Setting the pace: the best Garmin watches of 2024

Step up your fitness game with the best Garmin watches of the year

Garmin forerunner 255 and Garmin forerunner 55 - best Garmin Watch

by Steven Shaw |
Updated on

Whether you plan on running an ultra-marathon or just want to watch your daily activity levels, the best Garmin watches offer all the functionality you want. As one of the best-known brands in the world of fitness trackers, Garmin has built a reputation for delivering some of the best health and fitness devices on the market.

Garmin has an extensive collection of smartwatches and fitness bands specialising in tracking your health and fitness. If you’re looking for a “true” smartwatch experience, like you might get from a Samsung Galaxy Watch, a Google Pixel Watch or an Apple Watch, these devices may not be ideal for you. But, if smartwatch features are secondary to having some of the most comprehensive health tracking metrics, then a Garmin device should be one of the first brands you consider.

Best Garmin watches of 2024 at a glance

• Best overall Garmin watch: Garmin Venu 3 GPS smartwatch - View on John Lewis
• Best budget Garmin watch: Garmin Vivosmart 5 Smart Activity Tracker - View at Amazon
• Best rugged Garmin watch: Garmin Instinct 2X Solar –View on Amazon

So, what is it that you'll really need from a fitness-tracking smartwatch? Are you looking to receive notifications from calls, texts, and apps? Are you concerned about looks, or do you want an incredibly advanced array of fitness and health-tracking tools? Of course, much of this will come down to what you spend your time doing and how you plan to use your watch. We've looked at the features ideal for several types of users, from gym-goers and joggers to swimmers and outdoorsy types. A buyer's guide is at the end of the article to help you choose your preferred features.

If you're relatively new to fitness tracking, we guarantee that our picks for the best Garmin watches of the year will offer something suitable. It never fails to impress us how many advanced sensors and functionality can possibly fit into some of these, and we know firsthand that they're seriously impressive health and fitness aids. So, on your marks, get set, and let's go.

Best Garmin watches of 2024

All prices are correct at the time of writing. Prices, stock and deals are subject to change without notice.

Best Garmin Watch Overall

Garmin Venu 3 best Garmin watchGarmin
Price: $399.99 (was 449.99)
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The Garmin Venu 3 is the closest that any Garmin device comes to being a fully-fledged smartwatch. As a result, this is the Garmin device does everything well, whether you’re buying it for serious fitness tracking or more casual purposes. It’s also one of the best-looking Garmin devices currently available. While some Garmin devices are very clearly designed with sports in mind, this watch won’t look out of place, whether you’re gearing up for an intense workout or cocktails. 

It’s much more than a (very) pretty watchface, however. The Venu 3 packs in a wealth of health and fitness tracking tools, including a sleep coach, Garmin’s excellent Body Battery tool, Morning Report, and even tools to explain how a workout will affect your body, and how long it will take to recover. There’s also the usual heart rate, sleep, steps, and calorie monitoring. Built-in GPS makes this incredibly accurate for tracking runs and bike rides, training plans developed by experts, running metrics, and even a wheelchair mode for tracking pushes, rather than steps.

The Venu 3 also has a built-in mic and speaker, allowing you to take calls on your wrist via a connected smartphone. You can also listen to downloaded music from Spotify, Amazon, and Deezer. In short, it’s a brilliant device, perfect for a wide range of users.

Pros

  • Brilliant AMOLED display
  • Built-in mic and speaker for taking calls
  • Impressive battery life

Cons

  • Limited app store means this isn't a "true" smartwatch
  • Big price jump from the Venu 2
  • Design:
    5.0
  • Features:
    5.0
  • Performance:
    4.5
  • Value:
    4.0
Display:1.4-inch AMOLED, 454 x 454 pixels
Battery Life:Up to 14 days
GPS:GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO
Water Resistance:5 ATM
Compatibility:iOs and Android
Dimensions:45 x 45 x 12 mm
Weight:46 grams

If you’re unsure about whether to go for a smartwatch or fitness tracker, or maybe you’re just embarking on your fitness journey, then the Garmin Vivosmart 5 is a great, affordable way to dip your toe into the water. And it’s considerably cheaper than most Garmin devices, with an RRP of £129.99, and often available for less.  

It’s a fitness tracker rather than a watch, which means it has a much smaller and slimmer profile. The screen is black and white but clear and easy to read. And there are plenty of health and fitness metrics to take advantage of: heart rate, blood oxygen, sleep, stress, steps and calories are all tracked, while you still get features such as Body Battery and Fitness Age. It will buzz to alert you to phone calls and other notifications, but it isn’t a replacement for your phone. And it also relies on connected GPS, which means it’s a little less accurate than a Garmin with GPS built-in.  

This isn’t a device that will appeal to those who want the best of everything. But, if you’re looking for a comprehensive fitness tracker that doesn’t cost loads, but still gives you access to plenty of insights into your health and fitness, it’s a great choice.

Pros

  • Reliably provides all of the key stats you need
  • Plenty of fitness trackers to use, including blood oxygen and heart rate
  • Great battery life - use for a whole week without recharging

Cons

  • Fairly basic features compared to some
  • No GPS for route tracking or mapping
  • Design:
    3.5
  • Build:
    4.0
  • Features:
    3.5
  • Value for money:
    5.0
Display:6.6 x 17.7mm OLED, 88 x 154 pixels
Battery Life:Up to seven days
GPS:Connected-GPS only
Water Resistance:5 ATM
Compatibility:iOS and Android
Dimensions:19.5 x 10.7 x 217 mm (small strap), 19.5 x 10.7 x 255 mm (large strap)
Weight:24.5 grams (small), 26.5 grams (large)

Best rugged Garmin watch

Garmin Instinct 2X SolarGarmin
Price: £399.99

If you enjoy going off the beaten track, you’ll probably need a device that can withstand some harder conditions. Garmin’s Instinct 2X Solar edition is the best Garmin for the job. The ‘X’ is the largest model in the instinct range, bringing a bigger screen, a built-in flashlight and multi-band GPS for extra accuracy when you’re in the middle of nowhere. 

You won’t need to worry about the battery. In smartwatch mode, Garmin says this watch will deliver a frankly ridiculous 40 days (about 1 and a half months) between charges, while the solar charging lens means it can – potentially - be unlimited. It produces 50 per cent more energy than the standard Instinct 2 Solar edition. This also means up to 145 hours (about 6 days) of battery life while using GPS.

It also has plenty of tools for outdoor adventures: Trackback routing helps you navigate the same route back to your starting point, and reference points mean you can easily find your way back to a designated spot, such as your car. There are some helpful safety and tracking features, as well as a host of other health and activity tracking metrics. These include daily suggested workouts, obstacle course tracking, recovery time, and the usual heart, sleep and other data you would expect to see. 

The screen isn’t as sharp as the best AMOLED displays on some Garmin devices, and it lacks full map support that you’ll find on some other Garmin watches, such as the Fenix 7. But its rugged design and stellar battery are seriously impressive.

Pros

  • Incredible battery life
  • Built with military-grade protection for shock, water and thermal resistance
  • Built-in torch for lowlight conditions includes a red safety light
  • Plenty of health and fitness tracking tools

Cons

  • Disappointing screen resolution
  • Lacks full map support
  • Design:
    4.5
  • Features:
    4.5
  • Performance:
    5.0
  • Value:
    4.0
Display:1.1-inch, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP), 176 x 176 pixels
Battery Life:Up to 40 days / unlimited with solar
GPS:GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO
Water Resistance:10ATM
Compatibility:iOS and Android
Dimensions:50 x 50 x 14.5 mm
Weight:67 grams

Best mid-range Garmin watch

Garmin forerunner 265Garmin

The Forerunner 265 is the updated version of the Forerunner 255, which we also love. It’s a superb mid-range running watch that is suitable for beginner and intermediate fitness fans, offering all the usual Garmin health and fitness tracking metrics that you should expect.  

The display is a gorgeous AMOLED touchscreen that is easy to read and simple to use—it's a significant update over the Forerunner 255. It still keeps the impressive battery life of its predecessor, offering up to 15 days (about 2 weeks) between charges in smartwatch mode and 24 hours in GPS mode (depending on which model you get). Talking of GPS, the multi-band GPS on this watch is seriously impressive and highly accurate.  

In addition to the usual health tracking, there are plenty of running-focused tools to help you smash your PB: these include race-adaptive training plans to tailor your training for your next event, running metrics such as cadence, stride length and ground contact time, running power, and pace guidance. 

With an RRP of £429, this certainly isn’t a bargain. But you’re getting an exceptionally polished package, perfect for supporting most runners, unless you absolutely need maps.

Pros

  • Superb AMOLED display
  • Dedicated run button is great for cold weather running
  • More affordable than many Garmin running watches

Cons

  • Better screen has reduced battery life slightly
  • Doesn't offer maps
  • Design:
    5.0
  • Features:
    4.5
  • Performance:
    5.0
  • Value:
    4.0
Display:1.3-inch AMOLED, 416 x 416 pixels
Battery Life:Up to 13 days
GPS:GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO
Water Resistance:5 ATM
Compatibility:iOS and Android
Dimensions:46.1 x 46.1 x 12.9 mm
Weight:47 grams

Best cheaper alternative mid-range Garmin watch

What's The Best/Steven Shaw

If you like the look of the Forerunner 265, but aren't so keen on the price tag, then the Garmin Forerunner 255 is definitely worth considering. It has almost all the same features as the newer model, and is available for much less. while the RRP is £299.99, we've seen it available for much closer to £200, making this an absolute bargain.

The single biggest difference between the Forerunner 255 and the 265 is the absence of the AMOLED display, which is significantly better than the memory-in-pixel display you'll get on the 255. But leaving that aside, the Forerunner 255 offers loads of health and fitness tracking metrics, which will likely be more than enough for most people.

Sleep, heart rate, blood oxygen and stress are all monitored by this watch, while Body Battery, Fitness Age, and VO2 Max scores are all available too. The built-in GPS is very accurate, and as we wrote in our Garmin Forerunner 255 review, we love the Garmin Connect app.

Like the Forerunner 265, it still doesn't offer many smartwatch features. And the screen is a little on the dull side. But if you aren't fussed about the screen, or just want to save some pennies, you could do a lot worse than the Forerunner 255.

Pros

  • 14-day battery life is very good
  • Accurate GPS tracking
  • Plenty of health and fitness metrics

Cons

  • Screen isn't the brightest or sharpest
  • Design:
    4.0
  • Features:
    4.5
  • Performance:
    4.5
  • Value:
    4.0
Display:1.3-inch Transflective memory-in-pixel, 260 x 260 pixels
Battery Life:Up to 14 days
GPS:GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO
Water Resistance:5ATM
Compatibility:iOS and Android
Dimensions:45.6 x 45.6 x 12.9 (mm)
Weight: 49 grams

Best Garmin watch for music

What's The Best / William Austin-Lobley

For the technological capabilities of Garmin's Venu 2 at a much lower price, the Venu Sq 2 is the definitive answer. With a squared-off, contoured design similar to the Apple Watch, this modern aesthetic might not be for everyone—but it still has its appeal. It is sleek, comfortable, and has pretty much all the same features as the Venu 2—bar the barometric altimeter and an internal gyroscope, which, while useful for hands-free interaction, isn't all that important.

The Garmin Venu Sq 2 contains everything you'll need to begin your illustrious fitness journey - inside and outside of the gym. Planning a hike? Get access to the latest GPS mapping so you don't encounter any unexpected roadblocks or well-hidden impassable streams. Trying to really feel the burn? Use one of the many pre-built cardio routines to set yourself an exercise challenge perfectly suited to your ability. The Garmin Venu Sq 2 is quite simply an excellent all-around smartwatch for both the general day-to-day or for those most intense, extreme workouts.

Pros

  • Modern design means this can be worn anywhere
  • Decent amount of storage for your MP3s
  • Extra peace of mind thanks to Abnormal Heart Rate monitoring and more well-being tools

Cons

  • Doesn't have all the sensors the Venu 2 has
  • The square shape isn't for everyone
  • Design:
    4.5
  • Features
    4.0
  • Performance:
    4.5
  • Value:
    4.0
Display:1.4-inch AMOLED, 320x 360 pixels
Battery:Up to 11 days
GPS:GPA, GLONASS, GALILEO
Water Resistance5 ATM
Compatibility:iOS and Android
Dimensions:40.6 x 37.0 x 11.1 mm
Weight: 38 grams

Best fashionable Garmin Watch

Garmin MARQ Athlete Edition (2nd Gen)Garmin
Price: £1599.99

www.garmin.com

If money is no object, and style is a major factor, then the Garmin MARQ Athlete is the ultra-premium device that we think is prettier than any other Garmin watch. It also offers a comprehensive suite of fitness and health tracking metrics, so it’s just as good at tracking your activity as many less glamorous Garmin devices. 

The beautiful AMOLED screen uses sapphire crystal for extra durability alongside a titanium case. It’s also waterproof to 100 metres. The bezel displays your VO2 Max and your recovery time at a glance, while the battery lasts up to 16 days (about 2 and a half weeks), or six days if you have the display on all the time. 

The MARQ Athlete watch has all the features you’d expect from a high-end Garmin watch – the usual heart, sleep and other health-tracking metrics are all here. But there are also animated workouts on the watch, and lots of running-focused tools as well, including running power, a race widget, Garmin Coach, PacePro to keep you on pace, real-time stamina data, and much more. There’s even a jet lag adviser to help you minimise the effects of long-distance travel. 

With an RRP of £1599.99, this watch clearly isn’t for everyone. But if style matters, and you can afford it, it’s one of the best-looking smartwatches around.

Pros

  • Absolutely beautiful design
  • Plenty of fitness tracking tools
  • Premium materials used

Cons

  • Can get the same features on cheaper Garmin watches
  • Eye-wateringly expensive
  • Design:
    5.0
  • Features:
    4.5
  • Performance:
    4.0
  • Value:
    2.0
Display:1.2-inch AMOLED, 390 x 390 pixels
Battery Life:Up to 16 days
GPS:GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO
Water Resistance:10 ATM
Compatibility:iOS and Android
Dimensions:46 x 15 mm
Weight:84 grams

Best Garmin watch for advanced runners

Garmin Epix Pro Gen 2Garmin
Price: £679.99 (was 739.99)

www.johnlewis.com

Whether you’re a marathon runner, ultramarathon runner, trail runner, or just want to smash your personal best at your local park run, a watch that gives you all the insights you could want is a valuable companion. In our view, the Garmin Epix Pro (2nd Gen) is the current best choice to put on your wrist. 

Like most of the devices on our shortlist, the Epix Pro has many health and fitness metrics to help keep you in top condition. But it also adds some extra features, such as your Endurance score and Hill score, which are valuable insights if you’re training for a long-distance event. Hill score lets you know how you cope with – you've guessed it – running up a hill. You can get insights into how good you are on steep ascents or your endurance on longer climbs.  

You can also access and use full-colour maps, which look great on the superb AMOLED screen. Battery life is no slouch, either. You can get up to 16 days (about 2 and a half weeks) in smartwatch mode and up to 42 hours (about 2 days) in GPS mode—plenty for all but the most extreme outdoor events.  

If you’re new to running, this might be a little overwhelming – a lot of data is available on this watch. The £739.99 RRP also puts it towards the top end of the price scale. But if you’re a seasoned runner who wants more support or insight into your training, this is about as good as it gets.

Pros

  • New Endurance and Hill scores are useful
  • Offers a huge number of other health and fitness metrics
  • Maps look great on the AMOLED display

Cons

  • No solar charging on a device this expensive is disappointing
  • Design:
    4.5
  • Features:
    5.0
  • Performance:
    5.0
  • Value:
    3.5
Display:1.4-inch AMOLED, 454 x 454 pixels
Battery Life:Up to 31 days
GPS:GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO
Water Resistance:10 ATM
Compatibility:iOS and Android
Dimensions:51 x 51 x 14.9 mm
Weight:98 grams

Best Garmin Watch for triathletes

Garmin Forerunner 965Garmin
Price: £569.00

The Garmin Forerunner 965 is an update on the Forerunner 955 – itself an excellent multi-sports watch. The Forerunner 965 offers all the health and fitness tracking metrics of its predecessor and comes with the bonus of a beautiful AMOLED screen. The display is clear and very bright, making it much easier to read in sunny conditions, as well as making maps clearer. 

It has all the usual training and recovery insights you’d hope to see, multi-band GPS for extremely accurate location tracking, and more than 30 different sports modes, including triathlon and biathlon tracking modes. There’s also onboard music playback, offline maps, a flashlight feature, and smart notifications for emails, texts and other alerts.  

The Forerunner 965 also has outstanding battery life – up to 23 days (about 3 and a half weeks) in smartwatch mode, and eight-and-a-half hours if you turn on all the GNSS tracking systems and play music as well. 

Despite being an outstanding watch for triathletes and runners, it does come in only one size. The Forerunner 265 we highlighted earlier is a suitable alternative for those who prefer something a little smaller. The RRP of £599.99 again means this won’t be for everyone, but if you can afford it, it’s an excellent choice.

Pros

  • Exceptional battery life
  • Loads of useful training metrics for runners and triathletes
  • High-quality materials make this feel like a premium device

Cons

  • Only comes in one size
  • Limited smartwatch features
  • Design:
    5.0
  • Features:
    4.0
  • Performance:
    4.5
  • Value:
    4.0
Display:1.4-inch AMOLED, 454 x 454 pixels
Battery Life:Up to 23 days
GPS:GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO
Water Resistance:5ATM
Compatibility:iOS and Android
Dimensions:47.1 x 47.1 x 13.2 (mm)
Weight:53 grams

Best Garmin watch for beginners

Garmin forerunner 55Garmin

If you are just getting started with running and want something to give you some help along the way without paying the premium prices of some of the Garmin watches we’ve already listed, consider the Garmin Forerunner 55. As the lower number implies, it isn’t as sophisticated as the Forerunner 265 or the Forerunner 965. But the benefit is that it makes it more accessible for beginners, and considerably cheaper, with an RRP of £179.99. 

Yes, you’ll miss out on some advanced training features such as Endurance score and Hill score, for example. But for a beginner, these are arguably unnecessary. More important are features such as Garmin Coach, PacePro (which uses GPS to give you pace guidance), cadence alerts, and recovery advice. All of these are included alongside common metrics such as heart rate, sleep, and step tracking. GPS is accurate, and the Garmin Coach provides structured training plans for 5K, 10K and half-marathon runs, to help you find your feet. 

The screen isn’t as good as some of the best watches, and you can’t use it to listen to music as you go. But, at the sub-£200 price, this is an excellent entry-level device, that’s perfect for beginners.

Pros

  • Excellent insights to help beginners
  • Plenty of tools to support improvements in running
  • Very affordable

Cons

  • Screen isn't as good as other devices
  • Lacks several more advanced running metrics that some could find helpful
  • Design:
    3.5
  • Features:
    3.5
  • Performance:
    4.0
  • Value:
    4.5
Display:1.04-inch transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP), 208 x 208 pixels
Battery Life:Up to two weeks
GPS:GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO
Water Resistance:5 ATM
Compatibility:iOS and Android
Dimensions:42 x 42 x 11.6 mm
Weight:37 grams

Buying guide: the best Garmin watches of 2024

Shape, size and weight

Depending on the kind of fitness activities you do, the size and shape of the best Garmin for you might be dictated by the functions you need. For instance, not all runners like a larger, heavier watch on their wrist. Equally, many gym-goers will want lots of data on a decent-sized screen, but have little use for a Garmin with GPS.

Finding the best Garmin watches really comes down to what suits your health and fitness needs. It's a highly individual choice, but to help you narrow things down we've looked at some of the basic considerations, and noted features that suit the most common categories of Garmin users.

Runners

Here, a lightweight and low-profile fitness tracker is preferable to anything more bulky. Waterproofing or sweat resistance is another essential. For route tracking and mapping, definitely look for a Garmin with GPS.

Gym-goers

Once again, GPS is much less of a priority if you're primarily going to be in the gym. Sweat resistance is a must-have though. Plus, you should choose a Garmin with a large enough screen. Also consider music storage and playback functionality to unchain you from the smartphone. But, do take note of the width and comfort of the strap, especially if weight-lifting; as you won't want anything restricting your flexibility.

Swimmers

Yes, it's waterproofing that takes the lead here in terms of features. However, you may want something that's thinner and lighter than most. This will avoid unnecessary drag or fowling up your backstroke.

Outdoor activities

Most outdoor activities include a mixture of all of the above. But, adventurous types really should look at getting the best Garmin with GPS. Not only is this an additional safety feature for longer excursions, but it'll be fascinating to see where you actually went if you're not following a set route. Lastly, a rugged Garmin is best for those who find themselves mountain biking or tackling rough terrain.

When to spend extra on a Garmin with GPS

Global Positioning System (GPS) is a feature that will track your route via satellite coordinates. Garmin has a stellar reputation for reliability and accuracy in the world of GPS fitness trackers. But, as impressive as it is, not everyone needs it - preferring more sensors for feeding extra data to their chosen fitness apps instead. That said, for the highly target-driven among you, GPS is the best feature you can have in any Garmin fitness tracker.

Ensure compatibility with your smartphone

Thankfully, Garmins and the Garmin Connect app will work seamlessly with either Android or iOS. If you have an older smartphone you may want to check that your app is updated and will run.

Lastly, If you already have a favourite fitness tracking app, ensure that the best Garmin watch for you can provide the right kind of data to it.

Front of Garmin Forerunner 55, and rear of Garmin Forerunner 255
©What's The Best/Steven Shaw

FAQ: best Garmin watches of 2024

Is a Garmin watch worth it?

Garmin watches are some of the most technologically advanced, aesthetically brilliant and competitively priced smartwatches on the market - so, yes, they most certainly are worth checking out.

Will Garmin watches work with an iPhone or Samsung?

Absolutely - Garmin watches work perfectly well with both iPhone and Android devices, as long as your device can run the Garmin Connect app you'll have access to all of the features too. Many other fitness trackers are compatible with Android devices, but few are as comprehensive as Garmin for cross-platform functionality.

How does Garmin GPS work?

Garmin GPS works by using GPS satellites which rotate around the Earth twice a day precisely. The Garmin watch receives this satellite information and uses a process called trilateration to determine your exact location.

How accurate is the Garmin GPS?

Garmin GPS is brilliantly accurate - with precise tracking within ten metres of your exact location. The precision greatly improves in water, where there are fewer environmental obstacles.

Summary: the best Garmin watches of 2024

Garmin is one of the best-known brands in the world of fitness-focused smartwatches. They are incredibly accurate, detailed, and the Garmin Connect app is one of the best companion apps on the market. But all that excellence also means that Garmin devices come at a premium price.

That being said, not every Garmin watch is incredibly expensive, with options such as the Forerunner 55 and Vivosmart 5 both available for under £200. Newer, pricier options tend to come with more features and better screens, and in our view, still represent good value given how comprehensive they are.

You will miss some smartwatch features. Few, if any, Garmin watches are what we’d consider a “true” smartwatch. Some will allow you to play music, receive notifications, and take calls. But they don’t have the same versatility or the sheer variety of apps that are available on smartwatches such as the Google Pixel Watch or Apple Watch. For some people, it’s those elements that are most important. But if your primary concern is health and fitness tracking, Garmin really does offer something for almost any budget, and any level of experience.

How we chose:

When drawing up our shortlist, we considered a range of factors: design, features, performance, and value were all important. How do these devices look? Are the materials good quality? What features do they offer? Are they missing anything we’d consider essential?

How accurate are they? How good is the battery life (although Garmin tends to deliver excellent battery life in all its devices)? And in terms of value, do we feel these watches offer something that’s worth buying at the RRP? How do they compare to alternative Garmin devices, or devices from competitors that might be targeting similar customers?

After comparing them, we selected devices that we felt were the best examples of Garmin watches in each category.

Steven Shaw is a Senior Digital Writer covering tech and fitness. Steven writes how-to guides, explainers, reviews and best-of listicles covering a wide range of topics. He has several years of experience writing about fitness tech, mobile phones, and gaming.

When Steven isn’t writing, he’s probably testing a new smartwatch or fitness tracker, putting it through its paces with a variety of strength training, HIIT, or yoga. He also loves putting on a podcast and going for a long walk.

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