GPS Watch Buying Guide: How to Choose the Best Multisport Watch? [Updated 14 November 2019]

Date Posted:14 November 2019 

GPS Watch Buying Guide: How to choose the best multisport watch
 
A multisport watch is a watch that is designed to be used for more than one sport. Usually, it will feature a specific app or data fields for running, biking, swimming, and more. Most multisport watches nowadays have GPS technology to accurately track your location, distance, speed, and pace.
 
Knowing your fitness data not only lets you know how you’re doing as far as performance is concerned, it also is a great motivator. Simply knowing whether you’re hitting your goals or not will let you know if you’re on the right track, or perhaps you need to try a different approach on the way you train.
 
You can choose a multisport watch that can also be your daily activity tracker. Like fitness bands, there are multisport watches that can count your steps, monitor your sleep, and alert you if you’ve been idle for a certain period of time.
 
Moreover, since a lot of fitness enthusiast and athletes like to stay connected, many multisport watches have now become ‘smart watches’ too. You can be pair them with your smartphone via Bluetooth Connectivity to receive calls, texts, emails, and social media notifications.
 

What GPS technology is for?

What GPS technology is for?

GPS technology will give you the most accurate look at how far you’ve gone and how fast you’re going during your workouts. It will track your position anywhere on the planet and lets you overlay your travel movements on a real-time map so that you can create running routes. These metrics give you real-time insight into your performance.
 
Some GPS watches nowadays feature GPS, GLONASS and Galileo satellite network capability so you can track your location in more challenging environments than GPS alone. The built-in three-axis compass together with a barometric altimeter will tell your changes in elevation. This is really useful if you’re doing a lot of off-road running or cycling, mountain climbing, and hiking since it lets you measure just how high you were able to climb during each and every training session.
 

How to choose the best multisport watch?

How to choose the best multisport watch?

With the huge number of multisport watch to choose from, this buying guide will help you break down the process so it wouldn’t be too overwhelming. Depending on your personal fitness goals and feature requirements, we can point to which watch would be best fit your need.
 
Here are a few important things to consider before you purchase a multisport watch.
 
 

What sport activities will you use it for?

What sport activities will you use it for?

It's important to think about the activities where you will use your watch and ensure it has compatible features.
 

Swim, bike, run, and other activities

For basic running, biking, swimming and other sports, you can use the following multisport watches. All of these include a GPS and accelerometer to accurately measure your movements.

Garmin VenuGarmin vivoactive 4Suunto Fitness 3Coros Pace

 

For multiple sports, triathlon and outdoor navigation

For triathletes and multisport competition, every second counts. Speed is the name of the game and so even the amount of time and effort in switching the mode on your watch is critical.
 
The watches below feature a multisport mode that will let you easily and quickly switch from one sport mode to another. This feature is useful in triathlons and other multisport competitions. Switching to the specific sport mode you’re in will let you measure and display data fields and information that is relevant to a specific sport.
 
These multisport watches also include navigation features to you check where you are, or how you can get back to where you started. If you're a trail runner, hiker, or mountain climber, navigation features is going to be an essential part of your outdoor adventurers.
 
Garmin fenix 6Garmin Fenix 6SGarmin Fenix 6X Pro SapphireSuunto 5Coros Apex
Garmin Fenix 6 ProGarmin Fenix 6S ProGarmin Fenix 6X Pro Solar TitaniumSuunto 9Coros Vertix
 
 

For pool or open water swimming

When choosing a multisport watch, you would probably want to know its water resistance rating to determine if it can withstand the water sport activity you will be performing.
 
Watch
Water Rating
Pool Swimming
Open Water
30m
Yes
No
50m Yes No
50m
Yes
Yes
100m
Yes
Yes
Coros Vertix 150m Yes Yes

 

Would you like to have a heart rate monitoring?

Would you like to have a heart rate monitoring?

Heart rate monitor (HRM) allows you to measure how hard your heart works in beats per minute (BPM). Traditionally, heart rate monitor come in straps that you have to wear on your chest. However, all the multisport watches mentioned in this article feature an optical HRM which records your hear rate on your wirst.
 
If you are swimming, the Garmin and Coros watches mentioned above can record your heart rate under water using the wrist-based HRM but also lets you pair it with a compatible HRM chest strap if you want to. On the other hand, the Suunto watches will require you to use a separate HRM chest-strap, like the Suunto Smart Sensor, to track underwater HR.
 

Would you use it as your daily activity tracker?

Would you use it as your daily activity tracker?
 
Many people would love to have a versatile multisport watch that they can use as a day-to-day watch and have it as their daily activity tracker as well. The multisport watches mentioned in this article are designed to include this fitness tracking feature and do it more accurately thanks to their built-in GPS.
 
You no longer have to wear a separate fitness band for tracking your daily steps, stairs climbed, calories burned, and monitoring sleep. These watches let you just use one device for your workouts, training sessions, and 24/7 daily fitness tracking.
 
You can also upload your data wirelessly with the device’s auto-sync feature so viewing your personal stats on a compatible sport app is a breeze.

 

What advanced metrics do you like to track?

What advanced metrics do you like to track?
 
A few GPS watches offer more advanced measurements. These include:
 
HR Max: Maximum heart rate (HR Max) is the highest number of times your heart will beat in a minute when you're going all out at your most intense work out level. Your HR Max is unique and depends on your genes and how old you are.
 
Why is it important? Your maximum heart rate dictates the ranges for all the other zones in heart rate training. The more accurately you know your HR Max, the more accurate your sport zones, and accurate sport zones equal more effective workouts.
 
Heart Rate Zones: Different devices give them different labels but they break down like this:
 
  • Recovery training (60% of MHR)
  • Endurance base training (65-70% of MHR)
  • Aerobic capacity training (75-82% MHR)
  • Anaerobic threshold training (82-89% MHR)
  • Maximum aerobic training (89-94% of MHR).
Having your heart rate zones estimated gives you a far better shot at getting the workout effect you really want to achieve.
 
Cadence: This is the number of steps you take per minute, counting both feet. This helps determine if you have the proper running form. Quicker cadence and shorter stride length result in less impact at the ankles, knees and hips. The reduced degree of impact may help reduce injury risk. Experts believe that a running cadence of 180 steps per minute is the sweet spot for optimum running efficiency.
 
Stride Length: This is how far you travel with each left and right step. The higher your cadence, the shorter your stride length. A shorter stride can help avoid overstriding, which can lead to injury.
 
Vertical Oscillation: One measure of this optimum running efficiency is called vertical oscillation and shows the degree of 'bounce' in your running motion. Measured at the torso, it tells you how much distance you are travelling up and down with each step in centimeters.
 
In the case of GPS running watches, this tends to be a sensor built into the heart rate chest-strap. The idea is that the less bounce, the less energy is wasted going up and down, and the more efficient the runner is being. Another advantage of lower vertical oscillation is that it typically means less stress on the lower body at impact.
 
VO2 Max: This describes the maximum rate (in milliliters per minute) at which you can bring oxygen into your body, transport it to your muscles and use it for efficient aerobic energy production. The more oxygen you’re able to consume, the more power you can generate and the faster you can run during a race.
 
The higher your VO2 max is, the better the body can deliver oxygen to your muscles helping you to run longer and harder. Low VO2 max scores represent poor fitness levels, and higher VO2 max scores indicate greater performance capacity.
 
Ground Contact Time: Ground Contact time is the amount of time (milliseconds) your foot maintains contact with the ground rather than flying through the air. It’s connected to a running style that includes faster cadence and shorter stride length.
 
Generally, runners have ground contact times of 160-300 milliseconds while professional runners have shorter ground contact times—200 milliseconds or less.
 
Lactate Threshold: Your lactate threshold is that specific level of effort or pace when fatigue accelerates. It’s the single best determinant of your endurance performance capacity.
 
According to Garmin, the threshold for experienced runners should be 90% of their maximum heart rate. For average runners, it's below 90%. This data is important because it can indicate how much you have left in the tank, whether that's in a race or during an intensive training session.
 
Recovery Time: The length of recovery period that your body takes to in response to training and the replenishment of vital resources. After each workout, your device reveals the number of hours before you will be back near 100% and capable of performing a hard workout or running a race.
 
The calculation is produced and personalized using a unique digital model of your physiology. Recovery time ranges up to 4 days. Keeping track of your recovery levels will reveal when training hard will be beneficial and ensure your work is rewarded with the results you expect.
 
Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC):  It’s the period of time after your workout session when your body will continue to use oxygen at a higher rate than it would otherwise at rest.  Other calls it as the ‘afterburn’.
 
During a physical activity, we burn calories to fuel our muscles, but when we're done, we keep on burning, firing and flaying more fat than we would normally at rest. It's depends to what our bodies need to recover from the hard work they've just done.
 
Pulse Ox Sensor: This gauges your blood oxygen saturation during the day and as you sleep to show how well your body is absorbing oxygen. It uses a combination of red and infrared lights with sensors on the back of the device which can determine the percentage of oxygenated blood (SpO2%) available in your blood.
 
Body Battery: Using heart rate variability, stress, sleep and other data to gauge when you're ready to be active or when you may need to rest.

 

Watch

HR Max

HR Zones

Cadence

V02 Max

Vertical Oscillation

Ground Contact Time

Stride Length

Lactate Threshold

Recovery Time

EPOC

Pulse OX

Body Battery

Garmin Venu

Yes

Yes

Yes with sensor

Yes

No

No

No

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Garmin Vivoactive 4/4S

Yes

Yes

Yes with sensor

Yes

No

No

No

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Garmin fenix 6

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes with sensor

Yes with sensor

Yes with sensor

Yes with sensor

Yes with sensor

Yes

Yes

Yes

Garmin fenix 6 Pro

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes with sensor

Yes with sensor

Yes with sensor

Yes with sensor

Yes with sensor

Yes

Yes

Yes

Garmin fenix 6S

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes with sensor

Yes with sensor

Yes with sensor

Yes with sensor

Yes with sensor

Yes

Yes

Yes

Garmin fenix 6S Pro

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes with sensor

Yes with sensor

Yes with sensor

Yes with sensor

Yes with sensor

Yes

Yes

Yes

Garmin fenix 6X Pro Sapphire

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes with sensor

Yes with sensor

Yes with sensor

Yes with sensor

Yes with sensor

Yes

Yes

Yes

Garmin fenix 6X Pro Solar Titanium

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes with sensor

Yes with sensor

Yes with sensor

Yes with sensor

Yes with sensor

Yes

Yes

Yes

Suunto 3 Fitness

No

Yes

No

Yes

No

No

No

No

Yes

No

No

No

Suunto 5

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

No

Yes

No

No

No

Suunto 9

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

No

Yes

No

No

No

Coros Pace

No

No

Yes with sensor

Yes

No

No

No

No

Yes

No

No

No

Coros Apex

No

No

Yes with sensor

Yes

No

No

No

No

Yes

No

No

No

Coros Vertix

No

No

Yes with sensor

Yes

No

No

No

No

Yes

No

Yes

No

 

How much battery life would you need?

How much battery life would you need?
 
Battery life is important when training or competing in any sport. Suunto 5 and 9 have intelligent charge reminders. The watch learns your training patterns and even reminds you to charge it so that you are always prepared for your next session. Here’s a battery life comparison table for the following multisport watches.
 

Watch

Smartwatch mode

GPS mode with music

GPS mode without music

Max Battery GPS Mode

Expedition GPS Activity

Battery Saver Watch Mode

Garmin Venu

Up to 5 days

Up to 6 hours

Up to 20 hours

N/A

N/A

N/A

Garmin Vivoactive 4

Up to 8 days

Up to 6 hours

Up to 18 hours

N/A

N/A

N/A

Garmin Vivoactive 4S

Up to 7 days

Up to 5 hours

Up to 15 hours

N/A

N/A

N/A

Garmin fenix 6

Up to 14 days

N/A

Up to 36 hours

72 hours

28 days

48 days

Garmin fenix 6 Pro

Up to 14 days

Up to 10 hours

Up to 36 hours

72 hours

28 days

48 days

Garmin fenix 6S

Up to 9 days

 

Up to 25 hours

50 hours

20 days

34 days

Garmin fenix 6S Pro

Up to 9 days

Up to 6 hours

Up to 25 hours

50 hours

20 days

34 days

Garmin fenix 6X Pro Sapphire

Up to 21 days

Up to 15 hours

Up to 60 hours

120 hours

46 days

80 days

Garmin fenix 6X Pro Solar Titanium

Up to 21 days +3 days*

Up to 15 hours +1 hour**

Up to 60 hours +6 hours**

120 hours + 28 hours**

46 days + 10 days**

80 days + 40 days*

Suunto 3 Fitness

Up to 5 days

 

 

Up to 30 hours with connected GPS

 

Up to 10 days;

Up to 40 hours Training mode without GPS

Suunto 5

Up to 7 days

 

 

Up to 20/40 hours

 

Up to 14 days

Suunto 9

Up to 7 days

 

 

Up to 25/50/120 hours

 

Up to 14 days

Coros Pace

Up to 30 days

 

 

Up to 25 hours in Full GPS mode

Up to 50 hours in UltraMax GPS mode

 

Coros Apex 42mm

Up to 24 days

 

 

Up to 25 hours in Full GPS mode

Up to 80 hours in UltraMax GPS mode

 

Coros Apex 46mm

Up to 30 days

 

 

Up to 35 hours in Full GPS mode

Up to 100 hours in Full GPS mode

 

Coros Vertix

Up to 45 days

 

 

Up to 60 hours in Full GPS mode

Up to 150 hours in UltraMax GPS mode

 

 
*assuming all-day wear with 3 hours per day outside in 50,000 lux conditions
**assuming use in 50,000 lux conditions

 

Last year's popular models

Last year's popular models

Garmin Forerunner 945Garmin Forerunner 935Garmin Forerunner 735XT

 


Comments (73)

Help

By: on 17 February 2019
Hi. I occasionally run and use the gym and require a smart watch with GPS that looks good, syncs with my Samsung A3 2017 phone and has the capacity to store music that can be listened to via wireless bluetooth headset? Oh, and preferably within a budget of £200. Any suggestions appreciated.

which watch

By: on 26 January 2019
hi i am trying to decide which multisport watch to get,i pool train plus open water swim. would like wrist hrm,not a watch i would be fussed on wearing 24/7.but would also like it to cover hiking which one is the question.thanks

Triathalons

By: on 10 January 2019
Hi there I am training for a marathon and also an Ironman. What watch do you recommend for open water swimming. Thank you Sonia

Triathalons

By: on 10 January 2019
Hi there I am training for a marathon and also an Ironman. What watch do you recommend for open water swimming. Thank you Sonia

Open swimming and hike

By: on 8 January 2019
Hi there, great article. If you had to recommend one watch for ocean swimming, pool swimming and hiking with maps, that’s ideally lightweight - what would you suggest?

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