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The best Garmin watches of 2020: Which one is right for you?

If you’re in the market for a new smartwatch, the first one that likely comes to mind is the Apple Watch, widely considered the best smartwatch available. Why look further? Well, for reasons that include both functionality and price, many people seek alternatives to Apple’s popular wearable. One worthy contender is Garmin’s line of sport-oriented smartwatches, which are popular with a variety of athletes — runners, cyclists, triathlon competitors, and other outdoor sports aficionados — for their accuracy, precision, and durability.

Navigation is a strong suit for Garmin watches and the company has a good reputation for longevity: Its watches stand up to wear and tear for years and the company continues to upgrade them long after their release dates. Digital Trends has kept a close eye on a number of Garmin watches and gathered them together in this list to give you a better idea of which ones might serve your lifestyle.

Garmin Fenix 6s Pro

The Garmin Fenix 6s Pro has a rugged but relatively petite design with an always-on 1.2-inch display that’s easy to read even in bright sunlight. It features enhanced estimated wrist heart rate and pulse oximetry for advanced sleep monitoring and high elevation altitude acclimation. Training features include PacePro for grade-adjusted activity pace guidance and adjusted VO2 max (maximum rate of oxygen consumption) and training estimates. The watch facilitates navigating any kind of terrain with preloaded topographical maps, ski maps for thousands of ski venues worldwide, multiple global navigation satellite systems including GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo, and built-in sensors for three-axis compass, gyroscope, and barometric altimeter. It also conveniently supports Garmin Pay contactless payments, music storage with streaming service support, notifications, and more. The battery lasts up to nine days in smartwatch mode and up to 34 days in battery saver watch mode.

Garmin Instinct

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The Garmin Instinct is for the hardcore of whatever activity you’re into. This rugged GPS watch — which aligns with U.S. Military standard 810G for thermal, shock, and water resistance up to 100 meters is built for tough environments. It features a three-axis compass, a barometric altimeter, and multiple global navigation satellite systems like GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo to track your challenging path. You can also use this watch to monitor estimated heart rate, activity, and stress, and train with preloaded activity profiles. When paired with a compatible smartphone, you can connect with notifications and automatic data uploads to the Garmin Connect fitness community. A TracBack feature helps you navigate your route so you don’t get lost on the trail. The Garmin Explore website and app help you plan your activities in advance. The battery lasts up to 14 days in smartwatch mode and up to 40 hours in UltraTrac battery saver mode.

Garmin Forerunner 945

Kelly Hodgkins / Digital Trends

If you’re a runner or training for a triathlon, the Garmin Forerunner 945 with its always-on, 1.2-inch, 240 x 240-pixel display is your ultimate companion. As a multi-sport watch, it supports some 30 indoor and outdoor sports including running, swimming, strength training, and skiing. The watch monitors your performance, including Vo2 Max and training status, altitude and heat acclimatization, training load focus, recovery time, and aerobic and anaerobic training. You can use Spotify, Amazon Music, or Deezer to download songs or playlists to your watch. It includes Garmin Pay contactless payment for supported cards to pay for items with your watch so you’re not weighed down with stuffing a wallet in your pocket. If you’re the type that loses track of your location, no worries. Built-in full-color maps ensure you’ll never get lost. Safety and tracking features include incident detection for some activities, which sends your real-time location to emergency contacts through your paired smartphone. The battery lasts up to two weeks in smartwatch mode and up to 60 hours in UltraTrac mode.

Garmin Forerunner 45s

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The Garmin Forerunner 45s is a small, entry-level, runner’s watch that estimates your heart rate on the wrist and uses GPS to help you track your pace, distance, intervals, speed, cadence, and calories burned. It works with the free Garmin Coach training plans for more personalized coaching. Other features include notifications for incoming texts and calls, automatic uploads to the Garmin Connect online community, and live tracking and controls for music playing on your paired, compatible smartphone. Sports apps are available for running, cycling, indoor track, treadmill, elliptical, cardio, and yoga. Safety and tracking features include incident detection, which sends your real-time location to emergency contacts through your smartphone. The battery lasts for up to seven days in smartwatch mode or 14 hours in GPS mode. It comes in two sizes — 39.5mm and 42mm.

Garmin Vívoactive 4

The Garmin Vivoactive 4 has you covered top to toe, inside and out, tracking your energy levels, Pulse Ox, respiration, menstrual cycle, stress, sleep, heart rate, and hydration. It includes 20 preloaded GPS and indoor sports apps, including yoga, running, and swimming. Animated workouts like cardio, strength, yoga, and pilates appear right on your watch screen so you can easily learn the right techniques. Download songs to your watch, including playlists from Spotify, Amazon Music, or Deezer and connect with headphones (sold separately) to listen without your phone. You get a choice of thousands of free watch faces, apps, and widgets from the Connect IQ store. Safety and tracking features include incident detection and assistance when paired with a compatible device, which sends your current location to friends or family. Battery life lasts up to 8 days in smartwatch mode and up to 6 hours in GPS and music mode. The Vívoactive 4 is available in two sizes — 40mm and 45mm.

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