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Health & Fit 9 Advanced GPS Watches for Runners

22:36  16 june  2020
22:36  16 june  2020 Source:   runnersworld.com

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Today’s powerful GPS watches have all the sport-specific features to track every stride on the roads, but they’re also packed with other sensors and technology to keep you connected the rest of the day, too. They’re a pretty sizable investment that you’ll want to last for years and miles to come, so it’s important to choose the right one for you. Whether this is your first time buying an advanced watch, or you’re poking around for an updated model, we have some tips and suggestions for making sure the right one lands on your wrist. Check out quick facts below on five of the top watches on our list, then read on for longer reviews plus buying advice.

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a close up of a watch: With built-in GPS and complex functionality, these high-powered watches have all the tools to help you hit your splits. © Staff With built-in GPS and complex functionality, these high-powered watches have all the tools to help you hit your splits.

Made for Running... and So Much More

In most cases, more features mean more dollars when you’re shopping for a new GPS watch. While there are ways to cut down on price—like buying a refurbished version or opting for an older model of a recently released watch—narrowing down the features you need is key. And that doesn’t just include fitness features. These high-tech timepieces come with a slew of lifestyle functions and perks that you may—or might not—use long after you kick off your running shoes. Here are a few of the hottest features, for both working out and just hanging out, that you’ll want to consider.

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Fitness Features

Altimeters, barometers, and gyroscopes show up in GPS watches geared to hikers and trail runners who want to keep tabs on altitude and air pressure, and navigate new routes in the wilderness. But they do come at a bit of a price bump, so decide where you’ll be doing most of your training. If the answer is on the roads, check out watches with built-in visual maps to guide you through new neighborhoods, or ones that track your in-depth running metrics and design personalized workouts for you. Think you’ll be spending a lot of time cross-training? Some high-end picks offer up to 80 different sport modes ranging from surfing to snowboarding and biking to badminton. Some watches will even let your friends live track your runs.

Lifestyle Features

GPS watches with cellular service mean you can call and text right from your wrist, and give you access to your favorite smartphone apps. For example, you might order your Starbucks latte on the go, stream music wirelessly through Spotify, track your Uber ride, switch off your house lights—and then brag all about it on Facebook. Wi-Fi compatibility can also make it easier to sync a full music library, check the weather, or scroll through your e-mail. And no worries if you leave you wallet at home. NFC payment features mean you can pay right from your wrist.

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How We Tested

Our staff of experienced test editors has used each of these watches for several months. We evaluate the devices based on features, accuracy, battery life, connectivity, and what they’re like to use on our daily runs. Award-winning watches satisfied our data tracking needs and delighted us with intuitive user experiences and additional apps and features.

Here are some of the top-of-the-line watches and how they stack up. Looking for something simpler or more affordable? Check out Basic Watches for Runners.

[Related: The Best Smart Watches for Men]

Polar Grit X

Quick take: Brilliantly simple maps in a small package

Connectivity: Bluetooth Smart, USB | Battery Life: Up to 40 hours

a black watch that has a sign on a pole: Grit X © amazon.com Grit X

$429.95

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Why We Like It: Polar finally gets into the rugged, outdoors scene with the Grit X, designed to compete with the Garmin Fenix and Suunto 9. Like those other watches, it has a long-lasting battery, navigation capabilities, and advanced workout tracking features. But, on your wrist, the Grit X is smaller than those other models. The battery will last 40 hours in standard GPS mode (taking a position reading every second), but like the Fenix and 9, you can boost that lifespan by reducing the frequency of its tracking—up to 100 hours if it pings your location every two minutes and all other sensors are disabled. That’s not terribly useful for runners in most cases, but for extreme ultras and multiday hikes, it’ll get you to the end without an external battery pack.

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When navigating, the watch is really designed for trails and off-road. There’s no map with street names, which we miss, but if the goal is to keep you from getting lost, the breadcrumb does that. On courses where we looped back over a trail or road we’d already run, the watch displayed our correct path with a thick green line (white lines indicate where you’ve been, or trails that you’ll cover later). It’s easier to follow than on some other watches that use a single color.

Another handy feature for runners covering extreme terrain is Hill Splitter. This feature automatically detects when you start climbing or descending, and will display how long you’ve been running the hill and how steep it is. If you’re doing a hill workout, it’ll also keep track of how many reps you’ve done.

Garmin Fenix 6 Pro

Quick Take: Detailed maps and exceptional battery life

Connectivity: Bluetooth Smart, ANT+, Wi-Fi | Battery Life: Up to 60 hours

a black watch: Fenix 6 Pro © amazon.com Fenix 6 Pro

$549.99

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Why We Like It: The Fenix has always been a rugged, indestructible timepiece for the backcountry that we’ve used for trail running and, well, everyday running as well. The biggest reason is because of the watch’s never-ending battery—it’ll last 15 hours with GPS and music, or you can adjust settings to stretch it to 120 hours of run tracking. We find that we have to charge the watch only about once a week with regular use. It also has one of the biggest screens you’ll find on a running watch, one that’s capable of showing you up to seven different metrics on a single display. A cool new feature of the 6 is PacePro, which replaces your old printed pace bands for race day. As a digital tool, the watch factors hills into each split, so you can better manage your energy on a rolling course—and you can customize the strategy; we like shooting for a negative split and running the uphill sections a little harder. But the feature that we use the most is the watch’s navigation. It includes a map complete with street names. Zooming and panning is doable, if clunky, but it helps keep me from getting lost when navigating unfamiliar cities. I also use it to plot out courses in advance, and the watch gives me turn-by-turn directions on the run so I get where I’m going without any unnecessary detours.

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Apple Watch Series 5

Quick Take: The most complete smartwatch is also great for runners

Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, 4G LTE, Wi-Fi | Battery Life: Up to 18 hours

a close up of a clock: Watch Series 5 (40mm) © amazon.com Watch Series 5 (40mm)

$299.00

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Why We Like It: The newest Apple Watch has the same larger screen that was introduced on Series 4, but has just minor tweaks to help improve performance. The most notable is the “always on” screen, so you can see the time or your run metrics with just a quick glance—you don’t have to raise your arm and flip your wrist now. To ensure the display doesn’t chew through your battery life, the screen refreshes only once per second when it’s inactive. For example, as you jog along, the screen only shows your running time to the second—everything after the decimal point disappears. The time (formatted as h:mm:ss) still refreshes, as do distance and pace. Likewise, if you’re using the regular watch face at any point during the day but not looking at it, the second hand and some of those fancy complications disappear. As for performance, we find the GPS accuracy is as accurate as other running watches, though battery life suffers when you have all sensors fired up—you’ll get only three hours when using GPS, Bluetooth, and cellular data. The best feature, still, is the cellular connectivity that lets you take phone calls or stream music while leaving your iPhone at home.

Garmin Forerunner 945

Quick Take: Every training tool a runner or triathlete could want

Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2, ANT+, Wi-Fi | Battery life: Up to 36 hours (10 hours with music)

a close up of a watch: Garmin Forerunner 945, Premium GPS Running/Triathlon Smartwatch with Music, Black © amazon.com Garmin Forerunner 945, Premium GPS Running/Triathlon Smartwatch with Music, Black

$549.99

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Why We Like It: The Garmin Forerunner 945 is the most feature-packed Forerunner yet. It tracks your every step on the run and your heartbeat as you sleep to give you a complete profile of your life as an athlete. And the newest model supports music playback—it stores up to 1,000 songs, whether they’re your own MP3s or synced from a music service like Spotify. The color maps, previously exclusive to the Fenix watch series, are another handy feature. Displayed on the watch, they help you find your way around new cities without getting lost. You can even generate round-trip courses on the fly, no computer required.

Garmin Forerunner 245

Quick Take: An update to a tried-and-true GPS watch, the 245 has enough new features to make you consider upgrading from the classic Garmin 235.

Connectivity: Bluetooth, ANT+, WiFi | Battery Life: 7 days in smartwatch mode; 6 hours in GPS with music.

Why We Like It: If you’ve been a devoted fan of the Garmin Forerunner 230/235 models for years, this is an upgrade that will surely entice if you’re also a music or podcast lover. As long as you have Bluetooth headphones, the 245 let’s you leave one piece of technology at home when you run—your phone—and let’s you sync your favorite music from services like Spotify as you run. (If you don’t use Spotify, you’ll be able to manually add music and podcasts via Garmin Express.) Other advancements include performance monitoring and adaptive training plans, new safety features, and other upgraded health features—like menstrual cycle tracking and sleep monitoring. The few downfalls include a lack of battery life when you’re using GPS along with music streaming (only 6 hours, according to Garmin) and the multiple screens to dial through when scrolling through your playlists and advancing/rewinding a song or podcast.

Coros Apex Multisport Watch

Quick Take: An elite GPS watch for running and triathlons that has a long battery life and an intermediate price.

Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2, ANT+| Battery Life: 35 hours

Why We Like It: Packing precise GPS tracking and insane battery life into a compact package, the Coros Apex is a top-tier multisport watch for beginners and elites alike. The Apex keeps the countless metric combinations found in the Pace, the brand’s previous sports watch, while integrating some exciting new features that runners will embrace. Notably, battery life is up to 35 hours in regular GPS tracking mode, but can be extended to last up to 100 hours if you require. It also gives you a slew of metrics you can view over five screens during your workout, including a new metric called stamina—an estimate of how much energy you have left in your own tank.

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Polar Vantage V

Quick Take: A watch that helps you train like a pro, using a meter to gauge your effort on runs

Connectivity: Bluetooth Smart, USB | Battery Life: 40 hours

Why We Like It: The Polar Vantage V is everything you need in a multi-sport watch if you’re a runner; GPS, heart rate monitor, pace, distance, etc. But it also has a bonus feature runners should be excited about: running power. Using Bluetooth Smart, you can find your data on the Polar Flow smartphone app and replay your run as well as study your stats. Running power is based on your maximum effort and is shown in percentages throughout your run (for example, on a recent 3-miler my maximum effort—shown in red in my app diary—was 21 percent). You can use this tool to enhance your training and motivate yourself to increase your speed at key points during your run.

Suunto 9

Quick Take: A multi-sport GPS watch that ultrarunners will love because the battery lasts for days at a time

Connectivity: Bluetooth Smart, USB | Battery Life: GPS battery life up to 120 hours

a close up of a watch: 9 Baro © rei.com 9 Baro

$599.00

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Why We Like It: Everything about this watch is big—even the face. But that allows it to pack in a massive battery that will outlast any run you can do. Suunto claims a mind-blowing 120 hours with GPS active using the “Ultra” setting, which records your geolocation only every two minutes. Bonus: If the watch senses that your battery is running low, it will give you a reminder to switch to a different power mode so it will last longer.

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Fitbit Ionic

Quick Take: A multi-sport tracking watch that also incorporates top-shelf lifestyle features

Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, USB, NFC | Battery Life: GPS battery life up to 10 hours

Why We Like It: Fitbit’s first foray into the world of advanced smartwatches, the Ionic incorporates a range of features, including an optical heart rate monitor, altimeter, accelerometer, gyroscope, and NFC payments, all packed into a rich and intuitive user interface. Fitbit built its own operating system for this watch, which means third party apps are limited (Strava, Pandora, and Starbucks are available now), although more will likely be added in the future. On the fitness side, the Ionic tracks several different activities, including running, swimming, and cycling, and we particularly liked its “Coach” feature, which will lead you through bodyweight workouts—a simple way to spice up your gym routine.

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