STATE OF THE ART

GPS sports watches are also smart­watches and ac­tiv­ity track­ers now. But which is the gold medal­ist?

Australian T3 - - CONTENTS - Words: Damian Hall Pho­tog­ra­phy: Neil God­win

We test three of the most pop­u­lar GPS sports watches to see which helped us hit peak per­for­mance

Thanks to the com­bined rise of ac­tiv­ity track­ers and smart­watches, be­ing a GPS sports watch sim­ply isn’t enough nowa­days. A pre­mium sports watch must do ev­ery­thing: count steps, calo­ries and sleep 24/7, re­lay no­ti­fi­ca­tions and be a de­sir­able, brightly coloured vi­brat­ing gadget that peo­ple want to tap, swipe and con­stantly tinker with.

What’s fas­ci­nat­ing about the three GPS sports watches on test is that they’re all try­ing to make the same thing, but com­ing at it from to­tally dif­fer­ent an­gles. Garmin has long been the mas­ter of the sports watch, but has lagged be­hind on the more crowd­pleas­ing trendy smart­watch stuff. Ap­ple knows all about that, but can it turn its hand to a gen­uinely cred­i­ble pre­mium sports piece to ri­val Garmin?

Mean­while, can newer kid on the block, Fitbit, hith­erto mas­ter of sim­pler ac­tiv­ity track­ers, up its game sig­nif­i­cantly enough to make a vi­able ri­val to these two?

The sports-minded con­sumer ex­pects a wrist-based gadget that can ac­cu­rately record reams of data from their work­outs – be that run­ning, cy­cling, swim­ming, gym-based gurn­ing and more – col­late it and coach from it. But along­side that, count steps and mon­i­tor heart rate and sleep all around the clock. While we do want them to be con­nected to the so­cial world, it’s not our big­gest fo­cus here: we’re pri­mar­ily judg­ing them on their abil­ity to help you beat your per­sonal bests and feel harder, bet­ter, faster, and what­ever else that song said.

So who does that the best? And which watches make com­pro­mises too far? And when it comes down to the wire, who can of­fer that lit­tle bit ex­tra? We put each watch through its paces to find out.

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