Readers Roundtable? What’s the Best GPS Watch under $150?

Who doesn't love the convenience of a GPS watch?  img via peterm7 on flickr
The convenience of a GPS watch is great!ย  It’s the expense that’s kind of a drag… img via peterm7 on flickr

We all love a good product review, which is why this week I decided to share with you that our own Ginger, of “run-by-feel” fame, has begun shopping for a GPS watch. She asked the Salty bloggers to help, and since those handy little devices are one of the most expensive pieces of gear available to runners, I thought it would be a great question for you!

“I don’t want to spend too much,” says Ginger. “I really just want a GPS for tracking pace and distance.” Like so many runners she doesn’t need any bells and whistles, she’s just looking for the basics.ย  The most important feature is that the watch fit into her budget.ย  Of course Garmin is the forerunner (so to speak) in the US, but we’re also interested to learn about other brands.

Are you familiar with a good GPS watch available for under $150? (That’s $191 Canadian) If not, how much did yours cost, and do you think you would spend that much again?

As always, we’ll take your answers in the comments!

Cinnamon made Salty Running, takes lots of pictures and drinks lots of coffee. By day she's a camera assistant for films and tv in New York, and by night she's on a quest for zen in the 10k. Her writing is a mix of satirical humor, finding wholeness as an average runner, cheering for runners at all paces and more.

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  1. Im considering an upgrade myself. I still use a garmin forerunner 205, but it’s clunky and already gets spotty reception, but now it’s discontinued and I’m guessing won’t have any more updates to make it better. I am looking at the garmin fr 220 ($250ish range).The 620 looks amazing but is definitely way more than I need. I couldn’t care less about connecting to the Internet. I just want the data on the run and that’s it. I liked the 310xt. I’ve used both peppers and jasmines and it seemed to work well, was lighter than the 205 and you can get it pretty cheap:

    I have a bia and an highly disappointed in it. I used it a few times and had so many problems I gave up and just use it for morning watch less runs when I need to keep track of the time of day to make sure I’m home on time – the time of day display is nice and big ๐Ÿ™‚ I hate the go stick separate from the watch, the slap to lap which is very imprecise for me and also I just had spotty functionality with mine – would be running along thinking everything’s great and look down and the watch had stopped tracking for who knows how long. Was really irritating. It’s been a year so I should dust it off and try again I suppose.

    1. Interesting! I forgot about bia in my research. Amazon reviews have 4.5 stars average but the 1 star reviews all say the same thing you said. Seems like the first model had a lot of quirks. I wonder if there will be any updates…

      1. Yeah, I have mixed feelings on the Bia. I like it enough to use it regularly as my sole GPS watch (it replaced my Garmin which had seen waaaayyy better days) but I do have some issues with it. I don’t mind the Go Stick and I like the small watch size, and I love the SOS and live tracking features which both work great (my parents in another state were able to “watch” me run my marathon last fall with the live tracking and they thought it was soooo cool ๐Ÿ™‚ plus it was really useful for my boyfriend to know when to expect me at certain points on the course). But I don’t always trust the accuracy, and I also have problems with it cutting out from time to time. Plus I wish you could customize the display more. All in all I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it as is, but I also had one of the very first ones so they might have worked out some of the kinks by now… and on the plus side their customer service has always been very responsive.

    2. I upgraded from the 210 to the 220 (after my husband made a second GPS an imperative for a healthy relationship) My vote- 220 locates the GPS quite a bit quicker. It also appears to be more accurate on pace, particularly during speed work. Battery life is MUCH longer- I get about a week of workouts out of mine without turning it off (the watch is still alive at that point, but I charge to be safe). Also, the old problem of the charging connection is vastly improved- I no longer wake up to an uncharged watch. Further, if you have a small wrist, it has better adjustability, similar to a Soleus, I definitely would encourage an upgrade to the 220 if you can swing it.

    3. I LOVE my Garmin 220. The battery lasts a long time, it finds the satellites very quickly, and I’ve never had a problem with it losing the satellite while I’m trail running. I think it runs about $250, so it doesn’t fall under the category of the Round Table, but I am very happy with my purchase and think it was worth every penny.

  2. I am looking to get a new GPS with reasonably accurate heart monitor that does not require a chest strap. Any and all suggestions appreciated!

  3. Since I need a new wristwatch and I usually always go with Timex Ironman, I am going to try out the Iron Run X20 watch with GPS. From the reviews, it appears that some people were not really satisfied (size, accuracy) but two factors helped my decision: 1. Had a nice discount from Kohls online (low financial risk) and 2. I love the lap features on Ironman watches. I have used James’s GPS Forerunner 210 and I don’t like how it records lap/splits. So, if the GPS function on the Timex is crap, I’ll still have a nice watch that is just like my current one.

  4. I recently got a TomTom watch (just the basic GPS one without the heart strap) and I’ve been pretty pleased with it. I think it was $99, and connects quickly, and has a small display of whatever stats you want. I chose current time, duration, and distance. Plus it connects to a phone app and computer to sync runs, an can be synced to Nike plus!

  5. I have the Forerunner 10. I just wanted something that would give me pace/distance and not look ridiculously huge on my skinny wrist. The real-time pace feedback is a little wacky (or I haven’t figured it out) but really I just want pace per mile so that’s fine. One annoying quirk is that when the timer is paused mid-run, you can’t access time of day (but you can access it once you re-start the timer). My previous GPS was a Forerunner 205, I think, and it had lots of bells & whistles I never bothered to use – the 10 has everything I need.

    1. I have a Forerunner 10 as well and I really like it. No bells and whistles, only the basic stuff I need. It’s also very intuitive to use. And it comes in pretty colors (mine is pink)! I was afraid the white parts would yellow eventually, but they’re still white after a year.
      I heard someone mention the battery dying during a marathon, but since my longest run ever has been a half, this never happened to me.

  6. I have a Bia, and I really love it. I don’t have the issues reported by other commenters. It is my first GPS watch, and I was a Kickstarter backer for it. Their customer service is very good. I recently had the touch screen stop working. This was apparently a known issue. They sent me a replacement and had me return my original watch. I had the new watch in about a week.

    I do find it more accurate than Nike+ which is what I had used before, it’s also very comfortable for me.

    1. I tested a Nike tomtom in 2011 and it was infuriatingly frustrating. It was worse than the bia as far as reliability (cut out it powered off randomly) and the accuracy was rough. I also did not like the slap to lap feature finding it imprecise like the bia’s. They were similar in feel to me. But having used a garmin for years the bia has a lot of work to do. I want to love it! I was also a backer and I respect and like the women behind it s lot, but it just doesn’t do it for me … At least not at this point.

  7. This Roundtable has been super helpful! I’m still stick in the stone age using a non-GPS Nike+ Sportband (on which the display has been crapping out on cold weather runs, but that’s another story). I’ve always been in the “run-by-feel” camp, but now that I’m looking to kick up my performance, I think now is the time for a splurge. Let’s go shopping, Ginger!

  8. Just purchased my first GPS watch, the Garmin Vivoactive. $250 without heart rate monitor ($300 with). Less $100 gift card from REI by opening a credit card with them (promo) = $150. Added Scosche Rhythm + for optical heart rate monitoring by arm strap, $75-80. (I refuse to wear chest straps). It arrives in 2 days! (Tried on Polar M400 but hurt my wrist bones)