The Best Running and Sport Watches in Australia for Men and Women [2019]

Best Garmin watch

Author: The Adventure Lab Staff

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Running and multi-sport watches have come a long way over the past few years - heart rate monitoring, GPS, training programs, bluetooth music... the list goes on. It can be pretty overwhelming when trying to decide which features you need and which you don't.

To assist with your search for the best sports watch to suit your needs, we’ve created this in-depth buyers guide to help you find the perfect sports watch for your needs.

After the summary table below, we provide a run-down on what the key features are to look out for when choosing your watch, followed by reviews of some of the best products currently on the market.


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PRODUCT
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Vivoactive watch review
OUR #1 RATED

Garmin VivoActive 3

Best with SmartWatch Functionality

  • Multi-sport functionality
  • GPS
  • Heart rate monitoring
  • Touchscreen
  • Bluetooth music
  • Contactless payment
  • Looks great


Garmin running watch

Garmin Forerunner 935

Best for Triathletes

  • GPS
  • Heart rate monitoring
  • Tough
  • Great battery life
  • Advanced multi-sport tracking
  • Frequent software updates


Forerunner review

Garmin Forerunner 235

Best for Runners

  • GPS
  • Heart rate monitoring
  • Lightweight
  • Great running specific features
  • Affordable for a Garmin device


Polar sports watch review

Polar M430

Best for Runners on a budget

  • GPS + HR monitoring
  • Smart Coaching features advice on running efficiency
  • Great battery life
  • Activity Tracker & Sleep monitor
  • Affordable


Fenix 5 Review

Garmin Fenix 5

Best Premium Multi-Sport Watch

  • Premium face and strap
  • GPS
  • Heart rate monitoring
  • Great battery life
  • Advanced multisport tracking
  • Heavy duty


APPLE WATCH FOR SPORT AND RUNNING

Apple Watch Series 4

Best for iPhone integration

  • Iphone integration
  • Smartwatch features
  • GPS
  • Heart rate monitoring


Suunto Core watch review

Suunto Core

Best for Hikers

  • More affordable than other options
  • Accurate “ABC” measurements
  • Rugged
  • Great for hiking

Choosing the Best Sports Watch

Whether you are looking for a luxurious, high-end multi sport watch, or simply something cheap to track your runs and heart rate, here are the key things you should keep in mind as you do your research.

Features

Sports watches these days come with a huge range of features. Which ones you need and don’t need will depend on what you are looking to get from your watch.

1. GPS
Most of the watches in this review have GPS capability, which is key if you want to track routes and distances. However if you’re in the market for a general outdoors or hiking watch, GPS may not be necessary, and you could opt for something like the Suunto Core.

2. Training programs
Are you training for a 5k, 10k, half or full marathon? Many of these watches have integrated training programs to help you keep on track of progress and reach your goals.

3. Heart Rate Monitoring
One of the big improvements in this space over the past few years is the integration of heart rate monitoring into watches. This allows the wearer to monitor training intensity and goals without the need for additional equipment.

4. Multisport Options
Are you looking for a running watch or something than can be used across a broader range of activities? The Polar M430 and Garmin Forerunner 235 are very popular running watches, while something like the Garmin 935, Fenix 5 or VivoActive will be more suitable for triathletes or multi sport activities.

Size & Weight

Sports watches can range anywhere between 30g - 90g in weight.

Those looking for a rugged, multipurpose watch, that they can wear for hiking and other outdoor activities, will likely be looking more at the heavier end of that spectrum, with watches like the Garmin Fenix 5.

However if you have small wrists, or are looking for a specific running watch you may want to focus more on the low profile, lightweight options.

Usability

As more and more features are being added to watches, it’s important that they remain easy to use and that you find the touchscreen navigation intuitive.

iPhone users will find the integration of the Apple watch with their phone a big plus, however if you’re looking for integration with advanced exercise tracking and training programs, you may prefer one of the more exercise specific platforms like those from Garmin.

Battery Life

To assess the battery life on modern sports watches, you need to understand the various modes, and how long you expect to use each mode between charging.


Sports Watch Reviews

#1 Garmin VivoActive 3 Review

TOP PICK

Vivoactive watch review

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A recent addition to the Garmin family, the VivoActive 3 is a modern GPS enabled watch offering market leading multi-sport functionality, combined with smartwatch features such as contactless payment and bluetooth music.

It comes with 15 preloaded GPS and indoor sports apps, including yoga, running, swimming and more, meaning it performs just as well in the gym as it does out in the hills, or in the water.

Advantages over the Garmin 235 include it’s touchscreen, contactless payment, music functionality, and multisport options. Downsides of the VivoActive 3 vs the 935/Fenix 5 include lower internal storage and inferior battery life.

At only 43g, it is very much suitable for runners, both male and female. Further, with a stainless steel bezel and circular case, it looks great, and would be suitable for casual wear, unlike some of the more running specific watches.

Overall, this is an awesome addition to the Garmin range, combining their high tech sport functionality with stylish design and smartwatch features.

Pros
  • Multisport functionality
  • GPS
  • Heart rate monitoring
  • Touchscreen
  • Bluetooth music
  • Contactless payment
  • Looks great                                              
cons
  • Battery life
  • Expensive (but reasonable for a Garmin watch)

#2 Garmin Forerunner 935 Review

Garmin running watch

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The 935 is Garmin’s premium multi-sport watch. It looks great on the wrist and is a step above the competition in terms of features and functionality. It offers a plethora of running specific tracking functions such as stride length and steps per minute, along with advanced tracking for cycling and swimming, making it a perfect option for triathletes.

As you would expect the 935 is fully enabled with both GPS and Heart Rate monitoring capability. However where this watch really stands out from the competition is the features designed specifically to assist athletes with performance, training and recovery.

At 49g it is fairly middle of the road, but certainly heavier than some of the low-profile, running specific products on the market. Battery life is very impressive, at 2 weeks in watch mode, or 24hrs with GPS mode enabled.

Another big plus of the 935 is with it’s great looking circular face, it can easily be used as an everyday watch - made easier by Garmin’s QuickFit bands (sporty silicone, classic leather, or high-end metal), allowing you to easily switch the band to suit the occasion.

The 935 is waterproof to 50m and comes with built-in barometer, altimeter and electronic compass to help you keep your bearings.

Pros
  • GPS
  • Heart rate monitoring
  • Tough
  • Great battery life
  • Advanced multi-sport tracking
  • Frequent software updates                  
cons
  • Expensive                                                  

#3 Garmin Forerunner 235 Review

best value

Forerunner review

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Another great offering in Garmin’s Forerunner range, the 235 is a high-end sports watch super popular amongst running enthusiasts. 

While still coming loaded with GPS, heart rate monitoring, and performance and training tracking, it is very much a running specific watch, in contrast with Garmin’s more premium multi-sport devices.

At 42g, it is both lighter and thinner than the 935, making it more suitable for weight conscious runners, or those with smaller wrists.

Downsides of the 235 include it’s fairly poor battery life, and the fact it is now a few years old.

Pros
  • GPS
  • Heart rate monitoring
  • Lightweight
  • Great running specific features
  • Affordable for a Garmin device            
cons
  • Battery life
  • Almost 3 years old                                  

#4 Polar M430 Review

Polar sports watch review

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With the M430, Polar have taken the M400, one of the most popular running watches over the past decade, and integrated heart rate monitoring sensors, removing the need for a chest strap.

A strong contender to the Garmin 235, the Polar provides a range of features that you would expect from any advanced running watch, which integrate seamlessly with their mobile and desktop apps.

Pros
  • GPS + HR monitoring
  • Smart Coaching features advise on running efficiency
  • Great battery life
  • Activity Tracker & Sleep monitor
  • Affordable
cons
  • Less suitable to multisport                     

#5 ​Garmin Fenix 5 Review

Fenix 5 Review

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Another one of Garmin’s premium multisport watches, the Fenix 5 is in essence a beefed up version of the 935.

They both offer Garmin’s full range of activity and performance tracking, as well as the optical heart rate sensor and interchangeable bands.

Key differences are the metal casing on the Fenix as opposed to the plastic on the 935, and the superior waterproofing on the Fenix (up to 100m).

This of course contributes to a difference in weight, with the Fenix 5 coming in around 85g, which is very much at the heavy end of the spectrum for a sports watch, and definitely heavier than most would like for a running watch.

The Fenix 5 is therefore more suitable for people looking for a premium, tough, heavy duty, sport and adventure watch.

Pros
  • GPS
  • Premium face and strap
  • Heart rate monitoring
  • Great battery life
  • Advanced multi-sport tracking
  • Heavy duty                                               
cons
  • Expensive
  • Heavy                                                        

#6 Apple Watch Series 4 Review

APPLE WATCH FOR SPORT AND RUNNING

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More an everyday watch with sport functionalities than a runner/athlete specific watch, the Apple Watch is a great option for those who like the idea of Iphone integration and don’t demand too much in terms of exercise tracking capability. It's also very customisable, much more so than other watches on this list.

The Apple Watch includes both GPS and a heart rate sensor meaning it can track all the basics you need as a runner. It is also lightweight, water resistant to 50m, and contains a barometric altimeter to measure altitude.

Where it may fall short when compared to the likes of Garmin’s watches, is in its lack of high end running functionality. It also doesn’t have a great battery life.

Also worth mentioning is the Nike Apple sportswatch, which comes with a custom perforated band and several faces not included on the regular version. Otherwise the two models are the same.

Pros
  • Iphone integration
  • Smartwatch features
  • GPS
  • Heart rate monitoring                           
cons
  • Battery
  • Requires minimum of IPhone 5s or 6 (depending on watch model)
  • Running app not as advanced as other options

#7 Suunto Core Review

Suunto Core watch review

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A more affordable offering than others on this list, the Suunto Core has been a favourite amongst outdoor enthusiasts for many years.

The Core is an “ABC” watch meaning it combines the features of an altimeter, barometer, and compass. The big difference between this watch and others on our list is it doesn’t have either GPS or heart rate monitoring capability.

While being a high quality watch with accurate measurements, it is likely more suitable to hikers, or general outdoor enthusiasts, rather than runners or athletes looking for exercise tracking capability.

Pros
  • More affordable than other options
  • Accurate “ABC” measurements
cons
  • No heart rate monitoring
  • No GPS                                                     

verdict

As you can see, if there’s some great watches on the market offering a huge range in terms of features and functionality. 

Which one is best for you really comes down to both your requirements and budget. We’re big fans of the VivoActive 3, as it provides advanced multisport tracking capability, combined with the latest in smartwatch technology. If we were in training for a marathon or triathlon and required advanced features and improved battery life, we’d go for the Forerunner 935.