The product range of Garmin watches is hugh and it is hard to get an overview: There are over 30 watches, each with up to 12 different versions plus multiple color and arm band combinations. I will try to help you find your Garmin watch with this article.
Please be aware: Not all watches are following another. Sometimes more expensive watches do have less functions as they are older. Also some product lines do have different target audiences. I therefore try to focus on the main differences. This means: If you are searching for a specific feature, you might have to compare the watches more detailed for yourself.
Advice 2: This article was written with the most recent portfolio. Garmin might release new watches, which might not be reflected in this article.
First of all you have to decide what your primary usage will be. I separated the watches into 7 categories:
- Fitness tracker
- Running / Multi sport / Triathlon watches
- All rounder
- Special watches
You are searching for an activity tracker for your kids or nice/nephews? Then this is your category. Keep in mind that Garmin does not offer sport watches for children. In this case you will need to buy a watch for adults.
The main purpose of an fitness tracker (Or activity tracker) is the tracking of your daily activity. How many steps are your taking? Are you inactive for a longer time? How good is your sleep? Some watches can record your sport activites too, but that features comes normally with a reduced feature set.
The fitness tracker all have a small and lightweight casing and therefore should not interfere with your daily activities (Best case: You won’t notice that your are wearing a watch). A disadvantage is the small display. It will not show you many details at once. If you need more information at once, you will need a smartwatch of running watch.
Smartwatches for Garmin are not a category of its own, but I think they need to be separated from the fitness trackers (And from the running watches). Smartwatches track your daily activities too, but also offer larger displays and have sport functions like the running watches (But with limited features). Also in this categories are what I call lifestyle watches. These are watches, not looking like sport watches at all, but do more resemble fashion accessories. The offer the full feature set, but know how to hide it under the hood.
Running / Multi sport / Triathlon watches
This categories contains the best known Garmin watches. From simple running watches, triathlon watches to Do-whatever-activity-you-want watches, you will find a broad range of watches and features.
Golf watches support your play on the green. These watches can track and analyze your game. The more expensive watches additionally inform you certain metrics while playing.
The all rounders can do everything Garmin has to offer. Running, cycling, swimming, golf or gym, these watches can do it. Also they come with higher quality casings and often do not look like sport watches.
This category contains watches, which do not fit into the other categories. Here you will find watches for divers, soldiers or outdoor fans.
Garmin offers currently 2 watches for children: The vivofit jr. and vivofit jr. 2. Both watches offer basic activity tracking functions like step counter or sleep tracking. Accompanied are both watches by the vivofit jr. app for Apple, Android and Amazon devices. This app provides a children and parent mode. In the parent mode you can plan tasks for your kids (Like cleaning up the room) plus a duration for that task. For any cleared task you can set a reward which comes as coins. These virtual coins can then be redeemed for rewards. Example 15 minutes cleaning offers 3 coins. For every 15 coins your kid might watch 15 minutes television. The vivofit jr. 2 can remind your kid about the tasks. This function is not offered by the vivofit jr.
Additionally you can track the activity and the sleep of your kids.
The kids mode allows your kid to tracker his/her activity. Also it will show the open tasks allows to redeem coins for rewards.
A nice feature for parents using a Garmin watch: You can challenge each other and see who is the most active family member.
The vivofit jr. is the entry model in the series. It comes with 3 different designs: Broken Lava, Real Flower and Digi Camo. The display is black/white only and the battery is not rechargeable. The battery lasts one year. Besides sleep tracking, it tracks the activity of your children and compares it with a predefined target of 60 minutes activity per day.
vivofit jr. 2
The vivofit jr. 2 in the designs Disney Princess, Disney Minnie Mouse, Star Wars, Marvel Spider-Man und Marvel Avengers. Some designs do come with various armband colors. The display is colored and the battery is again not rechargeable. The runtime is stated with 1 year. All other functionalities are similar to the vivofit hr. plus a reminder for your child to do his/her tasks.
The differences between both watches are minimal. the vivofit jr. 2 has a colored display and can remind your child to do task. All other functions are identical.
|Product||Description||Picture (© Garmin)||Buy it(*)|
|vivofit jr.||Monochrome display, no reminder|
|vivofit jr. 2||Color display, reminder included|
With these watches you can track your activity over the entire day: How many steps are you taking? Do you sleep enough? Are you meeting your step goal? Depending on the model, you can track sport activities too, but due to the small display you won’t get many information shown. Also the watches are lacking a lot of the metrics of the sport watches.
If you are searching for a small watch and you want to track your activity only, these watches are the right ones for you.
The entry model is the vivofit 4. It can track your steps, compare them with your step goal and can monitor your calorie consumption. Additionally it tracks your sleep.
The watch comes with a color display and is water resistant, so can you wear it while showering and go in to the pool. The battery is not rechargeable and lasts about 1 year.
The next level is the vivosmart 4. It offers all functions of the vivofit 4 plus a touchscreen. The vivosmart 4 can also measure your heart rate on your wrist, which enables additional features like stress level or the the measurement of your blood oxygen (Pulse oximeter). Pretty useful is the body battery feature. It calculates your sleep, stress and activities together and gives you a value representing your “battery level”, meaning if you should rest more or if you could start a training session. It is also the first fitness tracker to display notifications from your mobile phone.
The top model of the fitness trackers is the vivosport.
The main difference compared to the vivosmart 4 is the built-in GPS. This allows you record your route your are running and analyze it later with your mobile phone or computer.
Furthermore the vivosport has an always-on display, meaning the display does not turn off. It is also the first tracker with a colored display.
As the vivosport is a bit older, it is lacking the latest features like body battery or pulse oximeter of the newer models.
The vivosport’s only unique feature is the GPS. So if you do not need it, the vivosmart is the better choice.
Fitness trackers allow you to tracker you daily activity and your sleep. The vivfit 4 is perfectly capable of this. Do you need wrist based heart rate or do you like to have a touchscreen? Then take the vivosmart 4. The vivosport offers additionally GPS and an always-on display, but lacks the latest features from Garmin. Therefore my recommendation is the vivofit or vivosmart, if you don’t need GPS.
|Product||Description||Picture (© Garmin)||Buy it(*)|
|vivofit 4||Fitness tracker with basic functions|
|vivosmart 4||Wrist based heart rate plus touchscreen|
|vivosport||Built-in GPS and always-on display, but lacks the latest features|
You won’t find the category “Smartwatches” on the Garmin website, but in the product descriptions. I will use this term to differentiate these watches from the fitness trackers and running watches.
The smartwatches are available in 2 lines: vivomove and vivoactive. Plus 2 special versions: The legacy hero and the Venu.
The vivomove is an analog watch with “real” with watch hands. It is more of an accessory than a fitness watch. But don’t let it fool you: It is a real Garmin watch inside. The clou is the hidden digital display(s), which turn on only if you activate the watch.
The features are mostly taken from the fitness trackers: Track your daily activity, reach your goal and measure your sleep.
The base model is the vivomove, but it is almost end-of-life. If offers basic fitness tracking functionalities, but cannot measure your heart rate on the wrist and has none of the recent Garmin features.
The successor is the vivomove HR, which is the real entry model. In the analog watch face Garmin built one digital monochrome OLED-Display in. Next to the basic fitness tracking, it can measure your heart rate 24/7 and will accompany you in the gym, the pool your while running. Unfortunately it is missing a built-in GPS.
End of 2019 Garmin will release new versions of the vivomove: vivomove 3, vivimove 3s, vivomove style and vivomove luxe.
The vivomove 3 is the base modell of the 3 series and the vivomove 3s is the little brother (Little as in smaller, not as in less features) for smaller wrists. It is the largest watch in the vivomove series.
Technically it has one monochrome OLED-Display and offers all of the latest Garmin features: Pulse Oximeter (Measure the blood oxygen level from the wrist) and body battery (Calculates your activities, rests and sleep to calculate a battery level for your body). Women get features to monitor the menstrual cycle. Running and gym were available with the vivomove already, but the vivomove 3 offers Cycling as well.
The casing of the 3/3S is a polymer with a stainless steel bezel. The lens is chemically strengthened glass, which is the cheapest version.
vivomove Style / vivomove Luxe
If you want a more exclusive watch, then the vivomove Style or vivomove Luxe are for you.
Both come with 2 displays instead of one (One in the top half and one in the bottom half of the watch). Also the screens are AMOLED displays with color. They both are a little smaller than the vivomove 3 and larger than the vivmove 3S. The Style and Luxe are equally large.
All editions offer Garmin Pay, which allows you to pay with your watch. Unfortunately in many countries the number of supported banks is pretty low.
The style versions come with an aluminium casing and aluminium bezel. The lens is made of Gorilla Glass 3, which is used in many smartphones.
The luxe is the top-of-line model of the vivomove 3: The lens is made of sapphire crystal and the bezel is always stainless steel. For the case, there is a range of materials from stainless steel, 24 karat Gold, 18 karat rose gold or titanium coating.
Do you prefer your watch to look like a sport watch? Then the vivoactive 4 or Instinct might be your watch.
The Garmin Instinct does not really fit into the normal categories for Garmin watches. It has a lot of the features from older Fenix watches, but lacks features from the older vivoactive watches. Also the design differs greatly from other watches: It is built for robustness. The case and bezel are made of polymer and the watch is water proof up to 100 meter.
The Instinct offers lot of features for hiking, climbing and other outdoor activities.
All in all this watch don’t mind rough environments. Also you will more likely accept scratches on this watch than on a more expensive Fenix watch with steel case.
The vivoactive 4 does not look like an accessory and resembles more the classic Garmin watches. It also offers more sport functions than the vivomove: GPS, Glonass and Gallileo helps you to determine your position, thermometer and gyroscope are supporting your training data even more. Also this watch has more fitness studio profiles than the vivomove 3 and supports golf and outdoor activities like skiing or stand up paddling. Furthermore it has many of the newest features from Garmin: You can play your favorite music from it, pay with Garmin Pay and it measures your blood oxygen level from your wrist (Pulse oximeter). Another nice feature is that it can show you how to perform many workouts (Like strength or yoga exercises) on the display.
So the vivoactive 4 can help you with lots of activities and still is a nice watch to wear all day long.
The vivoactive 4S is equal to the vivoactive 4, but has a smaller case and has therefore a smaller display size and resolution plus a smaller battery with less battery life (7 days instead of 8 days in “smartwatch mode”).
All editions have Gorilla Glass 3 lenses and a polymer case with steel bezel.
The Legacy Hero series is not really a different watch, but is listed separatly on the Garmin website. Technically it is a vivoactive 4 (First avenger) or vivactive 4S (Captain Marvel) with a custom look and some gimmicks for fans of the comics or movies.
Instead of a polymer wirst band, it has a leather/silicone combination. Also both have their own watch face and the backside has a unique design for the super heroes. Additionally there are some minor features in Garmin Connect plus super hero badges.
The last smartwatch is the Venu. It is mainly a vivoactive 4 with smaller case. Plus it has an AMOLED-Display, which is super clear and crisp.
Generally for the smartwatches: Do you want a nice looking watch and you need basic features only, then the vivomove HR fits your needs. If you want GPS and the latest Garmin features, take a look at the vivomove 3 watches. For really exclusive designs, take the vivomove 3 Style or event the vivomove 3 Luxe.
If you are searching for (or if you are happy with) a watch looking like a sport watch, then check out the vivoactive 4.
Fans of the avengers could also buy the Legacy hero as they are technically identical.
If you want a very nice display and don’t mind the shorter battery life, then the Venu is your choice.
Running / Multi sport / Triathlon watches
Watches for hobby runers, ambitious amateurs or triathletes.
Let’s start with the Forerunner 30. The entry model running watch from Garmin. It is a pure running watch, meaning that it does not support other sport activities. It can measure your heart rate on the wrist, which you have to use as the watch does not support external sensors. You can use it to monitor your daily activity and sleep too. While running you can switch between 3 screens, which support up to 3 data fields each.
The Forerunner 35 is the bigger brother of the FR30 (In fact the FR35 has been released earlier and Garmin released the FR30 later with lower specs).
This watch can connect external sensors like chest straps or foot pods. Also it provides different sport profiles. For runners it supports interval training and has a virtual pacer function, helping you to maintain a certain pace.
Next to running it has basic swimming and cycling functions.
Forerunner 45 / 45S
The Forerunner 45 / Forerunner 45S greatly differs from the FR30 and FR35 as it has the classic round case.
It has a colored display with a larger resolution (Which supports different watch faces) and support GPS, Glonass and Galileo.
With it you can use training plans for your training and it improves your safety while training with the incident detection which detects accidents and informs predefined contacts. New is the support for cardio and indoor sport.
The Forerunner 45’s and Forerunner 45S’ only difference is the size, where the 45 is the larger and the 45S is the smaller watch.
Garmin does offer the Forerunner 235, but it has been on the market for over 4 years and it is therefore pretty outdated. The successor, the Forerunner 245, is already available.
There is no real reason to buy a 235, as the successor, the Forerunner 245, offers more functions. If you like to spend less money, take the Forerunner 45, which has the same features (and even more) but costs less.
Forerunner 245/245 Music
The Forerunner 245 / 245 Music is the first watch for ambitious runners, who want to use advanced training features.
It offers many interesting features for runners: Training load lets you determine if you are over- or under training. With training status you can see if your training has the desired effect. It also shows you the the aerobic and anaerobic effect of every training session.
With a compatible chest strap, you will get advanced metrics like stride length, ground contact time or vertical oscillation.
It is also the first watch to not only support watch faces but all Connect IQ features like widget and data fields.
The difference between the Forerunner 245 and Forerunner 245 Music is (as the name indicates) the music. The 245 Music lets you store music on the watch or connect to services like Spotify, Amazon Music or Deezer and lets you hear music while via Bluetooth Earphones.
Forerunner 645 / 645 Music
All tough the Forerunner 645 / 645 Music is the latest watch of the 600 series, the difference between it and the 245 is slim: Barometric altimeter, power measurement, stress level and lactate threshold plus Garmin Pay are additional features, but it therefore lacks blood oxygen (Puls oximeter) and the body battery feature. Also the battery life is shorter with the 645.
As with the little brother, the difference between the 645 and 645 Music is that you can play MP3 files or stream music from Spotify, Amazon Music or Deezer.
If you want to track and analyze your training and do not need the latest features, the 645 is a good choice. If you want to save a bit money and/or prefer to have more fitness tracking features, the 245 might be the better choice.
As of the Forerunner 735xt the watches are suitable for triathletes. You can track running, cycling and swimming with additional features for all of them. Also you can start sessions and switch the sport profile within the sessions.
This watch is already a few years old and therefore is missing many new features. On the plus side, you will get a solid triathlon watch, which focuses on the basic features and you will get it for a decent price.
The Forerunner 935 is what I would call a multi sport watch. You can go to the gym, run, do a triathlon or go golfing. Almost any sport activity is supported with the 935. It is not the most recent generation of the 900 series and it therefore does not have the latest features, but you will get a good price for it and it won’t let you down.
The Forerunner 945 is the newest model of the 900 series and the successor of the 935.
It too is a multi sport watch for most sport activities. The main differences between the 935 and 945 are: Music, Garmin Pay, Pulse oximeter and body battery. It also has a feature called training load focus, which will give you more details about the effect of your training. Furthermore it has maps and an improved battery life.
For most beginners the Forerunner 30 is sufficient. If you want to use a chest strap, the Forerunner 35 is a must. With the Forerunner 45 come training plans, which help you to reach your training targets. The 245 offers more details to training and resting plus it makes use of the advance metrics from compatible accessories like ground contact time. As the Forerunner 645 has been on the market for over a year and is missing some of the latest feature, but brings power measurement and lactate threshold. For triathletes the 735xt is the first interesting watch. But besides running, cycling and swimming, there are not many features available. If you want/need them, then you need the Forerunner 935 or -if you want the latest features- the Forerunner 945.
Golf watches are for golfers (obviously). The cheaper models are limited to this, while the more expensive models can track additional types of sport.
The first watch is the Approach S10. This watch is a simple golf computer, showing you information about the course and the hazards. You can also use it as digital score card. It has also a longer battery life than the Approach X10.
The design resembles the classic Garmin watches and is water resistant up to 5 meter.
The Approch X10 is pretty similar to the S10. Both have mainly the same features, with the X10 having a touch screen and a longer battery life.
The X10 looks more like a fitness tracker which is more comfortable to wear, but the display is smaller.
The next watch is the Approach S20. It has the features of the S10/X10 plus shot distance measurement, stat tracking and the watch is compatible with TruSwing sensors. It also comes with basic fitness tracker functions (Sleep tracking, counting steps, inactivity alerts), can display notifications from you phone and can alert you with an audible tone.
The Approach X40 is similar to the S20. Both differentiate mainly in the form of the case: The S20 is a classic sport watch, while the X40 looks like a fitness tracker. The X40 comes additionally with wrist based heart rate, has a built-in vibration alert and has a touch screen.
The next in line is the Approach S40. You will get all features of the lower tier watches. It has a built-in GPS and suitable profiles like running and cycling. It is also the first watch to have a colored display.
The top-of-line golf watch is the Approach S60. It is a training partner for more than golf: While running or cycling you can use a compatible chest strap. You also have with it activity profiles for outdoor activities like skiing, snowboarding or stand up paddling.
For golfers come interesting metrics like SwingTempo and features like swing training.
If you need just a little support for your game, than the S10/X10 are a good choice. The difference between both is the size and form.
If you want a watch for more than golf, take either the S20 or X40, depending on your taste for size and form.
Do you want to track other sports than golf, then the S40 is the right choice. And if you want a watch for almost every activity, the S60 gives you lots of functions.
All rounders are the watches with the most features. Here you will get the latest tech and features from Garmin.
If you want a combination of all previous categories, than this is your section.
All watches in this section have stainless steel bezel and a metal case. Depending on the edition, the armband is silicone, leather or titan.
Fenix 5S / 5 / 5X plus
The cheapest watch (Depends on your selection) is the Fenix 5 plus, the model from last year of the Fenix series. As I already said, I comes with almost all features and sport profiles Garmin has to offer: Fitness training, running, triathlon, outdoor, golf or swimming. It can even replace your cycling computer.
The watch is available in 3 sizes: Fenix 5S plus (smallest), Fenix 5 plus (normal) and Fenix 5X plus (largest). Besides the size, the editions have different battery lifes (larger = longer battery life) and the measurement of your blood oxygen level (Pulse oximeter) is limited to the 5X plus.
For the 5S and 5 you can get the normal edition with chemically strengthened glass and the Sapphire edition with extra stron sapphire glass.
Fenix 6S / 6 / 6X Pro/Solar
This is the latest model of the Fenix series. It comes again in 3 sizes: Fenix 6S (smallest), Fenix 6 (normal) and Fenix 6X (largest). All sizes are available in different editions:
-Base model: Does not offer maps, music and WiFi, but is the cheapest version (This edition is not available für the 6X)
-Pro: Base model + music, maps and WiFi
-Sapphire: Pro model + Sapphire glass (Plus different armbands depending on the watch selected)
-Pro Solar: Pro model + solar panels built in the watch, which allows you to charge your watch in sunlight. Available for the Fenix 6X only.
The Fenix 6 (all editions) has partially updates features of the Fenix 5 plus: New battery management, which allows to stretch the battery life, maps for skiing, blood oxygen measurement on the wrist, improved training effects and analysis.
The MARQ watches are a special watch in the Garmin universe. The price gap to the Fenix watches is huge (With the Fenix already being not affordable for everyone). The target segment is the luxury segment. Therefore these watches are not available online (Besides a few offers on Amazon or Ebay), but can be purchased from jewelries only.
All editions share the Fenix 5 plus as hardware basis, as the watch has been release beginning of 2019 and the Fenix 6 has not been available until later this year. The main difference is the internal memory with 32GB instead of 16GB and some unique features for each edition:
For athletes. Basically a Fenix 5 plus with updated metrics. Garmin states, that the new fitness features of the Fenix 6 series will be updates to the MARQ Athlete too.
Next to a leather armband, it has an expedition app: The watch can track your position for 4 weeks with you location being recorded once per hour.
The aviator edition is not based on the Fenix 5 plus, but on the Garmin D2 PX Delta, a watch especially for pilots.
It contains airport locations, navigational aids and radio frequencies, an emergency access button hot key quickly activates a path to the nearest airport and some other features, which might be interesting for pilots.
The edition for sailors for captains. The main focus lies on the communication of your MARQ with other marine devices from Garmin.
It has a regatta timer, shows wind and tide information and gives your weather information.
The most expensive edition of the MARQ. Especially for drivers it has features like racing diary or a virtual pit wall (Audio information about your lap times).
My honest opinion is that the additional features not really justify the higher prices. But that is not what this watch is about. It a luxury article, not everyone can afford. If you like the watches and you have to money for it, you will get a high quality watch and have a lot of fun with it.
The Fenix 5 plus does not have the latest features, but it is still a very good companion for an active day. As the successor is available, the prices for the Fenix 5 plus should go down further. With the Fenix 6 you will get the latest technology from Garmin. The activity tracking has been improved and many metrics for running and cycling have been reworked. Especially for very long training sessions (Hiking, ultra marathon, etc) are the new power management functions very useful and maybe the solar feature of the 6X.
The MARQ does not have many more features than the Fenix 5 plus, but each edition comes with unique features, which are not available on any other Garmin watch. If the additional charge is it worth is up to you.
Special watches are all watches, which do not fit into the other categories.
The Garmin Descent MK1 is a watch for divers. The base is a Fenix 5X, which has a modified software and hardware for the special requirements under water.
It is waterproof up to 100 meter and has a scratch resistant case. The armband is extra long to wear the watch over your scuba gear and the software supports different diving modes, with special navigational features and shows you how long you should not fly after a dive.
For safety reason, the descent has its own quality process for the software plus Connect IQ apps are not allowed while diving.
The quatix 5 is for sailors. Similar to the MARQ Captain Edition it is an upgraded watch with additional features. In this case is the basis a Fenix 5, which has been enhanced with marine activities like sailing or boating (And still supports all the other sport activities the Fenix 5 supports). If you are using Garmin hardware in your boat or ship, you can connect it to your quatix to get information display on the watch.
Garmin tactix Charlie is a watch with “tactical features” for soldiers. Its base is a Fenix 5X with additional features: Your position is shown as longitude/latitude, UTM or MGRS. It has also a night vision mode which lowers the brightness for usage with night vision googles.
This category does not have either/or. The watches are built for special purposes. A diver will use the descent, a sailor the quatix 5 and a soldier the tactix Charlie.
|Product||Description||Picture (© Garmin)||Buy it(*)|
|Descent MK1||Extra robust watch for divers|
|quatix 5||Multi sport watch with marine features|
|tactix Charlie||Multi sport watch with tactical features|