Many people out there are starting to pay attention to their health, and part of that includes incorporating physical fitness into their daily lives. Once you’ve become consistent and serious with this, you might look at other accessories to help elevate your routine.
One of these, of course, is a sports watch which is often outfitted with a lot of features to help elevate your activities and help you keep track of your progress. Because it has become such a staple accessory for your physical health, many brands offer a wide range of models to choose from.
Two of the most popular brands are Garmin and Suunto. If you’re looking to invest your hard-earned money in one of these sports watches, you may wonder which one is the best. To answer this question, we will make an in-depth comparison for you.
Garmin: An In-Depth Look
Garmin has been an American company producing high-quality watches since the late 80s. This company has been working with GPS technology precisely to perfect it. Because of their attention to detail, they count the US army as one of their best customers. In fact, it was their first.
Garmin offers a display designed with high-quality materials and packed full of informative information. You get real-time information like your pace, distance, heart rate, and time, no matter which model you choose.
However, you can also have access to the number of calories burned. When it comes to displaying where Garmin shines, you can customize the data you see on that display to cover what you are specifically targeting.
Most of the watches from Garmin come with the traditional button operation. However, some newer models are outfitted with touchscreen functionality. The displays, though, are designed for high functionality. In order to do this, the watches are designed with screens that are easily read in the sun.
When it comes to GPS tracking ability, because of their focus on crafting and updating the abilities of their systems, Garmin offers a high-quality capability. The information you have access to will be your location, speed, and movement-related data. All of which are relayed to you in real-time so that you can analyze your results as you go.
The watches are designed with built-in GPS capabilities utilizing satellite systems like GLONASS and Galileo. Because of this, no matter what type of landscape you are dealing with, you will be able to get detailed mapping.
Depending on the model, you will have access to the Garmin TOPO map system. These are detailed and colored so that you will be afforded more information than standard topographical maps.
Regarding the navigation capability of the Garmin sports watch, you’re being offered the highest level of performance possible. Most models offer color topographic maps that some may find to be a little small though very detailed.
When you utilize your GPS watch for fitness activities, one of the key features you have to have access to is heart rate monitoring. On top of tracking your heart rate nonstop, Garmin models also offer a wealth of other data to analyze your physical well-being.
This includes things like sleep duration and sleep patterns. There is even an app feature that allows you to set up heart rate alerts which might be helpful if you’re trying to keep that heart rate at a certain level.
One of the best features that Garmin GPS watches offer is the ability to set up multiple battery modes. This includes an ultra-battery saver mode that keeps GPS function on as long as it’s not too much of a burden on the battery power. At this point, it will shut the GPS off.
Typically with GPS active all day, you will be looking at about 24 hours of battery life with almost all Garmin models. However, there are some models (like the Garmin Enduro or Vantage V2) that might offer you more battery life. There are watches designed with solar energy capabilities via Garmin’s Power Glass.
To manage the data that the watch collects, Garmin watches utilize the Connect app. This is a single app that you can utilize to monitor yourself and plan out your physical activities. On top of this, the app also has a social capability to connect with others who are utilizing it. This will help you build a support network and encourage you to keep going.
Many people utilize music to motivate them when they’re out getting their sweat on. This means you need access to music if that is what you’re into, and Garmin GPS watches have compatibility with Spotify to keep you full access to your playlists.
Suunto: An In-Depth Look
If you’re just getting into running or any physical activity, you may not have heard of Suunto. But once you get into it, you will definitely hear about this Finnish company. This company, whose name translates to direction, focuses on instilling a top-notch GPS in its wide range of models.
Many of the models from this brand offer a limited level of customization for the displays. But unlike other brands like Garmin, Suunto does not make this process simple. Many GPS watches allow you to customize the display within the watch itself; however, this company has opted only to allow you to do so through their app.
Suunto offers a wide range of touchscreen models that are also outfitted with easy-to-use buttons. The watches come with a wide range of glass, including sapphire and gorilla glass. The type of glass will depend on the model (for instance, if you opt to go with the Suunto 9 Baro, you will be getting a watch with sapphire glass).
Being one of the leading brands of GPS technology within watches, this company has worked for decades to create the best GPS possible. Through their GPS, you can track your movements and progress in real-time.
This allows you to make sure that you are hitting your goals in order to reach the highest level of results. Along with this, the watch’s high-quality GPS tracking capabilities will also help you navigate as well.
The company has manufactured many models that utilize built-in GPS. Though there are a ton of models that have this feature, there are a few models that don’t, and they work with a connected system via your smartphone.
Several factors play into a sound navigational system for sports watches. Along with GPS capabilities, you have to pay attention to the screen and map sizes which may be one of the best features of this brand’s GPS watch models. You can download easy-to-read and informative maps.
They even have a proprietary mapping system called the breadcrumb maps, which will offer heightened levels of detail for you. You are also afforded extra information regarding tracking, including barometric and altimeter metrics.
Utilizing optical technology, Suunto makes the heart rate monitoring of these models top-notch. Though not every model offers this type of heart rate monitoring, no matter which model you choose, you will find some form of this capability.
The last thing you want to do is have your smartwatch die because you have limited battery life. With these watches, you can choose from three different battery modes that can extend your watch’s life to new heights.
Since the most common type of battery used in Suunto watches is the CR2032, the battery life is pretty good (the battery itself has a 12-18 month life).
Of course, depending on the features, the battery life varies from model to model. Some models like the Suunto 7 will offer you anywhere from two days to 12 hours.
When it comes to data management, this company currently uses one app but is gradually moving over to its own self-branded app. The new app will help manage data more efficiently and synchronize with your smartphone better. It will also allow you to plan your route and give you a detailed map in order to ensure you’re going in the right direction.
Many models from this brand offer you the ability to store an extensive list of songs to be able to access via Bluetooth headphones. You can also utilize music apps like Spotify so that you can ensure you are motivated to complete your physical activities for the day.
Pros & Cons: Garmin Versus Suunto
After looking at each of these GPS watches, it might be hard to break down the good and bad. So to help you out, we have crafted these pros and cons lists to make the decision-making process a little easier.
Garmin Pros & Cons
- Designed with a proprietary app for all watches
- Offers the wearer topographical maps in color
- Comprehensive well-being tracking system
- Able to customize data display through the watch
- Some models offer solar-powered options
- Built with multisport capabilities
- Some find the top graphic map a little small
- Watch offers a lot of data collection, which could be overwhelming for some
- Price of entry might be a little too high for some
Suunto Pros & Cons
- Comes with multiple battery life modes
- Designed with altimeter and barometric features
- Crafted with larger map displays
- Ability to use breadcrumb maps
- Compatible with Google Fit
- Has a wide range of sports capabilities
- Some find the prices to be a little steep
- One can only customize display through the use of the app
- Transitioning to a specialized app might be challenging for some
Garmin vs. Suunto FAQs
Investing in a GPS watch can be pretty beneficial for those looking to improve their health. We’ve taken an in-depth look at some of the better brands above, and we know there are still quite a few questions to be had.
Here are a few FAQs that we thought could help your decision-making process:
There are many options when it comes to GPS watches regarding fitness. However, most of these options come with a GPS. If you’re looking for accurate distance tracking and feedback on your pace, then GPS is definitely worth it. On top of this, this feature can also provide you with in-depth maps that will keep your physical activities fresh and exciting.
Most modern-day smartwatches have some form of GPS in them. This ensures that you have accurate locations when utilizing your wellness apps and other intelligent apps like Google Maps and Spotify.
The choice of whether you go with a Garmin GPS watch or a Suunto GPS watch is up to you. They both offer excellent features and are valuable investments in sports watches.
In the end, if you’re looking for the most features and versatility, Garmin may be a better option, but there are plenty of Suunto that offer comparable options. We hope that looking at both of these brands has helped you in your GPS sports watch hunt.
Marko is a recreational runner (and a techie) that has completed a full-distance trail marathon from Australia. He is the lead writer at JogTunes and spends his off-time time testing different running shoes and GPS watches.