The vívoactive HR is Garmin’s attempt to assimilate all of its specialities into one device. It’s a smartwatch and your ultimate sport companion – use it for running, cycling, swimming, cardio, golf, rowing, SUP and many, many more. The watch is easy to navigate – there are two multi-use buttons, as well as a touchscreen – making it easy for runners to scroll through options before, during and after training.
It uses Garmin’s Elevate wrist-based heart-rate monitoring. We found this pretty accurate compared with a more traditional chest-strap system – and it’s much more comfortable to use. In terms of reviewing your activities and data throughout the day, the Garmin vivoactive HR offers the best of both worlds. You can view progress on your wrist on the colourful display, which is great if you hate the hassle of pairing a unit with your phone.
For more in-depth analysis, the bluetooth connectivity allows automatic synching with the Garmin Connect app. It’s here that you can really dig into all your activity data, as well as sync with third-party apps like Apple Health. You can also get notifications from your phone, including call and text alerts and even weather reports.
Dig a little little deeper into the beautiful simplicity of the Steel and you unearth all manner of functionality. It automatically detects your activity and syncs the data to the Health Mate app. What makes it even better is its compatibility with other things – not just the wider Withings ecosystem (including scales and blood pressure monitor) – but also popular apps like MyFitnessPal.
The Apple Watch might be expensive and less sport-specific than some on the market but, for die-hard brand fans, it’s the only choice. It’s got built-in GPS, wrist-based heart-rate measurement, activity tracking for a range of sports, and compatibility with workout apps. The Series 2 watches also work with Apple’s new wireless Airpod earphones, so you can listen to music from the watch. One for those looking to make a statement while they run.
The 235 is quick to lock onto a GPS signal and, while running, you can see your pace, distance, time, cadence, calories and more. A built-in heart monitor means you can see your average and max heart-rate and the colour LCD screen clearly visualises heart-rate zone training. Perhaps not as comprehensive as some of Garmin’s high-end units, but it’s still an exceptional sports watch that’s up there with the best.
The Moment Elite is a solid, nicely designed watch that doubles up as a fitness tracker. It does the basics well, but one feature that many will love is its long battery life – six-months, thanks to a lithium battery. Sync it with the companion app and you get the detail that’s lacking on the Elite’s analogue display. Daily active minutes, distance covered and steps are all there. If you want a watch that gives you the right data and looks the real deal, the Elite is a great option.
For years, Polar has led the way in producing heart-rate monitors for runners and, more recently, adding built-in GPS and all-day activity tracking to its range has kept the brand up to speed with the market. The M600 builds on the M400, a slimline GPS and heart-rate monitor that syncs to Polar Flow software for in-depth analysis. The big news with this update is the integration of Google’s Android Wear to make the watch a work and lifestyle companion, with voice-activated message response (for Android users), search, and control of some functions.
The initial set-up is a bit long-winded, particularly if you’re an iOS user, but once the watch and phone are paired it’s easy to use. Two simple buttons and a bright (if small) touchscreen make it easy to navigate when you’re moving, and the screen lights up with a flick of the wrist so it’s always visible. As a sports watch it’s great, with Polar’s own 6-LED wrist-based heart-rate measurement giving accurate HR stats, and the GPS has improved from the M400 we tested, locking on straight away to start tracking your speed and distance. Through Google Play, you can access thousands of apps and sync to your music, so that you can listen to it without your phone.
It feels a bit like a complex and valuable sports watch with a lifestyle bolt-on, and for Apple die-hards, the Android Wear aspect takes some getting used to. However, for people who are serious about their running and want to stay connected at the same time, it’s a good option.
Best described as a cross between the Garmin 920 XT and the 630, but with the HR functionality of the 235, the beauty of this GPS watch is its ability to track training across a wide range of sports while delivering fitness tracking 24/7 thanks to the wrist-mounted heart-rate monitor. Smart notifications and advanced running dynamics such as stride length and ground contact time all feature (as they do in the 630).
An update to the extremely popular Runner 2, the Runner 3 still features wrist-based heart-rate monitoring and 3GB of music storage with a really simple one-button operation. For version 3, TomTom has added its new route exploration feature. That means you can use the GPS to explore new trails without fear of getting lost, uploading new routes before you go or simply using the on-screen trace to go back the way you came.
The Blaze is a smart offering from the market leaders in wearable fitness tech. It’s not a sports watch for detail devotees – there’s no built-in GPS, for example – but the intuitive navigation, the social aspect of the Fitbit app, the clear, bright display and the connectivity with other devices make it a fine fitness tracker. It measures heart-rate, steps and sleep, as well as automatically sensing activities including cycling and running.
The Pebble 2 is a great option for runners looking for all-round functionality at a lower cost – and with huge flexibility. The watch monitors activity, steps and sleep, and connects to thousands of apps. It even has a microphone to allow you to dictate message responses. The heart-rate version includes wrist-based heart-rate measurements, linking to the Pebble Health app (as well as others), and all stats are displayed in crystal-clear definition on the ePaper screen.