JUMP TO:

My Winter 2016-2017 Sports Gadget Recommendations

image

(Before we start, you can find my Holiday 2016 deals post here, expect a massive churn on that post over the next 5-7 days, as we go through both Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  This guide attempts as best as possible to take into account pricing there, though I’ve also made it clear where specific price points may change recommendations.)

It’s once again that time of year for my recommendations guide.  I tend to time this to be just ahead of the holiday buying season, but more importantly to take into account what is usually a glut of new devices that have arrived over the past 45-60 days.  Typically I’ve had to hold off on recommendations a bit longer to run through these new products, but over the last few months I’ve managed enough time with virtually all of them. I may not have full in-depth reviews published on all of them (yet), but I have been using them.

My goal here being to give my specific recommendations – exactly the same recommendations I’d give to my own friends and family.  This post isn’t here to list every option on the market in an effort to make every manufacturer happy.  Of course as more and more companies get into the market, there ends up being more and more possible scenarios as the products expand in functionality.

If you’re looking for a listing of what I use day to day, check out my ‘Gear I Use’ list, as well as The Girl’s list too (about the only new things different on my list is I now use a combination of the Edge 520 & Edge 820 now for cycling, and then I use the FR735XT for running/triathlon).

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% on non-clearance/deep-sale items). 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:

image

We’ve seen some awesome options in the running GPS watch market over the last 6-8 months. There’s been some solid contenders coming in from numerous brands.  Note that in this case I’m specifically referring to running watches, not multisport (triathlon) watches; they have their own category.  For this category I assume that you’re going to spend 80%+ of your time running.

Do keep in mind that this category is semi-heavy Garmin at the higher end, because quite frankly – neither Polar nor Suunto have released much at the high-end recently.  Sure, Suunto released their Spartan Ultra this fall, but I don’t wish that on anyone.  And at the higher end, Polar is pushing three years since their latest high-end offering.  Polar has however put together a very solid budget option though – which I outline below.

Road Running – Best All Arounder: Garmin Vivoactive HR

Last year Garmin really nailed it with the Garmin FR230 and FR235 series, and those watches continue to be very solid.  Especially for those that want a bit more customization and features like structured workouts.  However, I think for those that are just looking for a great all-around running watch that can double-down in other workouts on the fly (i.e. swimming, cycling, and even stand-up paddle boarding), the Vivoactive HR that was introduced this past spring is really a better bet.

The unit is about $80 cheaper than the FR235, which is somewhat funny since in many ways the Vivoactive HR has more features (both have optical HR).  Where things differ though is that the FR235 has functions like structured workout support (the Vivoactive HR doesn’t), as well as VO2Max estimation (again, not on the Vivoactive HR).  It also has deeper data page customization.  But beyond those big ticket items, the Vivoactive HR is the winner.

Road Running – Geekful of data: Garmin FR630 or 735XT

If you’re looking for more data than the Vivoactive HR or FR235 will deliver, then I’d recommend the FR630 or FR735XT.  Both are going to give you all the advanced metrics like Running Dynamics and structured workout support, as well as deeper customization of data fields.

However, the $50 price point between the FR630 and FR735XT is notable.  First, the 735XT will give you full multi-sport support, so you can do a triathlon with it (and in fact, it’s what I used for my triathlons this summer).  Both have plenty long battery life for the vast majority of running events; the FR735XT has enough battery life for an Ironman if you’re closer to the front of the pack.

What’s most important though is actually that the FR735XT is running significantly newer hardware internally.  Hardware that’s compatible with the upcoming generations of apps on Garmin Connect IQ (their 3rd party app platform).  So if you’re on the fence, it may be worthwhile to future proof yourself with the 735XT (if the price is only $50).  But if you’re looking at a $100+ price gap (such as the FR630 being on sale), then honestly as a pure runner I’d probably just go with the FR630.

Finally, in case you’re wondering – the FR735XT is what I’ve been largely using for running when I’m not testing something.  No, it doesn’t have the barometric altimeter (nor does the FR630), so if you run in the mountains a lot – you might skip that if you care about exact altitudes during the run.  However, once uploaded all altitude data is corrected.  So for me, that’s fine.

Running – With Music: TomTom Spark and/or Spark 3

This recommendation remains pretty much the same, because…umm….there’s no other options.  Well actually, that’s not true.  There is the new Polar M600 Android Wear GPS watch, and the Apple Watch Series 2 with GPS, both of which have music.  But both have horrible battery life, and both are effectively tied to their respective platforms (yes, you can technically use Android Wear on iOS, but you can’t load music with it on iOS).

The TomTom Spark includes 3GB of music storage, and you can use any Bluetooth headphones to connect to it. It also has 24×7 HR monitoring, activity and sleep tracking, and now even basic navigation.  Plus, the original Spark is often on sale, and it contains identical features except the newly added basic navigation.  There is no Spark 2, they skipped that.

I actually loaned my Mom the original Spark version of this watch to try out for the last few months, and she was pretty happy with it overall, especially the simplicity of the HR monitoring.

Running – Sub-$200 Watch

There’s a lot of great options in this range.  I’d look at the Polar M400 or Garmin FR35 as your best bets.  I’ve been wearing the FR35 the last month and it’s a very solid little watch.  The M400 is older, but Polar has mostly kept it up to date with various firmware updates.  The FR35 has optical HR, whereas the M400 doesn’t.  You could look at the Polar M200 for optical HR inclusion, but honestly it doesn’t do 24×7 HR (though it does do structured workouts).  To me that’s still a really big gap in the Polar lineup, compared to almost everyone else out there now (Fitbit, Garmin, Apple, TomTom, etc…).

What about the TomTom Spark watches?  Well, I’d look at the next category.  In many cases you can get them for sub-$100.  Though the ones with optical HR are in the sub-$200 range, and those do include optical HR.  In some ways TomTom has more features than the base Polar units do.  Yet in other ways, Polar has more features (again, structured workout support).

So, to summarize, I’m good with: Garmin FR35, TomTom Spark (1 or 3), and the Polar M400.  I’m not fully sold on the Polar M200.

Running – Best Sub-$100 Watch: TomTom Runner

TomTom continues to nail this category.  With their original TomTom Runner watch often sub-$100, it’s a no-brainer.  It usually floats in the $89-$99 range.  It’s got GPS, a few different running modes, and some might even find the original Spark for that price range as well (which nets you the other sport modes like swimming and cycling).  Seriously, it’s an awesome deal.

Sure, there are other cheap no-name GPS watches in that ballpark (usually more $60-$80), but overwhelmingly the complaints I hear from folks is that the software on those platforms is flaky at best, and cumbersome at worst.  In my occasional testing of units out there (I buy a lot of random stuff to try out), I find the user interfaces super-old school and support rough.  It’s usually just worth an extra Starbucks Frappuccino or two to get a unit from TomTom here. Note that semi-rarely you might find a Garmin FR15 or FR25 sub-$100 on a sale or something.  I’d say the FR25 at sub-$100 would be worth it, but the FR10/FR15 at sub-$60 would be more appropriate..

Hiking/Trail/Ultra Running – Best in Class: Fenix3/Fenix3HR, or Ambit 3 on sale.

My advice here is nearly the same as the last two years – that’s how little has actually changed here in this category.  If you’re spending time out in the woods, get the Fenix3.  It’s simply the best all around option for people spending time out in the trails.  If you want optical HR and 24×7 HR monitoring, get the Fenix3HR version.  Note that you can easily swap any of my recommendations above on running (or triathlon below) for the Fenix3 if you’d like.  It’s simply that I believe the Fenix3 is overkill for most runners, albeit just as easy to use as the other watches.

However, you’ll note the Ambit3 is in there.  Some believe the Ambit3 has better GPS accuracy in certain harder conditions than the Fenix3.  I think that may be barely true, but only to a certain point.  I’ve done some tough trail tests and found that in the hardest of conditions, all three companies (Garmin/Polar/Suunto) can get into trouble just as much as each other.  However, if you can find a good deal on the Ambit3, then it’s still a superb product. Just one that lacks all of the features of the Fenix3 lineup.  Simply decide if you need those features.

Note that I don’t recommend the Epix, even if you really want mapping.  First, I didn’t like Epix that much.  And second, neither does Garmin. It hasn’t received any updates since…forever a go.  And the company was clear they plan no further feature updates (or apparently by the looks of things, even bug-fix updates).  Finally, no, the Suunto Spartan isn’t going to make this list anytime soon.  Frankly, it’s a disaster.  Just go read my review on it for all the details there.

Gasp – what about the Apple Watch Series 2?!? It’s hard for me to find a place here for it in this lineup, specifically targeting runners.  I see the Apple Watch as something that you arrive at from the other side of the smartwatch equation.  Meaning, if you want the best smartwatch out there, it’s the Apple Watch.  As a smart watch with app support, there’s nothing better.  But as a running watch, it’s just not that great.  At least relative to its price.  At $369 for the GPS version, it doesn’t really compete with other GPS watches in that price range from a runner’s standpoint (specifically it can be cumbersome to use without dedicated buttons).  So aside from just creating a category for it, simply to create a place for it, it doesn’t fit in my sports-focused guide.

‘2016 Gadget Recommendations: Running’ compatiblePriceAmazon LinkClever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programReview
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 29th, 2016 @ 7:18 am
Garmin Forerunner 35$199LinkLinkLink
TomTom Spark 3/Runner 3$149-$299 (Features Vary)LinkLinkLink
Garmin Vivoactive HR$249LinkLinkLink
TomTom Spark$149-$199 (Features Vary)LinkLinkLink
Garmin Forerunner 235$329LinkLinkLink
Garmin Forerunner 630$399LinkLinkLink
TomTom Runner$99LinkLinkLink

Triathlon GPS Watches:

image

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 skaters, mostly because of their versatility and flexibility in configuration and display customization.

Overall Best in Class: FR735XT & Fenix3/F3HR

There’s a reason that Garmin dominates the category – it’s simply got the most features for the price.  No other triathlon watch comes close in terms of breadth of features.  And unlike competitors, Garmin offers a quick release kit for quickly moving the Fenix3/Fenix3HR from your wrist to your bike handle bars, and then back to your wrist for running.  Though, the FR735XT doesn’t yet have a quick release kit.

As for choosing between the two, it’s honestly mostly going to come down to style choice and display preferences.  The Fenix3 is more fashionable in an office setting, whereas the FR735XT is a much slimmer profile.  For both those with small wrists, or just small in nature (especially females), the Fenix3 may seem overbearing.  On the flipside, there is one feature the FR735XT lacks that the Fenix3 has: A barometric altimeter.  The FR735XT uses a GPS based ‘altimeter’, resulting in lesser accuracy of that data during the event.  Conversely again, the FR735XT has Strava Live Segments, which the Fenix3 lacks.  Said differently: You’ll want to do your research a bit here – and I talk to some of the nuances between the Fenix3/FR735XT/FR920XT in the FR735XT review towards the end.

Budget Options: Suunto Ambit’s on Sale

Now if you’re looking for a budget watch, the Suunto Ambit’s when on sale tend to be great alternatives.  Both Peak and Sport models are strong contenders in the triathlon realm, though they lack really strong power meter support – so if you have a power meter, you might want to look elsewhere.  But if you’re getting into the sport, there can be some great deals here.  Note that the Ambit3 Run does NOT include swimming or cycling sensor support – so you’ll want to avoid that.  But the Ambit3 Peak and Sport both include it, and I often use the Ambit3 as a solid reference unit in openwater swim tests (I find it consistently tends to perform the best there out of all openwater swim units I use).

As for deciding between Peak and Sport, the key difference is the barometric altimeter.  I find that Suunto has done a superb job with GPS based elevation, so I think the Peak is less valuable for triathletes (but more valuable if you’re out on a trail/hike).

Finally – all that said, note that you can find the FR920XT on sale right now for $199, through the holiday periods. I’d personally get the FR920XT over the Suunto Ambit series for purely triathlon purposes.  However, if you’re doing more hiking/navigation, then the Ambit series is a better bet.

Note: For triathlon I do NOT recommend the TomTom Cardio/Spark or Vivoactive/Vivoactive HR:

I want to be really clear on this.  The reason I don’t recommend these watches is twofold, but mainly centers on the fact that they don’t support a multisport mode.  Yes, it supports running, and cycling, and indoor swimming.  But you can’t tie all those together in a race or training.  Further, it doesn’t support openwater swimming.

This is pretty similar for some of the other running watches like the Polar M400/M600 or Garmin FR230/235/620/630.  Yes, they all support running and cycling, but none support swimming metrics and none support multisport modes.  If you cycle sparingly and don’t swim, then they’re all still viable options.

‘2016 Recommendations: Triathlon’ compatiblePriceAmazon LinkClever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programReview
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 29th, 2016 @ 7:18 am
Garmin Forerunner 735XT$449LinkLinkLink
Garmin Fenix3 HR$549LinkLinkLink
Garmin Fenix3$499LinkLinkLink
Garmin Forerunner 920XT$449LinkLinkLink
Suunto Ambit3 Sport$399LinkLinkLink
Suunto Ambit3 Peak$499LinkLinkLink

Cycling GPS Units:

image

This is another category that has been dominated by Garmin in recent years, with many competing players largely abandoning or otherwise not updating their devices.  For example, PowerTap pulled out of the head unit market earlier this year, discontinuing the Joule GPS lineup.  And Mio says they’re in the market, but haven’t delivered a whole lot in the last few years.

But at the same time, we saw an awesome entrant in the Wahoo ELEMNT bike GPS – a unit that’s starting to find its own through each successive firmware updates and now rivals the Garmin Edge series.  We then saw Lezyne inject some more fresh blood with their Super GPS series, offering really interesting options at the $100-$200 price point.  Seriously very interesting options.  And finally, Sigma has even stepped in with their Sigma ROX GPS 11 series that’s finally got the ability to sync via Bluetooth with a phone, giving folks another lower-end option.

And of course, Polar has been occasionally updating their Polar V650 mapping-focused unit, albeit their M450 budget unit hasn’t seen as much action.  That’s too bad because the budget unit might be my favorite Polar product in recent years.  And even despite the lack o’love, it’s got a spot on the list, just because of how solid an offering it is.

Best All Around Cycling GPS: Garmin Edge 520

Despite all the competition, the best all around GPS bike computer is still the Edge 520 from Garmin.  I love it.  Even more than I love the higher end Edge 820 or Edge 1000.  It’s just the size of the Edge 520 over the Edge 1000, and it’s the quickness I can operate the non-touch screen unit compared to the Edge 820.  To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with either of those options, it’s just as my daily bike computer, I love the simplicity yet power of it.  I do almost all of my power meter comparison tests with a fleet of four of them.

It’s got built-in Strava segment support (something that virtually every head unit has now), while also having the ability to add maps to it for basic navigation/awareness.  Plus it has Garmin Connect IQ support for 3rd party apps like Xert and those I’ve highlighted here.  All in just about the right size and it really nails the experience.  This hands-down wins this category.

Of course – some will ask why not the Wahoo ELEMNT?  80% of the reason is size. The ELEMNT is just bigger, and specifically bigger than I like.  Next, the ELEMNT still lacks structured workouts, ways for 3rd party apps to be developed, as well as the depth of sensor connectivity that the Garmin Edge units have (i.e. action cams, FE-C trainers, radar, lights, etc…). And their live tracking sucks.  Wahoo does have plans to address all of these, it’s just taking time.  On the flipside, Wahoo is doing some amazeballs cool stuff.  Their Best Bike Split integration is awesome, their newly added (just this past week!) ability to create/send map destinations on the fly from the phone is sweet, and their control of Wahoo trainers is better than Garmin’s of FE-C trainers.  I strongly suspect that by this time next year, if they can find a smaller form factor, they have a very strong chance of taking this spot.  But they aren’t quite there yet.

Best Budget GPS Unit: Polar M450 or Lezyne

At half the price of the Edge 520 is the Polar M450.  It was announced about two weeks prior to the Edge 520 last year, and is a sweet little unit for $169.  It’s essentially the core features you want on a GPS bike computer, in a rather nice little size.  It can sync your rides afterwards via Bluetooth Smart, and soon also send those completed rides to Strava wirelessly (a major step forward for Polar).  Basically, if you don’t have a power meter, don’t care about on-unit mapping, and don’t care about Strava Live Segments then I’d definitely consider this unit – especially if you have Bluetooth Smart sensors.  Another key benefit of the Polar M450 is the backend Polar platform, which Lezyne lacks.  So you’re getting things like structured workouts and the entirety of Polar Flow.

Next we’ve got the Lezyne Super GPS at $149.  Lezyne has like 98 different models between $100 and $200, I tried to explain it all here. They’ve all got minor nuances.  The strength of this unit over the Polar is the ANT+ sensor support (in addition to Bluetooth sensor support).  So if you have ANT+ sensors already, you may want to consider this.  Whereas if you have just Bluetooth Smart sensors you’re more of a free agent.  Also, this unit features Strava Live Segments while Polar only has Strava integration.  On the flipside, they don’t have a lot of the nuanced features you’ll find within the Polar or Garmin lineups.  But the budget options are still really solid.  Again, check out my detailed post on it to understand those specifics.

Best Commuter Options: Wahoo RFLKT

This still remains the best option out there for a simple commuting bike computer.  Unlike others, this uses the GPS in your phone, but has the display capabilities of most head units.  Historically for Black Friday, Wahoo has dropped the base unit down to $49, which is awesome sauce.  Otherwise, it’s at about $63, which is still very solid.

For the price you get something that you can easily pop on a commuter bike and ride with to record stats and quickly upload them to various sites.  Plus, you can connect to Bluetooth Smart sensors too (if you get the RFLKT+ version, you can also connect to ANT+ sensors).  And if you somehow forget it on your bike handlebars after commuting to work, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if someone stole it (plus, all your data is always on the phone).

‘2016 Winter Recommendations: Cycling’ compatibleStreet Price / PriceAmazon LinkClever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programMore Info / Review
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 29th, 2016 @ 7:18 am
Lezyne Super GPS$149LinkLinkLink
Garmin Edge 520$299LinkLinkLink
Wahoo Fitness RFLKT+$130LinkLinkLink

Swimming:

image

Swimming devices continue to be a funny realm that mostly gets ignored by companies, since many competitive swimmers don’t like to wear tech (or even a basic watch).  So it’s hard to make inroads into the category with such a small market.  Still, here’s some thoughts.

Indoor Pool Watch: “It’s Complicated”…with a side of Vivoactive.

This one is also messy, because I’ve previously recommended (and loved) the Garmin Swim watch.  It was roughly sub-$150, but it’s also now like 3-4 years old and basically untouched.  From a functionality standpoint it was great having a year-long battery life so it just hung out in your swim bag and sync’d when it was close to your computer.  However, it lacked Bluetooth Smart for your phone to download that way, so it’s kinda lost favored nation status.

Instead, your next best bet is the Vivoactive, which usually sits around $150-$170 these days.  It’s slimmer than the Garmin Swim was, and just as capable in the pool.  Plus, it has running and cycling and activity tracking and all sorts of other jazz.  Still, I wish there was a Garmin Swim2 with Bluetooth…and done.  Until then, my recommendation just stays the same as last year.

Openwater Swim: No good answer

Quite frankly, nobody makes a good dedicated outdoor swim watch.  Your best bet here is to either get one of the multisport/triathlon watches for openwater swim mode (on your wrist).  If so, check out the budget triathlon section.  You’ll find the FR920XT or Suunto Ambit series is your best bet.  I seem to get marginally (barely) better openwater swim accuracy out of the Suunto series.  Otherwise just use any GPS you have and plop it in your swimcap using the swimcap method.

MP3 Players: FINIS Neptune

Last year FINIS came out with the FINIS Duo in the weeks before my guide.  And that’s a good little unit, which built upon the original SwiMP3 and fixed the charging issues found there.  However, I personally prefer the slightly older FINIS Neptune

This has been my mainstay recommendation for a swimming MP3 player for about a few years now, mostly because I like the display aspect, since it makes it easy to get things queued up, while the sound quality is also just fine for a pool.  And then finally, the buttons also makes it easy.  If I look at reader feedback, most are quite happy as well there – with the only complaints coming from folks that require swappage of the device after significant use (which FINIS covers).

‘2016 Winter Recommendations: Swimming’ compatiblePrice / Street PriceAmazon LinkClever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programReview / More Info
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 29th, 2016 @ 7:18 am
Garmin Vivoactive$169 (on sale)LinkLinkLink
Garmin Forerunner 920XT$449LinkLinkLink
Suunto Ambit3 Sport$399LinkLinkLink
FINIS Neptune Swimming MP3 Player$139LinkLinkLink
Safer Swimmer OWS Buoy$45LinkLinkLink

Sensors and Mounts:

image

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.

In general, almost nothing has changed here except one minor tweak from the Garmin speed-only sensor to the Wahoo one, simply because the Wahoo one is dual ANT+/BLE and the Garmin one is only ANT+.

Which is a good time to note that when possible I’d highly recommend folks buy dual ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart (BLE) sensors.  These are available in almost all categories now.  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.

Heart Rate Sensor (Optical): Scosche Rhythm+

This is my primary and singular running/cycling/hiking/etc heart rate sensor (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.  The Scosche is dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart, so it can transmit to just about anything.  I’ve used it now as my primary strap for almost two years.  You’ll see it in almost all my tests these days.

Heart Rate Sensor (non-Optical): Wahoo TICKR or 4iiii Viiiiva

Looking for a non-optical HR strap? I mostly use the basic Wahoo TICKR, though occasionally also the 4iiii Viiiiva.  The TICKR is nice in that it has small LED’s on it so I can validate the battery hasn’t died.  Whereas the Viiiiva has a boatload of extra features around ANT+ to BLE conversion, offline storage, etc…

Speed/Cadence: Wahoo BlueSCv2

Wahoo’s BlueSCv2 is what I use when I want a combo speed/cadence sensor, which includes both ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart (dual)  Thus, two for the price of one.  I love this model though because of the quick release bands making it easy to move between bikes if you need to.  You’ll find this on all my bikes where I’m doing power meter testing, as I use the magnets as a ‘known good’ for validating cadence readings.

If however, you’re looking for a cheaper (ANT+ only) combo option, just simply pickup the Garmin GSC-10 – which usually hovers around $30-$35.  I believe Bontrager also has a dual option out these days too, but I haven’t tried it yet.

Cadence-Only: Wahoo RPMv2

This one is another unit that you’ll find on many of my test bikes, mostly because of portability.  I also take it with me travelling when I’m using a hotel spin bike.  It’s a small pod that attaches to the side of your bike crank and it transmits on both ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart, so you can use it with your Garmin device or your smart phone.

Note that technically I find the Garmin cadence-only attachment system slightly better than Wahoo’s, as it doesn’t require zipties.  But that’s not enough to sway me from dual ANT+/BLE.

Speed-Only: Wahoo SPEED

Wahoo finally came out with a dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart speed-only sensor this past spring.  I’ve been using it on my bike since (with a review I haven’t quite finished taking photos for).  It simply attaches to your wheel hub and that’s it.  No magnets or anything else to deal with.

Running Footpods (ANT+): 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’.

Running Footpods (Bluetooth Smart) : 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.

Note however that I’m seeing evidence that this has actually been discontinued, leaving only the fugly-large Polar Bluetooth Smart footpod as the last/only Bluetooth Smart footpod out there.  Note that technically Stryd’s new footpod based power meter is also Bluetooth Smart footpod compliant, but that’s a wee bit of overkill in terms of price for just a footpod.

Best ANT+ to BLE Bridging Solution: 4iiii Viiiiva

While this may seem an odd category, I keep getting requests for it – so I’m putting it here to assist folks in my recommendation.  There is really only one other competitor in this space, which is the Mio Velo.  However, I find that 4iiii has done a much better job with the overall ‘package’ on the Viiiiva, which just got a huge pile of cool updates even this week (years after release), including the ability to save data while away from the phone and the ability to work with ANT+ gym equipment (something Garmin watches used to do).  Oh, and it’s still a dual ANT+/BLE HR strap.

Note that there’s a runner-up coming with the North Pole Engineering CABLE pod, but it won’t start shipping till December.  I’ve been using it lately though, and showed it off in my recent Zwift Treadmill post.

Bike Computer Mounts (just computer): Barfly 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.  Note that I easily recommend the Barfly for just the bike computer, but if you plan on attaching an action camera to the same mount, read the next section.

One of the other things I do love about the new Barfly units though is that in the box it has compatibility pieces for every bike computer out there.  Garmin, Polar, Wahoo, Mio, etc…. Seriously, all of them. Even has a GoPro mount built in (which is still pretty good).  The integration story with BarFly now is awesome and brilliant.

Bike Computer with Action Cam Combo Mount: K-Edge Combo Mounts

In the event you’re going to hang an action cam from your bike computer mount, that’s where I typically recommend you transition away from the Barfly mount and more to the K-Edge mount, due to the stability for cameras.  Read more on that in my action-cam section though.  Seriously, I’ve bought more K-Edge mounts from the store around the corner than I know why I’ve bought them.  Actually, I buy so many because sometimes I’ll mount 2-3 mounts on just the front bars alone for action cam comparative testing.  These mounts stay-put and make everything awesome.

That said however, I’ve got no issues with the new Barfly rear seat post action cam mount, it’s rock solid too.

‘2016 Winter Recommendations: Sensors’ compatibleStreet Price / PriceAmazon LinkClever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programMore Info / Review
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 29th, 2016 @ 7:18 am
Wahoo SPEED ANT+/BLE Sensor$39LinkLinkN/A
Wahoo Blue SCv2 - Bluetooth Smart/ANT+ Speed/Cadence Sensor$59LinkLinkN/A
Wahoo Fitness RPM2 (Bluetooth Smart/ANT+ Cadence Sensor)$49LinkLinkN/A
Adidas Running Footpood (Bluetooth Smart)$79LinkN/ALink
Scosche RHYTHM+$79LinkLinkLink
Wahoo TICKR$59LinkLinkLink
K-Edge Action Cam MountsVariesLinkLinkLink
4iiii's Viiiiva ANT+ to Bluetooth Smart HR Strap & Bridge$79.00LinkLinkLink
Suunto ANT/ANT+ Running Footpod (good for both ANT types)$70.00LinkN/ALink
Garmin ANT+ Running Footpod (Mini)$45LinkLinkLink
Barfly Tate Labs Timetrial/Triathlon Bike Mount$37LinkN/ALink
Barfly Tate Labs Road Bike Handlebar Mount$25LinkN/ALink

Weight Scales (WiFi):

image

I wrote an entire post about WiFi weight scales last winter, and virtually all of it still applies since very little has changed, so it’s probably best to just read that weighty awesomeness.  That post also covers how to get the Fitbit/Withings scales to feed data into Garmin Connect and other platforms.

Best Options: Fitbit Aria or Withings Body

I’ve been including little snippets of these scales in my Fitbit Surge and Withings Activité 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 Withings Body Cardio with advanced metrics like Pulse Wave Velocity).  Any other relevant differences are partnerships or platforms.  And, again, they’re both great scales.  I use them both, frankly just depending on which bathroom I’m in.

*The one exception here is the new Garmin Index scale, if you’re heavily aligned to Garmin and want advanced metrics.  But otherwise, I think all of the fancier/higher end scales are overkill compared to these usually $100/sub-$100 options above.

‘2016 Winter Recommendations: Weight Scales’ compatiblePriceAmazon LinkClever Training Link (Save 10% with DCR10BTF)Review
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 29th, 2016 @ 7:18 am
Withings Body WiFi Scale$129LinkLinkLink
Fitbit Aria WiFi Weight Scale$129LinkLinkLink
Garmin Index WiFi Scale$149LinkLinkLink

Action Cams:

image

Best All Arounder Action Cam: GoPro Hero5 Black

GoPro narrowly (and I mean barely) holds onto Best All Arounder category this year with the new Hero5 Black.  And it does so for one single reason: Complete waterproofing without a case.  If they lacked that, or if Garmin had it in the VIRB Ultra 30, then Garmin would have swept this category easily.

That waterproofing is just key to not having to think or worry about the camera, especially in aquatic situations – especially the beach or with a family.  Plus, the size of it is slightly smaller than the VIRB Ultra 30 once you include those cases.  The back touchscreen is brilliantly clear, and the video quality is equally as awesome – especially the new linear modes.  The new voice control also allows you to not only shout stressfully at your family on that long road trip, but at your camera as well.  Plus, the WiFi upload is handy for having all your videos is one spot (even if the quality is degraded).  Also, for pros, the ability to record the three internal mic audio tracks to separate .WAV tracks is very helpful.  As is the RAW photo mode.

Best Cam for Sports Metrics: Garmin VIRB Ultra 30

If you don’t mind having to take a case along for waterproofing, then go with the Garmin VIRB Ultra 30.  I think this may be the best product Garmin has released in years.  Most people don’t understand how far Garmin has come in the action cam market in the last few years until you’ve used one.  They threw down the gauntlet this year, and from a features standpoint they largely came out on top.

The ability to overlay metrics on it – like power, speed, pace, etc… is so far above and ahead what GoPro recently introduced, it’s not even funny.  They do a hundred times more stuff than GoPro does in this area, and they do it on desktop and mobile platforms.  It’s not even close to a competition, Garmin dominates.

So why not just use the GoPro combined with a Garmin wearable to record the data and mix after the fact?  Well, it’s just one more thing to deal with.  For me, I find the time savings worth it.  So if I’m shooting something that I want to share that type of info (i.e. a ride or something else that would have data overlaid), I’m going to go for the VIRB Ultra 30.

Best Safety Cam: Cycliq Fly6 & Fly12

Next we’ve got the Fly6.  If you’re not familiar, this isn’t an action cam per se, but it’s the closest category I’ve got.  It combines a rear light (which you’d want anyway) with a camera.  Basically, this is a safety cam.  And not in the sense that it’s going to save your ass, but rather, it’s like an insurance policy for later.  I have it on my bikes while riding around the vast majority of the time and it’s just silly easy to use.

Now, this isn’t really a replacement for a GoPro or the like, it doesn’t have that level of quality.  Rather – it’s just so in the event something bad happens to you – you can prove it wasn’t your fault, or even better – catch the person if they left you at the scene.

There’s also the Fly12, which is for the front side.  I’m not as big of a fan of this since it’s a bit bulky/heavy for my tastes (though, I fully understand why – given longer battery desires).  But since there’s nothing else out there…the Fly12 it is.

Action Cam Mounts: K-Edge Action Cam Mounts

Now, while I often use the Barfly for my bike computers, I really prefer the K-Edge mounts for my action cams.  I’ve come to love the sturdiness of the K-Edge mounts, especially the new combo mounts they’ve made (Garmin + GoPro).  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’ve bought front/back mounts for every bike I have, love them.

‘2016 Winter Recommendations: Action Cams’ compatibleStreet Price / PriceAmazon LinkClever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programMore Info / Review
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 29th, 2016 @ 7:18 am
Cycliq Fly12 Bike Camera/Light$349LinkLinkLink
GoPro Hero5 Black$399LinkLinkLink
Garmin VIRB Ultra 30$399LinkLinkLink
Cycliq Fly6 Bike Camera/Light$169LinkLinkLink
K-Edge Action Cam MountsVariesLinkLinkLink

Drones:

image

A new category this year!  And one I have the most fun playing with lately.  Probably just because it’s combining a few of my passions: Photography, sports, and aviation.

Drones have advanced so much in the last 12-18 months it’s mind-boggling.  Now you’ve got obstacle avoidance, person tracking, 30 minute battery life, 4K stabilized cameras are the norm, and automated cinematic moves are expected.

When it comes to drones you’ve gotta decide what you want the drone for.  Is it 100% to capture sports action of yourself, or is it cinematography/photos/etc…with a side of sports action?  That will help you decide which drone is best.  Personally, I’ve come to prefer an all arounder, since I think it’s more useful on vacations/etc.

Best All Around Drone: DJI Mavic Pro

This recently started shipping a few weeks ago and is probably the best consumer drone ever made.  The thing folds up smaller than a running shoe, while still packing in the most advanced cinematic shots of any consumer drone (well, until they released the new larger Phantom 4 Pro last week).  It’s got 4K shooting capabilities without any fisheye lens effect, along with the ability to live stream videos to sites like YouTube and Facebook.  Further, it can even use just your phone for control – versus always having to use the provided controller.

You’ll see my in-depth review of this, focused on sports elements, within the next 7-8 days.  But I can already tell you it’s my favorite and hands-down the drone I’d recommend.  I just wish DJI would make a small waterproof tracking module I could buy, à la the Airdog.  Speaking of which….

Best Solo Shooting Sports Action Drone: Airdog

If you’re shooting yourself, then the Airdog is the clear winner here.  The Airdog is really focused on shooting sports action, and it’s really not all that great at general cinematography.  But the unit differs from every other drone on the market in that it has a small waterproof transmitter that you wear on your arm.  That transmitter includes controls, but also GPS tracking so that the drone can follow not just your position but also your altitude.

That ensures the drone can follow you – even through the trees, which is something that causes the DJI drones challenges with their ‘Active Track’, which follows you with its camera.  Yes, you can use the follow-me mode for controller following, but that’s also limited in terms of altitude changes and camera moves.  With the Airdog you have numerous ways you can position the camera, both preset and on the fly.

Again, if you plan to film yourself, the Airdog is your better bet.  Whereas if you have a buddy to film all your exploits, the Mavic is the better bet.

‘2016 Winter Gadget Recommendations: Drones’ compatiblePriceAmazon LinkClever Training Link (Save 10% with DCR10BTF)Review
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 29th, 2016 @ 7:18 am
Airdog$1,599LinkN/ALink
DJI Mavic Pro$999LinkN/ALink

Activity Trackers:

image

So…here’s the thing, in the past, I used to have a section here on activity trackers.  But the market has simply gotten so big, and the features in general overlap each other on so many units.  It’s nearly impossible to simply say “Go get a Fitbit” or “Go get a Polar Loop” or “Go Get a Jawbone” (actually, no, don’t get a Jawbone).

Instead, it’s really best to look at whatever activity trackers either:

A) Your friends are using
B) Your existing device is on

Seriously.  If you’re motivated by competing with friends, then you want to be on the same platform as them.  So if they’re all on Fitbit – go get a Fitbit.  And same goes for Garmin or Withings, or anyone else.

Secondly, if you already have (for example) a Garmin device, heck, it’s likely it has an activity tracker in it.  But say you want something else – in that case, get something on the same platform as that – so you can track everything in one place.  It’d make no sense to have a Fitbit activity tracker and a Garmin GPS watch.

There are of course nuances to each unit out there.  Some do optical HR slightly better than others.  While some have more sports modes than others.  And some have coaching, while others have better smartphone integration.  And of course, now some even have GPS (like the Vivosmart HR+).  Most of them are within a pretty small price window, so it’s really best to figure out what suites you.  For example, the last few weeks I’ve been using the Fitbit Charge 2 – which works fine and dandy.  If I had bought that, I’d be happy.  Yet at the same time, I was also using the Garmin FR35, which doubles as an activity tracker – and I would have been happy there too.  Both are good options.

Next to last – the vast majority of activity trackers are roughly accurate.  To that I meant that no activity tracker on the market is perfect.  None.  Instead, they are estimations – treat them as such.  Each company tries to fine tune their algorithms for various use cases.  Some might be better at guarding against false positives in the shower, but less so doing dishes.  Others the inverse.  What matters is that at the end of the day if your activity tracker said you only did 2,000 steps, and you’re goal was 10,000 steps – then you were…lazy.  Meanwhile, if it says you did 9,782 steps and you think you really did 9,923 or 9,458 – just go walk around the block an extra time.  It’s about tracking trends – not exacts.

Lastly, in general I prefer activity trackers that have a display on them.  If I didn’t need a display, then most phones these days can track 99% of your awake time anyway.  So for me, I want to be able to glance at my wrist and see how many steps I have and how far from a goal I am.

Cycling Power Meters:

image

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 this 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.

Cycling Trainers:

image

The best way to cover this section is to go read my complete 2016-2017 cycling trainers guide, so again like power meters, I’d go over and check out that post for all my recommendations (a massive list on a slew of categories).

Obviously, given it’s now basically the trainer season, there’s no more trainers coming out till at the earliest mid-next year, with most announcements typically happening at Eurobike in August each year.

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, Drones, Heart Rate Straps, Watches/Bike Computers, Power Meters, Activity Monitors, and Trainers.

Select product use/budget for a comparison from the drop down menus:

Select product type:
Select product use:
Select price range:

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:

Adidas Smart Run GPS
Apple Watch Series 2 & Nike+ Edition
Bia GPS
Bryton Cardio 60 Multisport Watch
CycleOps Joule 2.0 (Original)
CycleOps Joule GPS
Epson SF-810
FINIS Swimsense
Fitbit Surge
Garmin Edge 1000
Garmin Edge 20
Garmin Edge 200
Garmin Edge 25
Garmin Edge 500
Garmin Edge 510
Garmin Edge 520
Garmin Edge 705
Garmin Edge 800
Garmin Edge 810
Garmin Edge 820
Garmin Edge Touring (Normal)
Garmin Edge Touring (Plus)
Garmin Epix
Garmin Fenix
Garmin Fenix2/Fenix2 SE
Garmin Fenix3
Garmin Fenix3 HR
Garmin Fenix5 (5/5S/5X)
Garmin Forerunner 10
Garmin Forerunner 110
Garmin Forerunner 15
Garmin Forerunner 210
Garmin Forerunner 220
Garmin Forerunner 225
Garmin Forerunner 230
Garmin Forerunner 235
Garmin Forerunner 25
Garmin Forerunner 305
Garmin Forerunner 310XT
Garmin Forerunner 35
Garmin Forerunner 405
Garmin Forerunner 410
Garmin Forerunner 60/70
Garmin Forerunner 610
Garmin Forerunner 620
Garmin Forerunner 630
Garmin Forerunner 735XT
Garmin Forerunner 910XT
Garmin Forerunner 920XT
Garmin Forerunner 935
Garmin Swim
Garmin Tactix
Garmin Vivoactive
Garmin Vivoactive HR
Garmin Vivosmart HR+
Leikr GPS
Magellan Echo
Magellan Switch & Switch Up
Microsoft Band 2
Mio Alpha Optical HR Monitor
Motorola Motoactv
Nike+ GPS Sportwatch
O-Synce Navi2Coach
Polar A300
Polar M200
Polar M400
Polar M450
Polar M600
Polar RC3
Polar RCX3
Polar RCX5
Polar V650
Polar V800
Soleus 1.0 GPS
Soleus 2.0 GPS
Stages Dash
Suunto Ambit
Suunto Ambit2
Suunto Ambit2 R
Suunto Ambit2 S
Suunto Ambit3 Peak
Suunto Ambit3 Sport
Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR
Suunto Spartan Ultra
Timex Cycle Trainer 2.0 GPS
Timex Global Trainer
Timex Marathon GPS
Timex One GPS+
Timex Run Trainer GPS 1.0
Timex Run Trainer GPS 2.0
Timex Run x20 GPS
Timex Run x50
TomTom Multisport
TomTom Multisport Cardio
TomTom Runner
TomTom Runner Cardio
TomTom Spark
TomTom Spark 3/Runner 3
Wahoo ELEMNT
Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT

As always, thanks for reading – and supporting the site!

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked.
If you would like a profile picture, simply register at Gravatar, which works here on DCR and across the web.

*

 Notify me of followup comments via e-mail.

You can click here to Subscribe without commenting

Add a picture

186 Comments

  1. JonD

    Two minor points:

    1. Typo in the first part of the airdog part – I think you meant
    “it’s *not* really all that great at general cinematography”

    2. Technically BSXinsight is another option fit ANT+ to BLE – total overkill but works …

    Jon

  2. Robin

    Hi Ray. I appreciate what you’re saying about the Vivoactive HR being a better alround watch than the FR235 but my problem is, I just don’t like the look of it and don’t like the way something like the time is displayed with the hours on a different row to the minutes (although it just sprung to my mind that you may be able to get different faces via Connect IQ).

    As always, I appreciate your good work.

    Cheers

    Robin

  3. John

    The Bontrager Interchange (in the white box) is indeed a good dual ANT+/Bluetooth combined speed/cadence sensor if you shop at a Trek dealer.

    On that topic, many Trek frames have custom chainstay support for their DuoTrap/DuoTrap S speed/cadence sensors, also dual ANT+/Bluetooth in the white package. Really nice implementation for the Trek inflected on your shopping list.

    Also, many powermeters (and some smart trainers) have built-in cadence sensors or cadence estimation.

  4. coach Dion

    I’ll just stick with my old 910XT…
    fine for running, cycling and the bit of swimming I do, not that I’m thinking of another tri anytime soon!

  5. gingerneil

    Very surprised you’ve gone for the gopro hero 5 considering your comments on the overall ecosystem.

  6. Dalibor

    I don´t get why Fenix is better than Ambit for trail running/hiking. Ambit has all the features for these activities. It is reliable, has good navigation feature and has good battery life. Whats more Suunto supports import of 3rd party gpx files into movescount, garmin into garmin connent doesnt. For activity tracking, cycling or triathlon Fenix might be better option, but for trail running ?

    • The Fenix allows import of routes directly onto the unit, so you don’t need to import them to the site first. Pros and cons to both methods.

      The Fenix has features like live tracking (which is actually slightly more useful trail running in case you go missing), ability to change the data fields on the watch while not at a computer, deeper customization of the buttons, deeper app support with Connect IQ than Suunto’s app platform, climbing mode specifically for trail running, plus aspects like racing courses, etc…

      All of which ignores the umpteen other features it has the Ambit doesn’t that aren’t as applicable to trail running. Still, as noted, I left the Ambit3 in there, because it makes sense in certain cases.

  7. Fred2

    Regarding the Garmin cadence-only attachment system, the funny “rubber-band” with an extra band in the middle. The center band in one of mine has broken, nobody (at least nobody online) seems to sell a replacement. I think I would prefer a zip tie, since it is stronger in the first place and easier to replace.

    • Fred2

      Now that I’ve posted this, I’ve been able to find online sellers of Garmin “Bike Cadence Sensor Bands”. Silly me. But I still maintain that zip ties are easier to replace.

    • davie

      I use a garmin magnet free cadencesensor and also a wahoo RPM. I originally thought the RPM’s zip tie system was probably inferior, but then the garmin rubber band was near disintegration after only 6 months on mainly fine weather riding. the band broke and it just fell off the crank when I checked it one day. I now use a zip tie for the garmin sensor which I know will not break.

      3 other people I know with garmin cadence sensors report the same problem with its rubber band. All now use zip ties or electrical tape to hold their garmin sensors.

  8. Hi Ray, I believe the Garmin GSC 10 is not available (new) anymore… If I’m wrong and it is still available, I’d love to know where!

    • Tim Grose

      Quick search and think you are right. Some options out there though. Personally I find the newer separate cadence & speed sensors might more convenient as can move from bike to bike.

  9. Josh

    Any opinion on the v800 at this point? Since you have kept the Ambit 3 in the running, it seems the v800 would be mentioned in there in some way?

  10. Jonny

    Any thoughts/comments on the supposed Fenix 5 leaks that Garmin has ordered takedowns on? I’m in the market for a multisport watch but it looks like it’s safest to wait for CES in Jan? ;-)

    link to appelmoessite.wordpress.com
    link to the5krunner.com

    • r.hunt

      That’s the one I’m waiting for as a day-to-day watch. Hopefully leaks will be true and there’ll be a smaller version. The Fenix 3 is simply huge on my wrist.

    • As a general rule, for the most part I tend not to comment on unannounced products.

      I have noted that the Fenix series has seen updates each year in Q1.

  11. JN

    I picked a FR630 up for 200€ with HR-strap a few weeks ago, was really surprised to see it that low.

    Working great as an ordinary day-to-day watch aswell :)

  12. Matthew B.

    Hey Ray,

    Thanks for your recommendations.

    Regarding an update to the Fenix line, would you expect any improvements in screen technology/performance in the next generation? In day light, the Fenix 3’s screen is great, but day to day it’s very dull and washed out.

    Regards,
    Matt

  13. David E.

    Every year, this is one of my favorite posts of the year! Question: where are you on heads-up displays right now? Would either the Varia or Recon make a good purchase right now, or is it worth letting this technology mature a bit more before jumping in (or do you have doubts about its prognosis going forward)?

    • I’m mixed. I liked the weight/fit of Varia better than Recon Jet, but it didn’t really end up giving me much since it requires a head unit. It just added another piece of gear to charge. Not saying it isn’t good for others, just that for me personally it was (yet) another thing to charge.

      I’ve got the Oakley/Intel one that arrived today apparently, when I get back tomorrow.

    • David E.

      Thanks, Ray. I sort of have this idea of combining a 735xt with Varia Vision for triathlons. That would solve the quick release issue with the 735xt and allow you to continue to use the wrist-based HR. But $399 is a pricy solution. . .

  14. Emma

    Thanks. Any chance the girl might be doing a list as well again this year? I always appreciate her last list.

  15. Jonathan

    Great post. I’m happy to see that the Garmin 735xt is still on the top of your list, otherwise I’d have to go out and get something new and my wife would kill me!

    Have you ever thought about doing a GPS accuracy review/breakdown? I know we can see a lot of your tests in your individual posts, but I’m interested to hear your overall views on the different products out there. For instance: do you find any devices getting better or worse over time? I had a Fenix 3 and it seemed to get worse and worse with each software upgrade. Can’t say the same for the 735xt.

    • Tim Grose

      Personally with devices like the 735 I don’t tend to “worry” about GPS accuracy these days as most of the time there is nothing much to be concerned about. Some goes for the 230/235/630 series. Before that, the 620 wasn’t so good early on but got better with updates. If however you are concerned that now and again a GPS device might say show you on the wrong side of the road then or is a bit “wobbly” under thick tree cover then you may be disappointed.

  16. David Zarzycki

    Hi Ray,

    If you aren’t sure about how to categorize the Apple Watch, then take the camera of the iPhone as a precedent. Out of the box, Apple doesn’t offer “advanced” features like exposure, aperture, or shutter speed control. That being said, you can download an app to do such things. The Apple Watch is no different. It is effectively a premium activity tracker that can be turned into an “advanced” running/triathlon watch with an app.

    • Mike S.

      The problem still is battery life and that’s not likely to improve anytime soon. Apple has already done the unthinkable and made the Series 2 thicker to accommodate a larger battery. I think that is going to be the Apple Watch’s Achilles heel.

      I have a Garmin 235 for running but just got an Apple Watch for day to day use as a smartwatch. Although the 235 has some smart watch features, I just found that the 235 is too hard to read in low light situations.

    • Bob190

      Just how is battery life a problem? I have an AW Series 2 and it is on my wrist pretty much 23 hours each day. That includes a run of an hour or so with music 3-4 times a week and bike rides of 2-3 hours on days I don’t run. Then sleep tracking at night.

      I never see less than 40% on the battery. Is it really that difficult to find an hour or so each day to charge it.

      If you are referring to the GPS battery life of 5 hours .. that affects almost no one as very few go out on runs longer than five hours. If you do, than the AW isn’t for you .. but for most that battery is fine.

      I always find that the people who complain about the AW battery life are those that don’t actually own one, or people who write reviews.

      I agree with Ray that as a running watch it leaves a lot of things to be desired, but honestly battery life isn’t one them.

    • Reed

      It is a big inconvenience though – whether you have to charge something 365/year or 52/year makes a big difference in my opinion. I like knowing that I can go spend a weekend in the tent or cabin w/out lugging too many cables around.

    • gingerneil

      Charging every day is a total deal breaker for me. Once a week at most with my fenix 3 and I’m doing about 50 miles running plus daily wear.

    • Bob190

      So you wear the Fenix 3 24 hours a day, seven days a week without taking it off your wrist? Then take it off to charge it once a week?

      I just don’t find it an inconvenience to drop the AW on the charging puck for an hour each day.

      I guess if your often away from an electrical outlet for days at a time, then the AW is probably not for you .. and that’s OK. That probably isn’t the case for most people however.

    • Mike S.

      Did you read what I wrote? I have the AW series 2. I stand by what I said about battery life not being sufficient. A running watch needs to work around me, not the other way around.

    • ekutter

      Plucking it on the charger shouldn’t be too big a deal. Except when you forget to put it back on your wrist. If I have to charge my device mid day, it is really easy to run off without it. The best part about having a single device that works for both workout’s and as an everyday watch is that you always have it with you when you need it.

      Assuming everyone always has their phone with them is just not realistic. Some of us actually do like to leave our phones at home or in the car when we go workout.

    • Hi Bob

      I had an Apple Watch and got 2 months later a Garmin Fenix as a sports watch.

      I still used for a while the Apple Watch as an everyday watch.

      Unfortunately, the Apple Watch has an inaccurate optical heart rate monitor. It would go up to 215bpm while the Garmin would show 165bpm. Also I am not sure how you train, but I train in late afternoons. After a day of work, that means the AW often died in the middle of a workout. Its metrics are also very basic compared to what’s offered on the Garmin. It also doesn’t support natively intervals or structured workouts. I liked though that it supported a larger variety of sports such as yoga.

      In the end, what’s most appropriate is qualify the Apple Watch as a smart watch and possibly a fitness watch but it cannot be yet considered as a sports watch

  17. Thanks !

    For the running recommendations, I have a friend who needs to have music. But in our group, everyone has a Garmin watch and we can track easily each other’s training. I hope Garmin has plans for a watch with music bluetooth, I think there’s a lot of people like him and it would complete Garmin’s lineup

  18. john whittington

    Any tips for optical HR. I have the Scosche and the 735xt. Neither is anywhere close to accurate on me.
    thanks

    • Bob

      My Scosche Rhythm+ works great, even better than any chest strap I have used. The key is placement – does not work well at all on the wrist, nor does any wrist OHRM I have tried. It works great and is very comfortable on my upper arm though (strap over bicep with HRM just behind bicep/over lateral leading edge of tricep (so not against bone but against soft tissue).

  19. Ray

    Ray,

    Thanks for the write-up. As always, I enjoy reading your posts and particularly your recommendations.

    Do you know of a Garmin Edge & GoPro/VirbUlta30 combo mount specifically for TT’s? I contacted K-edge and I got a ‘nothing yet’ but they mentioned to check back in a few weeks so it sounds like they have something cooking. Are there any other options out there for me?

    Thanks!

  20. Joe

    While it is true that the Vivoactive does not support multisport mode natively, there are user-developed apps that allow you to do so. The extensibility of the Vivoactive is one of its strongest features IMO.

    • Tyler

      Agreed.

      It’s my favorite, of a long line of Garmin watches.

      It only needs subtle changes to be a clear smart watch winner, imo.

  21. Tyler

    How about the category of: Everyday-wear Smartwatch that’s also used for fitness?

    I’m very happy with my Vivoactive (non-HR version).

    I hope they come out with a Vivoactive 2, with similar looks and thinness, and some improvements like a microphone (for, ‘Okay, Google’ dictation, use as phone microphone, etc.).
    I don’t like the bracelet style of the Vivoactive HR, nor the thickness the HR bump adds.

    I think there’s a market for a thin smartwatch.

  22. Check out the Garmin vivoactiv HR is at $170 USD in amazon

    link to amazon.com

  23. Redefo

    When you talk about the Suunto Ambit3, are you referring to the Suunto Ambit3 Vertical? If it had the same price as the rest of the Ambit3 family, would you recommend it?

    Thanks!

  24. roadrunnerrocks

    Waiting hours before this year´s London and NewYork marathons started I saw fellow runners wearing mainly TomToms, TomToms, Apple watches, more TomToms and the occasional Garmin235/920´s.

    Trail runs in Europe this year has been in mainly Suunto´s in all shapes and Polar V800´s.

    Recommending is one thing, what people like and buy is another =)

    • Mike S.

      Interesting. I’d love to see a survey of runners, their experience and the equipment they use. I think there is a significant number of people that bought Apple Watches and have started running.

    • It’s more geographic. If you flip to the US, it’ll be the opposite by quite a margin.

      Marketing is a big piece of it. I noted how many Suunto Ambit’s there were at the UTMB event this summer, like, almost all of them. I suspect in large part because Suunto is far more involved in the trail running scene. Garmin is absent there (like, 100% absent).

      Also, TomTom and Suunto tend to be cheaper in Europe comparative to Garmin devices. TomTom sponsors many races in Europe (at least in France), and is more active in communities in Europe. Also, both on European companies.

      The Apple Watch is an interesting nut, and I suspect it’s largely because people buy it for general use and end up running with it. Which doesn’t take away from that segment, but it’s just not what I’d recommend for a pure runner.

    • gingerneil

      The tomtom runner was going on Amazon today for £45 (albeit reconditioned, but fully warranteed) ! That’s just insane for an entry level GPS. Perfect kits starter watch….

    • Josh

      Ray, I was able to pickup a brand new ambit 3 sport for just under $200 with HRM. I think I read on one of your recent blog posts about upcoming Bluetooth footpods from some company but cannot remember. Can you shed any light as the Garmin footpod I have for my garmin watch works seamlessly as im sure you’ve experienced as well, and I’d like to see that same ease of functionality with the Ambit 3 (I find this watch more comfy and the display size in the middle of the watch better for me).

  25. Jonas

    I guess there’s still no modern running/tri watches that can be lapped with a button while paused eh? (310/910 feature).

  26. Mark Sperry

    I’m looking forward to see the reviews on the new Tomtom Adventurer and to see how it stacks up against the Garmin Fenix 3 and the Ambit 3. I’ve been using the Fenix 2 and the amount of times it locks up and has to be sent back is very inconvenient. Before that I was using the 305 and it did the same thing. that’s pretty much why I’ve been contemplating a switch. It would also save some cash.

    Best,
    Mark

  27. Corri

    Hi Ray,

    With the 920XT selling for $199 USD at Clever Training & Amazon, would you recommend it over the 735XT? I noticed you still have it at $449 in your write-up.

  28. Gabe

    Fair warning to those thinking About the fenix 3. The fenix 5 has been leaked and it’s release is inevitable. If you’re that person that wants the latest and greatest don’t be posting I’m angry at Garmin that I just bought the fenix 3.

    It’s a do not buy imo .

    • runnershigh

      Great summary@all…but I think it’s time for a in-depth review of the polar m200 to complete the budget-section for this year :-).

    • Patrick Utrecht

      Though the Fenix 5 may or may not be imminent, if I see a nice deal on the Fenix 3 it’s still a nice watch to get. Especially concidering the long wait that can happen in the fenix series between time of announcement (CES-event) and time when the watch finally lands in your local store / favorite online shop (may/june?)

      For what it’s worth, the pictures that have leaked seem a bit fake (their sizes vary a bit and image quality looks a bit iffy on some model-pictures) and the lack of detail to go with said leaked images is also underwhelming. But having said that, I’m looking forward to the successor so I can get a nice new toy and donate my Fenix 3 to my wife.

    • Gabe

      oh it’s real – link to appelmoessite.wordpress.com Garmin would have not requested a take down if they were fake.

      So many models – 13 and a new watch strap system called QUICKFIT

      Anyways it looks like there are wireless charging models, typical models, etc.

      Nothing really innovative here – no camera, doesn’t look like LTE, nor any music capability, etc..

      Looks like the menus are more current in line with the chronos and 735s.

    • Reed

      I am sure the Fenix 4/5 is around the corner, but the whole “Garmin ordered to take down the pictures” spin is a load of BS in my opinion. Ever heard of the Streisand effect? If I were to do a guerilla marketing campaign for my blog, that’s what I’d come up with. I hope Garmin knows better then to send out petty e-mails to people who upload screenshots to blogs (leaked or otherwise).

    • ekutter

      It’ll be interesting to see what the new Fenix is. My main concern right now with the Fenix 3 is that it is old hardware and only supports Connect IQ 1.3 with very limited memory, even compared to the $250 Vivoactive HR. It just makes it a much more limiting device going forward. If it has everything you want, go for it. But it is likely at the end of the line support wise.

      I’m just hoping they have a Fenix 5 model that is a bit smaller/lighter than the current one, even if it is plastic. I’m not ready to nearly double the weight of my 630.

    • Gunnar

      Only Ray knows, and you know he’s not talking!

      But looks like a legit leak to me. If it’s true, I very much look forward to the smaller form fenix.

    • Dom

      I hope Garmin knows better then to send out petty e-mails to people who upload screenshots to blogs (leaked or otherwise).
      That’s not the only site which posted these pictures and then reported being asked to remove them, and Garmin deleted some discussion of this from their forum (which for obvious reasons I can’t link to…). I suspect you’re wrong here.

  29. Craig

    I’m curious at your recommendation for Wahoo SPEED sensor. The primary reason I would buy a speed sensor would be so that I’d have some speed and distance metrics while using my bike on an indoor trainer. This sensor is mounted on the front hub, thus making that use case a no-go.

    • Typically people mount the speed sensor on the rear hub.

      Folks also use speed sensors in mountain biking, where GPS signal can be a bit spottier in switchbacks.

    • Michael Swann

      Personally, I found that the Wahoo RPM Speed Sensor was too easy to wake up for my liking as it took only the slightest movement. The Garmin one I find has to have the wheel rotated for it to wake up.

      The first day I used my brand new out the box Wahoo sensor I got some very dodgy speed readings. Had to disable it mid ride. Took it off and ordered another Garmin one. I checked the battery and it was already flat as I think it had been constantly awake.

  30. Mike Burns

    Hey Ray, Thank you for all your work here. As it turns out, I’m in the market for both a bike (IMCHATT ended early when the rear derailleur sheared of at m17) and a biking computer especially for turn by turn directions around my new Ohio home. I’m leaning towards are a larger screen as sight not as good as it use to be so size and contrast will be factors. Perhaps voice/audible announcements may be available. That said, I’ll be checking out the Edge Series Garmins. The bike I’m considering Giant Defy Advanced Pro 2 has inherent sensors for cadence so compatibility probably will be a factor as well. Thanks again and Happy Thanksgiving!

  31. Jeroen V

    Thanks for the very useful post.

    I own a vivoactive HR since 7 months which I generally use for running, trail running and ultra running. As much as I’d like a fenix 3, I just can’t afford it.

    I just wanted to add my ( humble) opinion to this great post. I think the vivoactive could also be mentioned as a budget trail/hiking/ultra watch. It has a barometric altimeter and thanks to Connect IQ it also has mapping (dw map) and customizable data fields ( I currently have 5 data fields on my watch). Battery goes on for about 10 hours and you can also use a battery pack. ( I just don’t think the fenix 3 HR is worth the extra cost over the Vivo HR-

    I also think if you really care about advanced features like lactate threshold and advanced running dynamics you’re either a pro athlete(1% of users ?) or a data geek (aren’t we all). In my humble opinion, if you really care about these metrics you should get a lab lactate threshold test and perhaps a run analysis with cameras. I just don’ t think the validation of the lactate threshold algorithms are accurate enough as a basis for a training plan. Also Garmin needs more clinical studies for vertical oscillation and ground contact time… I do have some friends who run semi-pro and they only care about training volume and training intensity( even without a HRM). I sometimes think people believe they run faster with a fancier watch…

    • ekutter

      My wife has the vivoactive HR and I’d have to agree with everything you say. It is a great little watch. It has better support for CIQ apps than the Fenix. It has the barometric altimeter. It has a golf app, which my 630 and the 735 don’t have. I, as it seems most people have concluded, think the advanced running features of the 630/735 aren’t very useful for the vast majority of users.

      The navigation with DW maps definitely isn’t on par with the Fenix, but most people I know, even high level ultra runners, never use the mapping features. Most of my tri friends never realized their 310/910/920’s even had a mapping page.

  32. Michael Swann

    When you recommend a product you should also make mention of the various eco systems that they interact with. For example, it is easier to get Garmin to share data with other platforms than Polar. You can make similar comparisons between Fitbit and Withings.

    So while it might be good to recommend a certain device based on features, if someone wants their data shared with other sites, that might come into the recommendation and decision as to what to buy.

  33. gingerneil

    I’ve taken a £10 punt on an Adidas micoach ant+ footpod. Am I wrong to hope this will work as a footpod with my fenix 3?
    I did a treadmill interval session today, and the paces from the internal sensor were miles off both the treadmill (likely wrong and uncallibrated anyway) and my perception.

  34. Eli

    No mention of what unit you like most for those who want a cycling computer for navigation?

    • Gunnar

      Having just purchased the Edge 1000 I have to say that’s the best I’ve used for navigation.

      I’ve had the 720, 500, 520, 800 and 810 and even tried the Wahoo Elemnt. Have to say, the touch screen is usually my nemesis, but for navigation the touch screen on the edge 1000 works great. If I wasn’t navigating often, I would probably be happy with the edge 520.

    • Eli

      Also wondering how the 820 compares to the 1000. Had a Edge 305, 705, and now and 810 but the 810 broke so currently using my 920xt watch. Thinking I may wait out the winter until sea otter as the 1000 could be replaced then, but not sure. I’m assuming Garmin wants to keep a 1xxx series computer that is significantly better then the 8xx series and the 820 is the same with a smaller screen. (after 3 years the CPU could be made faster and use less battery power)

    • Eli

      Also wondering how the 820 compares to the 1000. Had a Edge 305, 705, and now and 810 but the 810 broke so currently using my 920xt watch. Thinking I may wait out the winter until sea otter as the 1000 could be replaced then, but not sure. I’m assuming Garmin wants to keep a 1xxx series computer that is significantly better then the 8xx series and the 820 is the same with a smaller screen. After 3 years the CPU could be made faster and use less battery power and could make any new features not be able to be backported to the 820.

      Why don’t you like the Element from wahoo for mapping?

    • Gunnar

      Eli,
      I probably would have stayed with the Wahoo, but I kept getting “phone disconnected” notifications on the screen whenever my phone lost connect with the Elemnt…..which was often. Very annoying. The Edge 1000 just seems to Aways stay connected.

      Other then that, for navigating, the Elemnt worked well. The screen is crystal clear and arguably easier to see then the edge 1000. It just came down to the phone connection as the breaking point (same issues I had when I tried the Reflkt too….).

  35. Nirshal

    Hey Ray, still no news about the Bragi Dash? I was hoping to have your opinion about them in time for the Black Friday, due that I’m pretty tired of wires and my Bose earbuds are falling to pieces… Having a one shot MP3 reader+Bluetooth headset that can be used for both running and swimming seems pretty much appealing to me, but I’m still concerned about the high price and the different opinions I got from the internet.

  36. wil

    Ray, other than the size would u say the Wahoo Elmnt craps all over the Garmin 520 or the other Garmin offerings?

    • No, not really. In fact, on a pure features standpoint the Edge series still easily outdoes the ELEMNT.

      Of course, whether or not those features mean anything to you is a different story. I list many of the differences in the post above. For many peoples, those added Garmin features may not mean anything.

      Inversely, Wahoo’s unique features like the Best Bike Split integration may not mean anything to other people too.

    • wil

      Ray,

      What do you mean by ‘pure features standpoint’? If you mean by sheer count, then yes I agree; however, there is something to be said about elegance of features.

      Garmin do make nice hardware but they are constantly let down by mediocre and buggy software. (perhaps they would do well to take a pause from piling new features on)

      By most reports Wahoo, has been very responsive to user feedback and are producing thoughtfully useful features.

      Someone wise once said: “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”

      Regards,

      Wil

  37. Paulo

    Hi Ray,

    Thank you for the fantastic recommendations.
    Can you confirm if the Wahoo Blue SC is compatible with the Ambit 3?

    Regards,
    Paulo

  38. korunner

    No V800? May I ask why?

  39. Colophonius

    Thanks for the great overview. I’m looking for a device to track my runs (currently up to 20 km) and stream music from it. Apparently the battery life of the M600 is too short and the Spark should be better. But what about the Samsung Gear Fit 2? Is it not an option at all?

  40. Spencer

    Ray,

    I’ve found the original vivoactive works great as a multi sport watch with a connect IQ app called genius wrist. It is incredibly customizable and allows you to easily transition and saves each sport individually to garmin connect.

  41. Pete Parfitt

    For any of us who are located in the UK, and hankering after a 735xt, millets seem to have a flash sale with 30% off, bringing it down to £252. I feel OK about promoting this as clevertraining.co.uk dont seem to be selling this watch.

  42. While I generally agree with all of your recommendations, I think you’ve overlooked the Epson watches particularly in the sub-$200 category. They list for over $200, but for the last 9 months, they seem to be on sale below that price almost every 4-6 weeks. Currently the SF-710 is $139 and the SF-810 is $159 on Amazon. For that price, you cannot find a better watch in my opinion. 30 hour battery (20 with the optical HRM in the 810), Bluetooth, accurate, syncs to Strava, and while you decried the phone app vs. the intuitiveness of the on-device menu compared to Garmin/Suunto/Polar, I find it much easier to use my phone screen real estate to configure the watch and then sync the settings instantly. I agree the on-device menu is terrible, but that’s only if you are stuck in the Garmin/Suunto/Polar paradigm of thinking you have to do everything on the watch! Most importantly though, the watch just works and that makes it leaps and bounds better than all my Garmins which have the occasional reboot, refuse to sync without a restart, etc. In 175 workouts with my Epson, I haven’t had a single issue with the watch and that alone is worth the $139!

    Thanks for your efforts though, I love reading your site and reviews.

    Ryan

  43. Martin

    Hi Ray,

    Why don`t you recommend Polar? I use V800 while couple of friends are Garmin fans, and really love metrics…which are exportable to Strava
    Just called my attention

    Best Regards

    • Reed

      My guess is: close to end of life cycle and hence too expensive for what it offers (was shocked that it was still CAD 550 on Amazon, which is also their current price for the 735XT), as I think the swim modes are still lacking compared to newer watches.

    • Reed

      Having said that, it really speaks for the V800 that it held up so well. Had I purchased it two years or so ago I would be super pleased. I wish more watches would have that sort of longevity (which to be fair, some do, like Fenix etc.)

    • Indeed. If Polar had done a sale like the FR920XT to $199, then absolutely it’d be there. But otherwise, it just doesn’t make sense from a price/features standpoint.

  44. Dejan M.

    Is there an “mp3” player that would also allow listening to offline spotify playlists?

    i know that Pebble core is coming next year and Mighty as well… but im wondering if anything else already exists? i dont want to use a phone while runni g… and mp3s are just not that conveniant. it would be much easier to just be able to sync an spotify playlist and listen to it offline

  45. iain

    Is the CycleOps Magnus available on CleverTraining for 20% as part of the black friday promo?

  46. Scott

    What are the chances the successor to the 920XT will have an optical HR monitor that works on a quick release wrist band? That’s the device I’m waiting on.

    • I would say that I wouldn’t expect to see any further Garmin watches that lack optical HR sensors*.

      *Exception obviously being something like a sub-$100 Vivofit series.

    • SPR

      That’s interesting. Do the optical HR watches still need to be done up really tight to produce reliable readings? Would be nice if you could wear them like normal watches.

    • Tim Grose

      The ones I have tried do seem to work better that way although some people seem to be able to get good results worn more normally.

  47. Matthew B.

    Fenix 3 HR on sale for $399 on Amazon Garmin Fenix 3 HR, Gray link to amazon.com

  48. SPR

    Interesting. That the vivo has supplanted the FR23x. Feel like there’s a category of runner that would want the structured workouts but not the extras that come with the 630 or 735xt.

    • Yeah, it’s why I think the FR235 is now overpriced. I think the VAHR and FR235 should be the same price.

      If one wants all the extra sports, then go VAHR. And if one wants structured workouts, then FR235. The tradeoffs in my mind make them equal price-wise.

    • SPR

      OK, yeah that would make sense.

    • Mike Richie

      I think they should add structured workouts to the Vivoactive HR 😉. I just ordered one for 169.00 from CT – mostly for ConnectIQ 2.0 – but at that price it actually should be recommended for lots of your catagories.

  49. Bess

    Thanks for a great review, Ray! Do you expect Garmin to announce any game-changing upgrades to the Garmin Vivoactive HR at CES? It seems like I buy a new Garmin tracker or watch every Christmas and it’s outdated by June. Thank you, B.

  50. Peter Vanleeuwen

    Debate time. With the prices so similar, VAHR or 920XT? Are the better training features better than sleep tracking and crappy battery?

  51. Elfar

    Hi Ray!
    Thanks for a great site!

    You recommend the Fenix 3 and Fenix 3 HR separately for the Hiking/Trail/Ultra Running section. But in the recommendations for Triathlon you only list Fenix 3. Why not the Fenix 3 HR ?

  52. Ian

    I think it’s worth mentioning that the original Vivoactive is still a great buy, especially if you’re going to use a chest strap for HR measurement anyways! I’ve also had a lot of success using apps in the Garmin store for Multisport tracking; obviously this isn’t anywhere near the quality of a dedicated triathlon watch, but for the true amateurs out there it is a very respectable replacement that I don’t think gets enough mention on here!

  53. Andriy

    Ray, I use Garmin Swim but wanna buy some more powerful device to fitness and activity tracking. Is Garmin Fenix3 a good Garmin Swim substitute for indoor swimming?

    • Frank Brown

      Andriy,
      FYI buyer beware:
      Fenix 3 HR has a built-in HR monitor but disables it for swim activities (per their manual). You might consider the FR920xt at half the price. In either case, Garmin expects you to buy an HRM-SWIM to capture HR data. I have used an FR920xt with a Mio Link to monitor HR while swimming and have been fairly happy with it, apart from the major disappointment that the HR data does not get uploaded to Garmin Connect.

    • Frank Brown

      I got the idea to use the Mio Link with the FR920xt from one of Ray’s reviews… as he says, YMMV.

  54. Ralph Humphries

    I have just one bike and currently use the Garmin speed and cadence units but am changing to Wahoo to work with my ipad and iphone for Zwift. Do you recomment the Wahoo Blue SC or the RPM bundle with both speed and cadence? That is $10 more but doesn’t require the magnet. Your thoughts?

    • Mike Richie

      I just purchased the RPM bundle after losing the magnet off the spokes (for, I think, the third time over the years). I am hoping it will be easier to move around on different bikes. I had to just mount my Garmin GSC (now just giving me cadence) on top of a brake line eyelet, where it will probably get knocked off.

  55. John

    Something tragic happened to me yesterday. After years of buying my wife fitness tech that she won’t wear because of looks, I had finally convinced her to get a Vivosmart HR from Best Buy when her eyes caught the new Kate Spade activity tracker. She now has a fitness tracker with 5 year old technology that she loves, and I don’t think any amount of additional features will convince her otherwise.

  56. Frank Brown

    Hello,
    Thank you for your informative reviews. I apologize for the long-winded mild diatribe below.
    In brief, I say:
    1. FR920xt w/ Mio Link is decent for swimming, but HR data is not uploaded to Garmin Connect. Bummer.
    2. Fenix 3 HR seemed the solution, but the HR monitor is disabled during swim activities. Again, bummer.
    3. Have you heard of the LifeTrak ZoomHRV, and if so, what are your impressions?

    Thank you again for your valuable reviews.

    mild diatribe follows, so you know where I’m coming from:
    I bought a Garmin Forerunner 920xt w/ HRM in July 2015 after much research. It was overkill for my needs since I am not an athlete and need to swim to lose weight. But I decided to splurge in the expectation of having a waterproof watch that would record everything including my heart rate. Of course you know what I then learned: no HR tracking in the water. It was around that time I discovered your excellent reviews. You mentioned the Mio Link as a viable solution when worn on the same arm, so I bought a Mio Link and have been reasonably satisfied (though not ecstatic) ever since.
    My disappointment came when I found that HR data is captured and uploaded to Garmin Connect during the Open Water activity but not during the Indoor Pool activity. This, despite the fact that the HR data is displayed on the watch during the Indoor Pool activity. I contacted Garmin regarding this and got nowhere.
    Flash forward to my recent awareness of the Fenix 3 HR. “Ah hah,” I thought! Finally the possibility of wearing one device, seeing HR data realtime while swimming, and having that HR data uploaded to Garmin Connect. So I had just about convinced myself to splurge again, until this morning when I started perusing the Fenix 3 HR manual and discovered that HR tracking is disabled for swimming. Why, why, why, Garmin? If my Mio Link can do it why can’t the Fenix 3 HR? Maybe with your contacts, you can encourage them to enable it. I don’t expect perfection, I just want ballpark data.
    Finally, I just read about a new device called the LifeTrak ZoomHRV that claims to monitor HR while swimming. Have you seen this? I would be interested in your impressions.

    • Alex Masidlover

      The Ambit 2 and 3 (S and Peak) both record and upload HR from the Mio Link in indoor swim mode; they’re going cheap enough now that even you want Garmin for everything else then a Suunto Ambit just for swimming wouldn’t be a huge stretch.

    • Mark Sperry

      Lifetrack Zoom HRV sounds very interesting, almost to good to be true. What it doesn’t say is that it is compatable with other devices. I use the soche w/ my Fenix 2 but would buy this at $100 in a heart beat if it uploaded/communicated with my garmin.

    • Frank Brown

      Mark,
      On their website, they say it provides realtime streaming of HR to bluetooth and ant+ devices. It also says it syncs to their app LifeTrak ZoomHRV and to Google Fit and Apple Health. Interestingly, you can wear it not only on your wrist, forearm or upper arm, but on your swim cap as well. I wondered “how is that possible?” until I saw this video:
      link to youtube.com

      Here is a link to the manual for the ZoomHRV:
      link to lifetrakusa.com

      I have Garmin Connect passing my workouts to SportTracks and to MyFitnessPal from there. After doing some research, it looks like the ZoomHRV could work for me. Getting the data to SportTracks, worst case scenario, might require syncing something like this:
      ZoomHRV –> ZoomHRV app –> Google Fit –> FitnessSyncer –> SportTracks

      I’ve sent an email to LifeTrak for feedback.

    • Tim Grose

      Have you considered using the HRM-Swim HR strap? I think the reason Garmin disable optical HR during pool swimming is that they don’t think it works very well. I have tried a Mio Link and results were mixed. Another option is to swim in say Run Indoor mode. You can then see whether the optical HR actually is in the “ballpark” or not.

    • Frank Brown

      Thank you for the suggestion. Yes, I have considered the HRM-Swim. It would undoubtedly provide accurate HR data once uploaded to Garmin Connect, and I do want that. But I also want real time feedback during my swim — which it does not provide, although I understand it does sync HR data to the watch during rests when you’re above the water. The Run Indoor activity would work but then I lose lap counts, strokes, etc. and it would confuse things in Garmin Connect. At these prices, we shouldn’t have to settle on a kludge.

      I did some tests using my Mio Link with the Run, Indoor Run, Bike, Indoor Bike, Pool Swim and Open Water activities to discover which of these would or wouldn’t work, and I learned the following:
      1) For every activity but Pool Swim, the FR920xt does include HR data in the fit file it uploads to Garmin Connect.
      2) For Pool Swim, the FR920xt will display HR, HR Zone, HR%Max, etc. (but not computed averages), however this data is omitted from the fit file.
      [Note: I did these tests over a year ago, so things might have changed a bit as a result of software updates.]

      So, it’s frustrating to me when I know there are real time wrist HR monitors that work in water yet Garmin won’t provide or support it in their high-end products. They have chosen Plan B, and I want Plan A. So I’ll keep searching.

  57. Tracy

    Hi,

    Really informative thanks very much!

    Got a quick question, Has your wife tried the Vivoactive HR? Coming into training for my second marathon and new season I’m looking to upgrade on my little forerunner 10. I am torn between the 235 and the vivoactive HR. I currently use a Fitbit charge HR as well as my garmin on runs so keen to combine these two capabilities. Really like the steps/ sleep/ and resting HR of the fitbit.

    I swim and do strength once a week so the vivoactive appeals there for the pool, and run at least 3-4 sessions (aiming to up the pace though into next years races, I’m a bit of a plodder, 5hr 8 marathon) I’m not sure I would use all the extra capabilities that the 235 has but this looks much nicer and think it would fit better on smaller wrists! Thoughts?

    Thanks,
    Tracy

  58. Joseph K

    I have the Polar V800, I use it for swimming but the polar heart strap get caught in the streamline and loses contact, sometimes it falls off, do you have a recommendation for swimming heart sensor to use with the V800, also open to other options.

    Thanks for all your great info, love this site

  59. Ali K

    Were you able to compare the Garmin HRM-Tri to the Scosche Rhythm+? I’m impressed that the Rhythm+ is your goto sensor for over 2 years now!

    • Yup, I compare it in many reviews – though not one specifically. For example, you’ll find it in other reviws of various optical sensor products. I think I have some in my Fenix3HR and/or FR235 reviews.

  60. AndyH34

    Hi Ray,

    I hope that Garmin will be entering the “Running – With Music” category in 2017? I would really like to take ‘VivoActive HR + Music’ out for a bluetooth head-phoned run! It won’t be connected to Google Play Music or iTunes I am sure, but I’d take a couple of gigs in a heartbeat. What do you think?

    Thx Andy

  61. Karim

    hey ray
    Any thoughts on the Acer Xplova X5? looks very intriguing and potentially a game changer…? your insight would be very interesting and how it compares to the Elemnt and the 820….thanks pal.

  62. Peter

    hello folks,
    just found Garmin Vivoactive HR on sale at Amazon DE for 199 euro
    Check this link to amzn.to

  63. Lars

    Thanks Ray for a great list of recommendations. In your recommendation for Running Watch with music you recommend Spark 3 (or original spark) because it works well with both Android and iOS but you also wrote that competitors as Serie 2 and Polar M600 “both have horrible battery life”. In your comparison table you put battery life (GPS) 10 hour for Polar M600 and up to 11 hours (varies) for Spark 3. For me thats looks very similar battery life so why “horrible” for M600 and not for Spark 3?

    My wife got Runner 3 and I got M600 and when using then together battery life is very similar (same goes for GPS/HR). Still I understand your recommendation for Spark 3 because it work with both Android and iOS.

    • Hi Lars

      Yeah, my charts are a bit confusing there because they only speak to GPS-on time, and not general standby time.

      And that’s where the M600 and Series 2 suck, as they are both in the 24-36hr range at most. So basically, you’re charging them every day.

    • Lars

      Thanks Ray for reply. That can bee true for iOS but not for Android. I got M600 24/7 for a couple of months and I charge it around twice a week. With “normal” use of notification, apps and workouts around 6 hours and GPS 3-4 hours a week (during night time I put it on theatre mood). My wife charge Runner 3 little bit more then once a week but if i dont use notification and apps on M600 i charge it also after 5-6 days. I dont think that makes M600 has “horrible” battery life compare to Runner & Spark 3.

  64. Indio22

    Thanks for the reviews. Finally decided to upgrade from my older refurb 310xt to the 920xt. I tend to buy a year or two after a product launch, and the recent $200 range prices were tempting enough to make the jump. One thing I like about many of the Garmin watches including the 920xt, is the traditional style watch hinges on either side of the body, which I find more conformable than watches having a hard curved style band attachment with no hinges. Years ago I was gifted a used 405 model, and that hard curved wristband was quite uncomfortable. Likewise a model with wrist HR sensor would be convenient, but I can feel the bump on my wrist, maybe due to my low body fat? Perhaps I am a bit OCD, but that bump would probably start to bug me over the course of a longer race. Would be nice down the road if watch makers can find a way not to have that HR sensor bump. Hopefully the 920xt will work out well, I’ve done a few full length IMs so it seems a good fit for that, and my racing buddy has had nothing but good things to say about the model. Plus I like the rectangular four field display and button arrangement on my 310xt, which the 920xt carries over.

    • Casper

      Hello, Indio22. I’m thinking about purchasing the Garmin Forerunner 920xt and since you got one in late 2016 I was wondering if you recommend it or not? I Imagine you’ve been getting to know the watch a little ;)

  65. Brad

    Love the reviews Ray, but I gotta ask: do you ever geek out on shoes, or just gadgets? Every picture I’ve seen looks like ASICS DS trainers or something.

  66. Josh

    Ray is there any hope of Garmin adding in audio alerts such as pace and HR during activity like the 230/735? One of my favorite features.

  67. Jonathan Anderson

    Hi, I was recommended this website as I’m in the market for a Watch/HR monitor. And it certainly hasn’t failed to disappoint. I’m really enjoying all of the in depth reviews. However, there is one small issue I would like some help with. I’m leaning towards one of the tri watches as my training involves running and cycling, but I also spend a lot of time in the gym doing the classes (eg Body Pump) and/or Crossfit training. So, my question is, would these watches (Forerunner 735xt for example) have the ability to know that I’m weight training like some of the Activity trackers??

    Thanks a lot, and great website

    Jon

  68. Jay Davis

    Thanks for your research and insights.

  69. Rebecca

    In December when I tried to buy a 230 bundle, I was told they had no more on order. That lead to speculation that a new model might be coming out. Amazon has dropped the online price from $254 in Dec to $249 today. Retail is $299.99. REI has dropped their price to $240. The yellow band is no longer available.

    I found an article, I think was in a blog, showing a chart of the technology used on all the Garmin watches. The article made the point that the 230 is using older technology and other Garmins are already using the a newer technology. I can’t recall the name of the technology and can no longer find the article. That had me putting my purchase on hold.

    I’m really missing not having a workable watch since my 405CX stopped uploading data.

    Are you hearing anything? Is there a typical month Garmin rolls out new product?

    Thanks for all site. Lots of good info.

    • ekutter

      The technology in question is probably CIQ, which is basically Garmin’s apps store where independent developers put apps that enhance the Garmin watches. The 230/235/630 (and even Fenix 3) are quite limited in their support of these apps with limited memory and processing power. They are limited to version 1.3 of CIQ. Newer watches including the Vivoactive HR (not Vivoactive), FR735, and Fenix 5 all support version 2.1 along with significantly more memory. I’d expect most newer apps to stop support the older watches before long, or at least release less powerful versions for those watches.

      The Vivoactive HR is actually a surprisingly good product for $250 unless you are doing triathlons or use a power meter on your bike.

      On the other hand, if the 230 has all the functionality you need, no reason to wait.

  70. robert day

    DC Rainmaker . While at CES do you happen to see the New Balance RunIQ ? I have been holding off buying a new watch as I wanted to see this thing .It looks like it might be a better fit for me than either the Garmin 235 or the Tom Tom spark . I’m looking to upgrade from my Tom Tom runner to optical hr and possibly music .Did you happen to get a chance to look at that New Balance watch ? They claim it launches in February .

    • Yup, I got a bit of hands-on time there. In many ways it’s a Polar M600, just less ugly. Android Wear with very similar specs. It’ll be a bit of a battle between them.

      They’re working to get me a unit, and in the meantime I’m trying to put together a quick/initial thoughts post based on my CES time with it (which wasn’t as deep as I’d have liked).

      Still, from a music-incorporated running standpoint (especially if you have iOS), I think the Spark is really the better overall option.

  71. Vinicius

    Good morning,
    Could you help me? I live in Brazil and my parents are going to USA and will bring me a activity tracker. And there are so many options and seems almost impossible to choose one, specially without having a chance to go to a store to see them. I am a fat person and I am starting to do every day exercises since the begining of the year. My idea of exercises will be running/jogging and swimming (so it needs to be waterproof) eventually, besides some sports like soccer and basketball. What would be your recommendation??
    Thanks a lot.

  72. Kendra

    Awesome post!! I have tried several activity trackers, after my fitbit one bit the dust. I finally settled on the Garmin Fenix 3 HR (I love the look), and the Fitbit flex 2 on my other wrist (didn’t want to lose the friendly competition with my family and friends). It may be overkill, but this is what works for me.

  73. Kendra

    Ray,
    Question for you! I wear a Garmin Fenix 3 HR as my daily watch. I am in a bit of a bind, I have an awesome spinning bike in my livingroom, I want to be able to keep track of my distance and connect that to my Garmin watch. Any ideas?? It is a solid wheel. I am at a loss, I have researched and am unable to find anything. Please Help!!!

    • Matthew B.

      Probably could rig a Wahoo Speed/Cadence Sensor and adjust the wheel size to match the readouts from the spin bike. Would take a bit of trial and error, but should do the trick.

  74. Cindy Graves

    What is the best watch and or heart rate monitor for running and weight lifting?

  75. I am a big fan, so of course no worries.

    But I must say I am extremely disappointed with the Scosches Rythm HR monitor. I bought one last month after reading this post. Firmware 2.6.

    I’ve been testing it on one garmin while using a standard garmin HR monitor on another GPS (at same time) mainly on 2 or 3 hour bike rides. The Scosche consistently has a few poor periods throughout the ride where it spikes ridiculously (yes, I am wearing it snugly where recommended — and have tried a few other positions too). Strangely, often when I am calmly descending a long stretch (not bumpy) and my hear rate goes to 50% max or lower, the Scosche increases to 100%+. The data is useless. In fact I received an email from Trainingpeaks today that my HR threshold had increased. Garbage data in, garbage out.

    I’ve also tried updating firmware on their iPhone app. Doesn’t work – fails every time. And in fact twice has caused it to get stuck flashing blue red such that I have to wait for the battery to run out (2 days!) to be able to use it again.

    And Scosche support? Twice no reply to requests for advice help on their site form when this happened. fail.

    I was excited about the product, but have obviously been hugely disappointed.

    Anyway, again I am a big fan of your site …. maybe I got a bum unit. But thought I’d share my experience.

    Regards, Will

    • ekutter

      I recently picked up the Scosche Rhythm as well. My chest strap also has some inconsistencies. On my wrist, the Scosche does a pretty poor job. I’ve found it does really well, though, when I move it up my forearm to the widest spot, with the sensor on the inside of my arm.

    • Definitely sounds like something is defective.

      And also odd that they haven’t responded. Almost universally people in the comments section of that post have had great support, with Scosche basically just sending a new unit no questions in the event of any oddity. Weird.

      Any chance their replies are caught in junk/spam/clutter folders?

  76. Troy

    I’ve gotta add that I am the owner of an epix and I have loved it.

    There were a few quirky bugs, e.g. screen unlocking by itself, but that and others have been fixed by a recent update (3.2 to 3.4). Which happened on February 2, 2017.

    Maybe I love it because I spent a bunch of money on it. Or maybe I love it because I’m a Software Engineer and can actually use the damn thing :) Either way, money well spent, IMO.

  77. Great write up, keeps me coming back for more information.
    I use Tacx Bushido, bePRO Power Meter & Garmin 520. Tacx and bePRO report similar power – amazing after 5 years of hard use.

  78. Evelyn

    Thank you for your write it really helped me decide which watch to buy. That being said the garmin vivoactive is the watch I decided to purchase but when I went to buy it in amazon there’s two different styles. Did the style of the vivoactive change after your post?

  79. Rj

    Hi Ray, thanks for your in-depth recommendations as always.
    Which GPS unit would you suggest for Ultra-Endurance cycling?

    Longest battery life, able to store even the longest of routes.
    Was able to navigate a 1,200km audax on a Fenix 3, but
    Garmin Connect would only let me create a course up to 400km long,
    had to split up the entire route. Are the edge units that can plot longer
    courses? Just find it interesting that a lot of TransAm/ Tour Divide riders
    prefer Etrex 30’s rather than Edge units, though not sure why.

    Touchscreen is nice, backup physical buttons for all functions
    would be ideal too just in case pouring rain / thick winter gloves hinder it.

    Thanks a lot!

  80. Casper

    Hello DCR, I enjoy your reviews a lot and it’s really helpful and saves me a lot of time, so thank you.

    My question is about a triathlon-watch. I’m a decent runner, and an average swimmer/cyclist but I wanna get more into that. I’m in love with the design of the Garmin Forerunner 920xt but I’m not sure if it’s still worth buying or if it’s ‘outdated’. What are your opinion on this? Is there a 930/935xt on it’s way?

    • Frank

      I had a Forerunner 920xt. My interest was swimming and I’m only now getting into cycling and possibly running once I lose more weight. The triathlon feature looks very functional and friendly however I did not use it. My only complaint with the 920xt was this: I bought a Mio Link HRM and found that although the 920xt would connect with it and display HR while swimming, it would not upload HR data to Garmin Connect. Garmin gave me no satisfactory response to this when I complained.
      Although “aging”, I think the 920xt is still a very good triathlon watch assuming you’re okay with no recorded HR data for swimming (unless you buy Garmin’s chest strap, which will upload after the fact but will not display HR data real time).
      The Fenix 3 appears to be the replacement for the 920xt. I recently bought the Fenix 3 HR which has an integrated HRM. It’s an impressive watch with many useful new features, but here again, Garmin fails when it comes to supporting swimmers. The integrated HRM is disabled during swimming activities. And again, I found that it will connect with my Mio Link and display HR but it will not upload this HR data to Garmin Connect.
      Both watches are impressive with one major flaw, and it is a flaw that any decent programmer could easily fix, but Garmin has chosen a different path and has lost my respect in the process.

    • Casper

      Thanks for your thorough response, Frank. I appreciate it.

  81. 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.

  82. zira

    Hai,
    I want to know which one better garmin vivoactive hr or tom tom adventurer. I am an avid hikers and zumba lover

  83. Udong

    Hi

    I had read many review that very useful.Now i’m very confused about my first watch for excercising. Anyone can recommend a smart watch or sport watch that suitable for me? Mostly my exercise are weight training 5 days a week and run 2 or 3 times a week, no cycling so swimming sometimes. I use Iphone 6 IOS with Strava and Endomondo app.

    I have 4 options
    1. Garmin vivoactive hr
    2. TomTom Spark 3 Cardio + Music
    3. Polar m600
    4. Garmin 735XT

    Thanks :-)

  84. jaime

    Hey Ray,

    do you know if your discount works with the Garmin Scale? I tried using the discount code, but I got an error message saying that the item was not available using coupons.

    thanks,
    Jaime

  85. John

    Can you recommend a set of headphones that will cut wind noise while cycling (yes, I know; I’m a horrible person). I have a 12.5 mile commute each day on shared use trails and would like to be able to listen while on the trail.

    If this question has been answered elsewhere, I apologize, but I couldn’t find it.

  86. JohnD508

    Hey guys,
    Wondering if anyone could point me in the right direction. I started running last summer and used strava while carrying my phone. The data seemed pretty solid especially during my run. If I was running a 7 minute mile and hit a hill, it would gradually go to up 7:15 mile pace. If I hit a down hill and started running faster, the phone would gradually show maybe a 6:45 pace. It seemed so accurate that doing speed work, I could pace very accurately to the second….

    All was fine and dandy until I realized holding my phone was getting annoying. I bought my first running watch…. a Tom Tom Spark.

    The ability to hold music is great and the watch is very simple which I like…. but pacing using my watch is way harder compared to my phone. For example, if I am trying to maintain a 7 minute mile pace… my watch might bounce around from 6:30 to 7:30 all within the course of one mile. I will start to panic thinking I am way to fast or way to slow. Sure enough after a mile, my watch will vibrate and tell me my mile split was 7:02 after all…… It seems so sporadic compared to the strava app on my phone. Are all watches like this?

    If not can someone point me in the right direction for a simple watch that just paces really good without having a phone in my pocket? It doesn’t need music on it.

    Thanks in advance!

    • Ben

      Try setting your watch to autolap every mile and then look at the average pace for the lap, as opposed to the instant pace. That should give you what you are looking for without needing to buy a new watch.

      Instant pace will always be pretty variable as a result of changes in terrain, and the fact that when running it’s pretty easy for your pace to drift. Lap average should fix this as it’ll give you the average pace over a longer distance meaning it’ll be much more stable

  87. Sefi

    Any update about recommendations for watches, after the release of Fenix 5 and the 935?
    I’m considering the 935 VS the Fenix 5 Sapphire to replace my 310.
    If I’m going to wear it all day long, so I’m afraid I will scratch the glass or the body of the watch.
    which do you recommend?
    (I mainly run and do crossfit, a rare bicycle ride and I fantasize of going back to triathlon when my kids will grow a bit older :) )

    • I’m mostly preferring the FR935, but that’s 100% because I like a smaller/lighter watch. That said, my retail FR935 hasn’t come in yet, so I’m just using the regular Fenix 5 instead.

    • gingerneil

      This is me too, minus the tri. I have a fenix 3, but the 935 will be my next watch – for the same reasons.

  88. Jeroen V

    As I just bought myself a new bike, I’ m looking for a new cycling unit.
    Right now I’m using my vivoactive HR and scosche OHR (which I find acceptable)

    I’m interested in a low budget ( spend all my money on the bike) device, which has decent mapping/routing capacities( thinking on an osm map with optional routable directions) –> I want to explore the hills of flanders…
    I don’t need/want power meter support, HR data, Strava segments, other sensor support. ( maybe cadence support) .

    I also want the device to be stable and I want a decent battery .

    No preference for Garmin/polar/wahoo/lezyne/whatever ( as long as it uploads to strava)

    Was considering the Edge touring ( €169), Polar V650(€169), Elemnt bolt (€239). ( I have no problems with an ‘older’ device if it works properly…)

    Opinions ?

  89. Anthony Roydhouse

    Where does Polars premium offering the V650 stand? Or has it now been trumped by cheaper models due to Polars poor product support and lack of firmware updates?

  90. Terry

    Hi, I am mainly a swimmer and up til yesterday have been using a Garmin swim to log my 5 x PW swims of plus 1500m. It seems to have given up the ghost and is deleting everything. I am now looking at other options and have narrowed down to Vivoactive HR and Forerunner 735XT. I may also do some cycling at some point too but quite a way from triathlons at the moment. What would you recommend?

  91. Arif

    Hey Ray,
    When do you plan to send updated lists? I’m into half-marathons but now interested in triathlon.
    I’d love to see the latest reviews and recommendation on the gears (especially power trainers) and other stuff.
    Thanks for your work, it’s amazing and very helpful!