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FINIS Swimsense Performance Monitor In-Depth Review

While my pool time has been severely restricted lately with all the international travel, I did get a short opportunity to jump into the pool with the Swimsense while up in Newfoundland.  For those not familiar, Swimsense is like having a Garmin fitness watch…but in the pool.  It counts laps, sets, strokes and splits while you ping back and forth between the walls.  But, the real meat of the watch is your ability to then download all that data to the online site and training log.

Unboxing/Components:

But before we get into the data pieces, let’s take a look at the key parts that make up the system.  First, we have the unit itself, along with the charger:

IMG_5244IMG_5250

The charger uses a simple and standard USB cable to download your data from the watch via the cradle to your computer – identical to a cable used for a digital camera or USB hard drive.

The watch itself is actually fairly slim, albeit a bit wider than I would have expected.  But it’s roughly in line with other fitness watches out there, albeit not quite as small as some of the other lap counters out there.  Below compared to the Garmin FR210.

IMG_5255

You may be asking yourself what makes this lap counter different than some of the others that have been around for a while.  Well, the biggest and more critical differentiator is Swimsense’s ability to download workouts.  Without this, it would in many ways be just another lap counter.  You’re also able to update firmware on the watch as they make improvements (they’ve already released one update in just the past few weeks).  And in the future, they plan to offer an AppStore like concept which would allow downloadable apps onto the watch (no, not Angry Birds, but swim specific stuff like workouts and the like).

Basic Use:

As for swimming with it (yes, you know, the activity you’re supposed to do during the winter), I found it pretty dead simple.  The user interface is in line with any easy to use watch (something that’s actually somewhat rare in the swim counter world).  I normally swim with a small wrist-watch, so the concept of having a watch on my wrist doesn’t bother me (despite being sacrilege to true swimmers).

IMGP3759

While the watch is generally easy to read underwater – it’s not super-easy to read the distance during the wall push-off.  Some watches I have I can read the time during the push off with a slight twist of my wrist, but this one required more wrist twisting. Not a huge deal, but worth mentioning.

Also worth mentioning is that the watch easily adapts to smaller wrists as well, such as The Girl’s:

image

Swimsense can track everything from length swam to the strokes you’ve taken per length.  And, best of all you can create sets or laps, allowing you to easily analyze it all later on – just like you would with any other downloadable fitness device.

IMGP3770

Perhaps one of my favorite features is that when you’ve got the unit ‘paused’ (such as during a rest at the wall), it reverses the screen colors (black/white).  Whereas when you’re supposed to be swimming, the background goes back to being not-black.  Sounds simple, but it helps you to ensure that the watch is recording.

IMGP3766

Once you’ve finished up the swim, it’ll show overall totals on the unit.  But you can also drill down within a history menu on the watch and see per-set information as well.

IMGP3786

(Hey, no laughing at the low total – I had exactly 35 minutes before the pool closed…and that included taking all these photos and videos…plus, I forgot to press start once, so I lost some yardage there).

Software and Downloading:

After you get back to your computer, you get the Swimsense watch all snuggled up next to the cradle and get the software downloaded to your computer.  It only takes a moment to install the Adobe AIR based software suite, which is compatible on multiple platforms including Windows and Mac.  This is called the Swimsense Bridge and is the main conduit between your watch and the Internet.

SwimSenseBridgeDownload3

Once installed, you’re able to go ahead and download completed workout with just the click of a button:

UploadWorkout

The watch itself holds 14 workouts, and once you download the workout to your computer and upload it to the site, it’ll clear it from the watch.  Note that with the 14 workouts, you can easily accommodate 2-3 hours per workout and still be fine.  Essentially, it would allow a competitive swimmer with two 2-3 hour workouts per day to go a week without downloading.

Additionally, if a firmware update is pending, it’ll go ahead and make a note of that – though you aren’t forced to download it immediately.  I did though after I uploaded my workout, and the process was quick and easy – took mere seconds.

FirmwareUpdate

Once you’ve got the workout uploaded to the free Swimsense site, it allows you to break down the sets and workout into a million little chunks.

image

For example, I can drill down into a specific set (think of them like intervals) and look at my stroke rate or times per lap.  Not just per set – but actually each individual lap within that set.  Pretty sweet!

Below is an example of showing one full interval of 200 yards, comprised of eight lengths, which you can see are labeled along the bottom of each graph, showing you detail per length.

image

Going into more depth you can see below where I’m now showing just one specific lap (25y) within a set/interval.  On the timeline view (upper of the two images below), you can see how I’ve select a given lap, and that corresponds to the set below (marked int-2).

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While the site is great as a standalone application, I’m really looking forward to the Training Peaks integration coming in January.  At that point, it’ll ensure that all my data from all three activities is being stored in a single location, making for pure data goodness.

Comparison Chart:

Function/FeatureFINIS SwimsenseTomTom Multisport CardioBia GPSTomTom MultisportGarmin Forerunner 310XT
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated August 14th, 2014 @ 9:18 amNew Window
Price$130.00$299$279$199.00$170
Product Announcement DateSEP 1, 2010APR 2, 2014June 6th, 2012APR 17, 2013APR 2, 2009
Actual Availability/Shipping DateDec 2010Mid-April 2014February 2014 (Jan '14 for Kickstarter)JUL 24, 2013JUN 2009
GPS Recording FunctionalityNoYesYesYesYes
Data TransferUSBUSB/Bluetooth SmartGSM (Cellular)USB/Bluetooth SmartANT+ Wireless
WaterproofingYesATM5 (50m roughly)50mATM5 (50m roughly)Yes
Battery Life12 hours10hrs17 Hours10hrs20 Hours
Recording Interval1-second1-second1s1-second1s or Smart
Satellite Pre-Loading via ComputerNoYesYes - 14 DaysYesNo
Quick Satellite ReceptionN/AExcellentAwesomeExcellentGreat
AlertsN/AVibrate/Sound/VisualSound/VisualVibrate/Sound/VisualVibrate/Sound/Visual
Backlight GreatnessBadGreatNoneGreatGreat
Ability to download custom apps to unit/deviceNoNoNoNoNo
Acts as daily activity monitor (steps, etc...)NoNoNoNoNo
ConnectivityFINIS SwimsenseTomTom Multisport CardioBia GPSTomTom MultisportGarmin Forerunner 310XT
Bluetooth Legacy (pre-4.0) to PhoneNoNoNoNoVia Wahoo Fitness Adapter
Bluetooth Smart (4.0+) to Phone UploadingNoYesNo (has internal GSM)YesVia Wahoo Fitness Adapter
Phone Notifications to unit (i.e. texts/calls/etc...)NoNoNoNoNo
Live Tracking (streaming location to website)NoNoMarch 2014NoNo
Emergency/SOS Message Notification (from watch to contacts)NoNoYesNoNo
Built-in cellular chip (no phone required)NoNoYesNoNo
CyclingFINIS SwimsenseTomTom Multisport CardioBia GPSTomTom MultisportGarmin Forerunner 310XT
Designed for cyclingNoYesYesYesYes
Power Meter CapableN/ANoNoNoYes
Power Meter Configuration/Calibration OptionsN/AN/ANoN/AYes
Power Meter TSS/NP/IFN/AN/ANoN/ANo
Speed/Cadence Sensor CapableN/AYesYesYesYes
RunningFINIS SwimsenseTomTom Multisport CardioBia GPSTomTom MultisportGarmin Forerunner 310XT
Designed for runningN/AYesYesYesYes
Footpod Capable (For treadmills)N/AInternal AccelerometerFebruary 2014Internal accelerometerYes
Running Dynamics (vertical oscillation, ground contact time, etc...)N/ANoNoNoNo
VO2Max EstimationN/ANoNoNoNo
Race PredictorN/ANoNoNoNo
Recovery AdvisorN/ANoNoNoNo
Run/Walk ModeN/ANoYesNoNo
SwimmingFINIS SwimsenseTomTom Multisport CardioBia GPSTomTom MultisportGarmin Forerunner 310XT
Designed for swimmingYesYesYesYesPartial
Openwater swimming modeNoNo (Swimcap only)YesNo (Swimcap onlyYes
Lap/Indoor Distance TrackingYesYesMarch 2014YesNo
Record HR underwaterNoNo (not enabled in swim mode)NoNoNo
Openwater Metrics (Stroke/etc.)NoNoNoNoDistance, no stroke
Indoor Metrics (Stroke/etc.)YesYesNoYesNo
Indoor Drill ModeNoNoNoNoNo
Indoor auto-pause featureYesNoNoNoNo
Change pool sizeYesYesMarch 2014YesNo
Indoor Min/Max Pool Lengths15y/m to 50y/m15m-50mMarch 201415m-50mNo
Ability to customize data fieldsYesYesNoYesNo
Can change yards to metersYesYesMarch 2014YesNo
Captures per length data - indoorsYesYesNoYesNo
Indoor AlertsNoGoals onlyNoGoals onlyNo
TriathlonFINIS SwimsenseTomTom Multisport CardioBia GPSTomTom MultisportGarmin Forerunner 310XT
Designed for triathlonNoYesYesYesYes
Multisport modeN/ANoMarch 2014NoYes
WorkoutsFINIS SwimsenseTomTom Multisport CardioBia GPSTomTom MultisportGarmin Forerunner 310XT
Create/Follow custom workoutsNoNoNoNoYes
On-unit interval FeatureNoYesNoYes (as of Oct 17th, 2013)Yes
Training Calendar FunctionalityNoNoNoNoNo
FunctionsFINIS SwimsenseTomTom Multisport CardioBia GPSTomTom MultisportGarmin Forerunner 310XT
Auto Start/StopN/ANoYesNoYes
Virtual Partner FeatureNoYesnoYesYes
Virtual Racer FeatureNoYesNoYesNo
Records PR's - Personal Records (diff than history)NoNoQ2 2014iOS (Android Sept 2014)No
Day to day watch abilityYesYesYesYesNo
Hunting/Fishing/Ocean DataNoNoNoNoNo
Tidal Tables (Tide Information)NoNoNoNoNo
Jumpmaster mode (Parachuting)NoNoNoNoNo
GeocachingNoNoNoNoNo
Weather Display (live data)NoNoNoNoNo
NavigateFINIS SwimsenseTomTom Multisport CardioBia GPSTomTom MultisportGarmin Forerunner 310XT
Follow GPS Track (Courses/Waypoints)N/ANoNoNoYes
Markers/Waypoint DirectionN/ANoNoNoNo
Routable/Visual Maps (like car GPS)N/ANoNoNoNo
Back to startN/ANoNoNoYes
Impromptu Round Trip Route CreationNoNoNoNoNo
Download courses/routes from phone to unitNoNoNoNoNo
SensorsFINIS SwimsenseTomTom Multisport CardioBia GPSTomTom MultisportGarmin Forerunner 310XT
Altimeter TypeN/AGPS (Barometric for Performance Bundle)NoGPS (Barometric for Performance Bundle)GPS
Compass TypeN/ANoneNoNoneGPS
Heart Rate Strap CompatibleNoYes (also contains optical HR sensor)YesYesYes
ANT+ Heart Rate Strap CapableNoNoYesNoYes
ANT+ Speed/Cadence CapableN/ANoYesNoYes
ANT+ Footpod CapableN/ANo, has internal accelerometerYesNo, has internal accelerometerYes
ANT+ Power Meter CapableN/ANoNoNoYes
ANT+ Weight Scale CapableNoNoNoNoYes
ANT+ Fitness Equipment (Gym)NoNoNoNoYes
ANT+ Remote ControlNoNoNoNoNo
ANT+ eBike CompatibilityNoNoNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart HR Strap CapableNoYesNoYesNo
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence CapableNoYesNoYesNo
Bluetooth Smart Footpod CapableNoNo, has internal accelerometerNoNo, has internal accelerometerNo
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter CapableNoNoNoNoNo
Temp Recording (internal sensor)NoNoNoNoNo
Temp Recording (external sensor)NoNoNoNoNo
Compatible with Firstbeat HR toolsN/ANoNoNoYes
SoftwareFINIS SwimsenseTomTom Multisport CardioBia GPSTomTom MultisportGarmin Forerunner 310XT
PC ApplicationSwimsense AgentMySports ConnectNoMySports ConnectGTC/ANT Agent
Web ApplicationSwimsense.comTomTom MySportsMarch 2014TomTom MySportsGarmin Connect
Phone AppNoneiOS (Android Sept 2014)March 2014NoGarmin Fit
Ability to Export SettingsYesNoNoNoNo
PurchaseFINIS SwimsenseTomTom Multisport CardioBia GPSTomTom MultisportGarmin Forerunner 310XT
Amazon LinkLinkLinkN/ALinkLink
Clever Training Link (Save 10% with DCR10JKW)N/ALinkN/ALinkLink
DCRainmakerFINIS SwimsenseTomTom Multisport CardioBia GPSTomTom MultisportGarmin Forerunner 310XT
Review LinkLinkLinkLinkLink

Summary:

Based on my brief time with the Swimsense thus far – I’m really looking forward to it becoming a mainstay in my swim bag, especially if I can get the data seamlessly flowing from me to my coach via Training Peaks – as that’s the my goal.  I’m also interested in seeing how looking at cumulative data over time in areas like stroke count per lap compared to lap splits pans out for me, hopefully with the goal of improving my swim times (after all, that’s why we swim…right?).

Over the next month I’ll get more hands on experience with the trial unit sent to me, and be able to put together a full in depth review.  In the meantime, feel free to use this post to ask any questions about the unit, and I’ll be happy to answer them here.

The Swimsense can be picked up either directly from their site, or via Amazon.

Updated Note: I’ve since completed a full Showcase Showdown between the FINIS Swimsense and the Pool-Mate Pro – check out that post here.

47 Comments

  1. Stroke count of 10 for 25 yards - wow.

    Reply
  2. After I quit laughing at 1200 yards, I started thinking...are you physically pushing a button per lap or is it auto? I read the post twice and didn't see anything (still laughed twice at 1200 yards though)

    Reply
  3. Good morning, I just started reading the blog from a suggestion from Stuart of the Quadrathon blog who let me to is as I am trying to decide if I should get a Garmin and what one. And now the Swimsense is on my Ebay watch list as I did not even know of this product it is awesome. Have a great day Jason

    Reply
  4. Thanks Ray. The main question that I have is - is the stroke count/length/time data recorded by the watch accurate?

    Seems like a very cool product

    Reply
  5. nice work on the quickie review. I'm happy to read that there will be some trainingpeaks integration coming in January.

    i have only just started to look at the data uploaded - the website seems to only show the data rounded up the the second, i hope that this is the website and not from the raw data. I'm not very fast, so even a 1/2 second counts to show some improvement.

    i have to say that this watch does work very well, so much better than hitting the lap button on my polar watch and then trying to remember what length the sets were, and what my total & set distance is.

    tri-james: the strokes per lap was a little odd when i first looked at it (i had the similar numbers for my first swim a couple of days ago). i usually counted strokes from each arm, but the swimsense counts only the arm that is wearing it. This works similar to SPM for the garmin footpod. I know i wasn't taking 9 strokes per laps if i was counting both right/left arms - but it was in the range of 18 if counting both.

    Reply
  6. Rob

    Is it compatible with Sporttracks?

    Also, does it auto stop when you are resting (like a Garmin does when your bike speed falls below preset level), or do you have to manually stop the watch?

    Reply
  7. Awesome Ray...you just cost me another $200. I went from never having heard of this thing, to absolutely needing it. Great news that it will work with Training Peaks, almost justifies my irrational lust for this item.

    Reply
  8. Ray, do you have any comments about the suitability of Swimsense as an OWS training tool? I'm strictly an ocean swimming, but I looooves my metrics too!

    Reply
  9. OMG - I MUST HAVE ONE!! although, since I have small wrists the size is a worry for me - how does it compare to, say, a Garmin 405?

    And I would love to be able to play 'angry birds' on it! lol

    Reply
  10. Hi Tri-James-

    Stroke count is for just one arm in this case (since you're only wearing it on one arm). I suppose they could double it, but then that gets tricky too. Not sure what a good answer is there.

    Hi Ryan-

    Yes, it's fully automatic - lap splits as well. No button pushing unless you want to demark a set.

    Hi Michael-

    Based on my testing thus far, it's been accurate and hasn't missed anything.

    Hi Rob-

    It's not compatible with Sport Tracks, but that's definitely something to suggest to Sportsense to look at.

    It does not auto-stop when you're resting, you'll need to press pause/stop.

    Hi Shawn-

    It's thinner than the FR405 and less bulky. The photo there of my fiancee, and she has no problems using it, despite being only 5'2" and the small wrists that go along with it. It's slightly wider though than the FR405.

    Reply
  11. Good review, thanks. Have you had a look at the Swimovate? The pro version offers uploading of data and it seems to cover pretty much the same ground. I have the earlier version that doesn't upload and it seems good but interested in your views.

    Reply
  12. MCooper

    I wondered, like Rob, if this was SportTracks compatible. It's unfortunate that it doesn't work with ST... because as of now, that is the only reason I won't be buying one.

    Reply
  13. WB

    I have read you get 6 months of their site use included. Do you know how much it costs after that?

    Also like TriExpert, I am anxious to hear an update for open water.

    Reply
  14. Anonymous

    not a bad watch but given that the length of the pool is known and you're counting the laps and time with a comfortable finger ring type lap counter and being a steady swimmer you normally maintain the same number of strokes and can randomly count them just to be sure you areat similar pace, i fail to see the real added benefit. What would really make a difference for me is having it pick my heart rate... such feature unfortunately I do not see here nor on any such training watch. I mean one that works while in the water...

    Reply
  15. My husband and I both bought one the moment they hit the store on December 8th.

    His watch started fogging up on the inside (including little droplets of water in one corner!) after 1200 meters... Mine didn't spring a leak, but in the first 500m it refused to register three laps, and it LOST two laps (one because I tilted my wrist to look at the watch, it dropped from 200 down to 175) and again a few laps later, I reached the end, it recorded the lap. Then I let go of the edge to adjust my goggles, and when I looked again before heading out, it deducted 25 m again.

    We're very disappointed with the quality of both the hardware and software, counting in our heads is better than paying for a watch with such random results.

    Reply
  16. Just got my Swimsense. Was setting it up and noticed it only let you do age and weight by 10's (i.e., 30,40,50 / 150/160/170 etc). Is this correct or is there something I may be missing?

    Reply
  17. Please review a swimovate pro as well. I'm seeing posts at beginnertriathlete.com that indicate it may be more reliable and sounds comparable in capability.

    Reply
  18. Thanks for the review. Does the device support multiple users?

    Reply
  19. Ben

    Thus far, I've had some minor issues with accuracy of laps, but nothing that I can't account for out of my own movements. Im currently wearing it on my left arm and thats the one I use for goggle adjustments, grabbing the wall, etc. I need to be more diligent with the pause button, and perhaps look at wearing it on the other arm.

    Being a less even swimmer than some, I find it interesting to see the stroke count data and pacing.

    Reply
  20. Just some brief comments: Software is extremely buggy and seems far from finished (eg. goals set in meters appear in yards, build a plan function doesn't work at all, weight and age can only be configured in steps of 5 (years/kg)time cannot be set to 24 hrs. format). Trainingpeaks integration hasn't arrived yet here in February.
    My take: the product is a beta product that shouldn't have been released yet.

    Reply
  21. Aaron

    SportTracks integration is ready for beta testing. Announcement on the ST forums:

    link to zonefivesoftware.com

    Reply
  22. Anonymous

    OPEN WATER? CAn you use it in OPEN WATER?

    Reply
  23. No, it does not work in openwater. It's accellerometer based and thus dependent on the flip turn.

    Reply
  24. Anonymous

    Overall, I would say this product is AMAZING! They have fixed a lot of the bugs and issues that I read about in previous comments, including better recognition, improved display, TrainingPeaks integration, and even new features on the log.

    I found that the DC post comparing Swimsense with Swimovate Pro was very informative. I was on the fence and went with Swimsense. I haven't been disappointed thus far.

    The only problem I have with the Swimsense was the battery kept dying, but Finis just released a new update so that it doubled the total battery life. Very cool.

    Reply
  25. trija9

    My swimsense stopt working during the third swim. I didn't react on the keys anymore. I know for sure the battery was loaded.
    Now after 24 hours it's complete dead. It does not react on keys. Does not load in the 'craddle'.
    It was a nice try, but you might imagine that I am very disappointed! Hope I can get my money back.

    Reply
  26. Hi Trija-

    Give the Swimsense support a ring. I've found them very responsive. I had a minor issue with the pins on my cradle and the simply sent out a new one no questions asked. Though, I was pretty proud of myself for getting all MacGyver and replacing one of the missing pins with a very carefully snipped paperclip in the interium. :)

    Reply
  27. Terry K

    Do you have to do a flip turn for it to work? Sometimes I get lazy and just touch the wall and push off the other way...thanks!

    Reply
  28. Nope, it'll work either way. I mix and match every once in a while - no issue.

    Reply
  29. Terry K

    Used your Amazon link and ordered one - can't wait to try it! Thanks Ray!

    Reply
  30. Just got done with my first Swim with the Swimsense.......VERY VERY IMPRESSED! Especially bringing all the data into Sport Tracks. I brought it into TP's and wasn't as impressed, I guess I just like ST's that much. Thanks for the great review Ray!

    Reply
  31. I just bought and tested it; my first impression is that it is a poor design in terms of data readability when you get out of the water. A display background light should be implemented. The 910XT for this is a better choice. Also 910XT allow for external use. BTW, the swimsense is still a good gadget for small budget.

    Reply
  32. robby

    not so happy with the display with is a pain to read if readable at al, big improvements to make there.
    already missed a couple of swims becouse i pushed the wrong button.
    the new auto function caused a few crashes in the software of the watch, with no functions and recording at al.

    Reply
  33. Hey DCRainmaker! I bought the swimsense because of your review. I have it, but now have a question. More than likely a stupid question, but I can't find the answer.
    When you input the pool size, that's just for one length, right?

    Reply
  34. Correct, one length.

    Reply
  35. robby

    with the beta release i could have not been happyer, the functions are now better and i really like the watch now, it keeps me motivated to swim now .

    Reply
  36. Joe

    How does the watch record kicking intervals?

    Reply
  37. Eric L.

    Does anyone have any issue with the Swimsense locking-up during swims? I've had mine locked up twice now since getting it about 2 weeks ago. I've read somewhere that it could be due to the iiM feature? I'm at the v1.0.2.0 firwamre

    Reply
  38. I'm thinking of getting one of these, but dropping the dough for a watch that I will only use for swimming is kind of un-nerving especially if it has issues and isn't accurate. I'm an experienced swimmer and would really love to have the data from my swims.

    I've read reviews on amazon and it seems a lot of people have had trouble with this watch, but it was from about a year ago. Can you give us an update on what has improved/changed since the original review?

    Thanks Ray!

    Reply
  39. Anonymous

    Liela
    How does the swimsense compare to Aquacoach from speedo?
    Must i do flip turns to enable the swimsense to work?

    Reply
  40. No need for flip turns, you can do either open or flip, or mix them up.

    I haven't used the Speedo product unfortunately, sorry! One other one to check out now is the Garmin Swim (see sidebar review) - currently my favorite swim watch. Enjoy!

    Reply
  41. Does this work with Training Peaks?

    Reply
  42. Yup, no problem.

    Reply
  43. Zsolt

    in the specifaction you said autopause yes. but in the comments you answered have to press the pause button. Which on eis right?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      It has the capability. It was added in a firmware update later, after my comments.

      Reply
  44. Denise

    What material is the band made of? From seeing the product, it looks like rubber, which is latex. I am allergic to latex. There is no info on the box or in the brochure about this.
    Thanks.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Hmm, I'm honestly not great at determining what types of material in terms of differences of rubber etc... That said, the FINIS folks generally respond to support requests pretty quickly and might be able to give you an accurate answer there.

      Reply
  45. DavidF

    I heard from a finis employee (watch warranty stuff) that they were going to have a new watch by the beginning of 2015. Can't find any info. Any news?

    Reply

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