These Garmin Watches Do Way More Than Just GPS

Adam Schram |

When Garmin started making running watches in 2003, the devices focused on your speed and distance. Watches like the Forerunner 101 spearheaded the era of GPS-based activity tracking, and the brand has only expanded on that basic design by engineering new models with all kinds of health metric tracking, device pairing capabilities, and crystal-clear screens. And the new ones are a heck of a lot tidier on your wrist, too.

Even though tracking runs is still Garmin’s top priority, the amount of software the brand crams into a device transforms various models into ideal day-long companion gadgets. Many can pair with your phone to stream your music, display your notifications, and upload your workouts to apps like Strava automatically; many more can track health stats like heart rate, blood oxygen levels, and sleep quality, all while running for days or weeks between charges.

Ultimately, smartwatches aren’t cheap, so to get plenty from your running watch we’ve made this list of the best for you.

  • Best Overall: Garmin Venu 3 smartwatch
  • Best for Smaller Wrists: Garmin Venu Sq 2 music smartwatch
  • Best for Workout Tracking: Garmin Forerunner 265 running smartwatch
  • Lowest Profile: Garmin Vivosmart 5 smartwatch
  • Most Features: Garmin Fenix 7X Pro Sapphile solar smartwatch


Garmin Venue 3 

Though the Forerunner 265 ranks as the best overall option for tracking workouts, the Venu 3 separates itself from its sportier cousin with a sleeker appearance and more phone-friendly features, such as a built-in microphone for answering calls and an on-screen keyboard for answering texts.

The display on the Venu 3 is also slightly larger, allowing you to pack more information (such as an incoming text) on your wrist. You won’t get as many advanced training metrics or workout modes on this watch as you will with the 265, but you can get more comprehensive information about non-workout activities like sleeping. It can even detect naps on its own!

Garmin Fenix 7X Pro Sapphire Solar 

The Fenix 7X Pro is a great watch for all-day use because it could quite literally take you all day to use every feature on it. It’s stuffed to the gills with dozens of workout modes, advanced training metrics like multi-sport endurance performance and blood oxygen, and smartwatch features like contactless pay and notifications.

This Garmin watch is unquestionably a splurge with its premium price tag, but even the hardware on this device has advanced far beyond what any other watch on this list can offer. One of our favourite features is its built-in flashlight, which you can activate with a double-button tap for even faster access than most phones. 

This watch also has solar-charging capabilities, that can extend your battery life to well over a month in smartwatch mode.

Garmin Venu Sq 2 Music 

Lots of smartwatch users prefer a more compact design than the Venu 3. To meet this need, Garmin produced the Venu Sq, which boasts much of the same software and tracking capabilities as the Venu 3, but on a smaller screen with lower resolution. 

With the Venu Sq 2, you lose some of the Venu 3’s more convenient features for casual wear, such as its built-in microphone. But you can still track workouts and check your phone notifications just as easily—if that’s all you need out of your watch, you’re only saving yourself money by opting for this model.

Garmin Forerunner 265 

Regardless of your priorities with your smartwatch, the Forerunner family is always worth mentioning when we’re throwing Garmin’s name around. The 265, the line’s mid-range price option, offers as many options for workout tracking as the average athlete will ever need, yet it’s still light enough and comfortable enough that you won’t mind wearing it all day. 

Does the 265 have as many smartwatch features as the Venu 3? Does it look as appropriate on your wrist at a fancy dinner? Maybe not, but it still gives you features like Garmin Pay that offer extra functionality when you’re running errands instead of running.

Garmin Vívosmart 5 

For casual health nerds interested in a discreet health tracker that can log your heart rate and steps, the Vivosmart 5 offers a platform that can pair to your phone for even more utility.

Once the Vivosmart connects to your phone, you can use the latter’s GPS to log workouts just like any other Garmin watch. Plus, you can see when you get texts and receive reminders for events on your calendar. Better yet, despite this watch’s tiny stature, it somehow rocks a crash detector that can automatically notify your loved ones if you take a spill.

Garmin Vivofit Jr. 3 

For the athletic kiddo in your life, the Vivofit Jr. presents an approachable, intuitive interface that lets them use their outdoor activities (and timely chore completion) to play games and earn prizes on the accompanying Garmin Jr. app. 

This silicone-clad watch is waterproof, so it can last in the pool for an entire summer of swimming, and the battery can last a year. You do need to replace the battery once it’s kaput, but that’s as easy as removing the face from the band and accessing it from the backside.

All six available HERE 

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