Whether you are a novice runner or a pro, a GPS watch is a great way to track your workout and improve your performance. A GPS watch is a better option than a smartphone, because its GPS is more accurate. Also it is more comfortable to run without carrying your phone.
However, there are a lot of GPS running watches out there and it is not easy to pick the best one for you. All watches have standard features like GPS tracking and heart rate monitoring. Other features (battery life, custom workouts, companion app, activity tracking and other premium features) might vary from watch to watch. Below we’ll walk you through the list of best budget GPS watches.
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1. Garmin Forerunner 45
The Best Budget Running Watch
- Color display
- Long battery life
- Monitors sleep quality
- Garmin Coach adaptive training plans
- Body Battery and stress tracking
- Safety Assistance, Incident Detection
The Garmin Forerunner 45 is the best budget running watch in our list. It comes with an impressive amount of features to accurately track runs and other workouts at a great price.
The Forerunner 45 is the successor to the popular Forerunner 35. Compared to its predecessor, the 45 has a modern-looking, circular design and color display. The Forerunner 45 also has many new features, like Garmin Coach, safety assistance, incident detection, Connect IQ support for custom watch faces.
In addition to the usual running metrics (time, pace, and distance), the 45 offers other metrics like cadence or VO2 max level.
Garmin Coach is a new feature to create adaptive training plans for 5k, 10k and half marathon events. These plans feature guidance from expert coaches. You can also create and follow your own structured workouts on your wrist.
Garmin’s new Body Battery metric estimates your energy levels – a score out of a 100. Garmin uses a combination of heart rate variability (HRV), sleep and activity data to derive Body Battery metric. A low score suggests it is time to rest to restore some power.
The Forerunner 45 includes new safety and tracking features.
Incident Detection is triggered if the watch detects an incident (crash/fall) while running or cycling. It automatically notifies up to three emergency contacts with a text message and a live tracking link of your location.
With Safety Assistance feature, you can send an emergency message to your predefined contacts if you feel unsafe. It will also send a live tracking link, so that your contacts can track your location.
It supports not only GPS but also GLONASS and Galileo satellite systems. You can enable GPS+GLONASS satellites for improved accuracy – especially if you’re running under tree cover.
You’ll get 13 hours of battery life in GPS mode – 7 days in smartwatch mode.
The 45 will track your everyday activities – steps, calories, sleep, active minutes across the week and heart rate.
You can pair your Forerunner 45 with your phone to enable notifications. The 45 will alert you to incoming texts, calls, WhatsApps, SMS, Facebook and other notifications.
Other than running, the 45 supports cycling, indoor track, treadmill, elliptical, cardio, yoga and more.
It is waterproof up to 50 meters. You can swim with it but there’s no swimming tracking on the watch.
It also supports ANT+ sensors, so you can pair up additional sensors like chest strap, cycling speed/cadence sensor or foot pod.
The Forerunner 45 has a new round design and colour screen. Compared to the Forerunner 35, it has an extra button (three buttons on the left and two buttons on the right). Buttons are labeled clearly that makes it easy to navigate the interface.
The Forerunner 45 comes in two sizes, the 45 (42mm case size) and and the 45S (39mm case size). However, both have the same screen size. The 45S is slightly lighter (32g) than the 45 (36g).
You can customize your watch face by downloading custom watch faces from Garmin Connect IQ store.
2. Garmin Forerunner 35
Great Entry-Level Running Watch
- Long battery life
- Music controls
- Bright, easy-to-read display
- LiveTrack safety feature
The Forerunner 35 is a comfortable GPS watch with soft silicone bands. It tracks all key metrics for runners (time, distance, pace, and heart rate) and has a few extra features. The Forerunner 35 is an excellent entry-level running watch for the price.
Compared to the Forerunner 45, it lacks color display and features like Garmin Coach, Connect IQ custom watch face support, body battery, stress tracking. Nevertheless, the Forerunner 35 is still a solid running watch providing the essential metrics.
The Forerunner 35 also has LiveTrack safety feature. When enabled, it allows predefined list of recipients (friends and family) to track you in real time.
The Forerunner 35 picks GPS signal quickly but it only supports GPS satellites – the Forerunner 45 also supports GLONASS and Galileo satellites. For indoor tracking (like treadmill), the Forerunner 35 uses built-in accelerometer.
The watch has a long battery life – up to 13 hours in GPS mode, up to 9 days in smartwatch mode.
This watch tracks your activity 24/7 – steps , heart rate and sleep. It even gives a breakdown of how much time you spent in light and deep sleep.
You can also receive smartphone notifications (calls, text, email and other notifications) on the watch screen.
It tracks certain activities: indoor running, outdoor running, walking, cycling and cardio. You can also pair up additional ANT+ sensors like chest straps, foot pods or cycling speed/cadence sensors. The Forerunner 35 allows you to create interval workouts and you can follow them from your watch.
The Forerunner 35 has a square plastic case with 128-by-128-pixel black-and-white display. Its monochrome display features big fonts, so display can be easily read during a run.
3. Coros Apex
Feature-Packed Triathlete Watch with Amazing Battery Life
- Incredible battery life
- Very accurate HR tracking
- Lightweight and sleek design
- Easy navigation with digital crown
- 100m waterproof
Coros packed impressive range of features into the Coros Apex to track your runs and other workouts. It has an amazing battery life (35 Hours Normal GPS Mode / 30 Days Regular Use) and it’s cheaper than its competitors with similar specs.
This watch has an excellent companion app – the Coros app. You can create and follow workouts with this app. It is also compatible with third party apps like Strava, TrainingPeaks, Relive, Final Surge.
Coros Apex has a smart stride length calculator. Thus, it can estimate the distance, even when the watch loses GPS signal.
The Coros Apex comes with a barometric altimeter, compass, accelerometer, and gyroscope for precise measurements. You will also get some advanced metrics – VO2 max, lactate threshold, and threshold pace.
GPS, GLONASS, and BDS satellites are supported, so it can accurately track you wherever you are. The Coros Apex is very quick to lock on to GPS and both versions of the Coros Apex have impressive battery life.
42mm: 25 Hours Normal GPS Mode (80 Hours UltraMax GPS Mode) / 24 Days Regular Use.
46mm: 35 Hours Normal GPS Mode (100 Hours UltraMax GPS Mode) / 30 Days Regular Use.
The Apex also comes with daily activity tracking features – step counts, heart rate, calories burned, floors climbed, exercise time, and sleep tracking.
This watch also offers some smartwatch features. It can display smart notifications like texts, emails, phone call alerts.
The Apex offers many sports modes – run, bike, indoor bike, open water swim, pool swim, ski, GPS cardio, indoor cardio. The watch provides some in-depth training stats like stamina remaining, running power, aerobic and anaerobic training effect.
Coros Apex has a color LCD display. The watch is built with a titanium alloy bezel and a sapphire glass screen. The band of the Coros Apex is made of silicone and is comfortable. It has a digital crown in the upper right that can be used to scroll through menus and pages.
The Coros Apex comes in two sizes – the 46mm, and the 42mm.
4. Coros Pace 2
The Lightest GPS Watch
- Lightest GPS watch
- Measures running power from the wrist
- High-resolution display
- Great battery life
- Strava, TrainingPeaks integration
The Coros Pace 2 is one of the lightest GPS watches. It weighs just 29g including the nylon band, it’s hardly noticeable on the wrist.
The Pace 2 has an optical heart rate monitor, built-in GPS, and all the core sensors. It is also equipped with barometric altimeter, accelerometer, compass, gyroscope and thermometer. The watch packs in excellent features at a great price.
It comes with companion app, Coros app. With Coros app, you can create and share training plans, structured workouts and follow them from your wrist. Coros app easily integrates with 3rd party platforms – Strava, TrainingPeaks, Relive, Final Surge and Runalyze.
It also offers advanced fitness metrics like estimated V02 Max, lactate threshold and threshold pace.
The Pace 2 has built-in GPS and it also supports GLONASS, BEIDOU satellite systems. The watch accompanied by an accelerometer, gyroscope and altimeter for accurate tracking. It offers 30 hours of GPS battery life (20 days with regular use).
The Pace 2 tracks all-day activity like heart rate, steps, calories burned, activity minutes, floors climbed. It also tracks sleep and even gives a breakdown of deep and light sleep.
The watch supports smartphone notifications, it displays notifications from your phone for calls, texts and emails. It also has Do Not Disturb mode. This mode allows you to mute all notifications (during Do Not Disturb period, you can still view notifications from the Notification widget).
It can track wide variety of activities – running, treadmill, cycling (indoor/outdoor), swimming (indoor/open water) with waterproofing up to 50m. It even has a triathlon mode.
The Pace 2 comes with a Strength Training program with more than 200 upper body, lower body, and core exercises. Muscle heat map displays history of completed exercises for each muscle group.
The Coros Pace 2 features an always-on memory LCD panel. These memory LCD displays have ultra-low power consumption. It has an easy-to-read colour display (64-color). The Pace 2 is super lightweight – just 29g. Nylon or silicone band options are available with different colors.
5. Polar Ignite 2
Stylish Mid-Range Fitness Watch
- Stylish design
- FitSpark adaptive training guidance
- Very accurate GPS
- Ambient light sensor
- Bluetooth Smart HR broadcasting
- Weather reports
- Great sleep insights
Polar’s new sports watch Ignite 2 was released in April 2021. This watch is successor to the Polar Ignite.
One of the major improvements over its predecessor is the ability to broadcast your heart rate to 3rd party Bluetooth devices like training apps or gym equipment.
There is no onboard music storage, but you can control music on your smartphone. Ignite 2 also comes with new weather forecast widget.
The Ignite 2 packs in all the core sensors like Precision Prime optical heart rate sensor and built-in GPS, but it lacks SpO2 sensor for blood oxygen measurements.
You can change the colour of the screen from watch face themes.
Polar’s FitSpark is an excellent feature for personalized workout recommendations. It suggests workouts based on your training history and your recovery rate. You can follow workouts on the watch.
The Ignite 2 also offers some advanced metrics like Cardio Load and Running Index. Cardio Load shows the strain your training session put on your cardiovascular system. Running Index is a metric about your maximal aerobic running performance.
The Ignite 2 has built-in GPS and it supports GPS, GLONASS, Galileo and QZSS satellites, so that it can accurately track you wherever you are. The watch lasts up to 20 hours in GPS mode and up to 5 days in smartwatch mode.
You can use the watch as an activity tracker, all-day heart rate tracking, sleep tracking, stress monitoring. It provides detailed sleep and recovery analysis. It logs your time spent in each sleep stage (REM, Deep, and Light).
You can also access your Nightly Recharge status from your watch. Nightly Recharge is a recovery measurement that shows you how well you recover from training and stress. This measurement is based on your sleep quality and autonomic nervous system.
You can receive notifications when connected to the smartphone, but replying to notifications isn’t supported.
There is also no onboard music storage, though it features music controls widget to control music on your phone.
It also comes with a weather dashboard that displays current weather information (like temperature, wind speed and direction, humidity level) and weather forecasts.
The Ignite 2 will track running, treadmill, cycling, yoga, strength training and supports many different activities (up to 130 sport profiles). In strength training mode, it displays your heart rate, duration, and calories burned.
It’s water resistant up to 30 meters, so it’s suitable for both pool and open water swimming.
The watch has a circular design with 43mm case and stainless steel bezel. The case is made of glass reinforced polymer. It’s ver lightweight – weighs just 35g with the wristband, 21g without the wristband.
It has a color touchscreen display with 240×204 resolution.
It has a standard silicone strap which is very comfortable and other strap options you go for. The Ignite 2 comes in four different colour options: black, blue, champagne/gold and pink/rose. Polar offers customisable watch faces with various colour themes.