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We’ve been reviewing wearable tech products for around five years now, but we’ve yet to come out and say what are the best watches that Garmin makes. That’s what we’re doing in this post. If you can only choose one, which Garmin watch should you get and why.
If price is of no concern, the best Garmin watch to go with is the fenix 5 Plus. To be fair though, it’s not just one watch. There are three watches within the fenix 5 Plus lineup.
Water resistant down to 100 meters (5 Plus shown)
The fenix 5S Plus is the smallest of the three watches and has the least battery life. It’s best for individuals with smaller wrists or anyone that just prefers a normal size watch.
Pre-loaded maps (5S Plus shown)
The fenix 5 Plus is the standard model. It has a case size of 47mm and fits comfortably on the average male wrist, although it is a bit heavy at 86g.
The fenix 5X Plus is the most expensive, largest, and most feature-packed watch in the lineup. It also has the best battery life. The big feature that’s new with this device is the Pulse Ox widget that estimates your blood oxygen saturation. This is key for climbers, hikers, trekkers, mountaineers, any anyone doing alpine sports.
Pulse Ox widget on 5X Plus
The reason that we like it so much is that it combines the best of multiple different devices. It’s a running watch, outdoor watch, smart watch, triathlon watch, activity tracker, heart rate monitor, and much more. It even has built-in, navigable maps that allow you to search for items around you and navigate to them.
The watches have onboard storage for music. You can transfer your personal music to the watch or try out iHeartRadio All Access, Deezer Premium, or Spotify Premium, which allow you to create playlists and transfer those to the watch. You can then go running or workout without the need for your phone since your music is on the watch. The only other two Garmin watches right now that have music storage are the Forerunner 645 Music and vivoactive 3 Music.
Garmin fenix 5 Plus connected to Jaybird X3.
Of course, with this many features comes a hefty price tag and, ohhhh does it have a hefty price tag indeed. The fenix 5 Plus watches start at $700 [check price on Amazon] which is no easy pill to swallow and is the reason that I said price cannot be of concern if you’re getting one of these watches.
We’ve done multiple posts on the fenix 5 Plus watches, which you can consult for more details, but the bottom line is that these watches are an amalgam of all of the other devices that Garmin makes. They’re the best of the best and are absolutely loaded with features.
If you’re really into triathlons, the Forerunner 935 is the way to go. It’s the best watch that Garmin makes if you care about fit, features, weight, battery life, and accuracy.
Sure, the fenix 5 Plus watches can do more, but you’d rather have a smaller, sleeker device for triathlons. You can read our full Forerunner 935 Review for all of the details, but here’s what makes this watch interesting.
The FR935 is a true multisport watch.
– Multisport: It tracks running, cycling, swimming, triathlons, and many other sports.
– Battery Life: It has battery life in GPS mode of about 24 hours, which is long enough for anything from sprint triathlons up to Ironman triathlons.
– Advanced Metrics: It doesn’t just provide details about pace. It can give you advanced running dynamics, physiological measurements, training plans, and much more.
– Weight: at 49g it is about half the weight of the fenix 5 Plus watches.
Think of the Forerunner 935 as being in between the fenix 5 Plus and Apple Watch. It doesn’t quite offer the kitchen sink, but it packs in way more than your standard smart watch, at least as far as sport tracking is concerned.
The 735XT has been out since 2016, but it’s still a heck of a watch with plenty to offer, particularly to hardcore runners. We did a full Garmin 735XT review back when it first came out, but the thing is, it’s still a really nice watch. And sadly, it’s often passed over in favor of newer Garmin watches.
The 735XT is the predecessor to the FR935. It’s actually smaller and lighter though, making it even more ideal for runners.
Size comparison of the 935 and 735XT
The 735XT is incredibly comfortable to wear. You really don’t even notice you have it on, which is exactly what you’re looking for if you’re running for extended periods of time (marathons, ultras, etc.)
It’s more than a runner’s watch, however. It can track pool and open water swimming, indoor and outdoor cycling, cardio, and much more.
The 735XT is the perfect size for runners
It also can pair with the HRM-Tri and HRM-Run to give you advanced running dynamics stats such as ground contact time, vertical oscillation, and more.
The 735XT really has everything that a serious runner would need. Good battery life—check. Sleek, comfortable design—check. Advanced running metrics—check. Training features—check. Wrist HRM and can pair with other HR sensors—check.
Considering that the watch is now a few years old, the price has dropped significantly. It used to retail for $400, but we see it frequently on Amazon for under $350.
For the average runner that just wants to track and map their run, the Forerunner 25 is the best you can get, for the price—it has an MSRP of $99 [check price on Amazon].
The FR25 is simple, but it gets the job done.
You aren’t going to get near the features you would with the other watches on this list, but for a lot of people that’s just fine. The watch is durable, comfortable, sleek, and easy to use.
It also is one of those watches that you can wear for hours without even noticing it’s there. It’s has a light plastic shell with a black and white, sunlight readable display, and a few large buttons. You can take it out of the box and learn how to use in a matter of minutes. And it just works.
Comes in two sizes: large and small (large shown)
It doesn’t have a wrist HRM nor can it really track anything beyond running and walking, but that’s sort of the allure with this watch. For the record, it can pair with external chest strap ANT+ heart rate monitors if you’d like to keep an eye on your HR during a run.
In contrast to older budget-tier Garmin watches, the FR25 also pairs with the Garmin Connect app and can display your phone notifications on your wrist. In previous model you had to plug the watch into a computer to transfer your stats. It also is a 24×7 activity and sleep tracker.
There are dozens of Garmin watches out there, but clearly not all of them could make this list. Here are the watches that are still really good, but were left off for one reason or another.
Garmin Forerunner 645 / 645 Music
This is basically an updated version of the 735XT only it’s specifically designed for runners. It also has some new features like Garmin Pay. And if you pay up ($450) you can get the 645 Music, which has storage for music just like the fenix 5 Plus watches. We left it off not because it’s not good (it’s actually a really nice watch), but because we thought the 735XT provided nearly all of the same features, but at a lower cost.
Garmin vivoactive 3 / 3 Music
These are solid watches as well. They’re sort of like the fenix 5 Plus Lite. We left them off because they’re in no man’s land. They’re a bit pricey and have some really nice features, but nothing so compelling that they could oust one of the watches that actually made the list. There just wasn’t a good category for the VA3 to win.
Garmin fenix 5 Series
We considered not adding the fenix 5 Plus watches and instead going with the standard fenix 5 series, but we ultimately decided otherwise for two reasons: (1) built-in maps and (2) native music storage.
Garmin Forerunner 235
We thought about having the FR235 in place of the 735XT, but it didn’t have as many features and is an older device. Still a nice runner’s watch, but not quite as good as the 735XT.
While not technically a watch, the vivosport is sleek device that does have GPS and can tracking running workouts and more.