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GPS run watches: 10 of the best tested and rated

GPS-equipped fitness watches will maximise each and every training session. But does the theory stand up to practice? James Witts gets with the beat…



Garmin’s first foray into wrist-based HRMs utilises sensors developed by Mio, which adds bulkiness to the 225 over its chest-strap siblings, the 220 and 620. A raised perimeter of silicon on the undercarriage aids comfort, as well as aiming to keep out ambient light that’d distort readings.

That said, even Mio concede their wrist-based technology is only 86-90% reliable, though it proved within around 3bpm at varying intensities, which isn’t bad. As you’d expect of Garmin, GPS pick-up and retention is good; syncing is swift to wirelessly send data to Garmin Connect; and the five buttons are easy to use on the fly. That said, we prefer the touchscreen-button combo of the 620. And as the updated 235 has just hit the shelves, it might be worth holding off purchase.

Verdict: Does a good job but suspect 235 will be superior 81%



Just when we’d got over the Sigma’s iPhone-GPS reliance, along comes this Timex offering similar functionality. Yes, to tap into the pace, distance and speed features of the X50+, first you need a smartphone. But overlooking the hefty joint fiscal and weight outlay, the Bluetooth connection between the two is more erratic here than with the Sigma.

When things do sync, though, you can access email and calendar notifications, and your phone’s music files. Also, like many Timex products, the X50+ is waterproof to 50m. That said, unless you waterproof your phone and strap it to your swim cap, you’ll lose many of the features. The Timex app’s designed for connectivity but it can then upload to third-party apps like Strava. But in this instant world, it seems a clumsy method of analysis.

Verdict: Some decent usability inclusions, but there are better Timex products 71%



The TomTom’s another wrist-based unit that’s integrated the optical sensor from Mio, though in a display pod that can be squeezed in and out of the wrist strap. With the original, users complained that this’d often fall out. Thankfully, the update has solved this problem. As well as heart rate, you’re given the usual pacing metrics, though satellite pick-up could be quicker, especially when confronted with an urban backdrop. Scrolling through the features is via a square button beneath the display, which works fine, though adds bulk to a pretty hefty training tool, made worse by a particularly wide wrist strap. It’s certainly something to bear in mind if you have twig-like wrists. TomTom’s MySports app offers a smartphone and computer platform for analysis, though it’s a touch rudimentary.

Verdict: A solid monitor but its feature list doesn't warrant its size 74%

POLAR M400 (220 best on test)


The M400 is Polar’s second integrated GPS watch, coming off the back of the much more expensive but still impressive V800, which we tested back in issue 299. Whereas the V800 was aimed at multisporters, this is more run-specific – there is a cycling option but no sensors. You can customise data fields via the online Polar Flow software, which also supports impressive analysis.

The screen is crystal clear and offers up to four fields of data – and, for this price, there’s a lot of data to work with. You can train to HR zones; receive a running index based on HR and speed data; and altitude logs the rise and fall of your run. There are numerous more features that we don’t have space to list, but what’s important is that each feature serves a purpose and is easily used.

Verdict: A great watch with loads of very useful features at a very impressive price 92%

Continue reading our guide to this year's best run watches (3/3)


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