Best Garmin Fitness Tracker – Review, Comparison & Tips

GARMIN Logo (Credits: Garmin)
GARMIN Logo (Credits: Garmin)

Garmin fitness trackers, Garmin running watches, Garmin GPS watches, and Garmin heart rate monitors and sports watches are available in a huge selection. In our Garmin Fitness Tracker comparison you can find out which one is the best Garmin watch for you and which one suits you best. Since we have already carried out several Garmin Fitness Tracker Tests and gained a lot of experience with them, we would like to present an overview of current Garmin fitness watches, some tips and Garmin test winners to the undecided interested party.

Devices from the following categories will be presented:

  • GPS Watches from Garmin
  • Pulse Watches from Garmin
  • Activity Trackers from Garmin
  • Running Watches from Garmin

Whether a Garmin Forerunner, Fenix 3, Vivoactive HR or Vivosmart HR is the best Garmin watch for your needs, you will quickly find out in a few sections. If you would like to read the detailed Garmin Reviews, you will find the link to our corresponding Garmin Fitness Tracker Test in the respective section.

Garmin Comparison – Best Garmin Fitness Tracker

When asked which Garmin suits one the best, the following Garmin comparison table may already be able to answer the question, which in our opinion is the best Garmin (price-performance) in the respective area.

The four best Garmin fitness trackers in comparison:
 Garmin Running Watch  Garmin Heart Rate Tracker Garmin GPS Watch  Allrounder 
ModelForerunner 235Vivosmart HR+Fenix 5Vivoactive HR
ImageGarmin Forerunner235Garmin Vivosmart HR+Garmin Fenix 5 Navigation (Credit: Garmin)Activity Tracker - My Day
Available since2015 (Nov.)2016 (May)2017 (April)2016 (May)
Battery (up to)9 weeks5 days6 weeks10 days
Activity-Tracker (steps, sleep, calories, inactivity)yesyesyesyes
Integrated heart rate sensoryesyesyesyes
Continuous. Resting HR Measurement yes yesyesyes
 yes yes yes yes
GPS yes yes yes yes
Smartphone Notifications yes yes yes yes
 Connect IQ Apps yesnoyesyes
  • Training plans from Garmin Connect
  • Configurable and extensible with apps
  • Heart Rate Sensor with Resting HR Measurement
  • Recovery guide
  • Promotes more active lifestyle
  • Lightweight and comfortable
  • Promotes more active lifestyle
  • Heart Rate Sensor with Resting HR Measurement
  • GPS
  • Simple Features for Runners
  •  Triathlon-/
    Multisport Mode
  • Navigation Features
  • Download routes
    from Connect
  • Expandable with sensors
  • Support for many sports
  • Extended fitness functions
  • Training Benefit / Effect / Recovery Guide
  • Support for
    many sports
  • Configurable
    and extensible
    with apps
  • Expandable
    with sensors
  • Promotes more
    active lifestyle
  • Heart Rate Sensor
    with Resting HR Measurement
 Buy atAmazon Logo Product Page Product Page Product PageProduct Page

Detailed Garmin Purchase Advice

Garmin sport watches and activity trackers are among the world’s best-known and most popular because Garmin has been active in the fitness environment for a long time before wearables were compatible with apps. Garmin GPS watches are probably well known to some people. Garmin offers the devices in different price categories and for different target groups. These include:

  • Garmin Activity Trackers and Step Trackers: Simple trackers for everyday use, which include daily activities such as walking, step tracking and distance, calories burned and sleep activities. Further features such as smartphone notifications round off Garmin fitness trackers. Some of them come with advanced options for sports activities such as running or fitness workouts. In addition, a small display allows the display of different data. The models Vivofit, Vivosmart HR and Vivosmart HR should be mentioned in particular.
  • Garmin Fitness Trackers: This includes Garmin Fitness Trackers with a larger display or Garmin watches with GPS receiver. Newer models usually offer everything that is integrated into Garmin activity trackers, as well as a whole range of sports-specific enhancements and additional functions. Garmin fitness trackers are very easy to customize and expand. This means that the data fields to be displayed can be adjusted to suit your own needs and other sports sensors (such as running or bike sensors) can be connected to Garmin’s fitness watches. Examples of devices include Garmin Vivoactive (HR), Garmin Fenix 5 (HR) and the Garmin Forerunner series.
  • Garmin Heart Rate Smartwatches: Many newer Garmin Heart Rate Monitors have an integrated HR sensor on the back of the device, which allows the recording of the heart rate in everyday life and in sports mode during sporting activities. Some models even support the measurement of the resting HR, which can be particularly interesting for athletes. The heart rate sensor can be built into Garmin Fitness activity tracker and fitness trackers.

Fitness Trackers by Garmin – Common Features

All Garmin trackers have an acceleration sensor that detects accelerations or motion patterns, for example. That is why, among other things, steps, resting periods or even the type of sport performed can be recorded automatically. Garmin fitness bands and watches of the newer generation (from 2016) have the following functions and features in common and are no longer specifically mentioned in the sections below:

  • Activity Tracker (steps, calories, distance)
  • Integration of external ANT+ heart rate chest straps/heart rate monitor
  • Automatic sleep detection and recording
  • Mute Alarm
  • Intensity Minutes
  • Smartphone Features:
    • Notifications such as calls, appointments, messages from apps (WhatsApp, Twitter…)
    • Control of the music app
  • Waterproof and therefore suitable for swimming

Garmin Connect App

The Garmin App can be installed on the following smartphone operating systems:

  Android (from 4.3)
  iOS (from iPhone 4S)
  Windows Phone 10

In addition, the Garmin app is officially compatible with apps such as MyFitnessPal, Strava and Microsoft Office 365.

Garmin’s experience with trackers is not only evident in the hardware, but also in the easy-to-use and clear Garmin Connect App. All Garmin fitness watches and fitness trackers are compatible with the free app. Garmin’s Connect App offers a wide range of information and presentations on daily and sporting activities. Due to this variety of data, the app is not intuitively usable in some places. But Connect doesn’t have to hide behind the apps of other well-known manufacturers. Newcomers may take a little longer to get into the app and Garmin’s fitness tracker world. That’s why the app offers a lot of helpful tips and explanations in many places, so that you can get started relatively quickly.


One of the strengths of the app is the detailed display of fitness data from the workouts. The track-recordings of Garmin’s GPS watches and trackers are also clearly displayed on a map. In addition, Garmin Connect acts as a motivational companion and enables you to manage multiple Garmin fitness trackers at the same time.

Another of Connect’s strengths is the support for creating your own or importing predefined workouts to compatible higher quality Garmin sports watches, such as the Garmin 3, Garmin 5, Forerunner 735XT or the Forerunner 935, with Garmin Fitness Wristbands such as the Vivosmart HR or Vivosmart 3.


Developers can use Garmin Connect IQ to develop their own apps that can be transferred to compatible Garmin fitness watches. One can imagine Connect IQ as the Android Wear App Store for Android Wear Smartwatches, only that in Connect IQ only apps for Garmin Tracker are offered. Well-known app vendors such as Strava (allowing the Strava Live Suffer Score) and Specialized are represented, as well as smaller providers who have developed cool interfaces, new data fields or apps.

Garmin Heart Rate Accuracy

From our Garmin tests we can estimate the heart rate accuracy relatively well. With the introduction of the activity tracker Vivosmart HR, Garmin fitness watches and wristbands use the technology developed in-house and named Elevate. Green LEDs are built in for heart rate measurement, as the green light on the wrist provides good results. Garmin trackers with heart rate monitoring from the middle price category onward deliver good results even during intensive sports activities. For interval workouts where the heart rate can change quickly, most fitness trackers from all manufacturers are a little off and display delayed data indicating what is generally due to optical heart rate measurement.

In idle mode and during constant activities, such as walking, Garmin HR Accuracy can be used as a good basis for estimating stress and calorie consumption. Provided the Garmin heart rate monitor is worn correctly and the other general conditions are right such as wearing the tracker not too tight and a little higher on the arm.

Of course, as with all devices tested by with optical heart rate measurement:

Garmin fitness trackers with heart rate sensors from our Garmin comparison are designed for end users and are not intended as scientific or medical devices. This means that you should never rely 100% on the information of the tracker and you should always pay attention to your own body’s signs!


Best Garmin Running Watch for Beginners

Garmin Forerunner 25 and 35

Garmin Forerunner 25 (Picture: Garmin)
Garmin Forerunner 25 (Picture: Garmin)

The Forerunner 25 is a simple Garmin GPS watch. On the Forerunner 25, you notice that Garmin is already incorporating simple smart functions in the entry-level models, so that at least with this function you don’t have to switch to higher priced Garmin watches. With its basic functions, it is aimed at both beginners and minimalists alike. In addition, the number of steps taken is measured, as well as the number of calories burned or minutes of intensity.

During the run, it provides important performance data such as distance, pace, heart rate and burned calories. In everyday life, the integrated activity tracker also counts the daily steps taken and warns you when you’ve been idle for too long – providing additional motivation.

A Virtual Pacer function and proper battery life (6 weeks in watch mode, 8 hours in GPS mode) complete the Garmin GPS watch.

Forerunner 35

Garmin Forerunner 35 Running Mode
Garmin Forerunner 35 Running Mode

The newer Garmin Forerunner 35 is a bit more expensive, but offers additional wrist heart rate measurement, a vibration alarm, a high-contrast display for indoor and outdoor activities, music control for the smartphone app, current weather information and interchangeable wristbands. However, the battery power is different. With 9 days in watch mode and up to 13 hours in GPS mode, the FR35 only offers longer battery life in GPS mode.
Both models do not overload the beginner with a flood of data, but offer the most necessary information so that one can get used to the initial running training.

For Whom is it Suitable?

Buy the Forerunner 25 if you care about the following features:

  • Suitable for beginners
  • Tempo data during running training
  • Long battery life
  • Making daily life more active
  • Inexpensive running watch with GPS

Buy the Forerunner 35 if you also care about the following features:

  • Heart rate monitor
  • Vibration alarms
  • Customize the look of the wristband to your own taste

We recommend the Forerunner 35 at this point because it comes with a heart rate sensor and vibration alarms that, when used in combination with the Forerunner 35, will help beginners to avoid exaggeration at the beginning and slowly move towards the possible individual performance level.

Best Garmin GPS Running Watch

Garmin Forerunner 235 (Our Tip!)

Size: Standard size | Weight: 41.3g | Battery: 9 weeks

Garmin FR235
Garmin FR235

The Garmin Forerunner 235 with GPS/GLONASS and integrated optical heart rate sensor as well as 24×7 activity tracker is especially designed for runners and cyclists and is our tip when it comes to extending and adapting your running training to your needs. The FR235 allows you to configure a lot of data fields and display them  during workouts on the display, even across several configurable pages. The behavior of the display itself can also be adjusted quite well, such as automatic page change, the number of data fields to be displayed per page and so on.

The Forerunner 235 is ideal for ambitious hobby runners and cyclists because it supports training plans. It is also recommended for health-conscious people who do not only want to confine themselves to the running functions of the watch, but also value smart features such as smartphone notifications, versatile configuration options and extensive evaluations.

In addition to an accurate heart rate sensor, Smartwatch features such as incoming calls, SMS messages, emails and calendar events, social media notifications (such as Facebook or Twitter and other social networks) and other mobile apps are also convincing. There is also a music player function for the smartphone and a weather widget.

For Whom is it Suitable?

Buy the Forerunner 235 if you care about the following features:

  • Heart rate monitor (24/7, resting heart rate, as well as during sports activities)
  • Advanced operating functions and metrics
  • Making daily life more active
  • Extensibility with apps from Connect IQ
  • Customize the look of the wristband to your own taste
  • Wearing comfort

Best Garmin Wearable

Garmin Vivosmart HR Plus

Size: two sizes: Standard, XL | Weight: 31g | Battery: 5 days

Garmin Vivosmart HR Plus
Garmin Vivosmart HR Plus

The Garmin Vivosmart HR + wristband was immediately met with great interest among users. The plus in the product name indicates additional functions compared to its predecessor and is not negligible if you want integrated GPS and like to walk. Other great features such as smartphone notifications, a good app and a battery life of about 5 days complete the fitness wristband.
Users love its versatility, wearing comfort and user-friendliness. It is suitable for hobby athletes and people who want to maintain a more active lifestyle.

For Whom is it Suitable?

Buy the Vivosmart HR+ if the following features are important to you:

  • Heart Rate Monitors and GPS
  • Simple running functions and support for other sports activities
  • Making daily life more active

Best Garmin Fitness Watch for Multi-Sport

Garmin Vivoactive HR (Our Tip!)

Size: Standard size | Weight: 47.6g | Battery: 8 days

Garmin Vivoactive HR
Garmin Vivoactive HR

In Garmin’s heart rate monitor and fitness tracker Vivoactive HR, many features of various Garmin trackers come together in one unit. The Vivoactive HR may not have all the pro features of a Forerunner 630 or all the navigation features of a Fenix 5, but it has so many on-board features and pre-defined sports profiles that it is an excellent all-rounder and useful in almost any activity situation. As with its predecessor, there is a lot to discover and individualize so that the Garmin Fitness Tracker is an advantage for everyday use as well as for training and competitive preparation. We can’t list all the details here, but they are in our extensive test. There you will get a good impression of the skills of the Vivoactive HR.

The Vivoactive HR is also known as a Sport Smartwatch, because apart from its sporty characteristics, the Smartwatch qualities are also convincing. These include incoming calls, SMS messages, emails and calendar events, social media notifications (such as Facebook or Twitter and other social networks) and other mobile apps. Garmin’s GPS watch also offers a music player function for the smartphone and a weather widget.

For Whom is it Suitable?

Buy Vivoactive HR if the following features and functions are important to you:

  • GPS and heart rate monitor
  • If you want to be on the safe side, i. e. you are afraid of a Garmin beginner model or Garmin Fitness Tracker offers you too few possibilities.
  • Extensibility with apps from Connect IQ
  • Extensive Smartwatch features
  • Support for various sports activities

Garmin Fenix 5

Size: Standard size | Weight: 67 g ( silicone band) | Battery: 6 weeks

Garmin Fenix 5 Review
Garmin Fenix 5

The Garmin fitness tracker Fenix 5 offers at least all the features of the Vivoactive HR, but is also suitable for ambitious and ambitious professional athletes who are looking for a device that has virtually no limits and can record numerous activities, no matter where, no matter when. The Activity Tracker also provides a more active lifestyle, with smart features such as smartphone notifications and app extensions to support every opportunity. Almost all detailed recorded data are precise and can also come from various fitness sensors.

Mentioning the numerous features would go beyond the scope of this article, so we recommend that you read our detailed test report if you are interested.

For Whom is it Suitable?

Buy Fenix 5 if the following features and functions are important to you:

  • GPS and various navigation devices with altimeter, barometer and compass (useful for hikers and adventurers)
  • True multisport/triathlon mode (record sports seamlessly as a coherent multisport activity/indispensable for triathletes)
  • ANT+ fitness sensors (such as HR-chest strap, running / wheel sensors)
  • There are no limits to sports support, like running, cycling, swimming in the pool with extensive swimming metrics, open water swimming, climbing, skiing, triathlon and so on.
  • Deeper metrics for runners (not everyone needs)
  • Long battery life (up to 6 weeks)
  • Heart rate variability, VO2max, recovery advice, running efficiency and run prognosis
  • Extensive Smartwatch features and extension with additional apps (Connect IQ)

Garmin Forerunner 735XT

Size: Standard size | Weight: 40,2g | Battery: 11 days

Garmin Forerunner 735XT
Garmin Forerunner 735XT

If you can do without the navigation functions of a Fenix 5, you should take a look at the Garmin FR735XT fitness watch, which is considerably lighter and has a heart rate sensor. The FR735 is currently Garmin’s most compact and lightest multi-sport watch. Like the Fenix 5, the Forerunner 735XT has a true multi-sport/triathlon mode. This means, for example, that a triathlete can seamlessly record different sports as a coherent multi-sport activity. During the activity, for example, the page views on the display are automatically adapted to the current sport. After the multi-sport activity, it can then be treated as a single unit, with each individual sport being traceable.

For triathletes, the HRM-Run chest strap in conjunction with the FR735XT could be of interest, as it can be used to improve the running style or determine the running efficiency values such as cadence, stride length, ground contact time and balance or vertical oscillation and ratio. Garmin refers to these advanced running features Advanced Running Dynamics.

The integrated activity tracker also provides a more active lifestyle, with smart features such as smartphone notifications and app extensions (Connect IQ) to support every opportunity. The Strava Suffer Score can also be used. This enables you to evaluate the intensity of activities.

For Whom is it Suitable?

Buy the 735XT if the following features and functions are important to you:

  • Slim and lightweight multi-sport GPS watch
  • True multi-sport/triathlon mode (record sports seamlessly as a coherent multi-sport activity/indispensable for triathletes)
  • Swimming functions (Stroke type detection, lengths, distance, pace, stroke count/rate, calories)
  • ANT+ fitness sensors (such as HR-chest strap, running sensors)
  • Heart rate variability, VO2max, recovery advice, running efficiency and run prognosis
  • Extensive Smartwatch features and extension with additional apps (Connect IQ)

Garmin Comparison – Recommendations

Currently, we can recommend the following Garmin recommendation for those who want to purchase a Garmin Fitness Tracker. Our Garmin test winner in terms of purchase price and reward:

Best Garmin Running Watch

Best price-Performance Ratio

We hope you found your personal test winner in our Garmin Comparison. We presented following in the Garmin test:

  • GPS Watches from Garmin
  • Pulse Watches from Garmin
  • Activity Trackers from Garmin
  • Running Watches from Garmin

If you want to be on the safe side, our Garmin recommendation as a result of our numerous Garmin tests is therefore up-to-date: Garmin Vivoactive HR.



Further Readings: