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Garmin Swim 2 GPS Watch In-Depth Review

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Yes, for real: The Garmin Swim is back, baby. Over 7 years later and Garmin has finally incremented to the second edition in their swimmers-only watch. And, it’s basically exactly what you’d expect in a swimming first watch from Garmin in 2019. Unlike the previous edition, this one now supports openwater swimming with GPS, while also recording/displaying your heart rate in real-time via the optical HR sensor on the back. It has all the activity/sleep/stress/life tracking stuff you’ll find in any other Garmin watch. And it can even track your run, ride, or gym workout.

But more than that – it’s actually got new swim-specific features not seen on any other Garmin device to date. This includes auto-rest for intervals, Critical Swim Speed tracking (kinda like FTP, but for swimmers), real-time pacing alerts, and new improvements to structured workouts that can also be executed on the watch. It sounds like those features are set to be added to some existing 2019 Garmin watches as well, but no timeframes yet.

About the only downside compared to the OG Garmin Swim watch? It costs $100 more. Now it’s $249 versus the original $149 that the Swim 1 came out at. Also, the original Swim 1 just used a coin-cell battery that lasted forever in your swim bag (like, many many months). Whereas this new one is more akin to a typical connected smartwatch that you’ll need to recharge every week depending on usage (official claim is 7 days smartwatch mode, 13 hours GPS-on mode, and 72 hours of pool swimming time with optical HR).

Oh, and finally, as always, I use devices like wilderness trails – leave nothing behind. These are media loaner units that go back to Garmin shortly. You can help support the site here by checking out the links at the end of the post. Doing so makes you awesome.

The Basics (Non-Swim Stuff):

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If you’re familiar with Garmin wearables then honestly you can skip this section. In this chunk I’m going to outline all the general bits of the Garmin Swim 2 watch, from the activity tracking to sleep tracking, heart rate stuffs and more. All the basics, but nothing touching on swimming specifically. That’s all the remaining sections.

To begin, you’ve got the watch face. You can mix and match from a slate of pre-installed watch faces, or thousands more from Garmin Connect IQ (like Mario I found below). For the pre-installed ones, you can tweak the accent color, but can’t customize the individual data fields on each watch face (Garmin’s higher-end watches allow that). The default watch face includes the total swam distance that week (in kilometers, no matter your settings), as well as your steps for the day. But other watch faces also include your current heart rate as well.

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If you press up or down, you’ll iterate through the widget roll. These include bits like weather, steps, 24×7 heart rate, stress, body battery, and your last swim details (including dedicated pages for openwater versus pool swims). You can customize which of these pages are shown or not shown, and most of them allow you to open them for further details. Here’s a quick gallery of the different pages:

Some of the icons are pretty darn subtle. For example, two wave lines below a swimmer means ‘pool swim’ versus three lines means ‘openwater swim’, specifically on the weekly total pages. You can configure if you want your week to start on Saturday, Sunday, or Monday.

The watch will track your steps and general wandering around activity using the accelerometer (it also has GPS too, but that’s for workouts specifically).  You can see your step totals on most of the watch faces, but also on the steps widget, which you can then dive into for more details:

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Or, you can crack open the Garmin Connect Mobile smartphone app, which shows all your step data in numerous slice and diceable ways:

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Note that the Garmin Swim 2 doesn’t have a barometric altimeter in it, and thus doesn’t track stairs climbed.

On the back you’ll have found that blinking green light, that’s the optical heart rate sensor – the same one found in the Garmin Forerunner 45 watches. It tracks your heart rate 24×7 as well as during workouts.

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You can see your heart rate on some of the watch faces, but also there’s a four-hour graph as well in the widgets. And atop that you can look at your resting heart rate tracking, which is probably the most useful portion of it.

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Like steps and everything else on your watch, this is transferred to Garmin Connect and you can do longer term analytics there as well:

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Next on the activity tracking front is the non-active bits: Sleep. The watch will track your sleep automatically each night, no button presses required. I find it pretty solid on the exact wake/sleep times. In fact, with a two week old newborn in the house, I’m impressed with how well it’s handling that. Check out these graphs:

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Note that like most companies, Garmin still doesn’t track naps. So those just disappear like a fart in the wind, no credit for them. And let me tell you, I could use some extra sleeping credit these last few weeks.

Last but not least on the general features front is the smartphone notifications. These will show from any app that you’ve configured your phone for notifications on. So this includes anything from phone calls to text messages, and apps like Twitter or even Candy Crush. You can configure whether or not to display these, as well as whether or not to display them in a workout. When a notification comes in, you can either cancel/clear it immediately, or you can open it up to get more information:

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There’s no method however to reply to a text message (at least on iOS, due to Apple restrictions), so it’s more of a confirmation thing than anything else. Still, it’s easy and simple. You can silence these at night using either the do not disturb function on your phone or on the watch itself. Your choice.

Pool Swimming Details:

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We’re gonna jump straight into the pool on this one. Though, technically the unit does support five sports in total: Pool Swim, Open Water Swim, Run, Bike, and Cardio (Indoor). Note that if you want walking/hiking, you can just use running, there’s no practical difference in terms of data fields or anything.

To start a pool swim, you’ll press the upper right button, and by default the first selection will be pool swim:

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Press it again and you’ll be on the waiting screen where you can see your current pool length, heart rate status, time, and then selection of options.

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If you press down to options you’ve got a pile of things: Workouts, data screen configuration, alerts, pool size, stroke detection, countdown start, and auto rest. I’ll explain them all one after another.

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First up is workouts. This is where you can launch custom workouts created on Garmin Connect/Garmin Connect Mobile and then downloaded to your watch. Garmin says they’ve made some tweaks timed to the launch of the Swim 2 that add additional features, specifically that you can now enable more than two steps in a repeat block, and that you can also enable nested repeat blocks.

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Here’s how that looks on Garmin Connect, creating a structured workout:

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On the watch, there’s actually a single custom workout already, which is the CSS Test. I’ll talk more about that later, but technically speaking that’s just a custom workout they’ve pre-loaded. I’d love to see them pre-load a few more workouts, akin to what they do on the Vivo series for a handful of workouts pre-loaded.

Next back in the options is the data screen customization. This works like any other Garmin watch and allows you to customize data pages and add some as well. In total, you can have five customizable data pages, plus a ‘Drill Log’ page, a ‘Heart Rate Zone’ page, and the ‘Time/Date’ page. Each custom page can have up to three data metrics on it.

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Here’s a listing of all the data metrics you can use within your data fields above:

Timer Fields: Timer, Swim Time, Interval Time, Elapsed Time
Distance Fields: Distance, Interval Distance
Pace Fields: Average Pace (whole workout), Interval Pace, Last Length Pace
Heart Rate Fields: Heart Rate (current), Average HR (whole workout), HR Zone, Aerobic Training Effect, Anaerobic Training Effect, HR %Max, % Heart Rate Reserve, Avg. HR %Max, Avg. %HRR, Int Avg HR, Int Avg %HRR, Int Avg %Max, Int Max HR, Int Max %HR, Int Max. %Max, Time in Zone
Stroke Fields: Interval Stroke Type, Last Length Stroke Type, Last Length Strokes, Average Strokes per Length, Interval Strokes per Length
Length Fields: Lengths, Interval Lengths
Swolf Fields: Average Swolf, Interval Swolf, Last Length Swolf
Rest Fields: Rest Timer, Repeat On
Other Fields: Calories, Time of Day, Intervals

Phew, got all that? Yes, it was as much fun to type-up as it was for you to read.

Also for lack of anywhere else to stick it – the unit can only connect to HR sensors. It cannot connect to running footpods, cycling sensors, or any other type of sensors. Just heart rate sensors.

Next, there’s alerts. You can create alerts for time, distance, or pacing. With pacing being the most notable/important new one here. The way it works is that it’s kinda akin to something like the FINIS Tempo trainer in that it’ll vibrate/chirp your wrist each time you should be hitting the wall for the pace you specify:

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So if you set a given pace – say 1:30/100m, then it’ll do the math based on your pool size and remind you each 18 seconds, which ideally lines up to when you hit the wall. It will both buzz and well as make this bird in a blender chirping sound.

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You can adjust these pacing alerts on the fly in the pool by holding the up button, and you can also mute them as well – again, all mid-workout.

Next, there’s pool size. This one is easy, and it’s where you set your pool size. There’s a few quick access sizes: 25 meters, 25 yards, 50 meters, 33 1/3 meters, 33 1/3 yards, and then Custom. Custom allows you to set from 14m to 150m, or 15y to 150y.

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After that, there’s ‘Stroke Detection’. By default this is on, but if you’re like me (a lowly triathlete who only swims freestyle), then you could consider turning it off. Which is basically like saying ‘I don’t want to hear when you’ve detected my stroke wrong because I just don’t care’. Roughly.

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Following that there’s ‘Countdown Start’ (off by default), which allows you a three-second count down when you press start. Or, if you were more nefarious, a three-second head start. The point though is to allow you to press start, and then go at exactly 0 seconds. Ideal for starting from the blocks, or for those of us that just want every last millisecond of time on our splits.

And last but definitely not least (in fact, arguably the best feature) is the new Auto Rest.

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This essentially is like Garmin’s Auto Pause in Running/Cycling, but for the pool. It’ll automatically create laps (sets) as you stop at the wall each time. And once you go, it’ll start the next set. There’s no button pressing at all. You could literally do your entire workout by memory from start to finish and never touch your watch, while still getting your set information. Here’s exactly that from just this morning:

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The way it works is that in the pool you’ll see the screen on a white background indicating you’re mid-lap. But when it goes to a black background, it means you’re in rest:

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And in fact, you’ll see the difference on the interval timer specific screen, because it shows the last interval time, and any repeat time as well.

In discussing this feature with Garmin, they noted that it’s not going to be for everyone. It’s mostly accurate, but not always perfectly accurate. If you’re Type-A like me and want each set timed to the second perfect, you’ll probably want to stick to buttons. Garmin says that both intervals and rest durations (times) could be off “occasionally” by as much as 5-10 seconds. Further, if you’re doing shorter rest durations  (Garmin says under 15 seconds), they wouldn’t recommend it there either. Finally, you can’t use this in conjunction with any structured/custom workouts – those require manual button pressing.

As for my actual experience with it – it’s consistently within 2-3 seconds for me. And there’s technically two elements to that. First is the real-time display and when exactly it switches from swim to rest screen. I find that lagged about 3-4 seconds in almost every case. However, as soon as it switches modes, it actually goes back and ‘credits’ you back those seconds. You’ll see that in real-time. So if you finished the lap in 36 seconds, but it kept counting till 41 on the screen until it switched to rest, then it’ll almost always show the actual interval time as 36-37 seconds in my testing. Said differently: It works out.

I had exactly one lap in all of my pool swimming where it went beyond that 2-4 second period and took about 10-12 seconds to realize it was in rest mode, but it still went back and retroactively got the actual split within a few seconds. Woot!

Ok, with all those features explained, let’s head back to the main screen and press start:

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Once you do that you should start swimming, and with that, you’ll start seeing data on the data pages you’ve configured. Now it’s a bit tricky capturing this data at my local pools, since all but one of them outlaw cameras/phones. And the one that does allow cameras? It has lighting to match an underground rave. Seriously, it’s hideously useless for product photography. Tomorrow’s destination will be better.

Unlike running or cycling, there’s very little interaction you’re going to have with the watch once you’ve started swimming. I find the best time to see the watch is a very slight wrist twist just after pushing off the wall on any given length, which I can easily and clearly make out the numbers on the watch. Of course, I’m lucky in that my eyesight is pretty good – but even in the disco pool it’s not an issue.

I’ve already discussed the pacing bit above, so no need to re-hash that. I’ve had good luck with swim length accuracy, and no false laps in any of my sets. Though I’ve also been absurdly lucky in my pool swims lately to only share the line with 0 or 1 other persons, which is a significant drop from the dozen+ people I’d often get in other lanes/pools. I find most of my accuracy errors come from people doing stupid @#$# in front of me, which in turn causes me to stop swimming (and fantasize about beating them up with a pull buoy).

You see, all indoor swim watches or goggles work on roughly the same premise: They use accelerometers and gyros to determine whether you’re swimming consistently, or if you’ve just turned at the wall. So if you stop to beat someone up, then to the watch, that looks like you just did a flip turn at the wall (and you’ll get extra laps). As has been the case for a decade in my reviews of swim watches, my advice is simple: Do as little non-swimming stuff as possible while swimming.

No dancing, no re-enacting the YMCA song to your buddies in between sets. And if you’ve got Auto Rest on, for the love of god don’t try picking up that Girl or Guy in the lane next to you by pretending to be a coach and flailing your arms about demonstrating proper catch and elbow placement in between sets. All of which will cause bad things to happen, no matter the device.

Just swim. Oh, and if you go to the bathroom mid-set (in the restroom, not the pool, ideally), then pause your watch. Otherwise it might think you’re swimming then too. Got it? Good.

Next, end the pool swim. When you do so you’ll be given your set summary:

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In addition, if you hit any PR’s (such as fastest 100m, 500m, etc… paces), it’ll tell you that too. Otherwise, it’ll use Bluetooth Smart to quietly sync to your phone behind the scenes. Usually within a minute or two. If you’ve got it connected to any 3rd party training log platforms like TrainingPeaks, Today’s Plan, or Strava – they’ll get copies of it immediately as well.

Here’s what it looks like on Garmin Connect (you can click this link to dig into my swim):

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(One minor bug I’ve seen: It seems to put roughly the last known openwater swim GPS location on Garmin Connect for your indoor pool swims. Garmin Connect Mobile doesn’t show this bug. Assuming it’s an easy thing for them to correct.)

You’ll see all your set splits, heart rate, and plenty of additional swim metrics like SWOLF and number of strokes per length. There isn’t however any way to edit anything, so in the event something is wrong (or crazy lady interrupted your swim), then it is what it is. Oh, and in case you’re curious, that single random 40m blip in the middle is correct. That was crazy lady not once in less than 30 seconds managing to be on the wrong side of the line. I had no incorrect data though on this set (or any sets for that matter). Slow data, but not incorrect data.

Finally, let’s talk CSS – or Critical Swim Speed. This is new to Garmin, though it isn’t actually Garmin-specific. You can find more details on it here. Essentially though it’s a metric to track your lactate threshold swim speed. It’s not something you do daily, but rather is designed to test every month or so. Garmin and others compare it in the same sort of ballpark as FTP would be for cyclists.

Within the Swim 2, you can execute the CSS test at any point, which is just a structured workout.

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It’s got a super simple structure:

10 minute easy warm-up
400m at race pace
10 minute easy
200m at race pace

There is also a calculator on the site as well, if you just want to do this test manually:

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Once you’re done you’ll receive an alert at the end of the workout that you’ve got a new CSS value (for those triathletes, it’s identical to the FTP and lactate threshold messages on your watch). Or, you can override it manually at any time:

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The idea though is that you’ll trend this over time. Though at present, it’s not viewable anywhere within Garmin Connect or Garmin Connect Mobile. I’ve gotta believe that’s on the way, since there are so many other performance metrics that are trended over time already on Garmin Connect.

Openwater Swimming Details:

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Next, we head outside into openwater. This is any body of water that you’re going to use GPS for – so that’d be lakes, oceans, rivers, or that crazy-ass pool in Chile that’s like 24 kilometers long. You never want to use GPS though for any normal-sized lap pool, even when it’s outside. It’s just not great for short distances like that.

As with indoor swimming, you can use the optical HR sensor on the back of the unit, or you can use an HRM-TRI or HRM-SWIM chest straps. Both of those support downloading data from the chest strap to your watch after the swim set is done. It has to wait until the swim set is complete to download that data because neither ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart travel more than about 2-3cm underwater. Note that other brand straps won’t work here, because they haven’t implemented the correct ANT+ protocols to support the cached downloading bits (meaning, no, you can’t use a Polar/Suunto/anyone else strap/sensor).

What’s cool though is that (and all of this applies to pool swimming too), you can use the optical HR sensor in the watch during the swim to see your data, and then you can still download from the chest strap post-swim to get more accurate data. It’ll simply replace the optical HR swim data automatically.

In any case, to start an openwater swim you’ll head back to the sport menu and choose openwater:

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There’s not many options for openwater swim, leaving you with just: Data screen configuration (basically same as indoor, except without the pool-specific fields), alerts (time/distance/stroke rate only), laps (autolap or manual), and GPS type (GPS/GPS+GLONASS/GPS+Galileo).

Otherwise, once it’s found GPS it’ll show you that, as well as your heart rate. In my experience it’ll find GPS within a few seconds if you’ve been outside recently or if you’ve synced with your phone or computer recently so it can pre-cache the satellite information.

After that, simply hit the start button and start swimming. As you’re swimming you can iterate through your data fields, and you’ll get real-time distance stats. You can pause it if you have to wait for boats to go across the channel, or you can just let it ride, like I did below.

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One of the things I’ve been looking for specific here is that it doesn’t crap itself and stop recording distance randomly (usually at just a few dozen meters into the swim). It’s been an issue with recent Garmin watches until this summer when they put a bunch of resources into solving it. I’m happy to say I haven’t seen it in any of my openwater swims to date. When I asked back in August about the status of it, Garmin seemed to indicate they think they had solved it, and their employees in testing the beta firmware had gone through hundreds of swims without a single freeze (a massive accomplishment, so I was at a 50% failure rate).  While I can’t prove a negative, I can at least say I’ve not yet had it happen to me on any swims.

But just as important as that is the accuracy bits. Which we’ll get to in a second. Once you’re done with your swim, you’ll press the pause button, and then press it again to stop. There’s no auto-rest functionality in open water. After which, you’ll get a summary of your swim on the watch itself:

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And then up on Garmin Connect you’ll see the swim details as well:

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And of course, if you’re on Garmin Connect Mobile (the smartphone app), you’ll see that there too.

From an openwater swim perspective, things are working super well for me. Arguably the best openwater swim watch I’ve ever had, even including the rock-solid Suunto Ambit 2/3 units, which was one of the most accurate GPS watches of all time. In fact, spoiler alert for the next section – I’d argue this is the most accurate openwater swim watch ever (for on-wrist usage).

GPS & Heart Rate Accuracy:

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So let’s talk accuracy. There are two elements to this: Heart rate accuracy, and GPS accuracy. For heart rate recording, you’ve got two options: The first is to use the internal optical HR sensor, and the second is to use a Garmin HRM-TRI or HRM-SWIM chest strap. For the purposes of this conversation, we’re just focused on the optical HR sensor accuracy. Chest straps are a pretty well understood thing, and Garmin’s chest strap has been around years.

When it comes to swimming HR in general, I don’t actually find it super useful. The reason is that swimming HR tends to lag significantly compared to running or cycling HR. It’s just not ideal for pacing shorter intervals in the pool (HR is rarely good for super short pacing in any sport, but especially swimming). It is good however for pacing longer intervals. Next, there’s the aspect of optical heart rate while swimming. Every company from Polar to Suunto to Garmin and probably even Apple, if you get them drunk enough, will tell you that measuring optical HR underwater is at best an iffy proposition. It depends heavily on the light not reflecting/refracting in the wrong direction and is super variable human to human. In other words, put it in the camp of: It may work great for me, but suck for you. Or vice versa.

Got all that? Good. Let’s take a look at a few swims then. First is an openwater swim. For this swim I had the Apple Watch Series 5 on my right wrist, the Garmin Swim 2 on my left wrist, a Polar OH-1 Plus under my wetsuit, and then a Wahoo TICKR-X chest strap also under my wetsuit. Lots of data (except that the TICKR-X is currently shooting blanks, so no data there). Here’s what that all looked like:

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So…yeah. I have no idea. I’d say the Garmin Swim 2 is the most stable out of all of them (it was a non-stop swim at relatively even pace), but that doesn’t make it correct.

How about another swim. Here’s this morning’s swim comparing a Polar Vantage M to the Garmin Swim 2, both optical HR sensors (sorry, no chest strap, forgot that):

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Well hey there! At least those two agree. And, I’d say they’re fairly close. You do however see though that there’s a few of the intervals that the Polar Vantage M fails to catch initially, namely the shorter 100m ones. The Garmin Swim 2 easily catches all of those. In fact, it missed none of them. Though, it did appear to briefly spike at the beginning, which probably wasn’t real (around the 50-second marker).

Well, that’s not terribly conclusive either. So let’s go back to openwater from last week. Apple Watch on one wrist, Garmin Swim 2 on the other. Polar OH-1 Plus again, and Wahoo TICKR-X again. Oh, wait – what’s that? The Apple Watch actually didn’t record a single HR value the entire time? Ok…umm…what about the TICKR-X? Oh, that too also didn’t capture any values in the exported file? Sigh. Fine, here’s the Polar OH-1 Plus vs the Garmin Swim 2:

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So what you see here is that while things are a bit jaggy, they’re actually not that far apart if you were talking general effort. The Polar OH1 appears to lag slightly behind the Swim 2 from a responsiveness standpoint (such as after those breaks), but otherwise it’s in the same rough ballpark. Kinda, sorta.

Look, I’d put things in the mostly plausible camps. The HR’s from the Swim 2 seem to be about right with my efforts, but with some variability between all the data sources, I can’t really get any agreement on which one is actually correct.

So let’s go to something much simpler: GPS data. It doesn’t lie, and is super easy to analyze. Let’s start with yesterday’s openwater swim. For this I’ve got the Polar Vantage M (I selected that since it’s the closest openwater swim capable GPS watch price-wise) on one wrist, the Garmin Swim 2 on the other, and then a Garmin FR935 attached to a swim buoy behind me as the reference track (it’s above the water in running mode recording at 1-second intervals – the well-accepted practice on how to create reference tracks). Here’s that data set:

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The swim track of the Garmin Swim 2 can be a bit hard to see, being the constant wobbles and misdirection of the Polar Vantage M’s swim track. So let’s get rid of that for a second as it’s not even close.

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Woah – much easier to see now. But let’s zoom in a bunch and look at a few key points. Overall this is exactly where I swam, it’s super close (also, you can click on the set link above to zoom in too).

But in particular, there are some well anchored marine traffic channel markers that I right up next to, and it’s super impressive how close this gets. Both the reference track and the Swim 2 got the correct side of the buoy – very very close.

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On the next buoy, I went around the outside of it (without stopping). The reference track catches that correctly, but not the Swim 2. Keep in mind, almost no other GPS units would actually pass this test in openwater swim mode:

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Here’s adding back in the Polar Vantage M to demonstrate that:

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It’s a super-super good GPS track. Really accurate. Here’s the total distances between the three units. You’ll see the reference track and Swim 2 are a mere 30 meters apart after some 1,700m.

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Next, let’s look at another set. This time swapping out the Polar Vantage M for the Apple Watch Series 5. Previously I’d have said that was the reigning king for openwater swim GPS accuracy. But, as you can see – that’s no longer the case. Here’s the data set:

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Now, the Apple Watch didn’t make any major mistakes, and overall it’s very good. But you can see as I started off on the first crossing of the channel, it wasn’t spot-on:

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It’s hard to see in teal, but it basically cuts across in the wrong spot, and then does a weird loop-de-loop on the other side. The Swim 2 and FR945 reference track are near identical.

If we go down a ways till when I cross back over again, you’ll see a small quirk. I had to wait here a few seconds for a ship to pass through. It looks like I drifted very slightly, which both the reference track and Apple Watch Series 5 picked up. We’re only talking a few meters extra, but the Swim 2 appeared to smooth that out.

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Meanwhile, on the other side of the lake when I made my next turn you see the Apple Watch cut the corner a little bit again, whereas the Swim 2 handled it nicely.

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On the last buoy, I went to the left of it. Here it shows me going through it on the Swim 2, and to the right of it on the others. Of course, it’s totally possible the buoy has moved slightly. Either way, pretty darn accurate.

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And finally, one last one for fun. Same set of devices as before, just a different route. Here’s that data set:

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There’s a bit of funkiness in the lower right corner up there, so we’ll come back to that in a second. But, first off, here’s crossing the channel, with everything on the correct sides of the buoy, and also the correct side of the piers at the top of the image. You’ll notice some squiggles again, that’s from another ship passing that I had to wait briefly for. But all the units held their position nicely.

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At the other turn, we see no corner-cutting from the Swim 2, though very slight corner-cutting from the Apple Watch:

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Interestingly, once across the channel, we see the singular error in all my openwater swims – a brief errant loop-de-loop shown on the Swim 2 track. I had paused here to take photos/video, and so my arm was below the water a bit (which is no different than anyone else treading water waiting for a swim buddy). It appeared to cause some minor confusion for the GPS.

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Finally, there’s the extremely rare reference track failure. For whatever reason, the watch went all squirrely in this corner near the dock (which I’ve drawn in, in blue). But the Swim 2 and Apple watch were fine. And yes, I did go back and forth there. I was closing in on 1-mile and didn’t want to end the swim at .97 miles. Obviously one can’t do that.

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Ok, enough maps.

I think it’s super clear, and for anyone that’s looked at openwater swim tracks over the years you’ll be thinking the same thing: Damn, that’s really really really good. As I said before, I’ve previously found the Apple Watch 3/4/5 openwater swim tracks to be industry leading. But with the Swim 2, they’ve lost that title. Not by a ton, but lost it nonetheless. The Garmin Swim 2 is the new king of openwater GPS swim accuracy. Sure, it’s a niche title, but I’d rather be the king of something, than nothing at all.

(Note: All of the charts in these accuracy portions were created using the DCR Analyzer tool.  It allows you to compare power meters/trainers, heart rate, cadence, speed/pace, GPS tracks and plenty more. You can use it as well for your own gadget comparisons, more details here.)

Summary:

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If we just step back and look at the name of the watch itself, it basically had one job: Not screw up swimming. Or, as the internet would say: “You had one job.” And thankfully, it appears that it nails that single job. As I said above, it’s easily producing the most accurate openwater swim tracks out there, period. And for heart rate accuracy, it’s definitely well into the ‘plausible’ camp, if not the most accurate wrist-based optical HR sensor for swimming (again, perhaps not the pinnacle of fancy titles, but hey, it fits).

There are some very minor quirky bugs that need to be worked out. Things like the GPS position showing up in pool swims after the fact online on Garmin Connect, or some minor user interface quirks in the menus that just need flushing out. None of it impacting actual day to day use, just things that are more stuff I’d notice and I suspect others wouldn’t.

Price-wise it feels perhaps a touch bit high, especially with the $250 price point. I think it would have sold extremely well at $199, maybe even $219 – but $249 might be tougher for the average swimmer. On the flip side, it’s accurate – so there’s that. Also, it’s still a running and cycling watch, and a daily activity tracker. So again, there’s that too. Time will tell of course on pricing. And since it was 7 years since the last version, Garmin has plenty of time to decide by 2026 whether they’ll do a Swim 3 if the pricing is right.

With that – thanks for reading!

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Hopefully you found this review useful. At the end of the day, I’m an athlete just like you looking for the most detail possible on a new purchase – so my review is written from the standpoint of how I used the device. The reviews generally take a lot of hours to put together, so it’s a fair bit of work (and labor of love). As you probably noticed by looking below, I also take time to answer all the questions posted in the comments – and there’s quite a bit of detail in there as well. 

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Garmin Swim 2 GPS Watch
Garmin Swim 2 GPS Watch (EU/UK readers, save 10% with DCR10BTF)
Garmin HRM-TRI (triathlon-focused swim strap – review here)
Garmin HRM-SWIM (indoor-swimming focused swim strap – review here)

Thanks for reading! And as always, feel free to post comments or questions in the comments section below, I’ll be happy to try and answer them as quickly as possible.

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179 Comments

  1. Frank-enstein

    I don’t swim but this darn website makes me want to swim, and buy all the tech things.

    World class review as always D.C.R.

  2. Wolf

    You failed to answer the most important question: Will it make me swim faster? 😉

    Looking forward to having the new swim features (including OW GPS accuracy) included in the Marq Series firmware

  3. Frank

    “””(One minor bug I’ve seen: It seems to put roughly the last known openwater swim GPS location on Garmin Connect for your indoor pool swims. Garmin Connect Mobile doesn’t show this bug. Assuming it’s an easy thing for them to correct.)”””

    This may not be an issue related to just this watch. Since a while (few weeks?) my indoor swims also got a map showing up in Garmin Connect, i’m using Fenix 5S. The map shows a green starting indicator with no GPS track.

    • Ahh, interesting. Yup, that’s exactly it. I’ve only been using the Swim 2 these last few weeks for pool swims, do didn’t know it was impacting others. Sigh, would seem to be such an easy thing to fix.

    • morey000

      My Fenix 6Pro also seems to put the last GPSed workout location as the location of my pool swims. not that it’s a problem, but it’s weird.

      And- the $64,000 question…. will the auto pause and critical swim speed features come to the Fenix 6/945?

    • Yes, Garmin confirmed a few hours ago that all the new swim features will come to the FR945 and Fenix 6. No timeframe yet. They also noted some features will go to some other watches, but no specifics there.

    • Pawel

      Will they add OHR to Fenix 5 series?

    • Antoine De Groote

      Also, at least for me, for the activities that have this bug, the “next activity” arrow-button doesn’t work in Connect. Maybe it’s only a problem in Connect and not the watches themselves.

    • vicent

      it looks like everybody is very excited with the auto pause.
      Is this the same feature i have in my 4 years old suunto ambit3?

    • Brent Gustafson

      Awesome! I’m hoping this will also help with OWS accuracy / consistency on the 945

    • Toby

      According to Garmin Connect (web), the last 2 pool swims I recorded on my Fenix 6 Pro took place in Ethiopia where I last used GPS to track a mule trek! So, yes, this is a universal “feature”.

  4. Arend

    The auto rest feature makes this the first watch I would actually consider wearing for a swim. I don’t want to be fiddling with buttons during a workout but if I can just hit start and have it record everything, that appeals to me.

    • MattB

      Yeah I’m hoping this bit gets ported to the 945/F5&6, as one of the most annoying things I get happen is pausing for a rest while swimming then forgetting to restart.

    • Alessandro

      True, also considering that a lot of previous watches (FR920/935/945 etc.) already record that time, unless you woudn’t know the actual time of swim. And it’s a very useful feature for interval that I had on the old Polar V800 that I deeply miss!

    • Dmitry Pupkov

      Auto rest is on FORM googles and works super cool! I really like that it doesnt loose any single second there.

    • vicent

      it looks like everybody is very excited with the auto pause.
      Is this the same feature i have in my 4 years old suunto ambit3?

    • Caitlin

      The Vantage series has auto rest.

  5. Arend

    Ray, could you post some pictures of how the size compares to other Garmins? It looks like a fairly slim profile.

  6. I assume this is using the same Sony chip as all of the new Garmin wearables. With that in mind, it’s incredible to me that Garmin has/had so many issues with the open water swimming on the 945 while they were actively developing the Swim2.

    It makes me wonder if they were waiting to sort out the open water swim issues prior to releasing the Swim2 or if developing the Swim2 helped them fix the 945.

    • It’s actually been concurrent for the teams working on it. The FR945 has been getting the updates too. I don’t know which watch as of today has the most recent firmware fixes on the swim front, but I know they’ve basically been pretty close to lock-step (and this also applies to the Fenix 6 and MARQ).

      I’d say the turning point was roughly early August.

  7. Rui Pereira

    Cool. Does it also have dive activities?

  8. Monkswhiskers

    At last accurate OW gps tracking from Garmin. If this had come out 18 months ago I would have bought it without question, but I bought an Apple Watch instead because of it’s OW capabilities, and it has music, and contactless payment, and a host of other things.

  9. Frank B.

    The display size compared to the huge border wastes half of the usable space. It looks like a watch released seven years ago.

  10. Adrian B

    You had me at ”Arguably the best openwater swim watch I’ve ever had…” 😄

    Maybe this will be the watch that finally replaces my ageing – but trustworthy! – FR 910XT, since open water swimming is my main activity with it.

  11. Frank

    Is the auto pause features coming down to the fenix (6) line ?

  12. Juzam

    I have a question about this:

    “Note that other brand straps won’t work here, because they haven’t implemented the correct ANT+ protocols to support the cached downloading bits (meaning, no, you can’t use a Polar/Suunto/anyone else strap/sensor).”

    What I recall from the Scosche Rythm24 hands on , was that the Rythm24 didn’t have the right ant+ protocol in the “beta” unit but that was something planned for the future. Do you know my chance what’s the current situation about the Rythm24 strap?

    Thank you.

  13. Paul N.

    Glad to see that Garmin Connect now officially supports more complex swim workout repeats.No more manually editing JSON parameters to get complex pool workouts into Connect (this does work and I was able to create some rather complex workouts, but it is a bit of a pain).

    Hope to see the Fenix 6 get the CSS and auto pause features.

  14. Bob

    This is $250 and the FR245 is $300? Thoughts on why the FR245 is more?

  15. Chris Watson

    I think that for the ‘HR during swim’ test you should have included secondary device connected to a HRM-SWIM.

  16. Anders Majland

    Yahoo – finally a garmin watch with optical hr for swimming.

    I hate chest straps and for almost 2 years the scosche rhytm 24 has been sitting there laughing at me and i’ve sold it again a month or two ago …. (I pre ordered it in the hope that it would work as the memory belt for my garmin devices)

    I’m not sure that i am ready to drop $250 for a swim only watch, but maybe the next forerunner or fenix will do the same. I can easier justify $4-500 to replace my old Fenix 3HR …

  17. Andy Large

    Would have been useful to see more about bike and run activities… Are they any good? Thanks.

  18. David

    I’m sure I’m the one misjudging but I’d think that at $250 they might have trouble because most adult swimmers, even if it is their primary sport, tend to also participate in other athletics like running. Surely a multi-sport watch becomes the instantly better choice even if missing one or two features.

    • Susan

      I disagree. A good multi-sport watch that has decent GPS for open-water swimming is a heck of a lot more expensive. And while I occasionally walk/run/hike, I do not want to pay for all the bells-and-whistles that a multi-sport watch has that I never use. My Suunto Ambit3 has been a workhorse for open-water swimming, but I do not use 90% of the other features.

    • ChrisTexan

      Multi-sport, or “multiple sport modes available”? Per the review, this does support multiple sport modes (not a huge amount, but “run, ride, and gym activities” were all mentioned as options). That covers the likely majority of the target segment (really almost everything as any workout can be recorded by one of those options and get useful data.) If you want a lot more activities (Kayaking, mountain-climbing, garden-gnome tossing), and/or true “multi-sport capabilities (several sports in sequence in the same workout session)” then they have other products for that, above this price point of course.

    • RunninMatt

      In the UK the Swim 2 is £219 on Garmin and you can pick up a New Forerunner 735XT for £223 on Amazon. While the 735 is an older model that lacks the new body battery metrics, optical heart rate for swimming and the more complex swim workouts for people who do other sports the 735 might offer better value especially compared to the 945 which is significantly more expensive.

  19. Dave E

    ‪Is there a way to share custom pool workouts on the with different pool lengths? I’ve had to create duplicate workouts for 25 yard & 50 meter pools and hope these updates fix that. Or maybe I’ve been missing something that already does this?‬

  20. Mr T

    We are are a long ways from stuffing the Garmin 305 in the old swim cap.

  21. Joshua S Gordon

    The fact it doesn’t have an altimeter is a good thing. My 935 has broken 5 times due to pool swimming. Now I use my broken 935 swimming then 945 for run/bike/other because of this. Hopefully Swim 2 is durable.

    • Hessel Friedlander

      If I understand you correctly, you seem to use your “broken 935” for swimming and your 945 for other sports. Does Garmin connect combine the results from the different devices so that you can see all your activities for the week in one place?

      It seems as if the Swim 2 features will be included in the 945. Will you get them automatically?

  22. Bob Kowalski

    After waiting and waiting and buying a couple of Apple Watches, Garmin finally comes through. I didn’t know if my old Garmin Swim was going to take another battery. I’m primarily a swimmer and bicyclist and never a runner, but at $250 am not sure this is going to convince me to throw my AW away.

  23. robbierob

    Now if only Garmin would enable optical heart rate on for the Fenix line seeing as we all know there is no technical reason to not…more just a financial reason on part of Garmin.

    • The Fenix 6 series did get it (as did the FR945 and FR245 and MARQ).

      I suspect the main reason the Fenix 5 and other watches previous is that it’s a different optical sensor.

  24. Susan Knight

    This looks interesting, but it’s super disappointing that it doesn’t have temperature. I like to see when the water temperature changes.

  25. ReHMn

    “On the next buoy, I went around the outside of it (without stopping). The reference track catches that correctly, but not the Swim 2. Keep in mind, almost no other GPS units would actually pass this test in openwater swim mode.”

    Ray, did you have the GPS data recording set up to every second? Or was it a default smart recording? Also, which satellite system was set up (Galileo, Glonass, GPS)?

  26. Richard Thevenon

    Thanks Ray for the excellent review as always. I am not entirely convinced that the watch adds much value even for a pure swimmer compared with a more versatile multi-sports watch than is only marginally more expensive. It makes the Vantage M look good value for money in comparison. Most club swimmers and even serious swimmers are not that fussed about HR. As for the workouts the good old “Bristol” waterproof is so much easier to useand you cannot beat a good old swim clock for the reps/ rest. Well that’s probably just me getting old but I think Garmin are targeting a narrow market there. As you rightly pointed out the original Garmin Swim was a great watch and it was great because it was reliable, simple and fairly cheap…

    • Amanda

      I had assumed they stopped producing the original Garmin swim because it didn’t sell enough due to narrow market. My Garmin swim still works well but now use my 735xt for pool swimming (as well as open water).

    • Dave

      We’ve got a big community of open water swimmers here in NZ who are in the ocean pretty much 365 days a year – I can lots of them being very interested in this. I’m interested myself as despite having just got an AW5, I’m deeply paranoid about smashing it on a lane rope or someone else’s wrist in a congested pool.

    • amh

      i have the 735 and it is not good for swimming if you want a good one with a good price try the garnin fenix 3hr i have it for 3 years twice a week in the pool 1100m each time and it very good tracking distance (25m and most of the time it recognize the swim that i swim even butterfly or backstroke even that i am not stopping at all between laps!) and with swim hrm your hr are very accurate (i tested it with sevreal watches such as suunto and polar and the garmin is the best) the battery still last a week! with normal usage (hr 24\7) i think you will be very happy with this watch

    • Amanda

      I have 735xt and it is excellent for both pool and open water.

    • Amanda

      Agreed Dave. Likewise in UK and it is a growing market so I think with the addition of GPS in the swim watch it will be a seller. I did love the original swim but annoying to have 2 watches (one for pool and one for openwater) so that’s why I started just using the 735xt after they introduced pool functionality into XTs (and they bought out one small enough for my wrist!)

    • Harriet

      Agreed. Although i have been having some tracking accuracy issues of late- my standard 6k run coming out WAY more than 6k, for example..

  27. Dave Lusty

    Got to say huge kudos to Polar for showing Garmin that swim sessions could be better and finally giving them some features to copy. Auto pause on swims was the one feature I really, really loved when the Vantage came out and I always miss it when using a Garmin. This just shows how important competition is and how we need to support the smaller players like Polar. They may not be that competetive with Garmin but they certainly can innovate. I don’t use it much but I’m proud to have bought a Vantage V if only to help them compete 🙂

  28. Bart G

    And when is the 955 coming out?

  29. Kuifje777

    I am really excited to see this watch, as it shows that Garmin sees swimmers as a viable market and continues to innovate in the area. Of course, I hope that Garmin will bring some of the features to my Garmin 945.

    I really like the auto-pause function on the Polar Vantage V, but that watch more often than not got the distance awfully wrong for me during pool swims. Hopefully, Garmin will bring it to the 945.

    • Dave Lusty

      There’s no innovation here. All of these features were lifted from the Vantage from what I can tell, which had auto laps for pool from launch and oHR while swimming for a long time. It’s nice that Garmin has them too, and hopefully they’ll put them on the Fenix/Forerunner series firmware. I’d congratulate them on the GPS tracks too if they hadn’t previously had good ones and broke them in newew firmwares! Nice to finally see another swim watch though.

    • I don’t believe Polar has pacing though (which is probably one of the more useful features here for longer sets). As for HR accuracy, well…my swim from yesterday didn’t fare well for the Vantage M there (and that’s ignoring the fact that it didn’t record anything for distance somehow).

      I agree pricing is questioanble, but, from a pure swimmers standpoint for someone that actually wants accurate OWS GPS tracks – I don’t see any reason why they’d go with the Vantage series at this point. It’s not even the same ballpark for accuracy for OWS.

    • Dave Lusty

      That’s assuming a future Garmin update doesn’t bork the GPS tracks for swimming. Again. Like the other watches as you’ve calmly ranted many times 🙂

      To be fair the Vantage V has matched my Garmin HRM Swim and Tri every time I’ve used it while swimming. It’s done some horrible things to the distance on some firmware versions, but that’s all settled now, finally.

      I’m certainly not saying Polar are competetive, but they were the ones who added auto-lap first and oHR while swimming. I strongly believe that had they not pushed the envelope Garmin wouldn’t have done this as they don’t need to. I almost never use my Vantage, but I don’t regret supporting Polar by buying it because it has pushed Garmin forwards and that’s a good thing for all of us.

  30. Sam

    Amazing review just amazing thank you 🙏🏻

  31. Trevor S

    Thanks for the great review Ray. Any word on availability and pricing for the Canadian market? I see the Swim 2 on the US Garmin page at the $250US, but the Canadian site just lists the product page (no price, no option to purchase – but at least it’s there). I’ve contacted Garmin but no response. Hoping for a 300-320 list, but expecting a 350 given the exchange.

    • Trevor

      Garmin CSR told me today it will be priced at $349CDN but wasn’t sure when it would be available from the Garmin Canada site.

    • Barry D

      I am interested in this too, but 350 might be a bit too steep for me. Curious when it will list on Garmin Canada site and other retailers. Would be nice if released and somehow got a bit of a discount for Black Friday (although doubt it would being a new product, but I can dream).

  32. Mike S.

    So I assume all of these watch capabilities will trickle down to the Fenix 6 and FR 945 watches?

  33. Paul Furniss

    How bright is the light?, the 735 isn’t that bright but the 935 is but the pool ruins the barometer function so i use the 735. Is the light adjustable?

  34. Melanie

    I have to say Kudos to Swim Smooth as some of the features of the new Garmin Swim 2 GPS watch include what they have been doing for years, in particular CSS, which is an invaluable feature to help get you swimming faster!! It’s great to see you guys working together with some of the smaller players like Swim Smooth to bring a few of their unique methods to the watch.

  35. willba4

    so it supports Cycling, Running and Open Water Swimming, but not Triathlons?

  36. Alberto

    Why i would prefer Garmin Swim 2 instead of FR245 that i can easily find at 249€? The only reason could be auto rest feature and open water swim mode but to me doesn’t worth it since i swim almost always in a pool; I think like you say, price is too high, 199€ or better 169€ should be the correct price.

  37. Alberto

    Hi DC,
    I’m really concerned about Garmin strokes count accuracy.
    I have now an FR645.
    I would love you to report about this.
    Many thanks for your reviews.
    Regards

  38. John Burgess

    This is great news but :

    Does it say in the new manual for the Swim 2, under device care ” Avoid pressing the keys underwater ” ?
    which the original swim allowed and made no mention of.
    I bought a new 735xt and it died pool swimming and Garmin said ” well you can’t push the start/pause button underwater and referred me to the manual ! I always push the start/pause slightly underwater each interval.
    So I went back to the original Swim and never had a problem with 1000s of activates logged.

    • Sascha

      Hi John,
      You should be totally fine pressing the buttons underwater. They will work and shouldn’t cause water damage unless you are past the 50m limit. So pressing the button during your swim workout will be OK.

      Sascha

  39. GPSIG

    Curious that for a tech guy you are really ready to give swim HR a pass. I think there is a bit of a chicken or the egg problem when it comes to swim HR and it is going to take increasingly accurate measurements (like the recent Garmin push on swim wrist HR) and platforms that record it properly –yes for Garmin and Strava, no dice for Training Peaks– to really determine its value. I believe wrist HR has been valuable in my swimming as a pretty average swimmer trying to improve and it has helped validate when I was actually working hard and days when it just seemed hard to swim well. I get that nobody needs HR to swim well, just like nobody needs a power meter to cycle well, but that for many people access to data helps with improving performance.

  40. Hazgh

    Where did you wear OH1 during comparison tests?

  41. Matt

    Is there a reason why they didn’t include the quick release bands on this?

  42. Circe

    According garmin site:
    – no connect IQ (only watch-face)
    – no ant+ connection for footpod, power meter, speed, cadence (only HR)
    – no page personalization for bike and run mode
    So this is a fantastic swim-watch, but (quite) only a swim watch! for 249 E?!
    At this time you can find a forerunner 245 at this price and it’s a awesone mid-range running watch, with also swim and bike capabilities. It miss OWS, but it’s almost full of running function.
    I think swim2 would be a sub-200 range. I would buy it as second watch; not at this price.
    Market will tell us!!!

  43. Oleg

    Thanks for the review.

    I mainly do pool swimming and cycling, occasionally openwater swimming and hiking. And I’m wondering what are the alternatives to the Swim 2 today with the same price range and similar functionality.
    Thanks

  44. Justin

    Ray,
    I didn’t see it covered and forgive me if you did, but could you cover the best way to use the watch while using a swim generator (endless pool). I’d like to be able to see HR, pace, other metrics, etc and compare to the current flow. I guess, selecting no pool length would be appropriate?
    Thanks for the review.

    • Unfortunately, no solution there I’m aware of. I’d love to see Garmin tackle this aspect of the market, as frankly, if they did, I’d consider adding a small endless pool to the DCR Cave. Till then, I’m still scheming on how to build a 20m pool in there. Not sure I’ll get that past The Girl’s approval though…

    • Andrew

      Did I miss the unveiling of the pizza oven?

    • Gary G Patrick

      I thought about this a bit. I don’t know how you could ever derive accurate pace information, given the broad disparity in stroke efficiency. Two swimmers could have virtually identical stroke rates and they’re arms can follow a similar track above and below the water, but one may be swimming with poor “traction” in a slow moving current, and the other swimming with good “traction” in a fast moving current. To the watch, those two situations may be indistinguishable.

  45. Alma

    Ray, thank you for your content and reviews!

    I’m excited to see a slim/lightweight swim watch with advanced functionality. I swim with the 945 and the weight/size can be annoying. If Garmin is targeting swimmers, they really screwed up not including strength training and yoga activity profiles. In my experience, swimmers are much more likely to actually lift than runners.

  46. l’ll stay with my voice coach – Platysens Marlin.

  47. Fenton

    Hi Ray,

    thanks for the great review!

    btw. are you planning a review of Phlex swim training device? link to phlexswim.com

    cheers

  48. Dembo

    As an F5+ owner I just found out that I can create multistep / nested repeats in swim workouts which is super good news. Given Garmin’s track record I wounder whether they will acctualy work on my watch… Guess there is only one way to find out.

  49. Mark

    Barometer?

    I’ve sent 8+ various Garmins back to their maker because at some point (with all the swimming I will do) the barometer will fail on their triathlon watches… 910, 935, Fenix 5 etc… And you will read 60k ft on every run/ride…. I am VERY happy to hear of a SWIM only Garmin with GPS, because I can return my Garmin 735XT to my (runner/biker) wife after I gave it to her, then stole it back. (The 735XT is one of only two Garmins that doesn’t have a barometer.) I’ve been looking for a swim only watch.

  50. David Levy

    There is a data field still missing in pool setting
    Last Lap stroke count
    It is available for OWS but who looks at that in OWS
    This field was available back with the 910XT but then disappear with 920 onward!
    Super convenient to get instant feedback
    Why aren’t the programmer adding this feature.
    The data are available in Garmin connect after the fast so it should be straightforward to do.
    Any connect IQ add on that anybody knows?

    • But that’s actually there. Depending on your terminology (lap versus length versus interval), but either way:

      (All under the ‘Strokes’ subheading):
      A) The last length of the pool you did: “Last Length Strokes”
      B) The average strokes for the last interval/set: “Interval Strokes Per Length”
      C) The overall average strokes for the workout: “Average Strokes Per length”

      Or am I missing something? These are all pool settings.

    • David Levy

      Thanks but I do not think it is there.
      I want to see 47 stokes for my last 100m or 95 for my 200. It only show 12 for the last 25m or 11.7 average
      a) would show 12
      b) would show 11.7
      c) would show 11.6 or something different

      910Xt had the option of showing 47 in pool setting.
      I phoned Garmin since I bought the 945 for that feature only after reading the manual and they said “oh sorry, it’s only available in OWS! sorry” 🙁

    • Gotchya, yeah, ‘total count’ for strokes appears to only be offered on the last length, not the last interval. No idea why. I’ll poke on the next volley.

    • David Levy

      Thanks a lot, would really appreciate it

  51. Wolfgang

    Great in depth review – thankyou!!

  52. Tony

    Hi Ray,

    Do you know if this watch has a swimrun mode (would be awesome)?

    Tony

  53. Stuart

    Hi Ray

    Any chance of getting a size comparison with other Garmins?

    Thanks

  54. Jérôme

    The Fenix 5 does no better than Fenix 2 at pool swimming accuracy. Is there a reason to think that Swim 2 is better ?
    There is simple solution to the issue : manual edition of the workout through Garmin Connect. Manual split/merge of laps would be super easy !

    • I haven’t heard of any reason to believe it’s any better, though I didn’t have any missed laps either. That said, it wouldn’t surprise me if some of the auto-rest logic may have improved general algorithm accuracy even when auto-rest isn’t turned on.

      If one were to start thinking about how you design an auto rest system, that means ensure you’re really darn good at figuring out laps to begin with, then rest. So if i were to take a gamble, it wouldn’t surprise me if there were tweaks they made.

    • Maros Kusnyer

      there is option to edit and upload activity back to connect using. link to swimmingwatchtools.com i like view option it is showing nice swim metrics like stroke count, stroke rate for each length

  55. Jerry Weers

    Hey Ray,
    Can you comment on the metrics available in the run, ride and cardio modes for the Swim 2? Thanks!

  56. MoCo

    Do they still have the feature* where they convert pool swims (in yards) to miles in the total distance field when you hit the 3.1 mile mark? They convert meters to km too but that’s math I can do in my head on the rare occasions I swim in a meter pool. That’s honestly the biggest annoyance with my 935 and the reason I probably won’t bother getting the Swim2, even though swimming is my primary sport.

    * when they changed this (previous behavior: show total yards for swims of all distance, new behavior: convert to miles at the 3.1 mile mark) I reported it as a bug. My bug was closed with an email telling me it was a feature, not a bug. Yeah, no pool swimmer I know tracks their pool swims as miles. Especially on long complicated workouts where I’m trying to figure out where I am in the workout or how many repeats I’ve done. My annoying workaround is to print the converted to miles total distance on my workout sheets when my swim is over 3 miles so I can check it in real time. Key for not having to explain to my coach why I did 34 or 36 100’s on x:xx instead of the 35 I was supposed to do.

  57. Britrict

    Do you think Garmin might create a variant of this watch for swim-run athletes? Are there any products out there that would automatically detect swim-run intervals?

    • I doubt it – the market is just minuscule unfortunately.

      However, I think they probably could be convinced to offer a swim-run specific profile/option within it. Though, I could see how they’d say that’s a multisport watch and to buy the higher end Forerunner/Fenix series.

  58. Gerrit

    So I bought the watch (jippie!). Am running in one issue: downloading and installing watch faces via ConnectIQ works fine. But whenever I try to change settings for them, either via Garmin Connect or the ConnectIQ app I get an error that communication with the watch failed. It just never shows a settings screen. Since all other communication between the Connect apps (android) and the watch works just fine, it looks like an issue with the watch. Is this something you tried? Does it work for you?

    • Hmm, interesting. I didn’t try and customize any CIQ watch faces, beyond just enabling/disabling them. For regular watch faces, the only thin you can customize of course is the accent (on Swim 2).

      I assume you’ve tried a few other CIQ watch faces?

  59. Gerrit

    Yes I tried changing settings for 5 different ciq watch faces. Only tried from android phone. That might make a difference…

    • Matt

      Same for me, but with iPhone. Emailed garmin and haven’t had a response yet.

    • Stuart

      Can confirm the same re changing watch fields – not possible.

      Hopefully fixed soon.

      Also battery charging seems … weird. I charged it when i got it becuase it had 4 bars out of 5 and then when i charged it, it literally took 1 minute and then was fully charged.

      Really want somewhere to see the exact battery percentage but can’t see anywhere that is???

  60. G. Kurisu

    Love the review. I’ve been patiently waiting for a GPS swim watch that has some level of wrist-based HRM. Not looking for complete accuracy but decent metrics on HR while I’m swimming which the Fenix 5 does not do. This looks like it does most of what I want although I might wait until they integrate the technology into their Fenix line of watches or I might use this one solely for swim metrics. I’ve tried the chest straps and just never got comfortable using them and I never needed that level of accuracy. I’ll be looking forward to trying this watch out in the pool and open water. Thanks for your level of testing and attention to detail!

  61. Henri Michels

    Good eventing,

    Is it possible to See back the different strokes on lane swimming in a Pool with the Garmin swim 2
    Like there are Butterfly, breaststroke, freestyle and backstroke

    Thanks

    Henri Michels

  62. Henri Michels

    Does the Garmin swim 2 recognize the 4 different Kinds of swimming in a Pool ?
    Breaststroke, butterfly,, freestyle, beakstroke. And can it be Displayd in a Graph?

    Thnx

    Henri

    • CMV

      I suppose you mean backstroke.
      Yes, the Swim2 will recognize your swim stroke. It is not shown directly in the graphs, but if you go to the “interval” section on Garmin Connect, it will be listed for each length.

  63. Adrian C

    Regarding pool accuracy, did you do any high-speed tests? My 935 has issues when I drop my pace below 1:00/100y during sprint sessions. I realize this isn’t a normal pace for most triathletes, but it’s pretty annoying to do sprint 100’s or 50’s and see the distance off (usually first 25 I think). Using drill mode I lose stroke rate data, and drills also don’t parse well into Strava/Training Peaks or even Garmin Connect itself. Any chance you could strap on some fins or find someone really fast to test at those paces?

  64. colm breathnach

    Still no thermometer for water temp?

  65. Pierre

    Will you be able to get CSS settings into Garmin connect also with sync of the what?
    Looked in Garmin connect to see if you can add a value manual laready now but didn´t find anything so I would assume that the setting is only in the watch at the moment…

  66. Paul Furniss

    Same here, have returned 4, 935,s, numerious 920xts due to barometer problem from swimming, using the 735 until my Swim 2 gets here.

  67. Joe

    Ray,

    Great review except for the heart rate section. Your conclusion that “I can’t really get any agreement on which one is actually correct.” is not what I expected form a DCR review.

    It would be great if you could update the HR section comparing the Swim 2 to a Garmin-Swim or Garmin-TRI chest strap.

    Is not what I expected for a DCR review.

    • Gerrit

      It’s probably hard to say anything conclusive about the heartrate, since it will always be a N=1 experience for optical sensors like this.

      But FWIW, I kept the swim2 on during two trainerroad workouts (so on the bike, not in water). The heartrate was most of the time completely off. In one interval, my heartrate was already for minutes around 158, while the swim2 heartrate was lowering and showed 98 at the end of the interval (so a 60 beats!!! difference). Then after the interval, while my actual heartrate was decreasing, the swim2 showed an increasing heartrate, that rose to 140, while my actual heartrate decreased to 120…. So it was all over the place, but didn’t really make any sense, didn’t track with the TICKR, and didn’t track with my effort at all. 10 minutes after the workout it was closer to what my TICKR was reporting (at most a couple of beats off). In rest it seems fairly close to what the TICKR reports. During swimming I have no idea what my actual heartrate does, and nothing to campare it to. But at least it increases/decreases according to relative effort.

    • Joe

      Thanks for your bike test results. This does not look very promising.

      What is really needed is a comparison of the Swim 2 with a chest strap monitor designed for in water use such as the Garmin-Swim or Garmin-TRI. A few lengths of the pool would show the accuracy of the Swim 2 compared to the chest strap monitor.

    • Yeah, trust me – I had tired to capture with a chest strap – multiple times, each time with something going wrong on downloading the data – even with the HRM-TRI in fact connected to another Garmin and that went south and fired a blank. Sometimes you’re the pigeon, sometimes you’re the statue.

      I’ll probably be giving it another whirl this week.

      As for indoor cycling data, I actually have a lot of that oddly enough on the Garmin Swim 2. I’ll upload some of that as part of the expanded sections I want to add in (unboxing/what’s new/etc…) that I’m a bit belated on.

    • Joe

      Thanks Ray. Comparing the Swim 2 to a chest strap would really complete an otherwise excellent review. I have also had days when everything went wrong, it happens!

    • Joe

      Ray,

      When you do the chest strap comparison test I would suggest that you look at accuracy during swimming and accuracy while resting between sets. I can see a good use case for waiting for your heart rate to decrease to a certain level before starting the next set rather than just basing it on a fixed rest time. While resting, the accuracy of the Swim 2 above water and under water would be interesting.

  68. Jens

    Hi Ray,
    Great review!
    I read something about adding autolap…does this mean showing autolap stats for pool swim? So far I consider Suunto by far the best watch brand for pool swim when it comes to showing stats, each lap in the pool I get good stats as well as after ending my swim. (Vantage V just got that too tho) It looks like Swim2 has at least the post swim laps? I use lap alert for my 935,5S and 5X+ but miss real lap stats. Please update with answers 🙂

  69. Shaked Shammah

    Thanks for the review!
    My concern is for durability. I’ve had 2 920xts, which got f***ed up due to “too much” swimming (around 3hrs a week for a year and first the barometer is dead, then general gps and connectivity issues arise, etc.). My current 935 also lost its barometer.
    On the contrary, the garmin swim which I’ve been using for a couple of years, and is still used by my wife for a similar swimming volume pretty much keeps working perfectly.
    It seems like the solid build of the old garmin swim was far superior to that of the newer multisport watches.
    This is perhaps hard to tell so soon, but does the build look “solid” and able to handle some, umm, water exposure? I prefer having this one in addition to a triathlon watch, with both holding on for, say, 3 years, than having to replace a tri watch every year or so…
    Thanks!

  70. Chris

    Do you expect this to be well supported over a longer life cycle than a full-featured watch like the 945?

  71. Angel

    Are you aware of what other watches support the swim workouts? I’m looking to upgrade from a VA3, but it seems like the VA4 doesn’t support them, and the Garmin site doesn’t allow for filtering by this feature and only by sport, which results in 40 watches for swimming. >.<

  72. Nico

    Hello
    Does the watch have a HR broadcast capability ? (Like swim HRMs)
    What I would dream of is to use it with my old 920xt.
    For one, I could use the swim2 for swim training and spare the 920 barometer.
    Then I would have HR during the whole race…
    Ok. Must be day dreaming…
    Anyways, thanks for your outstanding reviews.
    Nico

  73. Nico

    Thanks DC for the precision.
    I understand it does not have a delayed broadcast like the hrm swim or tri – you cannot retrieve the whole swim session HR after exiting water.
    Correct ?
    Nico

  74. gabor

    Ray, do you have info about which watches will get the same superior open water GPS tracking software? (I see comments about which gets auto rest, HR, etc., but not the OW GPS)

  75. Verena

    Hi Ray, great review as always. Do you think the Swim 2 will be heartier than the FR models in terms of waterpoofing? I’m on my 3rd 735XT in three months (Garmin customer support has been excellent). Unscientifically, the first two appeared to fail after more vigorous sets in the pool (i.e., butterfly). My feeling is that the FR multisport models are built for triathletes who mostly swim freestyle, and that they’re not built to handle the extra bashing from stroke/sprint work. Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

  76. Toby

    Why does everybody make the CSS calculation so complicated? It should be:
    (T400 – T200) / 2.
    Simples.

  77. Toby

    Now that many Garmin watches support Swimming Personal Records it is time to start campaigning for a decent set of distances. Currently they only support 100m, 400m, 750m (wtf?), 1000m (wtf again) and 1500m. I would to see distances that match World Records. So: 50m, 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 1500m. Very logical imho.

  78. Jason

    So, you’ve convinced me to get this watch soon. I want my buy to support this site, but I don’t want to buy the VIP club. Will buying from the Clever Training site still give you money/brownie points/etc?

    • Hi Jason-

      Yup – definitely. Just use the links above/at left and you’re good to go. Note that you can actually check-out all in one swoop with the VIP club, so basically you ‘pay’ $5 (it goes to Girls On The Run), and then you’ll instantly get the 10% back in points on the Swim watch itself (so $25 credit).

      Either way, much appreciated!

  79. Nico

    Hello
    Wait. No Garmin pay ?
    They don’t pay for the pool entrance or stop at the grocery store on the way back ?
    Not even an ice cream after the OWS at the beach?
    A shame.
    By the way, I can easily understand they don’t allow apps – would be too easy to restore full running and cycling capabilities.
    But widgets ??? They are most useful for every day life: calendar, loyalty cards,…
    Well, for me, this really is a swim only watch and for that very restricted use, the price is indeed WAY too expensive.

    • Jason

      If those are your requirements, you do you. But honestly, I buy a watch to do one thing – tell time. I buy a swim watch to do 2 things – tell time and help me swim better. The price here is, in my opinion, for R&D to make a very effective swim watch. From the review, it looks like paying that much means you’ll have an excellent swim watch – you have a million things for loyalty cards and payments and whatever else, on your phone, and you already paid a bunch to have that thing in your pocket!

    • gabor

      @Jason,

      Totally agree. A swim watch is a swim watch and not a f*cking everything. Pay, even activity log, widgets, phone notifications, etc. are just some fashion mumbo jumbo, but have no real value. If the open water capabilities are as good as this review shows, I am convinced.
      My old FR910XT still does all the work, but I have issues with the vibration alerts, and also the OW track (esp. pace) is too basic (distance is spot on, but to see the pace would be good to track progression).

    • I don’t know.

      I think a lot of people find value in that stuff. And by ‘think’, I mean, the data easily backs it up. It wasn’t until watches started getting all that stuff that we saw sales of these watches skyrocket. Garmin has never sold more watches than now, and each quarter is astonishing.

      I think Garmin’s challenge in something like the Swim is figuring out which of these medium-end type features to include. I agree – I don’t get the omission of Garmin Pay. It doesn’t make sense, especially in light of Garmin’s Vivoactive 3 series having it at equal or lesser price. Garmin is essentially saying “Swimming customers are less important than all-around fitness customers”. They’d argue with me on that, but that’s clearly what the message says.

      To me, Garmin needs a very simple price to feature base-lining system that they actually stick with. Right now, it’s variable for every product and it’s confusing as shiitake.

      e.g. – is it less than $200? Fine, no Garmin Pay. Is it more than $200? Good, Garmin Pay. Is it more than $249? Good – baro altimeter. Is it more than $299? Good, PulseOx.

      Oh, wait – you put PulseOx in the Vivosmart 4 at sub-$200 so you could match Fitbit at the time? @#$# Well, then that’s your new baseline – $200. Deal with it and move on to finding other features and call $200 the baseline – so the FR45 gets it too.

  80. AF

    First off, excellent review!

    Quick question: does it provide pace information (i.e. time x 100m) for open water as well? I didn’t see that in stats.

    • gabor

      As far as I see, you can set pace for open water.

      BUT, and it is a very big but now for me…

      First impression, after the first pool swim – the watch is FULL OF BUGS! I mean there are a ton of them.
      – auto rest is unusable, at least if you want to see what is on the screen during the swim. I included total length, it displayed mostly the interval length, sometimes total length, intervals are not always added to the total, etc. You have to trust the watch, it collects data, according to your turns.
      – theoretically you can switch off auto rest during your activity. It does not work
      – after switching between auto rest and normal mode, the watch did crazy things, turn detection was screwed (or maybe my turns are wrong???)
      – the watch forgot the last part of my swim… About 8-10 length at minimum, maybe more.
      – the swim summary on the watch seems weird, I could not really understand it well.
      – the pool swim data fields changed back after the swim to something what I did not set.
      – data field settings are weird, you have to check it several times, as the watch either changes it to your taste, or makes it at its own taste.
      – not to mention that syncing to GC took a lot of time.

      Garmin needs to review the software a little bit… Right now it is a beta version at best.
      Welcome to the Garmin world??

    • gabor

      A bit of update:

      I was playing with the auto rest feature a bit more, to demonstrate it to a friend. It seems that stopping the log and resuming it can put the auto rest feature in a weird state, where things start to go wrong. At this stage if using auto rest, avoid to stop the activity until finished, and I guess everything will go ok.
      Until the fix I am forced to use manual start/stop, that seems to be working.

      On the other hand, bluetooth connection is slow, BT sync takes 10-15 minutes, changing downloaded watch face settings gets timeout. Using cable is the temporary solution. Phone notifications seems to work correctly though.

    • gabor

      To stay on the fair side…
      There is only a minor bug, what is easy to avoid (easy to run into as well), but when it is found, it can really destroy the log and experience.
      Since the first swim I tested it two more times (as I know how to avoid the fault), with and without auto rest, and it works like a charm. The auto rest even forced me to work on my turns 🙂
      (stroke recognition does not work well for me, but it is not worse than the old FR910XT)

  81. Swisskit

    Great review, very helpful.

    One question, is the open water interface and functionality identical on the Fenix 6?

    The only thing holding me back from the new Swim is NFC payment and music. But if the open water features are identical on the Fenix 6, I’ll go that route.

  82. Mj

    Thanks for the great review. I want to use the Open Water setting on this but for paddling on a surf board. I want to see how many strokes I am doing per session. Is it possible to see this? I had a look at the 945 in-store and it had a field for Total Strokes. Does the Swim2 have this? Or do you see any other issues with using it for this purpose?

  83. Nazir

    I’ve been using swim 2 for a couple of weeks for pool swimming:
    – pacing: ok for short intervals, but for long intervals it is difficult to follow alerts, I do not feel alert vibration very often; it would be much more useful if pacing would start counting from zero after every turn for longer intervals
    – Garmin connect doesn’t show details within intervals: if I swim 1000m. non stop – it will be shown as one interval, I would love to see breakdown of that 1000m by every 50 or 100m with timing and other data

    • Gerrit

      You can see the breakdown of your intervals in the web version of garmin connect. You get all data (time, strokes, swolf, stroketype, …) there for every pool length you swam if you click on the interval.

    • Nazir

      thanks!
      Garmin has to transfer it to their app!

    • Nazir

      is there a standard way to see a summary by every 100m (or any other preferred interval)?
      If I swim 1000m – to break pace and timing by 100m not by pool length??

    • Jens

      Hi Nazir,

      I’m fairly sure the answer is no here. I have several other Garmins (not the swim 2) but this is by far the worst thing about Garmin and swimming IMO. The watches don’t even show the lap time for 100m during swim, like both Suunto and Polar watches do! I’m very surprised my main brand of watch can’t do this 🙁 I can get an “Alert” for 100m but without any info about stats.
      If anyone has a different answer feel free to add info 🙂

      Another thing, Strava was recently fixed to show HR data from Garmins, but with that fix it seems they messed up the temperature data instead. Fenix 5X Plus used to provide correct temperature for swim in Strava but not anymore. It’s 0 deg C. Unrelated but still bad 😉 Older watches like Fenix 5S for instance, have never shown other than 0C in Strava.

    • RE: Lap time per 100/m

      Maybe I’m misunderstanding what you’re referring to – but this metric is literally everywhere. It’s shown in the following places:

      During swim (configurable fields you can add):
      – Average Pace (whole workout)
      – Interval Pace
      – Last Length Pace

      Post-swim-
      – At the top of the activity for overall average
      – Along the entire pace chart for every second
      – Alongside every interval recorded
      – Alongside every length recorded

      Cheers.

    • Jens

      Thanks Ray for the reply,
      However, I’m fairly sure he meant (as I am missing, the lap times that you get for most other activities, see picture. The swim shows pace per length, never per lap (i.e per 100m).
      That ISN’T possible, right?
      I’m never interested in interval pace myself. That would mean I have to pause every 100m and I prefer not to 😉 Or having to press buttons to make laps during swim, not what I want.

    • Nazir

      Jens, you got me right.
      for instance – last weekend we had 6000m. swim in the 25m length pool (crazy thing to do))

      In the garmin app I can see only average pace for the entire 6000m, on the chart I can see my pace at a given point. on the web I can see my pace for every 25m only

      I got screenshot from apple watch – the other person who did this training with me at the same day – apple shows splits with pace for every 100m. (and pool size on apple watch was set to 25m)

      so no average pace per laps in the pool swimming on Garmin

    • So on the mobile app, you can’t see every ‘length’, but you can see the intervals (i.e. if you did a 300m interval or a 50m interval). Whereas on the web (screenshot in previous comment) you can see the 100m pace per length.

      What I think you’re asking for though is to see the 100m splits, even if you don’t do 100m splits. Honestly, this is the first time I’ve ever seen this request. People have generally wanted to see pace one of three ways:

      A) Per length (be it 25m/50m/or something else)
      B) Per interval (be it 50m/100m/1400m/etc…)
      C) Per entire workout (self-explanatory)

      I think some of it might actually come from the wording. The term ‘lap’ in swimming is supposed to mean just a single length…ignoring the fact that every other sport entity means to return to the place of start. So if you have a 25m long pool, a lap is technically supposedly just 25m. If you have a 50m pool, it’s just 50m – not 100m (to return to start). Here, if you want you’re head to hurt: link to evan.marathonswimmers.org

      Take the Apple Watch for example. While your screenshot shows the 100m split, what is just above that screenshot if you slide a tiny little bit is how to display your workout: /100m, /50m, /25m.

      (This gets even more confusing, when you swim in a 20m or 33 1/3rd meter pool for example, as I have in the last month. But we’ll ignore that).

      So the thing they are doing which is handy is a little virtual laps option after the fact. And they do virtual sets too – but I haven’t found those terribly accurate.

    • Nazir

      hi Ray!
      ‘virtual laps’ – that would be the right terminology!
      my current goal is to swim 1000m in less than 20 minutes, ‘virtual laps or intervals’ would help to better visualize and plan my pace for entire 1000m workout.

      I switched from running to swimming and start realizing that in swimming I get less data ))

      thanks!

    • Jens

      I just don’t get why Garmin is the only major brand that doesn’t support this. Here is how it looks in Suunto and Polar, both of which also will show the stats for autolaps on the watch during swim btw. For freestyle I think it’s a bit hard(impossible) to see but with my style of slow breast stroke it’s very easy to view during the swim.
      Nazir, you might want to pick up a cheap Polar or Suunto watch at Black Friday sale 😉 In general I think Polar is better at stroke recognition (than Suunto) if that helps.
      Funny you should mention 20mins for 1000m btw. I too would like to reach that goal. Didn’t try so hard yet, I always do 2000m and have done the first 1000 in 20:46 or so, at best.

    • Nazir

      Let’s hope this thread reaches Garmin ))

      There is a minor bug in the app – synchronization b/w watches and app doesn’t work correctly on pacing alert: 1) whenever I change pace for pacing alert on my watches, the app shows weird pace (see screenshot), 2) pacing alert on the app doesn’t synchronize with watches (I just set up pacing alert on watches directly)

  84. Michael Herman

    I have a Garmin 945 which I use for running, pool swimming and open water swimming. I assume the technology in the Swim 2 and 945 are similar in terms of sensors and software. Out of interest, it would be useful for ocean swimming to know the elevation gains and losses, as this would identify how rough the water was during the swim. In other words, large swells should be picked up by the watch. I cannot see how to get information on this from the data provided post swim.
    Thanks for such detailed and informative reviews.
    michael

  85. Circe

    Hi Ray (or everybody could answer to me!),
    in OWS mode do you have an instant-pace? could you use a lap-pace (100m?).
    In my fenix 5+ i use lap-pace (auto-lap 100m) and it’is quite reliable

  86. Marta Orue

    Awesome analysis!!
    Look no more!!

    Too bad that after reading it I headed to a little only-Garmin store to get it, and found the most depassionate person there. Not only didn’t he know if he had it, but also suggested that maybe GPS tracker wasn’t there for that model 🤦🏻‍♂️. I clearly saw that no, he wasn’t the one to reassure me about the amazingness of my purchase.

    Can’t wait to give it to my swimmer husband as a present (and to use it myself too, lol) 😄

  87. Can you provide a little more details on the features for other sports. I know that they are more basics than the swimming modes. But looking for information for I’m not clear about some things.
    1) can you add some other activities From Garmin connect app ( I’ve downloaded the swim 2 user manual and it seems that you can), in that case. What are the ones available.
    2) can you make run or cycling workouts on farming connect and download them to the watch. Or only support swimming workouts.
    3) if you use the HRM-tri or HRM-Run chest for running , All the running dynamic metrics are recorded with the activity for further analysis ?