If you exercise without tracking it, did you exercise sport at all? Don’t take the risk of missing a discipline: strap the best GPS sports watch to your wrist for a guaranteed calorie count.
Whether you’re a runner, a lunger or just looking to get a bit fitter, the top tickers in 2022 offer total fitness assistance. The top options below can analyse your activity, provide detailed training feedback and guide you to a new PB – on the road, in the gym or underwater.
Besides keeping tabs on your sweaty metrics, today’s crop of clever trackers can also monitor your sleep quality, move you with music and steer you down the right path. All you have to do is wear one. And, you know, move.
Not sure which is right for you? From sporty smartwatches to premium monitors, the guide below features something to suit every wrist and budget. Plus some handy buying tips to help you pick your perfect ticker.
How to pick your perfect activity-tracking ticker
Not all activity watches are created equal. Some are sporting purebreds, designed to log your activity data alone. Others introduce a few smart features – think offline music and support for limited third-party services such as Strava – while only the full-fat smartwatches deliver a complete catalogue of apps and connectivity options.
Most sports watches are built tough to some degree. That usually means waterproofing to at least 50m, plus a case sturdy enough to survive everyday bumps. If you’re a fan of particularly rugged pursuits, it’s worth chooisng something more durable. The hardiest wristwear keeps ticking at 100m below the waves.
Heart-rate monitors feature on the majority of sports watches. But the measurement of other metrics depends on the model in question. The best tickers in 2022 can track your blood oxygen levels, keep an eye on your heat rate variability and even take echocardiograms, to confirm your blood pump’s tickety-boo.
Battery life varies wildly from watch to watch. Extra skills often come at the expense of battery life, which means smartwatches tend to top out at 24 hours. Models in the middle can offer several days of connected tracking, while pared-back options are usually good for weeks. Certain sports watches now also include solar recharging, for theoretically endless battery life.
GPS sports watches can log where you jog and track where you cycle. The accuracy and detail will normally depend on which of the standard satellite systems a watch supports; the best options will play nicely with several. Not sure which path to take? A number of the best sports watches also support offline maps and wrist-based navigation.
Garmin Fenix 7
Garmin has cemented its Fenix series as the top choice for serious athletes in need of a serious tracking tool. And with dedicated sports profiles for a huge number of disciplines – spanning from HIIT to hiking – plus a whole range of training metrics fed by its arsenal of sensors, the Fenix 7 stays true to that template.
Rated for up to 89 hours of battery life with full GPS enabled, the Fenix 7 is equipped to go the distance – and then some. Power Manager offers granular fine-tuning to eke the very most out of every charge. Opt for the top-spec 7X Solar edition and it’ll refuel from the sun.
Built for bossing almost any sport, the Fenix 7 is as handy at tracking daily wellness as it is at providing real-time stamina estimates. Support for contactless payments and offline Amazon Music mean this durable ticker is no connected dum-dum, while support for TOPO maps makes it a navigational powerhouse.
The only fly in this capable ointment? The sizeable price tag, which puts the Fenix 7 firmly into premium territory. But if your budget stretches (and your pursuits demand it), this is the ultimate combo of tracking smarts and sporting endurance.
Stuff says: ★★★★★
A durable do-it-all adventure watch, this is the best GPS sports watch – now with added solar staying power
Display: 1.3in AMOLED touchscreen, 260×260 pixels • Heart rate: Yes • Battery: 18 days (smartwatch), 57 days (battery saver), 10 hours (all satellite systems with music) • Waterproof: 100m • Case size: 42/47/51mm • Weight: 79g
Apple Watch Series 7
For most people, Apple’s understated wearable is one of the best smartwatches you can buy. But it’s also a top GPS sports watch in its own right: waterproof to 50m, the Series 7 comes equipped with blood oxygen, ECG and optical heart rate sensors to keep track of your vitals. It can even detect irregular heartbeats protect your hearing and alert emergency services if you take a tumble.
It also comes complete with Apple’s comprehensive suite of health and fitness features, including all-round activity tracking, dedicated sports profiles with matching metrics, plus full-fat sleep tracking and schedules. The Series 7 is also the perfect partner to Apple’s Fitness+ platform, syncing with your iPhone, iPad or Apple TV to track your numbers while you work out.
Its vibrant, tactile interface looks even better on the Series 7’s OLED display, which is roughly 20% larger than before. Whether you’re tapping into Reflect mindfulness sessions or swiping around the Watch’s wellness tools, everything is big, bold and intuitive.
At 18 hours, battery life could still be beefier, while many will find that the Watch SE offers better value. But for the smartest sports watch around, you can’t go wrong with the Series 7.
Stuff says: ★★★★★
A better display doesn’t change the recipe, but Apple’s sporty ticker is still smartest of the lot
Display: 1.61/1.9in LTPO OLED touchscreen, 352×430/396×484 pixels • Heart rate: Yes • Battery: 18 hours • Waterproof: 50m • Case size: 41/45mm • Weight: 32g (41mm, aluminium), 38.8g (45mm, aluminium)
Garmin Forerunner 945
Not the sleekest of tracking tools, Garmin’s Forerunner 945 is designed for those who want fitness insights without the extra baggage. And while it’s not the newest release in Garmin’s stable, it remains an excellent GPS sports watch for exercise – and one that’s now available for a little bit less.
Its design clearly favours function over form: its fibre-reinforced polymer plastic shell didn’t win any design awards back in 2019. But there’s nothing wrong with minimalism if it gets the job done, and that’s exactly what this streamlined 50g lightweight achieves.
Sticking with the pared-back approach, there’s no touchscreen. Instead, you’re reliant on sturdy metal buttons. Paired with a dull 1.2in LCD, this approach delivers a respectable 36-hour GPS battery life. But it doesn’t go light on tracking tech: its full complement of sensors includes optical heart rate, GPS and blood oxygen.
It’s accurate, it records everything you need and the partner app is perfect for diving into the data. The 945 can also store offline music from services including Spotify, plus it supports Garmin Pay. There are newer, shinier options out there – and several which are easier to master – but the 945 nevertheless remains a well-built, feature-rich GPS sports watch free from bloat.
Stuff says: ★★★★★
Lightweight but well-built, this fitness-focused watch is packed full of features
Display: 1.2in MIP , 240×240 pixels • Heart rate: Yes • Battery: 2 weeks (smartwatch), 10 hours (GPS with music) • Waterproof: 50m • Case size: 47mm • Weight: 50g
Polar Vantage V2
Polar’s Vantage V2 might look like just another tracking ticker, but don’t let its polished shell fool you: the V2 is a comprehensive training tool, designed to log your workouts then guide you through recovery.
While it’s lightweight at 52g, the Polar’s refined curves belie a tough build: fronted by laminated by Gorilla Glass, the aluminium casing is waterproof down to 100m. And though its 1.2in display isn’t the sharpest or brightest, it is big and clear enough to be easily readable on the run.
Pursue a different discipline every weekend of the year and the Vantage V2 will still have a mode to track it. You’ll find 130 activity profiles in the Polar Flow app, up to 20 of which can be loaded on to the V2 at a time. Outdoor activities can be tracked using GPS, with a reliable heart-rate monitor logging your effort.
The app provides no shortage of stats to digest, while the watch itself can suggest the right exercises for your active recovery. There’s not much to customise and there’s no app catalogue to speak of. But as a purist’s training tool with a solid 40-hour battery life, the Vantage V2 is a tough GPS sports watch to beat.
Stuff says: ★★★★☆
A multi-sport training tool that looks good and has the tracking chops to match
Display: 1.2in MIP touchscreen, 240×240 pixels • Heart rate: Yes • Battery: 7 days (watch), 40 hours (training mode) • Waterproof: 100m • Case size: 47mm • Weight: 52g
Huawei Watch GT Runner
Huawei’s targeting the wrists of sprinters with its Watch GT Runner. And with a sporty design, sizeable battery and heaps of software features for runners – plus a mid-range price tag – it’s a tempting pitch.
Borrowing a fair few features from other Huawei wearables, the Watch GT Runner packages them in a lightweight polymer shell that’s well-suited to sprinting. It shares its 1.43in AMOLED display with the Huawei Watch GT 3 – and it’s just as sharp, responsive and easy to see. GPS tracking is broadly accurate, while results from the heart rate monitor fall within Huawei’s claimed 10bpm margin versus a chest strap.
Huawei’s HarmonyOS interface plays nice with Android, iOS and Huawei’s own phones, but its AppGallery store doesn’t offer the same catalogue depth as its rivals. What you do get is a whole host of running insights, including Huawei’s Running Ability Index, which scores you based on training data and heart rate info. There are AI coaching plans available too, alongside familiar metrics like Training Load, VO2 Max and recovery time.
Smart notification support is limited to Android smartphones, while Huawei’s Celia assistant only works if you have a connected Huawei smartphone. More convincing he flip side is its impressive battery life: 14 days can drop to seven with regular runs, but it’s still a solid tally for a full-colour GPS sports watch with added smarts.
Stuff says: ★★★★☆
If you’ve been hoping for a Huawei wearable that offers pretty much everything you need to track serious runs, you’ll want to look at the Watch GT Runner
Display: 1.43in AMOLED touchscreen, 466×466 pixels • Heart rate: Yes • Battery: 14 days • Waterproof: 50m • Case size: 46mm • Weight: 38.5g
Coros Vertix 2
There’s no escaping the heft of the second-gen Coros Vertix: beefy by design, this premium ticker is not only a considerable investment, but it also takes up a fair chunk of wrist space. Weighty at 89g, it sits high on the wrist, supported by a thick strap. Surrounded by a titanium alloy bezel and casing, the Coros packs a 1.4in LCD touchscreen that’s disappointingly dull.
But the Vertix 2 does back up its chunky shell with an equally sturdy cell inside: good for up 240 hours in UltraMax mode, this is a ticker with endurance. It also goes big on features: there’s sports tracking for almost every activity you can think of, plus multiple mapping options, music storage for offline playback, as well as an almost overwhelming breadth of performance insights from the EvoLab tool.
Swim tracking is similarly comprehensive, both in and out of the pool, and there’s also general activity and sleep-stage data – although you don’t get any of the more holistic wellness features seen on the likes of Garmin or Polar watches.
No lightweight, the Vertix 2 gives the Garmin Fenix a good run for its money – provided you’ve got big wrists and a matching bank balance.
Stuff says: ★★★★☆
If chunky’s how you’d like your GPS sports watch, this is a rugged adventurer to rival Garmin’s Fenix series
Display: 1.4in LCD touchscreen, 280×280 pixels • Heart rate: Yes • Battery: 100 hours (standard), 60 days (daily use), 35 hours (full GPS with music) • Waterproof: 100m • Case size: 50mm • Weight: 89g
In a world where your watch is the first line of defence against health complications, Fitbit was the first to ship one with an electrodermal activity sensor, capable of monitoring your stress levels. Add an ECG app and on-wrist skin temperature sensor to Fitbit’s classic all-day activity tracking and the Sense shapes up as a comprehensive wellness tool.
With styling similar to the Versa 2, it adopts a rounded-square face that’s subtle enough to be wearable in the office, but sufficiently unique to have some personality. It’s impressively light, comfortable to wear and benefits from a nice OLED display, although the single capacitive button is a source of frustration.
Getting the most out of the Fitbit Sense requires commitment. If you’re happy to invest vast amounts of health data, you’ll be rewarded with a landslide of feedback and analysis. The app delivers a detailed breakdown of everything from stress factors to sleep scores, but you’ll need a Fitbit Premium subscription to access more advanced insights.
Battery life comes in at a solid six days on average, which only makes the so-so overall performance more disappointing. It’s not consistently smooth in use, often feeling a little underpowered in the processor department.
Stuff says: ★★★★☆
Ambitious with mixed results, the Fitbit Sense is still a fairly well-rounded smartwatch with a few innovative health features
Display: 1.58in OLED touchscreen, 336×336 pixels • Heart rate: Yes • Battery: 6+ days • Waterproof: 50m • Case size: 40.5mm • Weight: 46g
The Suunto 7 isn’t the most expensive GPS sports watch in this list. But as a rival to the Apple Watch, it also isn’t cheap. Then again, by promising style, Android Wear smarts and a comprehensive suite of fitness-tracking features, it tries to tick all of the the right boxes.
Simultaneously rugged, stylish and sleek, the Suunto 7’s four hardware buttons give it the feel of a traditional sports watch, while its four raised edges add welcome character. It’s inescapably chunky – something unavoidable with its 55mm face – but it’s light enough to be comfortable. The 454×454-pixel display is also up there with some of the best smartwatch screens. Because it’s an AMOLED panel, blacks are true and colours punchy, while the resolution ensures text is sharp.
Wear OS is zippy enough, with a comprehensive app catalogue and payment tech to boot. And as a sports tracker, it also comes well-equipped: its built-in app covers all the main disciplines, with the option to install a whole range of third-party tools as you fancy.
GPS proves reliably accurate, while battery life can stretch to two days if you’re careful. That’s better than an Apple Watch, but still pretty limited for serious sports enthusiasts.
Stuff says: ★★★★☆
A pricey but attractive fitness tracker with comprehensive features and Android Wear smarts
Display: 1.4in AMOLED touchscreen, 454×454 pixels • Heart rate: Yes • Battery: 40 days (time), 12 hours (training), 2 days (smartwatch) • Waterproof: 50m • Case size: 50mm • Weight: 70g
Huawei Watch GT 3
There’s a lot to be said for a GPS sports watch that’s reliable, looks good and lasts for ages. The Huawei Watch GT 3 is all of those things. Sure, it could cost less, but if your priority is a ticker that doesn’t need a nightly charge and tracks your workouts and wellness with aplomb, it bests much of the competition.
By keeping its smart ambitions in check, the Huawei is able to serve up sensational longevity. Where an Apple Watch lasts 18 hours on a single charge, the Watch GT 3 can go for up to two weeks.
Styled like an actual watch (complete with rotating crown), the Watch GT 3 comes fronted by a 1.43in OLED display with a sharp 326 pixels per inch – perfectly complementing Huawei’s finger-friendly UI. There are some app limitations (there’s no Spotify) and issues with Huawei Wallet payments, but it’s otherwise broadly responsive.
As for tracking, the Huawei is a serious contender. It features all-day SpO2 monitoring, heart-rate tracking, GPS and a temperature sensor – plus more than 100 activity profiles. Downsides? Sleep tracking can be a bit hit and miss, and there’s no option to sync health data with Apple Health or Google Fit.
Stuff says: ★★★★☆
Display: 1.32/1.43in AMOLED touchscreen, 466×466 pixels • Heart rate: Yes • Battery: 14 days • Waterproof: 50m • Case size: 42/46mm • Weight: 35/43g
TicWatch Pro 3
TicWatch might not be the first name that springs to mind when you’re looking for a sporty Android smartwatch. Yet the Pro 3 offers the whole package: a solid design, superb screen, powerful performance and tons of functionality.
Equipped with a Snapdragon 4100 processor, it doesn’t want for power. Google’s Wear OS runs blisteringly fast, with gesture shortcuts working flawlessly on the sharp 1.4in AMOLED panel (which is twinned with an efficient always-on display).
The lower-right button serves as a shortcut to fitness tracking options – and it’s got most bases covered. In fact, the huge catalogue of apps can be overwhelming at first, with a lot of doubling up: there are multiple apps from TicWatch and Google to track your heart rate, exercises and breathing.
The sensor setup is similarly comprehensive. Built-in GPS logs your location data, with heart rate, sleep and blood oxygen saturation also tracked. Meditation and breathing apps use built-in sensors to measure your stress levels, and there’s even a hearing monitor which measures the decibels of the environment around you.
As for battery life, the TicWatch Pro 3 averages three days in normal use, which is not too shabby considering the power and features on offer.
Stuff says: ★★★★★
Blazing fast and equipped to the hilt, this is the complete Android smartwatch package
Display: 1.4in AMOLED touchscreen, 454×454 pixels • Heart rate: Yes • Battery: 72 hours (smart), 45 days (essential) • Waterproof: IP68 • Case size: 47mm • Weight: 41g