Both introduced in 2016, the Garmin S20 and Garmin Approach X40 present two distinct and different faces of Garmin GPS golf watches. Before introducing the S40, which saw the more familiar rounded face, the S20 and X40 were the design options available.
The X40 offers the heart-rate monitor and the Fitbit style design with more fitness apps, while the S20 has more golf tracking features like CT10 compatibility and is significantly cheaper than the X40. So this is a discussion about more golf Vs. more fitness.
We will look at the golf features that each offers, battery life, on-course performance against screen functionality, and the additional fitness features presented, plus the comfort factor of each on your wrist. So, let’s tee them up and get going.
When looking to make a purchase the clear winner in the debate is the S20, because the X40 is discontinued and no longer available for purchase.
Garmin S20 Vs. X40 – Are They Legal For Tournament Play
In summary, the amended rule 14-3 that governs the use of Distance Measuring Devices such as golf GPS watches / handheld devices and rangefinders was amended in 2006 to allow these devices and then further amended in 2016 to allow devices that had slope/elevation features to be used provided those features were either turned off or inactive.
Since neither the S20 nor Garmin Approach X40 have the slope, elevation, or wind data available, both are legal for use in tournament play.
Golf Watches – Design & Wearability
Here is where we see the biggest difference between the two devices: their appearance. One of the biggest dividing lines for GPS watches is whether golfers like the thinner and lighter devices on the wrist or something more solid.
Many players don’t like the feel of a big bulky watch on their wrist while swinging the club as they feel it adds some weight and offsets the swing balance on the leading left hand ( for a right-handed player), while others prefer it.
The X series from Garmin wanted a device that emulated the Fitbit design in a slim, compact, and lightweight device that would already be familiar to many golfers and aligned to that, boasted more fitness features while still providing the essential on-course data for players.
The S20, on the other hand, is a much larger device with dimensions of 0.9″ x 0.9″ square against the X40’s 1″ x 0.42″ rectangular face, so it is the width of the device that will determine which option is more comfortable for you.
If you have used a Fitbit or a similar slim design watch, then the X40 would be a better and far more familiar device to use, but if you prefer something with a wider screen and looking more like the existing crop of watches, then the S20 would be more suitable.
You do, however, need to carefully consider how you are going to feel with a wider and bulkier device on your wrist, especially if you have not worn one before either while on the course or the range.
If the idea of having anything on your wrist when playing, regardless of size, does not appeal to you, then you should opt for a handheld device or laser rangefinder.
Golf GPS Watches – Touch Screen
One defining difference is the touch screen function that the Garmin Approach X40 offers, but the S20 does not. Both are black and white displays, but the S20 requires manual buttons for operation.
Many who operate smartphones are naturally accustomed to simply touching their screen as and when required, so if the thought of using buttons on your GPS watch sends shivers down your spine, then the X40 would immediately be the first choice.
Garmin S20 Vs. X40 Battery Life
Before introducing digital wearable golf GPS watches, a golfer only had to worry about having clean clubs, enough balls and tees, and a pencil before heading to the course.
Now, aside from those, you also need to ensure that your golf watch is charged overnight before you go, as arriving at the course to find your watch on a 10% battery is not going to be the ideal start to your round.
When it comes to battery life between the S20 and Garmin Approach X40, the bigger S20 wins that hands down with 15-hour battery life in GPS mode against just 10 hours for the X40. This may be because the X40 has more features that use more battery life, but 3-4 rounds on the S20 against 1-2 rounds on the X40 is a big difference.
In the battle of the batteries, the S20 walks away as the clear winner.
Garmin Approach S20 Vs. X40 Fitness Features
In today’s world, more and more golfers – both men and women – are looking to track and measure as much of their activities as possible, and here the X40 shines through as the clear winner.
If you are doing other cardio activities such as cycling, running, walking, or hiking, the X40 will track those activities easily as it has the running app and preloaded running profiles included. It also has the intensity minutes tracker and GPS-based time, distance, and pace measurements.
If you are doing these activities and don’t want to have a separate device to track all your data and another device as a golf GPS watch, then the X40 would be the choice for you here as the combined functionality is convenient.
The X40 Has The Heart Rate Monitor
The Garmin Approach X40 golf watch has the on-wrist heart rate monitor, which the S20 does not.
For golfers seeking better insight into the cardiac stress experienced during play, the X4o would be the only option here, although you may get some strange readings when you stand over those 3ft birdie putts!
Joking aside, the heart rate monitor can provide valuable feedback to players who are back in the game after a cardiac incident or surgery and need feedback for themselves and their health practitioners on heart activity and performance during exercise.
Common Fitness Features
Both golf watch devices feature a pedometer to count steps and the daily step goal counter, a calorie counter, and an odometer to check your time on the course and distance traveled, and each has a sleep monitor as well.
Now, let’s look at the on-course features that the S20 and X40 offer.
Golf Watches Golf Features
Both golf watches provide the basics of yardage and distance to the usual front, middle, and back of the greens and distances to layups, doglegs, and hazards. The difference here is how that information is accessed.
As mentioned earlier, the X40 golf watch is a touch screen device, while the S20 is not, and this comes into play when using the moveable pins feature as a ‘drag-and-drop’ option on the touchscreen is that much easier than doing it using buttons.
It’s the little things that matter, and before you consider which of these units to get for yourself, decide from the start whether touch screen is the deal-breaker or whether you can comfortably use the buttons without pulling your hair out.
A Quick Word On Accuracy
With any GPS golf watch, there will always be a slight margin of error when it comes to yardages, and for most of the world’s golfing population, this will not create any issues with their game, as the level of skill they play at does not require accuracy to within 1 yard or better.
Laser rangefinders will always be more accurate on the course than GPS, but a margin of between 3-5 yards in terms of accuracy is more than sufficient.
Each of these devices is accurate enough to be used down to the low double-digit HI, but if you want pinpoint yardages, then the laser rangefinder cannot be beaten.
Golf GPS Watch Green View & Outline
The Garmin Approach S20 golf watch provides a basic overview of the green with preset pin locations that you can select to position the pin closer to its actual position using the buttons. The X40 uses the touch screen for this function.
With the X40, you can zoom in on the green and use the touchscreen to move the pin to its actual location for the most accurate yardage so that the X40 would be the better option for green accuracy.
Hazard Views And Yardages
Even though the X40 screen is smaller, the hazard data for bunkers and water is better presented on the smaller screen than on the Garmin Approach S20, with an image presented next to each hazard rather than text. Again, using the touchscreen is easier than the manual manipulation required by the S20.
While the S20 does provide this data, it can be frustrating to get right and takes some getting used to, and this speaks back to the point about people being accustomed to touching screen functions as this is the norm for most people.
Garmin S20 Vs. X40 – Common Golf Features
Aside from the design, these two devices are very similar in terms of what they offer on the course over and above the yardages.
Both have Automatic Shot tracking, which will allow you to track your shots (but not chips and putts) and locations from the fairway. Each has automatic hole advance as well as course recognition.
Each has the manual club tracking feature to enter club choice and distance achieved on the shot manually played. Both devices feature the digital scorecard option to track scoring and handicap info.
Are The S20 And X40 Waterproof
No, they are not waterproof.
Most of the newer watches from Garmin are rated to a pressure of 5 Atmospheres or a depth of 165ft. Neither of these devices is rated as water-resistant to rain and splashing rather than being protected against submersed.
This is also why neither the S20 or X40 has swimming profiles loaded in the fitness side, unlike the higher-spec models.
Garmin Approach S20 Vs. X 40 – CT10 Club Sensors
The S20 is compatible with Garmin Approach CT10 club tracking sensors, while the X40 is not. This feature allows you to link the sensors on the clubs to record shot information, including chips and putts, so here is where the more golf-orientated features on the S20 come into play. Using the CT10 sensors, the S20 can also utilize the Auto Club Tracking features, which the X40 cannot offer.
Golf GPS Watch – Garmin Connect
Both the S20 and X40 can connect with Garmin Connect, and this allows you to bet post-round analysis like fairways and greens hit in regulation as well as putts per round. The round stats are recorded on the devices and can be viewed after the round and then uploaded to Garmin Connect.
Golf Course Database
Garmin has updated the number of courses preloaded to their devices, and while these came with 41 00 courses, the latest devices have 46 000 courses preloaded, and the course updates are free for life with Garmin.
Whether you opt for the S20 or X40, you will not have any problems with your device not recognizing the course you are playing on. Remember that Garmin began producing highly accurate and reliable SATNAV systems, which have been transferred to their golf GPS units.
Garmin S20 Vs X40 Conclusion
If you are looking for a solid, reliable, and cheaper golf GPS watch, then either of these will serve your needs perfectly. Your decision will come down to whether you want more golf features with less fitness like the S20 or a better balance between the two with the X40.
Moreover, your decision will depend more on the size of the device you prefer with the lighter, slimmer Fitbit-style X40 or the wider, slightly heavier S20. Either way, you can’t go wrong.
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