Garmin Swim watch In-Depth Review

Garmin Swim Watch

[Updated Feb 16th, 2013]

Today, Garmin announced the Garmin Swim, which is a dedicated swim tracking watch that builds upon the accelerometer based technology that was introduced within the FR910XT to track swimming data in a pool environment.  I’ve been using the watch for a while now, and have had a good opportunity test it out in my day to day swims, and understand just how it ticks (and tocks).

Like all my reviews, they tend to be pretty in depth (perhaps overly so) – but that’s just my trademark DC Rainmaker way of doing things. Think of them more like reference guides than quick and easy summaries. I try and cover every conceivable thing you might do with the device and then poke at it a bit more. My goal is to leave no stone unturned – both the good and the bad.

Because I want to be transparent about my reviews, this unit was provided by Garmin as a media trial.  It’s been running pre-release software, though the hardware is the final version.   Once I’m done with it, it heads back to Garmin.  Simple as that. Sorta like hiking in wilderness trails – leave only footprints. If you find my review useful, you can use any of the Amazon links from this page to help support future reviews.

Lastly, at the end of the day keep in mind I’m just like any other regular triathlete out there. I write these reviews because I’m inherently a curious person with a technology background (my day job), and thus I try and be as complete as I can. But, if I’ve missed something or if you spot something that doesn’t quite jive – just let me know and I’ll be happy to get it all sorted out. Also, because the technology world constantly changes, I try and go back and update these reviews as new features and functionality are added – or if bugs are fixed.

With that, let’s get onto the review!


The Garmin Swim unit comes boxed in the standard Garmin fitness box with the clear plastic front enabling you to see the watch face from the outside:

Garmin Swim Watch Box

It also has the little fake-display sticker on it, thus making my photos look semi-blurry on the watch itself.

Garmin Swim Watch Side

The back of the box has a swimmer doing a perfect butterfly stroke – something I’ll be unlikely to ever emulate.

Garmin Swim Watch Back

Once you crack it open, you’ll find it contains precisely three items: The manual, a Garmin ANT+ USB stick, and the Garmin Swim watch itself.

Garmin Swim Watch Unboxed

The manual isn’t too exciting, so I’ll let you save that for a rainy day.

The USB stick is the standard Garmin ANT+ stick that enables you to transfer data wirelessly between your computer and the watch.  I’ll talk more about that later on.  If you already have a Garmin watch with a USB stick, you can just use that one (though you’ll still get this one in the box).


Let’s take a closer look at the watch itself:

Garmin Swim Watch Face

The unit’s band is a soft flexible plastic, and is connected via two small pins on either side.  The plastic isn’t as thick as the FR910XT or other triathlon watches, and is more inline with the FR70 plastic.

Garmin Swim Watch Back

The unit is waterproofed to 50meters, and uses a standard CR2032 battery to power itself.  Typically in Garmin watches that contain the CR2032 battery, they last about a year before you need to swap out the $3 battery from the drugstore.

Garmin Swim Watch Side

Comparison Shots:

In order to give you a better impression of the size of the watch, I’ve included the two other most popular swim tracking watches on the market.  I meant to include the Pool-mate/Pool-mate Pro, but forgot to dig it out when I took this photo.  For reference, it’s slightly smaller than the Garmin Swim – though, I generally don’t recommend the Pool-Mate Pro as much anymore (see this post for why).

Garmin Swim Watch Size Comparison Swimsense

Looking at the heights (image reversed), you can see the FR910XT is the highest, with the Swimsense following, and then finally the Garmin Swim.

Garmin Swim Watch Size Comparison SwimsenseGarmin Swim Watch Size Comparison Swimsense

I’ve been asked to show the straps/clips in the past – so now I include them.  On the left is the Swimsense, the middle the Garmin Swim, and the right the FR910XT.

Garmin Swim Watch Band Comparison Swimsense

Now, keep in mind that the smaller size does mean you sacrifice some features – for example, more display room for additional data fields, as well as a bright backlight.

Speaking of the backlight, here’s a comparison showing the FR910XT backlight compared to the Garmin Swim and Swimsense.  I did find however that the text was crisp enough that I didn’t need the backlight at all on the Garmin Swim – but I also recognize my eyes are probably a bit sharper than some.  So your mileage may vary there.  And to clarify there technically is a backlight on the Garmin Swim, though it’s essentially impossible to see during the day (only in the dark, since you probably wouldn’t need it in a pool).

Garmin Swim Watch Backlight Comparison

With the comparison shots done – let’s head to the pool!

Swim Tracking (pool):

After you’ve got it all unboxed and the time set, it’s time to head to the pool.  Unlike other Garmin watches, you’ve got a new button on the Garmin Swim – the blue button.  The blue button is how you engage the swim mode and prepare to start swimming.  It’s also how you change data fields.

Garmin Swim watch on wrist

Once the blue button is pressed, you’ll be at the main starting page, with the timer at zero.  To begin recording and swimming, simply press the mid-right button – which has the Play/Stop logos.

This will begin the timer.  The unit will now be recording, both strokes as well as lengths and time.  The Garmin Swim has an internal accelerometer (sorta like most modern smartphones), which allows it to determine stroke type, and lengths/laps.  It does NOT use GPS, and thus only works within a pool setting where it bases its calculations on a known pool length and the changes in accelerations as you push off the wall.

Unlike the FR910XT, this watch will recognize a lap nearly instantly after pushing off the wall.  The FR910XT tended to take about 10 yards before it realized/validated/decided that you did indeed start a new length.  However, in every case for me, before I even hit the surface for my first breath off the wall, it showed the length completed.

As you’re swimming, you can alternate through three preset data pages.  This is different from the FR910XT or Swimsense which allows infinite customization.  The Garmin Swim only has one additional data page you can customize, which I’ll talk about in a bit.

The first preset data page is focused on the given interval you’re in, showing total length and time, if you’re in a rest, it’ll show the rest time, and the last interval will be shown on the third page instead.


The second preset page has your swim session totals, showing total distance and total time:


And the third and final default page shows your last length information, including your pace (as displayed in time per 100 yards), strokes, and SWOLF.


After which, you’d have your custom page – with whatever information you’ve added there (I didn’t realize until later after I took this photo that while taking photos of the custom pages I ended up setting all three values to the same…fail).


Note that the little circles along the left side of the watch showing the different pages are changed by pressing the blue button.  The reason you see four bubbles/circles is because the session hasn’t been started yet, when you see five bubbles, it’s mid-session.  The last bubble I didn’t show above is when you engage drill mode, to kick into that.

Creating an interval/set:

At the end of your set (interval) – be it 50y, 500y, or 5000y, you’ll press the bottom right button, which kicks the unit into paused time.  Within this mode, it’ll show you two numbers, first is the total time since the start of the previous interval, and second is the paused time.


This is primarily so that if you’re doing a workout where you go “on 1:30”, you can see when you hit 1:30, and how long you’ve been resting.  As soon as you hit the pause button again (lower right), then it’ll go into regular swim mode.

Rest Timer:

When you’re at the wall, you’ll likely not want that time included in a given lap – so you’ll probably hit pause or stop.  In doing so, you’ll enable the rest timer (though, you can disable it).  The rest timer will track how much time you spend at the wall, and then display it within Garmin Connect


You can see below how the separation of laps is displayed in the lap view on Garmin Connect, first, with rest timer enabled:


And then with rest timer disabled (specifically note the lack of time split between Length 24 and 25).


Drill Log:

The Garmin Swim introduces a unique feature called Drill Log, which I talk about a few sections down lower in a ton of detail.

Inverted Display:

This option is very similar to the Swimsense unit, which will invert the display colors of the screen while in paused mode.  This makes it much easier to quickly glance and determine whether or not you’ve managed to hit lap/pause at the end of a set (when you’re gasping for air).


You can enable this or disable it as you see fit (default is disabled).  And, if you want, you can invert the display for regular swimming and have it be regular for rests.  Your choice.

Completing a Workout:

Once you’re done with your swim, you’ll tap the Stop button, which brings you to the menu allowing you to Resume (basically, keep swimming), Save, or Delete.


The watch will take a few seconds to save your session, at which point it’ll show you a summary.


The summary includes the total time at the pool, then your total swimming time (excluding rests essentially), total yardage, total lengths, average pace per 100/yds, total calories (kcal), along with the option to review details about each intervals (sets).


Here’s the detail page on a given interval:


From there you can review previous swim sessions, or just go back into standard watch mode.

Drill Log mode:

Having used swim watches now for a couple years, I’m pretty used to their capabilities – and limitations thereof.  In particular, their inability to deal with drill/kick segments.  In most cases, you either choose to pause the watch during the drill set (my preference), or you simply let it run and deal with wonky numbers in your swim log.  Either way, in most cases the data is usually incorrect.


The Garmin Swim however introduces ‘Drill Log’, which enables you to maintain the timer running, but then manually set the swim distance after you’ve completed that drill set.  Essentially an override.  You’ll need to enable the Drill Log (either before your swim or afterwards), and then once in the pool, you can select it as you see fit within your workout.

Think of drill log as a feature to enable, not in place of the regular swim tracking.

To enable it, you’ll head into the Menu > Swimming > Drill Log, and then select ‘Enable’.  This simply allows you to select it later on during your swim (though, you can also enable it later during the swim).


Later, during your swim, you’ll tap the blue swim button and scroll down to the bottom option (bubble) on the left hand side, before pressing the Start/Stop button to start a drill:


When in Drill Log mode, it’ll create a new interval with a simple timer.  It’s up to you to tell it when you’re done:


Once completed, it’ll tell you the total drill time, and then allow you to specify the distance of that specific drill.  While you’re doing this, the watch is in paused (Rest) mode.


The drill mode will use the last known drill value, which you can then modify.  So if my previous drill set was 200y, it will go ahead and guess 200y as the next set (regardless of time swam).  I’ve personally found this useful in that most of my drill sets are the same distance, so it makes it quick and easy.

The drill mode will allow you to enter in a single drill segment up to 2,500y/m per drill.  You can hold the up/down button to increase how quickly it changes, though I found on mine you have to push fairly hard and hold before it registers that you just want to increase it a ton.  But once it does, it increases pretty quickly (you can always still adjust up/down once you get closer).

In drill mode, strokes are not counted (nor estimated).  Swim efficiency is however shown.  All length and lap times are merely estimated in Garmin Connect – simply taking the total time and dividing it by the distance you entered.


You can rinse/repeat and add as many drill segments as you like (at least, I haven’t found a limit yet).  Once done with a given segment, it’ll automatically bring you back to start a normal swim segment, or you can just press the blue button again to engage drill mode again.

Data Fields and Customization:

As noted earlier, the Garmin Swim watch includes two default pages that show information about the last length and total swim information.  However, you can also customize a third page with up to three piece of information.


Once in the customization menu, you’ll find it notably different than other Garmin devices.  Instead of sorting the data fields by metric and then Average/Interval/Totals, the Garmin swim sorts first by Interval/Total/Length, then by the given metric you want (i.e. distance/time/etc…).  This threw me at first, but I’ve found it works far better for this particular application.  I wouldn’t agree that it would work better for a more advanced watch such as the FR910XT where you are mixing and matching data types on a single screen.  But in the case of the swim metrics, I find that I tend to show all stats for the interval together – such as: Interval Distance, Interval Time, and Interval Pace.


You can show up to three data fields on the custom screen.


With that, here’s the data fields that you can add/customize:


Note, here’s the full list of those lap swimming data fields that you can add/customize on the FR910XT – to understand the differences.  Also, in the case of the FR910XT, you can show up to four fields per page, and up to four pages can be customized – which is really the biggest and most important difference.



The watch has a history mode which enables you to view all of your past swims in the same manner as you’d see the summary information after completing a swim.


Within this mode you can also delete a given activity, or select to re-transfer them to the computer.

The history mode allows you to see not only history for a given activity, but also for each week that you’ve got data for.  Additionally, it’ll show all totals rolled up.  In my case, since I just updated my firmware again before heading to take these shots, the display is empty (this particular pre-release update erased all history on the watch).

Swim Tracking (openwater):

I wanted to call out specifically that this unit will not track outdoors in openwater. The reason being it doesn’t use GPS, but rather an accelerometer to understand when you’ve hit the wall at the end of each length of the pool.  If you want both indoor pool and outdoor openwater tracking, you’ll need the Garmin FR910XT instead.

Pool Sizes (indoor):


By default the watch will allow you to select a pool size of 25 meters or 50 meters, or 25 yards.  However, you can also specify a custom pool length size by scrolling down.

[Update: As of Feb 8th, 2013, a new/free firmware update now allows up to 150m/y in length, and pools down to 17m/18y in length]


For those however with access to a really darn big pool – the largest pool size you can specify is 100 meters or yards. Though, this will be just a wee bit shy for that crazy pool in 137 yard long outdoor pool in Vancouver.  Or the even bigger one in Chile.


For those in the short kiddy pool, the smallest you can specify is 18 yards/17 meters – which is still a bit short for most hotel pools (I had originally posted that this was shorter, but that was a beta bug). (Updated with most recent firmware as of Aug 25th, 2013)

Regular Watch Mode

The Garmin Swim watch can easily be worn as a day watch, as it’s small enough to pass as a normal sports watch.

Interestingly, the unit will actually turn off the display when not in use.  When it detects movement, it’ll turn back on again.  It’s pretty cool, and a fairly innovative way to save battery.  Here’s a 8-second video clip of it:

Garmin Swim sleep mode video

It detects motion using the 3D accelerometer inside the watch – the same accelerometer that detects your swim stroke.  Generally, the display will appear within 1 second of movement.  I haven’t had it take any longer than that.  Any tiny bit of movement will trigger it, so it doesn’t take much.  The display will turn off after 60-seconds of non-movement.  You can both enable or disable sleep mode.


In addition to sleep it’s movement shenanigans, it all has standard watch features like two time zone tracking options (TIME1 and TIME2), a stopwatch, and an alarm.

Here’s the secondary time option:


Here’s the very simple stopwatch.  It doesn’t support any laps, nor uploading to Garmin connect.  It’s really simply a very simple stopwatch.  More of a counter really.


Finally, there’s also a basic alarm option.  You can specify a singular alarm, or a repeating daily alarm.

Week Distance:

You may have noticed at the bottom of the watch is a small number that indicates the total yards (or meters) that you’ve swam over the past week while in normal watch time mode.  You can choose to either enable or disable this (I suppose, depending on whether your excited or embarrassed by the number).


You can specify which day of the week you want to start your week on – which is ideal not only for those wanting to start on Sunday versus Monday, but also countries (such as many in the Middle East) that start their weeks on days other than Sunday or Monday:


Random other tidbits:

Languages: Languages available are – English, Francais, Italiano, Deutsc, Espanol, Hrvatski, Cestina, Dansk, Nederland, Suomi, Ellinka, Magyar, Norsk, Polski, Portugues, Slovensky, Slovenscina, Svenska, Russkij.


Button Tones: You can turn on/off both button tones, as well as the shrill alarm thing.  The Slarm shrill is for when you start/stop an interval.  It sorta sounds like a parakeet chirping madly in a blender.  No, really, it does – mildly painful (but effective).  Default for both is on.

Calories: Calorie metrics uses the weight entered, as well as stroke type, pace and time  You’ll enter the weight via the settings menu in either pounds or kilos, depending on which metric you’ve selected.


Uploading to computer:

To upload to your computer, and eventually Garmin Connect, you’ll need to install the Garmin ANT Agent software, which utilizes the ANT+ USB stick to download your swim data from the watch.  To start the download process you’ll first pair the watch to the computer.  The watch is automatically in pairing mode when it’s shipped, but if you have another Garmin watch already, you’ll need to tell the ANT Agent to go all eHarmony and start pairing again.

To do so, you’ll simply right-click on the little ANT Agent icon in your task bar and select “Pair with New Devices” to Enabled.  That’s it.

Once paired, the watch will automatically upload your workouts to the computer, as well as to Garmin Connect if you’ve selected that option.  This is anytime the watch is within range of the ANT USB stick, generally about a room or so away is close enough.


Once the data has been downloaded to your computer, it’ll immediately upload it to Garmin Connect (again, if you’ve selected/enabled that option in the ANT Agent software for this particular watch).


Now, let’s talk about what happens when it gets to Garmin Connect.

Garmin Connect:

Once you’ve got the data up to Garmin Connect, it’s the main platform for analyzing your Garmin Swim recorded workouts.

Once you’re logged in, you’ll go into your dashboard and be able to select your swim workout.  After selecting it, you’ll be brought to the main activity page, which contains the high level overview of your workout.


Along the left hand side of the page you’ll find the summary information – including swim totals and averages, as well as the pool size specifications (useful for later on remembering whether you were in a meters or yards pool).

The first chunk on the right side you’ll see is the Swim Graph, which is a movable timeline that you can slide left or right to see your different intervals, and the lengths within each one.  I only swim freestyle (simply because that’s what you need to survive a triathlon), so that’s the only type shown for me, except drills.  I was happy to see that unlike other watches (including the FR910XT), it never thought I did any stroke other than Freestyle.


If in drill mode, it’ll simply show the type as Drill, and then the length time will be identical across the entire drill set:


Below that, is the pace chart.  Note that the first chunk of my workout was a drill, so the pace information is hard-set here doing simple math using the distance and total time of the drill, hence why it looks flat.


You can click the little expandomatic icon in the upper right corner to expand the chart and make it bigger.  If you click the drop-down at the bottom, you can change to distance instead of time.


Below pace is the Strokes chart, showing you strokes per length.  In the case of the drill set, it’s hard-set as zero, since no stroke information is recorded.


Last but not least is the efficiency/SWOLF score, which is a metric will correlates how many strokes it takes to get across a single length of the pool.


In addition to the overview, you can also click to view a listing of all intervals/sets:


Then, within that, you can even expand out a given interval and show all the lengths:


Overall, the Garmin Connect platform offers one of the cleanest ways to view swim data today online.  And, it covers all the data that you’d need.

Now, I’ve had a few oddities were some (but not all) activities seem to end up in 1989 (the year), despite the time being set correctly.  This may be a beta bug with the specific pre-release firmware versions I was on.  The Garmin Swim team was looking into it – so I’m not super-concerned about it yet.

Firmware Updates:

The Garmin Swim does support firmware updates in the same manner that most all other Garmin units do.  Updates would be offered via Garmin Connect, and then are downloaded to your computer.  Once on the computer, the Garmin ANT Agent software will transfer them to the watch:


Firmware updates enable Garmin to fix bugs, or release new features.  Over the course of the beta period, both have been the case for me.  The updates generally only take about 60-90 seconds for this particular watch (much faster than the FR310XT/FR910XT updates).


In my case, with the pre-release software versions, it did erase my on-device history upon upgrade (semi-common for firmware upgrades), though it’s possible in the future that won’t be the case.

Comparison Chart:

Here’s a quick and high level comparison between the four major swim-tracking products on the market today:

Function/FeatureGarmin SwimGarmin Fenix3Garmin EpixGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 920XT
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated August 3rd, 2015 @ 6:38 pmNew Window
Product Announcement DateJun 25, 2012January 5th, 2015January 5th, 2015January 5th, 2015Oct 1st, 2014
Actual Availability/Shipping DateJul 5, 2012February 2015Estimated 2015 Q1March 2015Early Oct 2014
GPS Recording FunctionalityNoYesYesYesYes
Data TransferANT AgentUSB/Bluetooth Smart/WiFiUSB/Bluetooth SmartUSB/Bluetooth SmartUSB/Bluetooth Smart/WiFi
WaterproofingYesYes - 100mYes - 50m50mYes - 50m
Battery Life1 YearUp to 50hrs in GPSUp to 50hrs in GPS10 hours GPS onUP TO 40HRS IN GPS
Recording Interval1-Second1S to Variable1S to VariableSmart Recording (Variable)1s or Smart
Satellite Pre-Loading via ComputerN/AYesYesYesYes
Quick Satellite ReceptionN/AGreatGreatGreatGreat
Backlight GreatnessOKGreatGreatGreatGreat
Ability to download custom apps to unit/deviceNoYesYesYes via Connect IQYes
Acts as daily activity monitor (steps, etc...)NoYesYesYesYes
ConnectivityGarmin SwimGarmin Fenix3Garmin EpixGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 920XT
Bluetooth Legacy (pre-4.0) to PhoneNoNoNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart (4.0+) to Phone UploadingNoYesYesYesYes
Phone Notifications to unit (i.e. texts/calls/etc...)NoYesYesYesYes
Live Tracking (streaming location to website)NoYesYesYesYes
Emergency/SOS Message Notification (from watch to contacts)NoNoNoNoNo
Built-in cellular chip (no phone required)NoNoNoNoNo
CyclingGarmin SwimGarmin Fenix3Garmin EpixGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 920XT
Designed for cyclingNoYesYesYesYes
Power Meter CapableN/AYesYesPotentially with Connect IQYes
Power Meter Configuration/Calibration OptionsN/AYesYEsN/AYes
Power Meter TSS/NP/IFN/AYesYEsN/AYes
Speed/Cadence Sensor CapableN/AYesYesYesYes
RunningGarmin SwimGarmin Fenix3Garmin EpixGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 920XT
Designed for runningNoYesYesYesYes
Footpod Capable (For treadmills)N/AYesYesYesYes
Running Dynamics (vertical oscillation, ground contact time, etc...)N/AYesYesNoYes
VO2Max EstimationN/AYesYesNoYes
Race PredictorN/AYesYesNoYes
Recovery AdvisorN/AYesYEsNoYes
Run/Walk ModeN/AYesYesYesYes
SwimmingGarmin SwimGarmin Fenix3Garmin EpixGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 920XT
Designed for swimmingYesYesYesYesYes
Openwater swimming modeNoYesYesNoYes
Lap/Indoor Distance TrackingYesYesYesYesYes
Record HR underwaterNoNoNoNoWith HRM-TRI/HRM-SWIM
Openwater Metrics (Stroke/etc.)NoYesYesNoYes
Indoor Metrics (Stroke/etc.)YesYEsYesYesYes
Indoor Drill ModeYesYesYesNoYes
Indoor auto-pause featureNoNoNoNoNo
Change pool sizeYesYesYesYesYes
Indoor Min/Max Pool Lengths18y/17m to 150y/m17M/18Y TO 150Y/M17M/18Y TO 150Y/M17M/18Y TO 150Y/M17M/18Y TO 150Y/M
Ability to customize data fieldsYesYesYesYesYes
Can change yards to metersYesYesYesYesYes
Captures per length data - indoorsYesYesYesYesYes
Indoor AlertsYesYesYesYesYes
TriathlonGarmin SwimGarmin Fenix3Garmin EpixGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 920XT
Designed for triathlonNoYesYesNoYes
Multisport modeN/AYesYEsNoYes
WorkoutsGarmin SwimGarmin Fenix3Garmin EpixGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 920XT
Create/Follow custom workoutsNoYesYEsNoYes
On-unit interval FeatureNoYEsYesNoYes
Training Calendar FunctionalityNoYesYesNoYes
FunctionsGarmin SwimGarmin Fenix3Garmin EpixGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 920XT
Auto Start/StopN/AYesYesYesYes
Virtual Partner FeatureNoYesYesNoYes
Virtual Racer FeatureNoYesYesNoYes
Records PR's - Personal Records (diff than history)NoYesYesOnly on Garmin ConnectYes
Day to day watch abilityYesYesYesYesYes
Hunting/Fishing/Ocean DataNoYesYesNoNo
Tidal Tables (Tide Information)NoNoNoNoNo
Jumpmaster mode (Parachuting)NoNoNoNo
GeocachingNoVia GPS coordinatesYesNoNo
Weather Display (live data)NoWith Connect IQWith Connect IQVia Connect IQ appWith Connect IQ
NavigateGarmin SwimGarmin Fenix3Garmin EpixGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 920XT
Follow GPS Track (Courses/Waypoints)N/AYEsYesNoYes
Markers/Waypoint DirectionN/AYesYesNoYes
Routable/Visual Maps (like car GPS)N/ANoYesNoNo
Back to startN/AYesYesYesYes
Impromptu Round Trip Route CreationN/ANoNoNoNo
Download courses/routes from phone to unitN/AYesYesNoYes
SensorsGarmin SwimGarmin Fenix3Garmin EpixGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 920XT
Altimeter TypeN/ABarometricBarometricGPSBarometric
Compass TypeN/AMagneticMagneticGPSMagnetic
Optical Heart Rate Sensor internallyNo
Heart Rate Strap CompatibleNoYesYesYesYes
ANT+ Heart Rate Strap CapableNoYesYEsYesYes
ANT+ Speed/Cadence CapableN/AYesYesYesYes
ANT+ Footpod CapableN/AYesYesYesYes
ANT+ Power Meter CapableN/AYesYEsNoYes
ANT+ Weight Scale CapableNoNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Fitness Equipment (Gym)NoNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Remote ControlNoNo (can control VIRB though)No (can control VIRB though)Yes for Garmin VIRBNo (can control VIRB though)
ANT+ eBike CompatibilityNoNoNoNoNo
Di2 Shifting IntegrationComing in updateComing in updateNoYes
Bluetooth Smart HR Strap CapableNoNoNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence CapableNoNoNonoNo
Bluetooth Smart Footpod CapableNoNoNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter CapableNoNoNoNoNo
Temp Recording (internal sensor)NoYesYesNoNo
Temp Recording (external sensor)NoYesYesYes (Tempe)No
Compatible with Firstbeat HR toolsN/AYesYesNoYes
SoftwareGarmin SwimGarmin Fenix3Garmin EpixGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 920XT
PC ApplicationGTCGarmin ExpressGarmin ExpressGarmin ExpressGarmin Express
Web ApplicationGarmin ConnectGarmin ConnectGarmin ConnectGarmin ConnectGarmin Connect
Phone AppGarmin FitiOS/AndroidiOS/AndroidiOS/AndroidiOS/Android
Ability to Export SettingsNoNoNoNoNo
PurchaseGarmin SwimGarmin Fenix3Garmin EpixGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 920XT
Amazon LinkLinkLinkLinkLinkLink
Clever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programLinkLinkLinkLinkLink
DCRainmakerGarmin SwimGarmin Fenix3Garmin EpixGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 920XT
Review LinkLinkLinkLinkLinkLink

Summary and Final Thoughts:

At $150 for the Garmin Swim, it’s roughly in the same ballpark as the Swimsense watch from FINIS (which hovers in the $160ish range).  However, I think it has surpassed the Swimsense watch from a display perspective.  At the data field level the Swimsense allows more overall customization, but the display clarity is inferior to the Garmin Swim.  As I’ve noted many times before, while the Pool-Mate Pro is certainly an option in this competition, I just don’t prefer it due to the confusing menu system and lack of web-based software platform.

Finally,  it should be noted that recently FINIS has fully taken control of the Swimsense, with the company originally behind it (Sportsense), going on in a different direction.  That doesn’t mean that the unit won’t be supported (as it certainly will by FINIS), but I think it’s going to be a bit of time before we see FINIS fully ramped up on new software development in that area. [Update: I’ve heard from FINIS, and they are working on some added features for the Swimsense.]

So who should buy this watch?  Well, if you’ve already got a FR910XT – it would be silly to get this, since you’ve got 90% of what this has.  The areas this has that the FR910XT doesn’t is the sleep mode, all-day watch functionality, and the drill log mode.  Conversely, the FR910XT does have alerting modes for time/distance in the pool.  I’ve heavily suggested to Garmin than they add the drill log mode to the FR910XT – and they’ve noted that they have passed that on to the FR910XT team (all I can really ask for).

If you have any of the other Garmin watches, and want swim functionality, this is a good way to do it without splurging for the $400+ Garmin FR910XT.

If you have the Swimsense, and are happy/fine with the display – then I honestly see little reason for you to move over to the Garmin Swim.  Sure it’s a nicer day to day watch, but the display would be the major reason you’d move over.

Pros and Cons

With that, let’s get into the Pros and Cons:


– Very accurate, I had no issues with false laps/lengths
– Clear and easy to read display
– Relatively cheap – $150
– Integrates with Garmin Connect
– Can be worn as a regular watch


– Unable to add more than one customized page (I wish I could do 2-3, or customize the base ones)
– Doesn’t contain alert functionality like FR910XT (distance/time)
– Can’t support that crazy multi-mile long pool in Chile (but does do the crazy big Vancouver BC pool)

This watch simply does what it’s supposed to do, and does it well.  It doesn’t have the complexities (both good and bad) of something like the full-featured FR910XT, thus, it’s a bit easier to understand and use.  Ultimately, I’d like to see both watches support the workout functionality in swim-mode that’s available for other sports on other Garmin watches.

Found this review useful?  Here’s how you can help support future reviews with just a single click!  Read on…

Hopefully you found this review useful.  At the end of the day, I’m an athlete just like you looking for the most detail possible on a new purchase – so my review is written from the standpoint of how I used the device.  The reviews generally take a lot of hours to put together, so it’s a fair bit of work (and labor of love).  As you probably noticed by looking below, I also take time to answer all the questions posted in the comments – and there’s quite a bit of detail in there as well.

I’ve partnered with Clever Training to offer all DC Rainmaker readers an exclusive 10% discount across the board on all products (except clearance items).  You can pickup the Garmin Swim below. Then receive 10% off of everything in your cart by adding code DCR10LFW at checkout.  By doing so, you not only support the site (and all the work I do here) – but you also get a sweet discount.  And, since this item is more than $75, you get free US shipping as well.

Additionally, you can also use Amazon to purchase the unit or accessories (though, no discount on either from Amazon).  Or, anything else you pickup on Amazon helps support the site as well (socks, laundry detergent, cowbells).  If you’re outside the US, I’ve got links to all of the major individual country Amazon stores on the sidebar towards the top.  Though, Clever Training also ships most places too and you get the 10% discount.

As you’ve seen throughout the review there are numerous compatible accessories for the unit. I’ve consolidated them all into the below chart, with additional information (full posts) available on some of the accessories to the far right. Also, everything here is verified by me – so if it’s on the list, you’ll know it’ll work. And as you can see, I mix and match accessories based on compatibility – so if a compatible accessory is available at a lower price below, you can grab that instead.

AccessoryManufacturerStreet PriceAmazon LinkClever Training Link (Save 10% with DCR10LFW)More Info
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated December 1st, 2014 @ 9:46 am
Garmin ANT+ Transfer USB Stick (large sized)Garmin$38.00LinkLinkN/A
Garmin ANT+ USB Transfer Stick (mini sized)Garmin$49TBALinkN/A
Suunto ANT+ USB Transfer Stick (mini sized)Suunto$37LinkLinkLink

Thanks for reading!  And as always, feel free to post comments or questions in the comments section below, I’ll be happy to try and answer them as quickly as possible.  And lastly, if you felt this review was useful – I always appreciate feedback in the comments below.  Thanks!

Finally, I’ve written up a ton of helpful guides around using most of the major fitness devices, which you may find useful in getting started with the devices.  These guides are all listed on this page here.

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  1. Marcos`


    Thanks for the review it was very helpful and it actually drove me to get the Garmin Swim three weeks ago. I previously owned the Pool Mate and was very pleased with its accuracy and ease of use but the lack of exporting the data was what made look for another watch.

    I have to say that the Garmin Swim accuracy was very disappointing. I have experienced lots of false counts since the very first day. I’m actually seriously thinking about returning it.

    Most of the false counts are unbelievable weird like the watch measuring a 25m length in :12.6 seconds detecting only 4 strokes!! It seems to me like a major algorithm flaw to allow the watch to account for it. if I swim like that I’ll be in the Olympics! That same error happens all the time.

    I usually swim 4 sets of 500m with a 2min rest between them.

    Here’s the online swim data:

    link to connect.garmin.com
    link to connect.garmin.com
    link to connect.garmin.com
    link to connect.garmin.com

    I read in many forums about other people having the same issues specially when you are swimming in a crowded pool where you need to share the lane. Also I noticed that when yo do not do the turn perfectly then its not detected, also if for any reason you take a quick break after a length (adjusting the goggles or the ear plugs) then the count becomes messed up.

    I tried deactivating the automatic stroke detection and nothing improved.

    I really love the data export/cloud based/ios app features about this watch but, as a data/stats freak, this watch false counting is driving me nuts. I got this so I can concentrate on my workout and forget about the lap/distance count and now I ended up watching the damn thing every length to make sure it count properly.

    My watch firmware seems to be up to date so I really hope an update comes out soon that can fix that.

    I havent contacted Garmin yet which is definetely my next move, perhaps I just got a faulty watch but so far it has been a bitter experience.

    Your reviews are awesome and I really appreciate them, keep up with the good work!


    • Aaron replied

      @Marcos are you editing your swim data after to fix these problems, or just ignore it.

    • Marcos` replied

      No editing to the intervals data, I just changed the session Name from “Unknown” to the date the it was logged.

      When swimming laps, I’m used to know that the length count on one side of the pool are “pairs” and the other “odds” which is totally messed with this watch. I don’t care that much to edit the data after each session and the most important thing, I shouldn’t since that’s the reason for I got this watch.

  2. Drew

    With the summer coming up, I am probably going to be running less & swimming/biking more. I eventually want to get into tris, but I’m not there yet. I run with the FR620 & love it. I have my old FR410 on my bike with the cadence sensor & use it as a dedicated bike computer now. I know the 910 has been out forever & it’s anybody’s guess when the next version will come out. So while I wait to get an all-in-one watch, I’m looking for a swim solution.

    Is the Garmin Swim still a valid & relevant solution for pool swimming? From a functionality perspective, it looks like it has everything I want/need, but in the age of technology being outdated so fast, I worry that a watch released nearly 2 years ago may be due for a refresh or there may be a better solution out there. I’m looking to just do pool laps, and not open water swimming just yet, so I think I already know the answer.

    To be honest, at $135 from Clever Training with the DCR discount, it’s worth just getting it, but I wanted to make sure there wasn’t a replacement on the immediate horizon.

    • Rainmaker replied

      For pool swimming, yup. Despite all the new pool watches out there, it’s actually what I still prefer. Primarily because the battery lasts forever, so it just stays in my swim bag and then I need only have my swim bag in the same room as my laptop and it auto uploads upon completion. Perfectly simple.

    • Drew replied

      That’s all I needed to hear! Order just placed on Clever Training. Can’t wait to start playing with the watch next week.

    • Rainmaker replied

      Thanks Drew for the support, I appreciate it! Enjoy swimming with it!

  3. Dominic Herbert

    Just bought a Fenix 2 which DOES allow a pool length of 26.3m. I wonder if Garmin will upgrade the Garmin Swim to allow decimal points in pool length. Doesn’t make a huge difference but Easy way to improve accuracy.

    Thanks for all your reviews DCR, much appreciated. D

  4. Chris Dearing

    Hi Ray, I already have a 910XT but only use the swim function and only indoors. I’m thinking I want to sell up and get one of these but want to make sure I’ll be happy. I know I’ll lose the alert function but is there anything else?
    I like the fact that it’s smaller, battery life, can be worn as a watch and the price benefit. I use the velcro strap on the 910, is this available for the swim watch?

    • Rainmaker replied

      Hi Chris-

      No velcro strap available for the Swim unfortunately. For a pure swimming indoors watch, it’s still my favorite and what I use when I’m not testing something.

  5. Sofia

    Hi everyone. I was. Hoping one of you could help me. This review is perfect as usual. So I understand the watch marks the lap as one pushes off the wall. I swim at the university pool. 25 ms. But the area I get to swim at has a wall. On one side and a “sand like” treatment at the other end so.. There is no wall I can push off from. Is there any way I can make this watch work? Maybe set the pool size to 50m instead? Thanks you all for any help.

    • Rainmaker replied

      Sometimes in the pool I swim at a lot of people crowd the area in front of the wall, making it impossible to push off the wall. Thus, instead, I just simply stop, turn around quickly and push off the floor and start my next set. I’ve never had any problems with that technique.

  6. jy

    Thanks for the in depth review- just ordered it from Clever Training!

  7. Chris Dearing

    Hi Ray
    Is there a way to pause a current interval without triggering a new one? For example to let someone pass at the end of a lane who’s faster.

  8. R

    I’d like to comment on my recent experience with a Garmin Swim Watch, and the Garmin company itself. I bought this watch primarily based on the review at this site. I used it once, then tried to sync it using Garmin Express. it was cumbersome at first – you have to have a Garmin account, the data goes to their website, and the watch did not seem to sync after several tries. Further, the watch froze on the data transfer screen. To unfreeze it so I could use it again, I had to remove the battery. By this time I had contacted Garmin support and they had suggested not using Express, just use the ANT stick directly. So I went swimming again. Although I had tried to be careful about replacing the battery, apparently I was not; at the end of my swim I noticed there was water in the watch and it was dead. So back to Garmin support; they suggested letting it dry out. It did dry out, and the display came back, but the watch did not work right. So back to Garmin support. This time, they kindly gave me a return authorization along with instructions. I sent everything back to them, and about a week later got a replacement watch. However, the replacement did not include the ANT stick. Apparently I misunderstood the instructions and was not supposed to send this back. So back to Garmin support. A few days later, an ANT stick arrived in the mail.

    So now I could use the watch again. It works beautifully, and I am impressed with their support. It typically synchronizes as soon as I bring it near my PC; I now use Garmin Express successfully. It’s too bad the data goes directly to their website, and it does take several minutes to log in and download it. It downloads as an Excel file.
    Initially I was concerned about the accuracy of lap counting, because I do not push off very hard from the pool (this is my philosophy of swimming – there are no walls to push off from in lakes and oceans so pushing off and gliding every 25 yards is not the same as swimming continuously). I have found that the watch delivers accurate lap counts. Today I matched the times from the watch against my memory. It appears that the watch says the laps take a few seconds longer to swim than I remember. I will check up on this some more.

    Overall, I am happy with this watch because it counts laps for me and gives me a time for each length. I intend to do my own analysis of the data, so am not concerned with what Garmin has or does not have on their website.

    • Dominic Herbert replied

      Delighted to hear Garmin support was good. Regarding not pushing off the wall too strongly, you could think of pushing off the wall as compensating for the loss of momentum you suffer from having to do an about turn every 25m or 50m unlike in open water.

  9. MatskevichM

    Ray, did you know something about future of Garmin connect training plans for swimming (i mean on website, i see now small grey icon and “Soon”.)
    And will it be suit with Garmin Swim watch?

  10. Santiago Barcon

    Thanks for the real useful report. I mostly swim but I also run, does the watch has a chronometer only function or it always relates to the pool? I only want to measure time.



    • Túlio replied

      It has a simple chronometer: Menu > Watch > Chronometer
      it doesn’t record laps (it has the minimal: start, stop and reset)

  11. Bob Kowalski

    A great review, as usual. Thorough, clear, and polished.

    I wanted to add my experiences with the Swim. I have had one since November 2012 and use it about five days a week. I swim laps, primarily in an indoor pool. The watch has been great most of the time and I highly recommend it. I even replaced the battery myself, an easy and inexpensive process.

    My only issue is the watch will frequently lose or miscount backstroke laps. It doesn’t matter the length of pool, 25 yards or 25 meters. I usually end a workout with an easy 200-300 yards of backstroke. The watch will somehow miss 25 yards, although it accurately records the time. I have become used to this and edit my workout, adding the 25 or sometimes 50 yards/meters to my total workout. I wish there was a way to edit the interval in Garmin Connect

    Again, it is a great watch for INDOOR swimming and the price is right. I keep waiting for another maker to come up with a competitive model.

  12. Dave Cunningham

    Really useful review, I have one question though that I’m not clear on.

    Currently I use a Poolmate Pro and this works well for me. I’m trying to improve my stoke and what I’m finding is that my stroke rate is going up the further I swim. I’m having to count this though as the Poolmate Pro only gives me a stroke rate for individual sets and the whole session. It will not give me a stoke rate for each length.

    Poolmate have a new watch out (Poolmate Live) than can report statistics on every length. Can the Garmin Swim do this also or is it limited to recording per set as the poolmate pro does (i.e. only records when a button is pushed).


    • Aaron replied

      Garmin Swim records total strokes at the per LENGTH level (as well as stroke type). You’ll also get rest time between intervals / sets.

      So once this is all recorded, you can look at stats for length / interval / sets in post-analysis software and see exactly this efficiency drift you’re talking about, to compare for example your first interval with your 3rd, or your 4×50 with your 1×200, or freestyle performance after a different stroke in a medley situation, compared to an entire workout of freestyle.

      We did a comparison of 3 apps (+0.5 if you include Swimsense) post-analysis potential here. Looking at the screenshots will give you a feel for what is possible:

      link to sporttracks.mobi

      Since you asked, and in case someone refers to this later…
      1) TomTom also records strokes at per-length level. However they do not detect stroke TYPE. Everything is essentially “other”. Which is fine if you can only do freestyle :)

      2) Suunto Ambit 2 records stroke samples at exact fractional instants (stroke at 1.23 seconds, for example). In theory this gives you instant performance much like GPS pace/speed/elevation/cadence. However in practice this data is fairly noisy and there are some issues with turn, stroke and pause detection.

      If you’re looking for a small, affordable, and focus device JUST for swimming, Garmin is the one.

    • Dave Cunningham replied

      Thanks, just bought one, hoping it works as well as my poolmate with some add features, certainly looks like it will suit.

    • Aaron replied

      A final note on poolmate (again if someone else wanders by).

      They were early innovators in the space and made an excellent “first generation” product. But I believe now the original inventors/founders of the stroke tracking tech have moved on to a different company, and this is either handled by a secondary team, or completely outsourced.

      Given this, and their other product line focus (they sell swim fins! and clothing!), and that VERY large competitors focused on fittech are now doing this (TomTom, Garmin, Suunto) – I would be wary of betting on this horse long term.

      Especially if you’re into other sports and care about your long term fitness history – you might find yourself in a scenario when your swim log suddenly goes “poof”.

  13. Luke

    Ray, I have a Garmin Connect questions that best fits here.
    I have a Garmin Swim and a Vivofit, and my wife recently bought a Mio Link to go with her FR 15. I took the Link with me to the pool recently, put it right next to the VF, and the VF was able to record heart rate for the entire workout. I know the VF records HR every 15 seconds or so, instead of all the time like other watches, but I’m actually ok with that (I do a lot of long repeats).
    Question is this: is there a way (after the fact) to merge the swim info from the Garmin Swim with the recorded heart rate info from the VF. I suspect GC won’t do it, but do you know of any other programs that will let me merge the two files? Would be a great work around until Garmin announces the inevitable 920X (WHICH BETTER BE ABLE TO DO SWIMMING HR).

  14. andrew

    Any good swim watch should have all the options that finins Tempo Trainer Pro has. It tells you how to swim during swimming not just collecting data to show afterwords.

    • Rainmaker replied

      I’m confused, because the Tempo Trainer doesn’t do that. It just beeps.

  15. Brendan

    I think the device is unreliable.

    I’ve used the watch for a little over six months. It erroneously shows breastroke during a freestyle-only work out and the times to swim a length vary widely. For example, one work out summary timed me at 12s for a length in a 25m pool and then at 54s.

    • Rainmaker replied

      Regarding the incorrect lengths – have you tried any of the troubleshooting steps I’ve noted with regards to improving data like that?

  16. Andriy

    I’ve just bought Garmin Swim and realised that watch can shows icons of bicycle, shoe and heart. I couldn’t find anything about this icons in manual. When this icons is shown by Garmin Swim?

    • Rainmaker replied

      No use in the Garmin Swim. Garmin often re-uses watches (hardware) in other products and likely assumed at some point that might be a possibility. In this case, that never occurred.

  17. Jim

    Great review – thanks for posting this. question: I training in an endless pool, and my biggest grip with it is I have to train by time in water, rather than distance. Would the Garmin Swim give me distance if I am basically swimming for 30 minutes in the same place? Sounds silly, but it is like open water swimming. Maybe this thing can tell me how for I ‘actually’ swam…?

    • Rainmaker replied

      Unfortunately it won’t give you distance in a endless pool. There’s nothing on the market that I’m aware of that will. :(

    • Bob Kowalski replied

      Endless Pools has this calculator that might help.

      link to swimmingcalculator.com

      If you know the PSI setting of your pool and your swimming time, it will give you distance, 100 yard/meter pace, and calories.

  18. Drew

    I have never done drills until today when my coach gave me a 2000 yard set with a bunch of different drills in a 20×50 set. I used the Drill Log mode & it worked flawlessly! I was able to measure each 50 yard segment & then analyze how good (or super bad) I did in each. It requires a bit more understanding of what drills you were doing in each segment, but overall, I am pleased.

  19. Andriy

    I used stopwatch for measuring time length from swimming pool to my home. At the same time I want through Garmin Swim menu and reviewed my swimming results. Finally, I came to stopwatch screen and seen that it had stopped and zeroed out ;(
    Is it possible to use stopwatch and go through Garmin Swim menu?

    • Bob Kowalski replied

      No. From the Garmin Swim owner’s manual, “NOTE: The stopwatch does not record time, and no swim data is saved to history. Do not use the stopwatch for swimming.”

      Also, “NOTE: If you leave the stopwatch page, the stopwatch automatically resets after 10 seconds.”

  20. Cynthia

    Thinking about getting one so this was a great review to help make up my mind.
    One question though if anybody could answer it.
    I am swimming in a very small 10 metre pool,so since the minimum you can set to is a 17 metre pool i wad thinking i could just set it to 20 metres then just chop everything in half.
    Would that work or each time I push off the wall at 10 metres would it screw all the data up??

  21. I bought the Garmin Swim based at least partly on the review provided by this website. Noticed that a few people have suggested the watch may not accurately record the stroke they’re swimming.

    So far, I’ve not had any real problems after a weeks use. The only problem was it missed 1 length for some reason. All my strokes are recorded accurately (I tend to do freestyle and occasionally, breaststroke). There was one other problem but that was down to me not realising that one of the swimming pools I use is actually 33 meteres and not 25 metres so through up some odd times.

    For those with a problem of the watch identifying the correct stroke, I can only guess it’s one of two problems, either your stroke is confusing the accelerometer/algorithm or the watch is faulty in some way.

    If you want to do something with the data that gets posted up to garmin connect, you can download it and drag the file into Excel. There’s also someone who has done some programming and has a website for editing the garmin data which you can find here link to swimmingwatchtools.com

    I must say that so far I’m very happy with this swim watch, it works very well. Allows me to relax without having to try and count laps or strokes.

  22. Max

    Hi Ray, do you see Garmin releasing a Swim 2 anytime soon or would the release likely co-inside with a new multisport watch (920XT?) such that the swim feature set would be identical between the two?

    • Ray Maker replied

      I don’t see anything short term. I think if you look at the Fenix2, you’ll see they’ve incorporated I believe everything the Garmin Swim has at this point.

  23. B.W.

    Wlll Garmin Swim Watch work in a home pool that is 44′ [~14 yds] long? I’ve read that it only is suitable for 20-100 yd pools.
    Thanks very much!

  24. Christopher

    I had to replace the battery in my Garmin Swim and now I can’t enable menu or alert tones. Seems a few others have had the same issue (link to forums.garmin.com). Any chance you can try replacing the battery in your Garmin Swim to see if you can duplicate this issue? I’ve contacted Garmin Product Support, but would love to hear from anyone else who has experienced this issue. Thanks!

    • Bob Kowalski replied

      Wow, never heard of this one. I have replaced my own battery and one for a friend and both were 100% successful.

  25. Simon

    My watch one day went all funny on the screen and started making funny noises. It still tracked my swim though. Thought it might be time to change the battery and when I did it now makes what can only be described as shorting sounds. Any ideas?

  26. Andrew

    Hi, anyone here used a Mio Link with the SWIM?
    Can it record the info or is there a work around where I can link the data?

  27. Julie

    Hello. I’m 13 years old and I am on a swim team. I have practice for 3-4 hours daily. Do you think that this watch will help me become better and more successful with my swimming? Thanks!!!

    • DC Rainmaker replied

      Better? Probably not to be honest. But, it’ll track your progress over time and let you know if you’re getting faster.

      Good luck!

  28. Juliana Kelly

    Hi there, do you know if the watch will beep after 1000 m? It would be good for our time trials in my swimming squad.
    Thanks for your reviews and answers.

  29. Chris Tillmanns

    Do you think at some point there will be a watch with an indoor auto pause feature?

    • DC Rainmaker replied

      Hard to say. I’d love to see a Garmin Swim v2 done, but I’m not sure if that’s in the cards.

  30. I bought my Garmin Swim a view weeks ago based on your outstanding and informative review – thank you very much for that. I typed a few words about the watch myself (in German) on link to der-andi.de

    I really like to read your reviews – keep up the good work.

  31. Leonardo Bernardes

    Hello Rainmaker,

    I’m writing from Brazil, and, first, I would like to congratulate you! This is the best review, by far, that I found about Garmin Swim.
    I was almost buying it today when I came across the Tom Tom Multi-Sport and starting having some doubts on which one to get.
    My use would be primary (90% of the time) at the swimming pool (50 meters outside pool). However, having the running and biking features would be a nice add-on for me.
    The main reason I’m in doubt is because TomTom swim features seems to be way less accurate and has less data than Garmin’s… I don’t know if TomTom got any better with the latest firmware…
    What do you think it would be better? Go with the TomTom or focus on the swim with the Garmin and later get separate watches for running and biking?
    Thank you very much for your help and for this amazing review.
    Best regards,

  32. Rick Phelps

    How well does it detect changes in stroke type?
    A large part of my workout is spent backstroke
    and breaststroke. I was wondering how well it
    can distinguish strokes.

    • Bob Kowalski replied

      For me, it usually detects free, back and breast without any problems. I do pause or rest between intervals, no medleys. Sometimes it mixes breast and back and will state that I did a “mixed” interval. My biggest concern is that when doing back stroke, it will lose count of my laps; 25, 50 or even 75 yards. I have no idea why. It times me accurately, just miscounts the distance.

    • Rick Phelps replied

      Thanks for the info!

  33. Giselle Callea

    I was just wondering if this watch can also be used in the sea. My boyfriend does a lot of training in the ocean and I’m looking for a watch that does everything that this one does but will also be able to record stuff in the ocean as well.

    • DC Rainmaker replied

      No, unfortunately not. It’s only for indoor pool use. For outdoor long distance swimming I’d look to:

      Suunto Ambit 2s (cheapest at about $219US)
      Garmin FR910XT


  34. Matt Clarke

    Having attempted a 25km pool swim yesterday, I found out the hard way that the Garmin Swim automatically stops recording data after 4 hours. I’d intended for the Garmin to be my primary device, but the reality is that the Swimovate Poolmate on my other wrist happily recorded the whole session, so all was not lost.
    However, the 4 hour auto-stop – whilst obviously still recording swim session data – renders the Garmin as a relatively useless purchase. I haven’t seen this limitation published anywhere, so I do so to warn other potential buyers.

  35. patricio

    Hola ray, i need some guidance here.
    Im new using garmin swim, and also learning to swim. Im swimming in a 25 m pool and the watch has that distance entered.
    I have a session where i make only 6 strokes but inmediatly the watch marks that i make 25 m and 1 length…is that correct? Im new at swimming but its not logical to cover 25 m with 6 strokes. The amount of strokes were correct.
    Your inputs or somebody from the forum are welcome.

    • DC Rainmaker replied

      It only increments in 25m (or whatever you’ve set the pool size to be). So essentially, it increments it once it figures you’re swimming. The watch doesn’t have any awareness of how far you’ve gone until you make the turn (open or flip). So in essence, it’s just pre-marking you as having completed the lap.

    • patricio replied

      Thanks ray…that is kinda sad for me because it shows me a distance that i don’t make. What i’m doing is after sync i manually update the distance and pool length in Garmin Connect, to maintain the data as close as possible to reality while im reaching longest distances,
      Looks like this watch is not for beginners :-)


    • DC Rainmaker replied

      Check out my older FR910XT post and some of the tips on improving swim recognition in there. It might help a bit.

  36. Ian

    I have a couple of older devices (Forerunner 305 anf Forerunner 220) that I use for cycling and running. I currently using a Pebble to track lap swimming via the Swim.com app. I don’t find the Pebble to be too accurate at recording (dropping or adding laps) and the Swim.com app doesn’t give me as much detail (when it works) as I am used to from Garmin Connect. It looks like there will not be a Swim V2 due to all the new products from Garmin. Is this still worth a look? I will be doing my first triathlon this summer and will use the 305 for the open water portion. I am hoping that I will be regular swim training from now on even after the tri. Would you still recommend this watch or wait and see how the Swim.com app develops over the coming year and then hang onto the Pebble?

    • DC Rainmaker replied

      Unfortunately I haven’t spent any time with the Swim.com apps – I’m sorry!

  37. Drew W

    Ray…In your “2015 Gear I Use List” post yesterday you say that you still prefer the Garmin Swim for its slimness, but that you have been using the Fenix3 heavily recently because of its connectivity benefits. I like the Swim for the same reason as you (slim & simple), but after buying a 920xt last weekend, I’m wondering if I should keep it as my pool watch & save the 920 for everything else or if ditching the Swim & using the 920 for everything is the way to go.

    If we are only talking about pool swimming, is there any benefit the 920 has over the Swim that I may be missing?

    • DC Rainmaker replied

      There are some minor benefits around flexibility of data fields and the like, as well as the rest timer. But for just tracking, the Swim is pretty solid (I’m quite content with that feature set as-is personally).

    • Drew W replied

      Thanks Ray. I’ll play with the 920 in the pool a few times, but I feel I will end up on the same side as you as the Swim does everything I need it to do. Plus, with a battery life of over a year, I never have to worry about getting to the pool with a dead watch.

  38. Bob Kowalski

    I bought a Swim in December 2012 and used it faithfully ever since. A month ago, I bought a Garmin vivoactive and now use it for all my swims. I like both of them, but wish Garmin could add HR monitoring to swimming mode. I tried a Wahoo TICKR X, but haven’t had consistent tracking when swimming. There has to be a way to record HR when swimming.

    By the way, the vivoactive does not lose or add a length like the Swim does. But the Swim can record, on a fairly consistent basis, the stroke type. If Garmin would allow more user editing of Garmin Connect, that problem would be taken care of.

    If Garmin could combine the best features and functions of both products, they would own the market. That is why I have hope for Apple.

    • DC Rainmaker replied

      For some, it’s the opposite – the Vivoactive can’t count, whereas the Swim always does.

      Go figure…

  39. Lycette

    Hi Ray!
    I think this is probably the most helpful review out there. I’ve been using a Poolmate Pro (the simple version with no software), and at first I was very happy. But after a year it lost its accuracy.
    I’m a regular, but soft swimmer (3-4 sessions of 2km p/w) and it can miss as much as 10 laps per swim. Also, I find a scam the issue with the battery: £14 + postage. I refuse to pay that.
    Would you say that the Garmin Swim is better? I’ve read that it can fail after a year, and I really don’t wanna spend a few quids for a watch that will fail so quickly -that’s my main regret with the swimovate-.


  40. DC: I’m looking for a waterproof device, as I would like to swim a bit more, both in pool and in the open waters. In addition, I want to count steps/distance, once I get out of the pool (kind of tri… a little… I cycle… a LOT, have an edge 800, 500). I have an HRM, it’s the one that has the snap off monitor.. wash every 7 times or so. I’m not sure if this is the premium HRM, but being I’m instructed to take it off before throwing the rest of it in the wash, tells me it is not.
    I’m probably looking at a FR910 OR 930XT. Since the 310xt, has there been improvement underwater, for garmin?

    • DC Rainmaker replied

      If you want to count steps/distance, you’ll have to jump up to a slightly newer product, as the FR910XT/310XT don’t do that. Check out the FR920XT or more expensive, the Fenix3. The Garmin Vivoactive is good if you keep yourself to pool swims, but it won’t do openwater swim distance.

  41. Max

    Hi, Ray,

    I’m planning to purchase Garmin Swim but I’m not sure that Garmin isn’t ready to replace this gadget into new one, e.g. more sophisticated.

    Do you have any news from Garmin: whether they’ll produce the gadget further or replace it in the nearest future?

    • DC Rainmaker replied

      I don’t think we’ll see anything immediately. We saw the Vivoactive recently kinda fill the pool swimming gap (but at a fair bit higher price point unfortunately).

    • Max replied

      Thanks for the answer, Ray!

  42. Jimmy

    Ray….very good review. Thank you. Went through the comments and still confused on one issue…..the recording of sets. To me, a set would be something like: 10 x 100 on 1:30 (50 meter pool). After each 100, do I need to hit “Pause”? I could see that being a bit challenging, especially if wearing paddles! Or, do I do all 10 of the 100’s (taking the specified rest after each 100), and then hit “Pause”? How will those then show up on Garmin Connect? So, if I’m averaging 1:20 on each 100, but not leaving until 1:30, will it interpret that on the Garmin Connect? If the Garmin Swim won’t do that, will the Swimovate Poolmate Live do that? I consider myself a serious swimmer and want to make sure that it is recording my sets correctly. Thanks for your input.

  43. Hi DC!

    As usual the review is excellent. This is my second garmin device (I also own a FR310xt). I´ve used the swim 4 times now. I discovered that it´s starting to confuse breaststroke with backstroke. I usually swim one length breaststroke and then another in backstroke. But in some cases, when I swim only breaststroke, I see it thinks I´ve swam backstroke.

    2 questions comes from this:
    1) Can I edit the data later on in connect?
    2) Whats the use of automatic stroke detection? What happens if I turn it off?



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