Outdoor Gear Review: Garmin Watches

garmin watch

When it comes to fitness watches, one of the best names in the business is Garmin.

The company has been around since 1989 and is now worth over $3 billion. You don’t build up that much of a net worth without doing something right, and with Garmin their bread and butter is in their watch division.

Garmin watches have been at the forefront of fitness technology for the past 20 years, and they don’t appear to be stopping anytime soon.

The company continues to update, and improve, their fitness tracking arsenal of watches, adding a new line when needing and scraping something when it’s time. Garmin understands what it takes to stay at the top, delivering premium devices at solid price points, along with the features people want.

Sometimes, you just need a product that performs as advertised.

While most of Garmin’s watches look the part, how do they deliver on performance? Today we’re going to take a deep look into the company’s watches, deciding which, if any, are worth their weight in the fitness community.

What is a Garmin Fitness Watch and How Do They Work?

If you’re unfamiliar with a fitness-based watch, just know that their intentions are to aid in collecting and distributing any workout data.

For Garmin, they try to provide some of the better-quality devices you’ll find on the market.

The primary function of any Garmin watch is to be a fitness tracker and companion to life, there when you need help in taking your training to the next level. Sometimes, the extra push can be all anyone needs to get to over the next hurdle in training, and Garmin makes watches to aid in this regard.

The Different Types of Garmin Watches

Garmin Watches


In truth, Garmin manufacturers five different watches, each with a little different niche in the market.

To start out, the Fenix 5 is their premium multisport GPS watch that comes with almost every bell and whistle you might be able to think of. It’s meant for the most extreme fitness needs, or the adventurer who wants to be able to track most activities known to humankind.

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Sapphire Titanium w/Solar Flare Orange Band &...
  • BUNDLE INCLUDES: Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Additional Silicone Band Tempered Glass Screen Protector
  • Premium multisport GPS smartwatch that estimates heart rate at the wrist and includes color TOPO maps featuring...
  • Easily store and play up to 500 songs on your watch, and connect with Bluetooth headphones (sold separately) for...

Moving down the line, you then come to the Descent Mk1.

This Garmin watch delivers immense diving performance at a top-of-the-line price point. The Descent is a watch made for someone who needs a fully-featured dive computer at their disposal, along with full topographical mapping of the U.S.

This watch also has one of the longest batteries found within any fitness-based watch at 19 days, making it an excellent choice if you need something for a long excursion.

Garmin Descent Mk1, Watch-Sized Dive Computer with Surface GPS,...
  • Premium full-featured GPS dive computer in a sleek watch-style design; with bright 1.2” color display and topo...
  • Built-in sensors include 3-axis compass, gyroscope and Barometric altimeter as well as GPS and GLONASS capability that...
  • Supports single-gas, multi-gas, gauge and apnea diving, including nitrox and trimix; plan your dives directly on the...

If you don’t need something as full featured as the Fenix 5 or Descent Mk1, Garmin created the vivomove HR for you.

This stylish, hybrid Garmin watch is a smartwatch that houses a full touchscreen and watch hands, proving to be a great addition to anyone’s wardrobe. Of course, being a fitness tracker, the vivomove HR tracks your heart rate, daily steps, calories burned, along with the intensity of workouts.

Plus, it has all the smart features you’d want, such as text or call notifications, along with other alerts, that pop up right on the watch dial. When you need to use the smart features, the hands move away, and then snap back into place when finished, creating a hidden use of sorts.

If you need a watch based primarily for running, they have you covered.

Garmin vivomove HR, Hybrid Smartwatch for Men and Women, Rose Gold...
  • Stay connected with smart features such as music controls and smart notifications for incoming calls, text messages,...
  • Estimates heart rate with elevate wrist heart rate technology
  • Wellness monitoring tools, such as all-day stress tracking and a relaxation timer, help you manage stress; Includes...

Garmin’s Forerunner 645 Music is a training smartwatch that focuses more on running and data related to that activity. Features like cadence, stride length, and ground contact time, along with vertical oscillation are a part of the Forerunner’s technology at play, all helping you to a better stride.

Garmin Forerunner 645 Music, Gps Running Watch With Contactless...
  • Easily download up to 500 songs to your watch, and connect with Bluetooth headphones (sold separately) for phone free...
  • Syncs music from select streaming services for offline listening. Fits wrists with a circumference of 127-204...
  • Garmin Pay contactless payment solution lets you make convenient payments with your watch, so you can leave your cash...

Lastly, there’s the vivoactive 3 Music. This offering is a GPS smartwatch that has music storage and playback built-in, just like the Forerunner 645 Music. It’s not as feature rich in terms of analysis as it’s big brother, but the GPS technology is second to none, and there plenty of preloaded training regimens on tap.

All the Garmin watches are based upon the same principal of fitness first, and each one is made for a different task at hand.

Garmin 010-01985-01 Vivoactive 3 Music, Gps Smartwatch with Music...
  • GPS smartwatch with music storage and playback. Fits wrists with a circumference of 5 to 8 inches
  • Easily download up to 500 songs on your watch, and connect with headphones enabled with Bluetooth technology (sold...
  • Garmin Pay contactless payment solution (available for supported cards from participating banks) lets you make...

What Makes a Garmin Watch Unique?

Often, it’s hard to differentiate between companies nowadays, but when you strap-in to a Garmin fitness tracker or watch, you should know what you’re wearing.

Garmin was one of the first companies to offer fitness-based tracking models that could be worn on the wrist. Whether it was the Forerunner series for building a better running workout, or the vivosmart line to allow smart tracking at a flexible price point, each product comes with the Garmin seal of approval.

This means the device has been tested to perform under its name and should be up to the task of providing the advertised service.

For those who are unaware, Garmin was first founded as a GPS-based company, providing real-time location information for marine and handheld uses. In fact, the company’s handheld GPS receiver was used in the Gulf War by military personnel.

The company knows its products, along with what should go into them.

This means that when buying a Garmin watch, you expect a quality device to show up.

They have a deep fitness-based system, along with their own fitness community, and continue to bring new technologies to the consumer.

Let’s Talk About the Pricing of Garmin’s Products

You might’ve figured this out by now, but most of Garmin’s offerings don’t come cheaply.

In fact, their high-end watches are among the most expensive pieces of equipment you’ll find in their respective categories, such as diving and fitness tracking.

As we talked about above, the Descent Mk1 is a big, burly watch made for serious divers who need the ultimate protection and technology to stay safe. Safety and function doesn’t come cheap, as the Descent retails for a cool $1000.

Meanwhile, if standard fitness tracking is more your game, the Fenix 5 starts at $550. There are three different versions of the Fenix watch, namely the smaller Fenix 5S, and the larger Fenix 5X. All three of them represent a different sized face for different sizes in wrists, while all offer the same performance.

That is, minus the Fenix 5X, which has standard sapphire glass and topographical maps included.

Moving down the pricing spectrum, the next watch up is the Forerunner 645 Music. This is a running-heavy watch that retails for $500. With that money, you get one of the most advanced aids in running out there.

Tools such as biomechanical metrics and advanced training tracking are just a few of note.

Next up is the vivomove HR. This stylish, modern smartwatch may just be the best-looking Garmin watch offered. It comes with a standard price tag of $350, which gets you the premium models that uses a stainless-steel case and suede for the bands.

It also is a solid fitness tracker, in addition to looking good.

Last up is the vivoactive 3 Music. Sure, it may be the cheapest on Garmin’s list at $300, and if you forgo the music portion the vivoactive 3 will run only $270, but still, it’s by no means cheap.

That doesn’t mean it’s a bad offering, of course, as this model will suit most peoples’ needs with GPS, 15 different sports apps, and storage for 500 songs and Bluetooth capability.

The Public Perception of Garmin, as a Watchmaker​

Overall, Garmin is a respected company by the masses.

It’s hard, in today’s world, to achieve such a feat, but Garmin has built a reputation for bringing good, quality, and reliable products to the consumer. Sure, the prices are higher than other offerings in certain segments, but the reality is you pay for the brand.

All of Garmin’s watches that we’ve covered today have scored high marks with professionals and normal users alike, meaning there’s not bias in the usage of their devices.

It’s hard to find a fault in Garmin’s products, and if you do it’s probably due to a defect or isolated issue for a specific product. As with most companies, Garmin packs a one-year limited warranty into their devices, putting any factory-based concerns to rest.

How Garmin Watches Compare to the Competition

Sometimes it’s good to have choices, and in the case picking the right Garmin watch for you, this is true.

This doesn’t mean, however, that Garmin doesn’t have competing companies within the fitness tracking category of watches.

On the contrary, in fact, as there are plenty of watch makers looking to cash in on the popular market.

First up you have Suunto, a powerhouse when it comes to fitness and watches. Suunto is a high-end watch brand whose sole purpose is peripheral devices, with a specialty in the diving and all-around fitness communities.

Their products are built to last and feature high-grade materials and a proven track record.

Unfortunately, their watch offerings are even more expensive than a lot of the Garmin options, and while they have plenty of technology to offer, often it’s not as mainstreamed as the other offerings found here.

Next, you’ll find Apple firmly in the race to become a force in the fitness tracking community.

It’s hard to argue with their results, too, as they offer fitness watches that double as smartwatch that can pair with one of the biggest operating platforms in the world. Their watches are stylish, customizable, feature-packed, and have the support of one of the biggest companies on the planet.

Not much to dislike about them.

Finally, you might see Fitbit thrown around as a top fitness-based watch.

While most Fitbit watches serve as a great entry-level activity tracker and heart rate monitor, the company hasn’t cracked into the high-end, premium spectrum of fitness watches. Their ecosystem and business model are second to none, however, and the copay knows how to make fitness more mainstream.

They’ve only been around since 2007, yet even today are worth over $4 billion.

Clearly, the company knows what it’s doing in the inexpensive fitness market.

What Do We Think of Garmin Watches?

Our short answer: we really like them.

We covered the five top Garmin models for fitness and smartwatch capabilities, but there are more offerings by the company, which further solidifies are enjoyment for the company’s products.

Most of the time it can be harmful to trust, without many questions, a company over the course of time, but Garmin has proved to be an exception to the rule.

Their products aren’t gimmicky, and they work as designed. Thankfully, too, the company offers multiple products at vastly different price points to help mitigate any need to spend more than necessary on a device that suits your needs.

Sure, their smartphone functionality may not be as streamlined as Apple’s or Fitbit’s, but the actual watches and trackers they sell are second to none.

Overall, it’s hard to fault any of their products, but the one complaint you’ll hear when researching premium fitness devices cost. Most of the time, the upfront cost of a product reflects how the company feels about it, and Garmin is no different.

They offer devices from the $100 price range all the way up to $1000 and know exactly what they’re putting into each category.

That’s the best thing about Garmin products: whatever you’re looking for in a watch and fitness tracker, the chances are high they have something for you.

Go ahead, treat yourself.

Last update on 2021-12-05 at 15:50 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


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