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=Configuration=
 
=Configuration=
Most of the configuration of the Fenix 5X is done directly in the watch, but there are aspects that have to be done via either the website, the smart phone app, or the PC (Garmin Express.) The main thing that you can't do on the watch itself is configure Connect IQ apps, watch faces, and data fields. The configuration on the watch is fairly intuitive, but the sheer number of configuration options can be a little bewildering, and if you have to do a factory reset, you have to apply all configuration changes again from scratch. While that's a bit of a pain, it's rarely a problem in practice, and more than made up for bite the ability to configure the data shown during a workout without needing an Internet connection. Even better, you can configure the data shown during the workout actually during the workout itself. I find that surprisingly useful; just today it turned a little warm, and I was able to reconfigure my display to show the current temperature. One minor annoyance is that you can't add the Run app twice so that you can have two different configurations. For instance, I might want to have my watch configured with pace alerts and specific set of data screens for my long runs, but no alerts and different data for a short second run of the day. My work around is to use another app like "trail run" for the different configuration.
+
Most of the configuration of the Fenix 5X is done directly in the watch, but there are aspects that have to be done via either the website, the smart phone app, or the PC (Garmin Express.) The main thing that you can't do on the watch itself is configure Connect IQ apps, watch faces, and data fields. The configuration on the watch is fairly intuitive, but the sheer number of configuration options can be a little bewildering, and if you have to do a factory reset, you have to apply all configuration changes again from scratch. While that's a bit of a pain, it's rarely a problem in practice, and more than made up for bite the ability to configure the data shown during a workout without needing an Internet connection. Even better, you can configure the data shown during the workout actually during the workout itself. I find that surprisingly useful; just today it turned a little warm, and I was able to reconfigure my display to show the current temperature. It's not obvious (or it wasn't obvious to me) but you can copy a sports mode so that you can have multiple configurations for different types of work out. That way you can have a run based work out for easy runs, long runs, into full training, etc. this is rather nice, especially with the [[Stryd]] Footpod providing accurate pace information, which makes the pace alerts especially valuable. There is a limit that only allows two Connect IQ data fields, so having multiple workout types are allows you to have different combinations for different types of training.
 +
=Sensor Support=
 +
The supports a vast array of different sensors and accessories. It's the first Garmin watch to support Bluetooth sensors in addition to Ant+ sensors, which opens up some new devices. The [[Connect IQ]] also makes the Fenix 5X extensible, allowing companies to add support for their devices themselves, rather than having to negotiate with the Garmin. We've seen this with both [[Moxy]] and [[Stryd]], proving the real-world value of this approach. Below are the various supported sensors and accessories, along with the results of my testing.
 +
* '''Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor'''. The Bluetooth heart rate monitor support seems to work perfectly. I tested it with the Suunto and the Polar H7 without any issues. (See below for notes on the [[Wahoo TICKR Run]].)
 +
* '''Bluetooth Footpod. '''Bluetooth Footpod's are not quite as standardized as one would like, so there are more issues here. I tested with the Polar Stride Sensor, Adidas Speed Cell, and [[MilestonePod]] and they all worked fine except for one common problem. If you set the distance to "always" the calibration factor is ignored when you're running outdoors. The calibration factor is used when GPS is off in treadmill mode. This is not a problem with Ant+ Footpod's. (See below for [[Stryd]] Footpod.)
 +
* '''Bluetooth Biking devices (Speed, Power)'''. I've not tested any of these devices as I'm a runner, not a cyclist.
 +
* '''Ant+ Heart Rate Monitor'''. Both the old style of Garmin heart rate monitor and the newer [[Garmin Running Dynamics]] heart rate monitor both worked perfectly. (See below for notes on the [[Wahoo TICKR Run]].)
 +
* '''Ant+ Footpod'''. Unlike the Bluetooth equivalent, the Ant+ Footpod worked fine. (See below for [[Stryd]] Footpod.)
 +
* '''Ant+ Tempe'''. Even though the Fenix 5X has an internal thermometer, it also supports their external temperature sensor that's the same form factor as their Footpod. Being an external pod, it's a lot more accurate than the internal temperature sensor that's heavily influenced by your body heat.
 +
* '''Ant+ Camera (VIRB)'''. I have a GoPro rather than a VIRB, and running isn't generally an exciting enough sport for me to want to video my exploits.
 +
* '''Ant+ Biking devices (speed, power, gear shift, lighting, radar, remote display)'''. While there is some cool stuff here, I'm not a cyclist so I've not tested any of this out.
 +
* '''Ant+ Muscle Oxygen'''. There is now built in support for muscle oxygen sensors such as [[Moxy]] or [[BSX]], without the need for a [[Connect IQ]] data field.
 +
* '''Wahoo'''. The [[Wahoo TICKR Run]] is a little unusual in that it also supports both Bluetooth and Ant+. Rather like [[Garmin Running Dynamics]] heart rate monitor, it's also capable of gathering rather more data than a typical heart rate monitor though you really need the smart phone app to make use of it. I found that the Fenix 5X would find the one who twice, once as a Bluetooth device and once as an Ant+ device. Pairing both ways seemed to cause some issues with the Fenix 5X connecting to the Wahoo at the start of the run, though it's possible this was either a user error on my part or just an oddity. Even stranger, the Fenix 5X would try to pair up with the one who is a Bluetooth Footpod, but I could never get anything to work in this mode.
 +
* '''Stryd'''. Like the Wahoo, the [[Stryd]] Footpod is both Bluetooth and Ant+, but it's also both a Footpod and a power meter. I found it best to pair as just an Ant+ Footpod.
 +
{| class="wikitable" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; border: none;"
 +
|- valign="top"
 +
|[[File:Garmin Tempe (1).jpg|none|thumb|300px|The Garmin Tempe temperature sensor, attached to my [[Running Hat]] for the best reading.]]
 +
|[[File:Garmin Tempe (2).jpg|none|thumb|300px|Her's another view.]]
 +
|}
 
=GPS Accuracy=
 
=GPS Accuracy=
 
I've tested the [[GPS Accuracy]] of the Fenix 5X with its initial release firmware, and it's possible that its accuracy will improve as the firmware matures. Based on my testing, the Fenix 5X certainly has plenty of room for improvement. At best, the GPS accuracy could be described as mediocre, and I think it's bad enough that it could significantly mess up your training. If you look at the middle, curved section, you can see that the Fenix 5X is doing particularly badly here. This is a challenging section, and reveals any weakness in a GPS watch. The right most segment with the right-angle turn is a section of the most watches do reasonably well on, but the Fenix 5X is struggling here as well. The tracks don't look too bad, you can see that the Fenix 5X is not able to calculate the distance correctly. The Fenix 5X doesn't get too badly confused going under the bridge, actually looks a little better in that area than the two Suunto watches shown for comparison. The blue lap markers are rather widely spread, again giving more evidence of poor GPS accuracy. It's possible that other versions of the Fenix 5 might have different GPS accuracy. It's possible that the plastic 935 might do a little better, but without testing it's impossible to know. (I buy all my test gear through retail channels. This allows me to be brutally honest in my reviews, as I don't need to keep the manufacturer happy in order to continue getting free samples or early access. The downside is that I'm more limited in the array of watches I can test. Therefore, it's unlikely that I will test other versions of the Fenix 5 at this point.) I've tested both the 4.20 and the 4.30 version of the GPS firmware (see below for details.)
 
I've tested the [[GPS Accuracy]] of the Fenix 5X with its initial release firmware, and it's possible that its accuracy will improve as the firmware matures. Based on my testing, the Fenix 5X certainly has plenty of room for improvement. At best, the GPS accuracy could be described as mediocre, and I think it's bad enough that it could significantly mess up your training. If you look at the middle, curved section, you can see that the Fenix 5X is doing particularly badly here. This is a challenging section, and reveals any weakness in a GPS watch. The right most segment with the right-angle turn is a section of the most watches do reasonably well on, but the Fenix 5X is struggling here as well. The tracks don't look too bad, you can see that the Fenix 5X is not able to calculate the distance correctly. The Fenix 5X doesn't get too badly confused going under the bridge, actually looks a little better in that area than the two Suunto watches shown for comparison. The blue lap markers are rather widely spread, again giving more evidence of poor GPS accuracy. It's possible that other versions of the Fenix 5 might have different GPS accuracy. It's possible that the plastic 935 might do a little better, but without testing it's impossible to know. (I buy all my test gear through retail channels. This allows me to be brutally honest in my reviews, as I don't need to keep the manufacturer happy in order to continue getting free samples or early access. The downside is that I'm more limited in the array of watches I can test. Therefore, it's unlikely that I will test other versions of the Fenix 5 at this point.) I've tested both the 4.20 and the 4.30 version of the GPS firmware (see below for details.)

Revision as of 19:49, 20 April 2017

The Garmin Fenix 5X is the top of the range of Garmin's running/outdoor watches. It has an impressive array of features, and it uses high quality materials to achieve a high-end look. It's only real weakness is its rather mediocre GPS accuracy, though this can be easily remediated by combining it with the Stryd. Of course, all this comes at a fairly hefty price, as the Fenix 5X retails for $700 (plus $200 for the Stryd.) Note: I'm still writing this review, so please consider it early access to my initial testing results.

1 Support This Site

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Please support this site

This review was made possible by readers like you buying products via my links. I buy all the
products I review through normal retail channels, which allows me to create unbiased reviews free
from the influence of reciprocity, or the need to keep vendors happy. It
also ensures I don't get "reviewer specials" that are better than the retail versions.

Buy Garmin Fenix 5X at Amazon.com

2 Which Version?

There are four versions of the Fenix 5, one of which is branded as the Forerunner 935. (The 935 is a plastic bodied Fenix 5 for $100 less.)

Fenix 5X Fenix 5 Fenix 5S Forerunner 935
Size 51mm/2.0" 47mm/1.9" 42mm/1.7" 47mm/1.9"
Resolution 240pixels 240pixels 218pixels 240pixels
Display 30mm/1.2 30mm/1.2" 28mm/1.1" 30mm/1.2"
Maps Yes No No No
MSRP $700-850 $600-850 $600-850 $500
Battery 20 Hours (35 UltraTrac) 24 Hours (60 UltraTrac) 14 Hours (35 UltraTrac) 24 Hours (60 UltraTrac)
Lens Sapphire Only Glass or sapphire Glass or sapphire Glass
WiFi Yes With Sapphire With Sapphire Yes
Price $699.99 USD at Amazon.com $619.99 USD at Amazon.com $699.99 USD at Amazon.com $619.99 USD at Amazon.com

Within each model, there are choices of wristband type, with a metal wristband adding $150 and sapphire glass adding $100. There are also a number of color choices, though the 5X is only available in gray. So, which to buy? I'd recommend getting the 935 as it's cheapest. The only reasons to buy the Fenix version are if you need maps (5X), WiFi (any with Sapphire glass), you want the Fenix look, or you want the smaller size of the 5S. Of course, with the release of the Fenix 5, you can get the Fenix 3 at a lower cost. The Garmin Epix is also worth considering as it has the maps of the 5X, but Garmin has stopped releasing firmware updates and it's nowhere near as attractive.

3 The Big Questions

For a simple evaluation of a GPS watch, I look at how well it can answer some basic questions. There are many things a runner might look for in a running watch, but I feel these four questions are critical.

  • How far did I run? This is the most basic question, and the Fenix 5X has rather mediocre GPS Accuracy. For me, this amount of error in the distance would be unacceptable. For instance, on a 20-mile Long Run you could see an error of nearly a mile, which is enough to really mess up your training. The good news is that the Fenix 5X has great support for the Stryd footpod that gives awesome accuracy.
  • How fast am I running? Knowing how fast you're running can be a nice to know, or it can be vital for your training or race performance. Because of the nature of GPS, watches that rely on GPS signal alone tend to have serious problems with current pace. The poor GPS accuracy of Fenix 5X tends to exacerbate this, with readings fluctuating by over a minute/mile regularly and up to two minutes/mile occasionally. So, if you want pace information you need to get a Stryd footpod.
  • Where am I? The Fenix 5X has about the best navigation options available. The headline feature is the full color, preloaded maps. On top of this, there is a breadcrumb display of where you've been, the ability to load predefined courses, navigation to waypoints, backtracking your course, a magnetic compass, and an altimeter. A larger display would be nice, and I'd love to have this functionality with the Suunto Spartan Ultra's high resolution display and touchscreen, or the Leikr1's huge display, but the Fenix 5X does pretty well.
  • What's my cadence? Cadence is one of the most critical and often overlooked aspects of running. If you get your Cadence right, many other things naturally fall into place. The Fenix 5X will get Cadence from its internal accelerometer, as well as from a Footpod, or the Running Dynamics heart rate strap/pod. There are alerts for Cadence, which is great, and even a metronome feature. I don't think it comes any better than this.

4 The Fenix 5X for Ultrarunning

The Fenix 5X claims 20 hours of battery life, and I tested it under optimal conditions and managed to get 23 hours. That's tough to achieve in the real world, as you have to avoid using the map display, backlight, or changing the display too often. With the map display in constant use, I was still able to achieve the rated 20 hours, which is pretty good. This makes the Fenix 5X a great candidate for shorter races (50 miles/100k). But if you hope to be still moving during the Second Dawn, then there are probably better options. You can charge the Fenix 5X on the run, but the position of the charging cable means you can't wear the watch while you're doing so (unlike the Garmin Fenix 3.) See Watches for Ultrarunning for more details.

5 Physical Characteristics

The Fenix 5X is a big watch, and it's larger than I'm comfortable with as a 24 hour/day activity tracker. However, on the run it fells okay even on my diminutive wrists. The watch straps rotate where they connect to the watch body, unlike the Polar V800 where they extend from the watch body and therefore don't conform as well. The materials are excellent quality, and while it doesn't have the simplistic elegance of the Suunto Spartan Ultra it's still very nice. The exposed bolt heads make the Fenix 5 look rugged and sporty, though it's a bit fussy visually. The only thing that feels a little cheap and tacky is the watch strap itself on the cheapest version. It's nothing like the silky smooth and soft watch material that Suunto use. The display is reasonable, but when you compare it to the Suunto Spartan Ultra it seems a little small and low resolution. Given that the Fenix 5X is larger than the Fenix 5, I would've expected a larger display, but that's not the case. I suspect that the Fenix 5X is larger to allow for more memory for the maps, or perhaps more battery, though this is purely speculation.

The Fenix 5X is rather large on my small wrists.
Left to right, Garmin Fenix 3, Fenix 5X, Garmin Epix, all having some of the best Stryd support.
Left to right, Garmin 920XT, Suunto Spartan Ultra, Fenix 5X, Polar V800, seen from above.
Left to right, Polar V800, Fenix 5X, Suunto Spartan Ultra, Garmin 920XT, all rather large watches.
Left to right, Suunto Spartan Ultra, Garmin Fenix 3, Fenix 5X.
Left to right, Fenix 5X, Garmin Fenix 3, Suunto Spartan Ultra.

6 User Interface

The Fenix 5X has the same user interface as many other higher end Garmin running watches. There is no touchscreen, but there are five real buttons that make the user interface fairly intuitive. Most navigation is done using the enter, up, down, and back buttons, with the common metaphor of moving in space between screens. The chart below is my representation of the Fenix 5X menu system. This only shows a tiny part of the overall menus, but hopefully it's enough to give you a sense of the way things fit together. In addition to the general up/down/left/right movement, there are various times when you need to do a long press a button to reach a menu.

A sample of the Fenix 5X menu system (click for a larger version.)

I generally find this a clean and easy to use interface, though I know some folks prefer the 310XT/ 910XT/ 920XT style of interface that have buttons on the front surface rather than the sides. center|thumb|300px| Generally, I much prefer having real buttons to a touchscreen, as they are far easier to use with running. The only exception is when using a map display, where the ability to use multi-touch gestures such as pinching to zoom make things a whole lot easier.

This is the map display.
A long press on the up button brings up this menu.
The pan/zoom first uses the up/down to zoom.
Hit enter and you move to the pan up/down.
Enter again to pan left right.
Enter again moves back to zoom, or back goes to the map display.

One nice thing with the Fenix 5X (and a number of other Garmin watches) is that it will display some useful tips when you first start using it.

Fenix 5X Tips.jpg

one pet peeve I have with the Fenix 5X user interface is the inconsistent use of visual clues. If you look at the image below, there is a small arrow at the bottom indicating you can go down for more data, but this is not applied consistently. Likewise, there is not a consistent hint to indicate there is more data if you hit enter.

Fenix 5X Menu Hints.jpg

7 Charging and Syncing the Fenix 5X

You can either sync the Fenix 5X using a USB cable to a computer, over Bluetooth to the smart phone app, or over WiFi. You have to use the USB cable for firmware upgrades and obviously, you have to use the cable for charging. The Fenix 5X connector is nicely designed, and is arguably how the USB connector should have been designed in the first place. Like Thunderbolt and USB-C, the Fenix 5X connector can be plugged in in either direction, so you don't waste your time repeatedly trying to work out which way round it goes. It's also very positive and stays in place nicely. The biggest downside, is that the position of the connector means you can't wear the watch while it's charging, unlike the Garmin Fenix 3.

Fenix 5X Charging.jpg
Fenix 5X Connector.jpg

8 Configuration

Most of the configuration of the Fenix 5X is done directly in the watch, but there are aspects that have to be done via either the website, the smart phone app, or the PC (Garmin Express.) The main thing that you can't do on the watch itself is configure Connect IQ apps, watch faces, and data fields. The configuration on the watch is fairly intuitive, but the sheer number of configuration options can be a little bewildering, and if you have to do a factory reset, you have to apply all configuration changes again from scratch. While that's a bit of a pain, it's rarely a problem in practice, and more than made up for bite the ability to configure the data shown during a workout without needing an Internet connection. Even better, you can configure the data shown during the workout actually during the workout itself. I find that surprisingly useful; just today it turned a little warm, and I was able to reconfigure my display to show the current temperature. It's not obvious (or it wasn't obvious to me) but you can copy a sports mode so that you can have multiple configurations for different types of work out. That way you can have a run based work out for easy runs, long runs, into full training, etc. this is rather nice, especially with the Stryd Footpod providing accurate pace information, which makes the pace alerts especially valuable. There is a limit that only allows two Connect IQ data fields, so having multiple workout types are allows you to have different combinations for different types of training.

9 Sensor Support

The supports a vast array of different sensors and accessories. It's the first Garmin watch to support Bluetooth sensors in addition to Ant+ sensors, which opens up some new devices. The Connect IQ also makes the Fenix 5X extensible, allowing companies to add support for their devices themselves, rather than having to negotiate with the Garmin. We've seen this with both Moxy and Stryd, proving the real-world value of this approach. Below are the various supported sensors and accessories, along with the results of my testing.

  • Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor. The Bluetooth heart rate monitor support seems to work perfectly. I tested it with the Suunto and the Polar H7 without any issues. (See below for notes on the Wahoo TICKR Run.)
  • Bluetooth Footpod. Bluetooth Footpod's are not quite as standardized as one would like, so there are more issues here. I tested with the Polar Stride Sensor, Adidas Speed Cell, and MilestonePod and they all worked fine except for one common problem. If you set the distance to "always" the calibration factor is ignored when you're running outdoors. The calibration factor is used when GPS is off in treadmill mode. This is not a problem with Ant+ Footpod's. (See below for Stryd Footpod.)
  • Bluetooth Biking devices (Speed, Power). I've not tested any of these devices as I'm a runner, not a cyclist.
  • Ant+ Heart Rate Monitor. Both the old style of Garmin heart rate monitor and the newer Garmin Running Dynamics heart rate monitor both worked perfectly. (See below for notes on the Wahoo TICKR Run.)
  • Ant+ Footpod. Unlike the Bluetooth equivalent, the Ant+ Footpod worked fine. (See below for Stryd Footpod.)
  • Ant+ Tempe. Even though the Fenix 5X has an internal thermometer, it also supports their external temperature sensor that's the same form factor as their Footpod. Being an external pod, it's a lot more accurate than the internal temperature sensor that's heavily influenced by your body heat.
  • Ant+ Camera (VIRB). I have a GoPro rather than a VIRB, and running isn't generally an exciting enough sport for me to want to video my exploits.
  • Ant+ Biking devices (speed, power, gear shift, lighting, radar, remote display). While there is some cool stuff here, I'm not a cyclist so I've not tested any of this out.
  • Ant+ Muscle Oxygen. There is now built in support for muscle oxygen sensors such as Moxy or BSX, without the need for a Connect IQ data field.
  • Wahoo. The Wahoo TICKR Run is a little unusual in that it also supports both Bluetooth and Ant+. Rather like Garmin Running Dynamics heart rate monitor, it's also capable of gathering rather more data than a typical heart rate monitor though you really need the smart phone app to make use of it. I found that the Fenix 5X would find the one who twice, once as a Bluetooth device and once as an Ant+ device. Pairing both ways seemed to cause some issues with the Fenix 5X connecting to the Wahoo at the start of the run, though it's possible this was either a user error on my part or just an oddity. Even stranger, the Fenix 5X would try to pair up with the one who is a Bluetooth Footpod, but I could never get anything to work in this mode.
  • Stryd. Like the Wahoo, the Stryd Footpod is both Bluetooth and Ant+, but it's also both a Footpod and a power meter. I found it best to pair as just an Ant+ Footpod.
The Garmin Tempe temperature sensor, attached to my Running Hat for the best reading.
Her's another view.

10 GPS Accuracy

I've tested the GPS Accuracy of the Fenix 5X with its initial release firmware, and it's possible that its accuracy will improve as the firmware matures. Based on my testing, the Fenix 5X certainly has plenty of room for improvement. At best, the GPS accuracy could be described as mediocre, and I think it's bad enough that it could significantly mess up your training. If you look at the middle, curved section, you can see that the Fenix 5X is doing particularly badly here. This is a challenging section, and reveals any weakness in a GPS watch. The right most segment with the right-angle turn is a section of the most watches do reasonably well on, but the Fenix 5X is struggling here as well. The tracks don't look too bad, you can see that the Fenix 5X is not able to calculate the distance correctly. The Fenix 5X doesn't get too badly confused going under the bridge, actually looks a little better in that area than the two Suunto watches shown for comparison. The blue lap markers are rather widely spread, again giving more evidence of poor GPS accuracy. It's possible that other versions of the Fenix 5 might have different GPS accuracy. It's possible that the plastic 935 might do a little better, but without testing it's impossible to know. (I buy all my test gear through retail channels. This allows me to be brutally honest in my reviews, as I don't need to keep the manufacturer happy in order to continue getting free samples or early access. The downside is that I'm more limited in the array of watches I can test. Therefore, it's unlikely that I will test other versions of the Fenix 5 at this point.) I've tested both the 4.20 and the 4.30 version of the GPS firmware (see below for details.)

The GPS tracks from the Fenix 5X with the 4.30 GPS firmware. This diagram has tracks color coded with green indicating good accuracy through to red indicating poor accuracy, and the lap markers as blue dots.
Here's the GPS tracks from the Fenix 5X with the earlier 4.20 firmware. There are minor differences, and the later 4.30 is slightly better, but the differences are not statistically significant. The older version has slightly more distributed lap markers, and slightly tighter track marks.
For comparison, here are the tracks from the Suunto Spartan Ultra, which had appalling GPS accuracy when it was first released, but the latest firmware has improved things.
Here's how the Suunto Ambit3's accuracy looks.

As with all the watches I test, I first left the Fenix 5X in its "ready to go" mode with a clear view of the sky for over 30 minutes. This is to ensure that the chipset has ample time to download the almanac from the satellites, which should only take about 12 minutes. I also give the Fenix 5X at least five minutes after it has got a satellite lock before starting my run. This is to give it the best possible chance of having good accuracy. (Like most modern GPS watches, the Fenix 5X will download information on the satellite orbits when it's synced, but this predicted information is not as good as the live for data transmitted by the satellites themselves.)

Soaking the Fenix 5X.

The tests are with GLONAS off as I've consistently found in prior testing that GLONAS reduces accuracy. I also use smart recording rather than 1-second (this only changes recording frequency, not the frequency of GPS polling.) Remember that to the overall firmware version number doesn't influence GPS accuracy. You have to look at the GPS firmware number.

Here's where the version number of the GPS firmware is located.

11 Optical Heart Rate Monitoring

I've not found any Optical Heart Rate Monitoring (OHRM) implementation that's good enough to be useful, and the Fenix 5X is no exception. I believe that you're better off having no heart rate data than bad heart rate data. While a chest strap based heart rate monitor can have accuracy issues, these are generally dramatic and obvious, whereas OHRM can be quite misleading. (The issues with a chest strap heart rate monitor are also usually fairly easy to remediate, either with some electrode gel or a new battery.) The accuracy of Optical Heart Rate Monitoring (OHRM) will depend on a number of factors:

  • The watch needs to fit just right. Because of the sensor is measuring the expansion of the capillaries with each heartbeat, too much pressure will prevent this expansion. However, to lose and the watch won't get a good reading due to lack of contact. Getting this tension just right can be tricky, especially if you're wrist expands or contracts over time.
  • Movement seems to confuse OHRM systems, possibly because it changes the papillary filling. Some users have noted that their OHRM systems seem to lock on to their Cadence rather than their heart rate.
  • Temperature seems to be a huge factor, and most systems work better in warmer conditions. If you're a little chilled, your body will restrict blood flow to your capillaries to retain body heat, making it much harder for the optical HRM. Of course, because the system needs to be against the skin, it can be tricky to use them in cold conditions. I've cut a hole in a arm warmer so that I can see the watch face while preventing frostbite to the surrounding skin.
  • It's possible that bright sunlight might also influence the accuracy, though I've not noticed any obvious correlation.

While it's possible to compare the graph of heart rate data from the Fenix 5X with a chest strap, such an approach doesn't provide very much data. Instead, I've gathered over 10,000 data points and an analyzed them. The two graphs below are taken during my runs with the Fenix 5X. The graph on the left plots the heart rate from the optical HRM of the Fenix 5X against a chest strap based reading. All of the points should lie along the pale green line, which represents the optical HRM reading the same as the chest strap. The two red lines represent an error of 25 bpm, and the blue line represents the regression line. The graph on the right is a distribution map of the errors. As you can see, the Fenix 5X optical HRM is a fairly close for a good portion of the time, but overall there are a lot of bad readings.

OHRM-Fenix 5X-Scatter.png
OHRM-Fenix 5X-Distribution.png

I thought that perhaps the Fenix 5X would do better when I'm not running. After all, it's able to read my heart rate continuously, so even if the optical HRM is useless for running, I wondered if it might be valuable for evaluating my activity the rest of the day. I was rather surprised, and more than a little disappointed, to learn that the Fenix 5X seems to do even worse when I'm sedentary than it does when I'm running.

OHRM-Fenix 5X-Day-Scatter.png
OHRM-Fenix 5X-Day-Distribution.png

I had rather limited hope that the Fenix 5X would be of any use overnight, but it actually did surprisingly well. I suspect that the darkness and the lack of movement made things a little easier for it. It's also possible that a much lower heart rate is easier to lock on.

OHRM-Fenix 5X-Overnight-Scatter.png
OHRM-Fenix 5X-Overnight-Distribution.png

The Fenix 5X uses three green LEDs surrounding the light sensor, and there's no light shield as there was on the Garmin 225, an approach that seems to have been abandoned.

Fenix 5X OHRM Lights.jpg

Using an optical HRM in cold weather is awkward. You need to have the watch in contact with your skin, so you can't wear it over the top of your and clothing. On the other hand, if you wear it under your warm clothing you can't see the display. My solution is to use an arm warmer with a hole cut out so that I can see the display. This works fairly well, and has the added advantage of blocking some of the light that can interfere with the optical sensor.

Fenix 5X Cold OHRM.jpg

12 Comparison Table

I evaluate running watches in three distinct ways. Firstly, you can use a watch on its own, without any kind of Footpod. This is probably the most common way runners use their watch, but you miss out on a lot. The second rating is with a standard Footpod that is available quite cheaply. These Footpod's can be reasonably accurate once the calibrated, but calibration is a little tedious. The final evaluation is with the Stryd Footpod, which is vastly more accurate than any other type of Footpod, or and more accurate than GPS. The table below looks at the score, and the value for money of each watch for each of the three conditions.

Review With Stryd Score With Stryd Value for money With Footpod Score With Footpod Value for money Without Footpod Score Without Footpod Value for money Price at Amazon.com
Garmin Epix Review 47 4.5 31 3.9 23 3.4 Garmin Epix $309.95 USD at Amazon.com
(Referbished $189.95)
Garmin Fenix 5X Review 47 2.9 31 2.3 23 1.8 Garmin Fenix 5X Review
Garmin Fenix 3 Review 45 3.8 28 3.1 24 3 Fenix 3 $449.99 USD at Amazon.com
(Referbished $299.95)
Garmin Vivoactive HR Review 40 4.9 21 3.8 17 3.8 Garmin Vivoactive HR $249.99 USD at Amazon.com
(Referbished $174.95)
Garmin 920XT Review 39 4.4 30 4.7 24 4.5 Garmin 920XT without HRM $249.99 USD at Amazon.com
(Referbished $289.00)
Garmin Vivoactive Review 34 5.1 14 3.4 10 3.3 Garmin Vivoactive $159.99 USD at Amazon.com
(Referbished $100.71)
Suunto Ambit2 Review 32 3.9 25 4.3 21 4.5 Suunto Ambit2 $289.99 USD (new) at Amazon.com
Suunto Ambit3 Peak Review 32 3.4 29 4.1 25 4.2 Suunto Ambit3 Peak $339.20 USD at Amazon.com
Suunto Ambit3 Run Review 30 4 27 5.5 23 5.9 Suunto Ambit3 Run $. (new) at Amazon.com
Suunto Ambit2 R Review 30 3.5 23 3.8 19 3.8 Suunto Ambit2 R without HRM $249.00 USD at Amazon.com
Garmin 235 Review 28 2.9 20 2.8 12 2 Garmin 235 $327.38 USD (new) at Amazon.com
(Referbished $349.98)
Garmin 620 Review 27 3.8 24 5.1 20 5.6 Garmin 620 without HRM price not listed at Amazon.com
Garmin 910XT Review 26 3.9 26 6.1 21 6.7 Garmin 910XT without HRM price not listed at Amazon.com
Garmin Fenix 2 Review 26 2.4 22 2.7 18 2.5 Garmin Fenix 2 without HRM price not listed at Amazon.com
Suunto Spartan Ultra Review 26 1.8 28 2.4 24 2.2 Suunto Spartan Ultra $519.84 USD at Amazon.com
Garmin 310XT Review 25 4.6 24 8.3 18 10 Garmin 310XT without HRM
price not listed at Amazon.com
Garmin 225 Review 25 3.8 13 3.1 9 2.9 Garmin 225 $145.00 USD (used) at Amazon.com
(Referbished $134.95)
TomTom Cardio Runner Review 25 3.3 14 2.8 10 2.5 TomTom Cardio Runner price not listed at Amazon.com
Polar V800 Review 25 2.1 26 2.8 22 2.7 Polar V800 without HRM $449.95 USD (new) at Amazon.com
Polar M400 Review 24 4.1 14 4.2 10 4.4 Polar M400 without HRM $126.59 USD at Amazon.com
(Referbished $99.99)
Garmin 610 Review 24 3.3 20 4.3 14 3.9 Garmin 610 without HRM price not listed at Amazon.com
Leikr Review 10 1 20 2.5 14 2 Leikr ($380)
Epson SF-510 Review 4 0.7 4 1.3 4 2 Epson SF-510 $88.95 USD at Amazon.com
Epson SF-810 Review 4 0.6 6 1.6 6 2.3 Epson SF-810 $119.99 USD at Amazon.com
Garmin 10 Review 2 0.3 2 0.6 2 0.9 Garmin 10 $99.00 USD at Amazon.com
(Referbished $45.33)

The score is the sum of how well each watch can answer the four basic questions (how far, how fast, where are you, what's your cadence), plus some bonus points.

  1. The "How far you've run" will be based on GPS only for "without Footpod" and "with Standard Footpod", but based on Stryd if supported in the "with Stryd Footpod" table..
  2. How fast you're running assumes you're using a Footpod if it's supported, otherwise the rating is 0-2 based on GPS accuracy.
  3. The "Where are you?" is based on various navigation features such as back to start, breadcrumbs, and preloaded maps. For some watches, you have to turn GPS off to get the benefit of Stryd, so those watches have worse "where are you scores" with Stryd than without.
  4. The cadence score uses 1 point for an internal cadence sensor, 2 points for footpod support, 1 point for support from chest strap cadence, and 1 point for cadence alerts.
  5. I give 1-2 bonus points for application support, 1-2 bonus points for data upload, 1-2 bonus points for Optical Heart Rate Monitoring, and 0-1 bonus points for battery life.
  6. Value for money is the score divided by the price (at the time I last updated the table.) Your needs may be different, so you might weight the different aspects of the watches differently, or be basing your decision on different criteria totally. Hopefully this table will give you a good starting point for your decision.

13 Score Breakdown without a Footpod

Review Score Value for money6 How far did
you run?1
How fast are
you running?2
Where are
you?3
What's your
cadence?4
Bonus Points5

Price at Amazon.com

Suunto Ambit3 Peak Review 25 4.2 8 3 6 2 6 Suunto Ambit3 Peak $339.20 USD at Amazon.com
Garmin 920XT Review 24 4.5 1 2 7 6 8 Garmin 920XT without HRM $249.99 USD at Amazon.com
(Referbished $289.00)
Garmin Fenix 3 Review 24 3 2 1 7 6 8 Fenix 3 $449.99 USD at Amazon.com
(Referbished $299.95)
Suunto Spartan Ultra Review 24 2.2 8 2 7 2 5 Suunto Spartan Ultra $519.84 USD at Amazon.com
Suunto Ambit3 Run Review 23 5.9 8 3 5 2 5 Suunto Ambit3 Run $. (new) at Amazon.com
Garmin Epix Review 23 3.4 0 0 9 6 8 Garmin Epix $309.95 USD at Amazon.com
(Referbished $189.95)
Garmin Fenix 5X Review 23 1.8 0 0 9 6 8 Garmin Fenix 5X Review
Polar V800 Review 22 2.7 9 4 3 2 4 Polar V800 without HRM $449.95 USD (new) at Amazon.com
Garmin 910XT Review 21 6.7 5 3 6 2 5 Garmin 910XT without HRM price not listed at Amazon.com
Suunto Ambit2 Review 21 4.5 4 3 6 2 6 Suunto Ambit2 $289.99 USD (new) at Amazon.com
Garmin 620 Review 20 5.6 3 2 2 6 7 Garmin 620 without HRM price not listed at Amazon.com
Suunto Ambit2 R Review 19 3.8 4 3 5 2 5 Suunto Ambit2 R without HRM $249.00 USD at Amazon.com
Garmin 310XT Review 18 10 7 2 4 0 5 Garmin 310XT without HRM
price not listed at Amazon.com
Garmin Fenix 2 Review 18 2.5 1 0 6 6 5 Garmin Fenix 2 without HRM price not listed at Amazon.com
Garmin Vivoactive HR Review 17 3.8 0 0 2 6 9 Garmin Vivoactive HR $249.99 USD at Amazon.com
(Referbished $174.95)
Garmin 610 Review 14 3.9 3 2 3 2 4 Garmin 610 without HRM price not listed at Amazon.com
Leikr Review 14 2 5 2 4 0 3 Leikr ($380)
Garmin 235 Review 12 2 0 0 2 2 8 Garmin 235 $327.38 USD (new) at Amazon.com
(Referbished $349.98)
Polar M400 Review 10 4.4 3 1 1 2 3 Polar M400 without HRM $126.59 USD at Amazon.com
(Referbished $99.99)
Garmin Vivoactive Review 10 3.3 0 0 0 6 4 Garmin Vivoactive $159.99 USD at Amazon.com
(Referbished $100.71)
TomTom Cardio Runner Review 10 2.5 2 1 0 2 5 TomTom Cardio Runner price not listed at Amazon.com
Garmin 225 Review 9 2.9 1 1 0 2 5 Garmin 225 $145.00 USD (used) at Amazon.com
(Referbished $134.95)
Epson SF-810 Review 6 2.3 1 0 0 2 3 Epson SF-810 $119.99 USD at Amazon.com
Epson SF-510 Review 4 2 0 0 0 0 4 Epson SF-510 $88.95 USD at Amazon.com
Garmin 10 Review 2 0.9 0 0 0 0 2 Garmin 10 $99.00 USD at Amazon.com
(Referbished $45.33)

14 Score Breakdown with a Standard Footpod

Review Score Value for money6 How far did
you run?1
How fast are
you running?2
Where are
you?3
What's your
cadence?4
Bonus Points5

Price at Amazon.com

Garmin Epix Review 31 3.9 0 4 9 10 8 Garmin Epix $309.95 USD at Amazon.com
(Referbished $189.95)
Garmin Fenix 5X Review 31 2.3 0 4 9 10 8 Garmin Fenix 5X Review
Garmin 920XT Review 30 4.7 1 4 7 10 8 Garmin 920XT without HRM $249.99 USD at Amazon.com
(Referbished $289.00)
Suunto Ambit3 Peak Review 29 4.1 8 3 6 6 6 Suunto Ambit3 Peak $339.20 USD at Amazon.com
Garmin Fenix 3 Review 28 3.1 2 1 7 10 8 Fenix 3 $449.99 USD at Amazon.com
(Referbished $299.95)
Suunto Spartan Ultra Review 28 2.4 8 2 7 6 5 Suunto Spartan Ultra $519.84 USD at Amazon.com
Suunto Ambit3 Run Review 27 5.5 8 3 5 6 5 Suunto Ambit3 Run $. (new) at Amazon.com
Garmin 910XT Review 26 6.1 5 4 6 6 5 Garmin 910XT without HRM price not listed at Amazon.com
Polar V800 Review 26 2.8 9 4 3 6 4 Polar V800 without HRM $449.95 USD (new) at Amazon.com
Suunto Ambit2 Review 25 4.3 4 3 6 6 6 Suunto Ambit2 $289.99 USD (new) at Amazon.com
Garmin 310XT Review 24 8.3 7 4 4 4 5 Garmin 310XT without HRM
price not listed at Amazon.com
Garmin 620 Review 24 5.1 3 2 2 10 7 Garmin 620 without HRM price not listed at Amazon.com
Suunto Ambit2 R Review 23 3.8 4 3 5 6 5 Suunto Ambit2 R without HRM $249.00 USD at Amazon.com
Garmin Fenix 2 Review 22 2.7 1 0 6 10 5 Garmin Fenix 2 without HRM price not listed at Amazon.com
Garmin Vivoactive HR Review 21 3.8 0 0 2 10 9 Garmin Vivoactive HR $249.99 USD at Amazon.com
(Referbished $174.95)
Garmin 610 Review 20 4.3 3 4 3 6 4 Garmin 610 without HRM price not listed at Amazon.com
Garmin 235 Review 20 2.8 0 4 2 6 8 Garmin 235 $327.38 USD (new) at Amazon.com
(Referbished $349.98)
Leikr Review 20 2.5 5 4 4 4 3 Leikr ($380)
Polar M400 Review 14 4.2 3 1 1 6 3 Polar M400 without HRM $126.59 USD at Amazon.com
(Referbished $99.99)
Garmin Vivoactive Review 14 3.4 0 0 0 10 4 Garmin Vivoactive $159.99 USD at Amazon.com
(Referbished $100.71)
TomTom Cardio Runner Review 14 2.8 2 1 0 6 5 TomTom Cardio Runner price not listed at Amazon.com
Garmin 225 Review 13 3.1 1 1 0 6 5 Garmin 225 $145.00 USD (used) at Amazon.com
(Referbished $134.95)
Epson SF-810 Review 6 1.6 1 0 0 2 3 Epson SF-810 $119.99 USD at Amazon.com
Epson SF-510 Review 4 1.3 0 0 0 0 4 Epson SF-510 $88.95 USD at Amazon.com
Garmin 10 Review 2 0.6 0 0 0 0 2 Garmin 10 $99.00 USD at Amazon.com
(Referbished $45.33)

15 Score Breakdown with a Stryd Footpod

Review Score Value for money6 How far did
you run?1
How fast are
you running?2
Where are
you?3
What's your
cadence?4
Bonus Points5

Price at Amazon.com

Garmin Epix Review 47 4.5 10 10 9 10 8 Garmin Epix $309.95 USD at Amazon.com
(Referbished $189.95)
Garmin Fenix 5X Review 47 2.9 10 10 9 10 8 Garmin Fenix 5X Review
Garmin Fenix 3 Review 45 3.8 10 10 7 10 8 Fenix 3 $449.99 USD at Amazon.com
(Referbished $299.95)
Garmin Vivoactive HR Review 40 4.9 10 10 1 10 9 Garmin Vivoactive HR $249.99 USD at Amazon.com
(Referbished $174.95)
Garmin 920XT Review 39 4.4 10 10 1 10 8 Garmin 920XT without HRM $249.99 USD at Amazon.com
(Referbished $289.00)
Garmin Vivoactive Review 34 5.1 10 10 0 10 4 Garmin Vivoactive $159.99 USD at Amazon.com
(Referbished $100.71)
Suunto Ambit2 Review 32 3.9 10 10 6 0 6 Suunto Ambit2 $289.99 USD (new) at Amazon.com
Suunto Ambit3 Peak Review 32 3.4 10 10 6 0 6 Suunto Ambit3 Peak $339.20 USD at Amazon.com
Suunto Ambit3 Run Review 30 4 10 10 5 0 5 Suunto Ambit3 Run $. (new) at Amazon.com
Suunto Ambit2 R Review 30 3.5 10 10 5 0 5 Suunto Ambit2 R without HRM $249.00 USD at Amazon.com
Garmin 235 Review 28 2.9 10 10 0 0 8 Garmin 235 $327.38 USD (new) at Amazon.com
(Referbished $349.98)
Garmin 620 Review 27 3.8 10 10 0 0 7 Garmin 620 without HRM price not listed at Amazon.com
Garmin 910XT Review 26 3.9 10 10 1 0 5 Garmin 910XT without HRM price not listed at Amazon.com
Garmin Fenix 2 Review 26 2.4 10 10 1 0 5 Garmin Fenix 2 without HRM price not listed at Amazon.com
Suunto Spartan Ultra Review 26 1.8 10 10 1 0 5 Suunto Spartan Ultra $519.84 USD at Amazon.com
Garmin 310XT Review 25 4.6 10 10 0 0 5 Garmin 310XT without HRM
price not listed at Amazon.com
Garmin 225 Review 25 3.8 10 10 0 0 5 Garmin 225 $145.00 USD (used) at Amazon.com
(Referbished $134.95)
TomTom Cardio Runner Review 25 3.3 10 10 0 0 5 TomTom Cardio Runner price not listed at Amazon.com
Polar V800 Review 25 2.1 10 10 1 0 4 Polar V800 without HRM $449.95 USD (new) at Amazon.com
Polar M400 Review 24 4.1 10 10 1 0 3 Polar M400 without HRM $126.59 USD at Amazon.com
(Referbished $99.99)
Garmin 610 Review 24 3.3 10 10 0 0 4 Garmin 610 without HRM price not listed at Amazon.com
Leikr Review 10 1 5 2 0 0 3 Leikr ($380)
Epson SF-510 Review 4 0.7 0 0 0 0 4 Epson SF-510 $88.95 USD at Amazon.com
Epson SF-810 Review 4 0.6 1 0 0 0 3 Epson SF-810 $119.99 USD at Amazon.com
Garmin 10 Review 2 0.3 0 0 0 0 2 Garmin 10 $99.00 USD at Amazon.com
(Referbished $45.33)

16 Basic Features

Review

Released GPS
Accuracy
Weight (oz) Size (CM3) Display (mm) Resolution (Pixels) Waterproofing Pace from
FootPod with GPS Enabled
Heart Rate
Monitor
Cadence Data Upload
Garmin Epix Review 2015 6.2 3.0 48 29 x 21 (609mm2) 205 x 148 (30.3K total) Good (50m) Yes Yes Internal/Footpod/Heart Rate Monitor/Alert Yes
Garmin 910XT Review 2011 7.5 2.5 49 33 x 20 (660mm2) 160 x 100 (16K total) Good (50m) Yes Yes Footpod/Alert Yes
Suunto Ambit3 Run Review 2014 7.9 2.5 30 29 (round) (661mm2) 128 x 128 (16.4K total) Good (50m) No Yes Internal/Footpod Yes
Garmin 920XT Review 2014 6.6 2.2 35 29 x 21 (609mm2) 205 x 148 (30.3K total) Good (50m) Yes Yes Internal/Footpod/Heart Rate Monitor/Alert Yes
Suunto Ambit3 Peak Review 2014 7.9 2.9 30 29 (round) (661mm2) 128 x 128 (16.4K total) Good (100m) No Yes Internal/Footpod Yes
Leikr Review 2013 7.3 2.4 25 41 x 31 (1271mm2) 206 x 148 (76.8K total) Fair (IPX6) Yes Yes Footpod Limited
Garmin 310XT Review 2009 7.5 2.5 63 33 x 20 (660mm2) 160 x 100 (16K total) Good (50m) Yes Yes Footpod Yes
Garmin Fenix 3 Review 2015 6.2 2.9 33 30 (round) (726mm2) 218 diameter (37.3K total) Good (100m) Yes Yes Internal/Footpod/Heart Rate Monitor/Alert Yes
Garmin Fenix 5X Review 2017   3.5 36 30.5 (round) (731mm2) 240 diameter (45.2K total) Good (100m) Yes Yes Internal/Footpod/Heart Rate Monitor/Alert Yes
Garmin 610 Review 2011 7.3 2.5 41 25.4 (round) (507mm2) 128 diameter (12.9K total) Fair (IPX7) Yes Yes Footpod/Alert Yes
Suunto Ambit2 Review 2013 7.6 3.1 30 29 (round) (661mm2) 128 x 128 (16.4K total) Good (100m) No Yes Internal/Footpod Yes
Suunto Ambit2 R Review 2013 7.6 2.5 30 29 (round) (661mm2) 128 x 128 (16.4K total) Good (50m) No Yes Internal/Footpod Yes
Polar V800 Review 2014 8.0 2.8 31 23 x 23 (529mm2) 128 x 128 (16.4K total) Good (30m) No Yes Internal/Footpod Limited
Garmin 235 Review 2015 4.9 1.5 19 31 (round) (755mm2) 215 x 180 (38.7K total) Good (50m) Yes Yes (+OHRM) Internal/Footpod Yes
Garmin Vivoactive Review 2015 5.4 1.3 13 29 x 21 (592mm2) 205 x 148 (30.3K total) Good (50m) No Yes Internal/Footpod/Heart Rate Monitor/Alert Yes
Suunto Spartan Ultra Review 2016 7.1 2.7 38 32 (round) (804mm2) 56 x 32 (96K total) Good (100m) No Yes Internal (Limited Footpod) Yes
Garmin Vivoactive HR Review 2016 4.9 1.7 19 21 x 29 (609mm2) 148 x 205 (30.3K total) Good (50m) No Yes (+OHRM) Internal/Footpod/Heart Rate Monitor/Alert Yes
Garmin 225 Review 2015 6.2 1.5 24 25.4 (round) (507mm2) 180 diameter (25.4K total) Good (50m) No Yes (+OHRM) Internal/Footpod Yes
Garmin Fenix 2 Review 2014 5.7 3.2 32 31 (round) (755mm2) 70 diameter (3.8K total) Good (50m) No Yes Internal/Footpod/Heart Rate Monitor/Alert Yes
Garmin 620 Review 2013 7.1 1.5 20 25.4 (round) (507mm2) 180 diameter (25.4K total) Good (50m) No Yes Internal/Footpod/Heart Rate Monitor/Alert Yes
TomTom Cardio Runner Review 2015 6.0 2.2 30 22 x 25 (550mm2) 144 x 168 (24.2K total) Good (50m) No Yes (+OHRM) Internal/Footpod Yes
Polar M400 Review 2014 4.4 2.0 24 23 x 23 (529mm2) 128 x 128 (16.4K total) Good (30m) No Yes Internal/Footpod Limited
Epson SF-810 Review 2015 5.5 1.8 28 28 (round) (616mm2) 128 diameter (12.9K total) Good (50m) No OHRM Only) Limited Internal Limited
Epson SF-510 Review 2015 4.4 1.7 24 28 x 22 (616mm2) 128 x 96 (12.3K total) Good (50m) No Yes Limited Internal Limited
Garmin 10 Review 2012 3.8 1.3 33 25 x 24 (600mm2) 55 x 32 (1.8K total) Good (50m) No No No Yes



Review

Battery
Life (hr)
Tested Battery
Life (hr)
Extended
Battery
Life (hr)
Charge on the run? Training
Effect
HRV GPS cache Sensors
Garmin Epix Review 24 17.6 50 Yes (with USB=Garmin) Yes Record Yes Ant+
Garmin 910XT Review 20   20 Yes, but no display Yes Record No Ant+
Suunto Ambit3 Run Review 10 10.5 100 Yes Yes Record Yes Bluetooth
Garmin 920XT Review 24 19 40 No (terminates) Yes Record Yes Ant+
Suunto Ambit3 Peak Review 20   100 Yes Yes Record Yes Bluetooth
Leikr Review 5 6.5 5 Yes, but can't be worn No No Yes (few hours) Ant+
Garmin 310XT Review 20   20 Yes, but no display No No No Ant+
Garmin Fenix 3 Review 20 22 50 Yes (with USB=Garmin) Yes No Yes Ant+
Garmin Fenix 5X Review 20 23 35 Yes, but can't be worn Yes   Yes Bluetooth/Ant+
Garmin 610 Review 8   8 Yes, but no display Yes Record No Ant+
Suunto Ambit2 Review 15   50 Yes Yes Record Yes Ant+
Suunto Ambit2 R Review 8 7.3 25 Yes Yes Record Yes Ant+
Polar V800 Review 13 24 50 No (terminates) Yes Display Predictive Bluetooth
Garmin 235 Review 11   11 Yes, but no optical HR Yes No Yes Ant+
Garmin Vivoactive Review 10 10 10 Yes (with USB=Garmin) No No Yes Ant+
Suunto Spartan Ultra Review 18 17 26 Yes, but can't be worn Yes Record Yes Bluetooth
Garmin Vivoactive HR Review 13   13 Yes (with USB=Garmin) No No Yes Ant+
Garmin 225 Review 10 11 10 No (resets) No No Yes Ant+
Garmin Fenix 2 Review 15   50 Yes (with USB=Garmin) Yes No Yes Ant+
Garmin 620 Review 10   10 No (resets) Yes Record Yes Ant+
TomTom Cardio Runner Review 8 6.3 8 No (resets) No No Yes Bluetooth HR
Polar M400 Review 8   8 Yes, but can't be worn No No No Bluetooth
Epson SF-810 Review 20 26 20 No No No Yes (few hours) None
Epson SF-510 Review 30 30 30 No No No Yes (few hours) Bluetooth HR
Garmin 10 Review 5   5 No No No No None

17 Navigation Features

Review

Color Maps Breadcrumbs Courses To Waypoint Compass Reverse course Beeline to start Connect IQ Altimeter
Garmin Epix Review Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Garmin 910XT Review No Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes No Yes
Suunto Ambit3 Run Review No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
Garmin 920XT Review No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Suunto Ambit3 Peak Review No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Leikr Review Yes Yes Yes No No No No No No
Garmin 310XT Review No Yes Yes Yes No Yes No No No
Garmin Fenix 3 Review No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Garmin Fenix 5X Review Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No Yes
Garmin 610 Review No No Yes Yes No No Yes No No
Suunto Ambit2 Review No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Suunto Ambit2 R Review No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
Polar V800 Review No No Yes No No No Yes No Yes
Garmin 235 Review No No No No No No Yes Yes No
Garmin Vivoactive Review No No No No No No Yes Yes No
Suunto Spartan Ultra Review No Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Garmin Vivoactive HR Review No No No No No No No Yes Yes
Garmin 225 Review No No No No No No No No No
Garmin Fenix 2 Review No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No Yes
Garmin 620 Review No No No No No No No No No
TomTom Cardio Runner Review No No No No No No No No No
Polar M400 Review No No No No No No Yes No No
Epson SF-810 Review No No No No No No No No No
Epson SF-510 Review No No No No No No No No No
Garmin 10 Review No No No No No No No No No

For "navigation":

  • Color Maps gives you full color maps, rather like a smart phone, with roads and paths marked out.
  • Track Outline is a display of where you've run, rather like a breadcrumb trail. If there are maps, the outline is superimposed otherwise this is just the outline on its own without any context.
  • Course Outline is an outline of a route that can be downloaded. I've found this useful during ultras or in unfamiliar cities where I've needed to know where to go.
  • Back To Start is a simple arrow point to your starting point, so it won't help you backtrack.
  • Back To Waypoint returns you to a previously marked location using a simple arrow to point.
  • Compass. A magnetic compass can help you orient yourself or the map. Without a magnetic compass you have to be moving for the GPS to give you a sense of direction.


(Older Reviews: Polar RC3 GPS, Soleus 1.0, Motorola Motoactv.)