Best Budget GPS Watches in 2017
Ready to upgrade to a full fledged GPS watch? Besides increased accuracy, a GPS watch is easier than a smartphone to take on your run. Plus they’re more durable and sweat and rain-proof. But if this is your first GPS watch, you probably don’t need and don’t want to pay for all the confusing high-tech features found on expensive watches.
We’re gathered the best budget GPS watches currently on the market. Most of these watches fall in the $99 to $200 range. We’ll cover the differences and explore why some cost more than others…
Best GPS Watch for under $100
The TomTom Runner tracks time, speed, and distance – and packs in few extra features – making it one of the best GPS watch buys on the market. While it’s “officially” priced at $129.99, most retailers are listing it for about less than $99 (see Amazon price here).
Beyond tracking time, pace, and distance with GPS, the TomTom Runner also measures treadmill workouts without the need of a foot pod or other accessory. And with its extra-large display and stylish, user-friendly functionality, the TomTom Runner is easy to see and simple to use.
What else can it do? You can program interval workouts directly on the watch. Plus, the TomTom Runner wirelessly syncs activities to a smartphone. And it’s got a 10 hour battery to boot!
What’s the downside? As we’ll see, for a bit more money you can buy GPS watches that do quite a lot more. And even though the TomTom Runner has a nice, large display, it’s bigger than the other watches and feels a bit clunky.
Best GPS Watch with Wrist Heart Rate
Garmin Forerunner 35
With the Forerunner 35, Garmin did more than just add a wrist-based heart rate monitor to its budget GPS watch. It added new features typically found on their higher end watches. And at $199.99, it manages to stay below that $200 threshold.
The heart rate monitor works and is just as accurate as other HRMs on the market. Garmin also included an activity tracker on the Forerunner 35. So in addition to tracking your activities with GPS, it can be worn all day and night to monitor steps, track sleep, and set daily exercise goals.
Viewing activities is super-easy – the Forerunner 35 syncs to your smartphone and upload activities wirelessly. This also lets your watch act as a notifications center – all alerts and texts appear on the Forerunner 35 as they appear.
With a powerful battery (13 hours GPS mode, best of the budget watches) and lightweight form, the Forerunner 35 feels light on the wrist and doesn’t require frequent charging. The screen is easy to read in bright and low-light conditions.
Best Overall Budget GPS Watch
Garmin Forerunner 25
The Forerunner 25 is simple, light-weight, and handles the basics with ease. It comes in two sizes and multiple colors to accommodate everyone’s tastes. And the Forerunner 25 packs enough extra features to really get your money’s worth.
With a simple push of a button, the Forerunner 25 is ready to track your run by time, pace, and distance. Post-run, the Forerunner 25 uploads activities wirelessly to your smartphone (or to a PC with an included cable).
When running, the watch can be programmed with run/walk intervals (great for beginners or anyone doing a couch to 5k plan) or pace alerts which notify you when you go above or below a set pace.
Like Garmin’s other GPS watches, the Forerunner 25 also includes activity tracking to monitor steps, sleep, provide move reminders, and create daily step goals. Like runs and other activities, the data can be easily synced to your smartphone.
The Forerunner 25 comes in two sizes, including a smaller size better for thin wrists. The display is crisp and easy to read. And the battery lasts 8-10 hours in GPS mode – fairly robust for GPS watches in this price range.
Best GPS Watch for Small Wrists
We’ve already mentioned the features packed into the Forerunner 25 & 35. Both are compact and thin, perfect for smaller wrists. They have great screen resolutions. The Forerunner 35 has a wrist-based heart rate monitor. The Forerunner 25 doesn’t, but is compatible with a Garmin chest strap heart rate monitor.
Best GPS Watch Deal
The Polar M400 provides the most bang for your buck of any budget GPS watch on the market. Like some of the other GPS watches we’ve discussed, the M400 does the basics (time, pace, and distance) and includes activity tracking to monitor steps, sleep, and set daily goals. Plus, it sends alerts and notifications to the watch when it’s paired with a smartphone.
But the M400 also comes with Polar’s Smart Coaching features. These measure and analyze fitness post-run and over time as conditioning improves. Training Load tracks workout intensity, letting you know whether you should increase or decrease the difficulty. Similarly, Recovery Status provides an estimate of how much recovery time is needed before your next workout.
The M400 has a nice 8 hour battery life and comes in a few different colors. It also syncs to your smartphone to upload runs and activities wirelessly.