(Please see my new and updated Winter 2014-2015 Gadget Recommendations Guide here!)
I’ve always historically put together a sports gadget recommendations list in late Fall, primarily because that’s when things in the sports technology world tend to settle down. Further, many folks are looking for holiday shopping advice. The problem is that over the past 6 months there’s been a TON of new devices on the market in a lot of categories. And in doing so, some of my recommendations have changed.
Like previous years, I try and divide up the categories to be as specific as possible. Ultimately however, there’s always going to be some overlap in features and functionality between the categories. Additionally, it’s possible you may have a certain edge case that crosses categories – in most cases I address the ‘who is this good for’ aspect towards the end of the review, or in the comments of each review. So those are great places to get additional clarification answers.
Finally, if you use either the Amazon or Clever Training links, you help support the site. I’ve partnered with Clever Training to offer all DC Rainmaker readers exclusive benefits on all products purchased. You can read more about the benefits of this partnership here. You can pickup most devices below through Clever Training using the links in the tables. By doing so, you not only support the site (and all the work I do here) – but you also get to enjoy the significant partnership benefits that are just for DC Rainmaker readers (like saving 10%). And, if you are picking up items that are more than $75, you can get free US shipping as well.
With that, let’s dive into it!
Running GPS Watches:
Road Running – Best in Class: Garmin FR620
It used to be that I used the Garmin FR610 for all my running adventures, but since the FR620 came out last fall, I’ve been using it instead – and it’s working great for me. Garmin listened when it came to waterproofing, connectivity via Bluetooth to your phone, and customization. It’s pretty much my perfect running watch. There’s simply nothing else in the same ballpark anymore from a functionality standpoint by other companies. And, with the FR620 cycling mode functionality released yesterday, it brings the much requested functionality back to the lineup.
Trail/Ultra Running – Best in Class: Suunto Ambit2 if on sale, or Fenix2 at normal pricing
This category covers units with barometric altimeters as well as longer battery life. Both of the options I note below contain a ‘long battery life’ mode, which reduces the number of GPS points recorded (through a variety of means).
Last year I ‘awarded’ this category to the Ambit2 over the Fenix(1), because of the versatility the watch had in connecting to cycling sensors as well as being able to do pool and openwater swimming. But I noted at the time that the Fenix had more when it came to hiking and navigation – but lacked in other areas.
Since then though not only has the Fenix2 come out but they greatly expanded the feature set and even went back and added in a ton of Bluetooth related features to the Fenix1. At the same time, Suunto has added in a handful of features while also filling the biggest gap I saw at the time: Inability to get proper data to 3rd party sites (for example, by adding automatic sync with Strava, and .FIT file export).
So to that end this is still a slightly tricky category. But I’d kinda put my recommendation as such: If you can get the Ambit2 at a lower price (like it is for the next 10 days) then that’s still a solid choice. But if it’s at a higher $500+ price, then go with the Fenix2. Said differently: I don’t believe the Ambit2 is worth the high-price they’ve set for it. But I do believe the watch is much more competitive about $100 cheaper, making up for the lack of Bluetooth phone connectivity.
Running – Moderate/Mid-Range: Garmin FR220 or TomTom Cardio
This one is actually super simple. If you’re looking to spend about $200-$260 on a running watch, ask yourself one question: Do you want optical heart rate (so you don’t have to wear a strap). If the answer is yes, then go with the TomTom Cardio Runner. If the answer is no, then go with the Garmin FR220.
The FR220 is just a very solid runner’s watch with lots of customization as well as the ability to do Live Tracking and smartphone integration. Meanwhile, the TomTom unit offers a bit less customization and fewer features – but brings in the big fish of having optical heart rate monitoring, eliminating the need to wear a heart rate strap. For some runners that is a major advantage.
From a site/app standpoint, the FR220 is the main winner here, with the TomTom website still being a bit of a sore point. However both watches allow you to save in common file formats so you can easily upload to pretty much any site you’d like on the internet – so I wouldn’t let that be the deciding factor.
Running – Budget Range: Garmin FR15 or TomTom Runner
In the budget range I love the new Garmin FR15 GPS watch. Just released last month it combines an activity tracker with a GPS watch. So you can go out and run and track your activity via GPS, but then for the other 23 hours of the day you can use the unit’s internal step counter to measure your steps. Then later this summer they’re adding in sleep tracking (albeit, fairly basic).
The TomTom Runner meanwhile gets the mention because it’s a bit cheaper. The price is set to be reduced on July 1st down to $149US (the new regular price). Further, unlike the FR15 its able to sync to your phone directly – which is definitely a plus. You also actually get slightly more customization on the TomTom Runner than the FR15 (but you lose the activity tracking).
Finally, if you’re looking to save even more – check out the lower priced Garmin FR10 watch. It’s $129US these days and while that’s a bit of a premium over the sub-$100 GPS watches, you’ll more than make up for it in features and stability. Put another way, out of the 600+ comments on the FR10 review, I think there’s virtually no complaints about the unit (unheard of, btw). The same can’t be said about the other units (which, while decent, are almost all the exact same physical unit just with different brandings: Soleus, Timex Marathon GPS, New Balance, etc…).
|‘2014 Summer Recommendations: Running Watches’ compatible||Price||Amazon Link||Clever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP program||Review|
|Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 22nd, 2016 @ 2:56 pm|
|Garmin Fenix2/Fenix2 SE||$399||Link||Link||Link|
|Garmin Forerunner 10||$129||Link||Link||Link|
|Garmin Forerunner 15||$139||Link||Link||Link|
|Garmin Forerunner 220||$249||Link||Link||Link|
|Garmin Forerunner 620||$399||Link||Link||Link|
|TomTom Runner Cardio||$269.00||Link||Link||Link|
Triathlon GPS Watches:
This category is for what the industry calls ‘multisport’ watches, but, that typically just translates to triathlon watches. They track your time/distance/etc… within the three sports – swim/bike/run. From a non-triathlon multisport aspect, these watches are often used by everyone from wind surfers to rollerbladers, mostly because of their versatility and flexibility in configuration and display customization.
With that in mind, I’m going to note that in general, now would be a bad time to buy a triathlon watch at regular price. At least, if you don’t need to buy a triathlon watch for this immediate already in-progress season. All of the units below are getting a bit older, and pretty much everything is due for refresh. So personally, I’d save my cash. Nonetheless, if you’re in a short term pickle – here’s what to go with:
Overall Best in Class: Garmin FR910XT
This is a tricky one. You’ve really got three hot contenders here: The Garmin FR910XT, Garmin Fenix2, and then the Suunto Ambit 2/2S.
For most triathletes, all three will do just about the same thing, and all three will do it well. Except, in my mind there’s one key feature missing on two out of the three: The quick release kit/system. With the Fenix2 and Ambit2 you’ll need to keep it on your wrist the entire time and there’s no quick release system like on the 910XT. If that’s not a concern, then you’ve got more options here.
The Fenix2 has a leg-up over the Ambit2 and the FR910XT though in that it can integrate with your smart phone and do Live Tracking. On the flip side, the screen isn’t quite as easy to read as that of the FR910XT or Ambit2.
For this category I’d highly recommend looking long and hard at the tiny little differences between the watches, here’s a direct link to the comparison chart for all three.
Do note that I expect to see both the FR910XT and the Suunto Ambit replaced by newer versions before the end of the calendar year. And perhaps by then we’ll see that the Polar V800 has matured enough to make the cut into the recommendations as well.
Budget Options: Garmin FR310XT and Magellan Switch/Switch Up
Let me be clear: From a price to functionality ratio, there’s (still) no better deal on the market today than the FR310XT. It hovers around $170-$190US, and has the vast majority of the FR910XT functionality. The core areas that both it and the Magellan Switch lack though are indoor swim tracking, as well as stroke metrics for outdoor swimming. The FR310XT has a variant of openwater swim mode to be used on the wrist, while the Switch does not. If you’re just getting into triathlon and aren’t quite sure what your plans are – I’d really recommend the FR310XT over the higher end watches. The Magellan Switch meanwhile can be occasionally seen for as low as $125, but is usually in the $150ish range.
|‘2014 Summer Recommendations: Triathlon Watches’ compatible||Price||Amazon Link||Clever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP program||Review|
|Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 15th, 2015 @ 11:44 am|
|Garmin Fenix2/Fenix2 SE||$399||Link||Link||Link|
|Garmin Forerunner 310XT||$170||Link||Link||Link|
|Garmin Forerunner 910XT||$399||Link||Link||Link|
|Magellan Switch & Switch Up||$129-149||Link||N/A||Link|
|Suunto Ambit2 S||$219||Link||Link||Link|
Cycling GPS Units
As I’ve noted previously, anytime someone in the cycling/sports technology industry starts a conversation about bike computers, it always starts with “it’s like the Edge 500”. Well, there’s reason for that. Given the Edge 500’s current prices at $200, it’s still an awesome deal. If you don’t care about maps and turn by turn navigation, you won’t find a better unit out there. Sure, there’s the Edge 510 with Bluetooth tracking and uploads, but it won’t get you natively to Strava (requires 3rd party sites), and it’s a lot bulkier than the sleek Edge 500.
Meanwhile, CycleOps has the Joule GPS, which…’is sorta like the Edge 500’, except from CycleOps. Importantly though, it does more around historical power metrics (like showing your 5min power max, weekly and monthly maxes, etc…). Many folks like it just as much as the Edge 500.
Finally, the O-Synce Navi2Coach is very solid, and I’d have no problems using it day to day either. We haven’t quite seen as many updates to the unit as we did during the initial release cycle – but most people seem quite happy with it. About my only complaint there is (still) the mount, which can be prone to breakage.
If you want turn by turn navigation (like a car GPS), there’s not a ton of choices. You’ve got a few Garmin units (Edge 810, 800, Touring), and then the Mio Cyclo units.
Last fall I recommended the Edge 800 over the Edge 810, as I felt the features didn’t justify the extra price. And in many ways I still feel the same way. However, the ability to upload via Bluetooth is becoming more relevant with Garmin’s new automatic sync partnerships (like Training Peaks last week, MyFitnessPal this week, and who knows who next week). Over time these partnerships will likely cover all the major players in this space. And in doing so makes the unit more appealing. For example, if automatic Strava uploading were enabled – that would increase the value of the unit substantially (over the Edge 800).
Meanwhile, you’ve got the Mio Cyclo 505 (also branded as Magellan). That unit received a substantial firmware update last month that added in a ton of features. For example the ability to control trainers and Shimano Di2 integration. There’s a number of features that Garmin units don’t have (such as the ability to connect to Bluetooth Smart sensors). It’s a really strong contender.
There are some minor nits though with it that may cause more serious cyclists to pause – specifically the lack of a lap function, insufficient power data recording, and the inability to put together workouts. The lap piece is coming down the road in a future firmware, so that should help there. And, I don’t find the interface as polished as the Garmin Edge 810, though that’s a lesser issue. But I do think over time Mio will be able to play catch-up in a lot of areas. No doubt that I see them as Garmin’s biggest competitor.
So why not the Edge Touring? In many cases the Edge 800 isn’t all that much more expensive than the Edge Touring. And the Edge 800 has far more functionality than the Edge Touring does, except in the area of round-trip routing (whereby you tell the unit you want a 50-mile ride and it goes and creates a random route). The Edge 810 lacks that as well. Meanwhile, the Touring lacks 80%-90% of what either the 800 or 810 has. So if you’re looking to save some cash, go Edge 800 instead of Edge Touring.
Budget GPS Option: Garmin Edge 200 or RFLKT+
If you’re looking for a budget option that records your route, your first and best bet is actually your phone with a free app like Strava, MapMyRide, Wahoo Fitness, or similar. If however you want more of a small handlebar unit, then the Edge 200 is where it’s at. While I’ve been playing with some other options, ultimately, at $129 it comes down to the Edge 200 being the cleanest interface and the easiest to upload to Garmin Connect (or any other site you’d like, they all support it).
You also do have the Wahoo RFLKT and RFLKT+. These units require your smartphone be on you at all times, as they display data directly from popular apps, sorta like a dashboard. It’s a bit cheaper than the Edge 200, and gives you a bit more flexibility because the apps allow you to easily pair sensors like heart rate and cadence sensors.
|‘2014 Summer Recommendations: Cycling Units’ compatible||Price||Amazon Link||Clever Training Link (Save 10% with DCR10BTF)||Review|
|Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated September 15th, 2015 @ 3:36 pm|
|CycleOps Joule GPS||$220||Link||Link||Link|
|Garmin Edge 200||$129||Link||Link||Link|
|Garmin Edge 500||$199||Link||Link||Link|
|Garmin Edge 810||$399||Link||Link||Link|
Cycling Power Meters:
Choosing a power meter is a tough decision matrix. Anyone who answers the question “Which power meter should I choose?” and instantly names a specific brand name/model upfront, is full of crap. The correct answer is “Tell me more about your usage plans?”
There are so many variables that go into that decision beyond just price. For example: How many bikes? What type of bike? What type of pedals? Do you want to move it around a lot? Race wheels or not? What do you want to measure? And on and on.
The good news is that I cover these in-depth in my Power Meter Buyer’s Guide from last fall. Nothing has changed there since then (neither in products nor in my opinions), and I don’t expect any shifts in the near future.
Now, I will note that the best bang for the buck continues to be the PowerTap hubs. Previous to last August, it was really the Stages Power Meter at $699. But with the PowerTap price reductions down to $799, that’s sorta the best of both worlds there (for all the reasons I note in my buyer’s guide). But again, there’s places where the PowerTap wheel isn’t the best option – so you’ll want to understand those in the guide.
Cycling Trainers (Resistance Controlled):
I recognize it’s sorta the wrong season for trainers (at least in the Northern Hemisphere), but I figured I should at least help folks looking for the right option.
And the best way to do that is to read my complete cycling trainers Guide, so again like power meters, I’d go over and and check out that post for all my recommendations (a massive list on a slew of categories).
As far as trainer announcements go, those all happen in late August starting in Eurobike. I’ll have some more reviews of trainers lined up for late August and early September. So it’s kinda like the triathlon watch scene – it’s probably not the best time to buy a trainer right now.
MP3 Players: FINIS Neptune + See MP3 Player post
There’s a lot of options in this category. Some are good options by reputable companies. Some…are crap knockoffs. I’d really encourage you to read my Swimming MP3 Player Shootout post to get all the details on many of the units out there.
The one new unit to the market though that I’ve reviewed since is the FINIS Neptune MP3 player. I did this back this past summer and really liked the unit. And many of you as readers who have picked it up have said the same. Thus, like I concluded in my post, if I were looking at an MP3 player these days, I’d be sticking with the Neptune.
Pool Swim Watch: Garmin Swim
There are a handful of options in this category, but I don’t think there’s any real discussion that the best isn’t the Garmin Swim. While the FINIS Swimsense was a good option at one point, it’s sorta beyond it’s prime. You’ve also got the Poolmate Pro and HR, which, are a bit more clunky than the Garmin Swim. The Poolmate HR does do heart rate, but for the life of me I can’t get that strap to stay put during flip turns on my chest (and no, I’m not going to wear a shirt over it at the pool).
Thus, the Garmin Swim. The unit measures your laps and distance, and can be configured for drill mode as well. Afterwards it uploads the data to Garmin Connect, and a variety of 3rd party sites support it as well. Note that it won’t measure outdoor swims, just indoor – as it depends on an internal accelerometer to figure out each time you hit the wall of the pool.
Openwater Swim Watch: There’s no good answer.
Quite frankly, there isn’t a specific outdoor swim watch that I’d recommend. The closest there is comes from FINIS in the Hydrotracker, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s overpriced and I found it prone to error. Honestly if you just want to track where you went, grab a cheap GPS unit and stuff it in your swimcap. Alternatively, if you’ve got a bit more money to spend, any of my triathlon swim watches above will measure swim distance outdoors within about 10-15% while on your wrist.
|‘2014 Summer Recommendations: Swimming Units’ compatible||Street Price / Price||Amazon Link||Clever Training Link (Save 10% with DCR10BTF)||More Info / Review|
|Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 15th, 2015 @ 11:49 am|
|FINIS Neptune Swimming MP3 Player||$139||Link||Link||Link|
Sensors and Mounts:
If you’re getting any of the units listed above, you may be in the market for accessories. Obviously, some bundles include accessories, while others do not. Here’s what I recommend based on having entire buckets worth of accessories to test with.
Before I get started, I’ll note that when possible I’d highly recommend folks buy dual ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart (BLE) sensors. These are available in some categories now, and should be available in almost all categories by the fall (and at worst, the end of the year). The reason for going dual is simple: It allows you the flexibility to choose whichever device you want and know it’ll work with it.
Dual Heart Rate Strap: Wahoo TICKR or 4iiii’s Viiiiva
The Wahoo TICKR is new on the scene, while the 4iiii’s has been around a while. The TICKR (regular edition) is a simple dual ANT+/BLE strap. Whereas the 4iiii’s does the same, but can also bridge ANT+ sensors over to supported Bluetooth apps on your phone. So in that respect, the Viiiiva does more cool stuff, but does cost a bit more.
You’ve also got the Wahoo TICKR RUN, which builds on the base TICKR by adding in the ability to measure pace/cadence without a GPS (i.e. treadmill), as well as give a look at running efficiency type numbers. I’d have no problems recommending that for runners (but it wouldn’t be of any use to cyclists). And on the TICKR X front, that’s now been delayed till at least the end of summer, so I wouldn’t wait on that until the features are finalized.
Optical Heart Rate Sensor: Scosche RHYTHM+
In the last two weeks this has become my primary and singular running heart rate monitor (when not testing something else). I just love it. While I liked the Mio Link wrist straps, I’ve found the signal too weak in some cases and then also not quite as stable as the Scosche from a measurement standpoint. Like the Link, the Scosche is dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart, so it can transmit to just about anything.
ANT+ Speed/Cadence Combo: Bontrager Quick Release ANT+ Sensor
I love this sensor. It quickly snaps on and off bikes with an industrial rubber band, and I’ve never had a problem with it. Pure awesome.
If however, you’re looking for a cheaper option, just simply pickup the Garmin GSC-10 – which usually hovers around $30-$35.
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence Sensor: Wahoo Blue SC
The Wahoo Blue SC was the first Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence Sensor, and remains the best option out there for getting speed/cadence data into your smart phone or other Bluetooth Smart enabled device (like the TomTom Multisport watch). I’ve tried a few others – like the Panobike Bluetooth Smart one, but wasn’t impressed with either the unit’s attachment (zip ties), nor the company’s support team when I received a dead on arrival unit after purchase. Wahoo is planning on updating this model to be dual ANT+/BLE, but it’s still slated for later this year unfortunately.
Speed-Only (ANT+): Garmin Speed-Only Sensor
This new little sensor is perfect if you only want speed. It requires no magnets and no zipties, and just simply clips on your back (or front) wheel. I wrote up a thing on it here rather recently.
Cadence-Only Sensor (ANT+ or BLE): Wahoo RPM2
This sensor hits the shelves next week, and in my testing it’s been doing quite well. It transmits on both ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart, so you can use it with your Garmin device or your smart phone.
ANT+ Footpods: The Timex, Suunto, and Garmin mini-footpods (whatever is cheapest that day)
As long as you pickup any of those three above they all work the exact same way and all function with any ANT+ device. In other words, just pickup whatever is cheapest that day. Ensure that you aren’t picking up the giganto footpods of yesteryear.
If/when in doubt, check out my post on ‘All you ever wanted to know about the ANT+ footpod’.
Bluetooth Smart Footpod: Adidas miCoach Bluetooth Smart Footpod
For Bluetooth Smart footpod capable devices or apps, I’d go with the Adidas one. It’s the smallest BLE footpod on the market and works great with most devices. I have seen some issues with the Polar V800 – but that seems to be more of a Polar problem than a Adidas problem, since it works great with everything else.
Bike Computer Mounts – Garmin quarter-turn Edge (and Forerunner 310XT/910XT) cycling mount: Barfly TT and Road Mounts
I love my Barfly, specifically for triathlon, the TT/Aero Barfly. I reviewed it back here, but it just works perfectly. While K-Edge does make some great (and really darn sturdy) mounts for Garmin units, I simply don’t think your Garmin unit needs that much mount durability to justify the price.
|‘2014 Summer Recommendations: Sensors’ compatible||Price / Street Price||Amazon Link||Clever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP program||Review / More Info|
|Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated December 5th, 2018 @ 2:43 pm|
|Barfly Tate Labs Road Bike Handlebar Mount||$25||Link||N/A||Link|
|Barfly Tate Labs Timetrial/Triathlon Bike Mount||$37||Link||N/A||Link|
|Garmin ANT+ Running Footpod (Mini)||$45||Link||Link||Link|
|Garmin Speed-Only ANT+ Sensor (magnet-less)||$39||Link||Link||Link|
|Wahoo Blue SC - Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence Sensor||$60||Link||Link||Link|
|Wahoo TICKR RUN||$79||Link||Link||Link|
Weight Scales (Connected)
Best Options: FitBit Aria or Withings WS-30 & WS-50
I’ve been including little snippets of these scales in my FitBit Zip and Withings Pulse reviews. Overall, either scale is a solid option and really just depends on if you’re aligned to either of those platforms already (FitBit or Withings). If not, poke at the slight differences with 3rd party partners, and see if either of those partnerships matters. Failing that…flip a coin.
Seriously – they’re near identical scales (exempting the more advanced WS-50 with pulse and air monitoring). Any only relevant differences are partnerships or platforms. And, again, they’re both great scales.
Now, what about ANT+ scales? At this point I wouldn’t recommend them. Garmin (being the only company that ever enabled uploads to devices from them), has pretty much killed off support for them in new devices going forward. Thus buying one of these scales at this point would be kinda silly. Plus, with the exception of the low-end ones, I’ve felt for a while now that the high-end units are a wee bit overpriced.
|‘2014 Summer Recommendations: Weight Scales’ compatible||Street Price||Amazon Link||Clever Training Link (Save 10% with DCR10BTF)||More Info|
|Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 26th, 2015 @ 6:18 pm|
|FitBit Aria WiFi Weight Scale||$129||Link||Link||Link|
|Withings WS-30 WiFi Weight Scale||$99||Link||Link||Link|
|Withings WS-50/Smart Body Analyzer WiFi Weight Scale||$149||Link||Link||Link|
To say I’ve tried a lot of activity trackers would be an understatement. I have all of them. Really, pretty much every one released to the market from every FitBit variant to both Nike variants to everything in between – including plenty I’ve never bothered to post on here. Here’s where I stand on things.
Activity Tracker – Athlete: Polar Loop or Garmin Vivofit
Both of these units are very solid, and both of them allow you to connect to heart rate straps to get more accurate calorie data when doing non-step related activities. I’d really say the choice simply comes down to whether or not you’ve got Garmin stuff already or got Polar stuff already. The differences between them are teeny-tiny.
Activity Tracker – Mid-Range: Withings Pulse
I really like the Withings Pulse, especially at the price that it sits at ($100). It does all the usual activity monitoring things (steps/distance/calories/time), but, also does resting heart rate via a little optical heart rate sensor. Thus in my mind, if you’re going to get a unit that’s clip-on, this one really makes the most sense from a price vs functionality standpoint.
Activity Tracker – Budget: FitBit Zip
Finally, when it comes to the budget selection – the $59 FitBit Zip is awesome. It gets some 6-8 months of battery life and then uploads via Bluetooth Smart in the background to your phone. I wear it near-constantly and just don’t have to think about it. It just works…perfectly.
Activity Tracker – Data Geek: Basis B1
There is no activity tracker on this planet that tracks more things than the Basis B1. Especially once you account for all the new metrics they added a few weeks ago. It measures everything from skin temperature to sleep to optical heart rate monitoring. And, then displays it in one of the most well laid out displays out there today. The only downside is that the optical sensor used in the Basis doesn’t work terribly well during exercise, resulting in spikes/drops. But…the other 23 hours of the day, it’s there.
|‘2014 Summer Recommendations: Activity Trackers’ compatible||Price||Amazon Link||Clever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP program||Review|
|Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 27th, 2016 @ 5:04 am|
|Basis B1||$199 (now discontinued)||Link||N/A||Link|
|Garmin Forerunner 15||$139||Link||Link||Link|
The action camera market continues to get more and more crowded, seemingly each week. But for the most part, you can divide cameras up into ones with good clean user interfaces and good software suites, and then cameras with clunky user interfaces and lacking/poor software suites.
While there have been updates to some cameras since last November (for example, an updated Sony Action Cam), they haven’t really changed the landscape of my recommendations. Further, there’s no doubt been plenty of rumors about new GoPro releases this summer. I’m hearing that those won’t at least happen in June, but beyond that who knows (I don’t). So like anything else, if you plan to use it mostly in the summer, then go out and enjoy what’s there now – I don’t expect you’ll regret any purchases of the below.
Action Cams – General: GoPro Hero3 (White)
If you’re looking at the best overall option, I’d say go with the GoPro Hero today, specifically the entry level white model. No doubt the higher end models are great, but realistically they’re un-necessary for most users unless you’re planning to get really into high speed videography and/or more advanced post-production use. In the event you’re looking at the need for more flexibility in post-production, then jump up to the GoPro Hero3+ Black.
The significant numbers of 3rd party add-ons on the mount side for the GoPro make it fairly appealing, plus the wide availability of spare parts in most sport shops around the world should you need it.
Action Cams – Those wanting GPS/sensor data: Garmin VIRB Elite
I’m really liking this action cam. I’ve been using it constantly for all sorts of things over the past few weeks and am really impressed by it in scenarios where I want to show what I was doing from a GPS map standpoint and/or ANT+ data sensors (for example, my cadence, heart rate, etc…). The VIRB Edit software is also surprisingly good, and Garmin has been publishing software updates since release with new functionality for it (including just a week or two ago). Yes, the camera is slightly more oblong than the GoPro, but it’s also waterproof out of the box, and the record button is easier to use when mounted in strange places. Plus, the ANT+ remote control option via your Garmin Edge unit is really damn cool (to start/stop recording of video directly from your Edge).
All that said, the core reason I’d recommend the VIRB over the GoPro is if you plan to overlay data onto videos. If you don’t plan that, then there are few reasons to go the route of the VIRB (albeit, much better battery life of the VIRB is one of them). I discuss all the detailed pros and cons of VIRB vs GoPro at the end of my Garmin VIRB review.
Action Cam Mounts: K-Edge Action Cam Mounts
Now, while I prefer the Barfly for my Garmin Edge, I really prefer the K-Edge mounts for my action cams. In doing all my testing lately I’ve come to love the sturdiness of the K-Edge mounts. It’s hard to explain to someone how incredibly rock-solid these mounts are until you attach a camera to them and don’t even get a sliver of a millimeter of sway on them (unlike a stock mount). Incredible. I just bought a bunch more to use with all sorts of cameras. You can literally hang a full blown DSLR on most of these.
Action Cam Flying Mounts: DJI Phantom 2
I’ve been slowly sneaking in shots into various posts from the DJI Phantom 2 over the past few months since purchasing one, and thus far loving it for use with the GoPro. With a bit of creativity you could probably get some other action cams to mount on it, but you wouldn’t get the stability you get with the GoPro (I’d love a well made VIRB mount for it). Expect to see more shots over the summer from cool places as I take it with me on some trips. Though, I did include some aerial photos inside my recent Edge 1000 review post.
|‘2014 Summer Recommendations: Action Cameras’ compatible||Price / Street Price||Amazon Link||Clever Training Link (Save 10% with DCR10BTF)||Review / More Info|
|Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated March 16th, 2016 @ 7:21 am|
|Garmin VIRB (Elite)||$299||Link||Link||Link|
|Garmin VIRB (Normal)||$99||Link||Link||Link|
|GoPro Hero3 White||$199||Link||N/A||N/A|
|GoPro Hero3+ Silver||$299||Link||Link||N/A|
|K-Edge Action Cam Mounts||Varies||Link||Link||Link|
Don’t forget the Comparison Tool!
Ok, lots of recommendations. If there’s a category I’ve missed (entirely plausible) – just drop a note in the comments and I’ll try and come up with a recommendation and add it above.
More importantly though, you can mix and match just about everything I’ve talked about above, with in-depth comparison tables over at the product comparison calculator, which today supports: Action Cameras, Heart Rate Straps, Watches/Bike Computers, Power Meters, Activity Monitors, and Trainers.
Select product use/budget for a comparison from the drop down menus:
Note: While many running watches have a basic bike mode, only running units that are multi-sport focused are also included in the bike-only results (in addition to bike-specific units). Hiking units are those that include a Barometric Altimeter, Magnetic Compass and navigational functions.
Or select products for comparison by clicking the product boxes below:
As always, thanks for reading – and supporting the site!