Slideshow: Gear Box: GPS watches
Whether you're an elite athlete or a weekend warrior, a GPS watch can be one of your most essential endurance training tools. Not only do they keep track of your distance, they also provide real-time feedback on pace, which can make all the difference when it comes to increasing speed and fitness. What's more, GPS data can be the kick in the butt you need on the days you're slogging through the meters and miles. While all these units have GPS capabilities, they differ widely in features, price, and design, offering a little something for everyone. <i>By Mackenzie Lobby, special to espnW</i>
Guiding You Across Time and Place
Whether you're an elite athlete or a weekend warrior, a GPS watch can be one of your most essential endurance training tools. Not only do they keep track of your distance, they also provide real-time feedback on pace, which can make all the difference when it comes to increasing speed and fitness. What's more, GPS data can be the kick in the butt you need on the days you're slogging through the meters and miles. While all these units have GPS capabilities, they differ widely in features, price, and design, offering a little something for everyone. By Mackenzie Lobby, special to espnW
Suunto Ambit2 S White ($350)
Well known for its navigation devices, Suunto built a great watch for triathletes in the Ambit2 S White, which allows you to track swimming, biking and running. Syncing with the satellites in just seconds and compatible with any ANT+ heart-rate strap, this is a no-hassle GPS option. For swimming, the waterproof watch tracks strokes, pace and distance via an accelerometer and GPS. The GPS capabilities may be enough information for you when swimming and biking, but if you're looking for more, you have the option to purchase the Bike POD or Foot POD to measure cadence. If you're practicing all three disciplines in a single day, it also has a multisport profile, making for a seamless transition between swimming, biking and running. For fashion-savvy triathletes, this is one of the freshest-looking GPS watches out there.
Soleus GPS Mini ($99)
If you're not a big data-hound, the Soleus GPS Mini is a great solution. Offering just the basics for runners, including distance, pace and calories burned, it is a perfect entry level GPS that won't bog you down with excess features. It is also, notably, one of the smallest GPS wrist units around, so it will fit many women better than some of the bulkier options. Further streamlining the device, the integrated USB port is built into the band of the watch and can be plugged directly into a computer without a cord. If you're looking for a GPS and heart rate option, the Soleus Pulse ($149) debuts this spring, which has many of the same features as the Mini, but also includes a wrist-based heart rate monitor. Some of the best price points available, the Soleus solutions don't sacrifice accuracy or usability.
Garmin Forerunner 620 ($399)
While the Forerunner 620 is a GPS watch at its core, it can also serve as a running coach. When paired with a heart rate monitor, the 620 analyzes aspects of your form, including ground contact time, cadence and vertical oscillation. By determining how much time you're spending on the ground and in the air, your stride rate, and the degree to which you are bouncing upward, it gives you concrete numbers regarding your efficiency as a runner. It is also able to estimate metrics like VO2 max, determining roughly how much oxygen you consume at a given pace, reflecting your aerobic fitness. For runners looking to not only track basic measures of distance and pace, but also gait and efficiency, this is the watch for you.
Polar V800 ($449.95)
Another watch built for multisport athletes, the V800 is unique because it uses Bluetooth Smart technology to work as a GPS triathlon watch and fitness tracker all rolled into one. If you're interested in further metrics, it can also be linked to a heart-rate strap, in addition to providing altitude and barometric pressure readings. Even better, all information can be tracked and analyzed wirelessly through the Polar Flow app on your smart phone. The V800 can be set to either single-sport mode or multisport mode, which provides seamless transitions between swimming, biking and running. The benefit of the 24/7 activity tracker is that you are able to monitor health metrics not just when you're working out, but also when you're sleeping, driving, working and everything in between. This allows the watch to analyze your activity and determine proper recovery requirements.
Timex Ironman Easy Trainer GPS ($100)
Especially if you've worn any type of Timex sport watch before, the Ironman Easy Trainer GPS is simple to figure out and use right out of the box. True to its name, the Easy Trainer is a straightforward GPS-enabled watch for runners that tracks pace, distance and calories burned. It also provides real-time pace while you're out on the roads. If you're in search of a chronograph with GPS capabilities, this watch will suit your needs perfectly. Capable of storing 30 workouts and 20 hours of workout data, you can go back into your training history for stats from past workouts. Featuring a quick GPS connection, the Easy Trainer is ideal for runners who want something that is easy to use and highly accurate.