Reviews You Can Rely On

The 6 Best GPS Watches of 2022

We tested the best GPS watches from Apple, Garmin, Coros, Suunto, and more to help you find the perfect companion for your adventures
Best GPS Watch of 2022
Slight design differences can make a big difference on those super long days out.
Credit: Matthew Richardson
Friday November 18, 2022
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more

Our review authors and testers have spent the last 8 years testing 43 of the best GPS watches, with the top 13 in this review. We've developed a testing plan which focuses on analyzing the features, battery life, ease of use, accuracy, and design. We look at both the internal user interface and the external hardware to give you the best recommendations. We know everyone has different priorities, so we delve into various use cases to help you decide which watch will be best for your lifestyle and budget.

If you're also in the market for some new hiking gear or camping supplies, we're here to help you out. We conduct complete testing and offer reviews for everything from the best trekking poles to the comfiest sleeping bags. If you're hoping to get really remote and want to pair your watch with a satellite messenger or solar charger, we've tested those too.

Editor's Note: We updated this review on November 18, 2022, to include the Apple Watch Ultra and Garmin Forerunner 955.

Recent software updates by the brands tested could cause some of our remarks to be outdated, though we do our best to keep everything up-to-date. Manufacturer product pages will have the most recent software feature changes.

Top 13 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 13
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Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award  Best Buy Award 
Price $700 List
$700.00 at REI
$700 List
$700.00 at REI
$450 List
$450.00 at REI
$500 List
$500.00 at REI
$399 List
Overall Score
86
88
76
78
76
Star Rating
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Pros Durable, incredible battery life, large screen, great appExcellent battery life, great interface, advanced health metrics, beautiful screen resolutionReliable, durable, excellent battery life, simple designUltra-Lightweight, thin profile, good for smaller wristsGood battery life, comfortable, easy to use, great value
Cons Heavy, expensive, limited touch function, resume later function not enabled across all activitiesApp could be better, calibration of ABC difficult, expensivePlastic body, straps not removable, may be less comfortable for smaller wristsLess premium materials, potentially less durable, tool requires strapsLacks some toolset functions, scroll wheel has unintended clicks
Bottom Line The most rugged expedition-ready watch we tested with insane battery life in a large 51mm caseThe best GPS watch for everyday use and extended adventures in backcountry terrainA rugged GPS watch with potentially unlimited battery life, this watch has all the features you need and nothing you don'tThis fully featured running watch is perfect for those who want the lightest equipment for the track and trailA fully-featured GPS watch at a great price makes this one of our top recommendations for all user types
Rating Categories Coros Vertix 2 Garmin Fenix 7 Garmin Instinct 2 S... Garmin Forerunner 955 Coros Apex Pro
Features (20%)
8.0
9.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
Battery Life (20%) Sort Icon
10.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
Ease of Use (20%)
8.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
Accuracy (20%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
Design (20%)
8.0
9.0
7.0
8.0
8.0
Specs Coros Vertix 2 Garmin Fenix 7 Garmin Instinct 2 S... Garmin Forerunner 955 Coros Apex Pro
Watch Face Material Sapphire Glass Corning Gorilla Glass DX Power glass Corning Gorilla Glass DX Sapphire glass
Bezel Grade 5 titanium alloy with PVD coating Stainless steel Fiber reinforced polymer Fiber reinforced polymer Titanium Alloy
Case Titanium Alloy with PVD Coating Fiber-reinforced polymer with metal rear cover Fiber reinforced polymer Fiber-reinforced polymer Alumnium
Strap Material Silicon or nylon Silicon Silicone Silicone Silicon or nylon
Tools Required to Change Band? No No Yes Yes No
Model Tested Standard Standard Solar Standard Standard
Size Tested One size only 47mm One size only One Size only 47mm
Measured Main Body Size (diameter) 50mm 47mm 45mm 46.5mm 47mm
Measured Thickness 16mm 15.5mm 15mm 14.4mm 13.4mm
Measured Screen Width 35.5mm 33mm 23mm 33mm 33mm
Measured Weight 3.17 oz 2.75 oz 1.87 oz 1.7 oz 2.0 oz
Measured Charging Time 128 min 168 min 123 min 120 min 80 min
Battery Type Rechargable lithium ion Rechargable lithium ion Rechargable lithium ion Rechargable lithium ion Rechargable lithium ion
Measured Battery Life With GPS On 135 hours 56 hours 30 hours 41 hours 36 hours
Manufacturer-Reported Battery Life Smartwatch mode: 60 days;
GPS: 140 hours
Smartwatch mode: 18 days;
GPS: 57 hours
Smartwatch mode: 28 days and unlimited w/ solar;
GPS: 30/48hrs
Smartwatch mode: Up to 15 days
GPS-only mode without music: Up to 42 hours
All-Systems GNSS mode plus Multi-Band with music: Up to 8.5 hours
All Systems GNSS mode plus Multi-Band without music: Up to 20 hours
Ultratrac mode: Up to 80 hours
Smartwatch mode: 30 days;
GPS mode: 40 hours;
UltraMax mode: 100 hours
Navigation Built In? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Satellite Networks Used GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, Beidou, QZSS GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO GPS, QZSS, GLONASS, BEIDOU
Maps? Yes - detailed Yes - detailed No Yes - detailed Yes - basic
Back to Start Navigation? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Water Resistance (max depth) 100m 100m 100m 50m 100m
Music Control? Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Music Storage? Yes - 32gb storage Yes - 1000 songs No Yes - 2000 songs No
Daily Fitness Tracking? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Touchless Payment? No Yes Yes Yes No
Sleep Tracking? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Blood Oxygen? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Compass? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Barometric Altimeter? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Temperature Sensor? Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Main Software App Coros App Garmin Connect, widgets for other features Garmin Connect, widgets for other features Garmin Connect, widgets for other features Coros App
Can Software Cross Over to Different Software Ecosystems? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes


Best Overall GPS Watch


Garmin Fenix 7


88
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Features 9.0
  • Battery Life 8.0
  • Ease of Use 9.0
  • Accuracy 9.0
  • Design 9.0
Weight: 2.75 oz | Battery Life: 18 days in smartwatch mode, 57 hours in GPS mode
REASONS TO BUY
Best features and user interface
Exceptional battery for most distances
Premium materials and rugged design
Accurate dual-frequency GPS
REASONS TO AVOID
Expensive
Garmin Connect app feels dated

The Garmin Fenix 7 is the best GPS watch we've ever tested. This model is intuitive and accurate, with a battery life that'll last through most ultra-distance events. The Garmin user interface is our favorite, and the extensive feature set helps improve our time outdoors without being annoying or difficult to use. We appreciate the durable design, sleek look, and bonus features like massive music storage, Garmin Pay, onboard maps, and integration with Garmin's robust online ecosystem.

While this is a great watch, the price is high, and many will find better value in other lower-priced options with fewer features. Taking the time to learn all about the feature options and how to set them up is a time investment as well. However, if you can afford it, this is the best GPS watch in today's market.

Read more: Garmin Fenix 7 review

best overall gps watch
Ski touring-specific modes are common on high-end models like the Fenix 7. There are even sub-modes for the up and the down.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Best Bang for the Buck


Coros Apex Pro


76
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Features 7.0
  • Battery Life 7.0
  • Ease of Use 8.0
  • Accuracy 8.0
  • Design 8.0
Weight: 2.0 oz | Battery Life: 30 days in smartwatch mode, 40 hours in GPS mode
REASONS TO BUY
Great GPS and smartwatch battery life
Fantastic accuracy across different profiles
Thin light design perfect for running and intense activity
REASONS TO AVOID
Scroll wheel can misclick, requiring locking the screen
Can be hard to read at speed

The Coros Apex Pro is a favorite choice and one we'd recommend to anyone who wants a GPS watch but doesn't need the most advanced features and technologies. When comparing the price to performance, we think this is one of the best GPS watches on the market. It's still not super cheap, but this watch has everything you need and recently got a software upgrade to include new navigation features. The Coros ecosystem is great and easy to use, and the battery life makes this model contend even with the premium-priced models.

A few complaints are that the data fields are a bit difficult to read when moving at high speeds or working out intensely. Also, the health metrics offer no scores or helpful descriptions of the evaluated data, unlike the Garmin products. Still, we are impressed with this model and its ability to do almost everything the top models do at a lower price point.

Read more: Coros Apex Pro review

gps watch - best bang for the buck
The Coros Apex Pro is a high value choice because of its great features and more-than-fair price.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Best on a Tight Budget


Coros Pace 2


68
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Features 5.0
  • Battery Life 7.0
  • Ease of Use 8.0
  • Accuracy 8.0
  • Design 6.0
Weight: 1.2 oz | Battery Life: 20 days in smartwatch mode, 30 hours in GPS mode
REASONS TO BUY
Exceptionally lightweight
Battery life is long
Fantastic accuracy
Very easy to use
REASONS TO AVOID
Limited sports profiles
Plastic construction

The Coros Pace 2 can't be beaten when it comes to value. It has a smaller watch face that fits even the most petite wrists and hardly feels like it's there. The features are streamlined to provide exactly what you need, with excellent fitness and health tracking options. It has an incredible design that is intuitive and simple to use. For the price, there is no other watch that compares to its level of quality. Battery life is sufficient for a faster 100-mile race or any endurance event, lasting 29 hours in our tests. The Coros app also crosses over to other platforms and offers one of the easiest-to-use interfaces we've seen thus far. If you're looking for a heck of a deal, look no further.

Unfortunately, this isn't a fully-featured watch with contactless pay or other exotic upgrades. It doesn't host a breadcrumb trail map but surprisingly does have ABC (Altimeter, Barometer, and Compass) functions. If you're in search of the best software features, look instead to the Garmin Forerunner 55, which comes in at a similar price point. But for those that don't care so much about features and are just interested in an easy-to-use and accurate watch with loads of battery life, we wouldn't recommend any other.

Read more: Coros Pace 2 review

gps watch - best on a tight budget
The Coros Pace 2 has great features, a lightweight design, and is great for those on a tight budget.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Best Battery Life


Coros Vertix 2


86
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Features 8.0
  • Battery Life 10.0
  • Ease of Use 8.0
  • Accuracy 9.0
  • Design 8.0
Weight: 3.17 oz | Battery Life: 60 days in smartwatch mode, 60 hours in low power mode
REASONS TO BUY
Industry-leading GPS and smartwatch battery life
Fantastic accuracy across different profiles
Easy to use with precise and fluid scroll wheel
Massive screen and rugged look in a thin case
REASONS TO AVOID
Expensive
Touch screen is not enabled throughout the entire interface

If battery life is your biggest consideration, the Coros Vertix 2 is for you. This large and rugged watch offers all the features you need to train for your next adventure, including a pulse oximeter, touch screen, breadcrumb trail, several workout profiles, workout creation, route navigation, and more. No other watch in our lineup has this level of excellent battery power, making it a favorite for ultra adventurers that need their power to keep going all day and through the night.

While we love this watch, the 51mm size may be a no-go for some folks. With the case size and never-ending battery life, it's noticeably heavy, and it may not be the best option for runners and people that do activities with lots of arm movement. The cost is also significantly higher than both the Coros Apex and Coros Pace 2, two other high-value options. Still, if you desire the commanding look of this model, we think you will not be disappointed — it's great for hiking, and we could see it working perfectly in expedition settings.

Read more: Coros Vertix 2 review

gps watch - best battery life
Testing the Coros Vertix 2 in snowy running conditions. No battery life loss was detected due to the cold temps.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Best Smartwatch for iPhone Users


Apple Watch Ultra


80
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Features 10.0
  • Battery Life 4.0
  • Ease of Use 9.0
  • Accuracy 8.0
  • Design 9.0
Weight: 2.20 oz | Battery Life: 36 hours in smartwatch mode,
REASONS TO BUY
Industry-leading health metrics
Premium design and materials
Phone + SMS response via keyboard and Siri
Best watch face design and red light capability
REASONS TO AVOID
Short battery life
Expensive

When paired with an iPhone, the Apple Watch Ultra is powerful. The ability to activate and use many of the functions of your phone is a great tool. Whether talking on the phone or sending a quick text, the UI found on this device is fluid and functional. If you have been looking for a GPS-enabled smartwatch that's smarter than the rest, this is the model for you. While it's not as "ultra" as some of the other more rugged models, it's undoubtedly the best designed.

Battery life suffers on the Ultra due to the super bright always-on display, and the modes don't feel as tailored to athletics as some of the other models in our lineup, but the smart features far surpass the competition. This watch is for those that want both excellent GPS tracking while also owning the functionality of an Apple Watch. If we could afford more than one watch, this would surely be on our list, but it's not our first choice for certain kinds of outings. However, for those that don't find themselves needing multi-day battery life, this could be the model for you.

Read more: Apple Watch Ultra review

gps watch - best smartwatch for iphone users
Our lead tester Matthew starting out on a multi-day backpacking trip hoping to push the battery life limits of the Apple Watch Ultra.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Best Solar for Expeditions


Garmin Instinct 2 Solar


76
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Features 7.0
  • Battery Life 8.0
  • Ease of Use 8.0
  • Accuracy 8.0
  • Design 7.0
Weight: 1.87 oz | Battery Life: Endless in smartwatch mode w/ sun, 30 hours in GPS mode
REASONS TO BUY
Solar panels charge the watch quickly
Most features are already built into the watch
Basic navigation options
Seemingly endless battery life in smartwatch mode when there's sun
REASONS TO AVOID
No noticeable charging with the GPS running
Fixed watch straps may not fit everyone

The Garmin Instinct Solar 2 stands out as one of the best GPS watches for daily use, with solar panels integrated right into the screen. So long as it is exposed to the sun, using it in smartwatch mode will require few to no charges every month. Over three months of testing, we only had to charge it once — after we ran the battery down on purpose. As a result, it's a great option for expeditions or longer treks where you might not be able to find an outlet. This design has simplified features but still offers nice navigational perks like sight n' go, coordinates, and a breadcrumb trail.

While we have little negative to say about this model, some may find the design a bit tactical, and it may not fit those great with smaller wrists. One other downside is the lack of solar charging while actively recording GPS; this could be an issue if you find yourself reaching the limits of its 30-hour recording time. Luckily with Garmin's 'resume later' feature, you can stop the workout and put it in the background for solar charging. Then you can pick up where you started without losing your activity.

Read more: Garmin Instinct Solar 2 review

gps watch - the solar instinct 2 is rugged, durable, and perfect for running and...
The Solar Instinct 2 is rugged, durable, and perfect for running and scrambling missions in our backyard.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price
88
Garmin Fenix 7
garmin fenix 7 gps watch review
$700
Editors' Choice Award
86
Coros Vertix 2
coros vertix 2 gps watch review
$700
Top Pick Award
80
Apple Watch Ultra
apple watch ultra gps watch review
$799
Top Pick Award
78
Garmin Forerunner 955
garmin forerunner 955 gps watch review
$500
76
Coros Apex Pro
coros apex pro gps watch review
$399
Best Buy Award
76
Garmin Instinct 2 Solar
garmin instinct 2 solar gps watch review
$450
Top Pick Award
74
Coros Apex
coros apex gps watch review
$300
72
Polar Vantage M2
polar vantage m2 gps watch review
$300
68
Coros Pace 2
coros pace 2 gps watch review
$200
Best Buy Award
68
Suunto 9 Baro
suunto 9 baro gps watch review
$500
68
Suunto 9 Peak
suunto 9 peak gps watch review
$569
64
Garmin Forerunner 55
garmin forerunner 55 gps watch review
$200
56
Suunto 7
suunto 7 gps watch review
$400

gps watch - putting the apex pro through the san juan test on a bluebird day.
Putting the Apex Pro through the San Juan test on a bluebird day.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Why You Should Trust Us


Before selection occurs, we spend hours looking through the top options on the market, delving into the research to determine the best. Once we've determined our final lineup, we buy each watch at full retail and start our testing process. From days out running, skiing, climbing, and biking, we analyze the features, accuracy, and usability to give you our recommendations on what's best. Our team is proud to provide our thoughts and aid you in searching for the best GPS watch to fit your needs.

Our GPS watch testing is divided into five rating metrics:
  • Features (20% of overall score weighting)
  • Battery Life (20% weighting)
  • Ease of Use (20% weighting)
  • Accuracy (20% weighting)
  • Design (20% weighting)

This review is brought to you by a team of expert testers headed up by Matthew Richardson. Matthew works with maps for a living and spends his free time in the outdoors surrounding Durango, Colorado. He uses a GPS watch daily and has completed some big outings, such as a solo ride on the Colorado Trail and linking up Chicago Basin 14ers in a day. Also on the testing team is Amber King. Amber is a professional outdoor educator who spends lots of time navigating the great outdoors. She is also an ultra trail runner who loves to challenge herself with big, steep, and long runs and fastpacking adventures. She also uses a GPS watch daily for trail running, open-water swimming, mountain biking, and backcountry skiing.

Our lead tester on a solo trip on the Colorado Trail summer of 2021...
Our lead tester on a solo trip on the Colorado Trail summer of 2021. Seen here at Kokomo Pass.
Our lead tester Matthew putting some miles in, in Durango, Colorado.
Our lead tester Matthew putting some miles in, in Durango, Colorado.
Matthew our lead tester doing the classic chimney boulder in the...
Matthew our lead tester doing the classic chimney boulder in the kraft boulders in Las Vegas, NV.

Analysis and Test Results


There are many GPS watches on the market these days, and finding the one that fits your needs can be a tough project. We took a sample of the market's current best and tested them to see how they compare side-by-side. We evaluated each for features, battery life, ease of use, accuracy, and design.


Value


GPS watches are an investment, and your level of usage should determine what your price point should be. If you're looking to get into the entry-level GPS watch market and want a watch purely for distance and heart rate tracking, we suggest the Coros Pace2 or Garmin Forerunner 55. These are great entry-level models which will satisfy most users.

gps watch - testing these products head-to-head and side-by-side gives us...
Testing these products head-to-head and side-by-side gives us valuable insight into the pros and cons of each.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

The Coros Apex Pro is a middle-ground option for those who don't want to spend top dollar but still want basic navigation features and a well-designed watch interface. A must-have for our usage is breadcrumb mapping, return to start, and turn-by-turn with preloaded routes. This pricepoint provides these features and offers a stellar battery life that will last for all but the longest adventures.

Wait for last season's watch to go on sale. These are typically loaded with many of the same functions, and you can get them for a fraction of the retail cost.

Features


The variety of feature sets in today's market mimics the wide range of pricing. Across all the devices, we tested roughly 1-second interval GPS recording, and a heart rate monitor is a minimum. A higher price tag generally equates to more internal software features. The most advanced watches have features like blood oxygen readings, topographic maps, and a suite of smartwatch-enabled features. Some features lend themselves to urban usage, others expeditions into unfamiliar terrain. Keep in mind your usage scenario and try to purchase a watch based on the features you will actually use.


The Apple Watch Ultra and Garmin Fenix 7 received the highest scores in this category, with the Garmin Forerunner 955 nipping at their heels. These models feature advanced GPS tracking (MULTI GNSS), lots of activity profiles, advanced health metric stats, and premium topo maps for navigation. When you take a close look, both Garmin models are very similar in performance and quality. Both will sync to your smartphone to deliver notifications, calendar updates, and weather forecasts. The Coros Vertix 2 also scores highly in this category, but it lacks some Garmin-specific features that we end up missing.

gps watch - the garmin forerunner 955 out in the wild on a trail in southwestern...
The Garmin Forerunner 955 out in the wild on a trail in Southwestern Colorado. This watch can do it all.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

These differences are important to us, but they could be meaningless to you. We suggest checking out the spec sheets via each brand's website to view the most current, up-to-date features and any software updates. The user interfaces found on the brands we tested are similar to a phone ecosystem — each has its own style of operating system (OS). For example, an iPhone model behaves similarly to other iPhones and vice versa for Android. This is the current state of the GPS market when comparing brands. Because of this, we will run down some general trends and features which make us prefer the premium Garmin products over the premium Coros products:

Top-tier Garmin products offer:
  • Resume later function enabled on all activities
  • More ANT+ integration and inReach compatibility
  • Health metrics provide a score and descriptive explanations
  • Garmin Pay wallet integration for contactless payment
  • Spotify download for music vs. manual upload
  • Easy to access Battery Modes and GPS settings via quick prompts
  • Touchscreen enabled throughout the device

gps watch - garmin inreach support is a huge feature for us. you gain easy...
Garmin inReach support is a huge feature for us. You gain easy access to the SOS / preset message features right from the watch.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

This isn't to say that Coros doesn't have its own benefits in terms of features, but for us, the above items make us prefer the Garmin feature lineup mostly across the board. Cheaper models do not have some of the above features, so, again, make sure to check the brand's official product spec sheets to confirm you're getting what you want.

That was pretty much the extent of our features discussion before the Apple Watch Ultra came out. This watch has the most features out of all the watches we tested, thanks largely to its great iPhone integration. The ability to not only answer calls (standard on most watches), but also talk via the speaker is super handy. Answering texts via swipe gestures or Siri is also a benefit over other models. This large feature set costs a lot of battery life, and many of these features are disabled if you activate the low-power mode. But if you've been looking for a GPS watch that can both be rugged and provide industry-leading UI and phone integration, this is the model for you.

gps watch - the red light adjustment of the standard watch face is one of our...
The red light adjustment of the standard watch face is one of our favorite features - perfect for a night under the stars!
Credit: Matthew Richardson

The Suunto 7 also scores highly here with Google Wear OS products built-in. You can use a host of Google Play apps, in addition to its basic GPS functionality. Unfortunately, we cannot recommend this for anything other than its feature set due to it being incredibly difficult to use, compounded with poor battery life.

gps watch - deep in the canyons of utah, our lead tester hiked through the...
Deep in the canyons of Utah, our lead tester hiked through the riverbed finding the hardest place for satellites to reach.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Battery Life


For any distance athlete, battery life is probably one of the biggest factors affecting your decision to buy a watch. Battery life is affected by many things, including the route you're on, GPS signal, coverage, the number of apps you have turned on/off, the battery mode you have set, and how long you run your device. As a result, we appreciate that many of the watches we tested have battery modes and profiles that make it easy to turn on/off various features at once without having to dig through the menus.


We performed many battery tests. The first was a more subjective in-field test where we charged up the battery and used the watch normally day in and day out. We noted how long the watch took to die while incorporating 2-3 activities each week, about 1-3 hours in length. We then compared manufacturers' claims to the actual results that we got.

gps watch - getting in some road miles on the coros pace 2 before heading home...
Getting in some road miles on the Coros Pace 2 before heading home after a long weekend.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Then, we tested GPS by setting each watch out in the same area under the open sky and running them down until they turned off. We noted the time taken to reach this point and if any went into a battery-saver mode to enhance battery life. We realize this test won't tell you the specific number of hours you'll get during real GPS activity, but it gave us an idea of which watches last longer than others and the quality of the data. In addition, we also took each watch on at least 50 miles of activities, noting the amount of battery used for the time of the activity.

gps watch - the coros vertix 2 has the best battery life out of any of the...
The Coros Vertix 2 has the best battery life out of any of the models we tested and was our favorite for hiking.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Make sure to consider the types of adventures and the length of time you anticipate using your device. Most of these models can charge while recording, but we would recommend choosing the one that best fits your needs to avoid having to do this. We think 24 hours of GPS tracking is a good place to start for most people and to increase only if you know you'll need more. Realize that a battery is a trade-off in terms of features gained/lost or changes to the case size.

If your priority is a smartwatch that never dies, then consider the Garmin Instinct Solar 2. You will want to have reliable solar energy available to charge the watch, and little to no percentage gains are made while GPS is running, so you will want to have a power backup if you are planning to use a lot of GPS tracking. This is another instance where the 'resume later' features on Garmin can be beneficial during rest periods out on the trail.

gps watch - solar intensity is displayed in a widget on the instinct 2 solar...
Solar intensity is displayed in a widget on the Instinct 2 Solar, letting you know how much sun your watch screen is receiving in changing conditions.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

For maximum battery usage, the Coros models excel across their range. The battery life on the Vertix 2 is insane, with almost 90 hours of MULTI GNSS tracking. Some people could complete the entire Colorado Trail on their bike without ever charging their watch! Coros products are known for their battery life, and it's clearly a priority throughout their whole range.

We kept everything set to default settings when running our battery tests - in the condition that most people will start using their watches. Turn off notifications and other functions you don't need before your activity to extend battery life.

We appreciate the battery-saver options and modes found on the Garmin products. These are easy to use and enabled in the tools after a long press of the back button. When starting an activity, the battery options are clearly labeled, and you can visually see how each mode will impact watch functionality. This may be less of a priority for Coros to implement, given their industry-leading battery life.

gps watch - the forerunner 955 is made for running with its ultra lightweight...
The Forerunner 955 is made for running with its ultra lightweight design.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

The Suunto products generally scored lower, with the Suunto 7 having the worst battery life due to the abundant smartwatch features and bright screen. Both the Suunto 9 Peak and Suunto 9 Baro have all-day battery lives at 25 hours for their 'Best' recording mode. Instead of Best/Better/Good/Okay, we wish there were more descriptions of what is gained and lost under these settings. The Apple Watch Ultra also scored low in the battery metric due to the super bright always-on display.

gps watch - the suunto 9 baro features a standout large screen. unfortunately...
The Suunto 9 Baro features a standout large screen. Unfortunately, this model fell a bit short in most of our test metrics.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Across our entire lineup, there is a GPS watch that fits anyone's battery needs. If your main priority is battery life, the Coros models are the clear winner. Think of the longest time you expect to be out and use our comparison chart to view the various battery lives of these models.

gps watch - our main tester got high above santa fe testing the garmin...
Our main tester got high above Santa Fe testing the Garmin Forerunner 55.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Ease of Use


Ease of use is important when using a watch both during activity and during your daily life. These products should enhance your life, not make it more difficult. Models which scored highest are those we felt were the easiest to use and provided the best user experience. Integration of mobile apps was also taken into consideration when determining user experience. Like any product with this many features, learning the ins and outs will take some time.


Similar to features, there are lots of similarities between brands, with the interface on the cheapest watches mimicking those found on the top-of-the-line models. You will see there isn't as much spread in our rankings for this metric — this is due to the similarities of the interfaces. If you can use the Vertix 2, you will instantly be able to use the Coros Apex, same for the Fenix 7 and Forerunner 55. That said, there are a few items that give Garmin the lead in terms of usability:

GARMIN +/-


REASONS TO BUY
Dedicated buttons reduce accidental presses and don't require a screen lock
The touch screen, if available, is activated throughout the watch menus/screens
Easy to access Battery Modes and GPS settings via quick prompts
Ability to delete activities on the watch
Workout resumes even after turning the watch on/off
REASONS TO AVOID
Garmin Connect is less user friendly

COROS +/-


REASONS TO BUY
The scroll wheel is fluid and precise
Mobile application is more refined and modern
The larger screen on the Vertix 2 is better for navigation
Easier calibration of ABC (Altimeter/Barometer/Compass)
REASONS TO AVOID
Touch screen only available on data screens and navigation
The scroll wheel requires a lock to prevent unintended scrolling
Health metrics lack scores and deep analysis making them less helpful

All of the Garmin products feature dedicated buttons, with the Fenix 7 having a touch screen. All of the Coros models feature their signature scroll wheel, with the Apex Pro and Vertix 2 having a touch screen. Unfortunately, the touch screen on the Coros models is not enabled throughout the device, only on certain screens, such as swiping data fields and using navigation.

Ultimately it's hard to say which brand is easier to use because they are both different yet similar. Their method of interaction is the biggest difference, and we would suggest deciding on whether you like the idea of a scroll wheel or dedicated buttons. Internally, the menu systems are essentially the same, with just some minor differences listed above.

gps watch - backpacking in winter gets dark quickly. our cozy sleeping bag is...
Backpacking in winter gets dark quickly. Our cozy sleeping bag is the perfect time to mess around with various functions on the Vertix 2.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

The Apple Watch Ultra impressed us with its feature set and how easy it is to use these features. It's really no surprise that Apple was able to incorporate its beloved design into this more rugged model. Setting up and customizing notifications and the layout is a breeze with the watch app.

gps watch - apple is known for their user-friendly platforms, and the ultra...
Apple is known for their user-friendly platforms, and the Ultra continues that trend with everything you would expect.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

The Suunto products all scored poorly here as we felt their menu systems were the hardest to learn and use. Even after hours of using their products, the menus still felt unintuitive compared to the competition. Both the Suunto 9 Baro and Suunto 9 Peak have very nice touch screens that aid in ease of use, but we can't recommend them for this feature alone. The Suunto 7 was the hardest to use, and we found the Google OS features to be overwhelming.

gps watch - we cannot understand why suunto did not make their menus a loop...
We cannot understand why Suunto did not make their menus a loop. Once you get to the bottom you have to scroll back up to the top. Frustrating.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Apps are another consideration in this metric. Of all the manufacturers we reviewed, Garmin Connect has the most features, but the design left a bit to be desired, in our opinion. Suunto, Coros, and Polar have apps that are more stripped-down, less integrated, and overall easier to use. Suunto has a really beautiful layout that integrates photos, which we enjoyed. These apps were easier to figure out compared to Garmin, though none offer the same social ecosystem. Luckily they all cross over to different ecosystems like Strava.

gps watch - a look at the different home screens for each app. left: garmin...
A look at the different home screens for each app. Left: Garmin. Middle: Coros. Right: Suunto.
Credit: Amber King

Accuracy


We know that accurate GPS recordings and metrics are important. Nobody wants wonky elevation data or elevated heart rate stats, especially with the cost of today's devices. We've been impressed with the watches in our test group, each performing adequately across the price ranges. Luckily all of the watches we tested now feature multi-band GPS satellite recording, with some even working in multi-frequency. GPS signal strength, satellite location, watch fit, and internal hardware all have a large impact on device accuracy.


To evaluate accuracy, we ran, biked, and hiked known distances to compare our watches and their track metrics. We also tested the watches deep in the canyons of Utah. Canyons are notoriously bad for GPS watches due to the limited open line of sight. All of the GPS watches we tested had good accuracy that we would trust. Most gave us smooth tracks that consistently stayed within 1-3% of the actual measured distance. Multi-band satellites produced the best results; those with dual-frequency performed even better. It's important to keep in mind that these advanced features generally use more battery, but these devices already have sufficient battery life to perform these tasks. Thanks to their dual-frequency recording, the Garmin Fenix 7 and Coros Vertix 2 had the best GPS data.

We tested the GPS watches in deep canyons which are normally plagued...
We tested the GPS watches in deep canyons which are normally plagued with a bad line of sight but our top models had no difficulty achieving a satellite connection.
A 3D Google Earth look at the GPS track captured by the Fenix 7.
A 3D Google Earth look at the GPS track captured by the Fenix 7.

Heart Rate Monitor Accuracy

Testing heart rate monitors is quite a challenge. We observed heart rate data during runs and compared this to the information we received from a heart monitor chest strap. While most watches can accurately track the relative ups and downs you might experience while exercising, few are as accurate as a chest strap. This is largely due to variable fit on the wrist and a myriad of other factors. None of the heart rate monitors we tested was spot on. If you want precise heart rate readings, be sure to purchase a chest strap. That said, some did better than others, with the Garmin brand being a touch more accurate than others.

gps watch - a look at the heart rate monitors across several of our top-scoring...
A look at the heart rate monitors across several of our top-scoring watches.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

The Forerunner 955 and Fenix 7 were almost spot on with a good fit on our wrist and an average variation of just 0-4 beats per minute. The Polar Vantage M2 is also very accurate, with a variation of only 0-2 bpm (one of the best tested). The Suunto 9 Baro and Suunto 7 had variations of 3-5 bpm and 1-7 bpm, respectively. Both are larger watches, and we noted that both of these would lose a heartbeat during exercise more than others. The Coros watches always seemed to have higher readings, with variations of up to 20 bpm. We're not sure if this is because of the smaller design, but we weren't too impressed with this accuracy.

gps watch - a look at the captured tracks of our top models - as you can see...
A look at the captured tracks of our top models - as you can see, they all did a great job.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

One important thing to note regarding optical heart rate monitors is that they do not provide quality data for people with dark skin, tattoos, or large amounts of hair or sweat under the monitor. This issue applies to every watch with an optical heart rate monitor because they use photoplethysmography (PPG), where light reflected from your arteries indicates your heart rate. Outside light, bursts of activity, interference from hair, tattoo ink, sweat, etc., can all affect readings.

Design


When considering design, we took a close look at the way each watch fits on the wrist and any notable issues with it during use. This included looking at the size and thickness of the body, using under clothing, accidentally turning buttons on and off, and the clarity of the screen. We also considered aesthetics which will vary from person to person. Pick the design you like best that fits your budget and see how the externals stack up between each model.


We used these watches for all-day use, and our opinions will reflect that. If you have a dedicated wristwatch that will take priority over your active GPS watch, take that into consideration. We put priority on premium materials and a good design since this is something we wear 24/7 except while charging. The sleekest design and best for small wrists are the Suunto 9 Peak and Polar Vantage M2. We are impressed with the amount of technology packed into these units. The Garmin Forerunner 955 also has a super-thin design that works great for running.

The Vantage M2 puts an emphasis on design and we think Polar did a...
The Vantage M2 puts an emphasis on design and we think Polar did a great job.
The Suunto 9 Peak is one of the best externally-designed watches we...
The Suunto 9 Peak is one of the best externally-designed watches we tested - we just wish the internals matched the exterior.


We appreciate that Apple went against the grain, creating a unique design. The rectangular shape of the Apple Watch Ultra may not be for everyone but was a favorite of our team. The titanium bezel and ceramic back feel both rugged and premium. We tested the alpine loop strap, and we were fans of it for daily usage but we think the trail band could be better for more active users. The always-on display is vibrant and easy to read under any sun conditions. The standard watch face is awesome-looking, and the adjustable red mode is perfect for a night under the stars. We hope that other brands start to incorporate this level of detail and precision into their units.

gps watch - the alpine loop band is elegant and great for all-day use but we&#039;d...
The alpine loop band is elegant and great for all-day use but we'd recommend the trail loop band for people that find themselves doing a lot of activity with high arm movement.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

We recommend the Fenix 7 or Vertix 2 for those looking for a more rugged design. Both of these watches are made with the most premium materials and are durable enough to withstand years of abuse. The 51mm case size of the Vertix 2 is great for those with a bigger wrist or who like the commanding-looking screen and bezel. If your primary activity is running, we would stick with the 47mm case size of the Fenix 7 and Coros Apex Pro. The weight difference is noticeable for activities with a lot of arm movement.

gps watch - the award winners side-by-side. which data screen design do you like...
The award winners side-by-side. Which data screen design do you like the best?
Credit: Matthew Richardson

The Fenix 7 has an excellent screen design, with the best contrast and brightness out of any of the screens we tested. The data fields pop, and the numbers are bolder than those on the Coros models. We found glancing at the data fields while running technical terrain to be the most fluid and natural. If you aren't doing intense activities, this may be less of a priority for you.

gps watch - the fenix 7 had the best contrast when looking at data screens...
The Fenix 7 had the best contrast when looking at data screens. Perfect for when running hard on technical terrain.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Similarly important, the dedicated buttons on the Fenix 7 made accessing the data screens easier while under intense activities. The scroll wheel found on the Coros models tends to be bumped accidentally, requiring a lockout mode to be enabled. This is easily disabled if you personally don't have issues. This extra step of unlocking the device while on the move felt annoying and one extra unneeded step. We like the action and sureness of dedicated physical buttons. If you use the swipe touchscreen feature or auto-scroll, this may be less important to you.

gps watch - our lead tester matthew went backpacking in colorado testing out the...
Our lead tester Matthew went backpacking in Colorado testing out the various GPS watches in this review.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Conclusion


Buying a GPS watch is a big decision and a significant investment. Take a look through our reviews for a more in-depth look at the various models we tested. You might find yourself researching for weeks or even months before finding the right one at the right price. We hope that our insights and in-depth comparative research have helped you find confidence in taking the plunge into this investment. Take our thoughts and use cases and determine what's most important to you. There is a GPS watch here for everyone, and we hope this makes your decision process a little easier. Have fun out there!

gps watch - testing gps capabilities and satellite reception deep in the canyons...
Testing GPS capabilities and satellite reception deep in the canyons of Utah.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Matthew Richardson and Amber King


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