4 Questions You Should Ask When Buying a GPS Sport Watch

With a stack of complex training features, knowing what to look for in a GPS Sport Watch can be a tricky task. Answering these four simple questions can simplify your job considerably.

If you are serious about your sport, whether it be running, cycling, hiking skiing, windsurfing or even skydiving, a gps watch can be a powerful tool for tracking, measuring and improving your performances.

An advanced sports gps watch can accurately measure:

  • Speed
  • Distance
  • Elevation above sea-level

What’s more, many watches with gps can plot 3D maps over a traveled route that can later be downloaded to a PC or Mac and then reviewed and analyzed in a custom software package.

Combining this with advanced sports watch features, like memory storage/recall, interval timers, heart rate zones and speed, pace and distance alerts and you get a complete wrist-watch training computer, capable of taking you to the next level!

While having all these features can be exciting, it can also be overwhelming when you first start shopping around for the right watch. As most gps watches are quite sophisticated, this makes it difficult to know which features suit your needs and which are nice, but most likely not ones you’ll use in day-to-day use.

Our guide will take you through the process and will familiarize you with the key questions you need to ask yourself when you are comparing watches. With, the most common questions clear in your mind, selecting the right model will hopefully be a breeze.

Question 1: How will you be using your watch?

There are different types of GPS watches for different purposes; Your buying decision hinges on how you will use your GPS watch, so this is an important thing to be clear on.

This may seem obvious, but knowing which of these categories you fall into can save you a lot of time and effort.

Some watches will cater to fitness and sport, among other things, these models will have a lot of features that will suit runners, cyclists, triathletes and other athletes, like memory storage and recall, interval timers, heart rate monitors and pace and distance alerts. Other models will have navigational features allowing you to mark locations, plot courses, then navigate between waypoints in your area. Some watches will even support both.

GPS Sport Watch Models
The watches below utilize GPS for fitness and performance.

Navigation GPS Watches
The watches below utilize GPS for navigation.

Question 2: Do you need real-time signal reliability?

A common complaint about GPS systems is the signal dropping out without warning.

This is especially common GPS watch models with older chipsets. This problem can be somewhat resolved by ensuring you only use your GPS watch in places where there is a clear, unobstructed view of the sky – i.e. not around tall buildings or trees.

The latest GPS watches use the SirFStar III chipset, which is more sensitive and reliable than older chipsets. This is not to say the older watches are not good choices, some have dropped considerably in price making them great value for money, but deciding if high reliablility is important will impact your choice.

If you only wish to pinpoint your location infrequently, then high reliability is not such a big deal.

For instance, say you are out kayaking on the Amazon river, you come to a fork and need to decide whether to go right or left… chances are you probably don’t care too much if your GPS signal drops occasionally, so long as you can quickly pick it up again when you need it.

On the other hand you are running your 5th London Marathon and need to know your exact kilometer pace at the 10km mark so as to know if you are running too fast or too slow – then a signal drop out is highly undesirable.

An alternative to gps that may be worth considering is a foot pod device that measures your leg turn-over or cadence and calculates speed and distance and all the other good stats based on your leg-speed alone. When correctly calibrated a foot pod can be quite accurate and does not suffer from signal obstruction like a gps unit does.

GPS Sport Watch Models with Older Chipsets
These GPS watches utilize older chipsets. They are generally slower to link to the satellites and may lose the signal more frequently.

GPS Sport Watch Models with Modern Chipsets
These GPS watches utilize a modern chipset like the SiRFstar-III or equivalent.

Question 3: What level of comfort and style do you need?

While tons of features are probably main reason for buying a GPS watch in the first place, if you like to wear your watch in a casual setting as well as for sport then it goes without saying you should find one you like the look of. But I’m sure you don’t need us to tell you.

The latest watch from Garmin, the Forerunner 405, has a few less features than it’s predecessor, the 305, but looks pretty darn cool, whereas the Forerunner 305 is more like a brick on your wrist! The Suunto T series watches models that support GPS look as natural in town as on the track.

The Garmin Forerunner 405 (Left) and Suunto T3C (Right) are stylish as well as functional sports watches.

Also consider comfortably the watch fits your wrist. If you are more comfortable with an external gps device attached to you, then you can enjoy a smaller wristwatch, whereas a single gps-watch unit is a lot bulkier.

Step 4: What other criteria are important?

Often the most heavily promoted features of popular products, are not the ones you are really interested in. This is an unfortunate part of marketing, but luckily we’ve dug deep and come up with a list of some less obvious features that might be just what you’re looking for.

A note about power

Let’s make one thing clear. GPS watches suck up a LOT of juice! Fortunately, many models use rechargeable batteries.

There are generally two types of GPS sports watch – those that you wear on your wrist and those that require you to attach an external device to your body. The wristwatch type are almost always rechargeable, whereas external gps watches generally use AA or AAA batteries.

Most provide around 8-14 hours of continuous gps tracking and allow the gps to be switched off when not needed, so as to save power.

For you ultra distance runners, even 15 hours might not be enough. Fortunately popping a spare battery into an external gps is a trivial task, even on the run. For everyone else, I’m guessing 8 hours of gps time is more than adequate.

A Note about Water Usage

Like fire and cats, gps watches don’t mix too well with water. Most units can survive a few splashes, or the accidental dropping in the kitchen sink, but using your watch for swimming or diving is definitely not recommended and the signal reception can not be expected to be accurate under these circumstances.

This is unfortunate for Triathletes for who a gps watch would be a valuable tool for recording and assessing their performances over multi-disciplines

By now you should (hopefully) have a better understanding about which gps sports watch unit is right for you. You may even know what you’re looking for. If you are pretty sure what you want, but want more information head to our website, where we have more information about gps and other types of sports watches.

One Response to “4 Questions You Should Ask When Buying a GPS Sport Watch”

  1. Liza Antonas Says:

    Great! Thanks for clearing all this up. Now I can shop without confusion. I know exactly which model I’m looking for now.

Leave a Reply

4 Questions You Should Ask When Buying a GPS Sport Watch

With a stack of complex training features, knowing what to look for in a GPS Sport Watch can be a tricky task. Answering these four simple questions can simplify your job considerably.

If you are serious about your sport, whether it be running, cycling, hiking skiing, windsurfing or even skydiving, a gps watch can be a powerful tool for tracking, measuring and improving your performances.

An advanced sports gps watch can accurately measure:

  • Speed
  • Distance
  • Elevation above sea-level

What’s more, many watches with gps can plot 3D maps over a traveled route that can later be downloaded to a PC or Mac and then reviewed and analyzed in a custom software package.

Combining this with advanced sports watch features, like memory storage/recall, interval timers, heart rate zones and speed, pace and distance alerts and you get a complete wrist-watch training computer, capable of taking you to the next level!

While having all these features can be exciting, it can also be overwhelming when you first start shopping around for the right watch. As most gps watches are quite sophisticated, this makes it difficult to know which features suit your needs and which are nice, but most likely not ones you’ll use in day-to-day use.

Our guide will take you through the process and will familiarize you with the key questions you need to ask yourself when you are comparing watches. With, the most common questions clear in your mind, selecting the right model will hopefully be a breeze.

Question 1: How will you be using your watch?

There are different types of GPS watches for different purposes; Your buying decision hinges on how you will use your GPS watch, so this is an important thing to be clear on.

This may seem obvious, but knowing which of these categories you fall into can save you a lot of time and effort.

Some watches will cater to fitness and sport, among other things, these models will have a lot of features that will suit runners, cyclists, triathletes and other athletes, like memory storage and recall, interval timers, heart rate monitors and pace and distance alerts. Other models will have navigational features allowing you to mark locations, plot courses, then navigate between waypoints in your area. Some watches will even support both.

GPS Sport Watch Models
The watches below utilize GPS for fitness and performance.

Navigation GPS Watches
The watches below utilize GPS for navigation.

Question 2: Do you need real-time signal reliability?

A common complaint about GPS systems is the signal dropping out without warning.

This is especially common GPS watch models with older chipsets. This problem can be somewhat resolved by ensuring you only use your GPS watch in places where there is a clear, unobstructed view of the sky – i.e. not around tall buildings or trees.

The latest GPS watches use the SirFStar III chipset, which is more sensitive and reliable than older chipsets. This is not to say the older watches are not good choices, some have dropped considerably in price making them great value for money, but deciding if high reliablility is important will impact your choice.

If you only wish to pinpoint your location infrequently, then high reliability is not such a big deal.

For instance, say you are out kayaking on the Amazon river, you come to a fork and need to decide whether to go right or left… chances are you probably don’t care too much if your GPS signal drops occasionally, so long as you can quickly pick it up again when you need it.

On the other hand you are running your 5th London Marathon and need to know your exact kilometer pace at the 10km mark so as to know if you are running too fast or too slow – then a signal drop out is highly undesirable.

An alternative to gps that may be worth considering is a foot pod device that measures your leg turn-over or cadence and calculates speed and distance and all the other good stats based on your leg-speed alone. When correctly calibrated a foot pod can be quite accurate and does not suffer from signal obstruction like a gps unit does.

GPS Sport Watch Models with Older Chipsets
These GPS watches utilize older chipsets. They are generally slower to link to the satellites and may lose the signal more frequently.

GPS Sport Watch Models with Modern Chipsets
These GPS watches utilize a modern chipset like the SiRFstar-III or equivalent.

Question 3: What level of comfort and style do you need?

While tons of features are probably main reason for buying a GPS watch in the first place, if you like to wear your watch in a casual setting as well as for sport then it goes without saying you should find one you like the look of. But I’m sure you don’t need us to tell you.

The latest watch from Garmin, the Forerunner 405, has a few less features than it’s predecessor, the 305, but looks pretty darn cool, whereas the Forerunner 305 is more like a brick on your wrist! The Suunto T series watches models that support GPS look as natural in town as on the track.

The Garmin Forerunner 405 (Left) and Suunto T3C (Right) are stylish as well as functional sports watches.

Also consider comfortably the watch fits your wrist. If you are more comfortable with an external gps device attached to you, then you can enjoy a smaller wristwatch, whereas a single gps-watch unit is a lot bulkier.

Step 4: What other criteria are important?

Often the most heavily promoted features of popular products, are not the ones you are really interested in. This is an unfortunate part of marketing, but luckily we’ve dug deep and come up with a list of some less obvious features that might be just what you’re looking for.

A note about power

Let’s make one thing clear. GPS watches suck up a LOT of juice! Fortunately, many models use rechargeable batteries.

There are generally two types of GPS sports watch – those that you wear on your wrist and those that require you to attach an external device to your body. The wristwatch type are almost always rechargeable, whereas external gps watches generally use AA or AAA batteries.

Most provide around 8-14 hours of continuous gps tracking and allow the gps to be switched off when not needed, so as to save power.

For you ultra distance runners, even 15 hours might not be enough. Fortunately popping a spare battery into an external gps is a trivial task, even on the run. For everyone else, I’m guessing 8 hours of gps time is more than adequate.

A Note about Water Usage

Like fire and cats, gps watches don’t mix too well with water. Most units can survive a few splashes, or the accidental dropping in the kitchen sink, but using your watch for swimming or diving is definitely not recommended and the signal reception can not be expected to be accurate under these circumstances.

This is unfortunate for Triathletes for who a gps watch would be a valuable tool for recording and assessing their performances over multi-disciplines

By now you should (hopefully) have a better understanding about which gps sports watch unit is right for you. You may even know what you’re looking for. If you are pretty sure what you want, but want more information head to our website, where we have more information about gps and other types of sports watches.

One Response to “4 Questions You Should Ask When Buying a GPS Sport Watch”

  1. Liza Antonas Says:

    Great! Thanks for clearing all this up. Now I can shop without confusion. I know exactly which model I’m looking for now.

Leave a Reply