I tested the OnePlus Watch 2's GPS tracking against Garmin's best watch: here's how it stacked up

 OnePlus Watch 2.
OnePlus Watch 2.

The OnePlus Watch 2 is undoubtedly a fantastic Wear OS watch. Not only does it look pretty good and arrive full of features, but OnePlus managed a feat that not even Google or Mobvoi – both with Wear OS models in our best smartwatches list – could pull off: it got a Wear OS watch to deliver a 100-hour battery life.

We welcomed the battery life, bevy of features, and stainless steel finish of the watch in our OnePlus Watch 2 review, awarding it a superb 4.5 stars. However, I also had the opportunity to personally test the OnePlus Watch 2 – the Nordic Blue edition, rather appropriately – in the forests of Finland.

Having already had a trial run wearing the watch during a bike ride through the woodlands near Helsinki’s suburban Meri-Rastila neighborhood, we went back out to the woods for a short hike. It had snowed unseasonably – and quite magically – the night before, so the woodland was eerily quiet but exceptionally beautiful. The tall, potentially GPS-obscuring pine trees and circular nature of the walk made for a great opportunity to test the OnePlus Watch 2's outdoor credentials. I wore it on my left wrist, while I slipped on my regular training watch, the Garmin Epix Pro, on the other.

The Garmin Epix Pro had been by my side, so to speak, through every step of this year’s marathon training challenge, and I recently compared it to the Apple Watch Ultra – my other gold-standard GPS watch – while running the London Marathon. Both watches compared very well, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to see how closely the OnePlus Watch 2 would match my regular training partner.

OnePlus Watch 2 vs Garmin Epix Pro: How did they compare?

OnePlus Watch 2
OnePlus Watch 2

The walk was a pleasant one, with our guide frequently stopping to point out the differences between pine and spruce trees, or to catch sight of blueberry bushes, or deer tracks in the snow. It was an absolutely delightful, Narnia-esque (or Skyrim, depending on your wintry fantasy cultural reference point of choice) ramble through the woods.

Unfortunately, the OnePlus Watch 2 had a setting enabled automatically that I had long toggled off on my best Garmin watch: an auto-pause functionality. The OnePlus Watch 2 detected every point at which we stopped to note some interesting-looking footprints, or learn about the Finnish law enshrining each citizen’s right to pick blueberries and roam in the woodlands.

However, every time I noticed the watch had stopped, I hastened to pause my Garmin, too, leading to the time difference error shown on the workout below. This may also have accounted for the approximately 80m GPS difference in walking distance, despite following an identical map with no clear deviation or skipping points. I’d like to measure the two against each other again, perhaps on a familiar track where the distance is known, as part of a group test to determine the accuracy of all my different wearables.

OnePlus Watch 2
OnePlus Watch 2

There was also a difference of around a minute in terms of pace – which, statistically, would be significant during a fast run, in which one might average five minutes per km. However, the difference between a 15:46 / km walk and a 16:49 / km walk is pretty minimal, and our OnePlus Watch 2 fitness tests stacked up well against our reviewer’s other wearables. Heart rate readings were spot on between the two wearables, with average heart rate within 2bpm of each other and consistently following a similar graph pattern.

I’d like to clarify this wasn’t a "proper" experiment using science-based benchmarks; just a fun exercise to check out how closely the watches would match up. Despite some minor differences in metrics, I haven’t come away thinking less of either watch – and we can still heartily recommend the OnePlus Watch 2 as a great, long-lasting (well, for Wear OS, anyway) fitness wearable.

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