I teamed up with 6 of my running teammates in order to make this Multisport GPS watch comparison.
Each of us has brought some of his favorite watches and we ended up testing 4 of the more popular fitness sport watches in the market today.
The wearable technology revolution, headed by the smartwatches, was not a real revolution.
The market is flooded with smartwatches that can be an excellent extension for smartphones and sometimes function independently – regardless of smartphones, but problematic battery lives, small screens, and additional costs when we already have the Smartphone in our hands all the time has made them enter just partially into our lives.
However, the most loyal users for whom wearable computing is a part of their lifestyle and can make a real difference are sports enthusiasts of all levels, while for the advanced athletes they became a necessity.
Sports watches differ from standard smartwatches in a number of key differences; Most standard sports watches do not have a touch screen and are controlled by outdated buttons.
The screens emphasize visibility rather than quality, and the emphasis is placed on the pulse detection sensors, which are sometimes expressed in increased thickness or abnormal bulge.
There are also similarities; The sports watches will alert you from your smartphone via vibration and on-screen notification.
Some will even show the content in a way that will satisfy your curiosity, but the dependence on your smartphone or computer exists and reduces the “smart” side of the watches.
I have just added a related article where accuracy tests were conducted between the popular premium sport watches – SUUNTO 9 BARO, GARMIN FENIX 5X, and POLAR VANTAGE V – You can read the results here on this article.
Multisport GPS Watch Comparison – The Big Test of the Popular Sport watches in 2020
In order to choose the best multi-sports watch in the group, we conducted various tests that helped us decide who was the biggest winner among the competitors, including professionalism, convenience, the experience of use and compatibility, and of course price versus benefit.
1. Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR
The Suunto sports watch was launched in 2017 with an emphasis on an advanced pulse sensor that does not require a chest strap(if you want a really accurate HR monitor then you should use a chest strap – read more about it on my article on fitness trackers with a chest strap) and of course supporting over 80 different sports including swimming – Suunto’s specialty.
Suunto’s watch comes with a color screen (no touch) with 218X218 resolution, controlled by 5 physical buttons and a general thickness of 15.7 mm.
The version we used for this testing is the one that combines metal and is the strongest in the group with a durability of up to 50 meters dive, reinforced strap, durable Mineral Crystal screen And a metal frame that seems to withstand strong falls.
The watch comes with built-in GPS for measuring speed, pace, and distance, a 10-day battery life, and support for 15 languages.
It weighs 66 grams for the version with the metal frame we used or 56 for the standard version.
2. Polar M430
Polar’s watch was launched in 2017 and it also emphasizes sports activity and precise pulse measurement without the need for a chest strap(as I have mentioned, no wrist-based sensor can match the accuracy of a chest strap).
It weighs 51 grams and is 12 mm thick, it is designed fairly simply with a uniform shade and a screen which is slightly submerged to protect against direct hits.
The screen size is less than an inch according to our measurements (no official data) and comes with a low 128X128 resolution with two colors that look good In daylight but provide a simple, key metrics focused interface – all controlled by 5 buttons on both sides of the screen.
Polar comes with a built-in GPS and an application with a pleasant and inviting interface that will give you positive feedbacks to motivate you to continue to improve. The app and watch orientation are comfortable
3. Amazfit Pace Multisport Smartwatch by Huami
For the test, we included this watch which is the only one in the group that is really defined as a smartwatch.
Xiaomi watch was launched at the end of 2016 and, as expected from a Chinese brand in general and Xiaomi in particular, comes with a relatively low price tag but with impressive quality.
This Xiaomi’s watch is actually a watch of “Huami” – a company owned by Xiaomi.
It comes with a 1.34-inch round color screen and a single physical button at a resolution of 300X320 that looks less good than the rest on this list in full daylight
It connects to Xiaomi’s fitness application – “Mi Fit’ or a dedicated application called “Amazefit Watch”, in both of them you can get the same data as average heart rate, And fitness data such as steps, distance, pulse, etc.
The watch comes with a built-in GPS chip, WIFI, 4 gigabytes of internal storage memory (including music that can be heard regardless of the phone), a 280 mA battery that is supposed to last five days of use and water resistance by the IP57 standard.
The watch has a very comfortable independent interface and quality that puts it as an excellent option in the field of smartwatches.
4. Garmin Forerunner 35
Garmin’s watch is the lightest in the group, only 37.3 grams when it is 13.3 mm thick, the screen is 0.93 inches high at 128 x 128 pixels, and a two-tone display that looks great in daylight and on-time but also compromises the experience on a regular basis and focuses on the activity only, it comes with 4 physical control buttons that allow easy access to all the functions on the device, although there is one button less than the first two, it is not a lack of orientation in the clock interface itself, but the advantage that will be revealed later. 9 days or 13 hours during GPS operation.
We checked all the watches for several days during activity, rest and sleep to experience everything they had to offer.
The more accurate definition of our first test is how professional you are and want to get more from your watch.
In this test, we ignored for a moment the other parameters such as comfort and user interface to understand which of the watches is the most professional to match those who sport for them is more than a hobby.
Each manufacturer chooses to focus on a certain point that gives him a competitive edge. When looking at professionalism, we discuss the range of possibilities that each watch offers athletes – supporting different branches, monitoring the users and even motivating them to improve and increase efficiency.
In this section our winner is the sports watch of the Suunto – it supports the largest number of activities including support for multiple fitness branches at the same time.
The GPS chip is not perfect and only supports the US GPS network compared with the others on our list that support also the Russian GLONASS, but in most cases, you will not encounter a noticeable problem.
Its robust structure is significantly stronger than the others, although it is heavier, which is likely to result in greater durability over time.
The watch interface and the app are not the easiest. But at the end of the day, after an easy learning curve, the watch and app will provide you with the most professional data from the group we chose for the test.
For those who want the watch to swim – the Suunto watch is the one you want on your hand.
The Accuracy Test
They all declare countless abilities in their sports watch, but the pulse and navigation sensors also have different qualities and different levels of accuracy – We have put them to test.
When measuring pulse – all watches use the same pulse measurement method – green LEDs on the watch that illuminate the blood vessels that pass under our skin and help the sensor detect the movement of blood in them.
The level of accuracy is determined by the light bulbs, but also by the type and quality of the sensor itself, and finally by the software that connects everything.
In this section, the emphasis was not only on the type of sensor but also quite simply, on the number of LED lights that the watch uses and this is what helped the winner of this test – Polar’s watch.
Next to it, with high accuracy and even the same is the Suunto watch, which uses only 2 LED lights, but the Valencell sensor and its structure help it to achieve good results.
The M430 is well built with 6 bulbs surrounding the sensor located right in the center and making sure the blood vessels are well lit for the sensor.
Pulse detection is not a new matter, and such sensors are now placed both in simple bands and high-end smartphones.
In moderate sports activities and in rest, all of the watches functioned well and showed precise pulse but while training at faster pace when constantly moving and the watch is “dancing” on the arm, the highest stability and accuracy were performed by the Polar watch.
Simultaneous testing all the watches at rest, the Suunto watch showed very similar results like the Polar, followed by Garmin which was a bit less accurate.
For the fourth place arrived the Amazfit Pace smartwatch which is not a real Sport watch, and beyond being less accurate, it takes him a considerable time to provide a stable result, but when it stabilizes, it shows a relatively accurate pulse.
In sports activities, The Amazfit Pace functions less well than the others, especially the flat structure of the sensor, which looks good on the watch and contributes to its nice thickness but functions less well on the field.
Comfort on Hand
Running with a watch is not the most convenient thing, but if we are already running, we want the other parameters to bother us as little as possible.
In general, watches designed to measure a pulse will not be as comfortable as regular watches for the simple reason that the pressure of the watch on the arm is important to measure a pulse more accurately, and the bulge of the sensor makes the story even less convenient.
So how it be more comfortable on the wrist? With more ventilation and less weight.
In the weight and comfort on the wrist section, the selected watch is Garmin’s Forerunner 35 – 37 grams is on the negligible border, a smaller surface on the hand (less space for accumulation of sweat) and a simple locking strap that helps it stay in place at any given time are making it the most comfortable.
Next is the Polar watch, which has super-ventilated bands.
Instead of one hole, it has three holes that insert a lot of air into the wrist, but its block-like structure makes it a little less comfortable than the Garmin, though it is still very comfortable.
The two close ones are the watches of Xiaomi and Suunto, of course when Xiaomi has an advantage with its flat surface but it comes, as stated, at the expense of precision pulse measurement.
The Suunto, which its screen is round, sits firmly on the arm, but the investment in durable materials and compression of sophisticated technology has cost it with a higher weight and lower comfort.
Unlike watches designed for beauty or comfort, sports watches are expected to have a difficult life.
Water resistance, salty sweat, falls, scratches from trees, sun and more make the challenge complicated for the companies that plan them.
Of the four we tested, the winner, according to the structure and the quality of the materials, is the watch of the Suunto.
The Suunto straps are reinforced and bonded to a number of docking points including screws, the body feels sturdy and the version we used includes iron reinforcement that, while weighing more, will be a good solution for those who tend to break gadgets.
The disadvantage of the Suunto, as we noted earlier, is that its screen is in line with the metal frame compared to the others where there is a small gap, which may be a danger but the screen itself is made of materials that are more durable and less likely to break.
User Experience Test
After we passed the professionalism and accuracy tests it was time for the user experience test.
Ease of use includes orientation in the watch interface itself and the application – that is, how complicated it is if we want to find a function as simple as our pulse.
The most convenient watch in this test is the watch of Garmin. Its simple and minimalist screen looks great even in direct sunlight and its functions are more accessible to average users.
Its application is also very pleasant to use and functional for the average user who wants routine metrics.
One way to figure out who was most convenient to use regularly was to let new users find where to see the pulse and based on the time that it took them we have decided which was easier to use.
Here, too, the Garmin stood out, followed by Polar’s watch, followed by Xiaomi’s and at the end was the watch of Suunto.
In this section, we saw the distance between professionalism that sometimes comes at the expense of convenience.
In general, Xiaomi’s Amazfitt was very convenient, because it has a touchscreen and its ease of use is based on this, but its screen is not bright enough and on a sunny day it will be difficult to identify the text.
Polar’s watch came in third place, it also enjoys an excellent screen for activity, a convenient and motivating application and an easy interface with the computer and the mobile application.
To the last place in this section came the Suunto, its visibility in daylight was less good than the Garmin and Polar watches, and the interface is complicated due to the multiplicity of possibilities.
The most expensive one of the group is the watch of Suunto which starts with a price of $329.95. Followed by the Polar watch at a price of $158.00, the third-place goes for Garmin’s with a price of $119.99 and the cheapest in the group is the smartwatch of the Chinese Xiaomi with a price of 89.99$.
We gave our thoughts on the Multisport GPS Watch Comparison based on our experience in the professional aspects examined above.
Let’s put for a moment our test results on the side, the world of sports is so diverse and the needs of each one vary quite dramatically so each one must exercise discretion before choosing the smartwatch that suits his needs.
Other parameters that we encountered are compatibility with existing services such as Strava, Runkeeper, etc., which are used by countless users. Therefore, if your monitoring methods are based on one service or another, you must make sure that your fitness watch synchronizes with the same service so that you do not lose existing information.