Top 10 GPS Watches
GPS watches have come on by leaps and bounds over the past couple of years in terms of functionality and usability. However, it can be quite confusing to decide on the best GPS watch, so we have prepared our own top 10 GPS watch guide to help your decision making.
1. Garmin Forerunner 405CX (405 CX)
Released in April 2009, the Garmin Forerunner 405CX Sports Watch has quickly become our favourite GPS running watch.
As with every watch we recommend, the Forerunner 405 CX has the essential features we would expect on a GPS running watch - heart rate monitoring, pace recording, auto lap function, multiple countdown timers, a stopwatch with lap splits and full PC download capability.
In our opinion however, the advantage Garmin has over other manufacturers GPS watches is that it is an all in one unit with no separate no foot pod or GPS unit. This combined with the ANT+ wireless technology means that it can automatically transfer data backwards and forwards between your watch and computer.
The watch also comes with Virtual Partner technology which is a feature we absolutely love. Basically you tell your watch the distance you want to cover and the time you want to do it in and the 405CX paces you along to help you meet your desired time. This functionality alone puts this watch into the MUST BUY camp for us. In addition, the 405CX comes with state of the art heart rate based calorie burn information to let you see how hard you are working.
2. Polar RS800CX RUN
While the Garmin Forerunner 405CX has the best features of any of the watches we have reviewed, the Polar RS800CX Run Heart Rate Monitor comes with probably the best software on the market in terms of analytical detail. So if you like to really analysis your running data then this GPS watch is probably the best one for you. Unlike the all in design of the Garmin 405CX, the Polar RS800CX comes with a separate foot pod which attached to your shoe. The pod can provide additional data that the Garmin can't such as your leg cadence and your stride length which is excellent if you want to make minor adjustments to your running style to see if that heps lower your PB. The battery life on the pod is excellent (200 hours+) so there are no recharging problems. The RS800CX also has a FITNESS test (provides a VO2 max figure) and an over training test (which tells you if you are under or over training on a scale of 1 to 9). If you can live with a separate foot pod and want the maximum data possible to analyse then we recommend you buy the Polar RS800CX Run.
3. Garmin Forerunner 405
The Garmin Forerunner 405 GPS running watch, like the 405CX, is a stylish watch which can be worn all day, every day even when you aren't out running. Something which probably can't be said for any of the other GPS watches which tend to be a little on the bulky side. The touch-bezel can be a little tricky to get used to but it eliminates several buttons and is very similar in feel and function to an ipod. The watch has a very accurate satellite link and also transfers data wirelessly to your PC allowing you to easily and quickly see how your training session went. Its provides the mimimum you would expect from a GPS watch, providing details on your pace, speed, distance, calories burned and times. All of which can all be plotted over time. The included software also allows you to customise and schedule your workouts and you can download workout templates from the Internet. The software also lets you view maps of your routes you followed. One really interesting feature of the watch is that you can load data from a friend’s workout and so race against them over the same route. This is a feature the more competitve of us in the office have really enjoyed!
4. Timex IronMan Triathlon Bodylink T5F011 w/ GPS Unit
Timex produce a great range of Bodylink GPS watches and heart rate monitors but in our opinion the Timex Ironman T5F011 Triathlon BodyLink System is the best of the bunch and also represents great value for money. The Timex Ironman T5F011 comes eight heart rate zones, four interlinked countdown timers (great for tracking interval training) and with additional warmup and cool down timers, pace zones and optional pace zones. When used with the 3D GPS unit (which comes as standard with the T5F011), the T5F011 has a Finish Time predictor which makes it ideal for use in both training and race mode. The Finish Time predictor uses the distance input by the user to calculate the predicted finish time based on your current speed and distance travelled. This function is updated on real time so that you can always see where you are relative to your PB or desired race time.
5. Garmin Forerunner 310XT
The GARMIN FORERUNNER 310 XT has been designed as a multi sport watch with an emphasis on its superb waterproofing capabilities. As a result it is the only swim proof GPS watch and heart rate monitor on the market today making it a must have for any swimmers, iron men or triathletes out their who want to monitor their performance. The watch comes packed with the essential features of a GPS watch including your running/cycling/swimming pace, distance, heart rate and calorie usage, splits and lap times. As with the 405CX, the Forerunner 310XT also features Virtual Training software which allows you to set the distance you want to cover and the time you want to do it and then paces you against these objectives. Great for real time reporting on how you are performing against our goals. The Garmin 310XT sends information wirelessly to your PC to allow for quick and seamless analysis, with the ANT+ wireless functionality having been updated to incorporate MACs as well as PCs.
6. Suunto X10 GPS Watch
The Suunto X10 GPS watch is the perfect watch if you plan to hit the great outdoors and want to know where you are at all times. Featuring a digital compass, chronograph, altimeter, and barometer this watch features everything you need for your adventure while also leaving your hands completely free. This makes an ideal watch for climbers, hikers, skiers and fishermen alike. The Suunto X10 is a direct replacement for the Suunto X9i and fixes on satellites about 30% quicker than the old model, in addition the X10 also tracks better in difficult position for example under heavy foliage. The other major upgrade compared to the Suunto X9i is battery life, where again the new X10 has 30% better life. Overall, the performance of the Suunto X10 puts it in line with a number of handheld gps devices with longer antenna and it features all of the capabilities you would expect from a handheld such as waypoints, route following and trackback. The X10 also comes in a military version, the Suunto X10M Military GPS watch. The only difference between the two is that the Military version has an all black body with a black negative LED face with red back light. In addition, it can be set to use the MGRS (Military Grid Reference System).
7. Garmin Forerunner 305
The long time number one Garmin GPS watch until the arrival of the Forerunner 405, 405CX and the Forerunner 310XT, the Garmin Forerunner 305 set the standard for GPS watches and other manufacturers have long struggled to live up to these. The display of the 305 is very easy to read even when you are moving at pace and it can be completely customised by you the user to meet your needs - you decide what information you would like the watch to show. The watch itself has heart rate reading, distance measuring and pace calculation (including average run pace and average lap pace) as standard and training log updates are fully automated. The watch itself links seamlessly to your PC via a USB which also doubles as the charger for the watch. The watch comes with training centre software which is easy to use and retains your run data over the long term allowing for ease of analysis and presentation when you want to chart your progress. The advantage of not having all the bells and whistles of its competitors is that is represents GREAT VALUE FOR MONEY. So for anyone who wants to buy a GPS watch but doesn't want to spend the earth then the Forerunner 305 is a great option.
8. Suunto T6C with Foot Pod
The Suunto T6c is another great offering from the Finish manufacturer Suunto who have a reputation for exceptional build quality. The new T6C with Foot Pod now comes with a special feature called the "Real Time Training Effect" which tells you in real time how hard your training session is. It does this by monitoring your aerobic fatigue on a scale of 1-4. This is great for recognising patterns of over or under training, and the real time reporting now lets you see if you should either push on or back off while you are in the middle of your run. Previously, this data was only available once you had completed your run. The T6c also has an altitude monitor to watch your ascents and descents in real time and a customisable screen which allows you to add different settings to the watch face. The Suunto T6c also supports pedal cadence which makes it a great watch for cyclists as well as runners. Unfortunately, there is no OS X support for these GPS watches which means its a no no for all Apple users out their. Its a shame because if this capability was added this watch would be pushing for a top three position.
9.Polar RS300x G1 heart rate monitor and GPS
The Polar RS300X G1 GPS Heart Rate Monitor is not strictly a GPS watch straight out of the box. However as it is compatible with a G1 GPS sensor these can be combined to convert it to a GPS watch (model number Polar RS300x G1). This watch is more suited to a recreational runners rather than people who would be know as serious runners ie those running at least 60 miles per week. Nonetheless, it features everything you would need in a GPS watch at a great price, providing feedback on heart rate, speed and distance covered. It also stores details of your last 16 training and your last 16 weeks of training to allow you to compare runs over time. The Polar RS300x therefore provides a great entry point into the world of GPS watches without the cost associated with the top of the line models. It can import courses, be programmed for advanced workouts and has a virtual partner feature.
10. Timex Trail Runner Bodylink 5J985 (previously 5C391)
The Timex Trail Runner Bodylink 5J985 is a very technical GPS watch which while it can easily be used by athletes is probably more suitable for use by adventure racers and/or trail runners. The 5J985 provides all the features you would expect from a Timex Bodylink watch, providing information on speed, average speed, pace, distance travelled etc. In addition, it provides the wearer with both vertical and horizontal performance data combined with basic GPS navigational features including latitude, longitude, altitude, elevation, waypoints, navigate and trackback It also comes with Timex Finish Time mode which predicts your finish time based on your current speed and location. In addition to these great features this Timex Trail Runner also integrates a heart rate monitor which features heart rate ranges, audible warnings, heart rate recovery and maximum heart rate making it one of the most comprehensive GPS watches on the market today.
11. Garmin Forerunner 205
Yes we know this is the supposed to be the top 10 GPS watches on the market, but after a lot of consideration we truly believe any list would not be complete without the Garmin Forerunner 205 GPS Personal Training Device given its price. In fact, if you can put up with not having a heart rate monitor it probably represents the BEST VALUE GPS WATCH on the market today. As with all Garmin models it has a virtual partner feature which tracks your pace to help you reach any PB goals you set yourself. The 205's interface and reliability remains one of its best features while its GPS functionality is as strong and accurate as many of the more expensive models on the market today. The watch has 2 main screens and an activity specific screen that you can customise as you go. It also allows you to mark waypoints so that you can review your logs when you have finished your run. While the Garmin Forerunner 205 does not come with a wireless upload function the PC interface via USB is efficient and easy to use.