Obvious Choices 🏃‍♀️ Best Running Watch 2020-21 Garmin, Apple, Fitbit, Polar

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Best Running Watch – Buy the Top GPS Sports Watch

Let’s cut to the chase…the best running watch is the Garmin Forerunner 245. No question. It’s (almost) obvious.

There are some other obvious contenders for the title of the Best Running Watch for 2020-21, I’ve run many hundreds of miles with these Garmin, Polar, Apple and Coros watches so you get a great pointer for the right GPS running watch for every kind of running. We explain why each GPS running watch is recommended and there are links to highly detailed reviews for each best-in-class GPS running watch to aid your research; but first, here is an index of all winners, starting off with the overall winner, the Garmin Forerunner 245. Choose the category name that interests you or scroll down for more details on each category and links.
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Best GPS Running Watch features for which kind of runners?

If you’re not quite sure what you want in a running watch then here is a list of the top 10 features that most people consider to some degree, I’ve taken those into account into the recommendations but what is missed out are smartphone apps like Runtastic, STRAVA and Nike RC – those are great apps, they’re super cheap or free but they are not running watches.




Pretty much every running watch will give you the basics to gauge your efforts by heart rate, GPS-based pace & distance travelled. Beyond that, everyone chooses based on these Top 10 running watch features

  1. Price
  2. Aesthetics
  3. Optical heart rate
  4. Smart and connected features for safety, music, contactless payments and maps
  5. Social and health features
  6. Connectivity to phone apps, sensors and wifi.
  7. Durability in extreme environments
  8. ABC Sensor, accelerometer & support for Footpods for using in special environments
  9. Workouts, structured intervals, guided training & coaching plans
  10. Running Power

best running watch gps 2021 garmin polar apple fitbit coros women trail ultra hiking smart fitness

Best Running Watch with GPS – Overall Winner – Garmin Forerunner 245

Overall, the winner is the Garmin Forerunner 245.

Buy FR245 here with discounts typically of around 10% from these: $299, £226, Eu299

The smaller-format Garmin Forerunner 245 will do every running task required by 95% of you who read this, it really is that good and it ticks most of the feature boxes from optical heart rate through to battery life, training guidance, smartphone notifications and advanced running features galore from deep physiology feedback to track mode. The main downsides are a slight price premium and a relatively cheap build quality, even then you will get at least 10% off the rrp when buying from here.

best running watch gps 2021 garmin polar apple fitbit coros women trail ultra hiking smart fitness
Forerunner 245 plus STRYD and my New Balance shoes

Best Garmin Running Watch – Garmin Forerunner 245

Naturally, the best Garmin running watch is the also the Garmin Forerunner 245. You could go cheaper to the Forerunner 45 or more expensively to the ageing Forerunner 645 or get a second mortgage for the FR945 but there’s no point. All of the normal running features and more are on the FR245.

Buy FR245 here with discounts typically of around 10% from these: $265, £226, Eu299

Best Running Watch with Music – Garmin Forerunner 245 Music

Unsurprisingly, the Best Running Watch with Music is the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music, it works well with most headphones; it allows you to store your MP3s on the watch; and it better supports music-streaming services than Apple with support for Spotify, Deezer and AmazonMusic. Being the overall winner of ‘Best Running Watch’ you can rest assured that it will also perform all running tasks excellently.

best running watch gps 2021 garmin polar apple fitbit coros women trail ultra hiking smart fitness music

The LTE versions of the Apple Watch would be best for those who want to stream over a cellular connection. If you want to use your existing Google Youtube Music then my recommendation for you is to switch to the Suunto 7 when Youtube Music is available on Wear OS (2020) and if you want a cheap option that simply lets you use your MP3s then consider the Amazfit Stratos. Fitbit Sense is a good bet if you are already a Fitbit user (otherwise do NOT switch to them) and the Fossil Gen 5, like the Suunto 7, will be a good call one Youtube Music gets its act together and makes an app.

Buy FR245 Music here with discounts typically of around 10% from these: $289, £263, Eu349

Complete the purchase of your Garmin Forerunner 245 Music version

ESSENTIAL READING: Garmin Forerunner 245 Music Review


Best Polar Running Watch – Polar Vantage V2

The Polar Vantage V2 is a superb quality running watch. It has a better build quality than the more plastic feel of all Garmin Forerunners. It’s one of my personal favourites and has a wealth of ‘proper’ running features for athletes, including great physiology insights and the ability to execute complex & targetted running workouts. Less common needs are fully covered such as the native handling of running power and breadcrumb routes synced from Strava and elsewhere.

best running watch gps 2021 garmin polar apple fitbit coros women trail ultra hiking smart fitness musicWhat it lacks in the latest smartwatch features it makes up for in its looks.

Don’t worry about choosing Polar over Garmin, Polar has been supporting runners for longer than Garmin and their whole platform is primarily runner-focused.

Buy Polar Vantage V2 here with discounts typically of around 10% of rrp: $499, £395, Eu499


Polar Vantage V2

The Best Sports Watch For Women – Apple Watch 6 40mm

I don’t like to make gender-specific recommendations…but here goes, please don’t bite me. The average female runner menstruates, has thinner wrist than the average man and is more inclined to join sporty, non-running activities like gym classes and to be more attuned to dietary requirements. My personal experience is that women tend to run more in groups, run in safer places and listen to music when running alone. To contain tech that covers all those aspects of your life, you would probably want me to recommend the Fitbit Versa 3 or the Garmin Forerunner 245M. I’m not going to.

best running watch gps 2021 garmin polar apple fitbit coros women trail ultra hiking smart fitness musicDespite a good social platform, Fitbit has got financial issues; female-specific health tracking is best when properly covered by dedicated smartphone apps, and both the Fitbit and Garmin need to pretty-up a bit. So that leaves you with a price-based choice of either an Apple Watch 6, SE or 3 starting as low as $169 in sales. You know that the Apple Watch has all the apps you want and is certainly the most sensible choice for iPhone users, the downside is that the Apple Watch lacks individuality. The Apple Watch SE is highly similar to the Apple Watch 6, being slightly slower with shorter battery life and previous-gen HRM.

If you want guided training or if you are on the Android platform, the go for the Polar Ignite which covers most aspects that women need from tech and which also has FitSpark adaptive training guidance which will properly guide you every day in support of your running and fitness regime.

Buy Apple Watch 3 here from $189, £179, Eu191 (price will fall in 2021)

Buy Apple Watch SE here from $279, £269, Eu299 (price will eventually fall to $199)

Buy Apple Watch 6 here from $399, £378, Eu399
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Best Cheap Running Watch

If you want a price-based recommendation then the Sigma iD.FREE is the best, cheap running watch. Also covered in the next category.

Best Running Watch for Aspirational Runners – Sigma iD.TRI

best running watch gps 2021 garmin polar apple fitbit coros women trail ultra hiking smart fitness music


Sigma has taken over my recommendation at the budget end of the market with a great offering in a classic rectangular format. Either the iD.FREE or id.TRI will suffice, they are very similar.

Despite the CHEAP price ($110/£130ish) they have LOTS of features including crash alerts, optical HR, barometric altimeter and structured workout support. The aesthetics may not be to everyone’s liking but they will be great for a beginner runner and also will still be great for the same runner two or three or more years down the line. The iD.TRI or iD.FREE should do all the running-related stuff you need but it’s not going to have much of the smart functionality or features for physiology, sleep patterns and the like.

Garmin’s offering here is the more expensive Forerunner 45 and 45S (smaller version), despite being the budget Garmin option with several smart features, this Garmin is over-priced. If you are wowed by an app like Garmin Connect then DO get the Garmin and if you want running features on the watch then get the iD.FREE.


Buy Sigma iD.TRI/FREE here from £125, Eu116

Best Mid-Priced Running Watch – Coros Pace 2

Arriving late in 2020, the Coros Pace 2 has taken the mid-price tier by storm and ousts the still competent winner from last year – Polar Vantage M.

best running watch for women gps coros garmin polarThe is an excellently-featured running watch for an amazing price. It is super-light, has a long battery life and contains a Garmin-level number of features PLUS it originally had features than even Garmin lacked like track mode. If you want to start using running power then the Pace 2 offers native support for STRYD and for its own on-the-wrist power calculations. With physiology insights, training plan creation and Garmin-level accuracy, what’s not to like? It ticks every box with a great big thick marker pen. Except one. The app. The app is OK and perfectly usable but it’s not awe-inspiring. Coros WILL improve it in 2021 but that’s the future and you might nor want to buy now on a promise.

That said, if you are also looking to buy STRYD in the UK there is an unbeatable bundle deal at my retail partner NRG, plus NRG gives a further 10% off using my code THE5KRUNNER10.

If you don’t want to risk a challenger brand like Coros AND if you want an awesome platform then revert back to last year’s winner – Polar Vantage M, which is now generally well-discounted. Even there we could see a spanner in the works as an M2 replacement is ‘due’ (I have no specific intel).


Buy Coros Pace 2 here from $199£179, Eu199 (Price won’t fall much, if at all, in 2020 perhaps only  up to 15% in 2021)


Best Premium-Priced Running Watch- Garmin Forerunner 945

Either the Garmin FR945 or Polar Vantage V2 is the best premium running watch. The Garmin has more smart features and more peripheral features, the Polar is packed full of running features and is a better-made watch (I’d say prettier, too). If you want a small-format premium watch you’d go for the Garmin FR745 which is kinda the same as the Garmin FR945 but smaller.




Most-Featured Running Watch – Garmin Forerunner 945

The most-featured running watch is the Garmin Forerunner 945 which does everything a running watch needs to do and quite a lot more. It works well and still looks sporty. It’s really a pro-tri-watch and another of my personal favourites.

best running watch gps 2021 garmin polar apple fitbit coros women trail ultra hiking smart fitness musicIt will give you all the racing, pacing and run training features you will ever need. No other running/triathlon watch has this many features covering track mode, Firstbeat physiology, structured training, guided training, training suggestions, voice guidance, alerts, customisable lap screen…I could go on but it would be a very long list.

The Forerunner 945 contains every Garmin running feature. It is expensive and plasticy, yet still gets any new Garmin running feature unlike the much older 645. On the other hand, you might prefer the smaller case of the Forerunner 745…apart from MAPS, battery & price the FR745 and FR945 are almost identical.

Buy Garmin Forerunner 945 here from $498£449, Eu506 (discounts of 10-15% are now typical)

ESSENTIAL READING FULL REVIEW: Garmin Forerunner 945 Review

Garmin Forerunner 945




Best Smart Running Watch – for Fitness – Apple Watch SE

An iPhone user with not too much cash to splash will choose the Apple Watch SE. It really is an awesome fitness watch (my partner has one, I have AW6).

best running watch gps 2021 garmin polar apple fitbit coros women trail ultra hiking smart fitness musicYou will get so many smart features and apps that you won’t know what to do with – women’s health, advanced triathlon apps, maps and compasses…there’s an app for all. You will also get an extremely competent fitness watch with the Apple Watch SE and it has the ‘just works’ factor. The only reasons to get the Apple Watch 6 over the SE are a slight speed boost; a slightly better, always-on screen; and a superior optical heart rate monitor. It’s that last point that might persuade a fitness aficionado to go for the more expensive AW6 – although a chest strap will work with either Some of you will point out that the much slower AW3 is cheaper and similarly functioned, which is true, but for a few dollars more the superior SE will be supported for MANY years more than the AW3.

Android users? I know you’re going to buy a Fitbit Versa 3 / SENSE but I can’t recommend those even though they offer improvements over the previous generation. Sorry. Try an awesome Suunto 7 instead.

Buy Apple Watch 3 here from $169, £179, Eu191 (price will fall in 2021)

Buy Apple Watch SE here from $279, £269, Eu299 (price will eventually fall to $199)

Buy Apple Watch 6 here from $399, £378, Eu399

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Best Running Watch just with ‘Proper’ Running Features – Polar Vantage M

This is an award for an old school watch. However, it morphed into an award for a watch that is not pretending to be anything other than what it is designed to be. The Polar Vantage M is a running watch…for, ahem, runners. It just happens to be a PROPER triathlon watch as well (I used one for racing in 2019 and I like it).

The Vantage M is well-discounted and much cheaper than the Vantage V2 but has very similar components and software inside. However, the Vantage M seems to make the GPS and oHR work better than on the V2 model. The ‘M’ is the ‘real deal’ with structured training, alerts, native running power and a comprehensive app/platform. Don’t be fooled by the price.

best running watch gps 2021 garmin polar apple fitbit coros women trail ultra hiking music

The one downside of the Vantage M is the lack of audible alerts, although can just hear the vibration alert. If that bothers you then consider the Vantage V2 or the more rugged Grit X.


Buy Polar Vantage M here with discounts typically of around 25% of rrp: $209, £185, Eu208 (Prices will fall further IF an M2 successor is released in 2021)

Range of best prices for Polar Vantage

The Most Accurate Running Watch – Garmin Forerunner 745 & Apple Watch 6

I am so sorry. I have to deeply apologise to all my longtime readers who have, for so long, trusted me to ‘say it how it really was’ with Garmin’s optical HR and GPS accuracy. Sadly, Garmin may have turned the corner into Accuracy Street, hand-in-hand with the Apple Watch 6. The FR745 can, sometimes, be very accurate. But not always. And really, the Apple Watch 6! What? It’s not even a ‘proper’ sports watch. It can’t be accurate. Can it?

Read this: Apple Watch 6 Accuracy (the most detailed sports-accuracy report out there, supporter-only content)

Read this: Garmin Forerunner 745 Accuracy (the most detailed sports-accuracy report out there, supporter-only content)

  1. Garmin 745 (Best GNSS/GPS) & AW6 both ONCE reported the joint best GNSS score in a repeated test I perform on ALL sports watches. The Apple Watch is probably not as good as the Garmin, it smooths the recorded track which looks better than it really is yet sometimes it is very accurate. New GPS firmware MAY mean performances on other Garmins are improved too.
  2. Apple Watch 6 (Best optical HR) oHR with Garmin’s latest-gen ELEVATE sensor is generally good and often perfect but sometimes less so. The new oHR sensor in the AW6 is even better but occasionally it’s rubbish and flatlines.
  3. Apple Watch 6 (Best elevation) – Both the 745 and AW6 differently approach elevation accuracy. AW6 periodically re-calibrates with GPS (maybe also querying actual elevation via LTE or your phone) whereas Garmin 745 looks up the correct elevation from an onboard map. There are subtleties and the 745 should be more accurate than the AW6. But it isn’t, the AW6 is very, very good in my experience. I will temper that by saying other reports out there disagree.

Put it this way if both my STRYD battery and HRM-PRO battery suddenly both stopped working, I would be happy to continue my run with either the AW6 or FR745 rather than breaking down and crying at the chance of less-than-perfect data.

OK, that last bit was tongue-in-cheek, you get my point. Please note that physiological and environmental factors will certainly cause your experience of oHR and GNSS/GPS to be different from mine. Buy a foot pod and a chest strap for guaranteed results.

Buy Apple Watch 6 here from $399, £378, Eu399

Buy Garmin 745 here from $470£412, Eu445 (discounts of 5-10% are now typical)

Best Running Watch for Wear OS

best running watch gps 2021 garmin polar apple fitbit coros women trail ultra hiking suunto music

My detailed Suunto 7 review from earlier in the year easily found the S7 to be a very well-made piece of kit with all the goodies that are packed into Wear OS – payments, Google Assistant, maps and more. Furthermore, it is beautiful and easily the best-ever smart running watch for WearOS. The Suunto Wear OS app is superior to most and all the issues identified when it was launched, like custom sport profiles, have now been fixed. Even if you don’t like the Suunto Wear OS app there are many other sporty Wear OS apps you can choose to admire on the awesome screen it comes with. Just like the Apple Watch, the only downsides are the battery and the price.

DETAILED REVIEW Full Suunto 7 Review

Buy Suunto 7 here with discounts typically of up to 15% of rrp: $433, £377, Eu483

Check a range of Suunto prices at local retailers

Best Adventure Running Watch – Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Solar

The Garmin Fenix 6X is the winner in this category, with reservations. You get high quality, life-saving sensors Altimeter, Barometer & Compass to sit alongside the routable map that comes pre-installed on the Fenix. Sure you can follow routes, see progress up pre-planned climbs, have the piece-of-mind of fall detection and the Solar-boosted battery life & ruggedness to keep going in confidence to the end of your adventure. This has every Garmin relevant feature….hundreds of them, from every multisport feature, music support, awesome connectivity to everything, every Firstbeat physiology feature an immense battery life, plus it’s faster and smoother to use than the earlier Fenix models.


best running watch gps 2021 garmin polar apple fitbit coros women trail ultra hiking music

Perhaps the map needs upgrading to a better one (it’s possible, adds cost) and perhaps the screen could be more colourful and with a better resolution?

It’s expensive. It could be better yet. But it is undoubtedly the best.

Buy Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Solar here from $1149£740, Eu834 (discounts of up to 10% are possible, I think Wiggle UK/DE has the pricing wrong at the time of writing !!)


Best Watch for Ultra Running  & Trail Running – Coros Apex

The best ultra running watch is the Coros Apex

best running watch gps 2021 garmin polar apple fitbit coros women trail ultra hiking music

The Coros Apex offers a very well-featured alternative to Garmin at a significantly lower price. Weight, maps and battery life are important and there is no single product which is the best at those 3 criteria, so my trade-off favours the Apex which only has breadcrumb routes.

The Coros app does the basic job but is clunky at times and you may not like the Applesque crown. Apart from that, it’s a winner that is stacked full of features covering physiology, barometric altimetry, compass, interval workouts, customisable alerts, plus a battery life of 35 hours. Many happy Coros owners are quite vocal on the net about their great watch.


Buy Apex here from $299£269, Eu299 (Price might fall by 20% in 2021, you can get deals now eg NRG in the UK with my 10% code – the5krunner10 )

Best Hiking & Running Watch – Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Sapphire

best running watch gps 2021 garmin polar apple fitbit coros women trail ultra hiking music

The best GPS watch for lovers of hiking and running is the Garmin Fenix 6. It has every single top-end Garmin running feature and all the top-end Garmin outdoors features that cover maps/navigation, environmental ABC sensors, safety alerts, bearings, courses and WAY more besides. You want every multisport feature ever? You got it. I’m recommending it here rather than the Solar version as the Solar 6X just might add a little something extra over the already-great battery-life for serious, longer adventures but with the multi-day package that is the 6 Pro Sapphire you have a sturdy hardware package that will still keep you going for days.

At the lower end of the price scale, Garmin Instinct clears the battery issue by relying on a low-powered screen but then offloads some of your navigation needs onto your smartphone – it sounds messy but is a reasonable compromise if you want simple environmental and directional information on your wrist and the ability to re-plan in full-map-&-app-glory on your phone. Of course, your phone will need a phone signal wherever you are heading off to.


Buy Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Sapphire here from $849£740, Eu834 (discounts of up to 10% are not uncommon)


Best Running Accessory

The best accessory for running is the STRYD footpod followed closely by the Garmin HRM-PRO chest strap with running dynamics. STRYD gives pace and distance accuracy and produces POWER to judge your true effort levels.

Essential Reading: STRYD Review

Essential Reading: Garmin HRM-PRO Review

Order Directly From STRYD – Also Fulfilled in the UK/EU Avoiding Import Duties – Any Current Discounts Automatically Added on STRYD.com
Best Running Watch Category Winners - Details Below
  • Best Running Watch – Overall – Garmin Forerunner 245 - 90%
  • Best Garmin Running Watch – Garmin Forerunner 245 - 90%
  • Best Running Watch with Music – Garmin Forerunner 245 Music - 90%
  • Best Polar Running Watch – Polar Vantage V2 - 88%
  • Best Running Watch for Women - Apple Watch 6 40mm - 90%
  • Best, CHEAP Running Watch – Sigma iD.FREE - 85%
  • Best Mid-Priced Running Watch for Aspirational Runners – Coros Pace 2 - 92%
  • Best Premium-Priced Running Watch - Garmin Forerunner 945 - 95%
  • Best Smart Running Watch – for Fitness - Apple Watch SE - 88%
  • Most-Featured Running Watch – Garmin Forerunner 945 - 95%
  • Best Running Watch with just 'Proper’ Running Features – Polar Vantage M - 95%
  • Most Accurate Running Watch – Garmin Forerunner 745 - 91%
  • Best Running Watch with Optical HR Apple Watch 6 - 90%
  • Best Running Watch for Wear OS - Suunto 7 - 89%
  • Best Adventure Running Watch – Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Solar - 95%
  • Best Hiking & Running Watch – Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Sapphire - 95%
  • Best Ultra Running & Trail Watch – Coros Apex - 83%
  • Best Running Accessory - STRYD - 95%

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I have to question your judgement a bit… SSU more pretty than the F3 or F3HR or coming 5 series?… come on. ? I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder but fact is with changeable bands like Ti or SS or leather the Fenix looks like a “real” suit watch. SSU looks like a Ugly sportswatch…and I’m from Suuntos home country…I should be Polar and Suunto biased. But as long as they keep making ugly sports watches with ugly strap and exterior designs… I will rock my f3hr and maby f5x one day ?

…now a working Black Ti SSU with whr and changeable bands (leather and Ti …hex screws) might intrest me…if that day comes.


It’s all play and games bantering…until someon takes out the swords ?? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame you for thinking the SSU is pretty…but saying it is prettier than the f3?…bold move ? I did rock the original TT multisport cardio for a year (only in the most business-business occasions did it come off). But that was and is still in my opinnion an ugly watch…also Had the Polar F70…also ugly. Before the f3hr came the 235…an improvement but looked way too much like a sports watch in my opinnion. I can kind of “get” that some get a kick of sporty-sporty design. But me, if I am paying the (lets be honest here) ridiculous sums asked for SSU or F3hr(when it came out) or the F5… I expect there to be choice. Choice for sporty-sporty or classic-elegant. I am sporty, but I am more of a conservative in the manner that I like a Bentley more than a Lamborghini. With the f3 and f5 series the user can choose Silicon, Titanium, Leather or Stainless Steel…to their taste. I just can not get my head around why Suunto (except for Traverse) and Polar simply refuse to give the… Read more »


Let me say a good word about the Epson SF810, doesn’t appear to have caught on but after 15 months use I can say that it ticks most of the boxes. It finds the GPS signal quickly, usually in less than 30 seconds, very occasionally it will take a minute. The signal has never dropped. My first experience of a GPS watch was a second-hand Forerunner and that was terrible in this respect, very often 5 minutes for a fix and dropping even 2 or 3 times during a run at least once a month. The GPS is usually very accurate, occasionally there is a slight discrepancy but we are talking about 1% in the worst case scenario and usually a lot less. The HRM seems to be fairly accurate provided the watch strap is worn tightly enough, this is my impression anyway. Working the settings and various functions is not the easiest thing or rather it needs a bit of practice before you get the hang of it although there are plenty of features. This is the only thing that lets the watch down a little bit, the software is not the best and the Run Connect site could… Read more »


wow. all these put together, i think its realy the best


You kinda didn’t mention battery life there. It’s nice to charge your device once every 2 weeks. That’s what I do with my 5x. I run 25 miles a week, 3 runs a week plus use it as my daily watch in the office and it lasts for 2 full weeks. From what you wrote in your SST preview it only last couple of days, that’s a huge difference.

Also 5X doesn’t have any connectivity issues of Fenix 5, it just works. It’s bulky, it’s expensive but it works.



My unit must be defective then 😉
GPS works fine, it tracks my run pretty accurately, i dont really use oHR but my short tests show that it’s better than 3HR I had before. Altimeter – not sure as I don’t really use it that much but elevation gain data for my runs seems on par with everyone else using different watches.

Maybe give it another go on a new firmware 😉


I check your google sheet file with GPS test results sometimes and I noticed that you have tested 5X in GPS only mode. When you were testing 935 you did both: just GPS and GPS+GLONASS and there was a big difference in favor of GPS+ GLONASS. Pretty sure it’s the same case with 5X plus there is a new software now also.

Just test it again on new software and in GPS+GLONASS mode and maybe you’ll like it 😉

Brian Reiter

I would use a fenix 5X with GPS-only. It uses less power and seems much more accurate in real life. The worst GPS fail of my life in a race was f5X GPS+GLONASS.

It was a XC race that looked like a crayon scribble after it was over. And two other mates with fenix 3/5 and GLONASS enabled had the same crazy malfunction that same day. There is clearly something less than optimal with Garmin’s implementation of the MediaTek chipset and GLONASS.

I tried Galileo and GLONASS in the fenix 5X and I never saw any advantages. Only increased power drain and equivalent or worse GNSS accuracy to plain GPS.

I think there is a reason that GPS-only is the default. The only scenario where you should try GLONASS or Galileo is if you live in a major city with tall building and have trouble with GPS reflections. You might have better luck using the alternative configurations in that scenario.


There’s a cracking good deal atm on the fenix 5x Sapphire where I live. I’m tempted but I keep reading about fenix 5 issues with the GPS and a cracking HR sensor. I’m wondering if I should wait for a sale on one fo the Fenix 6 models instead. I don’t mind old gen, I do mind hardware issues.

tfk, the5krunner

I don’t recommend the Fenix 5.
5 Plus is OK as is 6.


Given the August update to your recommendation list, what do you think is a better watch for a new but committed runner?

Polar M430 or Garmin FR235?

Given a new M430 and refurb 235 are a similar price, but one is new and one older. One is BLE, one ANT+.


Do you think the VA3 will have improvements in GPS accuracy? Will it be good fo hiking and gym work or is the Suunto Spartan Trainer better?


I just want a watch to track my daily activities, my hikes, and the work outs I do at the gym.

Laurence Everitt

I’ve just bought the Spartan Ultra and tested it against my Ambit3 Run, the gps track was terrible compared to my Ambit. This was with the latest update 1.9. Maybe I have a faulty unit, wish I could confirm that somehow.

Accuracy should be the main selling point of a gps watch, I know gps is only accurate +/- 5 meters, but a watch in 2017 should be better than and old watch like the Ambit.

Right now it seems to be, fill the watch with everything and forget about what it’s suppose to be.

tfk, the5krunner

make sure you have a correct satellite fix and have the a-gps (google it)
I found the ULTRA ok with the GPS but I found he SPORT and TRAINER as one of the best GPS.
gps should be +/- 5m as you say. same 5 years ago!!

Laurence Everitt

Thanks Duathlon. Do you mean, leave it on in training mode a while before running, never had a problem with the Ambit3 Run, so not sure what you mean.
May return it and get the Sport or Trainer.

Laurence Everitt

Quick update on gps track with my Spartan. Followed your instructions, but could only leave watch 15mins before starting run. Result: tracks were as good as my Ambit3, so I’m happy.

One thing i did notice though, the Spartan wouln’t sync my HR belt after it had started the move. Unlike the Ambit which will, I know this because I’ve had a few races when the belt couldn’t be found on the start line, then once into the run it picks it up.

Hope I don’t have to do that procedure all the time though, would be difficult at a trail event.


tfk, the5krunner

belt pick up.
that MIGHT be a known bug due to be fixedin next release. read something similar about ultra earlier today

Laurence Everitt

Must be a bug I suppose. Well… another run done, sync’d watch before run. This Spartan Ultra is very inconsistent with gps tracking, some parts excellent – other parts terrible. I think it’s a return job.


Hi, do you think the 645 will include the Galileo technology, or you know if there is future release that will use the three technologies (GPS+GLONASS+GALILEO)


tfk, the5krunner

yes i would expect that the chip will be galileo compatible.
quite a few previous garmin and other brand devices have compatability of the chip.
the issue comes in whether or not that capability is used.
i am pretty sure that, at least not for a while, the 645 will NOT use galileo for positioning. i suspect that will come first on the F5. *IF* there is an F5plus in the next few weeks/months then THAT will set the direction for galileo


For the Adventurer / Ultra-Runner / Navigation, I seriously recommend a handheld, and based on my experience, the etrex 30x (although I haven’t tried a variety of options).

+ Rugged (water resistant)
+ full support for offline maps with navigation
+ 25 hours on 2 AA batteries (replaceable for multi days adventures/ultramarathon)
+ Small enough to fit in a chest pocket
+ Connects to Ant+ devices
+ Costs just over a third of a Fenix 5x

– Not a watch

The biggest advantage over a Fenix 5x would be the replaceable batteries.

tfk, the5krunner

ty for that.
I have never looked at the foretrex/etrex products.

Brian Reiter

I disagree. It’s no fun to run with an eTrex. They are big and heavy and clunky. It’s a mission to manage a handheld and poles. And maybe the ones I have used are old but they didn’t get anything like that kind of battery life for continuous navigation — only a fraction of what you described in my experience. Adventure races I have been in require you to have a GPS with navigation (such as a Garmin or Suunto watch) and a backup GPS and a smart phone in flight mode (and sometimes a Spot beacon). The smart phone can serve as the backup navigation device with an app like GaiaGPS or Garmin Explore. I feel like carrying a smart phone and an eTrex is redundant gear to schlep. On the other hand, I’m not convinced the actual maps in the fenix 5X and later are a huge improvement over the ubiquitous “breadcrumb” system they replaced in actual wilderness trail running where there are few to nomarked trails and roads in the map data. The TOPO lines and rivers can be somewhat helpful to orient yourself, but not a huge deal. On the other hand, the map screen is… Read more »


I just want a watch to track my monthly activities, my hikes, and the work outs I do at the office

tfk, the5krunner

those criteria are easily met by very many sports watches.

tfk, the5krunner

This is the first post that is INITIALLY only available to SUPPORTERS of the blog. It will be publically available in a couple of days. It’s a looooong post.


I am not able to see the post.

John Kissane

I listen to podcasts running & was tempted by the 645m but getting stuff onto it seems like a pita whereas my ancient galaxy s3 syncs everything up nicely over wifi everytime I turn it on & is fairly compact unlike newer phones.
Think it was the right choice going with the non-music 645 as read about lots of hangs/reboots in the garmin forum from people with the fanicer version. What’s that they say about never buying the first generation of anything 🙂

tfk, the5krunner

ha! I spent 90 minutes on the phone yesterday to Garmin with a hung 645…managed to recvover it tho. I actually quite like the music playback I suppose.
anything in a windows folder ON YOUR PC (not network grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr) can transfer easily enough.


I understand the recommendation of the Fenix 3, but an important downside for some people is that they are limited in the Garmin app store to datafields that support 16kB. While the newer Garmin watches support 32kB. Though that 32kB is in reality 28kB, it is still a big leap in functionality. Just compare my Datarun and Datarun-plus datafields for the Fenix 3 and Fenix 5/FR935/FR735xt. It isn’t even possible to release Datarun plus for the Fenix 3.

tfk, the5krunner

even the newer watches are limited to 2x datafields i beleive

Brian Reiter

The limit of 2 ConnectIQ data fields per activity is still there in the latest and greatest.

I would also point out that the proprietary C#-like MonkeyC language that ConnectIQ is based on seems to be an virtual machine interpreter and anything ConnectIQ causes a noticeable hit to battery performance that you do not find with the native code, built-in watch faces, widgets, data fields, and apps. ConnectIQ memory and batter efficiency problems relative to native become obvious with things like watch faces which struggle to fit anti-aliased hands and a second hand into the memory limits while drastically curtailing battery life. (As an aside, I’m sure this is a big part of why Apple doesn’t allow people to create watch faces.) And despite being a virtual machine ConnectIQ things can sometimes destabilize or crash your watch.

ConnectIQ: cool but flawed. Use sparingly.


I am using self made watchfaces and datafields on my fr935 with no impact in battery life – but you need to work hard to take care about memory footprint and speedness when creating IQ apps.
My approach was to create my own tools controlling the editor, compiler, simulator, editing fonts, check code speed,…


@Puffolino I used GearMin on my FR935 (and my old F3HR) for years and had zero issues. The Dev came back and enabled it for the 945, battery life was a disaster. I have moved on from Garmin to the Apex Pro and Gasp! I’m not using it as an Ultra Runner. I am also on day 10 since I’ve charged it and that includes: (2) hour-long runs with GPS+Glonass enabled with an H10 chest strap AND the Coros Running Pod used (6) 45 min to hour-long “Gym Cardio” (It’s the catch-all activity of gym work whether weights were used or if it was cardio or HIIT) Also with the H10 used. The backlight on all the time, 1s HR tracking for activity, basically I have everything the watch can run going at full-power And dare I say it, the Watch Faces Coros offers are better than anything I’ve seen on Garmin? There are things I’d like to see Coros do that Garmin offers (better internal control of activity options, A few more widgets, STRYD SUPPORT!!) but the biggest one is more connections to 3rd party apps. Other than that, I’ve used the watch for two months and have charged… Read more »


Need a device for sprinting, short sprints of 25/50/100m , during my hey days I do struggle with 800m ! So, definitely not a marathoner,. I mean really fast something like 35-40km/hr range in short sprints ! Any suggestions ?

tfk, the5krunner

You need a decent footpod to accurately display such speeds. You will still have several seconds delay with a footpod. Even stryd, from memory, has a 3 second smoothed average, so you would not know (or record) peak speed.

However I question whether or not you will be looking at your watch when you are sprinting. so instead are you trying to record accurate HR? if so, anything that uses a chest strap will be fine. but even then over less than 100m your HR will potentially not be going up by that much to make what is recorded of any subsequent use.
polar m430, garmin 645, suunto trainer

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Thorough and interesting article. You missed one other option for running with music — bluetooth earbuds with built in music storage. I currently use the Samsung IconX 2018 — they’re designed for sports, don’t fall out and I can have 4Gigs in each earbud. They don’t need to be tethered to watch, so I save the battery on my watch. I do run with a Polar M600, which was good for playing music from the watch (though I hated the Google Music app; did a workaround with WearMedia app to load music onto watch), but with my earbuds I no longer need to do this.

tfk, the5krunner

i had come across the iconx but you are right they are not for this article. Best Running **WATCH**

maybe i’ll do somthing with earbuds another time. as it happens i’m playing with some Jabra sport pulse earbuds right now (think i’ve broken them) they take HR readings in the ear which is cool (old pair, am trying to get them to work with the sTRATOS)

actually in seriousness i probably have missed some watches that do music….pls anyone else let me know. i’ll add them in and WILL do some more work on some of them. maybe this can become the Running Watch With Music Bible


I like the AW3 (LTE version) as secondary device on my other wrist – for music and optional emergency call as I don’t like to take my phone with me. Also not too bad (read: quite good) is the built-in map feature for navigation in unknown terrain.


all these are some of the good running watches available in the market


I own the TomTom Spark 2 and can tell you that the SW on the device was its achilles heel. As you say, the interface for music is utilitarian but passable. However, that was only AFTER they made FW upgrades in support of the Spark 3. Prior to that it was a hot mess, missing basic controls that had been available in MP3 players for more than a decade. Loading music was difficult and you couldn’t even control the watch music with the watch, you had to own headsets that could control the music. Plus, they had immense trouble with the BT pairing (to phones as well as headsets). IMO, it missed because for an “enthusiast” watch, you had to have a PhD to get it to work. It missed as a “competitive” watch because they dumbed down many elements to make it “easier” for the enthusiast. One example was manual splits, you had to use the touch screen (which was flaky when wet – due to rain or sweat) and then it showed you pace vs. the actual split time. You couldn’t see your actual split time on the phone app either, you had to go to the website.… Read more »


Very unbiased article indeed. Absolutely no mention whatsoever about a plethora of android 5/7 smartwatches with all the basic features (including wrist HR, GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth, whatever), some of which even IPX67, 16 GB internal storage (around 12 GB actually free and usable), SIM card (including LTE), 400x400px touchscreen, where you can run nearly any android (not android wear but a real android) app including all kinds of music playing or music streaming apps while at the same time having all kinds of your usual sport/navigation/tracking/maps/etc apps running simultaneously, all of which with the battery that supports all of this running at the same time for at least 4-5 hours (just internet music streaming 6-10 hours, just smartwatch 24-48 hours etc.). No mention of any of that at all, not a single word. Why is that? Is it because the author is really so incredibly ignorant that he has no clue whatever that any of hundreds of such watches exist? Or is the reason something else, maybe because he is paid to advertise some specific watches and suppress any information about anything else sacrificing his personal integrity (if he ever possessed such thing to begin with)?


Hello!For instant pace best polar m430 o suunto spartan trainer? for the same price which you recommend?.Thank you


Some great reading here that mentions the future of running watches and also watches without gps. Given foot pods are relatively cheap and arguably more accurate than GPS I often wonder why someone doesn’t make a cheaper watch made to only connect with additional sensors. If I want pace/distance I’ll add a pod, if I want HRM I’ll add a strap. Does such a thing exist at a cheaper price than the Apple watch?

makelaar bunde

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Brian Reiter

I’m unsure why Suunto FusedAlti is better than Garmin’s F6-series continuous DEM calibration. FusedAlti uses 3D GPS to recalibrate the altimeter and says it will take 4-12 minutes to find a reference value. It doesn’t say but I assume it only finds the reference values every few minutes to recalibrate the barometric altimeter and they must have some secret sauce for error correction on spurious readings. Garmin basically copies this feature along with the battery manager from Suunto. The Garmin implementation takes 2D GNSS coordinate — which is easier to get — and uses the onboard DEM survey data to look up altitude to calibrate the barometric altimeter. They don’t say but I assume this only happens every so often and there is some secret sauce for dealing with spurious readings or they would just use only use DEM and never bother with the barometer at all. Garmin has had terrible elevation drift issues on barometric models up until the F6 — if you enable continuous calibration during activities (off by default). It’s astonishingly repeatable on hilly roads for me to within 1 meter of elevation on the same course on subsequent weeks. My sense is the reason that Garmin… Read more »

Brian Reiter

I’d love to have someone actually test these two systems side-by-side in the unfavorable conditions you described. I would guess that they perform essentially the same IRL.

But, I would not put it past Garmin to malfunction in an entirely ridiculous way. To be fair, though, I have not had any significant problems with the activity functionality of the f6X at any stage in the past 8 months — only the “frivolous” stuff — and I have pressed my luck with beta firmware a few times.

These days I am doing a lot of treadmill running in my gazebo, so the altimeter is not doing a hellava lot for me.

However the continuous SpO2 monitoring does give me reassurance that I don’t have covid-19. Apparently you can have insanely low blood oxygenation without realizing it in early stages of covid pneumonia.



I see you prefer the vantage V for power based running (with Stryd)….

Can you use structured power based tainings exported from Trainingpeaks somehow on the Vantage?
(or get them into Polar Flow?)

Or how do you do this? 🙂


WizKidz Tech

All of one of the best sensible residence devices above are prime picks within respective classes.


Polar Vantage V or Garmin Forerunner 245?

tfk, the5krunner

Vantage V Titanium for me


too much money for titanium. polar vantage v (standard) has almost the same price as garmin forerunner 245. is there any difference between Polar VV and VV Titanium except titan case?

tfk, the5krunner

case/strap is the only difference


Why would *ANYONE* buy any of these things produced in China?

Suunto. Made in Finland. Buy.

tfk, the5krunner

‘cos they tend to be cheaper.
(not saying i agree or disagree with your statement, just one answer)


Up to you I guess.

If you’re happy recommending tech manufactured in a country which has caused so much pain in recent years – avian ‘flu, SARS, and now our present little virus, to say nothing of the working conditions in their factories – just so Garmin, Polar, et al., can add a few extra $’s to their profits, then knock yourself out.

Personally I’d prefer to read someone who raises his eyes from the glittery ‘features’ or price point on the latest running toy and looks at the wider issues when recommending tech.

And yes, I know that Suunto are just as guilty with certain products. But at least they retain some European manufacturing facilities.

tfk, the5krunner

I am aware of the re-education of minorities like the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, I am aware of issues around IP protection and the changing dominance of the prevailing economic and politicals blocs. I do have strong political views but a tech blog is not the place for them, although I admit to the occasional tweet or sentence slipping out from me on such matters. It’s dangerous ground though, one person’s patriotic views become someone else’s nationalistic views which then slip to Xenophobic views and then onto racism. It’s a slippery that I’d rather take the steps down to avoid.


I am pleased to hear you have a peripheral knowledge of some of the issues relating to the PRC.   

I don’t believe I suggested you should turn your blog into a soapbox for your political views.

I did suggest you give appropriate weight to the country of origin when making your recommendations, in the same way you allow your personal views and findings on the relevance, accuracy and ergonomics of HRM’s to affect your recommendations.

If this is a step too far for you, fine.  At least I know what value I – and others of a similar mind – may allocate to your recommendations.


And, for clarity, I’m a strong supporter of many of the programs currently implemented in the PRC.  But I also believe that when anyone – state or individual – gets things wrong there should be a price to pay. 

Runners / cyclists / triathletes do not exist in a bubble.  We’re part of a community.  And I don’t feel it’s unreasonable to expect those who influence that community take *everything* in the real world into account when making their recommendations.

You don’t have to adopt a political posture to consider recommending appropriate sanctions against the products of a state or organisation which has, for the third time in recent memory, released pathogens into the world.  Pathogens which screw up our training regimes, to say nothing of killing people.  It’s just common sense.

tfk, the5krunner

“You don’t have to adopt a political posture to consider recommending appropriate sanctions against the products of a state or organisation which has, for the third time in recent memory, released pathogens into the world. Pathogens which screw up our training regimes, to say nothing of killing people.” I think the PRC government would not agree with your statement. They would admit the outbreak of cv19 started in wuhan but not that it came from there.
what you are saying is absolutely political. (and I’m not saying that my politics agree or disagree with you, and i’m not saying i agree or disagree with yoru other comments)

I’m just not going to the place you are suggesting.

For sure I agree that the legal process says that proven damages deserve compensation for loss.

Having said that, perhaps someone could include the C.O.O. of these goods. that is a statement of fact (ish) and then the buyer can weight that factor themselves.
although even a product of Finnish COO might only mean that all the parts are made in China and assembled in Finland…globalisation has made things difficult in that regard.


I’ll go no further down the ‘source of pathogen’ rabbit hole.  I’m sure time will reveal all…

I’m confident you’re aware of the legal requirements which have to be met before a manufacturer can mark their product with the country of origin.  I’m happy that they represent a fair picture of the manufacturing input made by that country.

Finally, I wonder who would be in an *ideal* position to inform consumers of a products country of origin prior to them purchasing said product?  Perhaps it would be someone who has the opportunity to access and review these products before or upon general release?  And perhaps it would be as simple as adding a field noting the country of origin to their review?  

Nothing more. No need to get political or judgemental.  Leave that to the consumer.  But use your position to inform so your readers may make an educated choice prior to purchase.

tfk, the5krunner

yes time will tell and that will be after the american elections !
yes i am brodly aware of the requirements you talk about
dcrainmaker is in an ideal pre-eminent market position. good luck with getting him to do what you ask.

who decides WHAT ASPECTS I need to inform my readers on? these are highly complex products. I am pretty certain vastly more buyers of these watches care about cost and, for example, gps accuracy rather than COO. I have decided to exclude COO, I fully support your right to tell me I am wrong…you’ve done it in a nice way which is super-cool and your views here will stay for all to read sa I have ZERO PROBLEM with people commenting on COO if it is improtnat to them #Kudos to you

for what it’s worth, in my personal life I DO care about where my stuff comes from…more than most.


I strongly suspect that DC’s life and income are a little too closely allied to retaining ‘good’ relationships with product suppliers to waste my time asking him to consider something which most suppliers would rather not have a light shone upon. You, OTOH, seem a little less concerned about who you upset.

Anyway, this blog is your game, your rules. Thank you for the courtesy and understanding you’ve demonstrated in our exchange. I wish you and 5krunner blog continued success.

Barry Ward

Are there any running watches being made now that DO NOT have a pulse rate monitor built into the watch itself? I use an external pulse rate monitor that communicates with my old Garmin FR220 ( which will soon require replacement due to battery)

tfk, the5krunner

I’m struggling to think of any. great question.
only one i could think of would be the Lezyne Micro WATCH. It’s essentially a bike computer…but a watch.
edit:failing that i would go back to the suunto spartan (non-ohr versions, which i liked a few years back)


Some time ago, I really wanted a watch with many functions and as I already had it, it turned out that most of the functions are pointless and have no practical use. I bought it and I regret it https://infomiasto.eu/zegarek-cyotyk-casio-w-753-opinia-i-test/ as in the description these functions are one big linden, do not fall for them.


Would you be inclined to say that ultra runners don’t like the downsides with UltraTrac, or is it more a matter of most users not wanting to optimize settings in general?

John Kissane

Still getting to grips with a new 945 to replace a 645. I was interested to see if the WHR was any better but hadn’t realised I had tie it almost ligature tight to get a reasonable reading! My first easy run ended up with an average HR above my max meaning the watch wants me to rest for days on end & all recommended workouts just say rest. Hopefully it will ease back in a few days.

First thing I’ve noticed is that the barometer is behaving much better than the 645 which logged crazy amounts of elevation gain/loss on flat runs.

Btw I see the 745 is already being discounted, it’s available for €445 on an Irish site.


Would you buy a Suunto Ambit 3 Run in 2021 for its accuracy? I’m interested in a watch that is reliable for distance and pace. I’m not interested in other data or features
(I know that a footpod like Stryd would be the better choice…)

tfk, the5krunner

so buy a footpod…