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Garmin Swim watch In-Depth Review

Garmin Swim Watch

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 Forerunner 165Garmin Vivoactive 5Apple Watch Series 9Garmin Venu 3
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated March 24th, 2024 @ 12:53 pm New Window
Price$150.00$249/$299$299$399/$499 (cellular)$449
Product Announcement DateJun 25, 2012Feb 20th, 2024Sept 20th, 2023Sept 14th, 2023August 30th, 2023
Actual Availability/Shipping DateJul 5, 2012Feb 20th, 2024Sept 20th, 2023Sept 23rd, 2023August 30th, 2023
GPS Recording FunctionalityNoYesYesYesYes
Data TransferANT AgentUSB, Bluetooth Smart (WiFi on Music ModelsUSB, BLUETOOTH SMART, WiFiBluetooth SmartUSB, BLUETOOTH SMART, WiFi
WaterproofingYes50 Meters50 meters50m50 meters
Dive/Snorkel FeatureNoNoNoNo
Battery Life (GPS)1 YearUp to 19 hours21 hrs (just GPS)12 hours GPS26 hrs (just GPS), up to 11hrs GPS+Music
Solar ChargingNoNoNoNo
Recording Interval1-Second1-second, Smart, UltraTrac1s or Smart RecordingVaries1s or Smart Recording
Dual-Frequency GNSSYesNoNoNo
Backlight GreatnessOKGreatGreatGreatGreat
Ability to download custom apps to unit/deviceNoYesYesYesYes
Acts as daily activity monitor (steps, etc...)NoYesYesYesYes
Voice IntegrationGarmin SwimGarmin Forerunner 165Garmin Vivoactive 5Apple Watch Series 9Garmin Venu 3
Has Mic/SpeakerNoNoYesYes
Can make/receive callsNoNoNon-cellular editions with phone/Cellular Editions without phoneWith phone's cellular
Voice AssistantNoNoApple SiriApple Siri, Google Assistant, Samsung Bixby
MusicGarmin SwimGarmin Forerunner 165Garmin Vivoactive 5Apple Watch Series 9Garmin Venu 3
Can control phone musicYesYesYesYes
Has music storage and playbackYes (music edition)YesYesYes
Streaming ServicesSpotify, Amazon Music, DeezerSpotify, Amazon Music, DeezerApple MusicSpotify, Amazon Music, Deezer
PaymentsGarmin SwimGarmin Forerunner 165Garmin Vivoactive 5Apple Watch Series 9Garmin Venu 3
Contactless-NFC PaymentsYesYesYesYes
ConnectivityGarmin SwimGarmin Forerunner 165Garmin Vivoactive 5Apple Watch Series 9Garmin Venu 3
Bluetooth Smart to Phone UploadingNoYesYesYesYes
Phone Notifications to unit (i.e. texts/calls/etc...)NoYes (with connected phone)YesYesYes
Live Tracking (streaming location to website)NoYes (with connected phone)YesWith 3rd party appsYes
Group trackingYes (with connected phone)NoNoNo
Emergency/SOS Message Notification (from watch to contacts)NoYes (with connected phone)YesYesYes
Built-in cellular chip (no phone required)NoNoNoYes (with cellular version)No
CyclingGarmin SwimGarmin Forerunner 165Garmin Vivoactive 5Apple Watch Series 9Garmin Venu 3
Designed for cyclingNoYesYesYesYes
Power Meter CapableN/ANoNoYesYes
Power Meter Configuration/Calibration OptionsN/AN/AN/AYesYes
Power Meter TSS/NP/IFN/AN/AN/ANoNo
Speed/Cadence Sensor CapableN/AYesYesYesYes
Strava segments live on deviceNoNoNoNo
Crash detectionYesYesYesYes
RunningGarmin SwimGarmin Forerunner 165Garmin Vivoactive 5Apple Watch Series 9Garmin Venu 3
Designed for runningNoYesYesYesYes
Footpod Capable (For treadmills)N/AYES (Also has INTERNAL ACCELEROMETER)YesWith 3rd party appsYes
Running Dynamics (vertical oscillation, ground contact time, etc...)N/AYesNoYesNo
VO2Max EstimationN/AYesYesYesYes
Race PredictorN/AYesNoNoNo
Recovery AdvisorN/AYesYesNoYes
Run/Walk ModeN/AYesYesWith 3rd party appsYes
Track Recognition ModeYesNoYesNo
SwimmingGarmin SwimGarmin Forerunner 165Garmin Vivoactive 5Apple Watch Series 9Garmin Venu 3
Designed for swimmingYesYesYesYesYes
Openwater swimming modeNoYesYesYEsYes
Lap/Indoor Distance TrackingYesYesYesYesYes
Record HR underwaterNoYesYesYesYes
Openwater Metrics (Stroke/etc.)NoYesYesBasic stroke type onlyYes
Indoor Metrics (Stroke/etc.)YesYesYesBasic stroke type onlyYes
Indoor Drill ModeYesYesNoNoNo
Indoor auto-pause featureNoNoNoYesNo
Change pool sizeYesYesYesYesYes
Indoor Min/Max Pool Lengths18y/17m to 150y/m14M/15Y TO 150Y/M13M/15Y TO 150Y/M1y/m to 1,500y/m+13M/15Y TO 150Y/M
Ability to customize data fieldsYesYesYesYesYes
Captures per length data - indoorsYesYesYesYesYes
Indoor AlertsYesYesYesYes (goals)Yes
TriathlonGarmin SwimGarmin Forerunner 165Garmin Vivoactive 5Apple Watch Series 9Garmin Venu 3
Designed for triathlonNoNoNoNot reallyNo
Multisport modeN/ANoNoYesNo
WorkoutsGarmin SwimGarmin Forerunner 165Garmin Vivoactive 5Apple Watch Series 9Garmin Venu 3
Create/Follow custom workoutsNoYesYesYesYes
On-unit interval FeatureNoYesYesYesYes
Training Calendar FunctionalityNoYesYesWith 3rd party appsYes
FunctionsGarmin SwimGarmin Forerunner 165Garmin Vivoactive 5Apple Watch Series 9Garmin Venu 3
Auto Start/StopN/AYesYesYesYes
Virtual Partner FeatureNoYesNoYesNo
Virtual Racer FeatureNoNoYesNo
Records PR's - Personal Records (diff than history)NoYesYesNoYes
Tidal Tables (Tide Information)NoNoNoNoNo
Weather Display (live data)NoYEsYesYesYes
NavigateGarmin SwimGarmin Forerunner 165Garmin Vivoactive 5Apple Watch Series 9Garmin Venu 3
Follow GPS Track (Courses/Waypoints)N/AYesNo (but some 3rd party apps can)With 3rd party appsNo (but some 3rd party apps can)
Markers/Waypoint DirectionN/AYesNoYes (Backtrack)No
Routable/Visual Maps (like car GPS)N/ANoNoWith 3rd party appsNo
Back to startN/AYesYesYes (Backtrack)Yes
Impromptu Round Trip Route CreationN/ANoNoWith 3rd party appsNo
Download courses/routes from phone to unitN/AYesNoWith 3rd party appsNo
SensorsGarmin SwimGarmin Forerunner 165Garmin Vivoactive 5Apple Watch Series 9Garmin Venu 3
Altimeter TypeN/ABarometricGPSBarometric with real-time watch faceBarometric
Compass TypeN/A-MagneticMagnetic
Optical Heart Rate Sensor internallyYEsYesYesYes
SpO2 (aka Pulse Oximetry)YesYesYesYes
ECG FunctionalityNoNoYesYes
HRV RecordingYes (nightly and on-demand)YesYesYes
Heart Rate Strap CompatibleNoYesYesYesYes
ANT+ Heart Rate Strap CapableNoYesYEsNoYEs
ANT+ Speed/Cadence CapableN/AYesYesnoYes
ANT+ Footpod CapableN/AYesYesNoYes
ANT+ Power Meter CapableN/ANoNoNoYes
ANT+ Lighting ControlYesYesNoYes
ANT+ Bike Radar IntegrationYesYesNoYes
ANT+ Trainer Control (FE-C)NoNoNoYes
ANT+ Remote ControlNoNoNoNoNo
ANT+ eBike CompatibilityNoNoYesNoYes
ANT+ Gear Shifting (i.e. SRAM ETAP)NoNoNoNo
Shimano Di2 ShiftingNoNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart HR Strap CapableNoYesYEsYesYEs
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence CapableNoYesYesYesYes
Bluetooth Smart Footpod CapableNoYesYesNoYes
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter CapableNoNoNoYesYes
Temp Recording (internal sensor)NoYesNoNoNo
Temp Recording (external sensor)NoYES (TEMPE)YesNoYes
SoftwareGarmin SwimGarmin Forerunner 165Garmin Vivoactive 5Apple Watch Series 9Garmin Venu 3
PC ApplicationGTCGarmin ExpressGarmin ExpressNoneGarmin Express
Web ApplicationGarmin ConnectGarmin ConnectGarmin ConnectNoneGarmin Connect
Phone AppGarmin FitiOS/AndroidiOS/Android/WindowsiOS onlyiOS/Android/Windows
Ability to Export SettingsNoNoNoNoNo
PurchaseGarmin SwimGarmin Forerunner 165Garmin Vivoactive 5Apple Watch Series 9Garmin Venu 3
DCRainmakerGarmin SwimGarmin Forerunner 165Garmin Vivoactive 5Apple Watch Series 9Garmin Venu 3
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.

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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!


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

    • Marcos`

      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.

    • 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

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

    • 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?

    • 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.

    • 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

      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

      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).


    • 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

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

    • 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.

  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.

  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?

    • 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…?

  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

      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?

  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!

  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!!!

  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?

  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

      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

      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.

    • 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.

    • 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

      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 🙂


    • 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?

  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?

    • 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

      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.

  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?

    • 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?

  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?


    • Bob Kowalski

      I’ve had the same issue where the device will label a backstroke as breast. It sometimes records my freestyle as “unknown.” I can’t find a way to edit this, either. I have put a request/suggestion into Garmin that they might want to make their app editable by the user, but all I got was a “thank you for contacting us” reply.

      One other thing I would like to see changed is this; The watch does not record kicking drills because I am not using my arms. So the app and watch show a resting period for these drills. I would like to edit this interval to kicking and also suggested that to Garmin.

    • Drew W

      You cannot edit the files via Garmin, but you can edit them by uploading the file to http://www.swimmingwatchtools.com. It’s a great tool I have bookmarked for exactly this situation when the watch splits a length, merges two lengths, or records the wrong stroke. Give it a try & it will solve most of your issues.

      Bob…When doing kick drills, you need to put the watch in Drill Mode. That way, the interval is recorded. link to dcrainmaker.com

    • Jimmy

      Drew…..first week with the Swim Watch and the drill mode is giving me the most trouble. I get how to get into the mode during my workout and then put in the correct distance, but I’m having trouble getting back to the normal swim mode. After you put in the distance, do you hit the stop, pause, or the blue swim button (or a combination of two of those)? It doesn’t help that I swim in the AM and it is still dark during this, but missed a 100 this AM because I clearly didn’t do something correct. Any direction on this would be appreciated. Thanks.

    • Bob Kowalski

      Look, overall the Swim is a great tool and I would buy it again. And I know about messing with the Drill mode, but I hate pausing my workout for this. But the watch sometimes will miss laps, it sometimes will not record the correct stroke.

  44. Drew W

    You need to enable the Drill Log first. When you are going to do a drill set, you press the blue button on the left side until you see the Drill screen. You then press the right middle (Start/Stop) button to begin the drill & then again to end the drill. The watch will prompt you for the distance (using the last drill distance as the default). Select your distance using the Up/Down buttons on the right & then hit Start/Stop to select it. The watch will return to the Drill screen. You can continue to do drills using the steps above, or, if you are ready to do a regular swim interval, just press the blue button once, and you will return to the normal swim mode.

    • Jimmy

      Great…..good info, when I go back into the normal swim mode via the blue swim button, will it be in pause mode? So then I would just hit pause again to move into the next set, correct? Thanks. So far the Swim Watch is doing what I wanted it to do, give me a better way to track my distance. I haven’t had the issues others seem to have with faulty counting except with getting out of the drill mode, which I know is user error. Thanks again for the info.

    • Jimmy

      Drew…..your instructions worked perfectly! Thanks for clarifying how to go from the drill mode to regular swim mode. Had multiple drill sets this AM and all worked great and the watch counted everything perfectly (well, I had to add in the meters in the drill workout, but the other non-drill went perfectly). I was even impressed that it counted a set of 8 x 75 perfectly in a 50 meter pool. I was sure it was going to show up as 800 meters rather than the actual 600 meters.

    • Jan

      Hi Drew, Hi Ray,

      thanks for the instructions! got one question, where I couldn’t find an answer regarding the drill mode:
      is it possible to pause the drill timer, if I’m in one drill to put fins on & off e.g.? or do I have to save that drill, enter a distance and start a new one?

      would be way convenient for me to just hit pause during my drill sets, so I can use the distance I do most of the times without fiddling around on the watch too much

      thanks a lot, cheers,


  45. Marita

    You write a great review. Thank you.

    I’m hunting for a primary school graduation gift for my 12yo. Thought a smart watch that travks activity may be ideal.

    However she goes to swim training 6-8 times a week and it is inevitable that the watch will end up going swimming at some point.

    Is there a watch that can track land based activity and swimming?

  46. If I want to do sprint sets, let’s say 100m x10 & I want to leave on let’s say 2:00min. The watch can’t sense that/do that, can it? That’s not what the countdown feature is for is it?

  47. Martin

    It’s been 3.5 years now since the garmin swim came out, is there any plans that you know of for a replacement especially now that the HRM Swim heart monitor strap is out. To me it would make sense to release a new version of the swim that can pair to the new strap.

    Or do we have to consider the Vivioactive Smart Watch instead. My garmin swim watch died when I replaced the battery (the o-ring didn’t sit right when I place the cap back on and subsequently died as soon as I put it in the water!).

    • Bob Kowalski

      I agree, Martin. The Garmin Swim is solid device that looks good, too. I wish that the boys in Kansas would add heart functionality and offer the watch in colors. A bonus would be stop watch memory function.

    • Stacey

      yes! I want to know what Garmin has up its sleeve as far as a second generation. I am in the market, the Garmin Swim sounds perfect, but I hesitate pulling the trigger only because it *seems* like there should be a GS2 hitting the market soon.

    • Erica

      I’m reluctant to get this one as well because it seems like a replacement is past due. I’d love to see bluetooth sync with the Garmin app…

    • Bluetooth was also my expectation but I can see now that you cannot have that level of battery power without regular charging and water proofing implications of a charger socket (like Fitbit, etc. which are not waterproof) or contacts (Babolat POP, etc). Tried for ages (wasting my time along with zillions of others with the same asumptions complaining on the forum for the Garmin Connect app) to get it to talk directly with my Android ‘phone like other wearable devices do. I wish the Garmin sales pages were clearer to stop you looking for Bluetooth that is not there. You assume in 2016 that it will be there. A little explanation up front would have been helpful and would not have affected sales any more than the obligatory cancer warnings on the packaging!
      Still really love the watch and it gives me all I need for pool swimming times, splits, SWOLF, etc.

  48. sophie brown

    Would you say the watch could be worn with basic date and time when not in the water?

  49. CSweet

    I have a FR910XT and it worked relatively well in the pool except for the universally acknowledged issue with kick/drill sets. I just swam for the 1st time with the Garmin Swim and loved the accuracy in the pool vs. the FR910XT. However, I do miss the multi-screen configurability of the FR910XT vs. the Swim. And I find that even using the Swim’s 1 field custom setting it is nearly impossible to read underwater. I like to track my progress w/in longer intervals to ensure I’m doing the correct distance (only an issue above 100y/m ints.) and with the FR910XT I could page to the screen with the 1 data field showing interval list. and that was so easily readable I’d barely have to adjust my stroke to glance at the interval progress. The Garmin Swim, even with that single field displayed, is nearly impossible to read underwater. Just my $.02 on this device. Otherwise, no qualms from me.

  50. Did for me what Garmin sales product pages and Garmin support dept did not.
    Excellent detail.
    Thanks for all your hard work.

  51. Bob Kowalski

    I’m surprised at the activity on this site covering an older product. I’ve had my Garmin Swim for over two years now and love it, but think it is high time Garmin made some improvements/enhancements. If they don’t, they risk losing this segment of customers to Apple or another company that makes a better featured swimming watch.

    My first request is that Garmin add HR capability. I prefer optical, but will settle for a chest strap if that is all they can do. I would also like a fully functional stop watch feature, not the current feature which is display only with no memory.

    Finally, it needs to have Bluetooth. If BT is going to kill the battery life, then they should go to either a rechargeable system or bigger source.

    I’ll gladly pay for these features, as would most swimmers. If the market for such a watch is too small, for Garmin, they need to be honest with their users. But if they don’t improve the Swim, I will jump to Apple as soon as they make their watch waterproof enough and encourage third party apps. That day is not to far off into the future.

    • Aaron


      Garmin has supported heart rate since last fall with their new product lines:

      link to dcrainmaker.com

      And the data flows through to 3rd party apps, which some now support such as SportTracks:

      link to sporttracks.mobi

      Not sure about Apples plans, but they tend more towards fashion that performance. I think we’ll see a diamond iWatch before a swimming one, lol.

    • Bob Kowalski

      Yes, Garmin has new products for swimming, but I have to buy a Fenix or other model. Why not make a Swim that works with the Garmin HR products? The Fenix has too many features that I don’t need and is also more expensive than the Apple Watch.

      I have seen a video that shows a Pebble Watch app for swimming ported to the Apple Watch. It worked very well, but is not supported by Apple and therefore not authorized or available. link to m.youtube.com

      I find it hard to believe that not a single Apple employee or contractor is a swimmer and has not tried to make the AW useable for swimming.

    • Erica

      Maybe I’m missing something, but why would bluetooth drain the battery if you’re only syncing at the end of each workout?

      (I, too, would love to see a Swim watch with bluetooth)

    • Bob Kowalski

      Bluetooth could drain the battery when connected to a heart rate monitor or if connected to a phone. The Swim is a great size and a larger battery might diminish one of the great features of the watch, its size and fit.

      Once again, Garmin, add a couple of more features to the Swim, mainly HR functionality and Bluetooth, or introduce a new product that has the features and and can be used for swimming without breaking the bank.

    • Erica

      I believe all the HR monitor chest straps use ANT, no? And usually my phone is nowhere near me while I’m in the pool 🙂

    • Skap

      I would LOVE to see bluetooth, if nothing else then to sync the watch to my phone. I don’t have a working home computer which means that every time I would have to sync my watch, I’d have to bring it to work. Personally, I have little use for the heart rate monitor, though it would be interesting to see what zones I happen to be in during my different strokes, its not a priority for me. Could a wrist HR monitor on the back of the watch be a viable option? I am assuming they are less accurate as the contact wouldn’t be as good, but in the water the contact would be better right?
      I would like a swim watch and GarminSwim has almost everything I want. I haven’t pulled the trigger yet because I keep hoping Garmin is coming out with a Swim2 with at least a bluetooth. Come on Garmin! I swear there is a big enough market for this!

  52. Rémy


    I just got a used Garmin Swim for a nice price, and I just had to replace the battery. Based on what I read here and there it’s quite of a hairy process, the manual especially mentions that it’s easy to damage the O-ring but one thing I wonder is if you can grab replacements for those, it would be just safer and easier to replace it rather than praying that when you first get into the water the watch will keep working. Do you happen to know where one can get these ? I just made sure the ring was on the bottom groove and locked the back panel in place. Should I worry too much about this ? It seems there quite a few horror-stories on the internet about the watch taking water and becoming unusable.

    Thanks for the great review Ray

    • Eeks, I’m not sure there. But, i’m willing to bet if you ring up (phone is best) Garmin support – they’ll likely send you one for free. I’ve seen that in the past for tiny little things like this, they’ll just plop it in an envelope and call it done.

    • Rémy

      Hi Ray,

      So, I swam a few times now since I changed the battery, everything seems to go well, fingers crossed but I think I did it right.

      Exporting fit files to Endomondo sometimes acts weird though. Duration of the workout was fine the first time I exported, but this time it looks like the duration of the workout is wrong, resulting in me breaking world records :/ I could sort it out by converting the fit file to tcx and there it seems everything was fine. Not really sure why that happened.

      Thanks again, your other page on tools was a great way for me to sort this issue out.

  53. Alatakshi Gosain

    In the right side if Garmin Swim, there are 3 icons, a heart, a shoe and the cycle. Are they actually there for something… Or what…?

    • On almost all watch devices Garmin makes, they re-use the hardware for other product lines (golf, hunting, aviation, marine, etc…). This was a case of thinking they’d re-use it for something else sport related, but actually never did (a huge rarity for them).

  54. Leonardo Bernardes

    I would love to ser a review of Moov Now, specially on how it compares to garmin swim. Some people say it is as good or even better than Garmin Swim. I’m thinking about getting one, but it would be great to know your opinion about it before… Any plan on making a review of Moov Now? Thank you

  55. Michael Sokoloff

    Thanks for the great review. Based on your review I bought the Garmin Swim and am quite happy with it.

    My wife would like to use this watch as well. Do you know of a way she could use the watch and garmin connect while keeping our data separate?

    • Kinda…sorta…

      Basically Garmin units have no concept of multiple users. So every person will get every activity, but you can pair it to multiple accounts. It’s just that you have to delete out the other persons activities after they sync to Garmin Connect.

      So if you setup Garmin Express for example on each of your computers, and then tied your own Garmin Connect accounts to the Swim from each computer, that’ll technically work. Then just delete workouts that aren’t yours from Garmin Connect.

      Yes, a bit messy.

    • Karthik Bhadhri

      Hi there……great review on the Garmin swim. I was deciding to buy the garmin swim but that’s when I had the following doubts –
      1) now with the Apple Watch series 2 swim proof watch, do you feel it’s a good idea to go for apple than garmin swim ? Although the apple price is high, it has other functions which will compensate for the price spent.
      2) does apple have all the features of the garmin swim ? Or is there any feature missing?
      3) can we use apple for everyday swim like the garmin swim?
      4) with the apple, you get to see all the data in the iPhone, unlike the garmin where you have to turn on the computer at all times.

    • Jan

      I’ll sync Garmin Swim with my phone without problem (ANT+ capable phone), or you’ll need an adapter

  56. Chris Dearing

    Is there any way to pair this with a mobile phone such as the Samsung Galaxy s7 which has ant+ to upload to garmin connect?

    The 1 thing I want in a new dedicated Garmin Swim watch is to not have to switch on my laptop to upload my data.

  57. Paul (Tank) McNamara

    I’m a long distance 53 year old competitive swimmer. The Garmin swim watch has generally worked great with one exception: somehow when I start a long swim ie 3000 yards or meters, the watch brings itself back to the time. It might be because I’m hitting a button on a flip turn when streamlining off the turn. This happens often. I usually have to slow down, hit the blue button once or twice and it reverts back to the pace clock and laps. A bit annoying. I wish a lock feature was present in the watch so this would not happen. Thanks for hearing me

  58. Andrew


    Very thorough review, but… I have to disagree with you as for the “it does what it was designed for” – it doesn’t. I have tried it out today – 50 lengths with no stops and it counted 53.


    – Andrew

    • Jimmy

      Sorry it didn’t work well on your first try. I have been using the watch for close to a year now and it probably works accurately about 98% of the time. I swim in a 50 meter pool, and when we stick to sets that stay within that length it rarely counts wrong. However, when we do either 25 or 75 meter sets, it does get messed up counting correctly. With that said, I will add that the watch does occasionally count wrong. If I’m being honest, it could be user (me) error. It’s my understanding that it counts a new length based upon the push off from the wall. If you occasionally stand at the wrong place or have an odd non swimming movement with your arm, it might mess up. But, overall, I’m very pleased with it. I swim between 3000-4000 meters per workout at a pretty good pace and it does work well for me. Is it perfect? Nope. I would give it a few more tries. Good luck!

  59. Randy Burchacki

    Great review. I do 4-5 2000 yard sets a week with different intervals. Example: A Ladder which includes 4 50’s, 3 100’s, 2 150’s and 1 200 (up the ladder) and reverse down the ladder with time intervals. Question: Does the Garmin automatically calculate my rest time during this workout or do i have to pause it and restart it after each interval , i.e, would i have to pause and restart after each 50, 100, 150 and 200?

  60. Lydia

    Shocked you reviewed this as a accurate watch. I have been using it 5 days a week for the past 2 months and it’s extremely inaccurate! It consistently mis counts my laps. I can only assume the calorie counter is wrong too. I purchased this watch with 2 specific goals in mind. To track my laps and calories. This watch has fallen extremely short. Yesterday it missed 9 laps and today it overcounted by 13 laps! Very bad very inaccurate. Rendering it completely useless for me. Very disappointed

    • On the hole, after 4+ years on the market, by and large the vast majority of people find it quite accurate. There are certainly edge cases, but they are mostly just that – edge cases.

      If you’re seeing accuracy issues, the best thing is to see if it’s something within your pool use that may be causing it challenges. Check out this section I wrote a few years back that applies to the Garmin Swim as well: link to dcrainmaker.com

      (Inside of that section is a sub-section called ‘Troubleshooting swim data’

  61. Daz Lovelock

    I recently purchased this watch and used for my first swim today.

    Uploaded to Garmin and all was well, great stats etc..

    I auto sync all my activities from Garmin to Strava and for some reason the date in Strava shows as Sunday, December 31, 1989 and cannot be edited in Strava.

    Do you know if this can be overcome? Seems silly to continue to manually input into Strava.

    Thanks for the great site that I have used for many a purchase!

  62. Elnaz

    I noticed, when I connect the Garmin swim to the computer, there is a possibility to define a workout and to schedule it to a desired date. But, I could not find anything in its manual explaining how this workout plan supposed to be transferred to the watch and be used during a swim session. Do you have any idea?

  63. Mariano

    Hello! Having the newer models (like vivoactive, vivoactive HR), would you still recommend this watch to track swimming? I think the most important thing (regardless the fact it does not haave so manny features) is how much accurate this watch is… I am kind of in a point where I dont know what to do…wont be running until I get to my weight..but you see the newer models an! It is complicated to decide…with swimming which one is the most recommended for you? Help!


    Hi Ray. I have since 3 years this watch and it works fine. I would like to add some function through ad additional device to wear on the other wrist. The function I need is HR monitoring during swimming. I do not want to invest on triathlon watches, therefore I’m thinking to Garmin FR 35 or Polar M200. They are not specific for swimming but probably they can work in water. In addition they have GPS (Did you tested in open water?). There is some kind of low cost bracelet that can monitor just the HR when swimming?
    Thanks and congratulations for the quality of the reviews

  65. Petra Bijsterveld

    I have just changed the battery in my Garmin Swim for the first time. I now have two problems: the blue button does not let me scroll through to ‘drill’, the whole drill function seems to have disappeared. It also keeps looping to ‘data transfer’ when it is next to my laptop even after the data has been transferred.
    I googled this and other users seem to have had similar problems. Any solutions out there?

    In the week where my running watch seems to be beset with problems too it appears I am being pushed towards buying a new watch, but I would prefer not to be spending major money if these bugs can be fixed.

  66. André Faria

    It’s 2021 and after reading your article “The Fascinating Reason Why The Garmin FR945 & Fenix 6 No Longer Shows Pool Temperature” just bought a Garmin Swim in order to start swimming on the pool and not damage the 945 LTE.
    Thank you for this review.
    Time for a retro review? hehe