Sports Watches: Top 10 GPS Performers going into 2018

Suunto SPARTAN TRAINER + AMBIT3Here we are looking at JUST the GPS performance of the sports watch. Not only how it reports distance but also how well it tracks your route. So it could be the worst ever sports watch in terms of user-friendliness, but if it tracks a route well then it scores highly here

1SuuntoAMBIT3 RUN87%SiRFstarVv2.4.17RIGHT
2PolarM20083%SiRFstar ?Xv1.1.3NORMAL LEFT
3SuuntoAMBIT3 Run (repeated Test)81%SiRFstarVv2.4.17NORMAL LEFT
4SuuntoSpartan Sport81%SiRFstarVv1.2.4NORMAL
10TomTomRunner 379%SirfStar (5?)v1.3.204NORMAL
11TomTomAdventurer79%SirfStar (5?)v1.3.255NORMAL


These are performances over a specific test route I have. Generally that route throws up good and useful results. I’d say that the Top10 table, above, is a very useful pointer to GPS accuracy. Even if something is 5th then maybe with more extensive testing it would come out 4th or 6th…but it wouldn’t come out 24th, if you get my drift. So if you think the Polar V800 is uber-wonderful; then maybe it is, don’t worry about it being in 6th. 81% is a GREAT score.

The only cautionary note is the Polar M200. It is NOT that good. It had a really, really, really good day. (Did I say ‘really’?)

Another cautionary note is the SPARTAN ULTRA. In my experience it did not perform as well as the other SPARTANs (I had 3 of them). So do NOT extrapolate good GPS performance from that of the other SPARTANs, shown above.

I would also add that if you use a properly calibrated footpod for speed and/or distance then you don’t really need GPS for that much else. Nearly all sports watches will produce a post-workout GPS track that tells you where you went to a satisfactory degree, even the Ticwatch S will do that (test result here)

The full test files, methodology and table of results are here, link to OK, you can go off and buy a Garmin or an Apple Watch now.

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19 thoughts on “Sports Watches: Top 10 GPS Performers going into 2018

  1. Top 10 and not a single Garmin to be found.

    I’m not calling bias, i’m simply stating the company that was known for their GPS units…not even there.

    The 4+ year old V800 is there!!

    I have the Suunto Spartan Sport HR Baro in my wish list on Amazon. I usually stick things i’m hunting for the best deal on there as Amazon tends to shift prices around dependent on a number of things (Stock,demand etc..). I’ve gotten some pretty crazy deals doing on that on watches and running shoes–the $30 I paid for a pair of Adidas Supernova glide 8, which was already the older model and in high demand (they are going from $150 and up to near $400 new currently).

    Kinda hoping the Baro drops to something more decent than what it is currently. Lowest i’ve seen was $487.

      1. I was thinking about this on my run today. I’m not so sure that GPS has got ‘better’ in the sense of accuracy of the chips. Improvements have been in minaturisation and lower battery consumption both as a standalong unit and a unit that encompasses other chipsets (to reduce overall power consumption). GPS combined with GLONASS should have increased accuracy but…

    1. it’s a different test. why is that test accurate and this one not? why are DCR’s conclusions different again?
      the v800 is good. all those in the list (except maybe the m200) are good.

      1. Is the m430 really that weak out of the bunch? Or did you just not have one on hand to test?

        I also have images of you testing these all at the same time on the streets of London; forearms bedazzled with Sport Watches.

      2. well you could troll me as you know the test route. Just hang around outside St MAry’s sports uni every day for a month and you’d catch me at least once. i do try to hide some watches under long sleeves tho so i might just look like every one that comes out of there…or not.
        m430, i still have one here. should i re-test it? the data files are there, have a look and see where it went wrong.

      3. I generally like/appreciate fellrn‘s work very much, but I would be (very) careful with his GPS testing, as his method has a major flaw: He does not use strict 1 sec recording for every device. Instead he uses smart recording.

      4. yeah i’m not sure what effect that would have exactly. if there is a lot of change in the data then recording will still possibly be per second in any case (at best) but then if nothing has changed why record ‘no change’? point taken nevertheless. I also don’t think fellrnr’s GPS course is challenging enough but on the other hand, unlike mine, his course is more easily and more frequently repeatable. so he more easily gets more data sets

      5. The problem/issue with any type of smart recording isthat it‘s implemented differently by each brand (and even devices).
        Therefore two devices never record at the same time stamp. It overall enhances the randomisation of the result.

  2. how it comes that all of the sudden in trunken gamrin 5k runner pages no garmin watch as “best” rated, are you getting objective?

    1. 🙂
      sorry. I’ll have to stop that.

      I think I am consistent. Garmin is the best rated with features.
      Just that the sensors (alt, ohr and gps) are not.
      Of course the features kinda need the sensors to work 😉
      somtimes an external sensor eg stryd + HRM-TRI makes something like the 935 the best tri watch ever (providing you spend the extra money!!)

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