A hands-on look at the Swimovate Pool-Mate Pro

Many of you have been asking for me to check out the Swimovate Pool-Mate Pro, which is a swimming watch that allows one to not only keep track of laps, but also download the data later.  While there have been many watches over the years that have allowed you to easily track distance/laps during a swim using accelerometers in the watch, there are only two that actually allow you to download the data afterwards: The Pool-Mate Pro, and the FINIS Swimsense.

Luckily for you (and me), a reader offered to let me borrow one of their Pool-Mate Pro’s a few weeks back, so I’ve been able to get some pool time with it over the past week – allowing me to offer an initial preview into the device.  In about a month I’ll do a blow-by-blow comparison between the FINIS Swimsense and the Pool-Mate Pro, but for now, let’s just tackle the Pool-Mate Pro.

Swimovate Pool-Mate Pro Box

Once the shiny box arrives on your doorstep (or, behind the bush under new fallen snow in my case), you’ll want to get it all unboxed.  The bigger box actually hides two little boxes inside – one containing the watch and the other containing the USB download cradle.

Swimovate Pool-Mate Pro BoxesSwimovate Pool-Mate Pro Unboxed

The watch itself is rather slim – a tiny bit smaller than our average sports watch (and much smaller than the FINIS Swimsense).  It easily fit my wrists, as well as The Girl’s (who has tiny little girly wrists).

Swimovate Pool-Mate Pro Front ViewSwimovate Pool-Mate Pro Back View

Moving onto the second little box you’ll find the download cradle.  While the cradle itself connects to your PC using USB, the actual communication between the watch and the cradle is done via infrared.

Swimovate Pool-Mate Pro CradleSwimovate Pool-Mate Pro Cradle with Watch

Finally, before hitting up the pool, you’ll want to walk through a few quick configuration steps.  This includes which wrist you’ll have the device on, the pool length and metric (yards or meters), the date/time, as well as your weight (for calorie calculations).

Swimovate Pool-Mate Pro Metric Selection

Once that’s all set, you’re ready to roll!

When you arrive at the pool, there’s pretty much only one button you’re gonna want to press.  The start/lap button, I’ve squared below:

Swimovate Pool-Mate Pro Start Button

To start your workout, simply press that button.  It’ll immediately start counting time, so you’ll want to start swimming at that point.

Each length of the pool it’ll increase the ‘laps’ shown.  So, if you were in a 25y pool and did 100 yards, it would show 4 laps.  It uses laps in the traditional way most competitive swimmers do (lap = length), and not in the way most recreational swimmers do (lap = down and back).

If you want to break out sets, or if you stop for a bit at the wall, you’ll want to go ahead and tap that Start (Lap) button again.  That’ll transition it from swim-time, to paused-time.  Additionally, it creates a new set when you do that.  This makes it pretty easy to work with the data later on.  When you’re ready to depart the wall again, simply tap Start and it’ll transition back to swim-mode and start recording your time/laps as a new set.

IMG_9330

My first swim workout with it was about 2,500 yards.  For fun, I wore the Pool-Mate Pro on one wrist, and the FINIS Swimsense on the other.  I was quite happy to see that both were dead on accurate across the entire workout.  Pretty darn impressive actually.  My workout was all freestyle though so it’s a bit easier than mixing in some of the other strokes.  But my pace did vary from sprints to more sustained sets, and just for fun I threw in a few open-turns versus flip turns.  No effect on accuracy.  Note that neither watch support openwater swimming, as they both depend on accelerometers to recognize the turn at the end of each length.

Here’s a picture mid-way through, showing the two (I took one off the the other wrist for the photo, but they were otherwise on separate wrists).

Swimovate Pool-Mate Pro vs FINIS Swimsense

Interestingly, you can see in the photo how the different watches handle paused time.  The Pool-Mate Pro displays “P” next to the time paused to date.  Meanwhile, the FINIS Swimsense inverts the colors on the display, as well as displaying a “P” (below a water droplet in this photo).

Additionally, in the above photo I have the Pool-Mate Pro set to display laps (40 laps), while the Swimsense is showing total yardage (1000y).  Both units can display both metrics easily by tapping the upper left hand button to change mode/display.

As a note, if you plan to do any drill sets which result in your arms not embracing a swimming motion, you’ll want to put the watch in pause mode.  If the watch doesn’t detect a stroke, it assumes you’re done swimming and completes the workout.  This is especially important for scenarios like kickboard drills.

Focusing back on the Pool-Mate watch, the one area that greatly annoyed me in the past with the original non-downloadable Pool Mate watch was the ease in which you could accidentally delete your workout(s) after completion.  See, once you’re complete with your swim workout, you first hold down the start button for 2 seconds to Save the workout.  No problems there though, that steps easy.

It was when I exercised curiosity in trying to review the workout log on the watch that I got into trouble (both with the old version, but also now the new version).  See, in both cases it’s extremely easy to wipe your workout data in a manner of about 1.5 seconds.  You can do this simply by pressing the mode button and trying to view the log once that option is shown.  That’s because if you then go to confirm the log selection (by logically pressing start), it actually goes to erase mode.  Frantically you try and press Mode to undo that selection – but that actually confirms erasing – not backing out.  Thus…sad panda.  This is the one scenario in the watch where the confirmation functions of mode and start are actually reversed, compared to every other menu in the watch.

So, my lesson learned here is that once you swim with the watch…just set it down, put it away – and don’t touch the darn thing until you get back to your computer. All will be fine that way.

Speaking of computers, let’s talk about what happens assuming you don’t manage to delete your history while sitting at the end of the lane line.

First, you’ll go ahead and press mode a handful of times until you see ‘upload’ – once in that mode, it’s ready to start talking to it’s little USB friend.  Go ahead and put the watch upside down on it:

Swimovate Pool-Mate Pro Cradle Upload

Once that’s set you’ll want to start the Pool-Mate Link application, which is a bit of software that downloads the data from your watch.  Think of this just like the ANT+ Agent if you have a Garmin Device – just a small piece of software that sits in your task tray and talks with the watch direclty.

Swimovate Pool-Mate Pro Link Software

The download only takes a few seconds and it’s all set.  Very quick and easy.

From here you’ll go ahead and start the Pool-Mate Pro software.  Once in the software you’ll simply click the down arrow (see below screenshot) to have it grab the workout from the files deposited by the Pool-Mate Link software.  In an ideal world these two applications would be merged, but it’s not too much of a hassle.

Once downloaded, it’ll look just like the below graph.  In this workout I only have about 900y of stuff shown, as the remainder of the workout was in different drill portions that otherwise would have caused the watch to auto-complete the workout.  Regrettably, my longer workout data sets were deleted – so we’ll save in long term metrics for the comparison post.  The data below is actually from a swim The Girl did, using the watch (the Pool-Mate Pro supports multiple named users).

Swimovate Pool-Mate Pro Software

Once in the software suite you can see the basic totals on the left side.  In the middle portion you have the total number of laps (lengths), as well as numerous other metrics including average speed per 100y.  Additionally, on the right side you can add in notes and select a simple smiley-faced rating system.

Of perhaps the most important metric shown is actually one discretely placed on the side:

Swimovate Pool-Mate Pro Software Cupcakes Burnt

I swear, I didn’t Photoshop this…but I absolutely approve of it!  Unfortunately, I also suspect these are some very small cupcakes – nothing like the massive cupcakes The Girl makes.

In addition, you can click the pencil button on the main program page to manually enter a workout, such as my deleted one:

Swimovate Pool-Mate Pro Software Manual Workout

And to show off one more area of the software before we wrap up, you can go ahead and graph your totals over time pretty easily as well as drill into individual sets, though, with only one recorded workout so far – it’s pretty slim pickens:

Swimovate Pool-Mate Pro Software Graphing

You can see above however the different sets that were created (a 600y and 300y set), with differing metrics for each one.  And from here, you can click that little arrow on the right hand side and export it out to a standard CSV file.

All in all while the software isn’t web based, it does offer a pretty good look at your stats and metrics. Certainly better than writing it down by hand afterwards.  And the watch itself is relatively easy to use, along with being super-slim.

As I get more time in it over the next few weeks I’ll be able to give a more in depth look, and also be able to better compare it to the competing Swimsense unit.  I think that at a high level the two units are relatively equal in terms of on-watch functionality.  I see a bit of a split when it comes to software, with the Swimsense having a tiny bit more analysis functionality compared to the Pool-Mate Pro.  Size wise the Pool-Mate Pro is smaller, and usable as a day to day watch, while the Swimsense is a bit bulkier.  Both products are priced almost identically, with the Pool-Mate Pro at $190, and the FINIS Swimsense at $199.  Fear not though, you’ll get a full break down of the two soon enough!

In the meantime…off to the pool I go!

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

22 Comments

  1. Thanks for the review. I'm not really interested in downloading my swim workouts so I am thinking about buying the $100 Poolmate. Does the lower priced Poolmate have basically the same functionality and accuracy of the Pro? Is it worth purchasing if one does not want to download and is looking to save some money?

    Reply
  2. good review. thanks. it kind of makes me want to start swimming just so i can use it...

    Reply
  3. As always, thanks for the great review!

    A few questions:

    1. How do these watches work? How do they know that you've done a lap? Is it really as simple as just starting to swim and when you stop, you have your number of laps?

    2. From your review of the Garmin 310XT, it appears that the 310XT does not have a lap function. Do you think this will be included in the new release that will probably come later this spring?

    3. What are some of my options if I want to spend less on a lap watch (I guess I'm echoing Denny's question.)?

    Again, thanks for the review!

    Reply
  4. Good Review. Reiterating David's first question, couldn't Garmin have a software update to use as a lap counter for swimming too? Is it possible

    Reply
  5. Ray,
    Some info for your in depth review. I have emailed customer service at Swimovate several times over a few days. Unfortunately, due to tiny email servers at work, I have to delete most of my emails so I can keep sending/receiving, so I can't share the actual emails.
    Anyway, I always received clear and complete responses within only a few hours from sending my questions. Over the several days, the responses came from the same customer service rep...so I think Swimovate is still a small company...or they only have 1 customer service rep.
    I asked about Mac software compatibility and TrainingPeaks integration. You can look at the website and there are clear notes that Mac software is in the works. The customer service rep noted that it should be out with a few weeks (this was a few weeks ago) and that she had seen/used the Mac software herself and thought it good. She also noted, that the hardware (watch and download cradle) will be the same, so people could get the watch now...and download to Mac when the software shows up.
    As far as TrainingPeaks. Swimovate products are not supported, but the customer service rep said Swimovate desired for TrainingPeaks to integrate. I did a little research over at TP and it looks like both sides need to come together on the issue...I think they are both waiting for the other said to make a move. Perhaps a bunch of your readers could email both companies and tell them to "Get Hot!"
    All in all, I was impressed with the customer service via email from Swimovate. I get the impression they are actively seeking (or at least accepting) of user feedback and requests. I don't have a watch, but the service was good enough I would consider them before other products based on the service alone.

    Reply
  6. Anonymous

    Thanks for a good review, I've been swimming with the standard Poolmate watch for a few months now and it's easy to use when after a while.

    Accuracy is very good for long freestyle sets however I've had recurring issues when doing sets where you turn from freestyle into backstroke. For some reason it fails to pick up the turn and throws out the counter. Overall I find it a useful tool for lap swimming.

    Improvements would be
    - greater detail on splits, ie averages of 1.18 per 100m is ok but down to 100ths of a second would be better.
    - being able to pull out the splits across a 400m swim

    Reply
  7. Anonymous

    I would agree that customer service with Swimovate has been very good over the past year. They have been swiftly responsive to my emails and my upgrades, first from the Metric Only to the Imperial/Metric watch and then to the Pro watch.

    FINIS has been hard to deal with - many times over the past year I've called to inquire about the touted Aqua-Pulse HR monitor and could never get a live human. That worries me some.

    Thus far, no issues with the Poolmate or PoolMate Pro watches and I find them very accurate and easy to use. I got used to the LOG recall button press pattern and never lose a file anymore by accidental erasure.

    Looking forward to the haed-to-head with the SwimSense!

    Reply
  8. Anonymous

    I have been weighing up the pros and cons of both of these now for a while, and I was waiting for your comparison post.
    However after speaking to both Swimovate and Finis I have pretty much decided to go with the Pool Mate Pro.
    The main reason for this, is the data downloaded is simply stored in a .csv file on the machine, and Swimovate will send you the specs for this if you email them (very quickly too!)
    As a software dev, it then makes it very easy to manipulate this and import it directly into my other online plans. So while there is no online training log directly, I actually believe the ability to get at your data is far more beneficial.
    Finis did tell me they were working on a data download function for their software, but who knows when we'll see this - and I want my data now!
    Just a shame it's not ANT+ as I have a Sony Ericsson X10 Mini Pro with ANT+ - it could be syncing to that in the changing room and uploading via my Android app all before I'm dried!

    Reply
  9. Randy

    Great review as always. I have been using the PoolMate Pro for about a month and I think it falls a bit short of the mark. It could be a great training tool with an update to the software but until this happens, it is not much better than a cheap sports watch.

    1) it does not show pace/stroke count within a set (e.g. if you are swimming 500 straight, there is no way to find out the pace or stroke count for the 1st 100 vs the last 100); 2) it is not mac compatible (as stated above, this has been in the works for some time now); 3) I can export the .csv file but don't know what good this will do me (Training Peaks doesn't accept the swimovate files); 4) it does not show rest intervals; 5) there does not seem to be a way to stop/start within a session (i.e. all 'pauses' are counted as part of the total time of the session); 6) stroke count only counts the strokes on the arm with the watch (yes, this is obvious but it can lead to significant fluctuations if you always begin a length by stroking with the same arm).

    Reply
  10. Justin

    Great review, thanks! Can't wait for your blow-by-blow comparison between the FINIS Swimsense and the Pool-Mate Pro. I'm having difficulty deciding which one would be better for my training. Thanks again!

    Reply
  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

    Reply
  12. Yabriel

    Randy, so these .csv files doesn't upload on Training Peaks? Ray can you confirm this?

    I really like my Training Peaks calendar and how organized I have everything there having the Pool Mate pro and having to input manually into Training Peaks makes me want to go for the old Pool Mate.

    It seems like a great training tool on water, but that useless .csv file hold me from getting one.

    Reply
  13. yabriel

    oh and BTW, great review, I love all of them, thanks for your great work.

    Reply
  14. Hi Denny-
    RE: Functioanlity diffs

    Yes, the lower priced one does everything the Pro does...except without the download piece.

    Hi Marathonmaiden-
    Thanks!

    Hi David-
    RE: How the watches work

    They use accellerometers to understand strokes and when you change direction.

    RE: 310XT lap function

    It has a lap function, just not a swimming function. I'm hearing hints that the new version will indeed have some swimming functions...but I wouldn't bet on it yet.

    Hi Bmatt-
    RE: Garmin updating to include lap counter

    No, the 310XT (nor any other Garmin watch to date) does not contain an accellerometer in it.

    Hi Brian-
    RE: Integration with TP

    Both companies are on it. You'll see Swimsense very very shortly, but Pool-Mate Pro is a wee bit further behind.

    Hi Anon's-
    RE: Feedback

    Thanks for the feedback, it's appreciated!

    Hi Anon-
    RE: CSV

    The Swimsense now includes CSV export, fwiw.

    Hi Randy-
    RE: Shortfalls

    All very valid points. Fwiw, all of your items are actually in Swimsense. Except stroke measurement in sum, Swimesense also shows per arm.

    Hi Justin-
    Thanks!

    Hi Yabriel
    RE: CSV and TP

    Correct, to date you can't use the Pool-Mate Pro CSV files with Training Peaks. That's coming, but progress wise they aren't as far with Pool-Mate as they are with Swimsense. I'd guess a few months away based on conversations. Thanks for the feedback!

    Thanks everyone!

    Reply
  15. Anonymous

    Thanks for the review!! after reading it, i decided to buy it at link to axtrosports.com

    Reply
  16. Anonymous

    I just purchased my poolmate pro with a fair amount of research and what I feel to be fair expectations.

    On my first swim I tried all my tricks to see just what it could and could not do. Surprisingly it was the simple things that threw it. The user manual says not to push the buttons under water so I found myself stopping at the wall with my hands out of the water to ensure a quick stop of the counter. This consistently missed counting my final lap(70% of the time).

    It had not difficulty with my 100 IM sprint(switching between 4 strokes in 100yds on one set). It also had no trouble tracking my strokes for elementary backstroke(rescue stroke), corkscrew or underwater frog during cool down.

    It did fail me on reporting distance during kicking drills. I was expecting 1 stroke per lap and with flip turns I also expected it to track the laps/distance. But it gave me 4minutes of goose eggs for data, Oh well. At least it never ended the session on me during kick drills.

    Due to the missed wall counts at the end of my sets most of my calculated data was garbage(sorry I mean rubbish). ie str/lap, speed, str length, str rate and efficiency. No worries though, I spent a fair amount of time playing with the CSV export values in excel. I am very pleased to have the data in this format. With some time I was able to recreate all of the calculated metrics in the file for accurate import to their software. I did notice some slop in the accuracy of their calcs but it is acceptable considering the limits of such a processor.

    Also of note.. explanation of units window clears up the units for calories burned as kilo calories. So Multiply their number by 1000. That's better.

    I have some more learning to do before the watch and I truly understand each other but it is still a sweet piece of hardware.

    -Nick-

    Reply
  17. hi, any news on which web sites can use the csv file?

    Reply
  18. Phillip L.

    Ray,

    How much does the SwimSense weigh, and what water-resistance ratings does it have? I can't seem to find that information anywhere. The PoolMate is 41 g and rated to 50 m.

    You mention that the PoolMate is thinner. Do you know how thin? I thought I read somewhere that the SwimSense is about 15 mm thick.

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Check out my Garmin Swim review, which includes size comparison/photos of all three units right next to each other: link to dcrainmaker.com

      Reply
  19. Phillip L.

    Thanks, Ray. I had read that review. I just re-read it and scanned the comments and did not find the answer to my questions. I may try posting my questions over there, as it looks like a lot of users of those watches have been active in the comments.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      When I get back home tomorrow I can weigh and measure them. If you don't see an update by Thursday, just ping me here and I'll walk over and measure/weight them.

      Reply
  20. Anna

    There's also the Swimovate PoolMate HR model, it sound really good. Did you have a chance to test it ?

    Reply

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