The 6 best GPS fitness and smartwatches in 2024, according to a competitive athlete

It’s no secret that our society is deep in the throes of a years-long fitness binge. These days, the people I encounter at gyms—and in offices, elevators, and restaurants—are more likely to know their heart rate variability than their Social Security number. Years of being locked out of gyms and swimming pools have led to a huge backlash in health and wellbeing; that’s a great thing.

An increased collective interest in our own biometric data is leading to a wearables industry that seems to reinvent itself every year. The pieces of technology we wear for exercise, recovery and sleep are much more powerful than they were in pre-pandemic times or even last year; they are also much more expensive. When choosing a fitness tracker, you can’t go wrong with the six options I tested and listed below: they all have good battery life, impeccable GPS capabilities, and many can even alert you to an irregular heartbeat. Yet they all vary from each other in subtle but important ways. Read on to find out which smartwatch is best for you.

Best Buy Canada

At some point in the past year, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 seemed to be as ubiquitous as the iPhone. I’m not surprised: Even at $1,099, this versatile wristpiece is a good investment for Apple users. Behind the bright, customizable display and titanium casing is essentially a copy of your iPhone with access to your apps, podcasts, music, fitness profile, wallet and more. The Ultra 2 also comes with a few new tricks: on-device Siri, a precision viewfinder for your other Apple devices, and a streamlined functionality that lets you control the ring by simply double-tapping your index finger and thumb together.

That said, the Ultra 2 comes with a few minor pitfalls for hardcore athletes. The head is relatively clunky compared to Apple’s smaller models, or whatever Garmin predecessor; and the range of functionalities is also enough to confuse those who just want pace and time. Still, there’s no better option for those who want a mini phone on their wrist.


  • Most advanced edge and interface
  • Sensitive to heartbeat
  • Nice double tap feature

  • Awkward
  • Glitchy connection with Strava

$1,100 at Best Buy Canada

If I dare to climb the Himalayas one day, I want to… Polar Grit X2 Pro on my wrist. Yes, this Swiss Army knife as a watch costs a small fortune, but it has the strength to back it up. Not only is it physically indestructible (the bezel is stainless steel and wrapped in scratch-resistant sapphire crystal glass), but it also comes with military-grade navigation technology. That includes a GPS map that can be accessed even offline, providing accurate elevation profiles, an altimeter, a step-by-step path forward, and also directions on how to return to a previous point on your journey.

It’s the antidote to Murphy’s Law. What I like about it is that it also meets my more basic fitness requirements: like inferring my exertion level and workout readiness from my heart rate.


  • Military-grade navigation technology
  • Scratch-resistant screen
  • Advanced sleep tracking

  • Heavy on the wrist
  • Complicated onboarding

$1,100 at Polar

While the Apple Watch Ultra 2 is becoming a popular wristwatch for the masses, COROS positions itself as the watch brand for professional athletes. You don’t have to be a world-class runner or triathlete to buy and enjoy the Vertix 2s, but using the specs will make you feel like one. It has an optical sensor that captures accurate heart rate data, provides personalized nutrition tips and even produces incoming storm warnings. Everything is displayed – along with pace and distance of course – on an endlessly sexy and easy-to-use COROS app that integrates seamlessly with Stravathe fitness platform for athletes.

There is no confusion that the watch is made for high performance. The whole package of the Vertix 2s is more robust than that of the Apple Watch or Garmins, and tough as nails: the titanium bezel and sapphire screen can withstand extreme cold and heat and even work up to 100 meters underwater.


  • Ultra compatible with third party apps
  • Built-in training system
  • Huge battery life

  • Obvious sports watch aesthetic
  • Screen could be brighter
  • Irritating strap

$699 at Coros


I’ve been a competitive distance runner for over a decade, and the Garmin Forerunner 935 is the most useful to me in training than any watch on this list. Of course, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 has no parallel as a 24-hour wearable, but from the start of my workout to the end of it, I’m all 935.

Here’s why: Many wearables collect a ton of data and then pass it on to you without conclusion; while Forerunner 935 collects information about your sleep quality, previous training week and heart rate variability, compares it to your scores over time and provides suggestions on how hard you can train based on previous sessions.

The pointers help me avoid overtraining and even injury, and the suggestions make sense: They align with the plans prescribed to me by running coaches, and I now trust them enough to guide my decision about the timing of tough workouts. The watch also weighs just 49 grams, which is incredibly light for the power it packs.


  • Accurate training load data
  • Great battery life
  • Triathlon friendly

  • Less integration with phone than Apple or Google Watch
  • Weaker than the Grit X2 and Vertix 2s

$458 at Amazon

If you’re looking for a smartwatch that’s an extension of your phone, you’ll likely choose between the Ultra or the Pixel, depending on whether you already rely on team Apple or Android. I’m an Apple guy and had never tried a Pixel Watch until Google gave this one to me to test.

It’s like a Fitbit on steroids, with a full library of workouts and mindfulness sessions, which are more useful for those looking for guidance or motivation than experienced athletes. The latter may find the offering elementary and prefer the in-depth data of a Vertix 2s, for example. But because I’m more stressed than most, the appeal of the Pixel 2 for me was the stress feedback.

The watch suggests mindfulness exercises based on physical feedback it collects, such as heart rate and skin temperature, with boosted sensors from the original Pixel. Now, the watch itself won’t de-stress you – that’s up to you – but the reminders to catch your breath are useful nonetheless.


  • In-depth monthly analysis of the sleep profile
  • Comes with six free months of Fitbit Premium
  • Affordable

  • Lack of high-level training data
  • The automatic training mode may be too sensitive

$479 at Amazon


These days, high-quality wearables for under $300 are hard to come by; but the Garmin Forerunner 55 is the exception. I’ve been a long-time fan of the Forerunner series because, as a distance runner, these watches provide me with the simple but crucial basics – pace, time, distance – without having to search through a network of features.

Of course, you may not be able to accept calls, send emails, or double-tap through thirty or so apps, like with the Apple Watch; and I’ve found that the personalized features like the race time predictor and fitness calculator are less on target for me than those of the Coros Vertix 2s or the Polar Grit X2. But the Forerunner is indistinguishable from its counterparts during a workout, aside from the fact that it is pleasantly lighter.

Bonus: fewer frills means less battery usage. The Forerunner 55 can last two weeks without charging.


  • Comfortable silicone strap
  • Long battery life
  • Clear interface

  • No phone/computer like capabilities
  • Limited data collection capacity

$270 at Amazon

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