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Tech & Wearables

Spring 2021 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide: Watches

Our 2021 guide to tri watches gives an expert's take on a wide range of smartwatches that can help you track your swimming, biking, running, and much more.

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Black smartwatch

Wahoo Elemnt Rival | $380

Rating: ★ ★ ★
Weight: 54g

Basics

Bike computer stalwarts Wahoo make a strong attempt with a very tri-specific smartwatch that has room to improve.

Pros

  • Automatic transition function for tri that works surprisingly well
  • Bike “handoff” feature to Wahoo bike computers during races
  • Intuitive and unconventional data display

Cons

  • Light on smartphone functions
  • Surprising lack of brick and swimrun functions
  • No navigation for the price
Black smartwatch

Coros Pace 2 | $200

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Weight: 29g

Basics

This is the lightest/smallest exercise-focused smartwatch on the market with big features like running with power, open-water swimming, tri, and more.

Pros

  • Killer battery life (20 days smartwatch/30 hours GPS training)
  • On-wrist running power
  • Ridiculous price
  • Future-ready software leaves space for big updates

Cons

  • Few lifestyle functions
  • No brick/multisport functions aside from basic tri

Read the COROS 2 Pace extended review

Lavender smartwatch

Garmin Venu SQ | $200

Rating: ★ ★ ★
Weight: 37g

Basics

A lifestyle-focused, budget-conscious touchscreen smartwatch with some decent single-sport features.

Pros

  • Surprisingly good GPS for the price
  • Familiar Garmin setup and screens
  • Good workout customization
  • Easy to use and navigate

Cons

  • An unremarkable touchscreen (it’s no Apple)
  • Notifications and connectivity are hit or miss
  • No open water (pool swimming only) or tri/multisport sport modes
White smartwatch

Polar Grit X | $430

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Weight: 64g

Basics

A touchscreen smartwatch with some excellent training/recovery functions like on-wrist running power, loads of sport profiles, and sleep tracking/analysis.

Pros

  • On-wrist power with excellent data screens
  • Super accurate heart rate (for on-wrist)
  • Rugged design for offroaders
  • Advanced and consistent sleep/recovery features

Cons

  • Buttons are slightly counterintuitive
  • Touchscreen is very hit or miss—best for scrolling through post-workout data
  • Clunky multisport profile requires lots of fiddling mid-workout
Black and copper smartwatch

Suunto 7 | $400

Rating: ★ ★ ★
Weight: 68g

Basics

This watch has a blend of full lifestyle functionality and medium-level single-sport training capabilities on a beefy touchscreen smartwatch.

Pros

  • Large, beautiful touchscreen with intuitive navigation
  • Fantastic GPS navigation display, offline maps, and popularity routing
  • Good compatibility with Android via WearOS (works with Apple iOS as well)

Cons

  • Low battery life for people who train long and often
  • Lack of tri/multisport mode is surprising given the 70+ sport modes and price
  • A lack of external sensors (heart-rate strap, cycling sensors, running with power, etc.)
Dark green and rose gold smartwatch

Apple Watch Series 6 | $400 (40mm) | $430 (44mm)

Rating: ★ ★ ★
Weight: 47.1g

Basics

A lifestyle watch with an impressive level of bells and whistles standard in the Apple suite. New ECG and heart-rate features, along with Apple Fitness+, make it appealing for general fitness, but without the tri-specific functionality of a more sport-focused watch.

Pros

  • Connection to a phone number enables some truly mind-blowing lifestyle features
  • New ability to track ECG and heart-rate variability are nearly medical-grade
  • Well-designed and pretty
  • Comes in 40mm and 44mm sizes, with a variety of higher-end bands options

Cons

  • Surprisingly poor battery life
  • Workout modes are lacking in the features triathletes would expect
  • Requires an iPhone