The number of Garmin running watches and sports watches continues to grow by the year, making the task of choosing the best one for you all the more difficult.
With watches aimed at everyone, from beginner runners and swimmers to performance triathletes, cyclists and ultra-marathon veterans, it's all too easy to overspend for features you don't really need.
Choosing the perfect running watch is all about zeroing in on your own personal fitness goals and matching a watch to those needs. We already have an in-depth guide to the best running watches that examines all top brands, but if you're trying to make sense of Garmin's selection, we're here to help.
Below, we've given you a snap shot of what our faves are and go into more detail if you need to know more. Plus, we've outlined a host of new Garmins that we will be putting to the test soon.
Got any questions about Garmin watches in general? Let us know in the comments.
Best Garmin sports watch
Replacing our previous top pick the Fenix 5 Plus, the 945 packs in more features than the outdoor watch in a slimmer, more comfortable design. You now get full color maps, a massively improved navigation mode, music and payment support and plenty of advanced training features to help your optimise your workouts. This is our new favorite.
Best Garmin for beginners
The Forerunner 45 is Garmin's new entry-level watch, but it doesn't scrimp on features. It'll cover your running (and cycling) antics as well as offering full integration for Garmin's Coach platform offer adaptive training plans for 5k, 10k and half-marathon races right from the wrist.
Best budget Garmin watch
The Garmin Forerunner 235 is a solid running watch, blending top sports metrics with excellent 24/7 daily activity tracking and a lovely design. While most Garmins have a HR monitor, the array of metrics and stats found here rival much more expensive watches, and the 235 can be picked up on a budget. The HR monitor isn't good enough for proper high intensity workouts, but you can still pair with an ANT+ chest strap to get really serious.
Best Garmin smartwatch
The Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music is Garmin‚Äôs best smartwatch right now, and it finally looks the part. A jack-of-all-trades, serious runners will want to look to the Forerunner series for that extra data, but the breadth of supported activities means that the Vivoactive 3 is a great balance of sports and smarts.
Read this: Best Garmin deals
Garmin has got A LOT of new watches on the way that you may want to hold tight for when they go on sale.
The headline-grabber was the Garmin Venu, Garmin's first genuine attempt at a proper smartwatch. It the company's first watch with an AMOLED screen and will start shipping in October.
The Vivoactive 4 is another major update - bringing a more prominent bezel versus the Vivoactive 3 and the option of a smaller size in the Vivoactive 4S. It's adds new animated workouts that you can follow from the watch screen among other software improvements. This one is available to buy now.
If you like hybrid smartwatches, Garmin also unveiled a refresh for its Vivomove line. The Vivomove 3 is joined by the Vivomove Style and Luxe (pictured above), that adds a color AMOLED display that lives and below the analogue watch hands.
Finally, the Legacy Hero Series was detailed, a pair of Marvel-themed smartwatches that look a lot like they're modelled on the Vivoactive 4.
There's also the new the Fenix 6 range. Like the Fenix 5 range, there are multiple models of the Fenix 6, with various features added at the more expensive levels. The most premium model, the Fenix 6X Pro Solar, adds the attention-grabbing ability to grant itself extra battery life by solar charging as you're out and about.
Ultimate Garmin running watch
Garmin Forerunner 945
Buy Now: Amazon | ¬£519.99
The Forerunner 935 was our top running watch pick for a long time, but with even more functionality packed into the 945, its successor has taken the crown.
The triathlon-friendly watch essentially squeezes everything you get in the latest Fenix watch including multi-sport tracking, payments, a built-in music player, navigation features and full color maps.
On the running front, it covers everything from the treadmill to trail running and provides plenty of metrics to pore over after your training session. It's also compatible with Garmin's Running Pod, which adds additional data, including vertical oscillation, ground contact time, stride length and lactate threshold.
It still has stellar battery life, while the built-in heart rate monitoring (which has vastly improved from previous wrist HR tracking efforts from Garmin) and great new training effect, load and focus features make sure you're not overexerting yourself. It's another top notch multi-sport GPS watch that makes a fine running companion for serious athletes.
Buy it for: Advanced running metrics, training effect data, navigation, music, payments, GPS distance, heart rate monitor-based data, smartwatch notification support, Connect IQ app support, great battery life
Ultimate Garmin multisport watch
Garmin Fenix 5 Plus series
Fenix 5 Plus
Buy Now: Amazon | ¬£479
Fenix 5S Plus
Buy Now: Amazon | ¬£479
Fenix 5X Plus
Buy Now: Amazon | ¬£350
If you yearn for something with a bolder, more high grade design than what you get with the 945, go for the Fenix 5 Plus instead. Until we've fully completed our Fenix 6 review, this is the one we are going to recommend.
The watch built for the outdoors features modes to track hiking, climbing, cross country skiing, regular skiing, cycling, swimming, open water swimming, running, train running, indoor workouts, triathlon, golf and more. If there's something you want to track, the Fenix 5 Plus series watches likely can.
The Fenix 5 Plus takes tracked metrics to the extreme, offering full insights for VO2 Max, race prediction, stress scores, Training Effect and Training Status: they're all found here and they're seriously meaningful.
So, what's different on the Fenix 5 Plus compared to the standard Fenix 5? Garmin has added topographic maps to all Fenix 5 Plus watches after the feature was only made available on the Fenix 5X. All models get Garmin Pay and music player support, which now includes support for Spotify offline playlists. There's a broader choice of designs too - you can find variations that prioritise durability and weight, while the Fenix 5S Plus remains a good option for those with slimmer wrists.
The Fenix 5X Plus gets another exclusive feature in the shape of a pulse ox acclimation sensor, which is designed to aid hikers and climbers when they need to adjust to higher altitudes. This has been rolled out to Garmin's newest Forerunners too, though.
You could instead buy the Fenix 5, 5S or 5X, which are in our opinion still great watches. But if you want a rugged Garmin watch option, this is the one to go for.
Buy it for: GPS, Multi-sport, topographic maps, Garmin Pay, music player support, long battery life, compass, VO2 Max, recovery, cadence, vertical oscillation
Best budget Garmin
If you don't want to spend big and are happy not having the very latest features, these Garmin watches still do the business, offering those core features for less.
Garmin Forerunner 235
Buy Now: Amazon | ¬£163.92
We know the 245 is out now, but if you still want an affordable Garmin running watch, we still think the 235 is worth a shout ‚Äď if you can find it.
Garmin told us it's finally stopped producing the evergreen Forerunner 235 ‚Äď which will mean prospective buyers will need to choose between the simple yet slim Forerunner 45, and the more advanced Forerunner 245.
While we are fans of that slim look and 24/7 activity tracking, it's the running features that we care about here. You still get all the great running stats, and, with the built-in heart rate monitor, you can see VO2 Max stats to give you a better idea about recovery between runs.
While the heart rate monitor might not be quite up to the task for high intensity sessions, you can still pair it with an ANT+ strap for more reliable heart-rate-zone-based training.
Buy it for: GPS, comfortable design, activity tracking, advanced running metrics, Garmin IQ app support
Garmin Forerunner 35
Buy Now: Amazon | ¬£103.95
Again, the 35 has been upgraded in the shape of the Forerunner 45, but you can still buy it and it's still worth considering for first time runners.
Ideal for beginners, couch to 5k-ers and those who want a little more info on their regular runs without being overwhelmed by data, it also has activity tracking, bridging the divide between an inexpensive tracker and a serious sports watch.
It packs in all the bare essentials for runners: distance, pace, time, calories, splits and an optical heart rate monitor. Plus, it also delivers smartphone notifications to your wrist. Everything you need if you're a recreational runner who just wants to keep tabs on how far and fast you've gone.
Buy it for: GPS, distance, pace, calories, activity tracking
Best Garmin watches for beginner runners
Garmin's entry level watches are aimed at people who want to step up from phone-based app tracking and have a few more stats on their wrist where they can see them. Ideal for new runners on a budget, they're the cheapest of the lot and they're also a little more accessible when it comes to your running stats.
Garmin Forerunner 45
Buy Now: Amazon | $199.99
The Forerunner 45 builds on the all the good stuff Garmin did with the 35, still packing plenty of features for the price.
It's now available in a round design that comes in 39mm and 42mm sizes. You're getting the same transflective display you get on all of Garmin's watches, waterproofing up to 50 metres depth (but no swim tracking), and a heart rate monitor that should be good for most.
The Android- and iOS-friendly sports watch focuses its tracking skills on running and cycling offering full satellite mapping support offering the core metrics as well as some advanced ones like VO2 Max.
Smartwatch features include notification support while Connect IQ compatibility only extends to bringing watch faces to the entry level watch.
If you're new to running and don't want to spend big, the Forerunner 45 (and smaller 45S) is the one to go for.
Buy it for: GPS, distance, pace, calories, activity tracking, running and cycling tracking only
Best Garmin smartwatch
Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music
Buy Now: Amazon | ¬£198.90
Like its main rivals, the Apple Watch Series 4 and Fitbit Ionic, this is a watch that's aiming to bring more than just fitness smarts to your wrist. With the Vivoactive 3 Music, Garmin is trying to push more into the realms of everyday design, too. There's no doubt this is a better look than the Vivoactive HR, and there are some subtle, but welcome design changes from the Vivoactive 3.
It was the launch device for Garmin Pay and now it's added music player support to make it a more well-rounded smartwatch. It doesn't have that Spotify support the Fenix has just yet, but we imagine it'll be on the way soon. Ultimately though, there's also not a lot of compromise here. For those who don't want to go all in on the likes of the Fenix 5 series, you're getting many of the same features for a lower price.
You can still buy the Vivoactive 3 without music support, so if that feature isn't a deal breaker, you can save some money and still get a great Garmin smartwatch. We'll have a Vivoactive 4 review soon, to see if it's jumped ahead of the current model, though.
Buy it for: GPS, notifications, Garmin Pay, built-in music player, heart rate monitoring, battery life
Best Garmin for music
Garmin Forerunner 245 Music
Buy Now: Amazon | ¬£299.99
The Forerunner 245 Music is the natural successor to the 235, a Garmin watch that still makes it on this list. If you like the 235 but have been hankering for music support, you get it here and it's comfortably our top pick for taking your tunes on the move.
The built-in music player support works much in the same as other Garmins with music features outside of controlling playback from your phone. You can transfer over your own music or playlists from streaming services like Spotify and Deezer to the watch. Then you can pair some Bluetooth headphones and leave that phone behind. You've got enough for around 500 songs which is not as much as what the 945 can hold (1,000 songs), but it should still be enough for most.
It's also a pretty formidable running watch, too, with all you'd want including GPS, a decent heart rate monitor and new sensors like the Pulse OX to give it appeal to runners who like to train up high.
Battery life is around 7 days, though hammering music features will dent that. But if you just save the audio for your workouts, it'll make it through the week. It does lack payment support and an altimeter, but overall it's a great running watch for anyone that has been looking for those music features too.
Buy it for: GPS, notifications, built-in music player, heart rate monitoring, training features, battery life
Garmin Forerunner 645 Music
Buy Now: Amazon | ¬£320
The Forerunner 645 Music was the first Garmin to offer those music features and unlike the 245 Music, it does have payment support and a more stylish design.
For tracking, it will cover running, cycling, pool swimming, walking and much more. If you're serious about your running, you can tap into the likes of cadence, stride length, ground contact time and balance, vertical oscillation and vertical ratio. And no matter what kind of training you're involved in, you can also access the Training Status, Training Effect and Training Load features for aiding recovery between workouts.
But, crucially, while being a heavyweight in the tracking department, this was the first Garmin that allowed for music streaming directly from the wrist. There's enough storage to load 500 songs, while offline playlists can be accessed from Deezer, iHeartRadio and now Spotify.
Like the Vivoactive 3 and Forerunner 245, Garmin does offer a Forerunner 645 sans music, and again it should save you some money if music isn't an essential feature for you.
Buy it for: GPS, music, Garmin Pay, heart rate monitoring, battery life
Best Garmin watch for style
Garmin Vivomove HR
Buy Now: Amazon | ¬£148.97
The Garmin Vivomove HR goes way beyond what the impressive Vivomove was capable of and was named Hybrid Watch of the Year at the 2017 Wareable Tech Awards. Garmin has renewed the series with the Vivomove 3 models, which we'll be reviewing very soon.
Now available in versions for men and women and in a range of luxury looks, the Vivomove HR has one killer feature that puts it above most other hybrids: a discreet digital display that really works. A simple tap dynamically moves the watch hands out of the way, letting you review pretty much the same raft of modes you'll find on the Vivosport including activity tracking, heart rate monitoring and even rep counting in the gym. The only thing missing is GPS support.
As a result of the extra features, battery life has taken a hit, but it'll still make it through around five days before you need to plug it into the charger. Bottom line, if you want a Garmin that looks like a normal watch but delivers on the smarts as well, this is without doubt your best option.
Buy it for: Great design, hidden screen, good activity tracking
Garmin Marq Athlete
Buy Now: Garmin.com | From ¬£1,399.99
If you've got really big money to spend and you want one of the best looking Garmin watches that's packed with features, the Marq might appeal.
Garmin's luxury tool watch is essentially a Fenix, but in a more distinctive, attractive shell. It's available in five watch models, all based on the five main divisions at the company. There's the Aviator, Driver, Captain, Expedition and the Athlete.
Along with everything you can find on the top-end Fenix 5X, each model has their own unique features that you won't find on Garmin's outdoor watch. So the sea-friendly Captain has dedicated features like displaying boat data, a Regatta timer and even a Man Overboard feature to help execute a swift recovery.
All those smartwatch features are there including Garmin Pay and a built-in music player and you get more storage for your tunes than you get on other music-friendly Garmin watches.
Battery life pretty much matches the Fenix too, and in some departments betters it. Yes, it's expensive and you've really got to be sold on the design. But, what you will get is a seriously good looking sports watch that has pretty much everything you could need from a wrist companion.
Buy it for: Design, good battery life, extra storage, the many features
In-depth: Our full Garmin Marq review
Get a fitness band hybrid
Buy Now: Amazon | ¬£101.50
The Vivosport is the feature-packed fitness tracker successor to the Vivosmart HR+, bringing back that all important built-in GPS so you can do all of your tracking from the wrist.
This time, it's packaged into a slimmer design, albeit with a smaller screen than its predecessor and no physical buttons. What you do still get is the ability to tap into the onboard GPS for walking, running, cycling or cardio training, serving up all those metrics to Garmin's improving Connect companion app.
It also brings the stress tracking features from the Vivosmart trackers to the fold and will count reps in the gym to add to its all-round tracking skills. We were a little critical of some of the design changes, so if you want that bigger display and button combo, we still think the Vivosmart HR+ or perhaps the Vivofit 4 is worth considering.
Buy it for: GPS, good battery life, activity tracking
In-depth: Our full Garmin Vivosport review
Garmin Vivosmart 4
Buy Now: Amazon | ¬£91.98
Garmin has been on a roll with its fitness trackers in the past year, and the Vivosmart 4 is the latest to make its arrival known.
While it's fair to say that most of Garmin's activity bands look pretty much the same, this boasts something which we haven't seen before from the company ‚Äď a pulse oximeter sensor, which tracks your blood oxygen saturation. The sensor takes readings during the day and while you're sleeping and could potentially be used to detect serious health conditions like sleep apnea.
There's also a new 'body battery' energy feature that wants to give you a better insight into how well recovered your body is for your next workout session. There's a heart rate monitor, but no GPS, but will support the ability to track running, walking and strength training.
Buy it for: Battery life, heart rate monitor, basic activity tracking, MoveIQ support, simple design
In depth: Our full Garmin Vivosmart 4 review
Garmin Approach S40
Buy Now: Amazon | ¬£272
If you need a Garmin golf watch that does the business on the course and looks a little nicer off it, the Approach S40 certainly fits the bill.
Unlike other golf wearables in the range, the S40 comes packing a metal bezel and uses interchangeable straps when you want to mix up that look. There's also a 1.2-inch, 240 x 240 resolution touchscreen display to swipe through data screens.
In the golf tracking features department, you're getting distances to the pin, hazards and lay ups all available from 41,000 global courses. There‚Äôs also auto-shot detection and automatic tracking of distances, so the S40 can harvest much more data about your round.
Garmin also finds room to offer 24/7 activity tracking features including sleep monitoring and it'll even track other sports including cycling.
Battery life is up to 15 hours in GPS mode and up to 10 days in smartwatch mode, giving you plenty of time play with it before you're reaching for that charger.
While a lot of the features can be found in cheaper devices, those looking for something that looks decent on the wrist as well may want this one in their lives.
Garmin Approach X10/S10
Buy Now: Amazon | ¬£159.99
Buy Now: Amazon | ¬£139.99
Two completely different-looking devices, these two golf GPS watches offer the same service depending on your taste.
The Garmin Approach X10 is a golf band, for those that prefer a fitness tracker-style device. It's aimed at ‚Äď but not exclusive to ‚Äď women, who might not watch the larger watch-style device.
The Approach S10, on the other hand, is a classic-looking golf watch ‚Äď but packs in the same features: that's support for 40,000 global golf courses, with distances to the green (front, middle and back), as well as hazards, dog-legs and the like.
These two devices keep things pretty simple, so shot tracking, swing analysis and green layout/pin selection all stay in the bag. You'll need an Approach X40/S20 to access all that.
However, you can keep score on these two devices and at around ¬£159 they don't break the bank.
Garmin Approach X40
Buy Now: Amazon | ¬£215.99
Like a mash-up between the Vivosmart, a Garmin running watch and a smartwatch, the X40 is built firmly with golfers in mind.
Essentially the ultimate fitness tracker for golfers, it blends GPS course data with a heart rate monitor. There's a 1-inch display to view progress and support for 35,000 courses, pin position details, shot detection, hazards, shot measuring, fitness tracking and 24/7 heart rate.
It uses an AutoShot feature to register the location of your hacks around the course, which will be fed back to Garmin Connect after your round, and there's also smart notification support to ping you when someone's trying to get in touch while you're out on the course.
Buy it for: Complete golf modes, plenty of course data, sports and activity tracking modes