Apple Watch Ultra vs. Garmin Epix Gen 2: which smartwatch is best for you? | CNN Emphasized

This write-up becomes part of our collection Fight of the Brands, in which we contrast category-leading items to their equivalents to figure out which are in fact worth your cash.Editors Note:

Considering that the intro of the Apple Watch Ultra as well as the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, its been clear that the most up to date wave of premium daily smartwatches is suggested to complete for the wrists of even more significant professional athletes. Yet can a front runner smartwatch defeated the high-grade wearables from health and fitness dimension professionals such as Garmin, Suunto as well as Polar?

To figure out, we arranged with a clutch of effective front runner smartwatches as well as exercised with the leading experience watches, after that placed both leading competitors the Apple Watch Ultra (pick of the litter smartwatch) as well as the Garmin Epix Gen 2 (perhaps one of the most polished as well as full-featured expert sporting activities see yet) right into our daily exercise turning for a number of months to figure out which one can actually do it all.

Bezel/display 49mm OLED shade touchscreen, constantly on
Physical fitness gadget connection Bluetooth
Physical switches 2 + electronic crown
Battery life 36 hrs (daily usage, constantly on), 12 hrs (GENERAL PRACTITIONERS)
Situation products Titanium
Billing Apple MagSafe


Bezel/display 47mm AMOLED shade touchscreen, constantly on
Physical fitness gadget connection Bluetooth, ANT+
Physical switches 5
Battery life 6 days (daily usage, constantly on), 30 hrs (GENERAL PRACTITIONERS)
Situation products Stainless-steel or titanium (+$100) face/bezel, polymer instance
Billing USB (Garmin exclusive port); solar


Michael Berk/CNN Underscored

The Garmin Epix Gen 2 provides you a deepness of functional metrics throughout as well as after your exercises that’s exceptional amongst the experience, sporting activities as well as health and fitness watches we have actually checked.

While the Apple Watch Ultra beams in a couple of details locations, generally the Garmin Epix is in general a much better specialized workout friend. Its merely far better outfitted to take care of the stress of communication while youre striving, usually under challenging problems. Both tools collect a lots of beneficial information (as well as user interface with their equivalent mobile applications to supply countless chances for evaluating that information, whether youre simply searching for an excellent health and fitness tracker or if youre actually right into measuring your efficiency) however the Epix is easier to handle while youre moving.

Several of thats to do with software program as well as Garmin simply provides you extra information as well as even more means to show as well as evaluate it however a great deal of it boils down to the user interface. Touchscreens, to be straightforward, can actually draw when youre moving, or damp, or perspiring or cool. And also occasionally you dont actually wish to take your eyes off the roadway to log completion of a lap or begin a period. The solution is physical, responsive switches, as well as the Epix wins hands-down below.

The Apple Watch Ultra does have a brand-new, 2nd assignable switch that comes established out of package to set off exercises as well as functions within exercises, like period as well as lap noting. Yet the Epix provides you 5 switches that allow you browse the large bulk of its features. You can head out as well as finish a relatively intricate interval exercise as well as browse your exercise playlist without also actually considering your wrist, not to mention searching as well as pecking at a little display screen while staying clear of web traffic or remaining in your lane.

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With 5 physical switches (2 noticeable as well as 3 beyond) plus a touchscreen, the Epix provides you a lot of responsive control as well as is simple to handle also while using handwear covers, in the water or in horrible climate condition.

We ran as well as cycled with the Epix with a New England winter season as well as very early springtime, as well as had no trouble browsing straightforward as well as intricate exercise regimens, also using handwear covers, no matter the climate. Each exercise kind provides a broader selection of instantly easily accessible as well as workable information displays than the equivalent exercises within Apples Workouts application.

Garmins educating metrics, evaluation devices (both on the Epix itself as well as within the Garmin link application) as well as race as well as efficiency forecast devices are extremely beneficial as well as in fact make a great overview for newbie as well as intermediate rivals. And also Garmin provides you points like aesthetic responses of climbs as well as descents that dont actually have a parallel on any type of Apple gadget. Garmin additionally includes every one of the health information it collects rest high quality, heart-rate irregularity, recuperate condition etc as well as utilizes that details as component of its health and fitness monitoring. On One’s Guard Ultra, youd need to place every one of that along with third-party applications. Garmin (as well as the Attach Application) make it less complicated to obtain a general health and fitness account that you can collaborate with.

Michael Berk/CNN Underscored

The Apple Watch Ultra includes a 2nd assignable switch, permitting even more responsive control over your exercises than previous design.

The Watch Ultra was harder to handle while using handwear covers or in the rainfall or cold. Basic points like finishing an exercise or taking care of an exercise playlist call for at the very least a faucet to turn on the display screen plus a swipe, or a double press of the crown as well as the 2nd switch. Its simply not as simple to handle while doing points like path operating, where youd instead watch on your environments.

While both watches user interface with sensing units (from heart-rate screens as well as foot vessels to bike rate as well as tempo as well as power meters on as much as ergometers as well as stationary bicycle), the Watch Ultra just sustains Bluetooth/BLE connection, while Garmin sustains both Bluetooth as well as ANT+ links, providing it accessibility to a broader series of tools (specifically on the biking end of points). Its not an offer breaker for Apple below, considering that the sector is relocating in the direction of Bluetooth, however these points are pricey as well as customers wind up spending greatly in them.

If youre a multisport professional athlete right into biking (interior or outside) as well as you simply desire a solitary health and fitness computer system, the Epix actually has the side below. Garmins assimilation with its biking items (the firm additionally makes cycling-specific computer systems, however the Epix as well as Fenix watches can conveniently offer in this function, as well as the Epixs show is extremely noticeable on benches) as well as smooth link with as well as control of whatever from lights as well as radar as well as video cameras when traveling to clever fitness instructors inside is something Apple doesnt offer at this point.

Michael Berk/CNN Underscored

The Apple Watch Ultra shares the beautiful, minimal design of its predecessors, which makes it a fantastic everyday smartwatch.

As Apple has added more and more advanced health and fitness tracking features, Garmin has countered with more smartwatch features, streamlining their looks while adding app stores, all kinds of integrations, highly customizable touchscreens and even payment platforms.

Apples watchOS 9 remains unbeatable for plain old everyday use, and it means the Apple Watch whether you get the Ultra or stick with the Series 8 is still the best smartwatch you can buy.

If youre looking to interact with your phone from your wrist; use timers, alarms and the calendar; respond to calls or texts from your watch; or just interact with the vast range of apps that offer watch support, Apples watch and app platform is clearly better than anything out there. Configuring and using pretty much any app you like, no matter how esoteric, takes a couple of swipes. Its where the touchscreen interface really shines, and Apples tight control of what app developers are able to distribute pays off with across-the-board ease of use.

With the Epix (or with any other premium fitness/adventure/outdoor wearable) you give up tight system integration. You get all the alerts youd need, since the Epix can mirror your phones notifications. But you cant, for instance, respond easily to texts from your wrist as you can with the Apple Watch Ultra. Garmin doesnt offer an LTE option either, so you cant use the Epix as a standalone communications device as you can the Watch Ultra. If you want to stay in touch, youll need to take your phone along.

Michael Berk/CNN Underscored

The Garmin Epix has a solid suite of everyday features, including audio playback control of your phone, and while you can manage everything with the physical buttons (making them easier to deal with while working out) the overall menu of smartwatch functions does not yet compare to Apple’s vast ecosystem.

Overall, using the Epix as a daily driver is possible, but it takes a little more doing. Alarms and timers are a couple of menus deep, you cant integrate functions into watch face complications as easily and youve just got more limits overall on what you can accomplish. The Watch Ultra, on the other hand (and this goes for any current Apple Watch running watchOS 9) almost lets you dispense with a phone altogether for many tasks.

Garmins app store focuses almost exclusively on fitness applications, data analysis and metrics, with a few nods to everyday pursuits like music services and productivity timers. But you wont find a host of recipe, smart home, productivity or gaming apps here.

That said, with the Elix, you get some nicely thought-out fitness and wellness features out of the box that would take more doing to set up via apps with the Watch Ultra. Garmins sleep tracking is fantastic, with an elaborate morning report that proved a surprisingly useful planner for daily exercise routines.

On the wellness front, both watches have effective, accurate heart-rate monitors and pulse ox sensors, but Apple gets the edge with the combination of onboard ECG, fall detection and LTE with international emergency calling/SOS options, making it a better device for both everyday monitoring and dealing with potentially sticky situations near or far from home.

GPS and navigation features

Michael Berk/CNN Underscored

Garmin’s maps are easy to read and follow, richly detailed and very complete. (They’re also slow to download at first, so allot several hours to do so before you leave on an adventure you won’t be able to do it the morning of your trip).

Garmins maps are more complete and detailed and will likely be the choice of most dedicated outdoors enthusiasts. But realistically, for anyone trying to choose between these devices, its kind of a draw here, and a matter of what youre used to and how youre going to use it overall.

Both the Apple Watch and the Epix support all of the current navigation satellite networks and lock up fast when youre headed out on a run a marked change from previous generations of adventure watches, which could leave you waiting for several minutes as they got a bead on the necessary satellites. I didnt experience any significant difficulties on- or off-road, regardless of tree cover or weather, and got consistent mapping from both devices.

That said, maps on the Epix load faster, because they live on the watch so long as you download the maps for your region to the watch, which can be a little time-consuming. Apples mapping depends more on the wealth of mapping information already on your phone, so there isnt as much prep required on your part. If youre into setting routes with third-party services, both devices let you define and upload routes using the services of your choice. Though as usual with Apple, this will likely involve relying on multiple apps; Garmin incorporates more of these features into its core applications.

The Watch Ultra is perfect when used as a navigation extension of your iPhone, of course, with tight integration that gives you turn-by-turn directions for any map youre following in Apple Maps on your device. Its a particularly nice option to have while driving, but really, its part of the suite of features that makes the Watch Ultra a stronger smartwatch.

Both the Watch Ultra and the Epix supply emergency-oriented breadcrumb trail waypoint finding (Apple calls this Backtrack) using a series of map markers (youll have to drop these manually as you pass landmarks) that you can retrace using the watchs compass should you lose connectivity. We tried these, disabling the GPS and finding our way back out of the woods easily enough, though it wasnt incredibly straightforward in either case to use these features. On the Watch Ultra especially, you end up navigating just using the compass, which can be a little confusing, while on the Epix you follow your waypoints on the map youve likely already gotten lost using. While these features can certainly help, youre going to want to have a pretty developed set of backcountry skills to get out of a real jam, and its not clear to me that either device will make the difference on its own.

Battery life is where we found a real difference. The Epixs battery life in daily use is a significant step up from the Watch Ultra. In short, youll get close to a week (and even two if you optimize) out of the Epix versus a day and a half out of the Ultra.

Wearing the Epix every day, we regularly went 10 days between battery charges thats setting the display brightness to increase with a wrist turn, and with all-day use, short workouts on a daily basis and long runs on the weekend. Solar charging is very slow and didnt really make a ton of impact on overall charge, but thats during the relatively sunless New England winter and wed expect better in sunnier climes. With GPS and navigation running continuously during workouts, battery life is reduced to around 24 hours still longer than any consumer smartwatch and nearly double what youll get out of the Apple Watch, which gives you about half a day. (These are out-of-the-box defaults, by the way you can of course fine-tune performance on either watch to improve battery efficiency, tailoring app-by-app usage or reducing display brightness).

Its great to just never have to worry about charging, and it makes it easier to rely on the Epix for all-day and -night fitness and wellness tracking. During the time I used the watch, I never found myself having to charge it at night rather than wearing it to get sleep data; this came up multiple times with the Apple Watch Ultra. Both devices charge quickly, but having the concern eliminated for practical purposes is a real boon to usability.

That said, the Apple device offers fantastic battery performance for a consumer wearable we regularly got a couple of days without charging in ordinary use, and a full day using GPS and navigation features for long runs and bike rides. Its much better than previous Apple Watches, and impressive given the bright, easily readable screen.

Surprisingly, Apple has the edge in one demanding outdoor application. The company has really gone after divers with the Ultra, with the Oceanic+ app turning the watch into a simple-to-used dive computer aimed at the recreational scuba aficionado. Apples upped the ante a bit by providing depth and water seal testing on request, so theyre clearly serious. While its a fairly basic dive computer (it cant interface with tank air pressure gauges, for instance), the diving interface is designed by Huish Outdoors, who have long experience in the pursuit, and theres likely to be further improvements on the way. All reports indicate that its a very serviceable tool for recreational divers.

The Epix, on the other hand, is designed for swimming, but is not a qualified dive watch. (Garmin makes the specialized Descent watch for divers, which does more than the Apple Watch Ultra but costs double the price and would be overkill as a daily driver.)

Michael Berk/CNN Underscored

Garmins platform has evolved to the point where for most uses its very competitive with traditional smartwatches as a compelling choice for daily wear, while the Apple Watch Ultra has made serious inroads in adventure functionality. Both the Epix and the Watch Ultra have great fitness and smartwatch features, easily readable displays, wayfinding features that may be able to get you out of some sticky backwoods situations if youre careful to keep track and plenty of daily utility. You really cant go wrong with either one.

But thats the thing. Given the price of these devices depending on options, finishes, bands and accessories, its pretty easy to spend $1,000 in either case youre likely to buy only one of these things, and youre definitely going to want to get the most out of it. The decision really comes down to figuring out exactly what you need out of your wearable.

If what youre looking for is something thats a great smartwatch first and gives you a satisfying set of fitness functions second, the Apple Watch Ultra is the device for you. Apples watchOS 9 is by far the best smartwatch OS, with a vast universe of useful apps, among them the revised Workout app that offers plenty of workout options. They may be simplified compared to Garmins (or Suuntos or Polars) offerings, but are for the most part very competitive with what the specialist fitness brands have to offer. The additional assignable button gives you just enough control over workouts that youll be able to manage things when you cant easily access the touchscreen.

The other clear argument for the Watch Ultra is if youre looking for a smartwatch that doubles as a dive computer. The Epix simply cant compete on these grounds, and youll have to spend considerably even more to get dive functions in a Garmin device.

If youre a serious runner, swimmer or multisport athlete that is to say, if being an athlete is central to your identity as well as you structure your day around workouts rather than fitting your workouts into your day its hard to beat the Garmin Epix Gen 2, which gives you fantastic fitness features and does double duty as a great daily smartwatch. The combination of a bright display thats visible under pretty much any lighting or environmental conditions, with the five-button tactile interface as well as Garmins wide compatibility with a whole universe of ANT+ and BLE sensors and training equipment, puts it well ahead of the Apple device in terms of everyday exercise usability. A touchscreen-first interface doesnt really cut it for complex interval workouts and isnt really the very best for those who dont wish to have to look at their wrists to handle things, however still want the best information out of their exercises.

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