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The best sports watches you can buy

The best sports watches capture more than just your outdoor GPS track with advanced metrics for recovery, sleep, and detailed training guidance without a coach.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer
Garmin Fenix 7 Series | Best sports watch overall
Garmin Fenix 7 Series
Best sports watch overall
View now View at Garmin
Coros Vertix 2 | Best sports watch for endurance athletes
Coros Vertix 2
Best sports watch for endurance athletes
View now View at Amazon
Coros Pace 3 | Best value sports watch
Coros Pace 3
Best value sports watch
View now View at Amazon
Garmin Forerunner 965 | Best sports watch for running
Garmin Forerunner 965
Best sports watch for running
View now View at Walmart
Garmin Epix Pro (Gen 2) | Best sports watch for mapping
Garmin Epix Pro (Gen 2)
Best sports watch for mapping
View now View at Garmin
Polar Vantage V3 | Best sports watch for extensive analytics
Polar Vantage V3
Best sports watch for extensive analytics
View now View at Polar
Apple Watch Ultra 2 | Best sports watch for Apple users
Training Peaks integrated into Apple Workout
Apple Watch Ultra 2
Best sports watch for Apple users
View now View at Apple
Show more (2 items)

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.

Also: The best sleep trackers you can buy

Polar, Garmin, and Coros also provide websites with access to all of the data captured by the sports watch. In addition to data access, you can create detailed reports, create and customize training plans that are synced to your watch, and share data with coaches.

ZDNET's top pick for the best sports watch is the Garmin Fenix 7 series, but we also included other watch brands that I've personally used and tested so you can find the right one for you and your health journey. 

The best sports watches of 2024

Pros & Cons
  • Long battery life with solar options
  • Extensive size and feature choices
  • Useful LED flashlight on some models
  • Vast performance metrics
  • Improved smartphone experience
  • Expensive
  • No phone or voice assistant support
More Details

Garmin Fenix 7 Series tech specs: 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 19 different size/edition models are available, with prices ranging from $449.99 to $799.99.

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.

Pros & Cons
  • Built to withstand all environments
  • Premium materials
  • Extremely long battery life
  • Powerful smartphone app
  • No support for subscription music services
  • Limited sleep tracking
More Details

Coros Vertix 2 tech specs: 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 and website 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.

Pros & Cons
  • Very long battery life
  • Lightweight
  • Custom workout screens
  • Running power from the wrist
  • Affordable
  • Limited smartwatch functionality
More Details

Coros Pace 3 tech specs: Display: 1.2-inch 240x240 pixels | Battery Life (GPS tracking mode): 38 hours | Dimensions: 42x42x11.7 mm | Weight: 30 grams | Water/Dust Resistance: 5 ATM | Band Size: 22mm

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 3 is the lightest GPS sports watch available and despite the light weight it packs a serious punch.

The Pace 3 has a 1.2-inch 240x240 color touchscreen display with a rotating dial helps you easily navigate the watch interface. The watch incorporates a 22mm quick-release band system so you can swap it out with your preferred band. The watch weighs in at only 30g with the nylon band and 35g with the silicone band.

38 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. 

Pros & Cons
  • Lightweight and comfortable
  • Large, gorgeous display
  • Long battery life
  • Nearly unlimited customizability of data screens
  • Accurate GPS and heart rate tracking
  • Expensive
More Details

Garmin Forerunner 965 tech specs: Display: 1.4-inch 454x454 pixels | Battery Life (GPS tracking mode): 31 hours | Dimensions: 47.2x47.2x13.2 mm | Weight: 53 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 latest Garmin 965 (see our full review) brings a lovely AMOLED display to the Forerunner series with every metric and option that a runner needs to excel in training and races.

Maps are available for hiking and skiing with point-to-point navigation, points of interest, Nextfork trail navigation, and more. Advanced training features include Load Ratio, Chronic Load, Acute Load, real-time Stamina, ClimbPro, heat and altitude acclimation, and much more. If you are a triathlete, the Forerunner 965 is clearly the preferred watch for your activity.

The Forerunner 265 will likely meet the needs of most runners for $150 less than the Forerunner 965.

Pros & Cons
  • Gorgeous, brilliant AMOLED touchscreen display
  • Extensive size and feature options
  • Solid battery life
  • Vast performance metrics
  • Improved smartphone experience
  • Expensive
  • No phone call or voice assistant support
More Details

Garmin Epix Pro (Gen 2) tech specs: 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 was nearly perfect and then perfection was achieved when Garmin added the LED flashlight, now available as the Garmin Epix Pro.

A big AMOLED display is key to viewing maps. In addition, Garmin provides accurate and detailed maps with multiple satellite options defining your precise location.

Touch screen capability is available while the traditional Garmin five-button interface is also present to give you access to all options for navigating the watch. It is available in three sizes, 42mm, 47mm, and 51mm. 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 Garmin Epix Pro connects seamlessly to Android and iOS smartphones too, in addition to golf club sensors, bike sensors, and more. Just about every sport is covered, including pickleball, with an updated smartphone experience so you can customize the watch settings on your phone and sync them over to the watch.

Pros & Cons
  • Well designed and comfortable
  • Tons of data captured
  • Brilliant AMOLED display
  • Long battery life
  • No offline music support
  • Heart rate tracking is not up to Polar standards
More Details

Polar Vantage V3 tech specs: Display: 1.39-inch 454x454 pixels | Battery Life (GPS tracking mode): 61 hours | Dimensions: 47x50x14.5 mm | Weight: 57 grams | Water/Dust Resistance: 5m | Band Size: 22mm 

The Polar Vantage V3 is the latest sports watch available from the company with a focus on multiple new sensors and features. If you are looking for the most exhaustive smartphone application and website for analyzing your data and running reports then a Polar watch is the way to access that data. The custom training plans are fantastic, even for offseason training.

While Polar has always excelled at heart rate tracking, it looks like a software update is need to fix some early issues with the sensor. The watch has multi-band GPS and tracking is excellent. Blood oxygen, wrist-based ECG, nightly skin temperature, and more are provided by the Vantage V3.

This Polar's first GPS sports watch with an AMOLED display under curved Gorilla Glass 3 material. Offline maps are also provided for phone-free navigation. More than 150 sports profiles are included so you can be certain that the Vantage V3 will track every activity.

Pros & Cons
  • 36 hours of battery life
  • Bright display
  • Rugged design accounts for variety of terrain and temperatures
  • Action button allows quick access to exercise apps
  • Cellular support
  • It's pricey
More Details

Apple Watch Ultra 2 tech specs: 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 

When the Apple Watch Ultra first debuted in 2022, many comparisons were made between it and sports watches from Garmin, Coros, and Polar. But that first-generation Watch Ultra, it turns out, wasn't quite ready to take over the wrist from dedicated GPS sports watches. Still, the potential was certainly there.

One year later, when the Watch Ultra 2 along with WatchOS 10 arrived, it became clear that Apple was continuing to develop its smartwatch platform into one suited for athletes. One feature revealed at WWDC was the introduction of APIs designed for exercise developers to send custom workouts directly into the Apple Watch Workout app.

With the custom training plan integration into the Apple Workout app, deep integration into Apple Health, and extensive sensors in the watch, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 will have athletes questioning the need for a dedicated GPS sports watch. The Watch Ultra 2 comes with advanced metrics for stride length, ground contact time, and running power. Support for mapping has also been integrated and the last major hurdle to compete with other GPS sports watches is extending the battery life for longer than two days.

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 features a programmable action button, along with the right side button and digital crown. The action button allows you to choose quick access to many apps, like Workouts, Backtracks, and much more.

What is the best sports watch?

We chose the Garmin Fenix 7X for its long battery life, support for just about every activity/sport you can participate in, and LED flashlight. However, with an abundance of exceptional options available, this table can help you compare the best models based on pricing and special features. 

Sports watch


Special features

Garmin Fenix 7X


Long battery life with solar options, LED flashlight, ever sport included

Coros Vertix 2


Built to withstand all environments, powerful smartphone app 

Coros Pace 3 


Light weight, extensive features, long battery life      

Garmin Forerunner 965 


Brilliant AMOLED, extensive recovery and training metrics, light weight

Garmin Epix Pro


Gorgeous AMOLED touchscreen display, vast performance metrics

Polar Vantage V3


A vast amount of data captured, lovely display, accurate GPS tracking      

Apple Watch Ultra 2


36-hours of battery life, action button for quick access to exercise apps

Which sports watch is right for you?

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 Pro or Apple Watch Ultra 2 provide you with beautiful displays and advanced performance metrics. Meanwhile, the Coros PACE 3 is an excellent starter watch, as it contains custom workout screens, and the price is very reasonable. 

Sports watch…

If you want or are…

Garmin Fenix 7X

An athlete that participates in an extensive variety of sports, wants custom workout data screens, and uses their watch for everything

Coros Vertix 2

A rugged watch to withstand all environments and a generous battery life

Coros Pace 3

Lowest price option that doesn't compromise on features for most runners and athletes      

Garmin Forerunner 965

Best sports watch for runners and triathletes looking for a watch with a lovely AMOLED display      

Garmin Epix Pro

Best Garmin with a modern display, LED flashlight, and extensive support for a variety of activities

Polar Vantage V3

Easy custom training plan creation that incorporates running with strength, stretching, and other workouts. Vast access to data for detailed reports      

Apple Watch Ultra 2

Best for Apple users with rugged design, 36 hours of battery life, and action button for quick access to exercise apps 

How did we choose these sports watches?

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.  

We also considered functionality and pricing when making out choices. After all, not all buyers' budgets are the same, it's why we chose options ranging from $200 up to $1,500. 

These all look like great options, but what do you use daily and why?

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. However, when Garmin released watches with a LED flashlight, those models became my preferred wearable and I use the flashlight daily. 

Thus, a Garmin Epix Pro is one one wrist. It could be replaced by a Coros Vertix if there was a flashlight since I don't use that many of Garmin's lifestyle features.

An Apple Watch Ultra 2 is on my other wrist and as Apple continues to include better support for training plans and advanced metrics then one day I may only wear one watch.

How's the track record for updates?

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.

Garmin used to let me down with a lack of updates, but now supports an easily accessible public beta program and provides updates on a quarterly basis. The company has proven to update older models for a couple of years so it is easier to recommend its watches today.

Coros 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. 

Apple is the leader in the smartwatch market and brings its excellent iPhone update process over to the Apple Watch. WatchOS 10 brought exciting new features to the Apple Watch and we are certain to see even more in 2024.

Is a touchscreen or button navigation better?

While smartwatches all have touchscreen displays, GPS sports watch tend to have either hardware button navigation or touchscreen navigation. Most watches also offer a combination of the two so you can decide when to use your preferred method.

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.

Are there alternative sports watches to consider?

This extensive list represents the best sports watches available. However, there is another option worth your consideration: 

View at Wahoo Fitness

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