When it comes to the Garmin watches under 500 dollars, we all know that there are a lot of them out there. Almost half the products by the company are priced below this budget range.
The US-based company has many top-tier smartwatches to its name. From the Garmin Vivofit Series for kids to Garmin Fenix Series for outdoor enthusiasts, it has come out of the shell of a sports-focused company.
Garmin Forerunner and Venu Series are two of the most popular by the company with almost all smartwatches under $500. Whereas, niche-specific Descent, Tactix, and Enduro Series are all above this price range.
If you are bicycling enthusiast, runner, swimmer, or hiker (and can afford to pay a little extra), this post is dedicated to you. Let’s jump into the post and find the best Garmin watch under 500.
Wait a minute. If this is your first Garmin watch and you are making a switch from Fitbit or Apple, there is a brief buying guide below to help you.
Storage: 7 Timed Activities, 14 Days Of Activity Tracking Data
Water Resistance: 50 Meters (5atm)
This is the perfect watch for kids who love to be outdoors and active. It offers everything you need in order to make your kid want to get up and move around more often. Vivofit Jr 3 competes head to head with Fitbit Ace and Vodafone Neo but is a little pricy
In the display department, it is quite small at a 1.4cm square design with a resolution of 112 x 112 pixels. The display is not as vibrant and crisp as we expected, but the color screen with Marvel and Disney theme UI gives it an edge. It doesn’t have a touch screen which means that you will need to use the buttons on the side to navigate through it.
The Garmin Vivofit Jr 3 attaches to your child’s wrist and counts their steps and tells time. The watch comes in a unisex design but parents may purchase specific band colors to match gender/clothing preferences.
This smartwatch is easy to use and helps motivate kids to stay active and healthy with the encouragement of rewards for completing tasks and chores.
Battery life is long and can last up to 1 year, and you can certainly replace the coin-size battery.
Screen:0.93″ x 0.93″ (23.5 x 23.4 mm) |sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) (128 x 128 pixels)
Case size: 35.5 x 40.7 mm
Case thickness: 13.3mm
Band size: N/A
Weight: 37.3 g
Storage: 7 activities
Water resistance: 50 meters (5ATM)
Sensors: GPS, Accelerometer, heart rate
For those that love to run but don’t want to spend a fortune, Forerunner 35 is the perfect watch for you. The watch competes with the like of Amazfit GTS 2 mini, Bip U Pro, TomTom spark 3, and Polar M200e, and as true of all Garmin Watches, costs a little extra than its competition (priced at around $100).
Forerunner 35’s display is crisp and clear at a resolution of 128 x 128 pixels. The watch screen is 0.93-inch in size, with a considerable bezel. You would have to use two buttons on the side to navigate through the menus and dismiss smartphone notifications.
It has all of the necessary features that you would want in a running watch such as a built-in heart rate monitor, GPS tracker; and it acts as an all-day activity tracker. You have modes for walk, run outdoor, run indoor, and bike. However, despite being 5ATM water-resistant it can not track swimming.
The Forerunner 35 will last up to 9 days in watch mode and up to 10 hours in training mode. Of course, we don’t expect fast charging on this budget sports watch, magnetic charging would have been highly welcomed.
This is the perfect watch for someone who wants to upgrade from a basic fitness tracker or want to switch from a Fitbit Device. Forerunner 55 is a direct successor to FR45 and offers more of the same features with a stylish new lightweight design and a hefty price tag of around $200.
Like FR45 it lacks a touchscreen and instead features 5 buttons to navigate. The screen real estate is smaller for a 42mm watch, a big letdown for us. The buttons are easy to operate when your hands are sweaty or when there might be gloves on them.
Garmin’s prowess in GPS tracking is hard to beat, and FR55 is yet another proof of it. The watch can track distances, pace, and intervals daily stats, but lacks the onboard altimeter to track elevation. Apart from running, this waterproof watch can track swims too.
Other features include steps, heart rate, and stress monitoring. Advanced features like Body Battery, Fitness Age, and to our surprise, Garmin Coach are also included. Plus, it has both Incident Detection and Live Track. The company has surely taken a leaf out of the book of premium Fenix Series.
The standard USB-A charger is included in the box whereas the battery life is exceptional as expected at about two weeks between charges. In our research, the watch will hold up for roughly 20 hours in GPS mode.
The Garmin Instinct Tactical is a fantastic watch if you are looking to enjoy the great outdoors. It has a G-Shock look with many overlapping features. Instinct Tactical undercuts the premium Fenix 6 Series with its ABC sensors, long battery life, and practical health features.
Instinct Tactical has a 128px by 128px sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) display. The watch has a rugged casing for durability, an altimeter to measure ascent and descent, a compass that keeps track of your heading when you are in the wilderness, and weather updates.
The Garmin Instinct Tactical supports multiple global navigation satellites, which means you have access to GLONASS and Galileo in addition to GPS. The watch’s dual-position display uses both MGRS and degrees/minutes/seconds with enhanced backlight settings.
Other outdoor features include a retrace function that allows for wayfinding back to mark the location. However, it lacks mapping features found in heavy-weight Garmins. Also, there is no payment or Connect IQ app support.
In addition to outdoor tracking, It keeps track of my heart rate and stress levels throughout the day, and when asleep it measures your sleep stages and combined all these metrics in one comprehensive metric: Body battery.
As Garmin claims, the watch would last 14 days in normal smartwatch mode, 16 hours in GPS mode, 40 hours for Ultratrac battery. In our research, we find the battery life was pretty close to this claim.
With Garmin Lily, the company has made an attempt to woo a specific gender. The watch is a well-rounded health and fitness wearable aimed at women and competes with the likes of Withings Move or Fossil Hybrid Monroe HR. Priced almost half that of Venu 2S (More on that later), it covers all the basics but lacks the WoW factor.
The Garmin Lily is a monochrome LCD touchscreen watch, with a 34mm case and 14mm strap, which makes it perfect for women’s wrists. The straps are interchangeable and come in a variety of colors. The 240 x 210 pixels screen lacks the vibrancy and color contrast of Garmin Venu 2S but is bright enough to be viewed in direct sunlight.
The range of activities it can track include Walk, Run, Cardio, Strength Training, Yoga, Pool Swim, Bike, Treadmill, Pilates, Breathwork, Elliptical. However, to our surprise, the watch doesn’t have GPS on-board. There is no contactless payment on-board. A big letdown for us, and that is why we would recommend you Vivoactive 4S or Venu 2S instead.
Like Fitbit, the watch can measurer calories burned, daily total steps are taken; heart rate; and intensity minutes. Stress and Sleep tracking are comprehensive. Also, there are a few women-centric features like Period Tracking, Pregnancy planning and tracking, and the ability to log sexual activity.
Lastly, the battery juice lasts up to 5 days which is not surprising for a Garmin watch. The exceptional feature though is the fast charging support (0-100% in 90 minutes).
Garmin Venu Sq has almost every health and fitness tracking that Apple Watch offers, but it is quite cheaper. It comes with a square watch face with round edges, a break from the regular Garmin design. Apart from the Apple Watch Series 3, a few of its main rivals are Amazfit GTS/GTR 2, Fitbit Versa 3, and Fitbit Sense.
The Garmin Venu SQ has a unisex design with a low-resolution (240 x 240 pixels) LCD screen instead of the crisp, vibrant AMOLED we found on Garmin Venu and the latest Venu 2. The watch is big and boxier (but exceptionally lightweight) with two buttons on the side. The strap is replaceable if you don’t find it comfortable.
It’s got built-in GPS, a heart rate monitor, and even has the on-trend pulse ox sensor. The accuracy of all these sensors is spot-on. Other health metrics for fitness enthusiasts are stress, sleep, respiration, hydration, and menstrual cycle tracking. thankfully, Garmin doesn’t lock the advanced sleep tracking to its premium subscription.
The sports tracking is pretty standard at 20 pre-loaded GPS workouts that include running, cycling, walking, cardio, yoga/pilates, elliptical, swimming, golfing, and even skiing and snow sports. However, you shouldn’t expect the brilliant performance of Garmin’s higher-end watches though.
The watch can store up to 500 songs for offline playback without a connected smartphone. Plus, you got to download playlists from Spotify, Amazon Music, Deezer (if you have a premium account). For contactless payments, there is NFC on board. The standard notification support is there, along with tons of watch faces, but Garmin lacks when it comes to third-party apps support.
Venu SQ is a one-week watch depending on what features you prefer. The battery takes a hit when you turn on GPS and Always-on display mode, or listen to songs. Roughly speaker, you can use it for up to 20 hours with GPS or up to 14 hours with both GPS and music.
The smartwatch might not come with many of the bells and whistles you’ll find on other Garmins on this list, but it is certainly the best affordable option.
The Vivoactive’s screen is a color touchscreen that sits on top of a stainless steel casing. At 43g, the watch feels like a premium device but it is far from it. The 240 x 240 pixel MIP display is where it lags behind other smartwatches in which AMOLED has become a norm. (consider Amazfit GTS 2 Mini) Though comfortable enough, You can also switch out the silicon strap for any other 20mm quick release band you might want to purchase separately.
Despite the fact that the Garmin Vivoactive 3 is packed with smart features, it is first and foremost a GPS watch aimed at fitness enthusiasts. There are a number of sports modes to track the standard running, swimming, and advanced golf, skiing, and weight lifting among them. Also, it supports training in heart rate zone, VO2 max, and advanced running data like cadence, pace, and heart rate variations.
In the health department, the watch is missing on the SpO2 tracking, but does offer accurate heart rate monitoring(the best wrist-based optical heart sensors can offer) in line with the Fitbit Versa 3 and the Apple Watch.
Vivoactive 3 Music can store up to 500 songs (included support for Spotify, Amazon Music, iHeartradio) the same you get in Venu SQ Music and has an NFC chip for contactless payment. A word of advice, Garmin Pay-supported banks are limited outside of North America.
The battery performance is enough for casual use, 7 days on a single charge. However, if you prefer to use GPS-based sports tracking, it takes a beating and is reduced to mere 13 hours.
AMOLED display on a Garmin Watch was first introduced in the original Venu. Later released Venu 2/2S had a more refined version of it, the one that makes it at par with OLED Apple and Samsung Watches. Venu 2 offers clean and responsive UI, the latest Elevate Heart Rate sensor, and HIIT mode. Two sizes are available to fit both large and small wrists sizes.
The watch is pretty lightweight but has the rugged exterior typical of a Garmin device. Like mentioned earlier, it features a crisp, vibrant AMOLED display offering 416 x 416 pixels resolution. The brightness is clear to view in direct sunlight. We don’t have to scroll much as most widgets can fit inside a single view.
Up from the 20 GPS sports modes of its predecessor, Venu 2 offers 25 built-in GPS modes that include walking, running, swimming, golf, cycling, and many more. New names include High-intensity interval training, pilates, climbing, and bouldering. As expected, the GPS locks pretty fast and is highly accurate.
With the latest Elevate sensor, Garmin aimed at improving heart rate tracking accuracy as well as other health metrics like stress, sleep, respiration, and SpO2 tracking.
Aimed as a full smartwatch, Venu 2 offers standard notification alerts, Garmin Pay, Music storage, and third-party apps. However, the connect-IQ store has limited apps of which a great majority is that of fitness and sports-centric applications. The support for Spotify, Deezer, and Amazon Music is the same as Venu, but the Venu 2 can store 650 songs up from 500 in the original Venu.
Venu 2 boasts 11 days of battery life in smartwatch mode. In our experience, it is the first watch that features an AMOLED display and yet manages to get past a week of battery performance.
The Forerunner 245 is a fantastic watch for runners and sports enthusiasts in general, and with the most features and functions, you could ever want. The music variant is $50 expensive. Apart from the elevation and triathlon mode, this watch can offer almost all FR945 has.
Aimed specifically at runners, this watch is 42.3mm wide, 12.2mm thick, and 38.5g in weight. You can easily slide under your shirt or jacket cuff when fully buttoned up. The display lacks a touchscreen, and like most Garmins rely on 5 physical buttons for navigation. The display, despite being non-AMOLED, is clear and easily readable in direct sunlight.
It offers the same fitness feature as the Venu SQ and Venu 2, but it really shines when it comes to running. No matter what type you pick, (treadmill, track, trail, or road), the FR245 has a dedicated mode for it.
Also, there is a stat for almost everything your want to glance at while running: timers and laps, distances, paces, speeds, heart rates, and zones, running dynamics, cadence, race info, temperature, etc. If not enough, you can add data fields from Connect IQ store.
Apart from running, it offers decent stats for swimming too. And to our surprise, there is a mode for interval training. Swim tracking includes heart rate, lengths, distance, stroke type, and count, calories, and other bits. Other sports profiles include walking, yoga, rowing, and weight lifting.
Forerunner 245 Music is suitable for marathon running as the battery performance is enough to last a week and almost a day in GPS mode.
The Garmin Approach S42 is a mid-range golf GPS watch that auto-tracks shots and offers valuable data that more than justifies the price (around $300). The watch built and features clearly state that it is built specifically for the course.
With 15 hours battery life in GPS mode, a 1.2-inch color touchscreen display, and over 42,000 golf courses logged on your wrist, the Approach S42 is at par with Galaxy Watch active 2 Gold Edition and the Apple Watch Series 6, though later has an edge in third-party apps.
The color touchscreen display offers 240 x 240-pixel resolution. The display offers enough real estate to accommodate all the important metrics, and thanks to a transflective display, it is easily visible in direct sunlight.
The watch is suitable for both men and women with a 43.4 mm diameter, and 11.7mm thickness and the strap would fit wrist circumferences between 106mm and 176mm. Also, it is water-resistant to 5m in water, so even rain can’t stop you from playing golf.
The onboard sensors include GPS, gyroscope, and accelerometer, that apart from tracking your steps as a normal watch also automatically counts your shots. These sensors also enable the smartwatch to double as a fitness tracker. Combined with a heart rate sensor, the smartwatch allows you to keep track of your health metrics.
It offers 10 days of battery performance on essential mode. Whereas, the performance reduces to 15 hours at most when you play golf with GPS tracking enabled.
Connectivity: Bluetooth® Smart, ANT+®, Wi-Fi® with sapphire editions
The Fenix Series epitomizes the Garmin prowess in GPS tracking. Fenix 5 is an outstanding GPS watch that is meant for backcountry navigation, skiing, hiking, or in short all kind of outdoor adventures. With a solid list of the packed sensors, weeks-long battery performance, and a rugged build, the watch comes ready to face all kinds of challenges on tough terrain.
If you’re an outdoorsman and can’t afford to pay upward of $500, Garmin Fenix 5 Series is right there for you. The Fenix 5 is 47mm, 5S is 42mm and the later released 5X is 51mm.
The base edition can all be bought for under $500, but the price takes a steep jump if you go with the premium Sapphire ones. In this budget, you can also buy the Forerunner 935, which is slightly lightweight, offers the same features, and has better battery performance.
Compared to its predecessor, the watch is significantly smaller and lighter despite having the dominating look with five actual screws in the bezel. The resolution has been upped from 218 x 218 to 240 x 240 pixels, but the touchscreen is still absent. Instead, there are physical buttons on the side for navigation. The Fenix 5 is water-resistant up to 10ATM, which is roughly 100m in water.
The GPS-based sports tracking ranges from the standard like running (outdoor, indoor, trail), cycling (indoor, road, mountain bike), and swimming (pool, open water) to advanced sports including golf, skiing, triathlon, and, even parachuting. You can ditch Garmin Approach S42 for this.
The battery lasts a week easily, but with continuous GPS monitoring, it is reduced to mere 20 hours. Still impressive when you take Apple and Samsung Watches that can’t even stand half that number.
Garmin watches are compatible with both Andriod and IOS, but having said that, the connectivity with IOS comes with some caveats. Several features are missing of which most important is reject calls and send customized text texts. ‘
The GPS connectivity and battery performance are the same and exceptional for all Garmins, but some premium watches like Garmin Instinct, Fenix Series, and the latest Venu 2 offer instant locking of signals and improved accuracy.
As far as battery performance is concerned, it will be the last feature on the list if you were ever disappointed by a Garmin. All Garmin Watches come with top-notch battery performance, way more than you get in Fitbit, Apple, or Samsung.
The music feature is missing on several base models, and often you have to pay $50 for the variant that comes with onboard storage. However, in our experience, the extra investment is totally worth it. Why carry your smartphone with you, when you got not only the music storage but also the NFC payment and GPS on-board?
Lastly, make up your mind to pay extra for a Garmin Watch as the company offers all its products at a premium price. Consider for example the Venu SQ. Almost all the features the watch has to offer, you can get in the Amazfit GTS 2 Mini at half the price. Plus, the latter has an AMOLED display. But when it comes to the accuracy and precision of GPS and health metrics, Venu SQ is at the top.
For men and women, the Venu 2/2S is the best Garmin Watch under $500. It packs the same features as the Vivoactive and Forerunner Series, has offline music support and an NFC payment option. With respect to Fenix Series, it has comparable ruggedness, but an AMOLED display as a plus.
The watch is water-resistant up to 50m, and can accurately track a number of sports including running and swimming. The latest Elevate sensor means it would be at the top when it comes to health and fitness tracking. Whereas, GPS accuracy is improved from the previous venu to now be at par with premium Fenix and Forerunner Watches.