.
Display: 1.2-inch 240x240 pixels | Battery Life (GPS tracking mode): 25 hours | Dimensions: 43x43x10.6 mm | Weight: 62 grams | Water/Dust Resistance: 100m | Band Size: 22mm
The Suunto 9 Peak is the company's newest GPS sports watch that is also its thinnest, smallest, and toughest model released yet. Despite the thin, sleek, stainless steel design, the watch also has 25 hours of battery life with the best GPS mode enabled and up to 170 hours in Tour mode.
Over 80 sports modes are part of the Suunto fitness experience, including running, swimming, cycling, hiking, and more. 100m water resistance, blood oxygen measurements, a new optical heart rate sensor, and wireless firmware updates are provided in this new Suunto watch. A titanium option, 15% lighter, is also available.
Incoming calls, messages, and notifications are provided through your connected smartphone. Connectivity to third-party apps such as Strava, TrainingPeaks, Endomondo, and more are also provided.
We chose the Coros PACE 2 for its affordability, customized workout screens, and you can run power from the wrist. However, with an abundance of exceptional options available, this table can help you compare the best models based on pricing and special features.
Coros PACE 2
Custom workout screens, running power from the wrist or Stryd
Coros Apex Pro
Premium materials, powerful smartphone app
Coros Vertix 2
Built to withstand all environment, powerful smartphone app
Garmin MARQ Series
Stunning design and materials, capable at multi-sport activity tracking
Garmin Fenix 7 series
Useful LED flashlight on some models, vast performance metrics
Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE
Integrated, low-cost LTE service option, accurate GPS and heart rate tracking
Gorgeous, brilliant AMOLED touchscreen display, vast performance metrics
Garmin Venu Plus
Phone call and voice assistant support, touchscreen and button navigation interface
Polar Grit X Pro
Detailed sleep tracking and recovery algorithms, useful always-on outdoor dashboards
Polar Vantage V2
A vast amount of data captured, accurate wrist-based heart monitor
Apple Watch Ultra
36-hours of battery life, action button for quick access to exercise apps
Suunto 9 Peak
Ultra-thin design, premium stainless steel and sapphire glass materials
It depends on your purposes for using it and how much money you want to spend. If budget isn't a concern, then options like the Garmin Epix or Apple Watch Ultra provide you with beautiful displays and advanced performance metrics. Meanwhile, the Coros PACE 2 is an excellent starter watch, as it contains custom workout screens, and the price is very reasonable.
If you want or are…
Coros PACE 2
Coros Apex Pro
Best battery life
Coros Vertix 2
Best for ultras, music lovers, and mountain adventures
Garmin MARQ Series
Garmin Fenix 7 series
Best for multi-sport athletes
Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE
Best sports watch for running without phone
Garmin Venu Plus
Best for connected experiences
Polar Grit X Pro
Best for outdoor workouts
Polar Vantage V2
Best Garmin alternative
Apple Watch Ultra
Best for Apple users
Suunto 9 Peak
Best for nearly perfect GPS
Exercise is a part of my life, and just about every watch in this list has been mounted on my wrist for extensive testing, primarily while running and biking. For those we haven't personally tested, we read online reviews with Ray Maker's site, DC Rainmaker, serving as one of the best resources available while Des Yap's YouTube channel is one you must watch for great coverage of the latest and greatest in sports wearables.
I've spent decades using GPS sports watches to track running, biking, hiking, and more. While these capture an extensive amount of detailed data, battery life has risen to the top of my priorities, and a Garmin 945 LTE or Coros Vertix 2 was my best option. However, as soon as Garmin released the Epix with that stunning AMOLED display, I ordered it that day, and it has been my daily driver.
I use my watch to track my 24/7 activity, help me improve my running performance, and inform me about things I can do to improve my overall health and wellness, so all of the extras in a smartwatch are fun but not essential.
One aspect we have seen over the past few years that can be used to differentiate between these GPS watches is the update process. When you spend hundreds of dollars on a GPS sports watch and want to use it for years to track your progress, improve your performance, and run reports, it is important to stick with one company. Hopefully, that also means using a watch for years as well.
Coros has set the bar over the past couple of years with limited hardware releases and major software updates that have added an extensive number of features. The company even released an update for the Vertix that added touch-screen capability. When you buy a Coros watch, you can likely count on it having the latest and greatest software for three years and having a battery life that will last you at least a week with sports tracking for several events.
Polar has also shown to provide software support and major feature updates for years, along with a longer period of time between hardware releases. Garmin tends to flood the market with various models of hardware, and we see some new features on new hardware that are not supported on previous generations.
While smartwatches all have touchscreen displays, GPS sports watch tend to have either hardware button navigation or touchscreen navigation. Some watches also offer a combination of the two (Coros Vertix 2, Garmin Venu 2, Suunto 9 Peak, Polar Grit X Pro, and Polar Vantage V2).
It often comes down to what activities you engage in and the environment you perform them in. For example, I run in the rain and the dark in the fall and winter, so touchscreens have been finicky for me in the past. I can always rely on hardware buttons and even use them without having to look at the watch face. Touchscreen displays are often disengaged while working out, which is the best of both worlds.
So, after all of that, which GPS sports watch do you choose for tracking your running? Here are a few key questions to ask yourself to help filter your choices:
Feel free to ask me questions here or on Twitter and I can share some of my personal experiences to advise you on your choice.
Here is another option to consider: