Best Fitness Tracker with GPS Review 2018
updated December 1, 2018
The pairing of GPS technology with fitness tracking devices has opened up a whole new world of wearable tech analytics. Now, you’re able to get far more accurate tracking of your heart rate and calorie count, while also being able to map your running or cycling route and getting precise feedback on your running performance. This is great for runners, cyclists or anyone who is serious about improving their cardiovascular fitness.
In this article,we will identify and review the best fitness trackers with GPS that are on the market right now.
5 Best Fitness Trackers with GPS
The best high-end running watch with GPS of 2018 is the Garmin ForeRunner 630. It is the ultimate device for the serious runner. It provides every imaginable detailed running and cycling analytics on a full color touchscreen.
The Garmin ForeRunner 630 is Garmin’s upgrade over the ForeRunner 620. The 630 is a little bit smaller than the 230. It is very comfortable on your wrist. The band is hardy yet soft on your skin. The overall build is very good. Even though the device is largely plastic, it feels very durable. It is also shock resistant.
The display on the 630 is full color, high resolution and provides great viewing angles, even in bright sunlight. This is a touchscreen watch. However, it does have two buttons on the side as well.
The 630 does not come with a built-in optical heart rate sensor. However it can be paired with a chest strap heart rate monitor. It is also compatible with ANT + sensors such as a speed and cycling cadence sensor and a foot pod sensor. To get full functionality, you will probably want to purchase the HRM Run chest based heart rate monitor to pair with the 630. This will allow you to take full advantage of the running dynamics that you can get from this device.
The Garmin 630 is water proof down to 50 meters. That makes it ok to swim with. However, you will not get any swimming analytics on this device. There is, therefore, no multi-sport option for tri-athletes in this device. The battery life is up to 4 weeks, but this clearly depends on your training schedule.
The 630 syncs with the Garmin Connect app via Bluetooth to your mobile device. You can also sync the information via USB. It is also WiFi compatible, meaning that it will automatically sync all of your information when you get home from your run.
The 630 has both GPS and GLONASS to provide global coverage. The addition of GLONASS helps to ensure that the mapping data is consistent. You also get Ultra Tracking. This is a low energy option for mapping your run.
As an activity tracker, the 630 will monitor your activity and sleep data, including steps taken, calories, distance, stars climbed, intensity minutes and sleep. It has multiple daily alarms, along with move alerts and a move bar. It also makes use of Garmin’s auto goal feature. As a Smartwatch, the 630 will relay your phone notifications, includes a weather app, provides customizable watch faces and widgets.
In terms of tracking your running performance, the 630 will track your route, distance, pace and speed. It will provide ongoing heart rate data. You will also get a VO2 max estimate and a whole host of other detailed running analytics. It will also estimate your running cadence.
The 630 features some unique, and very useful, detailed running analytics including ground contact time balance, which is a measure of your right to left foot propulsion. Stride length is also included. It even provides tests, including one that assesses your stress level. A performance indicator predicts how well your workout will go. You also get a lactate threshold test, which will estimate when you are approaching a state of full fatigue based on your heart rate variability.
If you are not a marathon or ultra distance runner then this mid range option may be the best for you. It tracks all of your running workouts, both indoor and outdoor. It estimates your running cadence, and your VO2 max. It will also monitor your cycling workouts along with any other sport you program into it, including weight lifting.
The Garmin ForeRunner 235 has a built-in optical heart rate sensor. The sensor is on 24/7 and provides accurate monitoring of your pulse rate. The accuracy of the heart rate monitor will also improve the accuracy of your sleep analytics and your calorie burn count.
The 235 is a running watch, a sports watch, an activity tracker and a Smartwatch all rolled into one. It is identical to the Garmin ForeRunner 230, but with the addition of a built-in optical heart rate sensor. It is a super light weight watch. It is very comfortable to wear, with a strap that is soft on your skin and breathable. The screen size has been enlarged over the previous version. You now get a super high resolution display in full color that is very clear and comes with a back light to allow for great visibility under all light conditions.
The 235 has three buttons on the left and two on the right. The software is easy to use and intuitive to work with. On the underside of the watch is the elevate heart rate sensor. This is proprietary Garmin technology. The heart rate monitor provides reliable monitoring for running, walking, hiking and cycling and day to day activities. However, it is not that accurate for exercises that involve arm flexion, such as weight training. You can, though, pair a chest based heart rate monitor to the device for more accurate readings.
The Garmin 235 is water proof down to 50 meters, allowing you to swim without taking it of. However, it does not provide tracking of your swimming activity. Even though this watch is made of plastic it is rated as shock resistant. Garmin state that the battery life of the 235 is 7 days. However, the fact that the heart rate monitor is running 24 / 7 provides a huge drain on energy. In practice, you may find that you only get 2-4 days before you need to recharge.
The 235 acts as an activity and sleep tracker. It provides you with a measure of your steps taken calories burned, distance, heart rate and sleep. It also has the Garmin auto -goal feature built in. It has move alerts, and a move bar, along with daily alarms and a daily steps goal. As a sports watch, it will track all of your indoor and outdoor running workouts. It will map your route, giving you all of your running metrics, such as pace, distance, speed and heart rate. It will also estimate your running cadence, and gives you a V02 max estimate.
In addition to GPS, the 235 has GLONASS. This provides you with double insurance as far as mapping your route goes. The 235 does not have Ultra Tracking. It does track your outdoor (but not your indoor) cycling workouts. You can even pair a speed and cadence sensor with it.
The 235 is also a Smartwatch. It will relay all of your phone notifications, provide you with a weather app and provide you with direct access to Garmin Connect IQ for custom apps, widgets and watch faces.
Check out our complete review of the Basis Peak fitness monitor by clicking on this link.
The Garmin ForeRunner 25 is the best budget fitness tracker with GPS on the current market. The FR 25 will track your indoor and outdoor running, and it will provide you with all of the basic running metrics that you need to know. If you run a lot, but don’t live for running, and you want to track your workouts accurately without spending too much money, then this is the option for you.
The ForeRunner 25 is able to pair with a chest heart rate monitor to give you the most accurate reading of your heart rate. It is an all day activity and sleep tracker and it also relays your phone notifications.
The FR 25 is an update of the Garmin ForeRunner 15. It is a little bit thinner and has a display that is a third larger. It comes in two sizes and a range of colors. It provides you with time, distance, calories burned, pace and distance, and lap information. This device pairs with an ANT + heart rate sensor.
The Garmin FR 25 has added an activity tracker for all day step monitoring and automatic sleep tracking. It provides you with a daily steps goal and have move reminders that vibrate when it is time to become active. It also has a silent alarm to wake you up without disturbing others. An accelerometer has also been added to estimate your distance on a treadmill or when you don’t have a GPS signal. It also has live tracking to allow people to see in real time where you are running.
The battery life has also been increased over the ForeRunner 15. You now get about 10 hours in GPS mode and 10 weeks in watch mode. This watch also has a virtual pacer. It also has two customizable screens. You can also set different goals for running such as distance, time, and calories burnt.
The Tom Tom Spark Cardio + Music is a moderately priced GPS watch for men and women with a built-in heart rate sensor. The really interesting thing about this watch, however, is that it has eternal storage for your music. When you go a run, all you need is the Tom Tom Spark Cardio + Music and a pair of Bluetooth headphones and you are good to go with all the music you’ll ever need.
The Tom Tom Spark Cardio is a 24 / 7 activity tracker that comes with sleep tracking, and multisport exercise tracking. It has a built-in heart rate monitor and music player.
This is a hardy watch. It is a large, bulky device that has stiff bands in comparison to other trackers that are out there. Tom Tom use a unique three pin style clasp to fasten the strap. This provides for a very secure hold.
The Tom Tom Spark Cardio has a built in optical heart rate sensor, so it is important that the watch is secure on your wrist. There is a control pad that protrudes from the bottom of the screen. This design works but it adds unnecessary bulk to an already large device. A touch screen would have been much better. The watch straps are replaceable.
The battery charges via a proprietary charger which comes with the device. You will get 5-7 days of battery life, depending on how often you use the GPS. The Tom Tom can be used with a chest based heart rate monitors as well as a cadence and speed sensor.
The Tom Tom will provide you with accurate analytics of your weight training or Crossfit type workouts. Jogging and cycling results, however, are very accurate. As well as giving a constant heart rate read out, it will also tell you whether you are in the training zone.
To use the music features, you will have to have a set of Bluetooth headphones.
FitBit have been making constant upgrades to the Surge over recent months to iron out any kinks and beef up your options. It features an optical heart rate sensor. It also has the ability to track all sorts of workouts in addition to indoor and outdoor running.
The Surge is very well built making it an extremely durable fitness watch. It is constructed of plastic, synthetics and rubber. The glass screen is scratch resistant. Visibility is optimized in all light conditions, including bright sunlight.
The GPS tracking mode on the Surge is enabled any time you go for a run or a jog. This means that you no longer have to take your cell phone with you in order to track your GPS stats. It accurately records your heart rate, calories burned, mileage and track.
The optical heart rate monitor is by way of FitBit’s Pure Pulse technology. To get the most accuracy, you will have to wear the device about an inch below your wrist. FitBit Surge also tracks your all-day activity, including steps, distance traveled, calories burned, and floors climbed. In the multi-sport mode, you can select the type of workout that you are doing. FitBit will them customize the display on your watch to match your workout.
FitBit claim that you’ll get 7 days of battery life with the Surge. Depending on how you often use the GPS feature, you’ll probably find it lasting between 4-5 days before you need to recharge. You can set a silent alarm on the Surge. It will also automatically track your sleep.
The Surge performs well across the board. It may not be the best at everything, but it does does everything very well. There are other niche devices on the market that do better GPS monitoring, better heart rate tracking and better sleep tracking, but the Surge does all of those things at a very high level.
There are dozens of activity trackers with GPS capability on the market today. For the best high specs dedicated running GPS watch, you cannot go past the Garmin ForeRunner 630. For something a little less expensive that still provides everything the average running enthusiast needs, check out the Garmin ForeRunner 225. However, the device that we consider to be the best overall fitness tracker with GPS capability is the Fitbit Surge.
If you’re interested in checking out the Samsung range of fitness tracking devices, be sure to check out our in depth review of the Samsung GearFit and this article for the best fitness trackers on the market today.
My name is Jim Roose. I'm a former competitive power lifter and gym owner. I've bought millions of dollars of fitness equipment over the last 20 years. This site is my way of giving back to the fitness community that's done so much for me. Every article on here is carefully researched and written by me. Leave a comment if you have any questions.