6 best GPS fitness and smart watches in 2024, according to a competitive athlete

It’s no secret that our society is deep in the midst of a fitness kick of the years. These days, the people I meet at gyms — and offices, elevators and restaurants — are more likely to know their heart rate variability than their social security number. Due to years of being locked out of gyms and swimming pools, there is a huge backlash to health and fitness; that’s a great thing.

A growing collective interest in our own biometric data has created 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 deciding on a fitness tracker, you can’t go wrong with the six options I’ve tested and listed below: they all have good battery life, unbeatable GPS capabilities, and many of them may even to be informed of an irregular heartbeat. However, they all differ 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 its bright, customizable display and titanium shell is basically 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: Siri on the device, a precision finder for your other Apple devices, and a slim functionality that lets you control the bezel by double-tapping your index and thumb together.

That said, the Ultra 2 does come with some minor drawbacks for hardcore athletes. The head is rather clunky compared to Apple’s smaller models, or, say, any Predecessor of Garmin; and the range of functionalities is also enough to confuse those who just want speed and time. However, there is no better option for those who want a mini phone on their pile.


  • Most sophisticated bezel and interface
  • Sensitive to heart rate
  • Fun two-tap functionality

  • Clonach
  • Glitchy pairing with Strava

$1,100 at Best Buy Canada


If, one day, I dare to scale the Himalayas, I will try the Grit Polar X2 Pro on my hand Yes, this Swiss army knife-as-a-watch costs a small fortune, but it has the muscle to back it up. Not only is it physically indestructible (the stainless steel bezel is wrapped around scratch-resistant sapphire crystal glass) it also comes with military-grade navigation technology. This includes a GPS map that is accessible even when you are offline, providing accurate elevation profiles, an altimeter, turn-by-turn directions and also directions on how to return to any other point on your journey.

It is the antidote to Murphy’s law. What I like about this is that it also fulfills my more basic fitness needs: like taking my effort levels and workout readiness from my heart rate.


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

  • Heavy on the wrist
  • Complicated boarding

$1,100 at Polar


While the Apple Watch Ultra 2 is becoming a popular wristpiece for the masses, COROS It is positioning itself as a 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 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 alerts. It’s all displayed – along with speed and distance, of course – on the infinitely sexy and user-friendly COROS app that seamlessly integrates with Stravathe fitness platform for athletes.

There is no mistaking that the watch is made for high performance. The entire package of Vertix 2s is more rugged than that of the Apple Watch or Garmins, and it is tough as nails: the titanium bezel and sapphire screen can withstand very cold and heat and it even works 100 meters underwater.


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

  • Aesthetic watch clear sports watch
  • Display could be brighter
  • Strap irritating

$699 at Coros


I’ve been a competitive distance runner for over ten years, and the Garmin Forerunner 935 has been the most useful for me while training of any watch on this list. Sure, there’s no parallel to the Apple Watch Ultra 2 as a daily wear, but from the start of my workout to the end, I’m all 935.

Here’s why: many wearables collect a lot of data, and then give it to you without any conclusion; but the Forerunner 935 collects information about your sleep quality, the previous week of training, and heart rate variability, compares it to your scores over time, and offers recommendations on how hard you should push based on previous sessions.

The tips help me avoid overtraining, even injury, and the recommendations make sense: they’re on par with the plans laid out for me by current coaches, and I now have enough confidence to guide my timing decisions the hard times. It’s also only 49 grams per hour, which is incredibly light for the punch it packs.


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

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

$458 at Amazon


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

It’s like a Fitbit on steroids, with a whole library of workouts and mindfulness sessions, more helpful for people looking for guidance or motivation than seasoned athletes. The latter may have the entry-level offering and prefer the depth of detail from, say, Vertix 2s. But, because I’m of a higher streak than most, the draw of the Pixel 2 for me was the stress feedback.

The watch recommends mindfulness practices based on body feedback it collects like heart rate and skin temperature, with sensors souped up from the original Pixel. Now, the watch won’t bother you on its own – that’s up to you – but the reminders to take a breather are helpful nonetheless.


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

  • Lack of advanced training data
  • Auto-workout mode can be too sensitive

$479 at Amazon


These days, quality furnishings under $300 are hard to come by; but the Garmin Forerunner 55 is the exception. I’m a longtime fan of the Forerunner series because, as a distance runner, these watches provide me with the simple yet vital basics – speed, time, distance – without having to hunt through a web of functionalities.

Sure, you might not be able to take calls, send emails or navigate your way through a dozen apps like the Apple Watch; and I found the personalized functions like the race time predictor and fitness calculator to be less on target for me than those from the Coros Vertix 2s or Polar Grit X2. But the Forerunner is indistinguishable from its peers during exercise – apart from the fact that it’s noticeably lighter.

Bonus: less frills means less battery usage. The Advance 55 can last for two weeks without charge.


  • Comfortable silicone band
  • Long battery life
  • Simple interface

  • No phone/computer capability
  • Limited data collection capabilities

$270 at Amazon

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