Best Garmin watches 2022: Track your running, sport and fitness goals



martwatches come in many different shapes and sizes from an ever-growing array of manufacturers.

There are those that cost the best part of a grand, there are those that can be picked up for next to pennies down at your local budget supermarket chain, there are those that focus solely on fitness tracking and there are those that take fitness and throw in extra abilities such as taking and making calls/messages and paying for stuff literally off the cuff.

However, some names in this field stand out far more than others, not simply because of the quality of their wristwear but also because of just how prolific they are in producing their exceedingly epic options.

Naturally, Fitbit is one of these preeminent names; but I’ve done all them to death here, so it’s time now to turn all my easily distracted attention to that other giant of the fitness tracking smartwatch world: Garmin.

Pay attention now, they’ll be a test at later. Garmin, a moniker fused from the names of its founding fathers, Gary (Gar) Burrell and Min (erm, Min) H. Kao (No, seriously) had been at the fore of GPS in general since 1989 and watch wearables since 2003, so this is a company with some serious history in stopping people blundering around blindly.

Flash forward to today and Garmin currently offers a range of smart/sports watches that runs into the… ooh, I don’t know, hundreds. I mean, I would count, but it’d probably change while I was counting, plus that’s just more mind-clutter you don’t need. So, for the sake of this round of reviews, I’ve narrowed the field down considerably to the most popular of Garmin’s current flotilla of fitness watches – the people’s choice, if you will.

If you’ve space on your wrist, exercise time on your hands or you’re just hankering to arm yourself with some fine new-fashioned smart tech, here’s eight great options from Garmin’s arsenal…

Venu 2


Best Garmin smartwatch for: everyday use

One of Big G’s best sellers, the Venu 2 is a slick combination of advanced fitness tracking features and all-action smartwatch. Available with a nicely sized 45mm bezel, in four colour finishes and with a comfortable silicon strap, the Venu 2 is incredibly light at just 49g yet.

When paired with your smartphone over Bluetooth, it can still record and display all your key bodily stats such as heart rate2, heart rate variability, Pulse Ox3, hydration, respiration and stress levels, while also measuring your energy levels throughout the day and letting you know when the best time is to exercise and when you really need to sit down with a nice cup of tea and just breathe. In short, it’s like having a tiny doctor always on-hand to monitor your welfare, but without all the awkward questions about how much alcohol you consume.

On top of keeping a close eye on your vitals, the Venu 2 can also track your sleep patterns, suggest GPS-based external and internal exercise routines, throw up graphics of the muscle groups you’re working and all on its sharp AMOLED display. You can also track your menstrual cycle. What more could you possibly need?

Well, since you asked, as mentioned, it also does all the other smart stuff that you’d normally have to fish around for your phone to deal with too, like receiving emails, texts and other alerts (you can respond to texts if paired with an Android-powered phone), listen to top tunes from your Spotify, Deezer and/or Amazon Music accounts using wireless headphones, pay for things via Garmin Pay and add in all manner of additional apps to complete your limb-located smart world.

Plus, water-rated to 5 ATM, that smart world is protected should you want to workout with a swim or, can often be the case, accidently fall in a canal or river after one too many of those drinks that prying doctor asks you about.

A stylish and whip-smart package, the Garmin Venu 2 is a true all-rounder that’s equally at home monitoring your motion as you pound your way through the dirty outdoors or ponce around in fresh Lycra at some posh spa.

Instinct 2 Solar


Best budget Garmin smartwatch for: outdoor adventurers

As brutally rugged as Bear Grylls, the Instinct 2 Solar is the Garmin for those who like to push themselves to the EXTREME! Sorry, I tapped capslock by accident. But, seriously, if you’re the kind of athlete that’s never happier than when out in the wilds, scaling cliffs, tearing through woodland and leaping off things into convenient lakes prior to swimming to the other side, this Garmin can take it. Water-rated to 100-metres, thermal and shock resistant, a fibre-reinforced polymer case and chemically strengthened, scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass mean the Instinct 2 Solar will survive, even if you don’t.

Then there’s the Solar side of the name. Yes, delivering unlimited battery life in its ‘smartwatch mode’, this Garmin harnesses the power of the sun itself to keep feeding you constant essential info about your heart rate, stress level, blood oxygen and energy levels, etc., even when you haven’t passed a power outlet for days.

And no matter how far off-piste/into nature you wander, multiple global navigation satellite systems (GPS, GLONASS and Galileo) will track your location to the spot, ABC sensors, including an altimeter for elevation data, barometer to monitor weather and 3-axis electronic compass will keep you on the right track, and should you choose just to run/bike/ski with reckless abandon as to where you’re going, the Instinct 2 Solar’s TracBack routing will guide you directly back to your starting point after you’re done.

But a smartwatch as much for urban existence as it is for going wild in the country, email and texts alerts keep you in contact when paired with your compatible smartphone, Garmin Pay let’s you settle up in shops without reaching for your wallet and you can download an array of extra apps and widgets to tailor the Garmin’s features to your exact requirements.

Hard as nails, fully fitness featured, unerringly precise and as relentless as you yourself when it comes to helping you achieving physical perfection, the Garmin Instinct 2 Solar is the smartwatch of the survival specialist.

Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar Edition


Best Garmin smartwatch for: multi-sports

Big, handsome and built for anything, the Fenix (as in ‘phoenix’, I assume) 7X Sapphire Solar Edition is 89g of rock-solid fitness tracking fury.

Seen here in its largest 51mm bezel iteration, the Fenix 7X comes loaded – and I mean loaded – with just about everything you could possibly ask of a watch. This includes all the now-expected fitness tracking and measuring metrics to keep a check on your heart, your blood oxygen level, respiration, hydration and body energy and exertion rates. It comes preloaded with TopoActive maps so you’re ready for any challenge and, thanks to built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, they can be updated instantly. It also has ABC sensors, including an altimeter, barometer and 3-axis electronic compass, not to mention built-in sports apps and features that even extend to surfing, skiing and, for those real gluttons for punishment, golf.

For GPS sensitivity, the Fenix 7X uses technology previously only available to the military, accessing multiple frequencies from satellites for improved position accuracy in areas where standard GNSS signals just can’t cut it.

Naturally, all activity can be recorded and synced with your smartphone, which also means you can receive text and email alerts on the easily readable display too so you’re never out of the loop even when you’re outward bound.

What else? Oh, yes, you can download apps onto it, pay with it, download music onto it should you want to leave your weighty phone at home and see your way ever onwards when the sun drops due to a built-in LED torch.

Solar charging as well, like the icing on the smart cake, the Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar Edition will keep going as long as you can no matter how uncompromising your insane outdoor sport of choice happens to be.

epix (Gen 2)


Best Garmin smartwatch for: swimming

To be fair, the epix (Gen 2) lends itself to a lot more than simply swimming but charged with picking a model that best represents aquatic action, this was the model that came to the fore. Why? Well, water-resistant to 10 ATM, the epix is clearly not out of its depth when it comes to making a sporting splash and – akin to all other models examined here – has features specifically for swimming activity, both inside and open water, including an underwater heart rate monitor, swim stroke type detection and other assorted pool-based metrics.

But beyond the keeping track of your crawl or recording metrics based on your breast-stroke, the epix also offers full 24/7 health monitoring, covering the usual bases of heart rate, respiration, blood oxygen, hydration and body energy, plus stress and sleep surveillance to ensure you’re living, as Oprah is so fond of saying, your best life (whether awake or unconscious).

With preloaded activity profiles for trail running, swimming, running, biking, hiking, rowing, skiing, golfing, surfing, indoor climbing and more besides, and Garmin Coach available (as with all) via the Garmin Connect app on your smartphone, smart notifications, music apps, contactless payment and, well, all the features of a full-on Garmin smartwatch, the epix (Gen 2) may excel emerged in the H2O but like the amphibian it is, it’s equally adept on dry land.

Forerunner 945


Best Garmin smartwatch for: running

Back to basics now with the simple pastime of running and recording. Although, that said, there is nothing simple about Garmin’s Forerunner 945. Indeed, while it’s been designed with the runner in mind with built-in training plans, connection to multiple GPS systems, heart rate monitor, blood oxygen, running metrics measurements, training status, daily workout suggestions and recovery time advisor, it also comes with apps for other sports, full-colour onboard maps for exacting directions, Garmin Pay so that you don’t have to bulk out your Lycra with unsightly wallet/purse lumps and the ability to sync your music, so you always have motivation, such as Eye of the Tiger on-hand to push you on even when you hit ‘the wall’.

Smart notifications are present, natch, and the whole thing is made easy to operate, even when wet, thanks to a combination of touchscreen and nicely chunky buttons. What’s more it weighs just 50g, which is ridiculously light given the vast array of operations the Forerunner 945 offers the fleet of foot while out in the field.

With Garmin’s IQ store on hand to help you load up on essential apps and Garmin Connect on your smartphone to allow you to openly brag about your sporting successes with the wider Garmin community, whether you’re running for pleasure, for the good of your health, to achieve maximum fitness, or simply because you’re being pursued, the Garmin Forerunner 945 is the workhorse watch for you.

MARQ Golfer


Best Garmin smartwatch for: golf pros

Golf, I’ll be honest, is a game my in-laws play. They play it with their bags of golf bats and special prickly shoes, and when they’re not playing it, they’re either talking incessantly about it or watching it on TV as though it could in any conceivable way be considered a spectator sport. Me, I subscribe to the Mark Twain philosophy that “golf is a good walk spoiled”, but then I have been known to be swayed on my opinions when a tech incentive bauble is dangled before me. So, welcome to the Garmin MARQ Golfer…

Okay, I admit, the vast bulk of my understanding of golf comes from watching Goldfinger countless times, so for the sake of this review I’m going to focus on the tech and avoid any attempts at golf-related puns, as someone is bound to spot a hole in one.

First up, this is a Garmin, so all the usual body measuring metrics are present and correct, including body oxygen levels, heart rate, hydration, respiration, stress level, alongside an altimeter, barometer to monitor weather and 3-axis electronic compass, preloaded topographical maps, access to multiple global navigation satellite systems, Garmin Pay, music apps and smart notifications. So, the full package on that side.

Then if gets all golfy. There are more than 41,000 golf course maps preloaded, all of which can be explained to you by the built-in Virtual Caddie which, naturally, takes in wind-speed and direction before suggesting both club and aim. It also offers Hazard Views, a PinPointer that, well, points you in the direction of the pin on blind shots and, if paired with the Garmin Golf app you can even record stats on your game to review, compare and contrast later. See, golfy.

It’s also – let’s be honest – particularly good-looking, having more in common with a traditional chronograph watch that most other models of its smart, sporting ilk.

Returning to the very little I know about golf, what I do know about golfists is that the tend to want every bit of kit and kaboodle related to the game, so the Garmin MARQ Golfer with all its body and club-swinging smarts has got to be a must-have.

Descent Mk2S


Best Garmin smartwatch for: divers

I’ve always embraced the idea of scuba diving – the peace and tranquillity, the feeling of weightlessness, the beauty of marine life opening up before you. Then comes the inevitable ear-worm of the incidental music from Jaws as I imagine a ruddy great shark behind me and, following that an overwhelming desire to get out of the water. But maybe that’s just me.

However, if I could overcome my crippling Spielberg-induced paranoia, I would want this: the Garmin Descent Mk2S. Not just a Garmin packed with all the aforementioned biometrickery for workouts and health tracking, it’s also a full functioning dive computer that offers multiple dive modes for single and multiple gas dives (including nitrox and trimix), gauge, apnea, apnea hunt and closed-circuit rebreather, along with custom dive modes available on additional screens that only show the fields you want to see and a dive log in which you can store data on up to 200 dives.

Naturally, connection to multiple satellites allow for pinpoint tracking of surface entry and exit points, and smart notifications, app-adding ability and safety features are a given. Oh, and there’s Gamin Pay too, should you find you get too weighted down diving with your wallet.

Okay, at the sharp end of a grand, it’s not cheap, but then if you want an unerringly accurate dive tool measuring your vitals and tracking every inch of your underwater adventures, then it’s well worth taking the plunge.

vivomove 3


Best Garmin smartwatch for: gym and social

The trouble with many health tracking smartwatches is that, well, they look like health tracking smartwatches and, as such, don’t really cut it in the office or on a fancy night out in some swank wine bar. Which is why Garmin came up with the vivomove 3, a full-featured tracker with onboard heart rate monitor, hydration tracker, stress monitoring, sleep tracking and all the other associated bells and whistles, including GPS, smart notifications safety tracking features, calendars and Garmin Connect app pairing, but all discreetly hidden away behind a traditional-looking analogue watch face.

Indeed, the techie stuff remains hidden until summoned with a finger tap, meaning that the vivomobe 3 looks smart but not smartwatch during posh soirees, giving away nothing until you call it up.

Available in unassuming grey or black with matching silicone strap, if you’re a more modest keep fit fanatic that doesn’t want workouts to be the constant topic of conversation, the vivomove 3 keeps it all on the QT.


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