Epson Runsense SF-810 Review
I don't recommend the Epson SF-810 for most runners. If you really want Optical Heart Rate Monitoring in spite of its problems and you need the battery life to last for ultramarathons of up to 20 hours, then maybe it's worth considering. However, there are better watches for pretty much every other runner. If you look at the four basic questions I use to evaluate the foundational capabilities of a running watch, you start to see the problems.
- How far did I run? This is the most basic question, and Epson make a big deal about their "highly accurate GPS tracking." Epson created their own chipset to ensure accuracy, but my testing indicates that the SF-810 is one of the least accurate devices I've tested. This is a major disappointment given how far behind the state-of-the-art Epson are in other areas. (I have a support ticket open with Epson concerning GPS 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 GPS never really provides the level of accuracy you need for good pace information, the best watches support the display of current Pace From A Footpod while getting all other data from GPS. Sadly, the Epson does not have this feature, and doesn't even support the use of a Footpod at all.
- Where am I? The SF-810 has no navigation capabilities; if you're lost, the best you can do with the SF-810 is to use it to reflect the sun and maybe attract your rescuers attention.
- 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 SF-810 has an internal accelerometer and will display cadence, but there is no option for a Footpod. Typically an internal accelerometer doesn't do a great job, and the SF-810 seems superficially rather poor. Unfortunately, it is not possible to get the Cadence data out in a format that can be analyzed for accuracy, so I can't be sure how bad this is.
The only bright spot in an otherwise dismal device is the SF-810s battery life. With the Optical heart rate monitor turned off I was able to get 26 hours out of the SF-810, which makes it one of the best options for longer ultramarathons. However, the cheaper Epson SF-510 has a 30 hour battery life, which makes it an even better candidate. See Watches for Ultrarunning for more details.
1 Epson SF-810 Pros
- The biggest advantage of the SF-810 is its long battery life with the Optical Heart Rate Monitoring turned off. However, the SF-510 is a lot cheaper, and lasts for 30 hours.
- The SF-810 is fairly small and looks like a normal watch. Admittedly, that's a normal watch from the 1980s, but that's better than looking like a wrist mounted dive computer. I found the strap to be comfortable and easy to use, something I wish was true for more running watches.
- The Optical Heart Rate Monitoring is perhaps a slightly less grim than the competition, but it's still relatively useless. Even in warmer temperatures, it accuracy is not good enough for real world usage. To compound matters the SF-810 does not support a chest strap based heart rate monitor.
2 Epson SF-810 Cons
- The GPS Accuracy is terrible; I'll add more details soon, but for now I'll just say that it's at the bottom of my GPS accuracy table.
- There's no support for any external sensors, so if you find the Optical Heart Rate Monitoring is no good, you can't add a chest strap later. There's also no option for a Footpod to give a more accurate Cadence. Of course, that also means no support for displaying your current Pace From A Footpod.
- The display is old-school LCD, which is a mixed blessing. It's rather low resolution, and not as nice as a new color display, but it's easier to read without needing a backlight.
- The charging dock for the SF-810 is enormous and would make challenging the watch on the run impractical even if it was supported. However, even if you are prepared to shove the watch, charging dock, and USB battery in your backpack it wouldn't work. Plugging the watch into its docking station terminates any activity.
- The smart phone to feels rather like something from a small startup rather than a major corporation. There is no ongoing communication, so you have to explicitly go through the watch menus to put the watch into Bluetooth listening mode.
- It's theoretically possible to load a satellite pre-cache into the SF-810 for faster satellite acquisition. Unfortunately, this is rather impractical as you have to mess around connecting the watch to your smartphone via Bluetooth, updating the satellite pre-cache, which is then only valid for a few hours. You can't upload the pre-cache via the computer link either.
- The SF-810 can upload your workouts via a Bluetooth link to your smart phone, but yet again this proves rather impractical. The Bluetooth link takes so long to upload your workouts that this is unworkable for regular use. The upload via a PC is less painful, but still feels rather crude and unfinished.
- Epson will upload your workouts to their website, which is rather rudimentary. There are various options for syncing your data with other sites, but if you want to have your lap splits included then things get tricky. I had to sync my Epson data with Strava, download CSV data from Epson, download TCX data from a Strava, and then write code to combine the two. You can consider me thoroughly unimpressed.
3 GPS Accuracy
The SF-810 did surprisingly badly, especially given Epson's claim of "outstanding accuracy". The statistical analysis at GPS Accuracy gives quantitative details on the problems the SF-810 has, but for some folks a qualitative picture is more useful. The image below is from a small section of the trail I use for testing as I've found it highlights the strengths and weakness of the different devices nicely. The most obvious problem is how widely scattered the lap markers are, with some of the markers near the bridge actually ending up on the wrong side. The section in the middle with the rounded curves shows how badly the SF-810 does, with few good (green) tracks and mostly bad tracks. This reflects what I saw on the watch itself when gathering the data, as it struggled badly in this section. The section under the bridge is better, and counterintuitively this is a section where most watches do well. You can see the SF-810 gets a little confused a few times, but overall it deals with the interruption well. The right angle turn on the right of the image is poor, but not as bad as the curved section.
(I've contacted Epson support and they are aware of the problem.)
4 What's Missing
While I don't consider these missing features as 'cons', it's worth understanding the features that are missing compared with other watches. You'll notice that the SF-810 has a rather long list of missing features.
- Altimeter. GPS is far less accurate vertically than horizontally, so a barometric altimeter can provide a much better idea of your ascent and descent. It can also be useful for navigation if you're ascending or descending a mountain. In some races I've been far more interested in how much ascent is left rather than the distance to the top.
- Extended battery life. Some watches can extend the battery life by turning the GPS reception off for short periods. This can dramatically reduce GPS accuracy, but it's a useful trade-off for some ultramarathons.
- WiFi Uploads. While the automatic upload of workouts via WiFi is nice, the upload will typically only go to the manufacturer's web site.
- Running Dynamics. Some of the newer Garmin watches support Running Dynamics that can show and record Vertical Oscillation (VO) and Ground Contact Time (GCT).
- Apps. I come to really appreciate the extensibility of the newer Garmin watches, and their ability to run custom applications. Suunto has a much simpler version of this capability, which is still better than nothing.
- Activity tracker. While I'm not convinced by the accuracy of most activity tracker's, they are a nice feature and can give additional motivation to keep moving.
- Smartphone Notifications. Having alerts like incoming calls or text messages on your watch is a rather nice, though far from a core feature of a running watch.
- Alerts. Some watches will alert you when a metric is out of range. The alert for Cadence is really useful and one of my favorite features on other watches. Of course, you need a decent measurement of cadence for this to be relevant.
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6 Visual Comparison
7 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.
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.
- 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..
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
8 Score Breakdown without a Footpod
9 Score Breakdown with a Standard Footpod
10 Score Breakdown with a Stryd Footpod
11 Basic Features
|Weight (oz)||Size (CM3)||Display (mm)||Resolution (Pixels)||Waterproofing|| Pace from
FootPod with GPS Enabled
| Heart Rate
|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|
| Tested Battery
|Charge on the run?|| Training
|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|
|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|
|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|
- 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.