Whether you're a casual user in pursuit of a healthier lifestyle, or an enthusiast looking to reach another level, you need a high-quality sports watch in your workout routine.
Such a timepiece will help you track, monitor, and improve your performance via built-in sensors. Today’s top models include sensors for tracking your heart rate, a built-in accelerometer, and a built-in GPS chip for precisely mapping your outdoor exercises, just to name a few.
Many sports watches can also guide you through your workouts via on-screen animation, as well as track your sleep and recovery patterns, to help you always feel your best and avoid injuries.
All fitness-tracking watches come with a companion smartphone app, which will give you an easy-to-digest overview of all the data that their sensors collect during your workouts and help you make sense of the metrics, too. The app is also handy for adjusting settings, as well as for keeping them up to date.
Today’s best sports watches are also excellent smartwatches. They will not only help you improve your overall health and fitness, but also send you smartphone notifications, offer access to your favorite virtual assistant, and even allow you to control connected home products.
Best Sports Watches
- Best Overall: Apple Watch Series 6
- Runner Up: Fitbit Sense Smartwatch
- Best Budget: Garmin Venu Sq Smartwatch
- Lightweight and Durable Design: Polar Grit X Smartwatch
- Best for Casual Users: Fossil Collider HR Hybrid Smartwatch
- The Solar Pick: Garmin Instinct Solar Sports Watch
- Epic Battery Life: Suunto 9 Fitness Watch
- Apple Watch Alternative for Android Users: Samsung Galaxy Watch3 Smartwatch
How We Tested
We spent more than 20 hours researching more than 30 products to help us determine which products to put through our rigorous testing process. Our research involved sifting through specs and reading in-depth reviews from industry experts, as well as evaluating consumer feedback about the devices that captured our interest.
After identifying the product category’s best offerings, we embarked on a journey of testing them in real life. We wore the watches daily and used them for various forms of exercise — brisk walks through Central Park, hot yoga, strength-training, and even marathon training — to determine the effectiveness of their fitness-tracking features.
We also evaluated the following criteria:
- Overall design
- Display quality
- Battery performance
- Ease-of-use and setup
- Additional features offered
After countless hours of activity and several months of use, we’ve found the best smartwatches to fuel your workouts right now. Get ready to take your sweat sessions to a whole new level with one of these picks.
Learn more about how we test products, from the questions we ask our testing team, to the types of products we feel are actually worth testing, to the overall time we put into our testing process.
When it comes to sports watches, the Apple Watch Series 6 is the gold standard. It’s the most intuitive and desirable product on this list.
The Series 6 is the first Apple Watch to have a blood oxygen sensor. This feature adds a new layer to the device’s health- and wellness-tracking capabilities by being able to detect changes in the user’s body, including while they are asleep. It measures the user’s blood oxygen saturation using similar tech as a fingertip pulse oximeter.
Another welcome feature in the Series 6 is an even brighter always-on display, which allows users to keep track of time and essential exercise metrics even more effortlessly. “The brighter always-on screen is much better when running in the middle of the day,” noted Jeff Dengate, the runner-in-chief of Runner’s World.
Powered by Apple’s latest S6 chip, the Series 6 is the snappiest Apple Watch to date. The upgrade brings even more seamless interactions, as well as fast charging capabilities. Dengate noted that if he goes for a run in the morning, “The watch is topped off by the time I eat breakfast.”
An Apple Watch Series 6 with optional cellular connectivity gives users a chance to take a break from their iPhone while exercising. A built-in GPS and compass for keeping track of outdoor activities and a precise, ECG-capable heart rate sensor are also on board.
The Apple Watch Series 6 is available with a 40- or a 44-millimeter case with various finishes — from aluminum, all the way to titanium in the Edition models. The smartwatch is easy to customize with countless original and third-party Apple Watch bands.
If you're shopping on a tighter budget, consider the Apple Watch Series 3. It lacks some of the features found in the latest model such as an always-on display, a pulse oximeter, a compass, and ECG, but for less than $200, it will reliably keep track of your health and fitness.
The Fitbit Sense is the company’s most capable fitness-tracking smartwatch to date. It’s packed with cutting-edge tech and brand-new features, including the ability to measure the user’s stress levels and skin temperature. Overall, the Sense is a good Apple Watch Series 6 alternative at a lower price tag, albeit with inferior hardware.
Dengate remarked that the Sense is a “fully featured, accurate, and polished” product that’s a solid option for non-iPhone users. “But I wouldn’t switch from an Apple Watch for it,” he added.
The Sense is the first Fitbit product with an ECG-capable heart rate sensor. It can even notify users when changes in their heart rate occur that require medical attention. The smartwatch also has a vibrant AMOLED touchscreen, a speedy performance, a built-in GPS, and compatibility with Amazon Alexa or the Google Assistant, as well as the ability to store and play your favorite music.
When it comes to battery life, Dengate pointed out that it’s surprisingly good. The smartwatch can last for more than 6 days between charges, and you can get a full day of use after only 12 minutes of charging.
The Sense has a sleek and durable case that’s waterproof up to 50 meters and available in carbon or gold. The smartwatch is easy to customize with countless swappable bands, too.
Every Sense comes with 6 months’ worth of free Fitbit Premium subscription. If you are shopping for a new Fitbit on a tighter budget, consider the Versa 3 smartwatch instead. For $100 less, it has the same design, durability, and ergonomics as the Sense, but a less elaborate set of fitness-tracking features (no stress tracking, heart-rate alerts, ECG, or skin temperature sensor).
The Garmin Venu Sq smartwatch is a feature-packed and user-friendly option with a reasonable sub-$200 price tag. It has an intuitive user interface, a case that’s waterproof up to 50 meters, and the ability to last for up to 6 days between battery charges.
The health- and fitness-tracking capabilities of the Venu Sq include the ability to monitor your body's energy levels throughout the day — a handy feature that will help users determine the best times for exercising as well as for recovering.
When it comes to additional health features, the gadget can also monitor your stress levels, as well as the quality of your respiration and sleep. You’ll also have access to a free Garmin Coach, which can help runners achieve their goals by delivering personalized training guidance.
Spencer Dukoff, an editor from Men’s Health, says the Venu Sq sports watch turned him into a smartwatch convert because of all its fitness-tracking capabilities.
“I can say confidently that the Venu Sq’s tracking features have made me feel more in tune with my body, more understanding of habits I need to break, and more forward-looking in terms of concrete health goals,” Dukoff said.
Other key features of the watch include a built-in GPS for detailed mapping of running routes and smartphone notifications. You can also install apps on the watch from a dedicated marketplace, as well as make mobile payments with it.
There are three case finishes to pick from: black, white, and purple. Garmin offers a Venu Sq variant that can store music for extra $50. For about $100 more, the Garmin Venu has a cooler design, a nicer AMOLED display (the Venu Sq has an LCD panel), and the ability to guide users through their workouts via on-screen animation.
The Grit X by Polar is a powerful fitness-tracking tool that’s an excellent option for workout enthusiasts. Its big case meets military level durability standards, yet, at a fraction above 2 ounces, it’s impossibly lightweight. The watch is also waterproof up to 100 meters.
When it comes to fitness tracking features, the Grit X has everything you could want. It has a built-in heart rate sensor and GPS, plus the ability to analyze a user’s performance during a plethora of activities. And thanks to a built-in altimeter and compass, it can precisely break down uphill and downhill performance, too.
“It’s a great sports watch,” Runner’s World’s Jeff Dengate noted. “The accuracy of distance and heart rate was spot-on for me.” Being a Polar product, the timepiece can also keep tabs on the user’s body strain during training, and help avoid injuries.
You can expect the Grit X to last up to 2 weeks between battery charges in watch mode with the heart rate sensor switched on. In training mode with active GPS and continuous heart rate tracking, you’ll get about 40 hours of battery life.
The Polar Grit X is available with a black or a silver case. The latter is compatible with 22-millimeter straps and bands, so it’s as easy to customize as it gets. Polar offers a great selection of silicone, textile, and leather straps as well.
The Fossil Collider HR is a great option for fashion-conscious buyers, looking to keep track of their basic activity and sleep patterns. At a quick glance, the hybrid smartwatch looks like a classic chronograph timepiece with mechanical hands and a three-button layout.
However, with a built-in always-on e-ink display and a heart rate sensor, the hybrid smartwatch is as feature-packed as it is elegant. The Collider HR will effortlessly deliver notifications from your phone, as well as keep tabs on your activities, among many other things. Fossil’s intuitive mobile app, in addition to delivering an overview of your fitness data, will allow you to customize the device’s display, as well as the functionality of its hardware buttons.
Tester Scott Simone tested the Collider HR and liked its design quite a bit. According to him, the timepiece "fits in very much with Fossil’s classic watch aesthetic — large face, manual hands, the whole nine." However, he also noted that the e-ink display of the watch is "hard to read" on some occasions.
The stainless steel timepiece is waterproof up to 30 meters. You can order it on a bracelet or an elegant leather strap. They are easy to replace, allowing users to customize their Collider HR with countless original and third-party offerings.
The Garmin Instinct Solar sports watch, as its name suggests, sets itself apart from all other entries on this list with the ability to replenish its battery via direct sunlight. Combined with the device’s standard charging capabilities, the feature significantly extends its battery endurance.
According to Garmin, the device can last for almost 2 months in smartwatch mode, up to 38 hours in GPS training mode, and up to 6 days in battery-saving GPS mode. Even more impressively, in watch-only mode, the Instinct Solar has practically unlimited battery life like a regular watch that’s powered by a light source.
Garmin has accomplished this feat by equipping the timepiece with an energy-sipping monochrome display. The latter is nowhere near as exciting as the screens of other sports watches, but many consumers will likely find the battery performance gains to be a worthy tradeoff.
The Instinct Solar has a heart rate sensor, a pulse oximeter, and an excellent set of health- and fitness-tracking tools. It can guide users through a number of popular activities, including running, biking, strength training, and swimming. The watch can also deliver smartphone notifications.
In terms of design, the watch meets military standards for toughness, and it’s also waterproof up to 100 meters. Despite rocking a massive 45-millimeter case, the Instinct Solar weighs only 53 grams (less than 2 ounces).
The Suunto 9 fitness watch has a long list of handy features, including a built-in heart rate monitor, GPS, and a rugged body that's water-resistant up to 100 meters. Most importantly, thanks to a trio of adjustable battery modes (performance, endurance, and ultra), the Suunto 9 is capable of delivering up to 120 hours of continuous exercise-tracking.
Pat Heine — a Runner’s World video producer and an avid ultrarunner — praised the product’s battery endurance as well. “I have used this watch almost exclusively since June of 2018, due to its GPS accuracy and battery life,” he told me. ”With regular use and fitness tracking, the watch lasts over a week.”
A Men's Health editor also observed that the battery performance of the Suunto 9 is "the real deal.” The watch can automatically detect and track more than 80 sports and activities, including swimming and cycling. It can also deliver smartphone notifications.
The Suunto 9’s case is available in a multitude of colors — black, white, titanium, and copper. Overall, this is a solid option, so long as you don't mind its rather big 50-millimeter case. Thankfully, thanks to a high-quality strap, the watch is comfy despite its massive size.
“I’m able to get a snug, non-constricting fit that eliminates all movement so it practically disappears when you’re working out,” noted Pat Heine.
Samsung’s Galaxy Watch3 smartwatch is a capable Apple Watch alternative for Android smartphone users. Like its competitor, the Watch3 is a great smartwatch with a powerful and intuitive set of health-, fitness-, and sleep-tracking features.
I enjoyed interacting with the rotating bezel of the Galaxy Watch3 while I tested it. Combined with its superb AMOLED display, it makes navigating its user interface, opening apps, and adjusting its settings a seamless process.
The watch’s overall user experience is miles ahead of what Fitbit, Garmin, and Polar products offer. The same goes for its ability to deliver interactive smartphone notifications.
The product has an FDA-approved, ECG-capable heart-rate sensor that can detect atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart rhythm that requires medical attention. We like that there’s an option to send readings from the device directly to a healthcare provider as PDF files.
The timepiece has the ability to automatically track workouts, too. It will sync your fitness data and stats with Samsung's Health platform.
You can order the Galaxy Watch3 with a 41- or a 45-millimeter case. Depending on the case size, buyers can choose between a black, silver, or bronze finish. Budget-conscious buyers should consider the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 instead — another favorite of ours.