Choosing your GPS Watch....find that needle in the haystack

Posted on September 02 2018

Choosing your GPS Watch....find that needle in the haystack

Today, there is a bewildering array of GPS and smart watches on the market and it is a daunting prospect to find the one that fits for you. 

We offer you a guide to get you through the noise. Its not perfect, but will help you get closer to what you want. Of course the choice will change as new models are released and we will chase that trend with you.!

Firstly, as a running store we focus on a core shared running passion, so we exclude the more simple "smart watch" selection and have generalized the needs and wants of customers from what we hear and come to 5 broad runner "types". Forgive us if you don't fit exactly into one of these 5, we know you are unique!.  

1. The "Hard Core Ultra" Beast

2. The Train Hard, Race Long Warrior

3. The Fashion Conscious Fanatic

4. The Cost Conscious (up to) Marathon Running Maniac

5. The "I love this running lark, get me started!" Nut

So ... from the top.

1. The "Hard Core Ultra" Beast

Top needs : Battery Life, Robustness... Nice to haves : We don't do "Nice" 

Assuming you want tech of course and it doesn't spoil your wilderness experience we would point to four watches. 

Suunto 9 - Intelligent battery management which gives a claimed 120 hours of life .... the "Blumberg Choice" bit.ly/GRSuunto9

Solid, accurate, reliable plus excellent battery life
There are a couple things I look for when it comes to a sports watch for ultrarunning: measurement accuracy including GPS and altitude (check out fellrnr.com for extensive comparisons), native Stryd power support, native integration with TrainingPeaks, robustness and reliability of the watch and battery life. What I don't care much for in a sportswatch is for it to be all singing and dancing, playing music, providing contactless payment features etc. I've been using Suunto watches for many years now for these reasons including the various Ambit models, the Spartan Ultra and since end of July 2018 the Suunto 9. Of course there is always a compromise between measurement accuracy / frequency and battery life. So when the Suunto 9 was announced, I was intrigued by its improved battery life and flexibility to change battery modes during exercise sessions. I've used the watch now extensively for about 5 weeks and am very happy with it. I plan to use it during my upcoming Spartathlon 246km road race and am confident that the battery will last the distance (the race has a 36 hours cutoff time). Whilst the watch itself is great and meets all my core requirements, Suunto could do better in terms of software support. Their mobile app strategy seems in transition (two apps), Suuntolink doesn't currently work with Mac OS 10.14 Mojave and Movescount platform reliability could be better. There are also some complex interval features (e.g. 1 min - 2 mins - 3 mins - 2 mins - 1 mins) for which I need to go back to my Ambit 3 for since I can't figure out how the Spartan Ultra or the 9 support this. But I'm happy to put up with all of that for the Suunto 9 meeting my key needs: accuracy, reliability, robustness and battery life

Garmin Fenix 5x Plus - Which on the UltraTrac setting gives a claimed 70 hours of battery life. bit.ly/Fenix5XPlus

COROS 46mm APEX - 35 hours on full GPS mode, 100 hrs on UltraMax, sapphire screen and a host of useful functions .. all for $2799 hkd bit.ly/Coros46mmAPEX

12/04/19 Daniel P.F.
The first difference you can see when you compare these two watches it is the size, the Coros Apex is much lighter and smaller than Suunto, which is much thicker. In my opinion the lighter the better but it’s true that the screen is a bit smaller.
I was testing the watch not only running but also riding bike. 
In running mode the options and measurements are quite similar to the one provided by my Suunto, well accurated in all the variables. GPS, Pace, elevation, altimeter...
I could see an important difference in favor of the Coros and it is the heart rate sensor; I have always complaint about Suunto sensor becuase it get lost when running downhill beacuse the impacts, even worst when you are running going down stairs, however Coros keeps working perfectly even going uphill or downhill wherever you run.
Other point where Coros is much better than Suunto in the transmission data to the APP. Coros is much much faster.
The GPS is one of the strong points of Suunto, it can find the signal very fast. Coros sometimes is even faster or at least same fast as Suunto.
The battery is simply amazing, how is possible that such a small watch can last that long, 10 days so far, 5 training sessions and I did not recharge it yet. If you plan to run UTMB as I will do this year, no doubts that this watch is a good choice.
The silicon bands are not very strong but it is not a big issue, I fell down on the trails last week and I broke on of them but the customer service was very fast and send me a new one in two days, those bands you can swap it very easy, they have several different colors.
Even I hit the watch quite strong when I fell down, the aluminum case just got small scratches but the Sapphire glass has not any damages
Riding bike I love one function that Suunto cannot provide and  it is the gradient, there is a screen mode which shows the gradient of the road that you are climbing, very cool for cyclists.
In summary, I can say that it’s a very nice option to run long, affordable price and definitely worth it.

Forerunner 935 - Similar price point to the Ambit 3 and sound battery life with a claimed 24 hours on normal GPS. A no nonsense workhorse. bit.ly/GoneRunning935

Beware though !... all need careful setting up and trade tracking accuracy for battery life and batteries deteriorate with age. The manufacturers claims are likely to be maximums. 

 2. The Train Hard, Race Long Warrior

Top needs : Battery Life... Nice to haves : Music while I train

You want your watch to be there all the time for your Ultra but a few more bells and whistles will make my training more fun and music is one of them. Again 4 watches

Garmin Fenix 5x Plus - The best battery life of the 5 Plus range (30+ hours on normal GPS.. no music) but with the option of 500 tunes for those torturous training runs. bit.ly/Fenix5XPlus

Garmin Fenix 5 - If you sacrifice your tunes, the Fenix 5 has slightly better battery life than the Fenix 5 Plus (24 v 17 on normal GPS .. no music). bit.ly/Fenix5Range

Forerunner 935 - Again, no music but sound battery life with a claimed 24 hours on normal GPS. A no nonsense workhorse. bit.ly/GoneRunning935

COROS 46mm APEX - 35 hours on full GPS mode, 100 hrs on UltraMax, sapphire screen and a host of useful functions .. all for $2799 hkd bit.ly/Coros46mmAPEX

COROS 42mm APEX - 25 hours on full GPS mode, 80 hrs on UltraMax, sapphire screen and a host of useful functions .. all for $2399 hkd bit.ly/Coros42mm APEX

Forerunner 645 with Music .. You like that cheaper price point but you get to have your tunes, and you don't race those long ultras that often anyway (14 hours of battery life on normal GPS). bit.ly/GoneRunning645

3. The Fashion Conscious Fanatic

Top needs : Sufficient battery life, looks, style and music while train... Nice to haves : Music while I train

You are serious about your running, but you also want your watch to look good, all day. You need reasonable battery life but it just needs to be adequate. You train a lot and like having the music to help you along the way.    

Garmin Fenix 5x Plus Titanium - Top of the range for Garmin, if you like a big watch and want people to see it, this is the one for you. It has more features than you can throw a stick at so when you want to get serious about your training its perfect... for the rest of the time ..... just seriously cool. bit.ly/Fenix5XPlus

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Sapphire - If the 5x Plus is too big, this is the middle brother with all the features just 4 mm diameter smaller. bit.ly/Fenix-5-plus

Garmin Fenix 5S Plus - Here you can let your style shine through. A serious training watch but smaller again at 41mm if you want to go dainty and that Rose Gold version (among many others) just lets you bling it up all day long. bit.ly/Fenix5SPlus

Forerunner 645 with Music .. You like a lighter but still capable watch so the 42g is nice, the price point good and you still get the looks and the tunes !. bit.ly/GoneRunning645

4. The Cost Conscious (up to) Marathon Running Maniac

Top needs : Sufficient battery life, keep the weight down, reasonable price point... Nice to haves : Looks good all day, maybe music

You are shaving off the kilos and focused on that PB and you want a watch that just does what you need, its a functional tool.  

Garmin Fenix 5S Plus - Pick the non sapphire version for a excellent watch that is state of the art. For the endless long run training maybe a bit of music would help. bit.ly/Fenix5SPlus

Forerunner 935 - No music but a no nonsense workhorse weighing in at 49g. bit.ly/GoneRunning935

COROS 42mm APEX - 25 hours on full GPS mode, 80 hrs on UltraMax, sapphire screen and a host of useful functions .. all for $2399 hkd bit.ly/Coros42mm APEX

COROS 45mm PACE Multisport - 25 hours on full GPS mode, 80 hrs on UltraMax, and a host of useful functions .. all for $2399 hkd bit.ly/Coros45mm Pace

Forerunner 645 - You want lighter still capable watch so the 42g is nice, the price point does what you need. bit.ly/GoneRunning645

Forerunner 235/230 - Great price point and adequate functionality to help you smash your Strava segments...  bit.ly/GoneRunning235bit.ly/GoneRunning230

5. The "I love this running lark, get me started!" Nut

Top needs : Reasonable price point, simple to use, "music motivates me!"... Nice to haves : Just nice to have one !

You have been bitten by the running bug and you would love to get connected and record the fabulous progress you are making. You "luurrvve" the music but want something that is cost effective and adequate.

Forerunner 645 with Music .. Its a light and capable watch so the 42g is nice, the price point good and you get the looks and the tunes !. bit.ly/GoneRunning645

COROS 45mm PACE Multisport - 25 hours on full GPS mode, 80 hrs on UltraMax, and a host of useful functions .. all for $2399 hkd bit.ly/Coros45mm Pace

Forerunner 235 - If you compromise on the tunes, this is a wonderful entry watch and adequate functionality to help you smash your Strava segments...bit.ly/GoneRunning235,  bit.ly/GoneRunning230

Of course we know that you are unique and probably don't fit exactly into the groups above but we hope it is a starting point for you in your decision. 

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