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Best Garmin watch: Fenix, Forerunner and Vivo compared

By reviews / 15. June 2018

Garmin has a lot of fitness trackers and sports devices in its portfolio. It offers not only a range of options within each family, but it offers a wide range of sport-specific devices too.

Choosing a Garmin can be confusing, but you’re in the right place to demystify the selection. We’re going to briefly tell you how each type of device is positioned, before diving into the specifics of what each device can do.

Garmin fitness tracker quick summary

Before we go any further, this is how the main families of Garmin devices break down:

  • Fenix – Premium outdoors watches, several versions – for those who want the best of everything with a premium look and price.
  • Forerunner – Top-tier sports watches, several versions with a leaning towards running – best for multi-sport athletes and runners.
  • Vivoactive – Fitness watches, several versions – best for fitness fans who want a little more information.
  • Vivosport – Fitness band with GPS – best for general fitness without being bulky, good for casual runners.
  • Vivosmart – Fitness band, several versions – best for those wanting a general fitness tracker and step tracking.
  • Vivofit Jr and Jr 2 – Fitness band for kids – best for children.

If you’re looking at a Garmin device, it’s likely that you’re interested in something from the Forerunner or Vivo ranges, as these are the main devices that cover most sports and fitness applications. We’re not covering some of the more unique devices like Swim, Epix or Descent.

Garmin Forerunner ranges from a simple running watch up to a serious athletes training tool, so there’s plenty of variety to choose from – and plenty of price difference. The important thing is to choose a watch that does everything you need it to.

Garmin Fenix

fenix 5

Garmin Fenix 5

See the Garmin Fenix 5 on Amazon UK or Amazon US

The most recent version of Garmin’s Fenix watches comes in a number of finishes and sizes, so there are choices based on the size of your wrist and how much you want to spend. While the Fenix is an outdoors watch, premium finishes means this also works well as a smartwatch and won’t look out of place with smarter clothes.

The outdoors angle is solid waterproofing at 10ATM, GPS, heart rate, and a range of other sensors to give you complete workout results. It supports multisports like triathlon, as well as offering a full range of sport-specific profiles from golf to walking to swimming. It does everything that the Forerunner 935 does.

It links to your smartphone, transferring data to Garmin Connect where you can assess your results, while also being compatible with a full range of sensors, from a heart rate strap through to golf sensors or cadence sensors for your bike.

The Fenix 5 is generally the most expensive Garmin watch, but features like sapphire crystal display and steel body work (depending on the model you choose) make this premium in more way than one.

  • Read the full review: Garmin Fenix 5

fenix 3

Garmin Fenix 3

See the Garmin Fenix 3 on Amazon UK or Amazon US

The Fenix 3 is an older model, but offers some price saving over the Fenix 5, accepting that you might lose some of the latest features at the same time – while still offering you those premium looks and build quality.

The standard Fenix 3 doesn’t have a heart rate sensor built-in, so if that’s a feature you want you’ll need the Fenix 3 HR version.

However, it is still a very capable watch, again offering 10ATM waterproofing, full sport tracking with GPS, altitude and more, as well as connecting to your smartphone to give you notifications and sync your Garmin Connect data.

  • Read the review: Garmin Fenix 3

Garmin Forerunner

forerunner 935

Garmin Forerunner 935

See the Garmin Forerunner 935 on Amazon UK or Amazon US

The flagship Forerunner devices is the 935. Launched in 2017, it replaced the 925XT as the top multiport watch that Garmin offers, offering much the same feature set as the Fenix, but in a lighter and slightly more affordable package – with a more sporty design.

The Forerunner 935 offers all the sensors you could want, including wrist-based hear rate scanning and GPS, temperature, altimeter and more, giving you a full range of metrics. It’s fully-loaded for runners, cyclists, triathletes and many other types of sports.

The battery life is truly impressive and the connectivity will see it seamlessly syncing with Garmin Connect on your watch, with the option of Wi-Fi connectivity too. About the only downside as a sports device is that it doesn’t offer Bluetooth connectivity to headphones for local music playback.

The Forerunner 935 is fully compatible with a full range of external ANT+ sensors, like cadence, power, or a chest heart rate monitor, to make this the heart of a complete sports data system.

  • Read the full review: Garmin Forerunner 935

forerunner 735xt

Garmin Forerunner 735XT

See the Garmin Forerunner 735XT on Amazon UK or Amazon US

A step down from the Garmin Forerunner 935, the 735XT was Garmin’s first watch with wrist-based heart rate (but it’s still fully compatible with other external sensors) and what a watch it is.

Like the 935, it is designed for the multisport athlete with full triathlon and duathlon support – including the bespoke training you might be doing for those sports – as well as regular running, cycling, swimming and a whole lot more.

It’s packed full of sensors too, returning a huge amount of data, only differing from the 935 in a few advanced areas.

The biggest difference to the top model is that the user interface isn’t as logical and slick and the display isn’t as graphically rich. While the information it returns is mostly the same, it doesn’t look quite as good while it’s doing it and the battery life isn’t quite as long.

Advanced features and greater affordability make the 735XT a hot choice.

  • Read the full review: Garmin Forerunner 735XT

garmin forerunner 645 music

Garmin Forerunner 645 Music

See the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music on Amazon UK or Amazon US

A new entry for 2018, the Forerunner 645 Music takes an important step, allowing Garmin users to carry offline music with them, so there’s no need to lug around your phone. You can simply connect the watch to Bluetooth headphones and off you go. In the future you’ll be able to sync using Deezer too, with storage for 500 songs on your wrist.

Elsewhere the Forerunner 645 Music also offers Garmin Pay, the first Forerunner to do so, but you’ll spot the resemblance between this model and the Garmin Vivoactive 3. In that sense, the Forerunner 645 leans towards being more of a smartwatch than some other Forerunner devices. That means it doesn’t have the endurance to compete with the likes of the Forerunner 935, but it does offer compatibility with iPhone and Android notifications and plenty of customisation. 

Full support for sports comes naturally to the Forerunner 645 Music along with 5ATM waterproofing, wrist-based heart rate, GPS, alitmeter and motion sensors. Note that there’s a version of this watch without music support – the Forerunner 645 – which is slightly cheaper.

Garmin Forerunner 235

See Garmin Forerunner 235 on Amazon UK or Amazon US

The Garmin Forerunner might sound a huge step down from the 735XT numerically, but the design is very close to the 735XT.

While it still offers heart rate, GPS and other sensors, there’s no digital compass, and fewer navigation features. It will let you navigate back to the starting point of your run, but doesn’t offer point-to-point navigation.

The Forerunner 235 also loses out on many of the advanced running dynamics that the 735XT and 935 offer, although if you’re a fitness runner, that probably won’t worry you too much.

Likewise, although the 235 supports some external devices, that support isn’t as wide as those higher tier models on the Garmin family. It does, however, connect to your phone via Garmin Connect and give you notifications, so for many, this will be all the running watch they ever need.

Garmin Forerunner 35

See the Garmin Forerunner 35 on Amazon UK or Amazon US

Offering a radically different design to other Forerunner models, the 35 takes this family of fitness devices into a smaller, squarer, package, so it might appeal to a wider range of runners than the other devices we’ve covered so far which are a little chunky.

Essential tracking like GPS and wrist-based heart rate join smartphone connectivity, meaning you can sync your data to Garmin Connect and view your stats. But the Forerunner 35 doesn’t have a huge memory for runs, only storing the most recent activity data.

Running metrics are well covered, but on this model you don’t get the sort of advanced dynamics or navigation that some of the other Forerunners offer. That reduction in features means it’s simpler, and for many that might be a welcome difference.

The design is very similar to the Forerunner 30, although that older model has a shorter battery life and offers slightly fewer features.

  • Read the full review: Garmin Forerunner 35

Garmin Vivo fitness trackers

Garmin Vivoactive 3 and Vivoactive 3 Music

See the Garmin Vivoactive 3 on Amazon UK or Amazon US

A new watch-like design moves the Vivoactive 3 into new territory. The previous version, the Garmin Vivoactive HR, was rather square, but with a quality round design, the Vivoactive 3 is more attractive.

The 3 also offers Garmin Pay to let you pay with your watch, without needing your phone.

Otherwise, Vivoactive 3 is more like a smartwatch than the Forerunner devices, offering touchscreen rather than button-only control. That might make it a little more lifestyle, but GPS, wrist-based heart rate and more sensors – like altitude and a compass – increase the information you’ll collect.

Notifications and customisation add to that smartwatch feel, while there’s still full support for sports tracking. It’s a smartwatch for active people, essentially, offering much the same functionality as Forerunner models, but with a touchscreen.

The newest twist on the Vivoactive 3 is the Vivoactive 3 Music, which added the ability to connect to Bluetooth headphones and story up to 500 songs on your wrist. It’s a little more expensive, but the music feature is attractive. It’s brand new, however, and only just going on sale.

  • Read the full review: Garmin Vivoactive 3

Garmin Vivoactive HR

See the Garmin Vivoactive HR on Amazon UK or Amazon US

Of all the Garmin devices, the Vivoactive HR is probably the strangest when it comes to looks. It’s sort of halfway between fitness tracker and watch, with a wide body design flowing into the strap and housing a display.

That display is about the same size as most watches and importantly, it’s about as detailed as any other sports watch out there. Not only are you looking at wrist-based heart rate, but GPS, temperature and a barometer all add to the data, so it offers plenty of metrics.

This is a watch that’s fully prepared for a range of sports, from basic running and swimming through to skiing. It syncs with your phone via Garmin Connect as well as giving you a range of notifications, so it very much does everything.

The other thing it has going for it is price: being older and less good looking, means it’s something of a cheap date, cheaper than the younger models for sure.

  • Read the full review: Garmin Vivoactive HR

Garmin Vivosport

See the Garmin Vivosport on Amazon UK or Amazon US

The Garmin Vivosport is really a replacement for the Vivosmart HR+, because this is a fitness band that not only has a heart rate tracker, but also has a built-in GPS. It also boosts itself over the Vivosmart (below) by offering a colour display, so it’s more engaging.

The Vivosport will keep track of your daily activities like steps and sleep, automatically detecting what you’re doing using Move IQ, while also offering support for more deliberate activities, like running and cycling. 

You’ll get your data in Garmin Connect thanks to a smartphone connection, so although this isn’t a big device, it will gather plenty of data for you to examine at the end of the day.

Garmin Vivosmart 3

See the Garmin Vivosmart 3 on Amazon UK or Amazon US

The Vivosmart 3 is the company’s third attempt at a fitness band. It’s designed to take on Fitbit Alta or Charge HR, including heart rate tracking, but there’s no GPS on this device.

It will track your steps, activities and sleep, with heart rate sensing giving you a more accurate picture of how hard you’ve worked or how active you are. It also supports heart rate zones to guide the intensity of your workout.

It connects to your phone to sync with Garmin Connect, while also offering smartphone notifciations via the small display. It will also give you other bits of information like weather.

Garmin Vivosmart HR+

See Garmin Vivosmart HR+ on Amazon UK or Amazon US

The Vivosmart HR+ has a rather unique feature set because it’s one of the few fitness bands that includes GPS – so it will give you as much data as some of the smaller sports watches – like the Forerunner 35. The problem it faces is that GPS reception isn’t great, and it has been replaced by the Vivosport.

Heart rate and GPS give you details about your running routes, while there’s support for other activities too. When it’s not tracking sports it will keep track of your steps and sleep.

The Vivosmart HR+ syncs with Garmin Connect on your phone to transfer data over, while also giving you some notifications, but offers little in the way of advanced features at Vivoactive and Forerunner offer.

  • Read the full review: Garmin Vivosmart HR+

vivomove hr

Garmin Vivomove HR

See the Garmin Vivomove HR on Amazon UK or Amazon US

The Vivomove HR is a slightly different approach from Garmin, stepping away from sports devices into something more classically styled. This is a hybrid watch, giving you a regular watch face with a hidden display and heart rate tracker.

If you’re not really looking for a device that will accompany you on runs but just track your daily activity, then the Vivomove HR is likely to be the watch for you, a competitor for something like the Nokia Activité models.

Despite the subdued looks, it will still track a full range of activity data, reporting back on how active you’ve been and syncing with Garmin Connect on your phone and giving you notifications.

For those who don’t want heart rate, there’s an older Vivomove model without.

  • Read the initial review: Garmin Vivomove HR

Garmin Vivofit Jr and Jr 2

See the Garmin Vivofit Jr 2 on Amazon UK or Amazon US

Garmin retired the Vivofit as an adult band in favour of the Vivosmart (above), leaving the Vivofit Jr as a kids device. There are two versions of this fitness band for kids, and the big difference is the display.

The Vivofit Jr has a mono display while the Vivofit Jr 2 moves to colour and increases the resolution, so it looks better – while also adding a couple of additional challenge features.

The Vivofit Jr will track steps and sleep, while also giving move reminders, with the aim of hitting 60 minutes of activity a day. There are also chore and reminder features that the parent can control it and offer rewards.

The Vivofit Jr 2 also comes in a range of characters – including Disney, Marvel and Star Wars.

vivofit 4

Garmin Vivofit 4

See the Garmin Vivofit 4 on Amazon UK

The Garmin Vivofit 4 is a new 2018 fitness tracker. This is a simple band that will essentially do everything for you: you just wear it. The Vivofit 4 can automatically recognise the type of activity you’ve done once the data is synced to a connected smartphone using Garmin Connect. 

The Vivofit 4 will let you keep track of essentials like your daily steps, activity and sleep, while also being protected against water, so you can wear it in the shower or swimming. 

But the really selling point of the Vivofit 4 is that it has a 1 year battery life, so there’s no need to constantly charge it: you just wear it and get on with your life.

Original source: https://www.pocket-lint.com/fitness-trackers/buyers-guides/garmin/143061-best-garmin-watch-fenix-forerunner-and-vivo-compared

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