Best Garmin Smartwatch in 2020 [In-Depth Review]

This guide dives deep into the pros and cons of the best Garmin smartwatches on the market today.

Garmin Vivoactive 4

vivoactive 4 garmin smartwatch

The Garmin Vivoactive 4 ranks very high in any Garmin smartwatch review.

The sheer number of features and options is what elevates it above other running watches.

Ultimately, the best watch for you will be that which best serves your specific needs [R].

Whether you’re into snowboarding, disappearing into the wild, or want something to count your steps around the home and office, Garmin has a watch solution.

The Vivoactive 4 is available in two different sizes.

The smaller of the two is the 40mm option.

The 45mm pick comes with extra perks, but at a higher price.

Garmin Vivoactive 4 (45mm)

  • 8-day battery life in Smartwatch mode
  • 6-day battery life in Music mode
  • Color choices: Slate and Silver

Garmin Vivoactive 4 (40mm)

  • 7-day battery life in Smartwatch mode
  • 5-day battery life in Music mode

Both the 40mm and the 45mm options share most of the same benefits for picking up a Garmin Vivoactive 4. These include smartphone notifications for calls, texts, emails, and alerts.

The watch also comes standard with Garmin Pay, 5 atmospheres (ATM) water resistance, and a new music storage option that previously required an additional purchase.

The Vivoactive 4 can assist with workouts like strength-building, yoga, and cardio activities such as stair-stepping, rowing, elliptical, and floor climbing.

A new Pulse Ox sensor helps keep track of blood oxygen saturation levels and tracks your breaths per minute. The respiration monitoring is especially useful for sleep data.

You can also keep tabs on your overall energy levels with the New Body Battery that reports on heart rate variability (HRV).

Use this information to optimize for restful sleep, managing stress, and to serve as insight for your training load.

The only cons for Vivoactive 4 are the price point and the display. It uses a transflective display, which is the standard for many of the best Garmin watches.

On Sale
Garmin vivoactive 4, GPS Smartwatch, Features Music, Body Energy Monitoring, Animated Workouts,...
2,288 Customer Reviews
Garmin vivoactive 4, GPS Smartwatch, Features Music, Body Energy Monitoring, Animated Workouts,...
  • Keeps track of your energy levels, Pulse Ox (this is not a medical device and is not intended for...
  • Easily download songs to your watch, including playlists from Spotify, Amazon music or Deezer (may...
  • Record all the ways to move with more than 20 preloaded GPS and indoor sports apps, including yoga,...

Garmin Fenix 6

Fenix 6 Pro

The Fenix 6 is the new wearable option for rugged outdoor adventures.

It hosts an impressive list of features and comes in a few different models.

Shoppers take note: As the features scale up for the different models, the price gets higher.

The standard Fenix 6 is 47mm. Keeping it in smartwatch mode will keep it running for a full two weeks. You get 36 hours in GPS mode. The maximum battery time for GPS is 72 hours. It also offers an Expedition GPS mode that covers 28 days, and the battery-saving mode lasts up to 48 days!

The Fenix 6 is a big rugged smartwatch specialized for those who are looking for something durable to survive wild expeditions. There are no major software changes compared to the former models, but the data organization now uses widgets.

It tracks your latest activities, heart-rate, steps, and weather. The Garmin watch comes with Garmin Pay, syncs with notifications, and offers fantastic music controls. GPS accuracy is improved on the Garmin Fenix 6, and it can even track your heart-rate underwater while it endures 10 ATM.

Some of its unique profiles are perfect for strength training as well as various cardio exercises. Outdoor profiles included are for hiking, snowboarding, mountain biking, and plenty more.

The Fenix 6 is not the cheapest, nor is it the prettiest option available as styles have been sacrificed for utility and durability. But its features put it in a league of its own, putting it at the top of this best Garmin watch guide.

On Sale
Garmin 010-02158-01 Fenix 6 Pro, Premium Multisport GPS Watch, features Mapping, Music,...
214 Customer Reviews
Garmin 010-02158-01 Fenix 6 Pro, Premium Multisport GPS Watch, features Mapping, Music,...
  • Fit for performance with rugged, sophisticated design that features an always-on 1.3” (18% larger...
  • Enhanced estimated wrist heart rate and Pulse Ox to support advanced sleep monitoring and altitude...
  • Advanced training features include PacePro for grade-adjusted pace guidance throughout your activity...

Garmin Forerunner 235

Forerunner 235

The Garmin Forerunner 235 is a Garmin hybrid smartwatch solution for those engaged in a wide range of activities. Whether you’re after tracking features for walking, running, sprinting, racing, biking, indoor cycling, swimming, or rowing, this watch has you covered at home, outdoors, and around the office.

Garmin’s Elevate wrist-sensor technology tracks your ‘heart-rate (without the need for a chest strap). It also monitors your activities and gives you vibration-notifications if it catches you sitting for too long. It estimates VO2 max levels to optimize oxygen uptake.

Activity tracking records your steps, measures distances traveled, and counts calories burned all day. The added Recovery advisor assists with workouts by telling you when and for how long to rest. Visit the digital store, Connect IQ, get new apps, added pace alerts, more data fields, weather widgets, or change up the design of your watch face. Great for walkers, runners, sprinters, cyclists, swimmers, rowers, and in-home or office use.

Like the other models, it syncs with your smart devices to receive calls, texts, emails, and notifications. In smartwatch mode, the battery lasts about 9 hours. In training mode it lasts 11 hours. Purchase it by itself, with a new bike mount, or with a bike bundle. Colors include a black & gray combo, marsala, or frost blue.

Garmin Forerunner 235, GPS Running Watch, Black/Gray
4,082 Customer Reviews
Garmin Forerunner 235, GPS Running Watch, Black/Gray
  • GPS running watch with wrist based heart rate and display type is sunlight visible, transflective...
  • Customize your watch and your training, larger screen a 44 percentage larger screen than the 225 but...
  • Audio Prompts: Receive Audio Prompts from Your Connected Smartphone That Include Laps and Lap Times....

Garmin Vivoactive 3

vivoactive 3

The Vivoactive 3 brings a more affordable option to best smartwatch shoppers. This model is not as robust in terms of features, and it has only one size, but it still makes our list (for a lot of good reasons).

This watch has all the essential features you’d expect, and several more. Built-in GPS, smartphone sync for notifications, Garmin Play, and a 5 ATM water resistance are just some of what’s offered.

The Elevate tracking technology helps you optimize your workouts, monitor stress, and gives helpful insights for restful sleep. Also, the GPS mode lasts an impressive 13 hours. And several multi-sport apps come with the purchase.

As for the drawback, there’s no built-in music storage like you’ll find in some of the newer models. However, you can add this feature by purchasing it through Connect IQ. The Vivoactive 3 is not the latest model available, but still holds its own, and offers an impressive list of features for the price.

Garmin 010-01769-01 Vivoactive 3, GPS Smartwatch with Contactless Payments and Built-In Sports Apps,...
4,473 Customer Reviews
Garmin 010-01769-01 Vivoactive 3, GPS Smartwatch with Contactless Payments and Built-In Sports Apps,...
  • Garmin Pay contactless payment solution lets you pay for purchases with your watch (available for...
  • Personalize your watch with thousands of free watch faces, apps and widgets from our Connect IQ...
  • More than 15 preloaded GPS and indoor sports apps, including yoga, running, swimming and more

Garmin Forerunner 35

forerunner 35

The Garmin Forerunner 35 stands out among the Forerunner series. It’s perfect for in-home and office use. It is ideal for people who like to be on their feet. Use it to track your steps, run, sprint, or engage in several outdoor sports activities like biking, swimming, or rowing.

It offers built-in GPS to track your location and movement as well as speed and distance. The Elevate technology effectively tracks your ‘heart-rate to help you understand your stress levels and get better sleep.

The run and walk alerts allow you to optimize your daily steps or workouts by telling you when to slow down, when to speed up, or when to take a breather. It does this through vibration alerts that also include milestones and virtual placements. It even measures your pace, counts calories burned, records distance traveled, and a whole lot more.

Basic features like smart connectivity give you a higher degree of control, helpful auto-updates, and uploads for data. Sync it with your smartphone to handle all your regular calls, texting, emails, and social media alerts. The display on this smartwatch really stands out because of its high-resolution screen. You can buy it through a performance bundle, with a bike mount or just by itself.

On Sale
Garmin 010-01689-00 Forerunner 35; Easy-to-Use GPS Running Watch, Black
7,281 Customer Reviews
Garmin 010-01689-00 Forerunner 35; Easy-to-Use GPS Running Watch, Black
  • Easy-to use GPS running watch tracks how far, how fast and where you run
  • Estimates heart rate at the wrist, all day and night, using Garmin elevate wrist heart rate...
  • Connected features: Smart notifications, automatic uploads to Garmin Connect, live tracking and...

Garmin Vivoactive HR

vivoactive hr

If you need fitness tracking for winter sports or water sports, the Vivoactive HR is your answer. That’s not to say it isn’t great for more casual use as well. Some of the applications include snowboarding, skiing, swimming, rowing, and paddleboard. It’s also a good option for those who want to use it at home, at the office, and especially for golfing.

The Vivoactive HR utilizes Garmin’s Elevate technology that tracks your heart rate through wrist-contact and does away with the need for a chest sensor. The battery will give you eight days of continuous tracking and monitoring in smartwatch mode. GPS and Active tracker modes last considerably longer, granting users thirteen hours of run time.

This watch is water-resistant and includes an accelerometer to track your pace, time, and distance covered. That means your speed is tracked too, along with calories burned. Take it to spin class or hit the trail on a mountain bike. Intensity tracking is another feature of note. It gives you insights into your workouts and is great for climbing, walking, and can even help you optimize your sleep patterns.

The Vivoactive HR is a fantastic running watch. However, as a bonus, it includes over 1000 different golf course maps and aids for scorekeeping, stats, number of holes, strokes, and distance.

The watch can store a mindboggling number of apps and it offers different design options, widgets, and new data fields. You can find all of these through the Garmin digital store, Connect IQ.

Basic features come standard, like syncing with your smartphone and other devices for alerts, calls, and texts. One feature that helps this watch stand out is the high-resolution screen that makes it very readable, even in intense sunlight.

Purchase it in regular or extra-large sizes, with a bike mount, or by itself.

Garmin Vivoactive HR GPS Smart Watch, WW, Regular Fit - Black
2,136 Customer Reviews
Garmin Vivoactive HR GPS Smart Watch, WW, Regular Fit - Black
  • 24/7 HEART RATE MONITORING - Elevate wrist heart technology gives you heart rate all day and night...
  • LONG BATTERY LIFE - Up to 8 days in watch/activity tracking mode
  • INTENSITY MINUTES - Monitor your progress against aerobic activity goals recommended by health...

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Your questions answered.

Are Garmin Smartwatches Good?

Yes. Garmin has been in business for a long time. It outdates all of the competition, and no brand holds the same level of trust as Garmin does. When put to the test for accuracy, Garmin has scored highly with extremely accurate measurements regarding GPS and heart rate monitoring. Overall, Garmin has an impressive product track record, and its smartwatches are no exception.

Is Garmin Watch Better Than Apple Watch?

Both Garmin and Apple offer great choices. The answer is different depending on what it’s being used for and your individual preferences. The Apple Watch might be better for one particular function, and it might be considered more stylish.

But in terms of GPS and durable outdoor devices to aid in adventure, Garmin is the pioneer. You’ll also get more bang for your buck with Garmin products, as the Apple Watch is notoriously expensive.

Garmin exceeds Apple in battery life. If you’re lost on a hike, in a rainstorm, or the middle of the desert, you’ll need plenty of juice.

Garmin is the US Airforce’s choice and is used as a back-up device by U2 pilots. Garmin brings more secure communication than other brands.

The Apple Watch may be the right option for you, but Garmin wins out when it comes to durability and a smartwatch you can count on.

Is the Fenix 6 Worth it?

If you want the very best in sturdy, dependable smartwatches that offer all the latest goodies and features, then the Garmin Fenix 6 stands as the top option. The price point is notably heavier than other comparable options. For the additional money, you’ll get a better screen, modes, and apps for every outdoor activity imaginable, and improved battery management options to keep you ticking.

What is the Newest Garmin Smartwatch?

The newest one available, currently, is the Garmin Forerunner 945. It has everything that the 935 offers along with Garmin Pay and the ability to support offline music.

Conclusion

If you’re going off-grid and want to spare no expense, it’s tough to beat the Garmin Fenix 6.

If you're looking for a cheaper alternative, check out the Garmin Instinct.

However, those looking for a more urban aesthetic (that has it all) might better enjoy the Gamin Vivoactive 4.

Shoppers searching for the top Garmin smartwatch for cycling, indoor use, or the highest value will likely find something in between.

Whatever your lifestyle and spending habits, Garmin has done an excellent job of providing a GPS watch for any situation.

Links, prices and images pulled from Amazon Product Advertising API. Last update on 2020-10-23.

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