Today Garmin released a new firmware update for the Garmin FR610, which aims to fix the accuracy issues that have been noticed by some users. You likely saw my 2011 GPS Accuracy Test Results not too long ago, which found the FR610 to be consistently short (about 2% on most courses, upwards of 10% on some shorter distance routes).
Shortly after I published that series I was provided a new firmware update to test out that aimed to address some of these problems. Unfortunately, I couldn’t speak about it publically since it was under embargo until public release.
Since then I’ve had a chance to do both regular run tests, as well as re-run some of my GPS accuracy tests to see how it faired with the new update. This test will discuss the GPS accuracy issues, but from a general standpoint, I haven’t see any repercussions of the firmware update otherwise – and even used it in my ‘A’ race – Ironman Boise 70.3.
But let’s start with just a general run with two Garmin GPS watches – the running focused FR210 and the FR610. I simply started both at the same time (just pressed start, no other funky button combos), and then ran at a 7ish mile pace. Was started I otherwise ignored it, though both watches had either distance auto-lap (FR210) or distance alerts (FR610) on, simply because they were turned on that way from a previous run.
My run route was one of my standard ones that I do multiple times a week. It includes a pretty even combination of a few miles of open air (little tree coverage), a few miles of canopy tree coverage, over half a dozen bridges to go over, and a lot of turns.
Throughout the run both units tracked within .01-.02 virtually the entire time. Sometimes one would be a touch bit higher, and then sometimes the other. But basically they were doing the same thing at the same time.
When all was said and done, here was the results…pictures speak louder than words:
(Calorie differences are simply due to the fact that I don’t have the health settings set the same on both watches)
As you can see, about as close as I can get without being exactly spot on – and at only .01 miles off on a 6.5 mile course that means they were within 99.846% of each other.
But I wasn’t content with just that. From there I decided to re-test three of the five tests I did. Specifically I tested:
1) The Straight and Narrow (1-mile test)
2) The Bridge Underpass Test
3) The Rambling Loop Test
I did all three tests on a bike at relatively low speed, simply because I was trying to knock them out more efficiently. Last time though I didn’t see any appreciable difference in the FR610 specifically when it came to accuracy differences between cycling/running/walking (some of the other units did see differences however).
With that, let’s get straight to the results. On the left you’ll see the summary results for each of the three tests I did a few weeks ago, and on the right you’ll see the new test results with the latest firmware update:
Yup…seriously. Every test was exactly spot on.
Like before though, I only showed the numbers that you the user sees though are the mileage numbers noted above. For fun though, I did look at the mile test – which should be 5,280 feet – and it measured it as 5,273ft. Pretty impressive.
Also note that to date, no watch I’ve ever tested has scored a straight 100% across any three tests. And while I didn’t have the time to head into the twisty tree course, I’d guess it’ll improve some there (though I suspect that like the rest of the units it’ll still have some general GPS issues).
All in all I think this is a pretty vast improvement from a firmware standpoint. Like I said before, I’m always willing to retest products if/when a firmware update addresses an issue. Hopefully we’ll see some other companies do the same with other watches that have performed poorly in the past.
You can pickup the FR610 firmware fix here…
Thanks for reading, and feel free to ask any questions in the comments. Thanks!
Great to hear! I’ll be updating as soon as I get home.
Sounds promising. If this pans out on the Garmin forums, I may yet purchase the 610.
excellent, I wonder if this will fix the auto-lap distance issue I noticed last week when I was doing some compares against my 405. Looking forward to download it later today.
I saw the update too and will apply it tonight. Tomorrow I’ll take out my 3 watches (old 305, middle-aged FR60 with foot pod, new 610) and we’ll see what happens. But I was VERY glad to see you had already done some tests (what a surprise! 🙂 ) and encouraged by your results. Whew, I feel better now (so far).
Of course one could argue that it should have been like that in the first place, rather than updating a buggy product later on!
Man, I really wish they would release a firmware update for the FR305. There are so many things they could improve or fix with that one but it seems as if they are done supporting it in favor of the more recent product offerings…
I am actually even older on FR305 firmware because the newest firmware doesn’t work at all with the footpod if you are a high-cadence runner.
Elevation gain between the two watches is significantly different though…? 123 ft vs 103 ft!
Just when I’d decided to get a 305 (cheap and functional) because of the GPS issues affecting the 605, Garmin go and do this. Meh…
Interesting difference in elevation though.
Interesting, I had noticed that Sporttracks always increased the distance when I imported tracks from the 610, will download the update and see if that stops happening. Accuracy on your tests looks pretty impressive after the update.
Very cool — I was considering getting the 610, but was put off by the accuracy problem (as well as confused by why there was an accuracy problem that was larger with this GPS than with the other GPSs to start with).
On the other hand, I now need to figure out if the 610 is worth the money.
Ray! Did they pay you? Totally kidding though! Nice to see the vast improvement. Can’t wait to update my 610
Just found your blog — looking forward to learning more from ya!
Great update for the GPS accuracy, but somewhere along the way, they have managed to screw up the custom workout functionality. Uploaded workouts now show blank steps. Waiting for the next update!
Updated and ran 18k yesterday – it has not helped the under bridge accuracy. The average tempo dropped after running under a bridge. How come? I use the one second mode.
How long was the bridge, and did sat drop?
While some bridges it’ll pickup under, others it won’t. Also, check out the line afterwards and ensure it shows connecting and accounts for the extra distance.
Excellent to hear. Your reviews and tests are a great source of information. Thanks a lot!
So glad they weren’t sluggish with getting out the new firmware. First I wanted the 110, then discovered the 210, and then finally came across the 610. The accuracy issues was disconcerting at first but now I am confident I will be satisfied with the 610. Have you heard of the alleged auto-lap bug where the GPS signal would drop temporarily after lapping unless you quickly press the screen?
Ah nevermind about the auto-lap bug issue, on the Garmin website, those was one of the issues listed that the firmware update corrected. Phew! Can’t wait to get the 610!
I have a FR610 and the version was 2.20
I read your post about Firmware fix, and then go to the Garmin web site for the upgrade.
I have read the changes made from version 2.20 to 2.30, and after downloading the software update to my watch, and now the new version is 2.40
So I don’t know what are the changes between 2.30 and 2.40, because no information in Garmin’s website.
Jérôme from France
I have my answer. 😉
Garmin has updated his website:
Changes made from version 2.30 to 2.40:
-Fixed issue introduced in previous revision where workouts sent from Garmin Training Center could not be used on the device.
-Fixed issue where all saved locations were deleted when upgrading firmware on the device.
Jérôme from France
Since updating my 610’s firmware last week, i’ve noticed there is now a 2 second delay after pressing for a manual lap before the watch beeps and displays the lap time. I mainly use auto laps but go manual for track and races. is this a side effect of the accuracy fix?
Well done for highlighting the accuracy issues!
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Hi, any comments on the FR610’s altimeter The FR405 which I has is not so great.
Hi there, nice to see that Garmin is always worried to fix their watchs to avoid disappointed users. But, have you ever heard about the Reverse Charge issue? Do you know if it is a hardware or software issue, or just happened with some watchs?
Based on your review, I went out and bought one, tnanks DC. Awesome piece of technology. I used it for mountain biking today (used it on my wrist) and thought, it would be great if there is some sort of clip/protector that can be clipped over the screen for rougher terrain. I think the old G-shock watches used to have one…just made out of plastic.
Hoffa Zagg makes a cover for these i think it is the 39mm. there covers are what people use on phones and ar erally great.
I have the firmware update but my 610 is very inaccurate, I have just run a 10k race and got 6.1 miles when others got 6.22, very dissapointed with it, have tried a manufacturers reset, still no joy, any ideas.
Keep in mind, 6.1 on a 6.2 mile race is 98.3% accurate – which is within the accuracy rate of the unit itself.
Also, if others got 6.22 – I’d be willing to be the course was actually measured short. Getting 6.22 on a 6.20 course is really difficult to do, especially if there are crowds. I go into a ton of detail (CSI-style) in this post here:
link to dcrainmaker.com
I purchased the FR610 a few weeks ago. Was looking for a device like this for a while and after reading the extensive review on your page (kudos btw…very well done), I came to the conclusion that the 610 would be the best fit for me.
I too was a bit disappointed by the accuracy though. I updated to the last version 2.80 and used the device both when running and on a bicycle ride with the mount. When looking at the output on the map there are a lot of inaccuracies and it seems like there is not always realtime measurement of your location. Diagonal lines between points in stead of corners or bends in the road and sudden drops in speed to nearly 0. Am I missing some settings/updates or are these things simply unavoidable for such a small GPS device?
Did you turn off smart recording and instead go with 1-second recording? That should really help pretty significantly. Smart recording puts it at between 3 and 10 seconds (generally though about 3-6 seconds).
That function was indeed set at smart which probably explains it. Thx!
Bit of a bump sorry but I’m slightly annoyed at my FR610 w/FW188.8.131.52 when using it on the track because it tends to overestimate the distance by a good 10% (12% the last time on a 1200m run) making the programming of workouts on the track pretty useless. Am I the only one with that problem? I’m thinking of getting a footpod but in that case I’d have to turn off GPS completely to have it give me the distance on top of just displaying the pace, right?
10% is a bit high on a track. Typically you’ll see it around 3-4% out of whack. A footpod will help there, assuming you calibrate it (which, is sorta easy since you can always just do it the first two laps of each workout). 😉
Yes, 10% is way too much and it’s confirmed by what the track looks like, in 1s or Smart Mode…it’s not a particularly challenging area either with no constructions nearby. Will go up there tomorrow and calibrate the footpod.
I’ve had the “Special Edition” 610 for three weeks now (The white with blue accents). The firmware is 2.80, and whether I use smart recording or 1s recording, the watch is always short. My old Forerunner 305 was so much better, and even the 405 that my wife uses is better.
What do I mean by short? Well there is a local park loop that I’ve run hundreds of times. It’s published distance is 3.8 miles, and with my Forerunner 305 and Edge 305 the average distance is 3.81 over hundreds of laps. This is 6.13 km (I run in metric).
With the new watch, it is consistent, but always around 6.05 or 6.06 km. Now I realize that is roughly 98.7% accurate, but with my nearly 5 year old 305, I can go run that loop 4 times in a row and get measurements between 6.12 and 6.15. 99.7% accurate. Is it too much to ask that the “most advanced” watch can match the old dinosaur?
Now if you go on a trail run, forget it. Even with 1s recording, what was formerly a 7km run became 6.36km. Ok now pushing 90% accuracy. I reproduced this two additional times getting no better than 6.4km with the 610. Again, it’s consistent with itself, so I guess that’s good.
Not sure what else to do other than return it.
I’ll try a hard reset I guess and see how that turns out. Otherwise it will go back.
Well that’s the thing with GPS, the smaller they get the more accuracy becomes a challenge…sure the FR610 uses the SiRFstarIV chip, but it’s just a bit more sensitive than the SiRFStarIII chip so it let Garmin use a smaller antenna and still get a GPS fix.
Have you looked at the track of your run? I’m guessing you’ll see it cutting a lot of corners. ..I have the opposite problem on the track, it turns wide…so it’s around 10% over, pretty useless for programmed workouts.
I was hoping that using the 1s update rate vs smart would help but it only concerns the track recording, not the data used for calculations it seems.