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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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:
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.
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).
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:
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.
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).
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:
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:
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:
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!