There's something special about seeing the number of kilometres you've run, hills you've cycled or laps you've swum. And the satisfaction of beating the clock and sharing it with friends is also pretty special. The very athletic Davies family – Gareth, Liesa and daughter Miren – gave us the rundown on a few popular sports watches (also known as fitness trackers or fitness watches).
Please note: A CHOICE home test is not the same as one of our comparative tests.
Tom Tom Multi-Sport GPS with BlueTooth HRM 9UJ000100
The Tom Tom watch has a simple menu system, and getting started is very easy. Both Liesa and Gareth found it very easy to read and adjust settings while exercising, but Miren noted it doesn't show everything she expected it to. Gareth says data retrieval takes a bit of work to set up as it's difficult to download a preferred file type to review the data (it's not Strava or ANT+ compatible).
That said, this was the clear favourite of the sports watches tested – comfortable to wear, lightweight and with a soft, flexible band. It covers a good range of sports activities, including indoor swimming (but can't track a triathlon because the GPS doesn't operate in swim mode).
Garmin Forerunner® 310XT with HRM
The Garmin Forerunner 310XT is the largest sports watch on test, with a good-sized screen and clear button operation. Liesa found it frustrating if you enter a building and lose GPS or are exercising indoors. You need to set up a Garmin account, but it's also Strava compatible. It has excellent battery life and can track a triathlon but can't track indoor swimming. Gareth found it comfortable to wear, but Liesa found it too featured and bulky.
Magellan Switch with HRM
The screen on the Magellan Switch sports watch can be can be difficult to read in motion – particularly if you normally wear reading glasses – and the buttons aren't very intuitive. You need an online account with Magellan active, and it can't be used with Strava or to track indoor swimming. Miren found it too complex and bulky, but Gareth argues that despite its relatively short battery life, it's a good price for a multi-sport watch that can track a triathlon.
Polar with RC3 GPS + HRM
The Polar is a thin-profile sports watch that's comfortable to wear. You need a Polar account and the watch is not compatible with Strava or ANT+. Liesa found its huge number of functions overwhelming. It's fiddly to attach the micro USB to charge, and both Liesa and Gareth wondered how durable the fitting and flap over the port would be. The complex operations and busy screen make it difficult to read and use at times. It also has no swimming function, and can't track a triathlon.
Nike+ GPS Sports Watch with Polar Heart Rate Sensor 92043571
The Nike+ also has a comparatively slimline profile, with a well laid-out screen and good battery life for a runner's-only watch. Gareth found it a bit difficult to find the right type of file to review data, and there was some concern over the durability of the USB tab in the wrist strap.
The Tom Tom is the clear favourite for both ladies and gents, whether for general multi- or single-sport use. For the more serious triathlete, the Garmin can track outdoor swims, and has the longest battery life. Gareth suggests listing the training and competition activities you plan to do, and matching the watches' capabilities against them.
||Price paid ($)*
||Battery life (hrs)
|Tom Tom Multi-Sport GPS with BlueTooth heart rate monitor (HRM) 9UJ000100
||Cadence/ speed, and altimeter in next model up
|Garmin Forerunner 310XT with HRM
||Bike speed / cadence, power meter, mounting kit plus many more
|Magellan Switch with HRM
||Foot pod, bike speed / cadence, power meter, mounting kit
|Polar RC3 GPS + HRM
||Cadence / speed, and stride sensor
|Nike Sports Watch GPS with Polar HRM (A)
* Price paid in November 2013
ns Not stated.
(A) Shoe pod/sensor included.
Sometimes we turn to CHOICE voting members to do some small-scale qualitative testing on a product category that we cannot justify a full test on – whether because of low demand, prohibitive test costs or a number of other reasons.
Although a home test does not have the same scientific rigour as our normal tests, it does have the benefit of being conducted in a "real world" environment that may uncover things a lab test may not. Plus, we have absolute faith in our CHOICE members and trust them to give an honest and lighthearted assessment of the goods we've asked them to test.
Strava is an app that allows you to view your sport, fitness and health monitoring data in real time on your mobile device.
ANT+ is a free online service that allows you to track and compare performance online.