Untangle the Garmin Knot

Even the most avid Garmin, fan has to admit that even back to the days of the chronograph watch the great company has always had the problem of trying to be all things to all men. 
So every year they have tended to release at least one model in most of there cost ranges, and annually failed to remove ageing models, creating a confusing mess to the consumer.

Along with Xiaomi, I am sure that this flooding of the market must cost both companies in their share of the market.

Old habits die hard

Roll-on the digital and even smartwatch era, and the same old market flooding has continued and now more than ever serves to confuse the market.

Clearing the Fog

So set out below are a selection of Garmin, reviews that I hope will serve to clarify the mess just enough to enable you to see the model that suits your needs the best. As usual I will where possible provide links in the pictures to the best deals that I can currently find on each model.

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus

You can still buy the Fenix 5, 5S and 5X, which are in our opinion still great watches. But if you want the very latest, the Fenix 5 Plus series is where you’ll get Garmin’s most cutting-edge tech packed into a watch truly built for the great outdoors.

So, what’s different on the Fenix 5 Plus? Garmin has now added topographic maps to all Fenix 5 Plus watches after the feature was only made available on the Fenix 5X. All models get Garmin Pay and music player support, which now includes support for Spotify offline playlists. There’s a broader choice of designs too – you can find variations that prioritise durability and weight, while the Fenix 5S Plus remains a good option for those with slimmer wrists.

The Fenix 5X Plus gets another exclusive feature in the shape of a pulse ox acclimation sensor, which is designed to aid hikers and climbers when they need to adjust to higher altitudes.

It’s undoubtedly the ultimate Garmin sports watch, and features modes to track hiking, climbing, cross country skiing, regular skiing, cycling, swimming, open water swimming, running, train running, indoor workouts, triathlon, golf and more. If there’s something you want to track, the Fenix 5 Plus series watches likely can

The Fenix 5X Plus gets another exclusive feature in the shape of a pulse ox acclimation sensor, which is designed to aid hikers and climbers when they need to adjust to higher altitudes.

Buy it for: GPS, Multi-sport, topographic maps, Garmin Pay, music player support, long battery life, compass, VO2 Max, recovery, cadence, vertical oscillation

Garmin Instinct

Want something more rugged?

The Garmin Instinct is all about rugged exploration, but it also comes in at half the price of the Fenix 5 Plus. It’s not a budget watch by any stretch, but for outdoor adventurers it could be just the solution for those who can’t justify the premium models.

You get a heart rate monitor and Garmin’s typical lineup of activities to choose from too, but you miss out on VO2 Max, NFC or Connect IQ, but you do get smartphone alerts.

You also get up to 14 days of battery life in smartwatch mode, 16 hours in GPS mode and up to 40 hours in UltraTrac battery saver mode.

The centre of attention here is heavily weighted on navigation, less on fitness. You get GPS, course navigation, GPX routes, elevation data, TrackBack (for following waypoints back to your starting location) and storm alerts. It also boasts military grade standards for thermal, shock and water resistance (up to 100m)

Buy it for: GPS, rugged design, GPX routes, TrackBack, notifications.

Garmin Forerunner 235

The Forerunner 235 is the successor to the Forerunner 225, and while it might be a watch that’s been out for a few years now, it’s still one of the favourite budget  running watches.

While the heart rate monitor might not be quite up to the task for high intensity sessions, you can still pair it with an ANT+ strap for more reliable heart-rate-zone-based training.

This is a popular choice because of that slim look and 24/7 activity tracking, but it’s the running features that shine through here. You still get all the great running stats, and, with the built-in heart rate monitor, you can see VO2 Max stats to give you a better idea about recovery between runs.

Buy it for: GPS, comfortable design, activity tracking, advanced running metrics, Garmin IQ app support

Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music

After launching the Vivoactive 3 last year, the headline act of the Garmin smartwatch range has been given an upgrade with one notable addition: it now has music player support.

Like its main rivals, the Apple Watch Series 4 and Fitbit Ionic, this is a watch that’s aiming to bring more than just fitness smarts to your wrist. With the Vivoactive 3 Music, Garmin is trying to push more into the realms of everyday design, too. There’s no doubt this is a better look than the Vivoactive HR, and there are some subtle, but welcome design changes from the Vivoactive 3.

The 3 was the launch device for Garmin Pay and now it’s added music player support to make it a more well-rounded smartwatch. It doesn’t have that Spotify support the Fenix has just yet, but we imagine it’ll be on the way soon. Ultimately though, there’s also not a lot of compromise here. For those who don’t want to go all in on the likes of the Fenix 5 series, you’re getting many of the same features for a lower price.

Buy it for: GPS, notifications, Garmin Pay, built-in music player, heart rate monitoring, battery life

Garmin Vivomove HR

The Garmin Vivomove HR goes way beyond what the impressive Vivomove was capable of and was named Hybrid Watch of the Year at the 2017 Wearable Tech Awards.

Now available in versions for men and women, the Vivomove HR has one killer feature that puts it above most other hybrids: a discreet digital display that really works. A simple tap dynamically moves the watch hands out of the way, letting you review pretty much the same raft of modes you’ll find on the Vivosport including activity tracking, heart rate monitoring and even rep counting in the gym. The only thing missing is GPS support.

As a result of the extra features, battery life has taken a hit, but it’ll still make it through around five days before you need to plug it into the charger. Bottom line, if you want a Garmin that looks like a normal watch but delivers on the smarts as well, this is without doubt your best option.

Buy it for: Great design, hidden screen, good activity tracking

Garmin Forerunner 935

The 935, 735XT and 920XT are the watches you want to go for if you love being on two wheels and in a wetsuit just as much as you do pounding out the miles on the road. The best Garmin tool for triathletes, wannabe Ironmen and women who splits their time between the water, wheels and feet.

Natural successor to the Forerunner 735XT, launchedr for 2017, the Forerunner 935 is essentially a Fenix 5 but with all the same tech packed into smaller body.

So, on the running front, it’ll cover everything from the treadmill to trail running and provide plenty of metrics to pore over after your training session. It’s also compatible with Garmin’s new Running Pod, which adds additional data, including vertical oscillation, ground contact time, stride length and lactate threshold.

Add in stellar battery life, built-in heart rate monitoring (which has vastly improved from previous wrist HR tracking efforts from Garmin) and great training effect features to make sure you’re not overexerting yourself and it’s another top notch multi-sport GPS watch that makes a fine running companion for serious athletes.

Buy it for: Advanced running metrics, training effect data, GPS distance, heart rate monitor-based data, smartwatch notification support, Connect IQ app support, great battery life

Garmin Forerunner 35

Garmin’s entry level watches are aimed at people who want to step up from phone-based app tracking and have a few more stats on their wrist where they can see them. Ideal for new runners on a budget, they’re the cheapest of the lot and they’re also a little more accessible when it comes to your running stats.

It might not be quite as cheap as the Forerunner 25, or the Forerunner 30 (more on that below), but the Forerunner 35 is aimed at the lower end of the runner’s market. Ideal for beginners, couch to 5k-ers and those who want a little more info on their regular runs without being overwhelmed by data, it also has activity tracking, bridging the divide between an inexpensive tracker and a serious sports watch.

It packs in all the bare essentials for runners: distance, pace, time, calories, splits and an optical heart rate monitor. Plus, it also delivers smartphone notifications to your wrist. Everything you need if you’re a recreational runner who just wants to keep tabs on how far and fast you’ve gone. 

Buy it for: GPS, distance, pace, calories, activity tracking

Garmin Vivosport

The Vivosport is the feature-packed fitness tracker successor to the Vivosmart HR+, bringing back that all important built-in GPS so you can do all of your tracking from the wrist.

This time, it’s packaged into a slimmer design, albeit with a smaller screen than its predecessor and no physical buttons. What you do still get is the ability to tap into the onboard GPS for walking, running, cycling or cardio training, serving up all those metrics to Garmin’s improving Connect companion app.

Buy it for: GPS, good battery life, activity tracking

9 Replies to “Untangle the Garmin Knot”

  1. Thank you for your post, though am not a big fan of watches and the likes but I have friends who can really go crazy about it, I went through your post and almost all the watches you mentioned are super cool, I cherish the Garmin vivosport for it GPS and tracking activities. 

  2. Hi, yes I, and many more agree with you that at the moment the Garmin range is both the most comprehensive (hence the reason for the post) but also possibly over all the most attractive range.

  3. I don’t personally own any watches, but I do get into my fitness at times when training for Warrior Dash events and the like. Something like this would be really nice to have and I bet it would be worth the investment. I’m sure I could get a lot of use out of one that also plays music. Thanks so much for clarifying the confusion between all of these different watches!

  4. Really great post outlining the various Garmin watches. I see 2 that jump out at me so I’ll need to read up more. I’m now getting into wearable technology so your review certainly gives me a great starting place to research further to make my decision. I think battery life and general aesthetics are key for me as I really just need the basics. What are your favourite features?

    1. Hi Cindy,

      First of all thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my article.

      As for what is important to me, well because of my medical conditions the heart rate monitor must be accurate and the second must is the same in most people, the battery needs to be very strong and retain charge for a decent time.

  5. Hi Adrain, reading through the various available Garmin products is kinda thrilling for me. I mean I was like Garmin Fenix 5 plus was cool, then I saw Garmin Instinct, Garmin forerunner 235 and down to Garmin Vivosport. I must say that all of these various types of Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music maybe because of the music player support feature. I thoroughly enjoyed myself reading through amazing review of untangling the Garmin knot.

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on my article. I’m glad that you enjoyed it.



  6. Hi Adrian,Marketing in your writing style and page decoration has become an art. Although the time has been seen on mobile now, the wrist-watch never lost his appeal. A suitable smartwatch makes man handsome and smart. It is a good fortune to read many kinds of smartwatch reviews together. To be honest, Garmin Vivomove HR is my favorite. I would have benefited if I knew the price of it. Thank you for sharing such a necessary post. Be healthy, be happy. With regards.

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