What is the cheapest smartwatch? Probably, Wyze 2021. And the most expensive? TAG Heuer Connected. The former costs around $18-25, and the latter has a premium price tag of $1800. If only the price has been the criteria, Tag Heuer Connected should have been the best smartwatch in terms of features, specs, and performance. Well, we all know that is not the case.
More often than not, you will find the most suitable smartwatch in a mid-range budget ($200-300) as the pricier watches are often an overkill, and the cheaper ones are missing on all the bells and whistles. There is one of the reasons why most smartwatch manufacturers release most of their watches in this price bracket (under $300): they try to offer the users the best of both worlds.
In this roundup, we have tried to cover every quality smartwatch that falls into the range of $200-300. To keep it as precise as possible, we have covered only the highlight features. Read it thoroughly if you can, but if reading a lengthy post as this one feels like a tough grind, you can take our words for it.
The best smartwatch under $300 can be no other than the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2. It is a fully developed Lifestyle watch that offers supreme connectivity and style. The watch is also big on health and fitness features. More on it later.
Read this post (Samsung, Google working together on the Wear 3.0) if you don’t want to regret buying a smartwatch at this time of the year.
Garmin Venu is a good alternative if you are looking for a sports-focused Gps-watch. Though Venu has been recently succeeded by Venu 2, it has some remarkable fitness tracking capabilities and would offer all the practical smartwatch features.
Lastly, we would recommend you Fossil Gen 5 (LTE) which is yet another lifestyle watch. It shines above the other watches with its premium style and looks. It runs Wear OS so you would have access to Google Suite (Google Assistant, Google Pay, Google Music) and hundreds of third-party apps including Spotify, Messenger Nike Run Club.
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 (LTE): Best Overall
Two Minute Review:
Priced well below $300, this watch offers FDA-approved ECG tracking like the Apple Watch Series 6, cellular connectivity like Galaxy Watch 3, SpO2 sensor & Heart rate sensor like Fitbit Sense, and in short, a wholesome smartwatch experience.
Starting with the design, the watch has a metallic build, and therefore a style and class. The phrase “a slimmer, minimal, modern look” best describes Active 2. There are two variants characterized by connectivity: Bluetooth and LTE; two sizes: 40 & 44mm, and two casing materials for this watch: Aluminum With silicone strap & Stainless steel with leather strap (only available in LTE). Both the casing and straps are available in a variety of colors, the latter are interchangeable.
The original Galaxy Watch Active disappoint fans for ditching rotating bezels. Active 2 not only compensated for it but offered a little extra. The watch has a digital dial around its AMOLED (360 x 360 px) screen. The display is crisp, clear, and has always-on mode.
The health-tracking features like blood oxygen tracking, heart rate, and sleep monitoring are reliable, but we cannot say the same about sports tracking. It has a built-in GPS tracker with performance comparable to Apple Watch 6 and Fitbit Sense, but the sports mode is limited. Active 2 has a Gold edition for enthusiasts.
As a smartwatch, it offers all the connectivity options in the LTE variant. You can stream and store music on the watch, sent texts, pick calls, and can download third-party apps. However, the watch has a limited collection of third-party apps. There is a voice assistant (Bixby) on the watch (the least desirable given its abysmal performance).
Lastly, Active 2 (the 44mm variant) is a two-day watch if you prefer not to use the heavy-duty features. At best you can get three days of performance out of it. To eke out more life between charges, you would have to turn off the Wi-Fi/LTE, avoid playing music during exercise and switch off the Always-on mode.
There is not even a single alternative that offers what Active 2 promises for under $300 (you can get the Bluetooth version even under $200).
Ticwatch E3: Best Budget PickNo products found. Table could not be displayed.
Two Minute Review:
Mobvoi has come a long way from its initial release of Ticwatch E, the cheapest Wear OS smartwatch at the time. In the past couple of years, the company has released a series of smartwatches all in the price bracket of $150-350. While the premium pro watches by the company can also be bought for $300, we picked Ticwatch E3 for only one reason: It runs on the latest Snapdragon Wear 4100 processor by Qualcomm that makes it future-proof.
You might not like the design of the watch that is considerably chunky at 12.6mm with no chronograph around the screen (Present in Ticwatch Pro 3). The casing is bland and plasticky, and there is a considerable bezel around the screen. On the back, you would find heart rate and SpO2 sensor, and charging pins that many believe are wrongly placed. Despite the bulky design, the watch is very lightweight and comfortable.
A 360 x 360 px LCD screen is nested into the casing, and there are two buttons on the side. The screen is dull but practical when compared to the AMOLED one in Ticwatch Pro 3. The display is protected against scratched and the watch is IP68 rated making it suitable for pool swimming.
As a fitness tracker and health device, Ticwatch doesn’t have a fine track record. Its built-in GPS keeps failing at times, and the heart rate and blood oxygen reading are often a little off. For what it’s worth, the smartwatch offers advanced sleep tracking that monitors REM, light, and deep sleep similar to Fitbit Sense.
Ticwatch E3 doesn’t offer LTE connectivity but supports Wi-Fi. You can send messages and receive calls on the watch via Bluetooth. The fastest processor coupled with 1 GB Memory and 8 GB storage is the right specs to run the power-hungry Wear OS smoothly. With access to Google Wearable Suite and thousands of third-party apps, Wear OS is still better than Tizen OS found in Samsung Devices.
Lastly, the watch has a 2 days battery life with mixed usage. But if you turn off the power-hungry features, you can eke out almost 4 days of performance of it. Charging, however, is pretty slow as it takes more than 1.5 hours to fully charge the device.
Fitbit Sense: Best Health Watch Under $300
Two Minute Review
Fitbit is one of the best-known brands in fitness tracking and has been recently acquired by Google. The company’s latest release, the Fitbit Sense leans toward health and fitness tracking as it can monitor heart rate, stress levels, sleep patterns, and more. Both Versa 3 and Sense lie in the mid-range bracket, and you don’t have to pay extra for the Sense if you can live without an EDA and ECG sensor.
Fitbit Sense has a pretty solid design, Apple-watch-like build quality. It is quite a small yet chunky watch at 40mm display and 12.35mm thickness. However, the watch is pretty lightweight thanks to its aluminum & Stainless steel construction. There is a so-so inductive button on the side. It’s water-resistant up to 50 meters (165 feet) but not waterproof, meant for swimming in the pool. However, one can take shower without fear of damaging the device.
The Fitbit sense has a touchscreen AMOLED display with a resolution of 336 x 336 pixels and 1,000 nits brightness. The screen is sharp and is comparable to what we can find in Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 and Apple Watch Series 6. Plus, the view is bright enough both indoors and outdoors. The display has gorilla glass protection against dust particles or scratches from keys in your pocket.
Fitbit has always lagged behind other watches when it comes to smartwatch games. There are two choices for a voice assistant in this watch: Google Assistant and Alexa, but our experience is more of a hit and miss.
Also, Fitbit Sense comes with NFC for contactless payment, but the support for Fitbit Pay is limited to only a few banks. There are different options for connectivity including Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz), Bluetooth 5.0 and a built-in GPS + GLONASS.
Sense is first and foremost a health and fitness watch. It undercuts the Apple Watch 6 but almost mimics it in fitness features. You can track heart rate, blood oxygen, and ECG with great accuracy and as a bonus, you get comprehensive sleep tracking second to none in wearable devices.
Without using the GPS, the Battery life is up to 6 days. The charge time, however, is significantly improved and now the watch can charge from 0-80% in only 40 minutes. Thank God, Fitbit has replaced the weird clasp dock with a new proprietary magnetic charger.
Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle: Best Fashion-Focused WearOS Smartwatch
Two Minute Review:
The Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle is yet another mid-range watch that costs just about $300. It’s compatible with both Android and iOS devices, so no matter what phone you have, this watch will work for you. It comes in three different models: The Carlyle, Julianna (for females), and Garrett (2020).
As with all Fossil watches and the one by its subsidiary companies like Armani & Skagen, the performance come second to style and class. This smartwatch is close to traditional watches in design, weighing almost 100g with a 44mm casing and 12mm thickness. There are two buttons on the side with a rotating crown in the middle for easy navigation.
The premium stainless construction is the reason behind the weight. It usually comes with the standard silicone (22mm) strap, but you can easily replace it with a stainless steel band if that is more your style. You should be disappointed with the 3 ATM rating of the watch, as a 5 ATM rating is the standard for smartwatches these days. Low ATM rating means that you can submerge it only in shallow water.
Also, Fossil Gen 5 has an AMOLED screen with a resolution of 328ppi and 1000 nits brightness- which means you won’t have any trouble seeing what time or notifications are coming in on your watch. It has Always-on mode so you can sneakily take a glance at the time or notification when your hands are full.
Moreover, the watch has plenty of smartwatch features. It runs Wear OS and so has access to Google Suite of wearable apps with a bonus of thousands of third-party apps. Powered by WearOS 3100 chip, 1 GB ram it delivers really decent performance but not as great as the Ticwatch E3 we discussed above. The latter undercuts Gen 5 by $100.
As expected of a Fossil Watch, the watch doesn’t offer detailed fitness and health tracking as the company never tried to level up its game for years.
The battery life of the Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle is a bit low at 24 hours which makes it a one-day watch like the Apple Watch. But it does have three modes to prolong battery life. A USB cable and magnetic charger are included in the box that can rotate 360 degrees for ease of use. It doesn’t take an eternity to recharge the watch as it goes from 0-80% in 50 minutes.
Garmin Venu: Best Fitbit Alternative Under $300
Two Minute Review:
With the arrival of Garmin Venu 2, the Venu lineup has grown to 4 classy OLED watches. The original Garmin Venu was a big deal for the company as it for the first time tried its hand on a crisp OLED display. Though traditionally famous for its sports & fitness tracking capabilities, Garmin gets smarts with Venu.
It’s very lightweight and slimline with its 43mm case size, and the strap is made from silicone material for extra comfort when wearing. Whereas, the casing is made of reinforced plastic that adds strength and cuts down the weight. There is a stainless steel bezel around the screen for added protection. The watch is waterproof for up to 50m, so you can track your progress in the pool or while washing dishes without it getting damaged by water.
Additionally, Garmin Venu has a 1.2-inch AMOLED always-on display with 390 x 390-pixel resolution. Blacks are deep and whites are bright, the display crisp and vibrant with extreme viewing angles. You can navigate through the venus via the touchscreen (which is a little finicky), or the two buttons on the right side.
As the company is found on its strong navigation capability, Garmin Venu can never disappoint you as far as this space is concerned. Apart from the built-in GPS, the watch has GLONASS and Galileo satellite navigation systems making sure you get accurate position tracking. There is also an option for ANT+ connectivity to connect third-party external sensors.
The Venu can track a variety of workouts, including running, swimming, strength training, skiing, and plenty more. To help you with these workouts, there are animated workouts to guide you properly. The watch can track heart rate and sleep pretty accurately but it is more of a sports watch than a health watch like Fitbit Sense.
Lastly, Garmin Venu lasts 5 days on a single charge, provided you turn off the Always-on mode and use the GPS conservatively. It takes about two hours to fully charge the watch from empty.
Amazfit Trex Pro: Budget-friendly Rugged Watch Under $300
Two Minute Review:
Amazfit T-Rex Pro has covered the features in the original T-Rex and improved on it greatly. The company receives a lot of criticism for being unoriginal but whether you like it or not, this thing has been working for it. Like the Amazfit GTS series apes the iconic Apple Watch design, T-Rex Pro seems like the Garmin Fenix Pro on a budget.
For starters, the watch is compatible with both Android and IOS. It runs on a proprietary operating system, which to be honest is a little buggy. This beast has a polymer body, metal buttons, and tempered glass protection against cracking or and anti-fingerprint coating. The strap is standard silicon which might end up disappointing you as there is no quick-release mechanism.
Despite being bulky in design (47.7 x 13.5mm) the watch weighs just 59 grams without straps (compare this to Fossil Gen 5). The metal buttons give the watch an elevated look and feel. With water resistance for up to 100 meters and STD-MIL-810G certification, this watch can stand up to any challenging environment. The visible screws give it a formidable look.
The always-on screen works great for sports and outdoor use. The display doesn’t disappoint at all. You would get a 1.3 inch AMOLED display, bright and vivid with a resolution of 390 x 390 (comparable to Garmin Venu).
The screen of the AMOLED is also of high quality. I wouldn’t recommend this watch though if you need color on your screen as it only has 18 shades (the Amazfit GTS series has 32).
The watch leans heavily towards fitness and sports tracking, as there are no smartwatch features like contactless payment, music storage, voice assistant, etc. 100+ sport and workout modes are a little overwhelming, but if the watch had delivered on the promise of solid GPS tracking, we would have truly appreciated it. In health tracking, you get pretty accurate heart rate, stress, and blood oxygen monitoring.
The battery life is 18 days typical use (when you turn off always-on mode), 66 days basic watch mode (you reduce the features to the bare minimum), and 40 hours of continuous GPS tracking. It takes 90 minutes to fully charge, but the charger itself is ugly or to euphemize it, unimpressive.
Apple Watch SE (44mm) LTE: Best Smartwatch For iPhone Under $300
Two Minute Review:
Apple Watch is the default best smartwatch for iPhone, but it is hard to find one under $300. Only the Apple Watch SE and the Series 3 fall in the price bracket of ($200-300), and as you can guess they are dedicated to users on a budget. Though inexpensive, these watches are not the cheapest smartwatches on the market.
Apple Watch SE is identical in design to the Series 6 with two differences. One is of color and the second is of casing material. the former is available in a handful of colors and in only stainless steel options. The 44mm variant of the watch offers more real estate with rounded edges. The watch is lightweight at 36.36 grams and comes with a comfortable silicone strap.
Like all Apple Watches, this one offers a Retina Display which is the gold standard. You would get 368 by 448 pixels high resolution and provides 1,000 nits of brightness. Viewing angles are great, the display cannot be crispier. Unlike the sapphire glass protection in Series 6, the Apple watch SE has inferior ion-glass protection which is prone to scratches and damage. Also, it doesn’t offer an Always-on display.
This special edition offers limited health features. Advanced ones like blood oxygen sensors and ECG are missing. However, it does come with basic ones like heart rate and calorie tracking and a number of sports and workout modes. The watch is perfect for a one-day hike as it has a built-in compass and always-on altimeter.
We are discussing the LTE model of the watch, but there is also a GPS-only model for about $50 less. You can store and stream music on the watch, can make calls, and send texts. But more than that, you will have access to Apple Wearable Suite plus thousands of third-party apps, the crown jewel of the Apple watch experience.
The battery life can last up to 18 hours and this has been a major chunk in the armor of the Apple Watch. With GPS or LTE connectivity, the watch would last only a few hours. The charging though is pretty fast with the proprietary magnetic charger.
Garmin Forerunner 245 Music: Best Mid-range GPS Running Watch
Two Minute Review:
Garmin Forerunner 245 Music succeed the best-seller Forerunner 235 by the company. The music addition costs $50 more which in our opinion is unjustified as it offers nothing more than Wi-Fi connectivity and storage capacity for 500 songs. However, this should not be a deal-breaker, as the watch is overall quite affordable for the features it offers.
The Garmin Forerunner 245 Music sports a durable, lightweight design. It has a large casing with four buttons on the side for navigation. The strap is made of silicone that secures to your wrist with a quick-release clasp built into it. Also, it has a sweat-resistant design, and not only that, you can submerge the watch for up to 50m in water.
Unlike the premium OLED display in Garmin, it has an easy-to-read transflective memory in pixel (MIP) display that offers 240 x 240 resolution. The display is bright and clear but offers only a handful of widgets in a single view. You should not compare it with the flashy display of the smartwatches we included in this roundup, as it is not made to impress but to deliver.
Like all Garmin watches, this one has strong satellite navigation capability. There are plenty of workouts and exercises in the watch sparing running that includes pool swimming, strength workouts, and UltraTrac mode.
Surprisingly, the watch has the same heart rate sensor as the more advanced Forerunner 945, so heart rate and related metrics are monitored with almost identical accuracy. For those who don’t know, Garmin’s sleep tracking is as advanced as the Fitbit Sense and a leg up than the Apple Watch.
We were particularly disappointed at the lack of smart features. Garmin pay is missing, there is no LTE connectivity. The only smartwatch feature worth discussing is the storage capacity of 500 songs which you can download directly from Deezer, Spotify, and Pandora or transfer via your PC.
The battery life is relatively long and lasts 7 days when you use the smartwatch mode. The GPS mode with music lasts 6 hours, while the GPS mode without music lasts up to 24 hours. With normal usage you can get at least 5 days of performance between charges the same as you get in Venu. The charging is pretty slow, it takes 2 hours to fully charge the device.
As I discussed earlier, the best smartwatch sub $300 can be no other than the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2. It has got both the looks and performance without compromising the battery life. The watch undercuts Apple Watch Series 6, Fitbit Sense, and even its own sibling, Galaxy Watch 3. It is both a proper health watch and a fully-equipped smartwatch a distinction only a few smartwatches can enjoy, and no one but this in this price range.
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