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Comparison: Which Garmin smartwatch is the best for me?

Update: Forerunner 955 review added
NextPit Garmin Smartwatches 2022
© NextPit

Which Garmin smartwatch is the best for me? This is the exact question in our comparison article. Not only do we compare the technical specifications of different models, but we also reviewed a variety of Garmin watches for this article. These are the best Garmin models you can get in 2023. 

The best Garmin smartwatches in compared

  Editor's pick Great value 3rd place 4th place 5th place Nr.: 6
Product
Picture
Garmin Epix 2
Garmin Venu 2 Plus
Garmin Fenix 7
Garmin Forerunner 255 Music
Garmin Forerunner 955
Garmin Instinct 2
Good
  • Huge accessory ecosystem
  • Great tracking features
  • Great running analysis functions
  • Robust workmanship with optional sapphire crystal
  • Extensive tracking capability
  • Huge accessory ecosystem
  • Solid build quality
  • Extremely extensive tracking capabilities
  • Great outdoor sports features
  • High quality build
  • Different sizes available
  • Amazing battery life
  • Huge accessory ecosystem
  • All-around successful fitness smartwatch concept
  • Very good battery life of up to 14 days
  • Music feature convinces in practice
  • Diverse analysis data in the Garmin app
  • Compatibility with several sensors and Garmin accessories
  • Many precise sensors included
  • Calculates many useful metrics
  • Chic and practical design
  • Successful operating concept including the touchscreen
  • Infinite battery life a possibility
  • High-end tracking features
  • Great outdoor sports features
  • Different sizes available
  • Huge accessory ecosystem
Bad
  • Missing smartwatch features
  • Only one size available
  • No LTE version available
  • More a sports watch than a smartwatch
  • No ECG
  • Not quite the 'smart' watch
  • Operating concept over heads awkward
  • Neither ECG nor blood pressure measurement is possible
  • Few smart functions
  • No wireless charging, proprietary charging cable
  • Rather poor smartwatch features
  • Mobile payment options are limited
  • Black and white display sans touchscreen
  • Weak smartwatch features7
  • No integrated memory
Rating
Read the Garmin Epix 2 review
Read the Garmin Venu 2 Plus review
Read the Garmin Fenix 7 review
Read the Garmin Forerunner 255 Music review
Read the Garmin Forerunner 955 review
Read the Garmin Instinct 2 review
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In the table above you'll find our personal highlights from Garmin's multiple smartwatch series. In the further course of this article, we will show you all the models from the various series once again in detail, including their detailed technical specifications.

Jump to:

  1. Buying advice: Which Garmin smartwatch is the best for me?
    1. Sports & fitness features on Garmin watches
    2. Smartwatch features on Garmin smartwatches
    3. Garmin smartwatches for women and men
  2. The best Garmin smartwatches by series
    1. For demanding users: Fenix, Epix, Tactix & others
    2. All-rounders from the Vivoactive and Venu series
    3. Garmin's running watches: meet the Forerunner
    4. The robust models of the Instinct series
    5. More Garmin wearables

1. Buying guide: What to expect from Garmin's watches?

Garmin introduced its first sports watch with integrated GPS in 2003. Back then, the iPhone was still a distant idea in Steve Jobs' head, and smart features in watches were dreams of the future. In 2023, we're making phone calls and chatting on our wrists, but we're also using our smartwatches to check our vitals and measure our fitness levels. After all, no other gadget is worn so close to the body during the day.

In the following paragraphs, we will therefore take a look at which sports and fitness features Garmin smartwatches offer on the one hand–and which smartwatch features you can expect on the other.

Garmin Fenix 7, Epix 2, Venu 2 Plus, Instinct 2
Garmin's smartwatch lineup serves different target groups. NextPit explains which models are the right ones for you. / © NextPit

1.1 Sports & fitness features on Garmin watches

Clearly, the most important thing about Garmin's watches is their sports and health features. All sports watches from Garmin–here in points 2.1 to 2.4–offer a heart rate sensor including measurement of resting heart rate and heart rate variability. The body battery function, i.e. your daily shape, is also available on all models, as are sleep and stress tracking. And all Garmin sports watches also determine your cardio fitness in the form of the VO2Max value.

The snapshot of your health data called "Health Snap Shot" is supported by all Garmin smartwatches listed here, with the exception of the Forerunner models. The Forerunner 55 also lacks measurement for floors climbed and SpO2 values, and the Forerunner 245 does not record your respiration rate. All other models include these features.

Garmin Connect Workout Screenshots
If you do a strength workout with the Epix 2, the watch automatically recognizes the exercises and determines the load on the individual body areas. / © NextPit

Bluetooth, ANT+, and Wi-Fi are on board with all Garmin sports watches except the Forerunner 55. This means that the smartwatches not only connect to your Wi-Fi at home and your smartphone, but also to various accessories from Garmin, including cadence sensors for cycling or various chest straps. However, the running efficiency values that the more advanced Garmin chest straps measure are not supported by the Venu and Vivoactive series.

GPS sensors are also present everywhere. Some new models also support multi-band GPS, although we could not notice any difference to the already excellent GPS accuracy of the Garmin smartwatches in the practical review of the Epix 2, for example. By the way, all Garmin smartwatches lack an ECG measurement. If this feature is important to you, I recommend taking a look at our best smartwatch list.

1.2 Smartwatch functions in Garmin's smartwatches

The Garmin models are not only excellent sports watches but also smartwatches with various smart features. Notifications from smartphones are available on all models described here, as well as basic calendar functions and weather forecasts. Garmin Pay is also included in all of the watches described here (except the Forerunner 55), and Garmin's payment service supports many banks in the USA. A current list can be found here on the Garmin website.

With the exception of the Instinct, the Forerunner 55, and the non-music models of the Forerunner 245 and 255, all Garmin smartwatches offer internal storage for music–but controlling music stored on the smartphone is possible on all watches. Only the Venu 2 Plus currently offers support for voice assistants, and an LTE option was only available with the Forerunner 945 from 2019, but not with the successor 955.

Garmin Venu 2 Plus side view
Thanks to a microphone and speaker, the Garmin Venu 2 Plus supports voice assistants and serves as a wrist-worn speakerphone. / © NextPit

All Garmin smartwatches in this comparison also have the proprietary Connect IQ Store in common. Here you can find watch faces and data fields for workouts as well as numerous apps like Spotify, Komoot, Amazon Music, or Accuweather. You can also take a look at the selection in the browser via this link.

The bottom line is that the Garmin watches offer a number of smartwatch features. However, you should not expect such a seamless integration with your smartphone for example with the Galaxy smartwatches or the Apple Watch.

1.3 Garmin smartwatches for women and men

With very few exceptions, Garmin's smartwatches are designated as unisex–and that's a good thing. Fortunately, most models also come in a variety of sizes. Since women tend to have slimmer wrists, the S models should often be interesting here, for example, the Garmin Fenix 7S or the Instinct 2S.

On the other hand, some models also have an X variant, for example, the Garmin Fenix 7X. The 7X is particularly huge, and should also turn out too big on many men's wrists with its ridiculously massive 51-millimeter case.

Garmin HRM Run and HRM Tri
Garmin offers an extensive accessories package for its smartwatches–there is something for almost every sport. The photo shows the HRM Tri (left) and HRM Pro (right) chest straps. / © NextPit

2. The best Garmin smartwatches by series

Garmin's smartwatches can be divided very roughly into four major different series:

  • For demanding users and pro athletes: Fenix, Epix, Tactix & more
  • Chic all-rounders from the Vivoactive and Venu series
  • Garmin's running watches: meet the Forerunner series
  • The robust models of the Instinct-2 series

2.1 For demanding users: Fenix, Epix, Tactix, and more

Garmin Epix 2 Front
The Garmin Epix 2 is not only chic but offers an "epic" range of functions for sports and outdoor freaks. / © NextPit

Garmin builds the top models around the Fenix series–here, however, you have to reckon with a rather massive design and upscale prices. The Fenix 7 starts at around $600, while the Tactix 7 Pro Solar Ballistic has an MSRP of 1600 dollars.

For that amount of money, Garmin has squeezed just about everything that is currently possible in terms of sensors in its high-end watches–the models from the Fenix, Epix, Tactix, D2 & Co. series have all that in common. However, there are special models for different target groups that are, for example, suitable for being read with night-vision equipment or offer special safety features.

The following table shows the most important models from Garmin's Fenix 7 series in comparison with the Epix 2, Tactix 7, Quatix 7, and D2 Mach 1.

Device Garmin Tactix 7
Image

Garmin Fenix 7S

Garmin Fenix 7

Garmin Fenix 7X

Garmin Epix 2

Garmin Tactix 7

Case size 42 mm 47 mm 51 mm 47 mm 51 mm
Strap size 20 mm 22 mm 26 mm 22 mm 26 mm
Display technology MIP MIP MIP AMOLED MIP
Display glass Gorilla Glass or
Sapphire Glass
Gorilla Glass or
Sapphire Glass
Gorilla Glass or
Sapphire Glass
Gorilla Glass or
Sapphire Glass
Sapphire Glass
Display size 1.2 inches 1.3 inch 1.4 inch 1.3 inch 1.4 inch
Resolution 240 x 240 pixels 260 x 260 pixels 280 x 280 pixels 416 x 416 pixels 280 x 280 pixel
Touchscreen Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Memory 16 / 32 GB 16 / 32 GB 16 / 32 GB 16 / 32 GB 32 GB
Weight 47 - 58 g 73 - 79 g 89 - 96 g 70 - 76 g 89 g
Battery life (smartwatch) up to 11 d /
14 d (solar)
up to 18 d /
22 d (solar)
up to 28 d /
37 d (solar)
up to 16 d up to 28 d
Battery life (GPS) up to 37 h / 46 h (solar) up to 57 h / 73 h (solar) up to 89 h / 122 h (solar) up to 42 h up to 89 h
Waterproof 10 ATM 10 ATM 10 ATM 10 ATM 10 ATM
Special features - - Flashlight - Tactical functions
Night vision mode
Flashlight
Solar function depending on model depending on model all models depending on model all models
Variants standard
Solar
Sapphire Solar
Standard
Solar
Sapphire Solar
Solar
Sapphire Solar
Standard Standard
Pro
Pro Ballistics
Price (MSRP) from $699 from $699 from $899 from $899 from $1099
Evaluation
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2.2 All-rounders from the Vivoactive and Venu series

Garmin Venu 2 Plus
The Garmin Venu 2 Plus also serves as a writ-mounted speakerphone thanks to its integrated microphone and speaker. / © NextPit

In Garmin's Venu and Vivoactive series, you'll find the all-rounders. These smartwatches tend to be a bit more elegantly designed than the Forerunner models, for example–and of course much more discreet than the rather bulky models from the Fenix series. While the Forerunner models are aimed more towards runners, the Venu and Vivoactive watches are rather targeted towards all-around athletes and fitness enthusiasts.

Unlike the Forerunner models, the various Venu 2 and Vivoactive 4 models offer the Health Snapshot. Here, the watch analyzes your overall health based on pulse, heart rate variability, SpO2 value, respiratory rate, and stress and gives you a summary. On the other hand, the Venu and Vivoactive models don't have the advanced running metrics. Even with a compatible chest strap, you unfortunately won't have access to ground contact time, vertical movement, and the likes while running.

Another unique feature in Garmin's lineup can be found in the Venu 2 Plus: The smartwatch is compatible with Siri, Bixby, and Google Assistant. Thanks to the integrated microphone and speaker, you can also use the watch as a speakerphone and leave your smartphone in your pocket.

The table below shows the Garmin Venu 2S, Garmin Venu 2 Plus, and Garmin Venu 2 in comparison with the Vivoactive 4S and Vivoactive 4.

Device Garmin Venu 2S Garmin Venu 2 Plus Garmin Venu 2 Garmin Vivoactive 4S Garmin Vivoactive 4
Image Garmin Venu 2S Garmin Venu 2 Plus Garmin Venu 2 Garmin Vivoactive 4S Garmin Vivoactive 4
Case size 40 mm 43 mm 45 mm 40 mm 45 mm
Strap size 18 mm 20 mm 22 mm 18 mm 22 mm
Display technology AMOLED AMOLED AMOLED MIP MIP
Display glass Gorilla Glass 3 Gorilla Glass 3 Gorilla Glass 3 Gorilla Glass 3 Gorilla Glass 3
Display size 1.1 inch 1.3 inch 1.3 inch 1.1 inch 1.3 inch
Resolution 360 x 360 pixels 416 x 416 pixels 416 x 416 pixels 218 x 218 pixels 260 x 260 pixel
Touchscreen Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Memory approx. 4 GB approx. 4 GB approx. 4 GB 4 GB 4 GB
Weight 38 g 38 g 49 g 40 g 51 g
Battery life (smartwatch) up to 10 d up to 9 d up to 11 d up to 7 d up to 8 d
Battery life (GPS) up to 7 h up to 8 h up to 8 h up to 5 h up to 6 h
Waterproof 5 ATM 5 ATM 5 ATM 5 ATM 5 ATM
Special features - Supports voice assistants - - -
Solar function no no no no no
Price (MSRP) from $351 from $399 from $449 from $299 from $299
Rating
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2.3 Garmin's running watches: the Forerunner models

Woman wearing Garmin Forerunner 55
The Garmin Forerunner 55 is aimed primarily at runners and endurance athletes. / © Garmin

As the name suggests, Garmin's Forerunner series is aimed at runners. Accordingly, the second smallest models, the Forerunner 245 and Forerunner 255, are already equipped with the running metrics, so that you can get a detailed evaluation of your running efficiency values ​​with the right chest strap.

On the other hand, you also have to do without comfort features in the Forerunner models. For example, only the top model Forerunner 955 has a touchscreen—and the health snapshot feature is also missing on all Forerunner watches below the 955. Garmin clearly differentiates between endurance athletes and all-around athletes in its two mid-range series. If you want the best of both worlds, you'll have to reach for the Fenix models.

There are also a few features you'll have to do without on the smaller or older Forerunner models. The Forerunner 55, for example, cannot track blood oxygen saturation and does not support running efficiency analysis. The Forerunner 245, on the other hand, lacks respiration rate measurement.

In the following table you can see the most important technical data of the Garmin Forerunner 55, Forerunner 245, Forerunner 255, Forerunner 745 and Forerunner 955 in comparison.

Device Garmin Forerunner 55 Garmin Forerunner 245 Garmin Forerunner 255 Garmin Forerunner 745 Garmin Forerunner 955
Image Garmin Forerunner 55 Garmin Forerunner 245 Die Forerunner 255 Music von Garmin. Garmin Forerunner 745 Garmin Forerunner 955
Case size 42 mm 42 mm 45 mm 44 mm 47 mm
Bracelet 20 mm 20 mm 20 mm 22 mm 22 mm
Display technology MIP MIP MIP MIP MIP
Display glass Chemically reinforced glass Gorilla Glass 3 Gorilla Glass 3 Gorilla Glass DX Gorilla Glass DX
Display size 1.0 inch 1.2 inch 1.3 inch 1.2 inch 1.3 inch
Resolution 208 x 208 pixels 240 x 240 pixels 260 x 260 pixels 240 x 240 pixels 260 x 260 pixels
Touchscreen No No No No Yes
Memory k. A. k. A. / approx. 4 GB (music version) k. A. / approx. 4 GB (music version) approx. 4 GB 32 GB
Weight 37 g 39 g 49 g 47 g 52 - 53 g
Battery life (smartwatch) up to 14 d up to 7 d up to 14 d up to 7 d up to 15 d/ 20 d (solar)
Battery life (GPS) up to 20 h up to 24 h up to 30 h up to 16 h up to 42 h / 49 h (solar)
Waterproof 5 ATM 5 ATM 5 ATM 5 ATM 5 ATM
Special features - - - - -
Solar function no no no no Optional
Variants Standard Standard
Music
Standard
Music
Standard Standard
Solar
Price (RRP) $169 $249 / $299 (music) $349 / $399 (music) $419 $499 / $599 (Solar)
Rating
Not yet reviewed
Not yet reviewed
Read the Garmin Forerunner 255 Music review
Not yet reviewed
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2.4 The rugged models of the Instinct 2 series

Garmin Instinct 2 front
The Garmin Instinct 2 Solar offers infinite battery life thanks to photovoltaic cells built right into the display. / © NextPit

Each series below Garmin's Fenix lineup embodies a subaspect of the flagship models. Garmin's Venu and Vivoactive models are all-rounders with broad fitness features and touchscreens, while the Forerunner models are aimed at endurance athletes. Finally, the Instinct 2 series represents the outdoor capabilities and resilience of the Fenix lineup.

For example, the Instinct 2 and Instinct 2S offer excellent battery runtimes–and in the solar-powered variants, they can even be operated permanently without recharging. That's right: The Instinct 2 Solar offers virtually infinite battery life, as long as you get to see the sun regularly. In addition, the Instinct watches are extremely robust and water-resistant up to 10 ATMs.

On the other hand, you have to do without a touchscreen and instead get two nested monochrome displays with comparatively low resolution. You also have to cut back on the integrated memory. Instead, there are multiple special variants of the Instinct 2 each with their own features, for example, especially for surfers, hunters, or truckers.

The following table shows the technical specifications of the Garmin Instinct 2S and Garmin Instinct 2 in comparison:

Product Garmin Instinct 2S Garmin Instinct 2
Figure Garmin Instinct 2S Garmin Instinct 2
Case size 40 mm 45 mm
Strap size 20 mm 22 mm
Display technology MIP (monochrome) MIP (monochrome)
Display glass Chemically reinforced glass Power Glass
Display size 0.79 x 0.79 inch 0.9 x 0.9 inch
Resolution 156 x 156 pixels 176 x 176 pixels
Touchscreen No No
Memory 32 MB 32 MB
Weight 42 - 43 g 53 g
Battery life (smartwatch) up to 21 d / 51 d (solar) up to 28 d / unlimited (solar)
Battery life (GPS) up to 22 h / 28 h (solar) up to 30 h / 48 h (solar)
Waterproof 10 ATM 10 ATM
Special features Available with special functions such as Camo, Tactical, Surf, and Dezl version
Solar function depending on model depending on model
Variants Standard
Solar
Standard
Solar
Price (MSRP) from $349 from $349
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More wearables from Garmin

At this point, we have focused on the four major smartwatch series from Garmin. Apart from these models, however, the manufacturer also offers a number of other wearables that we would like to mention at least once here:

  • Garmin's Vivomove series: hybrid smartwatches with an analog watch face and display.
  • Garmin's Vivosmart series: fitness trackers in the classic wristband form factor (Garmin Vivosmart 5—read review)
  • Garmin's Vivofit series: simple fitness trackers with extremely long battery life
  • Garmin's Vivofit Jr models: activity trackers for kids in a robust design
  • Garmin Lily: compact, fashionable smartwatch with simple fitness features

In the near future, you'll also find more detailed information as well as reviews, how-tos, and more on the above models on NextPit. Also, of course, I recommend you to check out our big smartwatch guide:

Did we forget anything, like a specific model or piece of information you'd find helpful? And which Garmin smartwatches are your favorites? We look forward to your feedback!


Note: This article was updated with reviews and information on January 2023. Existing comments were left as they were.

NextPit receives a commission for purchases made via the marked links. This has no influence on the editorial content and there are no costs for you. You can find out more about how we make money on our transparency page.
Stefan Möllenhoff

Stefan Möllenhoff

Stefan gathered his first tech journalism experiences in 2004 – and works in this field full-time since 2008. His enthusiasm for everything digital started already in the 80s with a Sharp MZ700. The smartphone enlightenment came 2002 with a Symbian IRC client for his Nokia 7650. Currently, Stefan is sometimes behind the camera, sometimes writing but mainly taking care of organisational aspects at NextPit. Leisure time consists of cooking, fitness, bouldering, running and everything that has to do with AI and the concept of a Singularity.

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