While some fitness trackers are starting to incorporate location information, more serious athletes are making the investment in dedicated GPS watches. Even the most basic devices track and map your routes, and use that data to calculate pace and speed. Extra features, such as heart rate monitors, altimeters, preloaded maps and Bluetooth capabilities will come at a premium price.
GPS watches can be general purpose, or they can be dedicated to specific activities. Golfers will want to opt for a device with preloaded course maps, while triathletes will want to get a multi-sport watch that can not only withstand a dip in the pool, but can also measure your strokes and your biking distance.
Similarly to fitness trackers, the line that separates GPS watches from smartwatches is blurring with the arrival of devices that incorporate smartphone notifications with GPS, step, distance and calories counts, and heart rate measurements.
To help you choose which device is best for you, we’ve selected the top GPS watches in various categories, judging them based on performance, ease of use and design.
How We Test
For each GPS watch, we evaluate its hardware design and comfort. The device needs to be comfortable enough to wear during even the most rigorous and lengthy runs. We test for GPS speed and accuracy by grabbing location signals in different areas — in between tall buildings and skyscrapers, as well as in open spaces. We use each watch for an extended period of time to test the manufacturer’s battery-life claims. Lastly, we evaluate the device’s companion app and the experience of using the watch and app together.