The Best Smartwatches
In addition to an increase of Google WearOS smartwatches we also find more and more devices made by Honor and Huawei. Apple and Google's systems can be supplemented with additional functions via apps. This explains why both the Apple Watch and watches with WearOS have a memory of about 1 GB, while the closed systems of Honor or Huawei manage with less than half a megabyte.
In between these are manufacturers such as Samsung, Garmin or Fitbit, who work with their own systems, but also each operate their own app store. What they offer is more limited, but at least popular apps like Strava and Spotify can be found there.
Talking about sports: It's mainly sensors that make the difference with smartwatches. Some are independent during training thanks to their own GPS. Gyroscope and accelerometer sensors activate the display when you raise your arm, log steps and notify you if you don't move enough. Furthermore, many current wearables also measure the heart rate, but only a few also measure the blood oxygen saturation. This reaches 100% in the ideal case and is not only interesting for athletes: In healthcare, pulse oximetry provides information on general physical fitness, including with COVID-19.
The Best Smartwatches
|Huawei Watch 3 Pro Classic||1.43"||14 mm||64 g||⊕||Acceleration sensor, Gyro sensor, Geomagnetic sensor, Optical heart rate sensor, Barometric pressure sensor, Temperature Sensor||1 button, 1 pushable crown||⊕||AMOLED||466x466||326 PPI||790||⊖||⊕||⊕||⊕||2048 MB||Huawei HarmonyOS|
|Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Solar||1.40"||14.9 mm||54 g||⊕||GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, optical heart rate sensor, barometer, compass, gyroscope, accelerometer, thermometer, pulse oximeter||4 Buttons||⊕||transflective MIP-Display||280x280||283 PPI||⊖||⊖||⊖||⊖|
|Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 LTE R845||1.40"||11.1 mm||53.8 g||⊕||Accelerometer, Barometer, Gyro Sensor, Light Sensor, Optical Heart Rate Sensor, EKG||2 Buttons, rotating bezel||⊕||Super AMOLED||360x360||364 PPI||340||⊖||⊕||⊕||⊕||1024 MB||Tizen|
|Apple Watch Series 6 44 mm||1.76"||10.7 mm||36.5 g||⊕||Electrical heart sensor, Optical heart sensor, Blood oxygen sensor, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Barometric altimeter, Compass||1 Button + 1 combined button/crown||⊕||LTPO-OLED||448x368||328 PPI||⊖||⊕||⊕||⊕||1024 MB||Apple WatchOS 7|
|Polar Vantage V2||1.20"||13 mm||34 g||⊕||Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Geomagnetical Sensor, Barometer, Optical heart rate (PPG)||5 Buttons||⊕||LCD||240x240||200 PPI||346||⊖||⊖||⊕||⊖|
|Garmin Venu 2s||1.10"||12 mm||38.2 g||⊕||barometer, compass, gyroscope, accelerometer||2 buttons||⊕||AMOLED||360x360||326 PPI||190||⊖||⊖||⊖||⊖||256 MB||Garmin Connect|
|Honor Watch GS Pro||1.39"||13.6 mm||45.5 g||⊕||Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Geomagnetical Sensor, Barometer, Optical heart rate||2 Buttons||⊕||AMOLED||454x454||326 PPI||790||⊖||⊖||⊕||⊕||32 MB||RTOS|
|Fitbit Sense||1.40"||12.35 mm||33.5 g||⊕||Gyroscope, altimeter, 3-axis accelerometer, skin temperature sensor, multi-path optical heart rate sensor, multipurpose electrical sensors compatible with ECG app & EDA app||1 button||⊕||AMOLED||336x336||339 PPI||⊖||⊖||⊕||⊕||Fitbit OS|
|Suunto 9 Peak||1.69"||10.6 mm||52 g||⊕||Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Barometer, Compass, Optical heart rate||3 Buttons||⊕||transflective LCD||240x240||142 PPI||⊕||⊖||⊕||⊖|
|Fossil GEN 5 LTE||1.28"||13 mm||54 g||⊕||accelerometer, gyroscope, barometer, optical heart rate||3 buttons, 1 rotating||⊕||AMOLED||416x416||328 PPI||310||⊕||⊕||⊕||⊕||1024 MB||Google WearOS 2|
The table above contains an overview over the best smartwatches reviewed by Notebookcheck over the course of the past 12 months as well as still relevant and available older products. In cases of identical score the more recent device is listed first. All prices in above table and price comparisons are updated daily and can thus differ.
1st – Huawei Watch 3 Pro
Both visually and functionally the Huawei Watch 3 Pro is geared towards high-end expectations. Its design is dominated by titanium and leather, its crown offers haptical feedback for improved handling, it comes with a built-in eSIM to make and receive phone calls as well as a voice assistant, and supports mobile payments, albeit the usefulness of the latter depends on the country of service. All things considered the Watch 3 offers a lot, and its functionality can be further extended thanks to Huawei’s app gallery.
With that said the number of available apps is nowhere near Apple’s, Samsung’s, or Google’s WearOS offerings. This, however, can change very quickly given that Huawei’s own Harmony OS allows for cross-platform development. We also liked the Huawei Watch 3 Pro's resource management features as it remains well usable even in low-power mode and will last up to three weeks in this energy-saving mode of operation.
The Watch 3 Pro is one of the first smartwatches to measure skin temperature.
When it comes to fitness and health data Huawei’s smartwatch offers extensive and detailed analysis features.
The Huawei Watch 3 Pro is currently unavailable in North America.
2nd – Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Solar
Garmin’s high-end smartwatch will support even exotic workouts, such as paragliding. Support for golfing is excellent, with maps for thousands of golf courses worldwide available.
Maps based on OpenStreetMap material can be used for hiking and include points of interest (POIs) nearby that might be worth visiting.
If you are out and about for long periods of time without the possibility to charge in-between you may want to take a look at the more than $800 expensive solar model of Garmin’s Fenix 6X Pro, which will allow you to increase the device’s already long battery life even further. Under optimal conditions you might gain an entire extra day per week. If, however, you don’t see the point and want to save some money you can also opt for a cheaper SKU without solar support.
Garmin’s Fenix 6X Pro Solar is probably the most versatile and functional smartwatch we have ever had in review.
One feature worth highlighting is the watch’s roundtrip routing feature. Based on your current location it will automatically identify a round-trip route with predetermined length for an optimal workout such as running or cycling.
Given its enormous number of sensors as well as its additional features, such as the offline music player, the Fenix 6X Pro Solar offers a great overall connectivity. Unfortunately, it lacks both a microphone and a speaker. One of the reasons for its long battery life is the fact that unless other smartwatches, the Fenix 6X Pro features an energy-efficient MIP (memory-in-pixel) display rather than the traditional and more common LCD or OLED displays. This furthermore reinforces its sporty looks.
What might spoil it for some is the lack of touch support. Instead of tapping on the display you need to use the five dedicated buttons to navigate around the features and menus and given their extensive nature this can get quite arduous sometimes.
3rd – Samsung Galaxy Watch 3
Operating a smartwatch via a touch-sensitive bezel may no longer be new, but it remains a unique feature of Samsung’s Galaxy Watch.
Samsung uses its own Tizen operating system for the Galaxy Watch 3. Fortunately, just like on Apple’s watchOS and Google’s GearOS additional apps are available via Samsung’s own Galaxy Store, many of which are also available on Apple’s and Google’s respective stores.
The watch supports using a paired Android smartphone to make and receive phone calls, and it is capable of measuring your heart rate, your blood oxygen level, and perform health analyses. Athletes can customize the exercise screen to their liking and take a look at aerobe and anaerobe training effects immediately following a workout. When running, the Galaxy Watch 3 recorded ground contact and airtime, and thus more than most fitness trackers.
When it comes to build quality and visual appearance, the Galaxy Watch 3 is closer to traditional watches than most other.
By default, Samsung includes a leather strap with its very well-made watch. Considering its very ambitious price we find the watch lacking in several aspects though, among others battery life. It requires to be charged either every night or at least every other night. The actual act of charging is performed wirelessly.
4th – Apple Watch Series 6
What was once the laughingstock for its square design has now become the Gold standard for smartwatches. Its bright LTPO OLED display is very fast in switching between always-on mode and regular active usage mode. Its two buttons, one of which is a dial, and touch gestures are all you need to use the device. Reminders or timers can be set via Apple’s integrated assistant Siri, and the watch can be used to make and take phone calls thanks to its integrated speaker and microphone. Where the Apple Watch truly shines is in its third-party app ecosystem. No other manufacturer gets even close, which makes the Apple Watch the most versatile smartwatch available by a longshot.
The Apple Watch is very popular with athletes. Thanks to its built-in ECG, heart rate sensors, and blood oxygen saturation sensors it offers a wide array of health data.
In our review of the Apple Watch Series 6 we found the blood oxygen saturations sensor to be fairly accurate. It can either take automatic readings or perform a manual one. Its sleep tracking feature that Apple introduced with watchOS 7 and that is also available on older watches, on the other hand, was not particularly great. Should your battery charge drop below 30 % before you fall asleep it will not record any data, which means you need to make sure to give it a quick top-up if necessary before you go to bed. The Apple Watch remains a functional and matured smartwatch with a short battery life.
5th – Polar Vantage V2
The Polar Vantage V2 is a sturdy MIL-STD-810G-certified sports watch with transreflective LCD that can be used without any backlight outdoors.
In addition to its five grippy buttons the Polar Vantage V2 also comes with a touchscreen, something that is not yet standard for sports watches.
Athletes can connect the watch to additional sensors for running or cycling and will find a few unique features, such as for example performance tests for running or cycling to help improve your training using the Polar app. In addition, it also supports various workout modes offered by streaming provider Les Mills. Komoot users can transfer routes onto the watch and then follow turn by turn instructions.
Smartwatch features include notifications, rejecting phone calls (it does not support taking or making phone calls), and smartphone remote controls for music.
A blood oxygen sensor that has become very common in the last few months is missing though.
The Polar Vantage V2 is available on Amazon with prices starting at $500.
6th – Garmin Venu 2s
The Venu 2 is available in two different sizes: a 41mm Garmin Venu 2s and a 45 mm Venu 2. The only difference between the two is battery life.
Its bright AMOLED display will dim automatically, and thanks to 8 GB of built-in storage the smartwatch can moonlight as offline music player by either synchronizing music from a computer or by using apps such as Amazon Prime Music, Deezer, or Spotify. Apps are downloaded from Garmin’s own app store, and playlists are synchronized automatically via Wi-Fi. Keep in mind that the smartwatch does not come with a speaker and will require Bluetooth headphones in order to play music.
The good-looking Venu 2 hides its fitness features very well.
Fitness features include preconfigured cardio and strength workouts as well as a distance meter and geographic support for golfers. The Venu 2 can also automatically count repeats, detect swimming metrics, and record a walk including its track automatically so nothing ever gets lost.
7th – Honor Watch GS Pro
Honor’s sturdy smartwatch is a great companion for outdoor freaks. It is not only very robust and strong but also offers a long battery life. Thanks to its 790 mAh battery it can run for up to 25 days. Hiking or biking without your smartphone are no problem either as the GS Pro will run for up to 48 hours with active GPS use.
Practically indestructible. The Honor Watch GS Pro has passed 14 military-level standards.
The available workouts have been updated to include skiing, snowboarding, and cross country. In addition, we grew quite fond of Honor’s workout tracking and its health data recordings. That said during our review of the Honor Watch GS Pro we did encounter issues with the blood oxygen saturation sensor. The watch comes with 4 GB of storage for offline music.
8th – Fitbit Sense
Fitbit wearables tend to emphasize fitness tracking. Among others, the watch supports an app with workout instructions and GPS tracking for outdoor workouts. It also supports offline music with up to 2.5 GB of storage available. Both Spotify and Deezer were already preloaded on our Fitbit Sense, and other apps are available through Fitbit’s own app store.
The Fitbit Sense is one of the more advanced health tracking wearables available right now.
The Sense is very similar to Fitbit’s own Versa series but offers a variety of additional health features on top of it. For example, it can display an ECG, read and record your skin temperature at night, and track electrodermal activities in order to detect typical stress symptoms. It will read your heart frequency all day long but limits blood oxygen saturation readings to nighttime in order to detect sleep apnea.
9th – Suunto 9 Peak
None of the renowned watch makers can offer a sports watch that looks even nearly as good as the Suunto 9 Peak. Its case is even slimmer than traditional smartwatches such as the Apple Watch or Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 3.
The Suunto 9 Peak is one of the most elegant sports watches currently available in Germany.
Its GPS works reliably and can connect to up to three satellite systems simultaneously. If you happen to be using Komoot you can synchronize your tours with the watch and enjoy turn-by-turn navigation on your wrist. In our review of the Suunto 9 Peak we also found a noteworthy flaw: when measuring blood oxygen levels, a new feature first introduced with the 9 Peak, its readings were unacceptably inaccurate. We can only hope that Suunto will address this with a future software update.
The Suunto 9 Peak is available on Amazon with prices starting at $569.
10th – Fossil Gen 5 LTE
Both watch and band are available in various fashionable varieties. The LTE SKU is one of the few wearables that can be used to make phone calls and receive data when out and about without your smartphone. As is the case with other Wear OS watches, such as the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 or the Oppo Watch LTE, connectivity can be limited to specific carries in each country. For example, German users are limited to Vodafone.
The touchscreen and three buttons, one of which is a crown, make using the Fossil Gen 5 LTE a breeze.
The fairly WearOS-typical short battery life can be extended to various days using a variety of available battery profiles. The Fossil Gen 5 LTE comes with 8 GB of storage, GPS, and a barometer, and turned out to offer a very accurate pulse rate monitoring in our review. While the optical sensor was not any more accurate than other wearables during fast interval workouts it came very close to a chest strap with heart-rate sensor during a normal run.