Apple Watch Ultra Vs Garmin Fenix 7

Garmin Fenix 7 and Apple Watch Ultra
(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)

The Apple Watch keeps getting sportier while the best sports watches from Garmin keep getting smarter, meaning the gap between them shrinks each year. However, there are still big differences between the Apple Watch Ultra and Garmin Fenix 7, and while both are great sports watches they have varying strengths and weaknesses that mean they’ll suit different people.

Apple Watch Ultra Vs Garmin Fenix 7: Price And Availability

The Garmin Fenix 7 launched in January 2022 and is available in three sizes, with steel and titanium editions of each, as well as solar models. The cheapest steel models of the watch cost $699.99 in the US and £559.99 in the UK, while the titanium models with sapphire screens cost from $899.99/£739.99. The Apple Watch Ultra was released in September 2022 and costs $799/£849, with only one model available.

How I Tested These Watches

I wore the Garmin Fenix 7X and Apple Watch Ultra for several weeks when testing them for our full reviews on Coach. I’ve since worn the Apple Watch Ultra for several months as my main watch—using it to train for, and track, three marathons—alongside other watches. 


The Garmin Fenix 7 comes in three sizes, but they are all big watches. The smaller 7S has a 42mm case, the middle Fenix 7 has a 47mm case, and the larger Fenix 7X is 51mm. All the watches in the range have transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) touchscreens, with the solar models having panels running around the outside to help extend battery life.

The larger the Fenix 7, the bigger the screen. The 7S has a 1.2in display, the 7 a 1.3in, and the 51mm a 1.4in. The standard models in the range have a steel bezel and back, while the sapphire models have a titanium bezel and back, which is lighter than the steel. The standard models have gorilla glass screens, or power glass screens if you opt for a solar watch, while the sapphire models use power sapphire crystal.

Garmin Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar on wrist

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)

There is a built-in flashlight on the Fenix 7X, but not the smaller models. The Fenix 7 Pro range launched in mid-2023 and all sizes now have flashlights. Another change with the Fenix 7 Pro range is that all models offer multi-band GPS tracking, which is Garmin’s most accurate mode, whereas this is only available on the sapphire models in the Fenix 7 range.

The Fenix 7 is a circular watch, while the Apple Watch Ultra is rectangular. The Apple Watch Ultra has a 49mm titanium case with an OLED sapphire crystal screen, with only one style available. The OLED display on the Apple Watch Ultra is brighter and sharper than the MIP screen on the Fenix 7, both during and outside of workouts.

Apple Watch Ultra

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)

Multi-band GPS is available on the Apple Watch Ultra, and it is water resistant to 100m; the same as the Garmin Fenix 7, which has a 10ATM waterproof rating. Both watches have a built-in heart rate monitor and the Apple Watch Ultra can take ECG readings and measure your skin temperature at night, which the Fenix 7 can’t. They both have a pulse oximeter and barometric altimeter, and you can connect external sensors to the Apple Watch Ultra via Bluetooth or via Bluetooth and ANT+ with the Fenix 7. 

The Garmin Fenix 7 has five buttons, while the Apple Watch Ultra has three—one of which is a dial. The Action button on the Apple Watch Ultra can be configured to work with different apps, including using it as a lap button during workouts.

GPS And HR Accuracy

Garmin’s multi-band GPS tracking is the most accurate I’ve come across from any brand, but the multi-band GPS on the Apple Watch Ultra runs it close. The Apple Watch Ultra will also use its built-in pedometer alongside GPS to track your distance on runs, which sometimes means it can be more accurate than GPS alone—when running through tunnels, for example.

If you opt for a standard model of the Fenix 7 you don’t get multi-band GPS, and although the all-systems-on mode available is still accurate, it’s not as good as the multi-band on the sapphire Fenix 7 watches or the Apple Watch Ultra.

The optical heart rate tracking on both watches threw up regular errors during my testing. The Ultra had fewer than the Fenix, but I would pair an external heart rate chest monitor with either watch to get more accurate results. Garmin has upgraded the heart rate sensor on the Fenix 7 Pro range, and that is more accurate than the Ultra or Fenix 7.

Sports Tracking And Training Analysis

Garmin Fenix 7 and Apple Watch Ultra

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)

Apple’s sports tracking has come a long way since the first Apple Watch and the Ultra is its sportiest device. Software updates over the past year have improved the native Workout app significantly, adding customisable data screens, a structured workout builder and more stats. 

Runners get the best of it with watchOS 9, but cyclists get new stats and connectivity to external power sensors with watchOS 10, though the Ultra can only link to two Bluetooth sensors at once, while the Fenix 7 can link to up to eight ANT+ devices at once.

The upgrades Apple made with its native sports app brought it closer to what you get from a top-tier sports watch like the Fenix 7, but the latter still offers more stats and customization, plus suggested workouts and full training plans you can follow on the wrist.

To close the gap further, you can use the Apple App Store, which is laden with excellent sports tracking apps like WorkOutDoors. The Garmin Fenix 7 still has the edge on sports tracking no matter what apps you get, but the Apple Watch Ultra isn’t far behind.

However, on training analysis, Garmin surges well clear. The Fenix 7 will break down your training in great detail and help you gauge whether your training load is balanced and making you fitter, or that you’re over- or under-doing it. It also offers Garmin’s useful training readiness feature, which takes a holistic look at your recent training, sleep and heart rate variability to give a rating of how ready you are to train.

The Apple Watch Ultra does none of this natively, and even the App Store doesn’t provide anything that gets close to what you get from Garmin. The Apple Watch Ultra’s VO2 max estimates also cap out at 60, whereas Garmin’s don’t—so if you’re fit you still get a personalized rating.

Battery Life

There’s no contest between these watches when it comes to battery life. The Garmin Fenix 7X I tested lasted three weeks on a charge when running most days, whereas the Apple Watch Ultra lasts two days. 

In multi-band mode the Apple Watch Ultra can track 12 hours of activity, while the Fenix 7 tracks for 23 hours in multi-band mode. If you get a solar version of the Fenix it will last longer between charges, though I found the solar panels didn’t add much unless you spend several hours a day outside in bright sunlight.

Smart Features

The Apple Watch Ultra has the edge on smart features. It is a cellular-capable watch so if you get a data plan you can use it without your phone, and it links up to the App Store, which is packed with sports and lifestyle apps that enrich the experience of using the watch.

The Ultra links to many music streaming services that allow offline playback (if you have a premium account with the music service), including Spotify, Deezer and Apple Music. It offers Apple Pay for NFC payments, which is easy to set up and use since it’s partnered with most major banks. The wallet app stores travel tickets and loyalty cards, which is handy.

The Fenix 7 is no slouch on the smarts front, but it doesn’t match up to the Apple Watch Ultra. The Garmin Connect IQ app store is small and mainly contains alternative watch faces, while Garmin Pay is partnered with fewer banks than Apple Pay, especially outside the US.

You can link the Fenix 7 with a Spotify, Deezer or Amazon Music premium account for offline playback, though, so it’s easy to use the watch to store and stream music. Both watches mirror your phone’s notifications and calendar appointments.

Maps And Navigation

Garmin Fenix 7 and Apple Watch Ultra

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)

The Apple Watch Ultra has the Apple Maps app that you can use for navigation, and is getting topographical maps via the forthcoming watchOS 10 software update. However, you can’t use maps with the native Workout app to follow routes or guide yourself back to the start of your workout. 

You can do this with third-party apps like Footpath and WorkOutDoors, but the mapping experience is more seamless and impressive with the Garmin Fenix 7, which has color maps preloaded, and is able to create routes on the fly as well as guiding you through routes synced from the Garmin Connect app.

There are clever extras with Garmin’s navigation features too, like ClimbPro, which analyzes the climbs and descents on your route and guides you through each one. This means during an uphill section you can see how much climbing you still have to do, and how steep the climb is going to get, and judge your effort accordingly.

Apple’s mapping features will continue to improve now that it’s more focused on the sports and adventure market since the launch of the Ultra. But Garmin is well ahead of every other brand on this front, so don’t expect it to be caught soon.

Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.