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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 SwimCOROS Vertix 2SGarmin Forerunner 165Garmin Vivoactive 5Apple Watch Series 9
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated May 27th, 2024 @ 4:26 am New Window
Price$150.00$699$249/$299$299$399/$499 (cellular)
Product Announcement DateJun 25, 2012Apr 25th, 2024Feb 20th, 2024Sept 20th, 2023Sept 14th, 2023
Actual Availability/Shipping DateJul 5, 2012Apr 27th, 2024Feb 20th, 2024Sept 20th, 2023Sept 23rd, 2023
GPS Recording FunctionalityNoYesYesYesYes
Data TransferANT AgentBluetooth Smart (smartphone)USB, Bluetooth Smart (WiFi on Music ModelsUSB, BLUETOOTH SMART, WiFiBluetooth Smart
WaterproofingYes100m50 Meters50 meters50m
Dive/Snorkel FeatureNoNoNoNo
Battery Life (GPS)1 YearUp to 118hrsUp to 19 hours21 hrs (just GPS)12 hours GPS
Solar ChargingNoNoNoNo
Recording Interval1-Second1-second1-second, Smart, UltraTrac1s or Smart RecordingVaries
Dual-Frequency GNSSYesYesNoNo
Backlight GreatnessOKGoodGreatGreatGreat
Ability to download custom apps to unit/deviceNoNoYesYesYes
Acts as daily activity monitor (steps, etc...)NoYesYesYesYes
Voice IntegrationGarmin SwimCOROS Vertix 2SGarmin Forerunner 165Garmin Vivoactive 5Apple Watch Series 9
Has Mic/SpeakerNoNoNoYes
Can make/receive callsNoNoNoNon-cellular editions with phone/Cellular Editions without phone
Voice AssistantNoNoNoApple Siri
MusicGarmin SwimCOROS Vertix 2SGarmin Forerunner 165Garmin Vivoactive 5Apple Watch Series 9
Can control phone musicNoYesYesYes
Has music storage and playbackYesYes (music edition)YesYes
Streaming ServicesNo (MP3 files only)Spotify, Amazon Music, DeezerSpotify, Amazon Music, DeezerApple Music
PaymentsGarmin SwimCOROS Vertix 2SGarmin Forerunner 165Garmin Vivoactive 5Apple Watch Series 9
Contactless-NFC PaymentsNoYesYesYes
ConnectivityGarmin SwimCOROS Vertix 2SGarmin Forerunner 165Garmin Vivoactive 5Apple Watch Series 9
Bluetooth Smart to Phone UploadingNoYesYesYesYes
Phone Notifications to unit (i.e. texts/calls/etc...)NoYesYes (with connected phone)YesYes
Live Tracking (streaming location to website)NoNoYes (with connected phone)YesWith 3rd party apps
Group trackingNoYes (with connected phone)NoNo
Emergency/SOS Message Notification (from watch to contacts)NoNoYes (with connected phone)YesYes
Built-in cellular chip (no phone required)NoNoNoNoYes (with cellular version)
CyclingGarmin SwimCOROS Vertix 2SGarmin Forerunner 165Garmin Vivoactive 5Apple Watch Series 9
Designed for cyclingNoYesYesYesYes
Power Meter CapableN/AYesNoNoYes
Power Meter Configuration/Calibration OptionsN/ANoN/AN/AYes
Power Meter TSS/NP/IFN/ANP onlyN/AN/ANo
Speed/Cadence Sensor CapableN/AYesYesYesYes
Strava segments live on deviceNoNoNoNo
Crash detectionNoYesYesYes
RunningGarmin SwimCOROS Vertix 2SGarmin Forerunner 165Garmin Vivoactive 5Apple Watch Series 9
Designed for runningNoYesYesYesYes
Footpod Capable (For treadmills)N/AYesYES (Also has INTERNAL ACCELEROMETER)YesWith 3rd party apps
Running Dynamics (vertical oscillation, ground contact time, etc...)N/AYesYesNoYes
Running PowerYes (Built-in)YesWITH 3RD PARTY APPSYes
VO2Max EstimationN/AYesYesYesYes
Race PredictorN/AYesYesNoNo
Recovery AdvisorN/AYesYesYesNo
Run/Walk ModeN/ANoYesYesWith 3rd party apps
Track Recognition ModeYesYesNoYes
SwimmingGarmin SwimCOROS Vertix 2SGarmin Forerunner 165Garmin Vivoactive 5Apple Watch Series 9
Designed for swimmingYesYesYesYesYes
Openwater swimming modeNoYesYesYesYEs
Lap/Indoor Distance TrackingYesYesYesYesYes
Record HR underwaterNoYesYesYesYes
Openwater Metrics (Stroke/etc.)NoYesYesYesBasic stroke type only
Indoor Metrics (Stroke/etc.)YesYesYesYesBasic stroke type only
Indoor Drill ModeYesNoYesNoNo
Indoor auto-pause featureNo-NoNoYes
Change pool sizeYesYesYesYesYes
Indoor Min/Max Pool Lengths18y/17m to 150y/m15y/m-300y/m14M/15Y TO 150Y/M13M/15Y TO 150Y/M1y/m to 1,500y/m+
Ability to customize data fieldsYesYesYesYesYes
Captures per length data - indoorsYesYesYesYes
Indoor AlertsYesYesYesYesYes (goals)
TriathlonGarmin SwimCOROS Vertix 2SGarmin Forerunner 165Garmin Vivoactive 5Apple Watch Series 9
Designed for triathlonNoYesNoNoNot really
Multisport modeN/AYesNoNoYes
WorkoutsGarmin SwimCOROS Vertix 2SGarmin Forerunner 165Garmin Vivoactive 5Apple Watch Series 9
Create/Follow custom workoutsNoYesYesYesYes
On-unit interval FeatureNoYesYesYesYes
Training Calendar FunctionalityNoYesYesYesWith 3rd party apps
FunctionsGarmin SwimCOROS Vertix 2SGarmin Forerunner 165Garmin Vivoactive 5Apple Watch Series 9
Auto Start/StopN/AYesYesYesYes
Virtual Partner FeatureNoYesYesNoYes
Virtual Racer FeatureNoNoNoYes
Records PR's - Personal Records (diff than history)NoNoYesYesNo
Tidal Tables (Tide Information)NoNoNoNoNo
Weather Display (live data)NoNoYEsYesYes
NavigateGarmin SwimCOROS Vertix 2SGarmin Forerunner 165Garmin Vivoactive 5Apple Watch Series 9
Follow GPS Track (Courses/Waypoints)N/AYesYesNo (but some 3rd party apps can)With 3rd party apps
Markers/Waypoint DirectionN/AYesYesNoYes (Backtrack)
Routable/Visual Maps (like car GPS)N/AMaps but not routableNoNoWith 3rd party apps
Back to startN/AReverse courseYesYesYes (Backtrack)
Impromptu Round Trip Route CreationN/ANoNoNoWith 3rd party apps
Download courses/routes from phone to unitN/AYesYesNoWith 3rd party apps
SensorsGarmin SwimCOROS Vertix 2SGarmin Forerunner 165Garmin Vivoactive 5Apple Watch Series 9
Altimeter TypeN/ABarometricBarometricGPSBarometric with real-time watch face
Compass TypeN/AMagnetic-Magnetic
Optical Heart Rate Sensor internallyYesYEsYesYes
SpO2 (aka Pulse Oximetry)YesYesYesYes
ECG FunctionalityNoNoNoYes
HRV RecordingYesYes (nightly and on-demand)YesYes
Heart Rate Strap CompatibleNoYesYesYesYes
ANT+ Heart Rate Strap CapableNoNoYesYEsNo
ANT+ Speed/Cadence CapableN/ANoYesYesno
ANT+ Footpod CapableN/ANoYesYesNo
ANT+ Power Meter CapableN/ANoNoNoNo
ANT+ Lighting ControlNoYesYesNo
ANT+ Bike Radar IntegrationNoYesYesNo
ANT+ Trainer Control (FE-C)FTMS (Bluetooth) onlyNoNoNo
ANT+ Remote ControlNoNoNoNoNo
ANT+ eBike CompatibilityNoNoNoYesNo
ANT+ Gear Shifting (i.e. SRAM ETAP)NoNoNoNo
Shimano Di2 ShiftingNoNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart HR Strap CapableNoYesYesYEsYes
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence CapableNoYesYesYesYes
Bluetooth Smart Footpod CapableNoYesYesYesNo
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter CapableNoYesNoNoYes
Temp Recording (internal sensor)NoYesYesNoNo
Temp Recording (external sensor)NoNoYES (TEMPE)YesNo
SoftwareGarmin SwimCOROS Vertix 2SGarmin Forerunner 165Garmin Vivoactive 5Apple Watch Series 9
PC ApplicationGTCNoGarmin ExpressGarmin ExpressNone
Web ApplicationGarmin ConnectNoGarmin ConnectGarmin ConnectNone
Phone AppGarmin FitiOS/AndroidiOS/AndroidiOS/Android/WindowsiOS only
Ability to Export SettingsNoNoNoNoNo
PurchaseGarmin SwimCOROS Vertix 2SGarmin Forerunner 165Garmin Vivoactive 5Apple Watch Series 9
DCRainmakerGarmin SwimCOROS Vertix 2SGarmin Forerunner 165Garmin Vivoactive 5Apple Watch Series 9
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. As always good review Ray. Wonder if this is a better option for the pool than the FR910xt from the standpoint of Chlorine to the 910xt. Has anyone had any trouble with that yet?

    • Ray, I scanned your review recently to find out about the drill capability. I wanted a way to account for the distance in my overall workout when I do kick drills. I was thrilled to see that you could include drills…until I saw the impact on my overall SWOLF. :( It turns out that there is a SWOLF calculated on the drills regardless if you’re actually doing something that has a stroke. Am I wrong in assuming that a kick drill or any other drill not involving a stroke shouldn’t have a SWOLF? The good news is that you can look at the SWOLF per interval. Whew! My improved stroke was improving my speed after all.

    • Erle

      Thanks for all the work on the review. I just purchased the Garmin Swim and I’m having trouble with reviewing split times on the watch. I like to warm up with 500 or 1000 yards in a 25 yard pool. I like to review each 100 yd split to see how mat pace varies throughout the swim. How can I do that with this watch?

  2. I haven’t seen any issues with that yet to date – so I think you’re good either way. Many folks have also been using their FR310XT’s in the pool as well (just as a timer) for a couple years, no issues that I’m aware of there.


  3. Great review!

    Any notes on international availability?

  4. Hi great review, as always!! Thanks.

    The only things I am missing…

    Is the capability of preparing workouts at home and swim them in the pool. In my opinion is shouldnt be that difficult. I am looking for example for 5x200M and 2x1000M. With a interval rest of 1 minute and a set rest of 2Minutes. I shouldnt be that hard to program that the unit automatically buzzes in the last 25m and will set to pause automatically when interval is finished. To start again, it can buzz/beep at end of rest time, and start automatical if the swim started..

    Heart rate function.

    Maybe its possible to construct a chip attached to ankle that communicates with the swimunit? In this way you can see the synchronisation with arms/legs and the drill sections you do.

    Anyway.. thank you..

  5. As usal excelent review.
    Two questions
    1. Do you know of any plans to introduce the drill mode in the 910xt?
    2. The pool size same question would be great to have the 15 m limit in the 910 xt as well
    Any comments from garmin on that in next updates, perhaps?

  6. Anonymous

    Why couldn’t you have announced this before fathers day !!! I got a wonderful heart rate monitor from my family but this sure would have been at the top of my list. :)

  7. On the heart rate side, I think eventually we’ll see someone take advantage of ANT-FS to record HR and then sync it up after the swim. Similiar to how Suunto does it with their memory belt (for underwater HR recording). The difference/challenge compared to Polar devices is ANT+ cannot transmit underwater, whereas the T-31 coded devices from Polar can.

    On the workout front, I’ve been suggesting it for quite a while. I know they’re aware of the suggestion, and that it’s somewhere in their queue – but that’s about it.

    And on getting drill mode/short pool added to the FR910XT – as noted above, I passed on the suggestion to the Garmin Swim team, and they in turn passed it to the FR910XT team. Hopefully something comes of it, as both would make nice additions to the FR910XT (as would the faster recognitiion of length/turns, though there may be a harware difference there as well).

  8. I’m a cyclist turned triathlete that cannot do a flip turn if my life depended on it. Does this watch (or the 910 for that matter) work with open turns as well?

  9. No problems with either method (flip or open turn). In general, the biggest ticket for getting accurate lap data for either watch is a strong push off the wall (since the unit measures changes in accelleration and direction).

    • R

      can you comment on how much of a push-off is needed? I am not a competitive swimmer; I swim for exercise and fitness only. I feel that a strong push-off defeats the purpose of swimming – when swimming in open water (a lake here in Minnesota) one does not have the option of pushing off every 25 yards. When I do push off, it’s just enough to almost get me back to normal swimming speed (to avoid muscle and joint strain) but not enough to give me the opportunity to glide. To be succinct, gliding from a push-off is for wusses unless you are trying to get the best time you can. It would be like riding a bicycle and turning a motor on every so often for a second or two. Do you think this or one of the other watches you’ve reviewed will be able to measure that?

    • You need to push off enough to ‘trigger’ the change in acceleration to be detected. For most people, it’s not really an issue. As long as you don’t glide to a stop at the wall, slowly turn around, and then just slowly start going again, you’ll be fine. If you swim semi-normally, you should be fine. It’s not about the glide, it’s about the push. How long you glide for is irrelevant from the units perspective.

      Ultimately, swimming in a pool isn’t the same as swimming in openwater, and there simply isn’t any other way to detect it.

    • Kit

      One thing to take into account is without the push off you are starting over and need to accelerate from zero each time – something that you don’t do in open water (re-start from a dead stop constantly). So… it kind of balances out.

  10. Is there a chance that Garmin provides a tool in GC to create swim workouts in near future?

    And that this feature will be available for the 910XT…

  11. Tim

    Bummer they didn’t choose to make a full upgrade to the FR70 in the swim watch.

    When the 910xt was released I couldn’t help but want an FR60/FR70 + swimming. I like the size, cost — if somehow it leaked, and ability to run/bike/record HR with the thing.

    I may end up buying one of these, since I tend to buy everything they release, but I wonder why they didn’t at least include general gym HR support.

  12. Anonymous

    Great Review (as always); however, do many people use lap-watches? I have been a swimmer all my life and I have never thought, “Wow, I wish someone would make a watch that counted my laps for me.” (I may forget to count a lap or two, but that isn’t going to make a huge difference in my training).

    The pool is marked out (25y, 25m, 50m) – and you count. Plus, most facilities have clocks on the wall for “send-offs” or rest periods. If you go into the pool with a workout (warm-up, main set, then cool down), I wouldn’t see any need for a product like this. Spending 2-3 minutes planning a workout seems like a more efficient use of time than messing with setting on a watch.

    I’m not posting this to discredit this product or people that use it, but looking for insight as to why I (or another triathlete) should purchase yet another product.

    • Josep

      Te stroke count is very useful to understand the quality of your swimming. How much does your stroke quality deteriorate as you get tired? Can you improve on that? Can you increase your stroke rate without losing on your stroke length? A watch counting strokes is certainly very useful for many people

    • Dominic Herbert

      Though it is useful when you loose count during long intervals, I like to monitor the mileage I’m doing each week, and Garmin Connect is a good way to do that. It allows you to see mileage for all your sports together. Just as importantly, it allows you to measure how well you’ve executed sessions designed to give you pace awareness, like 6 x 200m cutting 4 seconds off each one or trying to keep the pace the same for each. Or sprint sessions where you are trying to keep the final few intervals as fast as the first ones. Also, even if there is a swim clock, I like to be independent of it so you don’t wait for the top but just go when you want – this is the first watch that has both the time elapsed since the previous interval started (as well as how long you have rested) to allow you to do ***m on 90s.

    • Dominic Herbert

      Plus, I train in a pool that is 26.3m so not such an easy calculation!

  13. Ditto what Tim just said. The screen UI resembles the FR60/70… so I am wondering.. and sort of hoping that maybe someday they will release an “FR80” that has this new watch style w/ all of the same functionality of the FR60/70 + the swim accelerometer. Heck, I’d even settle for just the new watch form factor b/c I am sooooooooo bored and tired of the style of my FR60.. but love the functionality of the watch.

  14. Nice review Ray.

    FWIW – I have the Swimsense and the 910XT and have stopped using the 910xt for swimming – I had very imprecise data. The sendoff timer is something I have suggested to Finis several times, hopefully they will implement it at some point…

  15. Anonymous : When you have a short term memory like a goldfish (I have) this watches a life saving. I would not miss 1 or 2 laps, I would miss 10 or 20…

    The greatest tool would be a tool to create workouts, so I can stop bringing my cheat sheet in the pool.

  16. Great review as always.

    Whilst you’re ‘heavily suggesting’ things to Garmin, perhaps you can ask them to improve the Timing/Pace graph in Garmin Connect. It’s effectively useless in it’s current form – the scale is so broad that you can really only guess within 20 seconds or so how quick each lap was (at a glance without hovering each point). Take for example my swim here – it’s pretty hard to glean much at all from the graph at a glance. Any idea why the graph is inverted?

    It’s just a bugbear of mine that, in my mind, significantly lessens the usefulness of these watches, when you can’t view the collected data easily; probably the biggest letdown of my otherwise great 910xt. I’ve emailed Garmin previously, but no response :)

  17. My first thought when I got to the pool length programming section… I wonder if it would allow for Kits pool… And answered! Very thorough indeed!

  18. dc_in_sf

    Great Review!

    I have the swimsense, which prior to the custom fields software update was not useful to me during the workout since without glasses I couldn’t easily read the screen. Now I set up 4 screens each with a single data field and the watch is a useful in workout tool.

    I’d love to see a comparison of the the legibility of the non-custom screens on the Garmin with the single data screens of the swimsense. They look like they would be legible (at least the main data item), since the screen is much bigger, but these things can be deceiving :-)

  19. Anonymous

    Does the alarm and repeating alarm allow you to choose a vibration alert rather than the audible alert? If so, done and done on the purchase.

  20. Great Review,
    I currently have a 310XT and use it in the pool by hitting the lap button at the end of every pool length.
    This way I can measure my speed and distance.
    Nevertheless, something to count strokes would be nice.
    This beeing said, not sure if it justifies a $150 or $400 investment.
    I rather wait for the succesor of the 910XT in hope it will allow HR measuring underwater, possibly even breathing pattern?

  21. Anonymous

    purchase made thanks for review

  22. Very nice review.
    Maybe I’ve missed it, but do I have to press start/pause for each set? I.e., I am doing 10x50m with some rest, do I need to press start/pause at the start and stop of each 50m, or does the watch recognize that automatically?

  23. Darren

    Interesting product and a great review as always!

    Maybe I’m just missing it, but is there a way to display the interval/lap number on this or the 910xt? That’s really important when doing sets. Hopefully it will come along with the workout builder.

    Also, do you know if Garmin is working on an auto-pause feature like Swimsense has? It works really well.

  24. Hey! I want that drill log mode for my 910xt too! It’s a pain in the @ss to manually calculate all the averages of using the .xls file :(

  25. Anonymau5

    Great review as usual!

    May even purchase it primarily as an everyday watch since I swim during/after work anyway.

    Does it feel robust enough to be an everyday watch? I.e more akin to a G-Shock type affair? One would hope it can deal with the small bangs and knocks that come with an ‘everyday’ watch.

  26. Awesome and very complete review, as usual…

    One of the local pools I use on a regular basis is 20y length. I know it’s on the short side, but are they all that uncommon? I would buy this watch right away if it could deal with my pool length :(

    Is that a computation limitation? Any chance of Garmin reducing the lower limit??

  27. You might want to read this. Recognise it?

    link to garminswim.com

  28. Lisa

    Sorry that link was posted by me Lisa Fox not my daughter. Must have been logged in on her blogger account?

  29. Anonymous

    Great review once again Ray.

    Does this blog have your permission to copy your hard work? http://www.garminswim.com

  30. Hi rainmaker. One question. Does it allow to put half meters? The pool where I train is 16,7m.

    Great review and have fun in Paris!

  31. Kassia

    I bought the Swimsense four months ago, but it was a lemon, never working the way it should from day one. Dealing with Finis to get my issues fixed has been a nightmare. (Their customer service can be described as slow…at best…and the issues in question STILL haven’t been fixed.) Needless to say, I’m definitely in the market for a new watch. My first question has to do more with Garmin than the watch at this point. How is their customer service? If I run into a problem with the watch, is the company known for being responsive?

    Second, I was wondering how much time it takes to switch over to recording drill sets? It looks like a lot of buttons to push just to get there. Once you enable the feature, is it easy/quick to switch on? I’m thinking specifically of workouts where various drills are integrated into the overall workout using timed sets.

  32. Anonymous

    Everything looks good but stopwatch. And that is a deal breaker. It looks like artificial feature creeping. How do I use this watch “near the pool” to measure someone’s laps?

  33. David

    1.-like Steffan asked: Does the Garmin swim have autopause?(I mean, if I swim 50 metres, I rest one minute and I swim 50 more without push any button (IN THE SAME INTERVAL): Will the garmin Connect display the mesures of each of the two laps (EXCLUDING THE REST TIME)?
    2.-Can I customize the option of “total metres I have swam of each style along the session”?
    3.-Any other improved watch (regarding this) to come soon?
    Sorry for my English and congratulations for your work.

  34. Toby

    Seems like Garmin had a problem, on Amazon it’s now listed with a release date of 20th Jul and my order on Garmin Direct has been ‘Processing’ for a week.

  35. Great Review,

    Auto pause and drill mode on the 910xt will be a great feature. Would this be a software update via GC if it were to go ahead?

  36. Spence

    Ray…any idea on when it will actually be released?

  37. Hi Stefan-
    RE: Swim workout tool creation

    I’ve been asking for it since the FR910XT came out last year. I know from conversations that it’s on their long range radar, but it’s unclear where it stands now. To me, that’d be pretty sweet to be able to have it walk you through a swim workout.

    Hi All-
    RE: A few FR60/70 comments

    I’d expect that this would eventually be the base hardware for such a new watch, especially since it does include the accellerometer and they could do distance via movement, as well as connect to other ANT+ devices (which this watch supports).

    Hi dc_in_sf-
    RE: Screen legibility

    There’s no question in mind that the order of legibility goes:

    1) Garmin FR910XT
    2) Garmin Swim
    3) Swimsense

    It’s not that Swimsense is bad, it’s just that the screen clarity of the two Garmin devices is so much higher.

    Hi Anon-
    RE: Vibrating alert

    Sorry, no vibrating alerts (or vibrating motor).

    Hi Timster-
    RE: HR capture device

    There’s definitely hope for something like the Suunto memory belt, which enables you to record HR data underwater for later retrieval/sync. A lot of folks in the industry are looking at it, but I’m not 100% certain on who will execute first. Could be Garmin, may not be. In talking with them previously, they were keenly aware that HR while underwater was a missing area – but they were also fairly evasive talking about it…making me wonder that something is in the works. I’d expect it to be an accessory though, rather than a new unit.

    Hi Steffen-
    RE: Pressing at end of each set.

    You’d need only press when you want to mark the completion of a set (i.e. 350m), not at the end of each turn, it does that automatically.

    Hi Darren-
    RE: Display interval/lap number

    You can’t display interval number (i.e. set #8) as a data field, but you can display lenghts (i.e. length #30). However, each time you complete a set/interval, it’ll show you “Interval #4”

    Hi Anon-
    RE: Everyday watch

    I haven’t had any problems wearing it from a bumping into things standpoint. I’ve whacked it twice against a doorframe, and it still seems fine.

    Hi TGuertin-
    RE: Pool limitation

    Despite asking a bunch, I’ve never been able to get a good reason for the lack of lower limit (especially since Swimsense can do it). One of these days they’ll either provide an answer, or just fix it.

    (End Part 1)

  38. (Start Part II)

    Hi Lisa and Anon-
    RE: Garminswim.com

    No, the blog did not have the rights. After repeated requests and a DCMA notice to them, they removed the copy of this post. Thanks for the heads up to everyone who sent in, I appreciate everyone covering my back on that!

    Hi Oscar-
    RE: Half-stack (half-meters)

    No, it does not. And looking at it, 16.7 meters is 18.2 yards – hard to decide which calculation you’d want to use (18y or 17m).

    Hi Kassia-
    RE: Customer service

    I’ve always found their customer service to be quite good, at least in cases where they had power to fix it. Meaning, for some problems that are just simply bugs in the product – it’s hard for them to realistically do anything more than say “Yup, that sucks”. But from a “Do they really help you” standpoint, they’re usually quite good.

    RE: Switching to recording drill sets

    My explanation above probably made it a bit longer than it seems. In reality, it’s about 2ish button presses that takes perhaps 2 seconds, maybe a second if you’re fast. Vey quick.

    Hi Anon-
    RE: Stopwatch

    I agree, I would have at least thought it would just record simple lap splits as well. Kinda an odd ‘throw it in there’ feature as it was implemented.

    Hi David-
    RE: Autopause

    No, no autopause like the Swimsense. That’s a good point, and a very useful Swimsense feature that I love. I’ll get the table updated.

    RE: Customize total meters by stroke/style

    No, unfortnuately not.

    RE: Other watches soon

    Not that I’m aware of in the swimming world. I’d expect to see Polar & Timex eventually counter this, but I think both will be a ways away.

    Hi Toby/Spense-
    RE: Order shipment times

    From a Garmin.com fulfillment side, I placed a regular order last week (just like any other user), and it’s shipped already and delivered on Tuesday (cheap shipping option).

    On Amazon.com, I know that Garmin is looking to fulfill their internal distribution first, then smaller retailers (local shops), with Amazon basically being last. Wish it wasn’t the case. What’s unclear is if the timelines noted on the Amazon page are accurate (probably are).

    Hope this helps all, thanks for reading!

  39. Anonymous

    Thanks for your comprehensive review of the Garmin Swim watch. I have 1 question.

    Is it necessary to glide at each turnaround when swimming laps in a pool, or will the watch detect the turnaround.

    I tried the Poolmate watch and it did not give accurate results because I did not glide long enough at each turnaround.


  40. Toby

    Hi Ray,

    I just got off the phone with Garmin the swim is now backordered until around the 10-Aug-12.

    I must have jsut missed the 1st batch, damn.

  41. Bummer. :(

    I did just confirm with them (Garmin) about 30 minutes ago that there were/are no delays to the product itself, nor any manuf defects (one dealer was telling folks who ordered as such, and thus a delay to their order). Also told no letter was sent to any dealers (if of course, you do have a letter, I/they would love to see it).

    However, if dealer didn’t order in the first week, they’re a bit backlogged now due to initial order rush (typical).


  42. Toby

    I ordered mine from Garmin direct on the 27th. When I said there was a problem it was a general comment.

  43. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  44. David (London)


    Do you know if there are any plans at Garmin to use the Garmin swim experience to update the 910XT?

    Form reading about them it sounds like the Swim has solved some of the buggier aspects to the XT (recording freestyle as backstroke, better (and faster) pick up of laps/less false counts etc) not to mention the better programmable activity stuff. So, while the Swim doesn’t do all I want (need the run piece as well) I definitely want the improved swim bits.

    So, do I delay on the 910XT waiting for the 920XT or do I go ahead and get a 910 on the basis that it’s a software issue (and the 910 has the “computer power” to deal with the upgrade required) and can/will be sorted by an update? Any views?



  45. Ordered mine on June 26th from Garmin directly and was just told it won’t ship until August 10th. About double the time they said it would take when I placed the order :(

  46. Anonymous

    Hi, thanks for the test! great!
    I have fresh news firsthand, Swimovate is preparing a new watch, the information I have is that it will be of a design for everyday use, that will calculate your heart rate and will be offered for sale in October this year.

    I have the standard PoolMate and am impressed with the precision, for me the only thing that fails is the design, now with the Garmin is no longer whether to wait. mmmmm XD


  47. Toby

    Sweet my Swim arrived today, way before the 10th!

    If I’s come home before going for a swim I could have used it today!

  48. Toby

    One thing I noticed on mine is if you hold the screen at the righ angle you can see a heart, a shoe and a bike. The screen must be shared with another watch that supports that stuff.

  49. Anonymous

    I have question, you swim your length then press pause for you rest. What do you do next? If you try and un-pause as you push off for a lenght it messes up your start. If you un-pause then start it add’s a few seconds to your lenght time?

  50. I just press unpause right as I start the push off the wall. I haven’t seen it mess up my start. If that’s problematic, you can certainly unpause and then push, but that’d add at best a second.

    • Stefano

      Thanks for your really useful review.

      I have not fully understood how the device records the start and stop times of an interval. I read your review entirely and a few comments, however I’m still confused. I’ll try to explain what I would expect from the watch so you might see what I have not understood.

      At the end of an interval, the watch detects I have stopped and somewhere temporarily records that time. If I then press the pause button, the watch learns I’m resting and permanently records that time as the end time of the last interval. If I start swimming again, it should forget the temporarily recorded time and wait for a new stop. In any case, the watch does not use the time the pause button is pressed as the end time.

      Before the beginning of the following interval, the pause button is pressed again. I would expect the following: There’s an accelerometer, therefore after pressing pause in rest mode the watch should wait for a clear push off the wall and record that time as the start time of the interval. However, you explained that unpausing and then pushing will add at best a second. Why? Does the accelerometer catch spurious movements one might make when preparing to push?

  51. Hi David-

    Sorry, meant to answer your question regarding whether or not Garmin is considering adding the new Swim features back over to the FR910XT (such as drill mode).

    I asked them it as well, and didn’t get much of a response there. They are aware that they are cool features, and I do suspect we’ll probably eventually see it ported over, but I suspect we may not see it until a bit later. Just my guess.


  52. Anonymous

    One reason for switching to the Garmin Swim from the Finis Swimsense is the use of the Ant stick and the ease of uploading. The Swimsense uses a cradle and USB cable that can be a little problematic. You would also need to carry the cradle with if you tend to upload workouts to more then one computer at differnet places like I do.

  53. I would be buying this right now if it could talk to a footpod, gsc, and hr strap – in otherwords the FR80 concept that has been mentioned… and it sounds like the hardware is probably all there for it. Hopefully Garmin will either update the firmware to give this watch what it could have, or release an “FR80” version of it with firmware to match.

  54. i stilgoe

    As a newby this might be obvously daft question, but are these watches useful for training in an endless pool as there is no “push off” or length.
    Is anything recommended for endless?

  55. Unfortunately, they won’t work in an endless pool. I wish I had a solution for you, but there’s really nothing out there. The only thing that the Garmin Swim will allow you to do is manually enter in the distance as a ‘drill’. Which means at least it would track total distance and time, just not relevent stroke information. Which, means it’s honestly not much better than pen and paper at that point.


  56. Damian

    I bought one on the strength of your review, but I’ve had a cold since it arrived and haven’t used it yet.

    I am pretty sure the owners manual wasn’t in the box, only the quick start guide in 100 languages :)

    If you started a session in open water wouldn’t it just keep counting your strokes ? It would be useful, because most people know roughly how far each stroke takes them so for open swimming it’d be somewhat useful.

    My big concern is it picking up my turnarounds. I’m pretty messy at the wall and as I’m in a 25m pool for winter (Australia) I don’t push off too much as it swallows the length. Still I cna fix the data afterwards based on stroke anomolies.

  57. Damian

    Well so far it’s a disaster. Over 2000 meters in a 25 meter pool it’s adding about 1 lap in 5 over what I’m actually swimming. It’s misidentifying type of stroke which doesn’t matter. I can’t see any obvious way to correct the data on Garmin connect. I emailed Garmin but no response. Looks like I’ve wasted $155.

  58. Anonymous

    Hello, I bought the Garmin Swim and confused styles. The worst thing is that in a session of 2000 meters, even marking them well, pressing STOP add up to 100 meters.
    I contacted Garmin and the response has been ridiculous, I hope it fixed soon, after having the PoolMate that worked perfect, this seems like a scam.

    RainMaker, you do not have any contact to send you the great disappointment of users? Just read the forums Garmin Swim, all are complaints.


  59. Damian-

    Have you had a chance to check out my notes on how to improve lap recongnition with these types of devices? Check out my Garmin FR910XT post, as I go into a ton of tiny little things to do that really help.


    On stroke recongnition – that’s a tough one. In looking at the Garmin Forums, I only actually see one complaint about stroke recongnition – though, I may be missing some.

    I wish I had a better answer on that one – but I primarily swim freestyle, as anything else looks pretty odd for me.


  60. Great review, really thorough and informative. Thank you.

    Do you know if Garmin are considering adding a distance/time alarm feature to this watch? Seems like a bit of an oversight for a device like this.


  61. Damian

    Thank you for your reply.

    I read the xt review and am doing as much of that as I can. I am prepared to accept my technique is sloppy, but the additional laps are just too frequent. It’s not like 2 lengths in 80 it’s 16ish.

    Garmin eventually got back and suggested firmware update. I’ve done that and will get in the pool as soon as I can. Unfortunately I was in hospital for a procedure Tuesday so my next workout has been delayed.

    Again thank you for your trouble. Great site.

  62. Thanks Damian.

    Yeah, definitely update the firmware – that may help a bit (or actually a lot), as it depends a bit on which firmware you were on initially.

    Good luck!

    Oh, and on the distance/alarm question, I’m not sure at this point. I’ve asked in the past – but haven’t heard back. I do suspect that eventually you’ll see all of the Garmin swim-capable units come into alignment on features. Which at present, is really only the FR910XT and Garmin Swim.

  63. Anonymous

    Great Review !

    I have the 910XT and began to use it on every swim workout until I got a problem. I was in the middle of a lap and the screen froze. It didn’t respond to any button I pressed. Then the screen went blank. It took me a few minutes to turn it on again. After this incident I decided that this watch was to expensive to screw it up on the pool. I wonder if pressing the start/stop button underwater had anything to do with this problem. In case your are wondering, the battery was at least at 75% capacity. I have tested many pool watches and almost 90% of them get problems after a while because you press the buttons underwater.
    From that point of view, I think Garmin Swim is a better choice for me.

  64. Anonymous

    Extra laps & Style detection problems. SOLVED !

    Hi, the solution to my problems with the watch, have resolved to do a Factory Reset.

    Simultaneously press the keys History / watch icon / Up Arrow, then say YES
    There will need to reconfigure the entire watch and lose the history in the watch.

    Now do not add more laps.
    Matches the style! incredible!

    Now if I’m happy with the watch!

  65. Awesome, great to hear!

  66. Damian

    I did a session this morning and kept careful track of laps. 4 sets of 500 meters. The watch thought I’d done 3350, it even recorded 2 back to back rests when I am certain I only pressed the button once on and once off.

    There is a suggestion on the garmin forum to do a reset. I’ll try this and see. If that doesn’t work I’m afraid I’ll have to return it.

    link to connect.garmin.com

    This may link to the data.

    Again thank you for your interest.

  67. Hi Damian-

    Yeah, someone two comments above yours was having a similiar issue and then did a reset – said it was night and day. Hope it works out!

  68. Luis

    Good review. It seems to have omitted one significant difference between the Swimsense and both Garmins, and that is the auto pause feature on the Swimsense. I have all my swim and rest intervals tracked without having to push the pause button. The display is not great but the auto pause feature still makes it worth keeping.

  69. Mauricio

    Great review. I got my watch (though your link) a few weeks ago. One very quick question…Do you know if rest time is included in the average pace? Or does average pace only include actual swimming time? Thanks a gain for your great reviews.

  70. Mauricio

    You mention that “this watch will recognize a lap nearly instantly after pushing off the wall”. My Garmin Swim was seems to work fine but it is very strange that the lap is being recognized slightly before I reach the end of the lap! The distance in the watch states the distance up the the last time I pushed off the wall, until I am almost at the end of the new lap. I am swimming at a 25yd pool.

  71. I am an open water swimmer and I am looking for the perfect device to help me accurately measure my distance.
    I am yet to find one that is suitable and when I saw that Garmin were involved in more swim tool I got excited. Sadly this seems to be only pool focused. Do you have any other suggestions?

  72. Thank you for your excellent reviews. I’m very glad I came across your blog. I’m trying to decide between the Garmin Swim or the Swimsense.

    They both seem to be good choices from your reviews.
    In your opinion, which one has better software for analyzing the results?

  73. Damian

    I tried a reset. Hasn’t helped. Thank you for your interest.

    I’m sending it back. May not get a refund but the things is useless to me as is.

  74. Justin

    You have some great reviews that I found very informative! I used to swim competitively and now I am getting back into lap swimming for exercise.

    I was wondering if either the Garmin Swim or any other watches have the ability to configure your workouts including intervals and rest periods and send it to the watch ahead of time?

    Ideally I would like something like this:

    Click start

    Interval 1:
    500yd with 1:00 rest
    the watch would count down the laps for the 500 and then when it detects that the last lap is done it would count down the 1:00 rest period automatically.

    Interval 2:
    5x50yd with :15 rest
    Upon each lap completion it would start the :15 countdown automatically.


    click end

  75. Any reason why Garmin can’t enable this watch or the 910xt to decrease the pool length to 20 yards? Is it more than just a software fix? I live in a condo with a 20 yard pool and very frustrating. Thanks

  76. Ricky

    This is a great page. The contents are specific. So i can know Garmin watch exactly.

    Want more stylish swimming watch?
    link to squidoo.com

  77. Hi,
    I’ve just used my Garmin Swim for the first time (bought through your excellent site). The lap count was spot on, but the stroke identification was a disaster.

    I’ve updated the firmware, but then have read some of the posts recommending a Factory Reset. This confuses me – wouldn’t this take the unit back to the firmware version that was installed at the production stage?

    Don’t Factory Reset and Firmware Update “pull” in opposite directions? Please could someone explain & recommend which is most important?

  78. Calvin

    The lap count is extremely inaccurate for me (typically showing 50% more laps than I really did). After searching on the web, it seems a big issues is consistent movement. If you have a lane for yourself and literally don’t stop, it will be fairly accurate. If you swim in a crowded pool, and you have to pass people, let them pass, speed up or slow down, make sure you don’t hit anyone etc, it’s very easy to get extra laps making the whole thing rather useless…

    Anyone got any ideas to make it more accurate in non-ideal swim situations?

  79. I’m having some serious issues with mine – stroke id and counting lengths. Firstly with the firmware it shipped with, and the same issues with the current firmware (3.0).

    I recommend avoiding the product until Garmin irons these out… if they ever do!!

  80. Bad news for the 910xt users: the new 2.6 firmware that came out more than two weeks ago did nothing for the pool swim mode :(

    So it’s seems like they want us to buy the swim watch to have those 2-3 crucial features missing in the 910xt.

    2 DCRain: look’s like you’ve missed that 2.6 update! As I use trainingpeaks, I myself rarely visit garmin connect…

  81. David

    Hello again,

    this two watches are my “finalists”, the great question is:
    -ACCURACY (refered to stroke type recognition and counting laps). Wich one is better? Garmin forum has a lot of negative comments about Garmin swim´s accuracy. I know the Rainmaker swims only freestyle, but any other one can answer it?
    -Sure Garmin swim has not autopause? Garmin web includes that function in its characteristics.
    -Can both display “intervals within an interval”. For instance, can I see the number of strokes between 150 and 200 metres in an interval of 300 mts. Or the displays are for total interval or each lap only?

  82. David

    My last post was refered to Garmin swim versus Finis swimsenses. Sorry

  83. DCRainmaker what do you think about the “heart, shoe & bike” icons in the right side??

    Probably a HR function in the future ? Could you ask Garmin about this?

    Thank you.

  84. Hi Enric-

    Garmin has a long history of creating a device platform and then re-using the device for multiple applications. For example, taking a running watch and then re-doing the firmware and making it a Golf Watch. I expect they’re re-hedging their bets here…

  85. nan

    Hi there, thanks for doing this! One question that I don’t see in the comments: I’m assuming that if I have another Garmin device (I have a Forerunner 310xt) and I’m using Garmin’s online training log, the swim watch data will upload to the same online training log account, right? I don’t have to have separate training logs for the 310 and the swim watch?

  86. Yup, correct, all one training log.

  87. Just wondering if you’ve tried to import data from any of the watches into Training Peaks, and if so, what kind of data can you recover? Which watch is most compatible with TP?

  88. This comment has been removed by the author.

  89. Would you try Android Fitnastica app? It is capable of counting your motions while swimming.

    link to play.google.com

  90. Wow.. Thank you for this review! This just settles my mind on buying a Garmin Swim.

  91. I Beastick – I’ve stuck it in my list of items to check out. Cool idea!

    Thanks Per!

  92. Anonymous

    Not completely true.
    Even according to positive reviews
    link to amazon.com

    this watch is not perfect AT ALL and misses some laps sometimes. High accuracy? You probably dreamt of it.

  93. If you’re having issues on lap accuracy, read the ‘How to get better lap accuracy’ part of my FR910XT review – which addresses the same technology and is pretty helpful:

    link to dcrainmaker.com

    I should probably include it in this review as well.

    In general, once you understand the technology, it’s pretty easy to get accurate laps (strokes is a different story). I have no problems with either watch on any sort of regular basis (outside of the known limitations which I detail).

  94. Tom


    I have to echo what Marcus said in post 16. The pace charts don’t provide any useful information when the upper and lower paces are so far apart. This is across all disciplines. Had a run pace chart recently with 50:00 and 0:00 as the upper and lower limits and a swim with 3:00 and 0:00. Maybe user set limits would be best. If I am running and my pace was over say 11:00 i wouldn’t care to know if it was 12:00 or 15:30.

    I would press Garmin on this seems easy and would benefit everyone who uses Garmin Connect.

    Auto pause and a 20 yd minimum pool size would make me consider the Swim.

    Thanks for another great review.


    • DC Rainmaker

      I do agree, I’ve pressed them on it a few times, that the pace charts are a bit wonky. I’ll poke at them again on it.

  95. den


  96. Ray

    I swim alot in an 18 meter pool. Can anyone tell me if this watch can be set for that length? Thanks.

  97. Anonymous

    I need a watch to help with open swims. The 910xt is literally too big for my wrist. Can the Garmin Swim give me any useful data for an open swim? Number of strokes? Thanks.

  98. Anonymous

    I have not. I didnt know about them. Thanks. I will stop by a store to see if they have a fabric strap i can try.

  99. Tom

    I just upgraded my Firmware to 3.2 it has one of my wish list updates included, shorter pool lengths to accommodate the pool at my gym that is only 20 yds long. Here is the list of items that the update covers:

    Changes made from version 3.00 to 3.20:

    Allows user to set custom pool size down to 17 meters or 18 yards
    Improved drill logging (after logging a drill, the watch returns to training page 4, ready to log another drill)
    Improved viewing of custom training page 5 following pauses and re-starts
    Allows user to set seconds in (Clock > Time 1 and 2) through main menu
    Improved switching between time zones (T1 & T2)
    Added abbreviated translations for units of measure, like ‘LEN’ and ‘STRK’
    Phase 1 of improved stroke type identification for breaststroke and backstroke

    • dalili

      I wish that the watch support pool size of 12,5meter, and I hope they can support it next time when they are updating the software. Have a nice day.

    • DC Rainmaker

      I don’t expect to see them go down to 12.5 meters at this point. Otherwise, they probably would have done it with the December update. :(

  100. Eric

    Thanks as always for a great review.

    I just received a Garmin swim as a gift. I’m wondering if I may want to trade up to the 910XT.
    I am a triathlete, currently use a mix of multiple devices Edge 500 on bike, the old Garmin 305 for run (will also use on the bike with the quick release, but like the additional fields on the 500) and now I have the Garmin Swim. So at this point, I have a device for each leg, but nothing for that will do all 3. Wondering if it is worth spending the extra $$ to trade it for a 910.

    Is there anything I am giving up by going to the 910 over the Garmin Swim?

    It looks like I can set both a pace and a distance alarm, or just one of the other? Would it work in open water to set a pace goal to keep on target. Would be interesting to set a goal pace for the swim and have the 910 let me know if I am “on pace” or not. I try to go out a little slower in a race, and then pick up speed, but typically find that I never end up swimming at what I set as my overall goal swim pace. Would be nice if the watch would give me a “nudge” telling me to pick up the pace while on my open water swim.

    The virtual racer feature also sounds pretty cool.

    Thanks as aways for the great reviews!!!!

  101. Tomas

    hello there, greetings from spain (sorry for my english) and thanks for this great review (amazing i must say)

    i´m looking for a swim watch and had read the whole review and 80% of questions/answers. i don`t know if it has been mentioned but i have a question:

    my typical session is:

    – 40 min warm up freestyle at 2 min each 100 meters
    – then i put my fins on and make 200 meters with kickboard focusing on freestyle kick
    – 100 meters freestyle sprint with fins on
    – 200 meters backstroke kick with kickboard on chest (fins on)
    – 100 meters backstroke sprint (fins on)
    – 200 meters butterfly kick with hands still on front (fins on)
    – 100 meters butterfly (fins on)
    – fins out and paddles on, etc etc

    does the watch count distances when you are doing kicking (hands still) exercises? maybe if you get the correct impulse at wall start?

    thanks in advance (and a happy new year!)


    • DC Rainmaker

      Hi Tomas-

      That’s the goal of ‘Drill mode’ on the Garmin Swim (not the FR910XT) – it allows you to set the swam distance during drills or kick sets. As noted above, kick sets (or anything not involving your arms) won’t correctly calculate distance. So drill mode allows you to account for those.

  102. Philippe Walter

    thanks for the review on the gps garmin. I’ve been Using a poolmate pro for almost two years and was happy until I dismantle it for exchanging the battery…and then I understood suddenly a lot about quality or lack of quality….it is still working but the inside of such products should also be shown and rated….I would say that changing the battery on the Garmin is very easy and also that the watch has a usual battery area, on the poolmate pro, forget about that…it has never been built for that issue….one would probably say..send it back…..this is not up to date…..and about the sealing function, i would also say rather poor on the poolmate….it is a miracle that it works! so, if you look for a long term relation with a swim watch, forget the poolmate products! So, any review should have a closer look at these issues, it would give a much better isea of the product overall quality….thanks for all and happy new year!

  103. Paul

    Great review as always, thanks.

    You mentioned in another review how the Swimsense can auto pause at the wall during rest periods, could you confirm whether the Swim this unit can? An earlier comment implies this but it isn’t clear.

    Thanks, Paul

  104. Tomas

    hello again and tnx for your time and fast answer

    decided to buy the garmin swim, i followed the amazon spain link to help you support site, but it only offers me second hand options from a particular seller and i don´t feel very confidence about that

    is there any way to buy it from official garmin site mentioning your site / review?


    • DC Rainmaker

      Ahh, bummer. No way to purchase from the official site via here.

      No worries, I appreciate the thought of support!

  105. Guilherme

    Hello There, great review!

    Do you know if the Swim also use the FIT file format to store data?

  106. Grant

    I noticed that you said the minimum distance for a pool is 20 meters. Does this mean that I would be unable to get accurate data out of this watch in the 12.5 meter pool at my gym?

    • DC Rainmaker

      No, no love. It wouldn’t be accurate. I mean, you could do it, but you’d have to mentally cut all the distances down later.

  107. Dave M

    As always, great review Ray.

    I received a Garmin Swim for Christmas (gotta love the wife!) and I have not had any problems with it other than user error, eg. pushing the wrong button, etc. So far I love it and could not have asked for a more useful product.

    My one question: Is there (or will there be) a function to have a preset for multiple pools (much like on the 310XT for different bikes, bike1, bike2)? I primarily swim in two pools, one is 25m and the other is 25 yards. It would be nice to be able to pick the pool I was swimming in that day instead of resetting the length each time.

    Thanks for all your hard work. Your reviews/advice make it MUCH easier for the rest of us.

  108. Chris

    Unfortunately, this is still only usable as an expensive stop watch. Just swam 1000 meters. The Garmin Swim recorded 1450 meters. While I am usually a big fan of the reviews on this site and a happy user of a Garmin Forerunner 405, I absulately disagree with Ray’s recommendation here. DO NOT BUY the Garmin Swim. It simply doesn’t work as promised.

    • DC Rainmaker

      Did you try some of the suggestions for how to improve accuracy?

    • Chris

      I tried the things you list in the FR910 review and listed in the FAQ. My issue seems to be that the watch adds additional laps. This was in a fairly empty pool with almost no other traffic, and with pretty constant swimming speed, in intervals of 100 (altervnating between freestyle and breast in between).

      I am pausing it between intervalls, I don’t change style in an intervall, I don’t walk or pause during it, I just swim normally (so no leg-only drills or anything like that), the strong push-off does not seem relevant as it counts too many and not too few laps. I really have no ideas what to do. It simply does not work for me.

  109. Juan

    Hi Ray,
    thanks to your review I bought the Garmin Swim and I am very satisfied how it works. Really helps a lot in the swimming pool and th accuracy for me is just perfect. I had no issues with lap recognition. Also when I import it in Rubitrack I can see my SWOLF results so it is very useful to analyze efficiency in my swim styles but I have some issues when importing to TrainingPeaks

    Well, the reason of my comment is that I have seen in the display that above the II (pause) icon there is a bike icon, a pod icon and a Heart icon!!!.
    See the photo on here link to plus.google.com
    Does Garmin planning to update this watch to be used in a TRI mode (I will pray to God for it!!), taking the display from another watch or maybe the plan is to launch a new ANT+ no GPS TRI watch??

    • DC Rainmaker

      Yup. :)

      I think we’ll probably see something here, but no idea when. Garmin has a long history of re-using their watch hardware models for other purposes (i.e. golfing, other fitness models, etc…).

  110. musa

    Just one problem, why he can work in open water??? thats problem for me, because im marathon swmmer, Only i need for open water is to show me how meters i swimmed in lake, and time. Can he do that, or i have to bay 910xt

    • DC Rainmaker

      No, no openwater, as there’s no GPS in it. It needs the pool walls to know how far you’ve gone. You’ll need the FR910XT instead.

  111. Mowses

    Hi, nice review as always.

    How did you get the watch to ‘not’ include rest time in the total of the workout? Mine says: time elapsed (total), time swimming… Not a major issue just bugging me. How do I do that? Thanks

  112. Cyrille

    link to buy.garmin.com

    ¹Designed for lap pools of 17 m or more.

    This was on the Garmin site for answering pool sizes!

  113. dalili

    Very nice review, I wish that the watch support pool size of 12,5meter, and I hope they can support it next time when they are updating the software. Have a nice day.

  114. Allan

    Thanks for the great reviews
    As per the “lap recording errors” some users are reporting, I also have missed or gained one or two extra laps during my swims.
    In a 25m, pool I swim alternate laps of freestyle then breaststroke in 1,000m blocks
    I’ve found by making sure the watch is firmly secure to my wrist so it won’t move independently to my forearm has greatly improved the accuracy of my Garmin Swim.
    The trick is to refasten the band one or two notches after you have entered the pool to make it secure but not uncomfortable when wet.
    Hope this may help

  115. edmundo


    as usual, great reviews, I just got a garmin swim and on the screen you can see in light grey a heart, a bike and a shoe icon, any idea if Garmin is coming with a fancy firmware upgrade or it is just sharing screens with other watches?. I checked on the manuals and there is no reference to those icons.



    • DC Rainmaker

      Nothing that they’ve shared today. I don’t expect them to upgrade this unit though with new firmware expanding its capabilities.

      I think we’ll probably see something here for a different purpose, but no idea when. Garmin has a long history of re-using their watch hardware models for other purposes (i.e. golfing, other fitness models, etc…).

  116. g

    I bought one 2 days ago.
    I hope it performs as I expect it to be.
    I’ll update once I have used it.

    Thanks for the very elaborate review!
    I’ve not seen a lot of people being this thorough in testing a device.
    Keep up the good work!

  117. Charles Gloor

    Your reviews really helped me narrow down my search to the Garmin 910XT and the Garmin Swim. In the end I was really torn between the two. I do a fair amount of swimming (8-10k per week), walking/hiking, and the odd bike ride but nothing near working on biathlons or triathlons. But I did want the ability to track my attempts at fitness.

    In the end I decided to try to have my cake and eat it as well as I was a bit reluctant to shell out for the 910XT but wanted GPS and heart-monitor functionality. So I bought the Garmin Swim and the Wahoo Blue Heart Rate Monitor. The Garmin swim gives me the info I need swimming laps (they need to improve the web site for data a bit) while the Wahoo connected to my iPhone 4S (you need this or higher) and Endomondo keeps track of everything I do outdoors or in a gym. The two potential gaps I have are:
    1. the rare occasion I do an open-water swim though in principle I can get a waterproof case for the iPhone (can you recommend any)?

    2. I am not sure how the GPS in Endomondo will work in other countries when I have roaming turned off on my iPhone. Roaming fees can be horrendous for some contracts and some countries. I am pretty well covered for Europe.

    In total I saved £127 ($200) on my configuration. I spent £160 ($252) for the Garmin Swim and the Wahoo Blue HR (already had the smartphone) vs £287 ($453) for the 910XT with Heart Rate Monitor for virtually the same level of functionality for my more limited purposes. Keep in mind we have 20% VAT in the UK so a bit pricey here.

    I thought I might share this with you as this does provide a potentially more cost effective way to improve tracking of fitness and activity.

  118. Sacha

    Hi Ray – big fan of your reviews. I used to own a 910xt until the dreaded quick release put it on the bottom of the LI Sound during a race. Downgrading to a 310xt I was torn this winter about tracking pool workouts and the Swim is a great complement. Frankly, it’s so much easier to use than the 910xt in the pool – lighter, smaller, and simpler. Accuracy is near 100% and drill mode is not only a great way to track drill distance, but also keep those lengths from contaminating your average pace.

    A few comments/questions:

    1. The other major benefit to the Swim vs the 910xt is the pause mode. It not only reverts quickly from the interval summary (a few seconds vs 10ish for 910), it has both the paused time as well as the continued prior interval time. This makes it incredibly useful for sets that are “on the 2s” versus “20 sec rest interval”. Pause mode was a major shortcoming for the 910 (and maybe they improved it since mine swam with the fishes).

    2. The summary mode for the Swim includes a strokes per minute (SPM) summary, which is a nice bonus feature. However, there’s no corresponding field in Garmin Connect. I realize that calculating a summary is pretty easy since total moving time and total strokes are listed, but do you think Garmin could include a SPM summary per interval? That would be pretty cool.

    3. Do you know if you can keep workouts on the watch? Whenever I download data to Garmin the workouts disappear. Probably a memory conservation issue and not a big deal but occasionally it’s nice to have the data offline.

    Thanks again for your insights. For those on the fence – if you train in a pool this watch with DC’s 10% discount and free shipping through Clever Training is a great deal.

    • DC Rainmaker

      Thanks for the comments!

      Regarding workouts, no, not today. Perhaps down the road, but today they don’t support transferring swim workouts of any sort to any Garmin watches. Too bad!

    • William R


      The reason data is being removed from the watch everytime you sync with Garmin Connect is because in the ANT Agent program, you have enabled it to remove the data everytime you sync to Garmin Connect. Uncheck that box, and you will have the data saved on the watch. In other words, its not the watch that is erasing the data, it is Garmin ANT agent erasing the data until you tell it not to do so.

  119. g

    Hi all,

    I promised to put my experience with this device here.

    I swam around 3.5km in total, breaststroke. I used custom pages and intervals.
    Until now i only got one length miscount.
    Apart from that I am pretty happy about this device.
    The menu is fast, you can easily start the swimmode and the menus and buttons have logical functions.
    The manual is really small, but in the end it shouldn’t be any bigger.

    The idea of putting the total km done (from the last week IIRC) is nice to have.

    Only downside for me is that you really have to turn the display directly to you to see anything on the screen.
    So while you are pushing yourself of the wall and you are going to the surface, you can’t do a quick glance without really bending your arm.

  120. Lucas M

    I purchased this watch in July 2012 on DCRainmaker’s recommendation. Now with over 7 months of swimming 3 times a week I could not have been happier with my decision. This swim watch has really worked flawlessly. I have had perhaps less than 10 times that the watch may have missed on length during a swim session – that’s it! No, other issues with it at all.

    I have purchased several products solely based on DCRainmaker’s recommendations and have found his reviews to be incredibly accurate and insightful. I would not hesitate to refer anyone to his website information related to any triathlon related gadget.

    Thank you, Ray, for all the wonderful work that you do and have done. I have tried to become very faithful in rewarding your site by purchasing items through your amazon links so you can continue to give the triathlon community such a great resource.

  121. G

    Hi Rainmaker,

    I have this watch now and I do get sometimes that too much lengths are counted.
    You said in your article that there are some recommendations on the swimming style to make sure the watch doesn’t count incorrectly. Where can I find those?

    Last time I went for a swim and forgot to change to 50 meters. For one or another reason the length that I swam still look pretty accurate. I did a few 100m stints. in those I had 2 times that instead of 100m it counted as 125m. So if I had set it to 50m it would be 100m off in total.

    However apart from that, the total length seems pretty correct. Or I swam 2.5km in a timeframe in which I normally do 1.5km :p

  122. RSRN

    Hi, first of all, thank you for all the reviews. I read your comment placed on 31th of Dec 2012 about auto pause NOT being a feature. But the Garmin site states today:

    “Auto-detect rest times: yes”

    Is this a firmware upgrade, can you comment if it works? I swim 3 times a week (different strokes, different intervals depending on were we are in the swimming season) and the intervals change for example from 10*50meters to 2*400meter. Pausing and unpausing is (to be honest) too much of a hassle. I just want to rest, and start again not thinking about my watch.

    Thanks for again for all the reviews, problem with most of the sites that just review 1 product is you always doubt if they actually tested it or just want the referrals. Thanks.

    • DC Rainmaker

      I think that’s a symantecs thing. The rest times are determined after the fact by lack of swimming, but it’s not actually pausing the timer in the pool. Make sense?

      As a side note, they did release a firmware update last week that adds support for larger pools (up to 150m), and other items. See this: link to buy.garmin.com

  123. RSRN

    Hi, thanks for the answer. I’m not a native speaker so let me get this straight. After warming-up 500 meters in one ‘go’. The trainer explains our next assignment. 20 times 50meter (in a 25m pool) with 15 seconds rest after each 50meters. I don’t touch the watch at all. After I finish this session, the watch registered 1 interval 500meters, rest, 50m, rest, 50m, rest, 50m.. etc etc. (you get it I presume ;)). Is this correct? The times will be off a bit because it pauses after it detects I’m not swimming anymore?

    I’m not that interested in specific times, more in that I can see what we actually swam.

  124. Jon

    Thanks for the helpful review.

    Could you give any insight about how useful this watch is out of the water? In particular, I do a regular hill workout that since it’s similar to a swimming workout in the sense of just going back and forth, I wonder if the watch might be used to automatically count and time my repeats?

  125. Very good review! I have been using a Swimsense for the last two years. I swim 1500 meters daily with swim snorkel and do need to look at my progress. It’s difficult to see the display especially with bad eyes and goggles. The Swimsense band broke at the clasp after one year and I stitched it back together and it works fine.
    The biggest risk with the Swimsense is website support. Since moving to FINIS the website is often down preventing upload and viewing of your data.
    I used this review to purchase the new Garmin Swim; however, the DCR10BTF doesn’t work. You may want to check on it. Thanks again.

    • DC Rainmaker

      Hi Phil!

      Hmm, that’s strange. When you put the DCR10BTF coupon code in, it didn’t mark off the 10%? If so, let me know and I’d be happy to get you all sorted out with Clever Training.

      Thanks for the support!

  126. Chris

    The last firmware update 3.4 dramatically improved lap count accuracy for me.

    The watch was totally useless for me as it would be counting 30-40% more laps than I actually did (slow swimmer in 25m pool with almost no other swimmers). But after the last firmware update, it counted EXACTLY the right number of laps in 68 across multiple intervalls.

    Sadly, stroke recoginiton still does not work for (my) breast stroke. 8 laps of breast stroke would be counted as 3 breast, 3 freestyle and 2 back stroke in random order. If I swim an intervall in freestyle it works fine.

    So with the firmware update the watch went from “absolutely do not buy” to “definately buy unless you need the storke recognition” for me. Thought I’d share if anyone else has issues with the accuracy but is still on an older firmware…

  127. Hi Rainmaker,

    congratulations for your contributions, all of your reviews are deep and very interesting.

    I’m using this garmin swim on the pool successfully, is a very useful gadget. But hopefully in any of the new firmware versions they include a vibrant motor not just for the starts … could be great to notify every Km or mile like the 310XT …

    Now I’m evaluating any option for open waters, but I prefer solutions to set on the cap against the wrist and, to be honest both 910XT and 310XT are heavy and large. Could be the 610 or 410 good alternatives for openwaters and some running sessions?

    Thank you,


    • DC Rainmaker

      I don’t think you’ll see the Garmin Swim add in vibrations via a firmware update – since that requires a mechanical change.

      For openwater, either of those will work. Just stick them in a plastic baggie to be safe. Enjoy!

  128. Thanks Rainmaker,

    They could apply the alert used to notify the begin of a swim session to notify a distance … at least for me could be enough this sound notification. And could be applied without any mechanical update.


  129. Scott Buchanan

    Hey Ray,
    You mentioned about a year ago the possibility of Garmin adding HR to the Swim. Any idea if this feature is any closer?

    • DC Rainmaker

      I haven’t heard that anything is any closer in that regards unfortunately. :(

    • G

      Don’t get your hopes up on something like that. They have devices of 500 euro that can do HRM under water. I don’t think it is very interesting from a sales perspective to create a swim watch with this possibility. It would probably double the price of the watch.

  130. Andreas Brenner

    Thanks for the great reviews. Much more better than all the professional magazines.

    I am very happy with the Garmin Swim and in my case it is very accurate.

    But after some months of using the display mist up when the sun was shining on the watch. After some seconds the mist disappeared.
    After a fast replacement by Garmin it is the same with the new watch.

    Is there anybody out there who has the same problems?

    I can not imagine, that the humidity inside do not causes problems in the long run.

  131. G

    I have bought this watch a few months ago.

    I had length miscounts pretty frequently (every time I go for a swim).
    Although someone might say that having 1 or 2 length miscount is not that bad I rely on it to see my progress. Sometimes I noticed 4 to 5 miscounts:s

    First thing in resolving this is updating the firmware to the last revision.
    2nd: I noticed pretty recently why I sometimes have miscounts. When I get tired sometimes I pull my arms under me(doing breaststroke), similar to crawl. This is what triggers a new length I believe.
    So make sure you get the palms of your hands next to you instead of in front (so basically it’s my bad swimstyle sometimes :) ).
    Also make sure you decently push yourself of the wall.

    I hope this helps someone else.

  132. Anna

    Do you have any experience if the watch also works in a crowed swimming pool?
    I could imagine that swimming around other people could cause problems…

    I’d really like to have something that keeps track of the laps I swam but it’s quite a lot of money (for a student), so I would like to make sure that it actually works for me..

    • DC Rainmaker

      In a crowded pool it’ll depend if pace differs. If you’re all the same pace (no stopping/pace-shifts mid-lane), you’ll be good. But if you’re in a pool where you’re constantly changing pace mid-late, it will have fairly mixed results.

    • Anna

      Thanks for the quick answer.

      I think the watch probably wouldn’t work for me then as the pool I swim in is often quite crowded :(

      I bought the Sportcount Chrono 100 instead… it doesn’t have so much functionality and I would have liked to be able to connect the devise to the computer and not have to click for every lap, but it’s probably the ‘safest’ way and cheaper….

  133. Hi Ray, this is a comprehensive and very helpful review as usual. If you said this site and not IT consultant was your full-time job, your readers would believe you. Can you please give color on Garmin’s warning in Swim and FR60/70 manuals not to push buttons underwater? Although I am intrigued by this watch to help me train for tris with FR60, that warning and lack of auto-pause hold me back. I know out of habit I would push button underwater on occasion.

    • DC Rainmaker

      Hi Adam-

      I’d ignore those warnings. :)

      I’ve never had an issue – even pressing buttons on the FR60 down at 90ft below water.

  134. James

    Hi Rainmaker,

    Have you had a chance to check out the new PoolmateHR? It seems to address some of the shortcomings you have previously identified with the Poolmate Pro (lap by lap data, vibrating alert) and now has a heart rate monitor. It can also track HR and basic time metrics on dry land. Is it a game changer? Or is the lack of web-based software still a major drawback?

    Thanks for your great reviews.

    • DC Rainmaker

      Hi James-

      Actually I picked up one I ordered while I was in the US, just got back home this afternoon. I’ll be looking at it, but it’s behind in the queue a bit.

      I don’t expect it to be a game changer, but I could be proven wrong. Ultimately, it depends on a HR strap while underwater – and I’ve long seen that simply doesn’t work for men (as it slides down to your waste upon a flip/open turn pushing off the wall due to water pressure). Again, happy to somehow be proven wrong once I start using it.

  135. scott buchanan

    Got a Swim a few days ago and its just giving me plain crazy data. Pool length input correctly doing really slow and obvious breaststroke and using the latest firmware yet laps count and total distance is out by a country mile. Is the unit faulty or am I missing something? Sorry just musing to myself in total frustration!!!

    • DC Rainmaker

      I couldn’t speak to the breaststroke piece. Any chance it gets better with freestyle (just trying to understand if it’s related to the stroke recognition piece or the unit as a whole is having problems).

  136. Ray,

    I’ve been taking swim lessons to correct some issues in my stroke that were causing shoulder impingement. I am using the Total Immersion swimming style which promotes a more relaxed stroke. Ever since the new stroke, the watch is not registering my laps correctly. I still push against the wall so I would expect the accelerometer would still register I’ve completed 25 but its inconsistent. My stroke is still freestyle just adjusted to relieve the shoulder issue. Any idea why the watch is having issues. I’ve resorted to drill mode to capture how much I swam because of this.

    • DC Rainmaker

      Hi Myrna-

      Eek, not sure on that. The biggest component is the acceleration. Is the watch shorting everything, or a mix?

  137. Rob

    Thanks for a great review. I purchased this item yesterday and had it delivered overnight based on your review. After my first day with it in the pool I am pleased to say that I love it. Prior to this I was using the Poolmate Pro, but after changing the battery myself the watch began randomly resetting when buttons were pressed. I have to say I am almost glad that happened (as painful as it was to shell out another $150), this watch is so far superior to the Poolmate Pro it’s unbelievable. I would highly recommend this to anyone.

  138. David

    Dear Rainmaker,

    First of all, excellent report!

    I got myself a Garmin Swim watch as most of the time I have to train alone, hence I needed a “motivator”. Sometimes this can be a new swim toy, or a new suit, new googles… and I was after one of these watches for a long time… Toys for boys, lol.

    I’ve tried it this morning and everything seemed fine and straightforward. I’ve spent the day reading plenty of reviews and handbooks, but I am still puzzled about how to record a whole workout… I think it’s best seen with an example:

    Let’s say I plan to do this very simple workout, short, and for the sake of this message, in one style only (free):

    Sample workout:
    Pool size: 25 metres

    Warm up:
    400 free

    6×50 (descend 1-3;4-6) leave on 50 secs.

    200 pull with paddles
    200 kick with board
    200 pull with PT paddles

    Main set:
    [300 light aerobic – 10 sec rest
    3×100 medium aerobic – 15 sec rest
    6×50 hard aerobic – leave on 60 sec]

    Cool down:
    100 easy free
    100 easy back.

    Question: I understand that I should hit the START button when I commence my warm up. Do I hit the STOP button and SAVE when I finish the 400, or not? I’ve discovered that if I hit STOP and then SAVE when I finish, a SESSION is recorded. If I hit STOP and then RESUME (when I start again), a new interval recording takes place, but for me this is not INT2. It is INT1 of the 6×50 that I plan to do next… Am I making myself clear? What I mean is… Is the watch designed to make workouts composed of sessions (for every part of the workout), or am I doing something wrong?

    As for recording drills, it’s all very easy and clear.

    Thanks in advance,


    • DC Rainmaker

      Hi David-

      Yup, I understand you. The challenge is the watch doesn’t really understand the embedded sets, so for example the 2x[X,Y,Z]. It understands X,Y,Z, but not that it’s part of something else.

      What I do (I have similiar workouts), is just tap the pause button any time I’m hanging out at the wall. So if that’s after 50’s, then cool, or if it’s after 300y, then cool. This gives me clean pace times later on online for each component.

  139. David

    HI, and thanx for your swift response.
    What option is best for you? A or B below?


    INT. 1 – 400, STOP

    INT. 2 – 50, PAUSE
    INT. 3 – 50, PAUSE
    INT. 4 – 50, PAUSE
    INT. 5 – 50, PAUSE
    INT. 6 – 50, PAUSE
    INT. 7 – 50, STOP

    INT. 8 – 200 DRILL, STOP

    INT. 9 – 200 DRILL, STOP

    INT. 10 – 200 DRILL, STOP

    INT. 11 – 300, STOP

    INT. 12 – 100, PAUSE
    INT. 13 – 100, PAUSE
    INT. 14 – 100, STOP

    INT. 15 – 50, PAUSE
    INT. 16 – 50, PAUSE
    INT. 17 – 50, PAUSE
    INT. 18 – 50, PAUSE
    INT. 19 – 50, PAUSE
    INT. 20 – 50, STOP

    INT. 21 – 300, STOP

    INT. 22 – 100, PAUSE
    INT. 23 – 100, PAUSE
    INT. 24 – 100, STOP

    INT. 25 – 50, PAUSE
    INT. 26 – 50, PAUSE
    INT. 27 – 50, PAUSE
    INT. 28 – 50, PAUSE
    INT. 29 – 50, PAUSE
    INT. 30 – 50, STOP

    INT. 31 – 100, STOP

    INT. 32 – 100,



    PS: Again, thanks for the incredible review!!!

  140. Chris

    There is a new firmware out for the Swim: 3.6.

    I strongly recommend to NOT install this. I did today, went for a swim, and now I can’t get to the data. ANT Agent doesn’t find anything to upload. Manual Upload on Garmin Connect only finds old activities, but not the one done today with 3.6. Endomondo upload does not work. The new activity displays fine on the watch itself. And the ANT Agent setup works as I used it a couple hours ago to upload the firmware, and the browser plugin works because it finds the watch and displays older activities. In other words, Garmin fucked up again. Stay away from this.

    • Chris

      After being prompted to update the firmware AGAIN today, the sync works again. Strangely the version number is the same as before, so not sure if this is actually a new version of if it just corrected something. Either way, it works again for me.

      On the positive side: The stroek recognition seems a lot better. I have done 72 laps, about half freestyle and half breaststroke, and it got every single one correct.

  141. Phillip L.

    My apologies if I missed this information in the review, but I have not been able to find the following information anywhere:

    How much does the Finis SwimSense weigh, and what water-resistance ratings does it have? The Swimovate PoolMate is 41 g and rated to 50 m.

    How thick is the Swimovate PoolMate? The Garmin Swim is 13 mm thick. I thought I read somewhere that the SwimSense is about 15 mm thick.

    • DC Rainmaker

      Ok, back home and with access to scale.

      Swimsense weighs: 47g

      Water resistance isn’t specified on the unit itself, but given it’s for swimming, you’re pretty much good there. Unless you’re talking diving – in which case I wouldn’t recommend it with the design of this particular unit.

      The Poolmate width is 9mm.

      I guess the thing in my mind is that all those other watches are really subpar to the Garmin Swim, and the differences in width/etc are just tiny compared to the loss of functionality. Just my two cents.

  142. Daniel U

    Just got my garmin swim a day ago. I was riding my bike today and had the watch with me and started seeing moist (condensation ) on the screen. I saw it going away, soon after I stoped. Have you seen this at all?

    • DC Rainmaker

      It sounds like there may have been a crack in there (could happen if dropped, or just defect), ring up and have it swapped out. Eventually it’ll die. Haven’t ever heard of one on a Swim though.

  143. Jerry

    I swim in a 55 foot pool. This equals 16.764 meters or 18.3 yards. Does this watch have the ability to enter these distances for the pool length? by the way, Great Review!

  144. RJP

    Ray – thanks for the review. I’m a bit late to the party, so hope you check in here. Can you comment on the relative legibility of the Garmin Swim vs the PoolMate Pro? Biggest issue I have with my Poolmate is that it’s hard for my 47yo eyes to read at the pool in the morning. Small font, low light, and tinted goggles make for difficulty. How legible is the Garmin? Mostly concerned about ability to see lengths, distance, and total time. (Which it seems like I should be able to set up on the custom screen, but that looks smallish.) Is there a mode where the Distance and Time is easily read?

  145. Jerry

    I’ve tried everything with my PoolMate. ie. Switched hands, Longer push from wall but it always undercounts my laps. I’ve even lengthened and shortened my stroke (freestyle). Do you think the reason is that my pool is 18 yards long. I am going to return the watch after weeks of trying to make it work but I would love to purchase an alternative that RELIABLY counts laps. Any ideas?

    • Joel Berman

      Having similar problems with poolmate. Requires a long glide at the start of each lap. I do sets if 36 laps and it rarely counts correctly.

  146. Arcadio

    Hi Ray:

    I’m from Monterrey, Mexico. Today I went to the local Garmin dealer to buy a Garmin Swim. The sales person told me: “If you want to know everything about your new watch, go to http://www.dcrainmaker.com. I told him that I already read your review and that was the basis for my purchase. Just wanted to let you know. Regards

  147. Maria Martinsson

    Hi Ray,

    Just wanted to say that I really appreciated your review and also ask you a question. I am considering buying a swim watch, and was wondering which one you would recommend. I used to swim when I was younger (12-16), and though I no longer swim on a team I still swim a lot on my own, mostly long distance.
    I’m 19 now and going to university in the fall, so my budget is a bit limited, but basically I’m wondering if it’s worth spending more money on a multisport watch, even if I am probably only going to use it for for swimming, or if the garmin swim is just as good, or if there is another swim-specific watch that’s better. I was also wondering if you knew anything about a new garmin swim coming out; I haven’t heard anything about it, but I just want to make sure I don’t buy a watch and then a month later a new version comes out :)

    I really appreciate any and all help you can give me,
    Thanks in advance,

    • Hi Maria-

      If you’re primarily a swimmer, then I’d go with the Garmin Swim. I definitely don’t expect a new version to come out (it only came out exactly a year ago yesterday), and Garmin is typically a two-year cycle kinda company.

      There’s not much else out there at this price point that does indoor swimming + other sports. You would have the TomTom watch, but the timelines for that aren’t exactly clear at the moment. Sometime this summer. Pricing also unclear.

      Hope this helps!

  148. Hi Ray,

    I like to know if Garmin swim can be used like the Finis tempo trainer pro. I think this two simple function are very useful on swim training:

    Triple beep from 1 second to 9:59 minutes Perfect for pace
    Single beep in strokes/strides per minute Perfect for cadence Pacing

    Thanks a lot for your great review.

  149. Graham Dunn

    I’ve been using a Garmin Swim for about a year now (swimming max 4-6k yards a week) as my day to day watch, and the durability is not as good as what I’ve seen from my 305 Forerunner. The light has stopped working, and the blue “swim” button has cracked. Other than the light, all functions still work, data, etc. Just thought I’d throw a data point in.

  150. The Borg

    IF YOU ARE A COMPETITIVE SWIMMER, this watch is missing one very important thing in the Connect analytics. It will not give you your splits which if you compete, is pretty essential. However, if you download the CSV file into Microsoft Exel, then delete all the colons in the 25m times, you then have clean data which can use to give you some very powerful analytics. You can create graphs and really drill down your performance for each interval by splits over whatever distance you want within the interval.

    Compare that to your competitors (if you know them and their splits) and you can quickly target specific areas to train for and improve. You would think 100m splits would be obvious as a standard feature as it is a swimmer’s watch, but triathletes are not too bothered about this like swimmers are obsessed by it, and the watch is clearly aimed at this bigger market. If you are prepared to spend a couple minutes cleaning up the data, you can do far more in Exel than Garmin Connect, but that doesn’t help you in the water between intervals.

    Apart from that, this watch is awesome and does exactly what it says it will. Easy to wear in the water (I don’t wear a watch at any other time), easy to use and well worth it. You can not beat the clock, even if you can beat SWOLF (which swimmers easily manipulate), the clock is definitive. Compare you splits with SWOLF and maybe you have a technique issue. Since RainMaker did this very useful & comprehensive review, a few nice little updates have been applied through firmware updates, the best of which is the 3 second countdown on an alarm. I only swim freestyle and it hasn’t missed a single length.

    • It gives you splits on Garmin Connect, right within the ‘Swim Graph’. You’ll see each 25m lap time.

      Meanwhile, your 100m times over the course of the swim are shown within the ‘Pace Graph’ (just click to expand it out), and you can drag over it for every length of the pool. And finally, you can click to expand that graph.

  151. The Borg

    Hi – maybe I haven’t explained myself clearly. Swimmers need 100m, 200m & 400m splits depending on distances swam. This isn’t showing up in my swim graph, just the distance for the interval and 25m splits, so do I have a software issue, hence using Exel is better so I can see 100m & 200m splits.

    Pace intervals do not give me the 4 x 100m splits I need for a 400m swim, or 8 x 100m splits for an 800m swim but pace is very useful per length to compare, especially against 100m splits overlaid on a graph. Eg, a swim for 200m had 2 x 100m splits, both of which are different from the pace graph as that is for that length. If you add up those Ave Pace score and divide by 4 (for 100m), it will give you the 100m split – this is not the same as the 4th Ave Pace displayed. Ave Pace works to the second and 1/10th of a second so it’s back to adding up 25m splits. Awesome review you did, helped me make my mind up. I think the analytics is a bit weak. Thanks

  152. graham cox

    I cannot believe that no-one seems to have mentioned the 2 most obvious reasons for using a water lap watch for swims.
    1. I want to see IN BIG HUGE numbers the laps completed. I know I have to swim 80 laps to do 1 mile (20m pool), but I cant see ANY watch that shows the LAP i’m on in BIG numbers so I can see this at a glance.
    2. I want a vibrate alarm to notify half way and the final end lap.
    These are such simple needs for 99% of regular pool swimmers… I can’t for the life of me wonder why they don’t offer these. I used the speedo pool watch… works ok but the lap display is TINY…

    PLEASE tell me there is a watch that can do this… it would appear the watch companies have forgotten the basics!!

    • IMHO all this watches are designed to analyse the work after the training session. Non of them helps you during the workout. As you said there are some basic functions, that seems to be very simple to be implemented, but none of the most specialized swimming watches have.

      my wish list probably will be:

      Tempo mode: beeper or vibration to work on stroke pace

      Pace maker: beeper or vibration every xx seconds. If you want to do 5×100 on 1’30 you can adjust pacemaker on 45″ and see if you go over/down pace on the 50m turn.

      Laps control: when doing 800-1000 some indicators on the middle and the last lap.

      workout programming: With complex workouts I have to go to the swimming pool with the workout writed on a post-it . It’s just not about programming laps, rest-time, etc. That will include som text filds to introduce your coach comments (Slow, fast, 15m sprint-relax, …)

      Without this kind of things, swimming watches are just a geek tool.

  153. StefHous

    Ok, last week I bought this watch, partly based on this review.

    I did 3 trainings so far with this watch, but I still have some practical questions:

    First, when I start the swim timer and I complete a lap and take a 5 – 10 sec breather, do I really have to pause the watch? Or does the watch know that i’ve ended my lap and will stop counting the time for that lap? And will it start the timer again when i push myself away from the wall for the next lap?

    Second, sometimes my pool is really crowded and i’m obliged to do a full stop or switch to breaststroke because another swimmer is blocking the lane, how does this effect my timing and lap count? I see in my garmin connect that I have some wonky timings. For exemple 32 seconds on a 50 m lap. (My best is perhaps 45 seconds) … I’m guessing the watch counted the lap until i performed that full stop? More info on my profile page… link to connect.garmin.com (just learned freestyle the last 3 weeks, so dont focus too much on the numbers ;-) )


    • It can recognize a pause, but whether it does that is a whole different question (given the short duration).

      As for switching or stopping, yes, absolutely, that will unfortunately impact things in bad ways as you noted. I deal with the same things (I often have 15-17 people in my LANE). In that case, I focus on slowly slowing down when I’m coming up on someone, rather than outright stopping or switching strokes. It helps.

  154. StefHous

    Thanks!! I’ll keep that in mind during my next training!

  155. Floris Van de Vijver


    do you have a .fit file from the garmin swim watch that you could share?
    the reason why i ask is that a just got a poolmate watch as a present but i would like to post my workouts to garmin connect (as i already do for my runs and bike rides). therefore i would like to reverse engineer it, such that i can write an interface between my poolmate and garmin connect

    thanks in advance

  156. Mirco


    first of all thanks for the great review.

    I just have one question, because it is not clear for me: I have understood that this model does not have the auto-pause function as the Finis Swimsense (IIM function), but I do not have understand what happens if I do not press pause and start again when I am at the wall: it just do not register the pause time, but understand that I have done a pause, or it does not recognize at all that I’m freeze and maybe make also some mistake (as I change the style during the swim).

    Thanks a lot!

  157. Armando


    Thanks for the detailed and usefull review.

    I believe this watch has some cool features but Garmin is forgetting the basics, which is what we need in a pool watch. Programming your workouts before hand and getting an advisory when you hit your target (time or distance) is the most basic function you would expect from this type of watch. Otherwise we still have to count laps and manually start/stop your intervals. This adds no value over a normal and cheaper sports watch.

    Garmin should add code to overcome this. …

    The absence of the above mentioned functions is a show stopper for me, and will make me search for an alternative.


    • You don’t really have to count laps, since that’s sorta the point of the watch. You just have to actually look at the watch, and it’ll tell you how far you’ve gone.

  158. GregB

    Your review spurred me to get this watch, and tons of thanks. After shoulder surgery 4 months ago, I need something to help me track my swim recovery, so I can easily say, “See? I am getting faster!” I’ve been impressed with it so far, and only user error (pressing the wrong button) has resulted in a lap being missed, but that parrot in a blender sound is my new friend: if I don’t hear it, I abort the lap.

    I’ve got two questions about use: how quickly after you touch the wall do you hit pause? I have found myself hitting it frantically underwater ASAP after touching, and it looks like my last 25 of every interval is the fastest. I wonder if it subtracts a “reasonable time” from the last length to account for the button press.

    The second question has to do with the [new firmware 3.6] countdown timer. Have you used it, and if so, could you explain it? I’m guessing it gives you a few seconds to take off after hitting pause so you can concentrate on your start.

    Thanks again! I’m recommending this to every swimmer I know (and making sure you get the credit)

    • GregB

      I’ve figured out the coundown feature. It gives you a 3-2-1 beep followed by the Start interval alert (parrot+blender) and it’s rather helpful.

  159. murray marden

    I’ve been trying to find out what the minimun pool length that can be imputed into this watch is. The Garmin website has to different answers. The first says that under CUSTOM the imput for yards is from 18 to 100. They also say that the minimum for yards is 22 to 100. I have not purchased the watch yet because I swim daily in a 20yd pool. Does anyone know the correct figure, 18 or 22?? Thanks Mur

  160. C.B.

    I bought the watch about a year ago. The watch is easy to use and i never experienced major errors with the counting of the laps. The only “bug” detected is that the watch does not identify the swim style correctly if you swim freestyle without a flip turn. It changes from freestyle to backstroke and back. But for me (a fitness swimmer) this is not a real problem.

    Cheers from Switzerland,


  161. Bryn

    Thanks for the review.
    How does this compare to the Speedo Aqua Coach?

    Thanks from NZ

  162. Sarah


    For someone that is using swimming for fitness, but is not concerned with lap times, but more concerned with heartrate, which Garmin watch do you suggest? Would the Garmin Swim still be the way to go?

  163. Paul

    Hi Ray,

    I’ve read 95% of the posts/comments and still have this lingering question. I have a 910XT for my triathlons, but it doesn’t do what I specifically want. I have a Timex that has 2 interval timers, but it does only just those two. Can you recommend a swim watch where you can program in complex workouts ranging from warm-ups to multiple sets of repeats of intervals?

    The long post from David (who sounds ominously like the David I swim with here in Bangkok) above is the kind of workout I’d do. My problem is counting laps, counting which interval I’m on, and the send off. Doing complex workouts that are very tiring and having to keep track of send-offs and laps is quite impossible for me.

    Would really appreciate your opinion.

    Thank you and keep up the great work!


  164. Guy

    I purchased a Suunto Ambit2 Sapphire after your review on the product – so thanks. I am waiting for it to arrive. My main focus is swimming both competitively indoor and open water. It looks like the Ambit2 can do all of the indoor swim things the Garmin Swim can do. Is there anything the Garmin Swim can do that the Suunto Ambit2 cannot do either in terms of functionality or accuracy? Thank you!

    • The biggest features being alerts and drill mode, but obviously, the Ambit2/2s has other features the Garmin Swim doesn’t.

      Here’s the full table comparing those units: link to dcrainmaker.com

    • Guy

      Thanks, thats exactly what I was looking for. Being a competitive swimmer I do quite a few swim drills each session, the alerts will be less useful to me. Accepting that I have now purchased an Ambit2, is the drill capability in the Garmin Swim worth purchasing this as well as the Ambit2?

      Also are you aware of any updates to the Garmin Swim given it was released over a year ago?

      Thanks for your help and swift response – very much appreciated!

    • There’s been minor updates, but non focusing on features. Mostly things like slightly increasing pool sizes and fixing a few bugs and improving stroke recognition.

      While drill mode is nice (it is), I wouldn’t trade it for all the features of the 2/2s.

    • Guy

      Thank you. I would not be looking to swap the Garmin Swim for the Ambit2 – just purchase it for additional drill features. Appreciate your help.

    • Yeah, if you have the Ambit2 already, the drill feature really just simply pauses the unit and allows you to specify (manually) a total yardage feature. I’m not sure that feature alone is worth spending $150.

    • Jon Niehof

      Hmmm, your comparison chart says “Swimming: Indoor Alerts: Yes.” What’s that an alert for? (It doesn’t do time/distance/lap count alerts, correct?)

  165. Túlio Barros

    Thank you very much for you review! I was very disappointed about Garmin Swim’s manual. But your review filled all blanks!

    I’m using the ver. 3.60 and still confuses sometimes breaststroke and backstroke. Except for this I’m very satisfied with it.

  166. Anders

    Great review. I swim 2-3 times a week and I also do other activities as spinning, walking etc. Should I go for the garmim Swim or Suunto Ambit 2?

  167. Ellie Doyle


    You put up the following point: “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.” I cannot seem to find how to go back to normal swim mode after finishing a drill set. It stays in drill set and doesn’t automatically bring you back as you say. Please let me know if you have any suggestions or the correct instructions. Thank you.

    Ellie Doyle

  168. murray marden

    I bought the Garmin Swim mostly on the strength of your indepth review and I thought I would just take a moment to tell you that it has worked as advertised. I swim a mile and a quarter five days a week in a twenty yard pool (110 laps) and the watch has not misread a lap, a stroke, or a turn. I’ve had the watch for over a month and it remains watertight. It uploads quickly without any drama. Thanks, Mur.

  169. Sibling

    Thank you for this excellent review. I just wanted to confirm if I understood you correctly – Garmin Swim cannot record distance and pace (e.g. time per 100m ) in open water?

  170. Steven

    Did anyone notice that on the right side of the screen you can see the ghost-like, unlit imprints (much like the alarm & battery on the top) a heart, a shoe (running), and a bike? Tilt the device to catch the light and by golly they’re there!
    Could this mean that in a future firmware update they’ll add support for ANT+ accessories like a heart rate monitor, shoe pod, and cadence sensor??

    Thanks for all the work you put into these reviews, super helpful!

  171. Tom

    What about adding the stroke count to the drill log . At the end you enter length and in this way you will have open water swimming :)

  172. She

    Thanks to this very in-depth review, I am now seriously considering buying the Garmin swim. I just have a question though, has this watch been updated since you posted this review re: the stopwatch? I need it to get laps and splits.

    • Steven

      Still no laps or splits. But the swim features are great!
      I did 400 meter repeats yesterday and used the stopwatch – just had to remember my times.

    • What do you mean by times? Times are shown on the page, for both individual lengths, laps and sets.

    • Steven Taylor

      I meant 400 meter repeats on the track. I used the stopwatch and reset it every lap – remembered my times.
      Of course in the pool the watch measures and stores laps, lengths, strokes, etc etc.

  173. Tom


    I love your site – the product reviews are great and normally answer any lingering questions I have. However I do have a couple of queries on the Garmin Swim that I’m hoping you could help me with:

    1. I’m confused about the purpose of the parakeet in the blender: In your cons list you’ve said “Doesn’t contain alert functionality like FR910XT”. It would be great if it alerted me when I’m at the end of a set or interval that I’ve predefined in the watch so I know I should stop without having to count lengths. Is this what its for? It seems from reading the comments above that its not. In which case what is it for?

    2. Simple dumb question but I just want to be 100% sure: Does it keep a real-time rolling count of what length/lap you’re on that you can see on the screen while swimming? (Some Amazon reviews and replies #204 and #205 above appear to state the contrary)

    Many thanks for your excellent work – Tom

  174. sharkman

    using garmin swim, have to hit the stop/play button every second lap in the 50m pool to reg the next 50m? what am i doing wrong?. i dont seem to be able to just jump in yhe pool and swim.

    • Assuming you’ve configured it as a 50m pool, it’ll automatically count those laps for you – no button pressing required. It usually triggers the lap shortly after you’ve left the wall.

      What is it doing?

  175. Martin FV

    Can I use this in a pool smaller than 25m?

  176. Felo

    This might be a dumb question but why does the Garmin Swim have the hearth, running and cycling figures in the display? does this mean they will introduce updates that might make them useful in the future?

    Thanks and great review!

  177. Rodrigo Valle

    I just tried a friend’s Swim watch
    Did 1100m on a 25m pool, setting a bunch of “laps” with single stroke types, and others with mixed strokes.
    It worked flawlessly. Detected every length, every turn, every stroke type.
    So from my very short experience, it performed spot on. Congrats Garmin, I just might get one for myself.

    And thank you Ray for your great blog!

  178. The Garmin Swim is a great tool. It is very accurate and good at distinguishing between my stroke types. But there is one downside. There is no way to edit your swimming sessions afterwards. Sometimes there are errors (e.g. someone is in your lane and you have to stop etc.) You can upload your swim to Garmin Connect and look at it. Pretty sad. The problem has been addressed by many at the Garmin support forum. It just seems that none of the people at Garmin cares though.

    Yesterday I found out about http://swimmingwatchtools.com. The website lets you edit your data by merging or splitting length, and changing Stroke, or pool size. Afterward you can upload your processed file to Garmin Connect/Strava or any other tool.

  179. Bart Tassignon

    Thank u for all the reviews on your site. It makes choosing so much easier. :)

    I own a edge800 for biking, use my phone for running and now I’m gonna buy this watch for swimming. I was thinking about the 910XT but I think it’s a bit of an overkill considering the equipment I already have.

    So thanks again and keep them blogposts coming!

    Greetings from Belgium.

  180. Gunnar

    Do you know if the Swim watch can upload to the iPhone using the Wahoo ANT+ dongle?

    • (From back in May…)

      I went ahead and grabbed my Swim and adapter and gave it a shot. Pairing was a bit funky, it didn’t take the Pairing Enabled until after the watch had ‘gone to sleep’ for 60 seconds and woke back up.

      At any rate, once that was done, it technically downloaded the .FIT file just fine – but then at the end it sorta timed out and the files were never enumerated into the history.

      I suspect that the issue is that the Wahoo app simply isn’t ‘swim-aware’, so when it tries to parse the data files, it fails out.


    • ThomasM

      I exactly also wanted that functionality: analyse the training details directly after swimming with the Garmin Swim. And same as Ray, I also struggled with the Wahoo download.
      In consequence I actually re-implemented a whole ANT+/ANT-FS communication stack to get a proper working FIT file download from the Swim to the training analysis app that I developed as a “hobby” in my spare time for iPhone/iPad in the last year. The app is available in the App Store since about a few weeks. The website is http://www.trainalyse.com
      You might give it a try.


  181. Mike

    Thanks for the story very helpful.

    I just have one question can I run with this watch and will it tell me the distance covered ?

  182. Kyo

    This is a great review and helped me decide pretty quick what swimwatch to get. I wish I had something like this a few years ago. It is definitely a must-have if you train by yourself and want to keep track of your trainingprogress. I really like the ability to test small changes in stroke and the effect on time and efficiency. The timing of laps is very accurate as described.

    Only downside is that I tend to tangle my wrists closely together when pushing off after a tumbleturn. Since the stopbutton is at the bottom rightside of the watch, and I’m a lefty, I have pressed it a considerable amount of times by accident. I don’t feel comfortable wearing it on my rightside, would have made more sense to place the stopbutton somewhere else …

  183. Nick

    Hi Ray,

    Apologies if you’ve already answered this in the 910XT comments, but there are quite a few to wade through and I may have missed it.

    I just picked up a Swim on the strength of your review and overall am very pleased with it. However, so far I’m having problems with it adding lengths and getting the stroke wrong. I plan to verify that the latest firmware update is installed, and as my technique improves I expect that it’ll no longer think I actually came to a stop halfway through a length, so I’m not worried about that.

    What I wanted to ask is is it possible to upload the edited SportTracks data back to Garmin Connect? I like having my data consolidated in one place, but I also like the data to be somewhat accurate, so exporting back to GC makes sense for me if it can be done.

    Thanks for all your hard work on the blog!


  184. Smokin'Schwalbes

    Hi, I’ve been through all the comments but not noticed a mention of whether the Swim now cometh with the new small ANT dongle instead of the large one as pictured (#5/6) in the review above? Thanks.

  185. Kyo

    Yes, I have purchased one recently and it has the small dongle.

  186. brian dillon

    Will it measure accurately your stroke’s in a 20 meter pool as i use a hotel pool when i’m away during the winter

  187. brian dillon

    Thanks Rainmaker

  188. John


    Love your reviews.

    My (condo) pool length is only 15.4 m. I realize that the lower limit for pool length accommodated by the watch is only 17 m. How important is this, really? Doesn’t it mean that I simply need to take the results given for say, speed and distance, and multiply them by the factor 15.4/17 (assuming I tell the watch the pool is 17 m). This doesn’t seem like such a terrible work-around. Do I have this right or am I missing something?



  189. DC Rainmaker,

    Wouldn’t it be cool if Garmin decided to add a Tempo Trainer (TT) as an added accessory to the Garmin Swim? I am envisioning you could control the rate of the TT from the watch itself – instead of pulling it out of your cap – and also record it in your Garmin connect as an added data point for each interval. If you think its a good idea please suggest it to them.

  190. ger

    on the swim it has a detail for heart rate run bike , above the pause button indicator on the right side of the display, are these usable or what are they for?

  191. great review, and great watch. thanks.

  192. Gabriel Raff

    it would be nice to have the chance of setting pool distance with decimals, I swim in and Old pool which is 33.4mts!! So if I set 33mts each interval of 100mts will give me 99mts!

  193. Kim

    I have been reading your reviews which I find very helpful. Since then I have purchased the garmin 220 and I love it! I have gotten more into swimming and now want a swim feature on a watch. I do some triathlons so I am interested in all in one but I have only had the 220 for a short while. The 910xt is just so huge. I do my training indoors and mostly will I imagine since I have no nearly lakes and only access to indoor and outdoor pools. So the only benefit to the monster watch is the tri day. Is there any way to ‘rig’ one of these watches for distances swimming outside? Any thoughts and help will be appreciated! Thanks!

  194. Gary

    I have had a Finis Swimsense watch for a couple of years, and love the features, but not so in love with durability and support. After more than1 year (their warranty period) but perhaps only 25 swim, mostly in salt water pool, the band broke. Support is pathetic, and the watch has to be replaced, granted at a “reduced rate”, but still $65. Finis has become so terrible about support, and is now driving me to this watch, as I can get it and hopefully it will last more than the little bit my last TWO swim sense watches have. I also will not miss the terrible connection that infrequently works with the Finis. Thanks for the great reviews, and looks like Garmin is the winner in the category, hands down.

    • The lead engineers/inventors/etc of the Finis Swimsense watch moved on from the company some time ago (maybe a year now). As a result, it seems the company “streamlined” ongoing development and support of these products. Swimsense was an early innovator in this space, but the major companies have caught up. It’s unfortunate, but at this point I’m skeptical we will see a lot of innovation out of Swimsense purely due to the cost, effort and investment required to be at the top of the game.

  195. David

    Did you notice, that the SWOLF score for intervals is often calculated wrong?
    i.e.: 100m intervall:
    lane 1 40secs+20strokes=60, SWOLF=60 –> correct
    lane 2 46secs+20strokes=66, SWOLF=66 –> correct
    interval swolf = 67 (or 65) –>?!? should be 63!

  196. jason

    ant+ data transmission can be used in mobile phones OTG ?
    I Installed APP named ‘Garmin Connect ™ Mobile’ on my motoG
    used to connect the ANT + USB
    But without success ~ ~

  197. Ricardo

    Hi Ray, great review!
    Could you please tell me what would be the differences between buying the Swim and the Fènix 2 concerning the swimming part? Do they use the same “software” or are there differences? Also, I do open air rowing and would like to use some feature in it. Is that possible in any way (like using it as if it was for chest stroke considering the movements are very likely)?
    Thanks in advance!

    • There are some differences, I’ve covered them within the Fenix2 indoor swimming section though, which outline the minor tweaks (such as no drill mode). From a logic standpoint, it uses the same codebase.

  198. Ray,

    Thanks for another extensive review. Based on your recommendation I purchased the Garmin Swim and I am very pleased with it. You were correct on the importance of having a good push-off and glide. Anytime I consider purchasing a tri-related item, I look to your blog first.

  199. Yaniv

    Thanks for the review! I have a couple of questions I hope you can assist with.
    1) Is there a way to make the seconds hand on the clock stay on indefinitely. After a few seconds the seconds hand disappears and I have to press the top left button to make them display again. Then they shut off.
    2) What does countdown start do? I enable it and notice that nothing counts down when I initiate a swim start by pressing the middle right button (play/stop button).
    3) I cannot find where the watch displays which stroke I did. Is there a way to recover this information?
    4) What is SWOLF? what does it mean and how do you assess your score?
    Thank you for any information you might be able to offer regarding these questions. I did use Clever Training to make my purchase. Thank you for your in detail review!

    • Hi Yaniv!

      1) Hmm, I don’t know of any way there unfortunately.
      2) The countdown will give you a beep at the start of an interval, so you can basically get three seconds before heading off the wall
      3) The stroke information is displayed on Garmin Connect after uploading (and, I believe, in history on the watch)
      4) SWOLF is effectively a score combining how many strokes you take to go a given distance. In general, the lower the SWOLF, the better. However, not a the expensive of artificially cutting your strokes down – which will ultimately reduce speed.

      Thanks for the support via Clever Training – I appreciate it!

    • SWOLF comes from SW-im g-OLF. Lame huh? Lower numbers are better, just like golf :)

      SWOLF is simply (number of strokes) + (number of seconds) per pool length.

      So less strokes or faster in one length means “better”. It’s an older (pre gadget data collection) metric – quick and easy to calculate in your head.

      One problem with SWOLF is that different pool lengths will have different scores. A 25 meter vs 50 meter vs 25 yards, etc.

      Solution… “Swim Efficiency” which is just SWOLF normalized to a 25 meter distance. Same rules – lower = better.

      With watches collecting data we can also look at interesting things like distance-per-stroke. How far across the water does one pull get you.

      Here is a great article with a world record setting video compared to an Olympics video of people with VASTLY different SWOLF scores. Check it out:

      link to marathonswimmers.org

    • You might be interested in this article we just posted about swolf:

      link to sporttracks.mobi