Whether you are a runner whose jogging exploits are your means of staying fit and healthy, a keen cyclist, or prefer water sports to stay fit, keeping track of your activities can help you improve your performance and ensure you are getting the maximum benefit.
There are many ways this can be done, but thanks to modern technology, the sports watch is fast becoming the method of choice for most fitness enthusiasts.
With so many great sports watches to choose from, knowing which one is right for you can be a problem, so our reviews of the best sports watches should help, plus we have a buyer’s guide and FAQ to provide you with even more information.
- 5 Best Picks
- Buyer’s Guide
- Final Verdict
5 Best Picks
Samsung Electronics Galaxy Watch Active 2
While most sports watches look stunning, the Samsung Galaxy Active 2, is one that especially catches the eye as it manages to combine modern technology in terms of its functions, with a watch design that veers toward a more traditional style
The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 is compatible with both iPhone and Android mobile devices which opens up a huge world of apps and functionality that takes it to another level.
Some of those apps may not necessarily relate to sports and fitness, with the likes of Samsung Pay an option, plus the ability to stream YouTube and Spotify is bound to be popular with those who like to be entertained.
The watch also has Bixby voice activation which means you can make a call, or even ask it to read your incoming text messages while you run or exercise.
In terms of those functions relating to health and fitness, the one which most will be looking for is the watch being able to track you while you take part in them. These include running, cycling, canoeing, and even swimming, thanks to the watch being waterproof.
Getting a good night’s sleep is essential to your well-being and that is why the watch’s sleep tracker is going to be an important feature. The ‘Calm’ app also helps your mental state by monitoring your stress levels and providing solutions such as meditation and breathing exercises.
It can also monitor your heartbeat and will alert you if it detects that your heartbeat is too high or too low. This, along with Samsung’s ‘Health App’ complete package of health aids, may not make your doctor redundant, but it will hopefully mean you need to visit them less often.
In terms of its design, traditionalists will love its large round case which makes it look more like a normal watch than anything that has all the modern apps and technology, as this does.
Many sports watches will have apps that focus on your physical health, and there is nothing wrong with that, but mental health is every bit as crucial, so we love the fact that this watch has apps that can help your mental state, such as the sleep tracker and the ‘Calm’ app.
The vibration settings on the watch need to be stronger because regardless of whether you select, ‘long,’ strong,’ or ‘knock’ there can still be occasions where you miss an alert. This can be especially so while playing a sport, which is not what you would expect for a sports watch.
- Fitness tracker
- ‘Calm’ app with meditation
- Sleep tracker
- ‘Bixby’ voice technology
- Excellent battery life
- ‘Flick your wrist’ feature isn’t 100%
- Limited memory storage by comparison
Suunto 9 Baro GPS Sports Watch
Suunto has a huge reputation for manufacturing top quality watches, and their latest creation, the Suunto 9 Baro GPS Sports Watch, is certain to enhance that further, thanks to its impressive array of features, rugged design, and superb battery life.
We can’t start anywhere in terms of talking about the Suunto 9 Baro, other than highlighting the battery life and battery functions. Not only does it have a battery charge reminder, but it also has 3 different intelligent battery modes which are Ultra, Endurance, and Performance.
Each setting optimizes battery usage depending on what activities you are using it for, and that is why you can expect to see up to 120 hours of battery life between each charge.
For those that like aquatic sports and activities, unless you plan to go deep-sea diving, you can do so safely with the Suunto 9 Baro, as it is waterproof up to 100 meters.
If dry land is more your thing, then whether you run along the paths and tracks, or prefer endurance running at altitude, there are functions to help you to keep track of your progress.
First, there is GPS tracking and navigation so not only can you see where you are, but you can also track how far you have walked, ran, or climbed. If, instead of running, you prefer cycling, then the same tracking function will work for you in order to measure your progress.
If you like to plan your routes ahead of time, then the watch has functions that allow you to do so, including popular routes anywhere in the world, and that means even when you travel or are on vacation, you can still plan your fitness and exercise routines.
Other useful functions related to your health and fitness include a heartbeat monitor, and it will also record, and display data related to your sessions so you can chart your progress.
While you would expect to have a number of apps and functions related to health and fitness on a sports watch, the Suunto 9 Baro excels with support for over 80 sports, training summaries and it even has popular routes from all around the world.
For a sports watch that relies on the user being able to see various types of data, the display is disappointing. Its standard brightness level should have been higher, and as it is so low when you turn up the brightness, the battery life is impacted.
- Waterproof to 100 meters
- Multisport GPS tracking
- Heart rate monitor
- Intelligent battery modes
- Long battery life
- Occasional software glitches
- Takes too long to charge up
Polar Vantage V Premium GPS Multisport Watch
The name of this watch includes the word ‘Multisport’ and while some watches may claim to be that, there is no denying that whatever sport you use to keep fit, the Polar Vantage V has something to offer.
The reason for the Polar Vantage V having a genuine claim to be multisport is down the fact that it has functions go beyond the basics that you usually find relating to some of the most popular health and fitness activities.
For example, when you are running, the watch can track everything from your wrist, and that includes your location, distance covered, and heart rate, to name but three. Maybe you prefer cycling, in which case the GPS function tracks your journey and your speed.
Those who like to go a bit further afield when running or cycling, especially when it involves challenges such as hills will benefit from the barometric altitude feature, as well as the incline, ascent, and descent functions.
Swimming is well catered for as the Polar Vantage V can measure your distance, pace, rest times and strokes, and will do so, regardless of which swimming stroke you are using. Obviously, this means it is waterproof, so it is also suitable for other water sports.
While we have touched on just three of the most popular fitness activities, this watch has over 130 different sports profiles, so no matter what your favorite sport is, it can help you monitor your progress.
The means for all the tracking of your progress is via some in-house apps which include Polar Pro, Training Load Pro, and Recovery Pro.
A large and clear display certainly helps you to see the data and the combination of digital data, and analog for the time is excellent. As for battery life, it can be up to 40 hours, so not the best, but more than respectable for this type of watch.
We absolutely love the display on the Polar Vantage V for a couple of reasons. First, the combination of a black background and colored digits and analog hands, means everything is crystal clear, and the way in which the data is presented also makes it easy to understand what is being shown to you.
In order for the orthostatic test to be accurate, a chest strap is needed, and unfortunately, it is not supplied. Seems pointless adding features and apps to a watch if the hardware required to use them doesn’t come with it.
- Suitable for 130 sports
- GPS tracking
- Multiple data points
- Built-in barometer
- Excellent display
- At the upper end of the price scale
- Operating buttons slow to respond
Fitbit Ionic GPS Smart Watch
Fitbit is a brand synonymous with health and fitness with the Fitbit app one of the most used of any, so we were keen to see if Fitbit’s Ionic Watch was as adept at helping users get the most from their fitness routines, as their app is.
One of the key aspects of Fitbit’s app is the ability to personalize your fitness routines, and that is exactly what Fitbit has done with their Ionic watch. It includes on-screen dynamic personal coaching as one of the many features that allow individuals to follow their own personal fitness regime.
The watch can synchronize with your mobile devices or phone, and therefore give you access to the Fitbit which we have already mentioned. That opens up a whole galaxy of functions to help you plan, track, and update your fitness program. This is a true multisport watch as it includes tracking for multiple activities including cycling and jogging.
Other features relating to your fitness plan include the built-in GPS, which helps to track routes, pace, and distance, although it can be glitchy on occasion. Your pulse rate can also be measured by this watch.
Beyond health and fitness, these are multiple apps and features with one of the most popular being the ability to store and play up to 300 music tracks which will doubtless keep you entertained while you exercise. You could also use it to store motivational programs to keep you going when your body is telling you to stop.
The battery life is exceptional with up to 4 days of use possible depending on how you use the watch, but that means it will track your fitness at all times of the day.
Finally, we must mention how stunningly beautiful the Fitbit Ionic Watch is. The main body is square and very thin making it very unobtrusive while it is being worn. That, along with an ultra-smooth fascia, and crystal-clear display make this a truly modern looking piece of technology.
The functionality is exceptional with regards to planning and tracking your very own personalized fitness program. This is obviously due in part to Fitbit’s own app, but the ability of this watch to sync up to 30 feet with other devices also helps enormously.
There are some issues with GPS that include it taking up to 5 minutes to start tracking, plus its accuracy can be called into question at times which means the distance tracking is also going to be inaccurate.
- Slim and unobtrusive
- Superb battery life
- Personalized fitness programs
- Syncs up to 30 ft. with other devices
- Stores and plays up to 300 music tracks
- Screen is extremely fragile
- Band feels stiff and inflexible
Polar Ignite Advanced Waterproof Fitness Watch
Given Polar’s exceptional range of sports watches it seems only right that we look at another of their creations, and on this occasion, we put their ‘Ignite’ watch through its paces, with a special look at some nighttime functions that set it apart from the norm.
While keeping fit is generally something that you do during daylight hours, at night, your sleep patterns play a major part in how much energy you have for tomorrow’s workout. That is why the Polar Ignite’s advanced sleep tracking is a welcome feature which you can use in conjunction with Polar’s ‘Sleep Plus Stages’ analysis.
Coupled with this, there is also Polar’s ‘Nightly Recharge’ feature, which has nothing to do with recharging the battery. Instead, it measures your recovery, allowing you to assess what routines would be best for you to do the next day.
Speaking of the daytime, as you would expect, the Polar Ignite has a daily training app called ‘Spark’ which enables you to plan and outline daily fitness routines based on your own fitness goals.
As part of those routines you obviously want to be able to track your progress in several ways, and with built-in GPS that is made easier in terms of the distance and speed, plus it also helps with planning routes in advance.
While a sports watch having a heart rate sensor is nothing special, the technology behind the sensors in the Polar Ignite most certainly is special. It utilizes optical sensors along with some of the latest bio-impedance technology, in order to make the readings as accurate as can be.
The fact that the quality of our sleep plays such a huge role in our health and general well-being, the functions in this sports watch which monitor recovery and sleep patterns take this watch beyond what most other watches offer with regards to sleep, rest, and recovery.
The touch screen display can annoyingly lag sometimes meaning you press, then press again, only for the display to jump forward two settings. Also, any moisture, such as sweat landing on the display, can cause it to operate as though it had been pressed.
- Advanced sleep tracking
- ‘Spark’ daily training guide
- Precision heart rate monitor
- Integrated GPS
- Choice of 6 colors
- Battery life is less than half that advertised
- Some syncing issues with other devices
In our buyer’s guide, we will highlight and explain some of the main features which you should be assessing when deciding which sports watch you are going to buy.
Digital vs. Analog
This is not always an ‘either, or’ choice, as some sports watches use both. To confirm, digital refers to when all the data, including time, is displayed using numbers.
Analog is when you see hands to indicate time, in the same way, you would see in traditional clocks and watches. In most modern sports watches the hands are actually graphics within the LCD display rather than physical watch hands.
To be honest, digital vs. analog tends to be a personal preference rather than the case that one or the other is more beneficial. That being said, most modern sports watches use only digital, so what you might find is that if you prefer analog, your choices of watch are more limited.
We must make it clear that water resistance is NOT the same as waterproof. A water-resistant watch will cope with the occasional splash and will protect it from humidity. However, It is not designed to be submerged in water, and thus should not be worn while swimming, having a shower or playing water sports.
Most modern sports watches have an LCD display and therefore the lighting is powered by the watch’s battery anytime the display is active. Many also have backlights.
Each manufacturer will have different displays with regards to the background and the colors of the digits, so there can be variations in how bright the display appears. If you have concerns check reviews that refer to the display brightness.
Most sports watches can be synced with mobile devices and they should be compatible with both Android and iPhone. Differences may occur with regards to the syncing distance with some requiring to be close to the device, and others capable of syncing distances up to 30 feet away.
The reasons for syncing are mainly to expand the functionality of the watch with regards to apps, streaming music, and being able to receive texts or calls to your mobile device.
This a feature that will find varies greatly between different sports watch models. Much will depend on how often you are using the watch with regards to its fitness functions.
If you think you are going to be using this a lot, then a watch with a battery life of at least 40 hours is what you want, albeit, there are some which have 4-day battery life if you really want the maximum.
Are Apple and Samsung Watches Waterproof?
For us to give you a generic ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ is difficult, simply because the answer for each individual watch will be different, rather than a specific manufacturer, and that applies across all watch manufacturers, rather than just Apple and Samsung.
On the whole Apple, watches tend to be water-resistant, rather than waterproof, and while some might be resistant to specific depths, you should err on the side of caution.
Samsung do make waterproof watches, such as the Galaxy we have reviewed, but again, as this will always be model specific, check the manufacturer’s specifications for the individual watch you are buying.
Which Watch Dial Window Type Is the Best?
The window, or dial cover, is usually referred to as the watch’s ‘crystal,’ and there are normally three types. The most expensive, and the one found in luxury watches. is sapphire, and given its hardness, it offers exceptional protection.
Mineral crystals are common and are usually made from treated glass crystals which are hardened to provide excellent protection and resistance to scratching. One downside is that should it break, it is likely to shatter into hundreds of tiny shards.
The third, and least expensive is plastic, which is often referred to as acrylic glass. It is flexible and durable but is more prone to scratching than the other two.
What Should I Do If Water Invades a Watch?
You have two options, which are basically to have the watch repaired or to dry it out yourself. The latter can often be done simply by leaving the watch indoors, although you can use a hairdryer.
Bear in mind, most sports watches use digital technology, rather than moving parts, so the repair process may be different, and the likelihood of permanent damage to the electronic circuitry is strong.
All five sports watches we reviewed have some excellent features and we would be happy to recommend each of them to you. However, we always conclude by selecting the individual product which we feel is the best, and in this case, it is the Samsung Electronics Galaxy Watch Active 2.
The combination of features that track physical fitness plus those that promote mental health is an excellent combination. It comes with voice activation, which will be especially welcomed when you are participating in physical activity, plus the excellent battery life is another plus.
Add in the fact that this watch is waterproof, making it ideal for water sports, then you have what we believe is the best sports watch.