Comfort and usability are key to a good sports watch, with points for style
The Apple Watch is the most immediately attention-grabbing of the three GPS watches on test here. The Watch’s softer corners and raised 3D screen whisper seductive things to your fingertips, inviting a touch, tap or swipe. Then it pings to life in magnificent colours. The display is large and clear, and fitness apps start at the mere tickle of the screen. At-a-glance metrics such as pace, speed and distance are easy to see, even when exercising. The Apple Watch has two buttons, but neatly one doubles as a dial, useful for zooming in and out or changing pages in an app. It’s also sturdy and waterproof.
Maybe it’s just in the name, but initially the Ionic does have something of a tracker, rather than a smartwatch, feel. The LCD screen brightness, however, reaches 1,000 nits (the same as the Apple Watch) and means you can view it even in bright sunlight. The Ionic’s design is clean and simple, even if the squareness feels a bit Cold War modernist; big and bulky and not as comfy as the other two on a thinner wrist. It’s waterproof though, so no need for faffing about either end of that post-run shower. Aesthetically, it will divide
The Apple Watch’s soft corners and raised screen whisper seductive things
opinion, but many of us don’t buy sports watches primarily for how stylish they are.
The Garmin, meanwhile, has a screen that’s clear, sharp and easy to read – even if it’s less colourful than its rivals – with a button-activated light for darker conditions. Transflective technology, meanwhile, makes it clear and bright when light is shining directly on it. The five buttons are satisfying to use and it’s a very lightweight (42g), attractive thing, especially by fitness wearable standards. The rounded display can make things a little bit congested when you’ve got four different bits of data on one screen, but even then it’s fairly easy to read with a squint. The metal rim around the edge of the 1.2-inch display both protects the Gorilla Glass 3 and makes it appear somehow industrial and stylish at the same time. Once again, it’s waterproof.
The Ionic’s bands are really easy to switch, and you can purchase sporty bands in various colours, or smarter leather options