The Top 10 Perfect GPS Running Watches for the Budget-Conscious Runner(Last Updated On: September 17, 2017)
There’s nothing quite like technology to make you feel like you’re all that.
A friend of mine started running to lose some excess pounds. She didn’t want to go to the gym because she felt that everyone there were already thin and toned and she felt embarrassed. She started running in place in front of a full-length mirror at home.
That’s really not a bad way to go about it. But why would she want to watch her muscles jiggle when running outdoors is so much more fun?
Persistence (or maybe nagging) finally paid off and she finally bought some actual running gear. And the best thing she got? A brand-spanking-new GPS running watch.
That watch spurred on her running habit like no one’s business! There’s just something about the way you see how many calories you’ve burned in real time.
But one watch does not fit all. And you might not want to splurge so much on a GPS watch that you’d be so broke and dieting is suddenly your only option. So we’ve taken the liberty of listing down the best GPS watches for the budget-conscious runner.
Garmin Forerunner 10 – Leading the Pack
The Garmin FR10 was launched in the fall of 2012. Now over a year and dozens of other releases later, you’d still find it at the top of the heap. Seriously. Try googling for GPS watch recommendations and it’s always, always on any list.
Now the nice thing about this watch is it comes in two versions: one for the men and one for the women. The gal version is slightly smaller in size and length. The So tiny wrists? No problemo!
Of course, the downside to the size difference is you have charging chips that don’t match. So if you get a his and hers pair, you’d also need to bring two USB chargers when you travel.
This model is relatively easy to start up. It just needs one quick tap of the upper right button and you’re ready to go. Searching for a GPS signal will only take half a minute tops.
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But here’s where I’m a bit on the fence about: the virtual pacer. On the one hand, it allows you to set up alerts to let you know if you’re going too fast or too slow. But, it will keep bugging you until you’re back on pace. It just won’t let up, believe me! You will be forced to stick at the previously set up pace or else throw the thing away.
Its amazing nagging qualities aside, this is a pretty solid piece of equipment at a low price.
Garmin Forerunner 110 – Charge on!
What separates the Garmin Forerunner 110 from its little brother the FR10? A wall charger. Ha!
Seriously though, it can be a bit of a hassle charging on the computer all the time. So the fact that this unit comes with its own wall charger is a pretty big deal to me.
This watch is also quite easy to set up. And it comes with an auto lap feature, a heart rate monitor and a good and bright backlight. The battery life is also very good.
Now here’s a deal beaker question for all runners: How good is the GPS connection? Well, it’s surprisingly accurate on this unit. And if that doesn’t seal the deal for you, you should know that this is also a normal sized watch.
The only downside is its non-detachable wristband. It also won’t work on an indoor footpad, so no treadmills with this baby. And while it says it’s waterproof, I really wouldn’t advice swimming with it. It’s just not made for prolonged underwater exposure.
Soleus 1.0 GPS – May the Course Be with You
Many people weren’t expecting much from the Soleus 1.0 GPS. After all, what can you get for a price tag of less than a hundred dollars, right?
It’s a surprise to find out then, that this watch didn’t only deliver on its promises, it has exceeded them. The relatively low price meant a lot of features were absent. However, that made for an astonishingly simple and easy to use tool.
It does take a while to lock on a satellite (up to a couple of minutes on clear skies). In that aspect it lags behind its competition. But on the matter of measuring how far you’ve gone and how fast, it’s very accurate.
It also has the capacity to switch from pace to speed mode. Meaning if you run and also bike, it’s a good watch to have.
The only important thing lacking is its inability to download workouts. If that’s of no concern to you, then the Soleus 1.0 GPS should be your perfect starter watch.
What’s the only difference between the two? It *finally* allows for data downloads. The software is horrible, though. Really bad. Crashed all the time. Only useful with single service. I could go on and on. You’d be better off getting the FR10.
Plus its little message at the back? “Leave the Passed Behind?” Doesn’t compare to 1.0’s “May the Course Be with You.” Okay. I’ll move on now.
Timex Global Trainer – Multisport function
If you’ve got any plans of being more than just a runner, the Timex Global Trainer is a good watch to start with. It has a multi-sport mode and it even comes with a bike mount. Some packages also come with a heart belt.
Set up is easy. And while it originally took over 3 minutes to lock on a satellite signal when it first came out, Timex has since released firmware to fix the issue.
It still doesn’t have footpod support, though. However, my only major bone to pick with this watch is the weird standby modes. It’s got two:
- Displays time
- Displays nothing
I don’t understand putting a watch on my wrist and seeing nothing. But seeing as I can always choose the time display over nothing, maybe I’m just being nitpicky.
Timex Marathon GPS – Déjà Vu
The Timex Marathon looks sleeker than the Global Trainer. And if you actually loved the Soleus 1.0, you’d no doubt like this, too.
They have virtually identical features. It also doesn’t allow for downloads. But the funny thing is you can use the Soleus 2.0 cable to connect and download the Timex data using the Soleus (crappy) software.
The one edge it does have over its almost twin is its waterproofing is so much better. It may take up to 90 seconds to get a GPS signal. However it will remember the location and locate satellites faster if used in the same location in the future.
New Balance NX950 GPS Runner – Solid and Simple
Solid and simple describes the New Balance NX950 GPS Runner. This watch has lap and interval functionality. It also tracks the calories you burned plus distance, pace and speed. It has the additional feature of tracking average pace and average speed, too.
It quickly locks on satellite signals and the reception is reliable. The watch has the added bonus of not being too large or too heavy.
The set-up could be a little annoying, though. The controls aren’t very intuitive and the driver installation is particularly tricky. But if you can get past that, this affordable (click for price) watch can run the distance with you.
Nike+ Sportswatch GPS – TomTom Tech at it’s finest
Nike+ Sportswatch GPS made use of TomTom technology to ensure accurate GPS tracking. This little gadget tracks calories, distance, pace and speed. All of which syncs to the Nike+ online account. It has the added feature of connecting to your computer’s USB without using cables.
This watch looks good, is lightweight, easy to use and waterproof!
Just be careful about your GPS connectivity though. If you’re running through tunnels or anything that blocks the signal, you lose the connection. The watch will display that it’s trying to locate signal. But if it fails to do that, there’s no way to get it back unless a new run is started.
There’s also no changing interval times from the watch. You’d have to connect to a pc for that.
And one last word of advice: get the black version. The white version has had users complaining that it picks up the dye from their clothes.
Now, here’s a bit of a bonus for you. Three more superb GPS watches. They’re a little pricier than the 7 above, but still affordable.
TomTom GPS Sportswatch – Entry-level Goodness
Sportswatch is an entry-level watch that comes with a large interface and one-button control. It looks almost like a Nike+ clone, after all TomTom did design the watch for Nike.
It works outdoors and at the gym. So if treadmill running is more your thing, this watch will get the job done. It’s got great GPS technology. It also has Bluetooth functionality.
The built-in accelerometer and sensors track distance, pace, stride length, calories burned and lap times.
Soleus 3.0 GPS – Take three
Yep, Soleus just keeps churning them out in neat numerical order. The Soleus 3.0 GPS comes with a heart rate monitor. It measures distance (in miles or km), pace (current and average), calories burned (current and total) and can be set up have 5 individual interval timers.
GPS satellite lock is great. Set up is straightforward.
It allows for download, too, like the 2.0 version. But is the software any better? Honestly, it’s still behind the times. It does work for the basics, though.
Garmin Forerunner 405 – Elevate it!
Of course there’s another Garmin. They pretty much got the running market cornered!
The Garmin Forerunner 405 is only a few bucks more expensive than the FR 110. It’s a touch screen watch so the bezel might take some getting used to.
It measures and tracks heart rate, distance, pace and laps. Even elevation!
It might take up to 2 minutes to get a GPS signal but the data is quite accurate.
With running more popular than ever, the above are far from being the only GPS running watches available on the market. But they’re very good models to start you off.
Sure, you can always run without one. But if you’re serious about running, then you’d need to know how much distance you can cover. If you’re running to lose weight, you’d need to be able to keep track of the calories you’re burning.
Yes, you can download apps to your mobile phone to do those, too. But do you really want to bring your phone with you all the time? Phones are kinda bulky. And kinda fragile, too.
All in all, it’s cheaper to buy a GPS watch than to get your phone fixed or replaced when you drop it while rounding the bend, don’t you think?
So do running right and invest in good quality GPS watch. You know you’d also look better with it.