Best GPS Watches: The World on Your Wrist

Stray off the beaten path, then find your way back to it.

byRobert Bacon| UPDATED Jul 29, 2022 6:52 AM
Best GPS Watches: The World on Your Wrist

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BYRobert Bacon/ LAST UPDATED ON July 29, 2022

Maybe I’m finicky, but when I got into running, the fact that I needed to bring my phone on every jog frustrated me no end. But it recorded all the information I wanted, like my average pace and how many calories I had burned, so I needed it. Thankfully, GPS watches mean this is a problem of the past. These devices do everything my phone did and much more in some cases. There’s a model to suit all needs, whether you want to find your way around a new city or prepare for an ultra marathon.

Best Overall
Apple Watch Series 7

Apple Watch Series 7

Summary
This watch is light and stylish enough to be worn every day and packed with wellness and activity tracking features.
Pros
  • 32 GB of internal memory
  • Wireless fast charging
  • Lots of wellness and activity tracking features
  • Waterproof to 50 meters
  • Works with Apple apps and Apple Pay
Cons
  • Short battery life
  • Not compatible with android devices
Best Value

Amazfit T-Rex Pro

Summary
If you’re after value, it’s hard to go wrong with this model. It’s built to last and has good battery life.
Pros
  • Great value 
  • Battery lasts for up to 18 days
  • Water-resistant to 100 meters
  • Durable
Cons
  • Basic GPS technology
  • Lack of connectivity features and apps
Honorable Mention

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4

Summary
The Galaxy Watch 4 is just as good as the top pick, maybe even better. Unfortunately, it won’t work with iPhones, which is the model with the largest market share in the U.S.
Pros
  • Good value
  • Lots of wellness and activity tracking features
  • 16 GB of built-in memory
  • Works with Play Store apps and Google Pay
  • Battery lasts up to three days
Cons
  • Doesn’t work with iPhones
  • You need a Samsung Galaxy to use all features

Summary List 

Best Overall: Apple Watch Series 7

Best Budget: Amazfit T-Rex Pro

Honorable Mention: Samsung Galaxy Watch 4

Best Hiking: Sunnto 9 Baro

Why Trust Us

Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

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Our Methodology

To choose the GPS watches on the market, I employed The Drive’s comprehensive research methodology and evaluated dozens of watches before choosing the top contenders. Although I haven’t personally tested these products, my selection is informed by consumer testimonials, expert reviews, and discussions on relevant online forums. 

I visited the running subreddit to get a more informed opinion of what athletes felt about the GPS watches on the market.

Best GPS Watches Reviews & Recommendations

Specs

  • Make: Apple
  • Model: Watch Series 7
  • GPS battery life: Up to six hours

Pros

  • 32 GB of internal memory
  • Wireless fast charging
  • Lots of wellness and activity tracking features
  • Waterproof to 50 meters
  • Works with Apple apps and Apple Pay

Cons

  • Short battery life
  • Not compatible with android devices

The Apple Watch Series 7 is one of the most well-rounded GPS watches on the market and suitable for multiple activities, as long as you have an iPhone. The improvements over the previous model are incremental but welcome. The wireless fast charging is 33 percent faster than the Series 6, but its battery only lasts for around 18 hours. The 1.9-inch OLED display is 20 percent larger than the last iteration, but since the bezels are about 40 percent thinner, it doesn’t take up much more space on your wrist. This model has an always-on altimeter and blood oxygen monitoring feature. It can also give you ECG data notifications if the watch detects an irregular heart rhythm.

This model is more dust and crack resistant and is water-resistant to 50 meters. It seamlessly integrates with iOS devices so you can call, text, access music, and use Siri and apps. This isn’t the best watch for sport enthusiasts, but it does track various workout activities, and it comes with three months of Apple Fitness for free. In terms of connectivity, it features Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC, and LTE. It has 32 GB of internal memory.

Specs

  • Make: Amazfit
  • Model: T-Rex Pro
  • GPS battery life: Up to 40 hours

Pros

  • Great value
  • Battery lasts for up to 18 days
  • Water-resistant to 100 meters
  • Durable

Cons

  • Lack of connectivity features and apps

The Amazfit T-Rex Pro is excellent value for money and doesn’t look or feel cheap. It features a 1.3-inch AMOLED always-on color screen, which is surrounded by a bezel that’s undergone a metal-spraying process. It weighs just 60 grams but has passed 15 military grade-1 tests, so it’s built to last. It works with four global navigation satellite systems and has a 40-hour battery life with GPS in continuous working mode. It has a maximum battery life of 18 days, but this drops to nine days with heavy usage.

It’s water-resistant to a depth of 100 meters, so it’s well suited to anyone who’s into watersports. It features over 100 sports modes and measures workout heart rate, distance traveled, movement speed, and calories burned in real-time. It also measures your blood-oxygen saturation levels and sleep health. This model notifies you of alarms, events, and incoming text messages and calls. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to use the variety of apps available for some of the other watches on this list.

Specs

  • Make: Samsung
  • Model: Galaxy Watch 4
  • GPS battery life: 24-40 hours

Pros

  • Good value
  • Lots of wellness and activity tracking features
  • 16 GB of built-in memory
  • Works with playstore apps and Google Pay
  • Battery lasts up to three days

Cons

  • Doesn’t work with iPhones
  • You need a Samsung Galaxy to use all features

If you rock an android phone and want a GPS watch that’s an allrounder, choose the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4. A digital bezel that uses haptic feedback wraps the 1.4-inch super AMOLED screen. This model charges wirelessly, and the 44mm model lasts up to three days between charges. There’s 16 GB of built-in memory, and the Galaxy Watch 4 features Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and LTE (optional extra) connectivity. This model’s workout tracker recognizes six popular activities automatically within three minutes of starting and can work with your smartphone to give you live coaching prompts.

A stand-out feature is this model’s body composition analysis, which gives you readings on body fat, skeletal muscle, body water, basal metabolic rate, and body mass index. It also monitors your SpO2 levels and tracks your sleep. Like Apple's Series 7, it can take accurate ECG readings and alert you to possible atrial fibrillation. The watch is an extension of your phone on your wrist, giving you access to calls, texts, notifications, music, and Google services and apps. This model is packed with features, but you’ll need a Samsung Galaxy phone to access them all, and it won’t work with an iPhone.

Specs

  • Make: Garmin
  • Model: Fenix 7
  • GPS battery life: Up to 73 hours

Pros

  • Multi-band GPS technology
  • Solar charging
  • Great battery life
  • More than 30 sports apps
  • Garmin Pay and TopoActive Maps

Cons

  • Expensive

If you take your sporting endeavors seriously and can’t be pinned down to just one activity, the Garmin Fenix 7 Solar is for you. This model features a 1.3-inch display and harnesses the sun’s energy to extend its battery life. In smartwatch mode, it lasts up to 18 days while indoors or 22 days when it gets three hours of direct sunlight each day. In GPS mode, it’ll last for 57 hours indoors or 73 hours using solar charging. This model has one of the best GPS tracking systems on the market and supports multi-GNSS satellite systems (SPS, GLONASS, and Galileo). There are thousands of preloaded maps of golf courses and ski resorts worldwide, and you can download TopoActive maps for any region you explore.

There’s a wide range of wellness and activity tracking features, much like the previous model. It features endurance and real-time stamina tracking, training status, advanced performance metrics, and more than 30 built-in sports apps. This iteration’s touch screen is far more responsive and has a faster refresh rate, making it easier to use maps. The watch meets U.S. military standards for thermal, shock, and water resistance. It also features two LED lights and Garmin Pay.

Specs

  • Make: Sunnto
  • Model: 9 Baro
  • GPS battery life: Up to 120 hours

Pros

  • Three GPS modes
  • Sunto’s FusedTrack algorithm
  • More than 80 sports motes
  • Monitors sleep and long-term trends
  • Works with Sunnto’s new app

Cons

  • Quite large for everyday use

If you like getting lost in the wilderness but having a route home on your wrist, get the Sunnto 9 Baro. This model has three GPS battery modes: performance, endurance, and ultra. Depending on what GPS mode you choose, the battery will last between 25 to 120 hours if you’re continuously tracking exercise. The 50 mm watch achieves such a long battery life by using Sunnto’s FusedTrack algorithm, which combines GPS and motion sensor data to improve tracking and distance accuracy. This can extend the battery life by lowering the GPS power without significantly compromising accuracy.

It features more than 80 sports modes, a barometer, and a heart rate monitor. So it’s perfect for running and cycling, and since it’s water-resistant to 100 meters, it’s great for swimmers too. The 9 Baro works with Sunnto’s new app to track adventures, sleep, daily activities, and follow long-term trends. You can share your progress and connect with the Sunnto community via the app.

Specs

  • Make: Garmin
  • Model: Forerunner 255S
  • GPS battery life: 26 hours

Pros

  • Holds up to 500 songs
  • Garmin Pay
  • Morning wellness report
  • Suggested workouts
  • Live coach

Cons

  • Not great for tracking other sports

If you want a GPS watch to accompany you on your runs, the Garmin Forerunner 255S is the best choice. It’s available in 41 and 46-mm sizes, so it’s not too bulky for anyone with petite wrists. This model can download up to 500 songs, including playlists from Spotify and Amazon Music, so you don’t need to bring your phone on your next run. Garmin Pay facilitates contactless payments, so there’s no need to carry cash or cards to buy a post-workout treat. The battery lasts up to 12 days, but drops to 26 hours when using GPS mode.

You can get a morning report that summarizes your sleep, HRV status, and gives you a daily workout suggestion. If you’re preparing for a race, this watch acts as a coach, giving you training tips, personalized daily suggested workouts, and completion time predictions based on course details, weather, and performance. The HRV data gives you a greater insight into your overall wellness, recovery, and training performance. This watch isn’t for everyone as it can't store regular phone apps, like some other watches, and it's not great at tracking workouts other than running. But, if you’re a runner, you’ve just found your new partner.

Our Verdict

The Apple Series 7 covers all bases well, rather than being hyper-focused in one area. It's a great option for someone who wants a do-it-all watch, as long as you’re using an iPhone. If you’re on a tight budget, check out my value pick, the Amazfit T-Rex Pro.

Things to Consider Before Buying GPS Watches

Connectivity 

If you ever find yourself in areas where a regular GPS watch’s signal is weak or nonexistent, you’ll need to invest in a watch that uses multi-band GPS technology. These models work with multi-GNSS satellite systems (SPS, GLONASS, and Galileo). Other connectivity features you need to consider when buying a GPS watch are LTE, NFC, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and payment services. A watch with NFC that has a payment service, such as Google Pay, is useful for people who don’t want to carry their phone or wallet all the time.

Battery Life and Size

Using the GPS feature on a watch drains its battery quickly. So if you’re planning on getting a GPS watch to tackle weekend hikes in the wilderness, you’ll need to find one with a long battery life. But watches that have a long battery life in GPS mode tend to be pretty big, measuring up to 50 mm. This can make them uncomfortable for people who want a watch to wear daily and track their sleep health. So, depending on what you want to use your watch for, you might need to find a compromise between battery life and size.

Memory

If you want to listen to music while you run without carrying your phone, you’ll need a watch with extra memory. People who want to download the apps they use on their phones will also need plenty of memory. If you plan on keeping your phone on you at all times, then you probably won't need lots of built-in memory.

Special Features

Some watches are intended to be used as an extension of your smartphone, like the Apple Series 7 and Samsung Galaxy Watch 4. These models will feature many wellness and activity tracking features but won’t be especially geared towards sports or hiking. Other watches that are more sports focused, like the Garmin Fenix 7, will be better suited to athletes who want more information. Activity-focused watches can coach and help prepare you for races, and make workout plans based on how well you’ve recovered from the previous day’s activity.

GPS Watches Pricing 

You can pick up a GPS watch for less then $170, which will be fine for some people but will lack the features and sensor accuracy of higher-priced models. For between $200 to $450, you’ll get a good general smartwatch with GPS or a good sports-specific watch geared towards runners or triathletes. Watches priced between $450 and $900 will have the best GPS capabilities, tons of preloaded maps of ski slopes and golf courses, and be perfect for hikers and endurance athletes.

FAQs 

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.

Q: Does a GPS watch work without a phone?

A: Yes, GPS watches work independently from phones. But to access all the functions of some watches, you’ll need the watch to be connected to your phone.

Q: Do GPS watches need the internet?

A: GPS watches use the GPS satellite network to triangulate your position, so they don’t need access to the internet.

Q: Do GPS watches need a sim card?

A: A GPS watch doesn’t need a sim card to work. But some watches can work with sim cards, which enables them to use the cellular network so you can access the internet and make and receive calls.

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