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The best Garmin watches you can buy (October 2021): Fenix, Venu, and more
Fitbit might be the king of fitness trackers, but Garmin is untouchable when it comes to fitness watches. Whether you’re looking for a running watch, a golf watch, a fitness tracker, or a smartwatch that can do it all, Garmin has something for you. In fact, Garmin has so many options it can be hard to keep track of them all. Here are the best Garmin watches and the best Garmin smartwatches you can buy in 2021.
How to choose the right Garmin watch for your needs
Garmin has dozens of sports watches, and they’re all built for specific use cases. Whether you’re a runner, hiker, cyclist, or want a do-it-all smartwatch, the company likely has something for you. That makes it difficult to pin down “the best” Garmin you can buy because everyone’s needs are different. We’ve separated all of the Garmin watches on this list into various categories to make things easy.
The best Garmin watches
- The Garmin Fenix 6 series (specifically the Fenix 6 Pro) is the best Garmin watch you can buy. These are Garmin’s everything-but-the-kitchen-sink watches that boast many features for outdoor enthusiasts and runners.
- The Garmin Vivoactive 4 and 4S are the best multisport Garmin watches if you don’t have $700+ to spend on a Fenix 6 Pro.
- The Garmin Venu 2 is the best Garmin smartwatch, thanks to its bright OLED display and onboard music storage.
- The Garmin Venu Sq is the best cheap Garmin smartwatch. It’s similar to the original Venu, only with a few cost-cutting measures thrown in.
- The Garmin Forerunner 745 is the best Garmin running watch. It has a reasonable price point and plenty of running-specific features.
- The Garmin Forerunner 55 is the best cheap Garmin running watch, thanks to its $200 price point and features made for runners.
- The Garmin Lily is the best Garmin fitness tracker for women. It’s made specifically for people with small wrists.
Garmin Fenix 6 series: The best multisport Garmin watches
The Garmin smartwatches in the Fenix 6 series include three successors to the older Fenix 5 lineup. The Garmin Fenix 6S has a smaller 1.2-inch display, while the Fenix 6 and 6X both have larger 1.4-inch screens. They share features like optical heart rate sensors, built-in GPS, SpO2 sensors (aka pulse oximeters), advanced sleep monitoring, Body Battery, and smartphone notifications. Specifically, we think the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro is the best Garmin watch you can buy.
There’s also one all-new smartwatch in the Fenix lineup. The Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Solar includes Power Glass, a solar charging lens on top of the 1.4-inch display. It’s designed to give the onboard battery an extra boost in life. Normally, the smartwatch will last up to 21 days on battery power. However, with the Power Glass charging it three hours a day, the smartwatch can extend its battery life to 24 days.
- Fantastic battery life
- Many sports tracking options
- Versatile feature set
- PacePro is hugely helpful for training
- Very expensive
- Heart rate readings can be off
Learn more about the Garmin Fenix 6 series in our full buyer’s guide.
Garmin Vivoactive 4 and 4S: The best cheap multisport Garmin watches
The Garmin Vivoactive 4 is the multisport Garmin watch you should buy if you don’t have ~$700 to spend on a Fenix smartwatch. The device features the same great software as other Garmin trackers and the same excellent ecosystem of apps. You’ll once again get a heart rate monitor, built-in GPS, seven-day battery life, and 5ATM water resistance. We also see the return of music playback, which came with the Vivoactive 3 Music. All this in another sleek package that looks like you’re wearing an actual watch!
Looking for something for slimmer wrists? The Vivoactive 4S variant has you covered there too.
What’s new this time around is the pulse oximeter sensor for measuring blood oxygen, along with all-day stress tracking and Body Battery. The screen has also received an upgrade from the Vivoactive 3 line.
- Garmin Pay support is convenient
- Music storage is standard
- Week-long battery life
- Unique breathwork exercises
- Accurate fitness and health tracking
- Useful and accurate sleep tracking
- It can be expensive, even in 2021
- Heart rate accuracy can be off with high-intensity workouts
Check out our full review to learn more about the Garmin Vivoactive 4.
Garmin Venu 2: The best Garmin smartwatch
The Garmin Venu 2 is the company’s best smartwatch. It upgrades the original Garmin Venu in many ways, especially in terms of software and health-tracking features.
Garmin completely revamped the software experience for the Venu 2. It now showcases the watch’s crisp OLED display with its vibrant colors on nearly every data page. The Venu 2 also carries over many of the original Venu’s great smartwatch features, including message replies (Android only) and onboard music storage.
The Venu 2’s new Health Snapshot feature is quite useful, too. It takes a two-minute snapshot of essential health stats like heart rate, heart rate variability, blood oxygen levels, respiration rate, and stress. Afterward, you can view your results in Garmin Connect and generate a PDF of your stats to share with your healthcare provider.
It’s not cheap — no Garmin watch is — but we feel the Garmin Venu 2 is a big step in the right direction for Garmin’s smartwatch goals.
- Now comes in two sizes
- Crisp AMOLED display
- Accurate fitness, sleep, and health tracking
- Excellent GPS accuracy
- Health Snapshot is useful
- More music storage
- Battery life can be finicky
- Uneven heart rate sensor data
- High price tag
Check out our full review to learn more about the Garmin Venu 2.
Garmin Venu Sq: The best cheap Garmin smartwatch
Looking at the Garmin Venu 2 but aren’t looking to pay $400? The Garmin Venu Sq gets you 90% of the way there for just $200. It’s a square watch with an LCD, and the user interface is more barebones than the Venu’s. This is still a multisport smartwatch with standalone GPS, an optical heart rate sensor, a pulse oximeter, and more. We felt the display was a bit too cramped in our review, but that’s hardly a big complaint. This is what the Venu should’ve been all along.
- Entry-level price point
- Long battery life
- Garmin Pay support on all models
- Accurate fitness and health tracking
- Useful and accurate sleep tracking
- Music Edition costs $50 more
- The small display can be difficult to use
- GPS accuracy could use work
Check out our full review to learn more about the Garmin Venu Sq.
Garmin Forerunner 745: The best Garmin running watch
The Garmin Forerunner 745 aims to fill the gap between the ultra-high-end Forerunner 945 and older 645 Music. It’s a good pick for those training for races, marathons, or triathlons. It includes training features like VO2 max, training load and status, and workout suggestions for running and cycling exercises based on your current training load and VO2 max.
New to this watch is its ability to track a cyclist’s balance, time seated vs. standing, and power phase. It can also monitor simmers’ distance, pace, and stroke.
Learn more about the Garmin Forerunner 745 in our list of the best Garmin running watches.
Garmin Forerunner 55: The best cheap Garmin running watch
The Garmin Forerunner 55 is the best cheap running watch from the company. It follows Garmin’s typical update strategy — the Forerunner 55 is essentially a cheaper Forerunner 245 with hardware similar to the Forerunner 45 line.
The 55 looks much more like Garmin’s other Forerunner devices; you no longer need a screwdriver to remove the straps. Battery life has been improved from the 45 series from seven days to two whole weeks. Garmin brought many of its existing training features to the Forerunner 55, including PacePro, Race Predictor, Recovery Advisor, cadence alerts, daily suggested workouts, and new sport profiles.
- Improved design with easily removable straps
- Fantastic 2-week battery life
- Race Predictor and cadence alerts are helpful additions for runners
- Great value
- Excellent heart rate and GPS performance
- Sleep tracking accuracy is questionable
- The display could be improved
Check out our full review to learn more about the Garmin Forerunner 55.
Garmin Lily: The best Garmin fitness tracker for women
The Garmin Lily is a nice, small, basic activity tracker geared toward women. And the lightweight, compact design is refreshing for those with smaller wrists — a demographic that’s crucially underserved in the wearables market.
But the Garmin Lily is a little too basic for our liking. Garmin markets this as “the small and fashionable smartwatch women have been waiting for.” It’s small and fashionable, but the second half of that sentence is stretching things. Due to its compact design, Garmin made some unfortunate sacrifices with the Lily’s feature set. It doesn’t have Garmin Pay, onboard GPS, and as much as we like looking at that pretty display pattern, it’s distracting when you’re trying to get things done on the watch.
- Great fit, for even the slightest of wrist sizes
- Simple, easy to understand UI
- Accurate heart rate tracking
- Detailed, accurate sleep tracking
- Display pattern can be distracting
- Proprietary, non-standard charger
- Proprietary straps may cause headaches
Check out our full review to learn more about the Garmin Lily.
That’s it for our list of the best Garmin watches you can buy, but it’s only a fraction of what’s out there. We also want to give an honorable mention to the following products:
- Garmin Forerunner 245 and 245 Music: Although many of the Forerunner 245 line’s advanced running features made their way to the Forerunner 55 at a lower price, these two mid-range running watches are still worth checking out. If you want onboard music storage in a cheap Forerunner device, the 245 Music is your best option.
- Garmin Venu: The Garmin Venu is still an all-around great smartwatch. Now that the Venu 2 is out, the original watch is available for a discount across many retailers.
- Garmin Vivosmart 4: Garmin has essentially abandoned the fitness tracker form factor, but the Vivosmart 4 is the most recent device in that lineup. However, it’s a bit small for our liking.
- Garmin Vivosport: If you’re looking for a Garmin device with GPS in a fitness tracker form factor, the Garmin Vivosport is your only option. It’s a bit old at this point, but still a solid fitness tracker overall.
- Garmin Vivofit 4: The Garmin Vivofit 4 is for those who want a basic activity tracker. You don’t even need to charge it!
Why you should trust the editor
Not only does Jimmy Westenberg love wearables, but he also loves helping people find the right devices to suit their needs. He’s been our resident fitness reviewer at Android Authority since 2016, and in that time, has reviewed dozens of fitness products and other wearables.
Through his rigorous testing of fitness products and deep knowledge of health devices and services, you can rest assured knowing Jimmy will give you honest recommendations. Looking for more brand-specific recommendations? Check out the following guides: