I recently bought a running GPS watch, my first, a Garmin FR220, and want to share my opinion as seen through the eyes of a non-technical person, average runner: me.
Just so you know, I am really liking the watch, so this is a positive review, but I’m noting a few things that I wish were better.
· Pretty and purple! (don’t worry, they have a red/black model as well).
· Light: 41 gr./1.45 oz.
· Very comfortable to wear, the strap fits well, and my wrist doesn’t get sweaty from it.
· Big buttons, you need them when trying to operate a watch or switch between screens and running at the same time (maybe with a GU in your mouth?).
· Strong backlight, for those pitch black night runs.
· Big enough display numbers, so you don’t need to bring the watch all the way to your nose to actually see them.
· It is a big watch, but in my opinion it’s worth it to have a big display and big buttons. Still, ideally I would prefer the watch to be smaller in size.
The FR220 is a mid-range watch in terms of price, so it has some great advanced features, (really, everything you would probably want?), but there are higher priced models that will give you even more detail.
· 2 personalized screens with 3 stat fields each.
· Lots of stats to choose from: timer, distance, pace, lap pace, speed, heart rate, etc.
· Auto scroll, so the watch can alternate between the 2 screens (and a clock screen if you wish) while you run (I have auto scroll off and just scroll with a button if I want, but usually stay at the 1st screen).
· Splits (auto lap) distance and alert: this is my favorite feature, you can set the watch to auto lap at any distance you want (I have it set for 1 KM) and the watch will calculate your average pace for each split, and also alert you every time you finish a lap and show a special screen with the lap number (in my case how many KM I have ran) and the average pace for that lap.
· Auto stop: you can set the watch to auto stop (and auto resume) when you stop running or if you go below a certain speed. I think this is a great feature so your data isn’t affected by traffic light stops or slowing down due to crowds, etc.
· Alerts for going above/below a certain pace: I’ve only used this feature once and mainly to try it out, but I think it’s great to help you stay within the pace you want.
· Personal Settings, the watch is highly customizable for things such as time format (12/24hr), KM/Miles (speed and pace), alerts with noise/vibration/both, and many more.
· Fast GPS connection, I had read reviews were people would stand for 15+ seconds waiting for a GPS, and I read for this watch it’s much faster (about 5 seconds) which in my case I can confirm.
· Heart rate / foot pod, you can buy accessories such as a heart rate strap and a foot pod to measure other stats (I bought the heart rate strap but haven’t tried it yet).
· Personal records: the watch will calculate your best times for a 1K, 1Mile, 5K, 10K, Half Marathon, and Marathon (even if you run longer, you don’t need to run exactly 5K for the watch to give you the best 5K time). It will also show a personal record of your longest run.
There are many other features that I’m not writing about here, and probably about a million more than I don’t even know about.. as I said, my needs are pretty average.
· I only have one “bad” thing to say, which is not even that bad, but I wish on of the displayed stats were Lap Speed, and not only Lap Pace (I’m used to running by speed, not pace, although I’m learning, thanks for that Garmin).
THE WEBSITE: Garmin Connect
· Details of your workout that you don’t see on the watch (anything you could possible want to know) and the map of your route.
· A player of your run, on a graph and on a map, showing your time, distance, pace, cadence, and elevation.
· Create workouts online (by time, distance, pace, route, etc.) and send to watch, then you can access the workouts menu on your watch and chose which one you want to perform.
· Smartphone/Tablet app, with many of your workout stats (not as detailed as the website but good enough)
· Online Training plans for different races and running levels
· Even though the website was easy to access and set up (you sign up and chose your watch model), it took me some time to figure out that I needed 2 plug ins to actually make it work with my watch, the Garmin Fit, which is what uploads the data from your watch to the website (this was very frustrating at first when my first run wasn’t showing up online and I couldn’t figure out why), and another plug in for software updates.
· No tablet version, the tablet app is the smartphone app and looks small on the tablet. I think Garmin could do some kind of middle ground app for the tablet, not as detailed as the website, but with more features than the smartphone app.
I think a running watch (whichever brand or model) is a very useful running gear to own.
If you are considering purchasing a running GPS watch and want to read a more comprehensive review, I really recommend this guy’s blog, DC Rainmaker, I’m linking his review section, you will find very detailed reviews of the main brands of GPS watches (and other gadgets as well). I pretty much made the decision of which watch to get based on his reviews.
This is it, once again, I am loving running with the watch and the data it gives me back is incredible to me. Even though a high range model with even more features would be nice to have, I am more than satisfied with all I am getting from this particular model. I can honestly say this watch became (fast!) my number one running gear, yes, even surpassed running shoes.