Garmin S12 Vs S42 – Whats The Better Golf GPS Watch

You don’t have to spend a lot of money on a golf GPS watch to get the job done in superior fashion.

Cases in point: the Garmin Approach S12 and the Garmin Approach S42. Both of these watches are new for 2021 and have the essential features that you will need to play your best round of golf – minus all the price hiking superfluous features. The S12 is an entry level offering with enormous battery life and the S42 is a color touch screen golf watch with tons of smart and fitness features.

Still, there are some key differences between these two models. So if you want to get the most bang for your buck, read our following comparison review of the Garmin Approach S12 and the Garmin Approach S42.


A Brief Intro

Right off the bat, you should know who would benefit from each watch. The S12 has no fitness features like a running timer or pedometer.

So if you are looking for a pure golf watch, the S12 would be a good fit for you.

The S42 would be for anyone looking for a golf smart watch and a basic fitness watch, but it costs a bit and the battery life isn’t as good.


Garmin S12 Key Features

The Garmin S12 is an entry level watch that comes preloaded with 42,000 golf courses from around the world. 

It automatically detects which course you are at with GPS satellites and tracks data like shot distance and length of your round.

One of the biggest upgrades that the S12 got was in the amazing upgrade in battery life, up to 30 hours in GPS hours which should be around 6 rounds.

It also features a digital scorecard and measures yardage to layups and doglegs.


Garmin S42 Key Features

The Garmin S42 is a touchscreen golf GPS watch that has additional fitness features like a step counter and an alert that lets you know when you have been idle for too long.

It has all the same golf features as the S12 with added activity tracking for outdoor biking and stationary biking.


Quick Comparison


Garmin S42

Garmin S12




Display size

1.2 inches

0.9 x 0.9 inches

Battery Life

15 hours in GPS mode

10 weeks in GPS mode





Metal bezel, glass display silicone strap

Plastic, glass display, silicone strap

Bluetooth connectivity?



Smartphone notifications?



Preloaded courses




S12 Vs. S10

Garmin S10 2

The S12 has some significant improvements over the S10.

One of the most significant differences is that the S12 has Green view which allows you to see the shape of each green on the course.

They also made it possible to input custom target distances in the S12.


S40 Vs. S42

Garmin s40

The Garmin S40 and the S42 have almost no significant differences.

They both have about the same battery life and the same list of golf features. The S42 has a bit more battery, a slightly more rugged design and performs a tad better.

The S40 however, comes in one extra color option.


S12 and S42 Physical Comparison

The S12 is a bit smaller overall. It has a smaller display of 0.9” x 0.9” as opposed to the 1.2” display of the S42.

The S42 also has a sturdier, beefier metal bezel design. The S42 weighs 1.5 ounces while the S12 is 1.2 ounces.

They both have a round display but the S42 is a touchscreen display while the S12 is operated with 4 side-mounted buttons.

Each watch is available in 3 colors: black, white, rose gold/light sand for the S42 and granite blue for the S12.


S12 and S42 Battery Life Comparison

The S42 will last about 12 days in golf GPS mode but the S12 can last for a staggering 10 weeks in golf GPS mode.


S12 and S42 Features Comparison

The S12 is a very stripped down golf GPS watch. It features a digital scorecard, stroke and putt tracking, yardage to the front, middle and back of the green and a round timer.

The S42 on the other hand offers all that plus handicap scoring, Garmin TruSwing compatibility and custom target distancing.

The S42 also has more smartwatch features like a calendar, weather display and a handy little feature that helps you locate your phone if you’ve misplaced it.

There are also fitness features like a pedometer and other sport activity profiles.

The screen resolution of the S42 is also significantly sharper at 240 x 240 pixels as opposed to the 175 x 175 pixel resolution of the S12.


Price Comparison

As you might imagine, the S42 is about 100 dollars cheaper at $300 while the S12 will run you about $200.


Garmin S12 Pros & Cons


  • Feels lighter on the wrist
  • Great battery life
  • Charges quickly
  • Compatible with Android and iOS
  • Manual pin positioning
  • Waterproof up to 5 atmospheres



  • Cheaper, plastic design
  • No fitness features
  • No touchscreen
  • Lower resolution display


Overall Score: 96/100

Check Out More Reviews Here:



S42 Pros & Cons



  • More fitness features
  • Handicap scoring
  • Has the feel of a quality watch
  • Larger display
  • Touchscreen
  • Gyroscope and accelerometer sensors



  • More expensive
  • Heavier
  • Weaker battery life
  • less memory

Overall Score: 93/100

Check Out More Reviews Here:



Other Watches to Consider


Garmin S10


The Garmin Approach S10 is a lightweight, low profile watch with a square display.

It offers features like hazard distances, round timer, digital scorecard and yardage to the front, back and middle of the green.


  • Very affordable
  • Light on the wrist
  • Layup distancing



  • No fitness features
  • No touchscreen

Overall Score: 92/100

Check Out More Reviews Here:



Garmin G12

This is actually a handheld golf GPS device that provides 30 hours of battery life in GPS mode.

It is compatible with the Garmin Golf app that allows you to compare stats with your friends.


  • Preloaded with 42,000+ courses
  • You can clip it to your belt
  • Inexpensive


  • Hard to read in the sun
  • Low resolution

Overall Score: 94/100

Check Out More Reviews Here:



Garmin S62

The S62

The Approach S62 comes loaded with a variety of advanced health and training features included heart rate monitor, skiing profiles and cycling profiles.


  • Large display
  • Sharp resolution
  • Looks great


  • Expensive
  • Heavy

Overall Score: 98/100

Check Out More Reviews Here:



Final Assessment

The Garmin S42 offers more robust stat tracking and golfing features. It also looks and feels more like a modern smartwatch with the touchscreen display and metal bezel. We think it’s the better watch for golfers and golfers who want more from their watch off the course.

The S12 would be a good buy if you want a stripped down, lighter weight and more affordable GPS watch, however. In any case, these are both still great watches overall so check them out.