Best Running Watch Under 200 Dollars In 2019

Best Running Watch Under 200 Dollars In 2019

Key Update: The release of the Garmin Forerunner 45 (June 2019) has completely changed the landscape of options.

It’s by far the most desirable watch in this line-up. 

However, the Forerunner 35, Polar M200 and the Polar M430 have all dropped in price significantly this year. This means you can now get a world class running watch for less than $150, which is awesome.

Let’s start with the good news. There are plenty of good running watches that cost less than $200. In this round-up, we are going to unpack the best options from Garmin, Polar, Suunto and a less well-known brand called Coros.  

But before we dive into the finer details of each watch, let’s take an early look at the overall results. 

Now that the list of options has been revealed, we can dive a bit deeper into the strengths and weaknesses of each watch. 

Best Overall - Garmin Forerunner 45

Garmin Forerunner 45 Black
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We said it at the beginning of this article but it’s worth repeating. The Garmin Forerunner 45 is comfortably the best running watch for less than $200. It has the best combination of features, battery life, durability and design. 

  • GPS, GLONASS & GALILEO Satellite Tracking
  • Garmin Coach (Custom Training Plans designed by professional coaches)
  • Improved Wrist-HRM
  • Body Battery Score
  • Safety Tracking and incident detection
  • V02 Max estimate
  • Virtual Pacer, Autopause & Autolap
  • Indoor + Outdoor Running
  • Indoor + Outdoor Cycling
  • Sleep Tracking + Stress Tracking
  • Smart notifications

Best Value for Money - Garmin Forerunner 35

Garmin Forerunner 35
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The Garmin Forerunner 35 is one of the most popular GPS running watches that has ever been made. Even though it is considered an ‘entry-level’ running watch, it has more than enough technology to power you from your first 5K, all the way through to an ultra marathon.

As far as Garmin products go, the Forerunner 35 hits the sweet spot in terms of value for money. It gives you a lot of the running features found in the Garmin Fenix 5, for a fraction of the cost. Here are some of the best technical features of the FR35.

  • GPS Satellite
  • Wrist-based HRM
  • 24/7 Activity Tracking
  • Indoor + Outdoor Running Mode
  • Cycling
  • Cardio Mode
  • Waterproof (50 meters)
  • Standard Battery – Up to 9 Days
  • GPS Battery – Up to 13 Hours
  • Virtual Pacer (Your Pace vs Target Pace)
  • Control music from the watch
  • V02 Max Calculator

Minor Weakness of the FR35 - It lacks advanced running metrics

The only drawback of the Forerunner 35 is that it lacks some of the advanced running metrics found in the Forerunner 235 and the Forerunner 645. While stats like ‘ground contact time’ and ‘vertical oscillation’ may be important to elite runners, they aren’t particularly meaningful for amateurs that only really need pace, distance and heart rate stats.

Bonus Feature - Virtual Pacer

This nifty feature allows you to set a target pace with your watch. As you run, you can then compare your actual pace, with your target pace.

It’s a great feedback tool that can help you break through plateaus and better understand what ‘race pace’ really feels like. Also, this feature is missing from the Forerunner 235, which is considered the upgrade on the Forerunner 35.  

Final Word on the Forerunner 35

It’s hard to go wrong with the Forerunner 35 if you’re looking for an affordable yet high quality GPS running watch.

Rating: 4.5/5
4.5/5

Most Advanced Running Features - Polar M430

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Of all the watches in this round-up, the Polar M430 gives you the most advanced running features. As the successor to the M400 (one of Polar’s best selling running watches), the M430 has an impressive array of running specific features. These include:

Running Index: This is essentially your running fitness score. The watch uses your heart rate data and your speed to calculate your running index, after each and every run. This gives a you a great baseline measurement, that you can use to compare training sessions and see how you’re improving over time.

Polar Running Program: Training for a specific event is one of the best ways to become a better runner. With the Polar M430, you can choose any standard distance, and get a customized workout plan tailored specifically to your current running ability.

Apps like Runtastic and Runkeeper make you pay for training plans like these, so it’s a massive score to get these training programs bundled with the watch.

Recovery Status:  Understanding your recovery status can be super helpful when you’re preparing for a big race. Fortunately, the Polar M430 monitors your recovery status between runs, making it easy to identify when you should taper, and when you should go full steam ahead.

  • GPS Satellite
  • 24/7 Activity Tracking
  • Wrist-based HRM
  • Advanced Running Features
  • Virtual Pacer
  • 100+ Sports Profiles
  • Waterproof

Minor Weaknesses of Polar M430

Wrist HRM Not Continuous: Unlike the rest of the watches in this post, the M430 doesn’t monitor your heart rate 24/7.

Of course it has a built-in wrist-based HRM with 6 LEDs to measure your heart rate, but this feature is only activated when you select an exercise mode.

So, if you’re hoping to monitor your heart rate throughout the day, you’ll need to choose a different watch.

Battery Life is Average with the Wrist HRM On: When you have the wrist HRM on and the GPS on, the Polar M430 will give you 8 hours. 

You can increase this to 30 hours with GPS Power Saver Mode, but it’s a bit of a cop out. The simple reality is that the battery of the M430 isn’t powerful enough to handle the optical (wrist-based) HRM. It’s a big chink in the armor of this watch. 

Final Word on the Polar M430

Despite one or two issues with the wrist-HRM, the Polar M430 is a powerful GPS running watch that can help you become a better runner. 

With Polar’s running index, the Polar Running Program, advanced running stats and recovery status, it can genuinely improve the efficiency of your training over time.

Rating: 4/5
4/5

Best Activity Tracker Features - Garmin Vivosport

Garmin Vivosport GPS Activity Tracker
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For less than 200 dollars, you would be hard-pressed to find an activity tracker with more technical features than the Garmin Vivosport GPS Fitness Watch.

Despite its streamlined band style design, it packs a lot of technology into a slim frame. These are the main technological features:

  • GPS Satellite
  • Wrist-based HRM
  • 24/7 Activity Tracking
  • Indoor + Outdoor Running
  • Cycling Mode
  • Barometric Altimeter
  • Waterproof 
  • Cardio Mode

Bonus Feature 1 - Barometric Altimeter

On the surface this might not seem like a big deal, until you realize that there are much more expensive running watches watches which don’t have altimeters. For instance, the Forerunner 235, Forerunner 735 and the Polar Vantage M (all well over $200) are all missing barometric altimeters.

So what’s the benefit to you? Basically, it makes this watch really good for trail running, hiking and mountain biking. This is because barometric altimeters are better than GPS for tracking incline and decline data. It literally uses atmospheric pressure to calculate your vertical movements. A GPS can’t compete with that kind of accuracy.

Bonus Feature 2 - Stress Tracking

This is another interesting feature built into the Vivosport. Basically, the watch uses the wrist-based HRM to monitor your heart rate variability over time. It then uses this information to calculate your stress levels.

Knowing your stress score can help you identify when you are run down or pushing yourself too hard (either at work or with your training). Over time, you can use it to keep your lifestyle more balanced,

Minor Weakness

The biggest drawback of the Vivosport is the limited GPS battery life. At only 8 hours, it should still cover you for a standard 42km marathon (depending on how fast you are), but if you move into ultra-marathon territory, you’ll need something with more legs.

Final Word on the Garmin Vivosport

The Garmin Vivosport is a surprisingly powerful activity tracker. With the inclusion of GPS and a barometric altimeter, it’s actually a very good option for runners, and it smashes similar products (like the Fitbit Charge 3) in terms of technical capabilities. 

Ultimately, if you like the band style design and you want solid activity tracking stats, the Garmin Vivosport is an excellent choice. 

Rating: 4.5/5
4.5/5

Most Budget Friendly - Polar M200

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The Polar M200 is the most affordable GPS running watch in this round up.

Despite the slender price, it’s still a high quality running watch with a built-in wrist HRM and plenty of technological power.

Like it’s more expensive counterpart (the Polar M430), the M200 also gives you access to Polar’s dedicated running program. This allows you to build and follow customized training programs for just about every running distance.

In addition, it also comes with Polar’s Running Index function, which scores each and every run that you complete. You can then compare your running score for each run, using it as a baseline measurement of your running fitness.

  • GPS
  • Wrist-based HRM
  • 24/7 Activity Tracking
  • Indoor Running Mode
  • Outdoor Running Mode
  • Cycling Mode
  • 100+ Sports Profiles
  • Polar Running Index Score
  • Polar Running Programs

Bonus Feature - Multiple Sports Modes

With the M200, you can select the following training modes: Core, Treadmill Running, Road Cycling, Mountain Biking, Walking, Strength Training, Group Exercise, Swimming, Pool Swim, Skating, Other Outdoor, Other Indoor, Road Running, Hiking, Aqua Fitness, Indoor Cycling, Outdoor Cycling.

Minor Weaknesses

Dim Screen: The Screen of the Polar M200 is a little bit dim. To counteract this, you can push the right side button to activate the backlight. Although this solution works, it definitely isn’t ideal, especially when you’re actually running or just want to take a casual glance at your watch for the time.

Average GPS Battery LIfe: The Polar M200 has a GPS battery life of 7 hours. This is still fine for distanced from 5km to 42km, but if you step up into longer distances, it might become a problem.

Final Word on the M200

The Polar M200 proves that you can buy a good quality GPS running watch for just over 100 dollars. 

The GPS tracking is solid, and it includes a wrist-based HRM. When you combine this with Polar’s customized running programs and Polar’s running index score, it becomes a very attractive option for people who want a high quality product without a premium price. 

Rating: 4/5
4/5

Most Accurate Heart Rate Monitor - Suunto Ambit 3 with Chest Strap

Suunto Ambit 3 Run
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The SUUNTO Ambit 3 Run separates itself from all the other watches in this round up, because it comes bundled with a Chest Strap Heart Rate Monitor.

Although this is the more old school approach (most new GPS running watches include wrist-HRM), the fact of the matter is that chest straps are infinitely superior to wrist straps in terms of accuracy.

Moving on to running specific data, the Ambit 3 Run has got you covered. You get access to the following features:

  • 15h battery with 5 sec-GPS accuracy (1 min-accuracy: 100h)
  • Speed, pace, distance and GPS altitude
  • Route navigation and track back
  • Running cadence from the wrist
  • Running performance indication (Firstbeat)**
  • Interval workout planner*
  • Movescount training programs on the watch
  • Discover new routes with heatmaps on Suunto Movescount App
  • Activity based recovery time
  • Quick recovery and sleep recovery tests (Firstbeat)**
  • Extended feature set through Suunto Apps

Bonus Features

Comes Bundled with Chest Strap: We’ve already mentioned this countless times, but the standout bonus feature is the inclusion of the Chest Strap. It will deliver extremely accurate heart rate data, run after run after run.

Excellent GPS Battery Life: The Suunto Ambit 3 Run will give you 15 hours of GPS battery life. That’s enough to tackle ultra marathons comfortably. Basically, when you line up to the start, it doesn’t matter where the finish line is, cause the Ambit 3 will get you there.

Minor Weakness

No Wrist HRM – In a perfect world, the Ambit 3 Run would have a built in wrist HRM, and come bundled with the chest strap. This might seem like too much to ask, but it actually happens quite a lot with triathlon watches (eg Polar Vantage V with OH1 Chest Strap).  

Final Word on the Suunto Ambit 3 Run

If you want pinpoint GPS accuracy and extremely reliable heart rate measurements, the Suunto Ambit 3 Run will give you exactly what you need.

The absence of a wrist-based HRM is a weakness, but it makes up for this with exceptionally reliable information when you are training and racing. 

In other words, it performs the most important functions (distance and heart rate measurements) as well as a running watch can. 

Rating: 4.5/5
4.5/5

Running + Triathlon Watch - Coros Pace

Coros Pace Multisport GPS Watch
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On paper, the Coros Pace is an absolute beast. It has the following features:

  • GPS, GLONASS & BDS
  • GPS Battery Life 25 Hours
  • Wrist-based HRM
  • Indoor + Outdoor Running
  • Indoor + Outdoor Swimming
  • Indoor + Outdoor Cycling
  • Triathlon Mode
  • Smart Notifications
  • Barometric Altimeter

The Coros Pace is basically the only reputable Multisport GPS Watch available for less than 200 dollars.

It might not be quite as refined as its Garmin counterparts, but it delivers where it counts. If you want a solid running watch that can also take you across the finish line of a triathlon race, the Coros Pace is what you need.

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