Top positive review
189 people found this helpful
Miles ahead of the rest
on January 30, 2010
I really did my homework in choosing a fitness watch with heart rate monitor. I ordered competing models from Garmin, Timex, Polar, and Suunto, to look them over closely and compare. Then I sent them all back but this one.
Someone pointed out that this Garmin watch is a little on the clunky side - that's true. I have a small wrist,and the watch part of it is long and flat and doesn't really fit nicely. They had to pack the GPS receiver inside the band. But no matter - with the band strapped tight, it stays put, and it's not so huge that people would say "What's that thing on her wrist?" It still looks like a watch. A funky sort of a watch maybe, but not a television set or anything.
I think you need to decide if you want GPS or not. I decided that yes, I really wanted GPS to measure my distance, because I run and jog and hike and travel quite a bit, so my routes are always changing. In my ideal world, I'd be able to pop up a map on my PC and see my route, and have a table showing all my workouts and how many miles they total, in running, biking, etc. I could finally answer the folks at the running store when they ask how many miles are on my running shoes.
I ended up with this Garmin, far and away the best choice for just what I wanted. All the other GPS solutions were separate strap-on-the-arm ones that contain AAA batteries that need to be replaced every 12 hours of operation - ouch, costly. Even with rechargables, it would be a hassle to be always taking them out, plugging them into the charger, putting them back in the arm-band-GPS unit. The watch on those other devices was just a receiver for the arm-unit. Granted, it meant that their watches could be a little smaller ... I really liked the design of the Timex the best, and the Polar was small too. But who wants to carry a clunky thing around their arm? That's one more thing to pack or lose, more batteries to buy and fuss with, more parts to break... forget it.
I also was swayed heavily by the Garmin software and tight integration with the PC and mapping software. None of the other brands, as of this writing (January 2010) had anything near as easy. Polar excels at fitness tracking, but not the mapping part. Timex and others require third-party mapping solutions that you have to manually upload and integrate with. Only Garmin had a simple plug-and-play solution. Plug in their little included USB "ANT Stick" (like a little thumb drive), and bring the watch near, and it automatically receives the data the watch stored from your workouts, loads it into your Garmin fitness/mapping program, and you can see all your stats and your routes etc.
I also liked that this unit is one of the few that tracks altitude, so you know not only how many miles, but how much total up and down you went (cumulative). It can display the data on a chart with any paramets you set, for example you can see the actual altitudes of your run along your route. That is so cool!
Other people trashed this unit because the bezel-touch operation is a hassle. One guy made the point that he just locks the screen into a view before his run starts, so he doesn't hassle with the touch thing going haywire. That is the perfect solution, and it's what I did too.
So with this Garmin watch, you only have to remember two pieces: the watch, and the charger. The charger clips right onto the watch to rejuice the battery inside. It ships with conversion plugs for international outlets.
Here's a tip that isn't clear from Garmin's specs: the GPS can be turned on or off. With the GPS on all the time, the watch will run out of juice after about 8 hours and will need to be recharged. With the GPS off, it lasts almost 2 weeks. It works like a normal watch, tells date and time, etc. Heart rate monitor. Etc.
I was worried that this watch wouldn't work if you, say, went out in the morning for a hike, stopped for lunch, continued hiking... 8 hours wouldn't be enough. The simple solution is to turn off GPS when you don't need it, and your battery will last as long as you need it.
So, if you can afford it, this one is the only way to go, if you want GPS. I've had it a month, after handling all the others, reading their manuals, etc., and settling on this one. I'm super happy with it and love Garmin. Next generation will be even better, when they fix the bezel issue and get the watch to be even more watch-looking, but this is miles ahead of the competition as is.
** Update - I've now had this model for almost two years, and still think it is fantastic. A few things I learned - The link to mapping software works great, I have two years' worth of running/biking stats and I can click on any single run to see the route. Since I travel a fair amount, it's a great memory of places. It's also great when I go to the running store for shoes and they ask "how many miles are on the pair you're wearing now?"
It also has a handy feature where you can set a starting point, such as the parking lot of a hiking area, and then once you're completely lost, have it point the way back - you get an actual arrow pointing and a distance indicator of how far away you are from that point. It's kinda buried in all the menus, so not something you'd be able to find quickly unless you did it regularly or had the user guide right there, but I used it twice and found it a comfort knowing that, even if I got lost, I wouldn't be lost.
It is also easy to switch between running and "multisport" modes, which means you can bike and jog and keep those stats separate. (That way, you're not apt to get impressed with yourself for running 20 miles, when in fact that day you were on a bike.) There is also an optional setting (that was delivered through a firmware update a year after I bought it, and probably is pre-installed on newer ones) that will detect if you've stopped moving for a given period, say a minute, and it will put the tracking to sleep till you start moving again. That helps you track your pace better if you have to stop for some reason and don't want that averaged into your overall time.
I have to mention that the wrist band closure is a bit of a hassle, if anyone from Garmin is reading. It has a little lock to keep the end from flapping, but in fact, it's really hard to push the locking end through the little hold-down. Just a wee bit of hassle, hardly worth mentioning. Everything else I said above is still the case. It's a great tool.