Few brands are as well-known in the realm of outdoor sports as Garmin. From fitness trackers to smartwatches, Garmin devices are popular among athletes participating in various activities like 5K races, marathons, and Ironman competitions. In addition to athletes, Garmin also has a strong following among divers, thru-hikers, golfers, kiteboarders, and many others. However, Garmin’s devices are not exclusively for athletes anymore. The company has expanded its offerings to cater to different lifestyles, ensuring that there’s a Garmin device for everyone, regardless of their fitness level.
When it comes to features, Garmin’s core strengths lie in fitness, GPS, adventuring, and durability. These devices are built to withstand the elements and have long battery lives, lasting weeks on a single charge. Many models come equipped with offline maps, advanced navigational features, and more training metrics than any other platform. Unlike some wearable companies that have started introducing subscriptions, Garmin has made it clear that it does not plan on charging users extra for these features. This is particularly beneficial considering Garmin devices tend to be on the pricier side.
In terms of what to look for in a Garmin device, there are several key factors to consider:
1. Battery life: Garmin devices are known for their extra-long battery life, but it’s important to determine whether they last days, weeks, or even a month.
2. Training metrics: Garmin offers an extensive range of training features, but it’s worth assessing whether the device comes with coaching programs, stamina graphs, or if it focuses on basic metrics like steps, pace, and mileage.
3. Navigational features: While Garmin excels in GPS technology, it’s important to note that there are different types of GPS tracking and satellite systems. Consider whether the navigational features fit your specific use case. For example, do running watches have back-to-start functionality? Do they come with preloaded offline maps for thru-hikers?
4. Style and durability: Assess whether Garmin watches are built to withstand intense activity and whether they can be worn on formal occasions without appearing overly sporty.
5. Value: Given that Garmin devices tend to be more expensive, it’s important to evaluate whether the price aligns with the intended user, feature set, and build quality.
In addition to their fitness-focused features, Garmin devices also offer smart capabilities. While they may not offer as many smart features as devices from Apple, Google, or Samsung, they still provide basic features like notifications. Some Garmin models even come with fall detection and safety features, while the Venu 2 Plus recently received FDA clearance for an EKG feature. It’s worth noting that most Garmin devices require a connected phone, as only one model currently supports cellular connectivity. Additionally, Garmin devices support offline music playback and have a small third-party app ecosystem.
With numerous Garmin watches available, it can be overwhelming to choose the right one. However, there are two notable options worth considering:
1. Garmin Forerunner 265 / 265S: Priced at $450, this midrange Forerunner watch features an OLED display, a week’s worth of battery life, and dual-frequency GPS for improved accuracy. It comes in two sizes, 42mm with 18mm straps and 46mm with 22mm straps. The watch is lightweight and suitable for petite wrists. While it may not have all of Garmin’s training features, it offers everything needed for running, from a 5K to a full marathon. It includes features like a Race Predictor, PacePro, Garmin Coach plans, and running form metrics. The only area it lacks in is advanced mapping.
2. Garmin Epix Pro: Priced at $1000, the Epix Pro is a comprehensive fitness watch that offers every feature Garmin has to offer. It boasts topographical maps, turn-by-turn navigation, and an extensive range of training metrics. The Pro lineup comes in three sizes, 42mm with 20mm straps, 47mm with 22mm straps, and 51mm with 26mm straps. The Epix Pro includes an OLED display, a multi-band GPS system, and excellent battery life. It’s a great option for endurance sports and offers a range of materials and strap options to choose from.
Ultimately, the choice of the best Garmin device depends on specific needs, preferences, and budget. With a wide range of options available, it’s helpful to consider the desired features, battery life, style, and purpose of use before making a decision.