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Garmin Instinct Esports Edition with Special Software: An Explainer of Sorts

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File this one under ‘Things you didn’t have on your 2020 Bingo Card’, Garmin has launched a new version of the Instinct lineup focused on esports, which will transmit via Bluetooth Smart live your heart rate, stress, and Body Battery metrics (three common metrics on Garmin wearables). Those three live data feeds can then be picked up by a new piece of Garmin software on your PC called STR3AMUP!, which in turn can be used by Streaming apps like OBS or XSplit to be overlaid atop your existing stream. While it might sound complex, from an esports streaming standpoint – it’s all fairly straightforward.

At its core, this is simply a Garmin Instinct watch with an extra sports activity profile. One that in theory Garmin could probably easily port to other watches, just as they ported the Virtual Running activity profile to numerous watches since launching that earlier this year. Whether or not they do that remains to be seen.

The new Esports edition costs $299, essentially the same official retail price of a non-Solar Instinct watch. Though, the non-Solar Instinct versions have mostly been floating between $199 and $249 for the last year. So we’ll have to see if the Instinct Esports variants end up the same.

In any case, let’s just run through some quick tech spec basics, and then a look at the new streaming software.

The Basics:

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As noted earlier, the Instinct Esports edition is simply an existing Garmin Instinct watch with an extra sport profile. But more specifically it’s a first gen Instinct watch rather than the Solar edition. Sure, the Solar editions have…well…solar, but they also have an updated heart rate sensor package that includes PulseOx (SpO2 readings) as well as underwater heart rate measurements. This has neither, thus, it’s a first gen unit. Which is fine, for the most part there’s minimal differences otherwise aside from some power management related aspects (and thus, battery life tweaks).

In any case, the core specs here are:

– 14 day smartwatch battery life
– 16 hours in GPS-on mode for outdoor workouts
– 80 hours in Esports streaming mode
– Nifty game controller icon on watch face
– 24×7 activity tracking with steps/sleep/heart rate/stress
– Included optical HR sensor, barometer, altimeter
– Bluetooth Smart notifications
– MIL-STD 810 durability specification compliant

For regular readers of this site, you’ll notice it’s all the usual stuff found on any other Garmin Instinct, except the new Esports mode and nifty icon. There is no music storage on the watch, so you’ll need to play that back from your phone or computer like normal. And again the newish Solar version (that this isn’t) has different internals, notably different GPS (Sony instead of MediaTek), added PulseOx sensor along with new optical HR sensor package, different battery drain profiles (and far longer battery life), plus of course the solar panels.

What’s mildly of interest to readers here is that you may have noticed last week Garmin added Bluetooth heart rate broadcasting to the original Instinct via firmware update,  which layers atop the ANT+ broadcasting that already existed. That semi-quietly set the stage for what Garmin did here in terms of Bluetooth broadcasting of other metrics using their new streaming focused software (it doesn’t stream itself, but supports streaming software). Here, let me explain.

STR3AMUP! Software:

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There’s officially never been a piece of software that’s tried harder to sound like it wasn’t made in Kansas, than STR3AMUP! – and yes, the “!” is actually part of the name. Clearly, STR3AMUP! is just a play on the word StreamUp, albeit spelled as if you smashed your keyboard in anger repeatedly trying to spell it correctly. It’s horrific to type, or even try and remember.

And sure – perhaps I’m not the core target audience for spelling in leet, but, I also can’t think of any popular streaming tools or apps that spell things like a 12-year-old. Which 12-year-old’s are buying a $299 smartwatch that looks like a Casio? I mean, just asking for clarity. To be clear, the vast majority of streamers are not 12 years old, and also have real money to spend on things.

In any case, my issue with having to correctly type STR3AMUP! aside, here’s how it should work. I say should, as I don’t quite have a unit yet. But essentially, you first install the STR3AMUP! app. At which point it’ll start scanning via Bluetooth for the Garmin Instinct Esports edition watch.

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You’ll notice though it says it needs to be in the Esports activity mode, which is simply another activity mode akin to Running or Cycling, but more similar to the Virtual Run profile where it does ancillary Bluetooth broadcasting of data. In this case, it’s broadcasting those metrics for the app to receive.

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Once paired with your computer it’ll transit three core metrics over Bluetooth Smart:

1) Heart rate (BPM)
2) Stress Level (scale 1-100)
3) Body Battery Level (scale 1-100)

Heart rate is pretty straightforward, and will by default leverage the optical HR sensor within the watch. This is essentially the same thing that Garmin does for the other Virtual Run activity profile.

Whereas Stress & Body Battery are calculated metrics, based on FirstBeat algorithms. Garmin has been using both those metrics for years, and I find that for the most part they tend to do a good job of being in the ballpark. The stress metric will change fairly quickly in response to situations. You can see for example my stress levels here on a few different random days/points throughout the day.

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Generally speaking though, Garmin is unable to measure stress using the optical HR sensor in high-intensity moving activities (like running). So the fact that they’re doing it here is likely a testament to the fact that you’re going…nowhere. There’s less motion artifacts to deal with in terms of pounding the surface with running, or vibrations with cycling.

Next, here’s Body Battery. To use the most apt comparison possible, this is basically the Street Fighter style power level of your body. It goes up when you sleep (or, relax enough), and goes down as you do more activities. The more intense the activity, the faster it depletes. Here’s an example over a few random days for me and Body Battery:

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I find that for the most part, after a week or two of stabilization, Body Battery tends to work fairly well in terms of matching my perceived energy state. Where I see it fall off that boat a bit, is when I’m at the extreme lower levels and it’s basically like ‘Look, you needed sleep two days ago, I’m giving up on you now’. Still, it actually might be a fascinating metric from a gamer standpoint to see how it compares to skill/agility levels through a longer stream (which as a starting point would be 3-5 hours, but longer streams are quite common).

In any case, you can see these metrics down below overlaid atop a game:

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This presentation of course looks a heck of a lot like it uses fundamentals from the seemingly now abandoned Garmin VIRB Action Camera software, VIRB Edit. Over time that app become by FAR the most powerful app out there for overlaying data from sensors onto video files, including 360 videos once Garmin launched that camera too.

The new STR3AMUP! app itself also looks a heck of a lot like VIRB Edit from a styling standpoint. Once you’ve got a watch paired up to the app, you’ll see the stats available, and the ability to define the thresholds. You can customize some elements of it, including styling and coloring, and then save the overlay.

STR3AMUP_SS_0001[2][1][1][5][4]

From there the STR3AMUP! software creates a window that would be pulled in via OBS/Streamlabs/XSplit using the window capture option.

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You’d simply choose to chroma key out the background, and then overlay it on whatever you wanted using the formatting you determined. Here’s another screenshot of that:

STR3AMUP_SS_0006[2][1][2][5][7]

Everything at that point is pretty much just standard streaming stuff. While there isn’t a Mac version at this point, I suspect that won’t be a stopper for…well..many people. The vast majority of streamers use PC’s, so it’s logical to start there. I suppose if there’s interest in this product line Garmin could expand it (STR3AMUP!) to support Mac as well.

And of course, for all the normal watch functions you can use Garmin Express on a Mac (and PC), or use Garmin Connect Mobile on iOS or Android.

Wrap Up:

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In some ways, we should have seen this coming. After all, turns out Garmin actually wrote a blog post this past summer about it – even specifying the exact metrics they found most useful in esports. Which, are the exact same metrics you can now stream (except sleep, because…well…that’d be pretty boring).

Now, whether or not this has any uptick – I don’t know. Probably though.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the Garmin Instinct watch is that it’s way more popular than I’d ever have expected. My original YouTube video about it is closing in on a million views. Related: I froze my ass off shooting that video. And a herd of elk walked across the street nearby.

The other thing I learned in the two years since then? The main buyer for Instinct isn’t a hardcore athlete. Or even a software athlete. They’re someone that wants a watch that looks like a Casio but isn’t, and can do sporty things if they feel like it. And lasts more than a day battery-wise. Also, that it’s reasonably priced.

If there’s anything that Garmin is the master of, it’s re-using hardware across product divisions. A piece of Garmin Fenix watch hardware becomes a Delta series watch for aviation, and a Tactix series watch for military, and a Quatix series watch for boating, and so on. They do the same with Forerunners for golf. And even a Forerunner 35 watch becomes an Approach S10 watch…but then gets a new shell and becomes a G10 handheld golfing unit. Garmin is the king of re-using hardware with cosmetic tweaks to appeal to a different audience, they’ve been doing it for a decade now.

And the same is true of software. The new Esports mode is simply a tweak to the Virtual Run mode. And the STR3AMUP! at least visually (if not under the covers), seems to lean on past work Garmin has done with VIRB Edit.

So the cost to Garmin of spinning off an Instinct variant with just slight differences is super minimal, and worth a flyer. If it fails, the cost is negligible, but if succeeds it might pull in people to the Garmin brand that otherwise not bother.

Of course – some people won’t want an Instinct style watch. Which is why I’d love to see this profile available on other units. For example, why can’t a Fenix 6 or even MARQ series watch have this profile available? Just another sport profile like any other. Garmin says at this point the STR3AMUP! software doesn’t work with any non-esports sport versions. But I’m waiting for clarity on whether or not we’ll see that profile expand anywhere else. I’d hope so, since that’s an area that tends to frustrate Garmin consumers, when the company releases new features to watches that cost a fraction of higher-end watches.

In any event, once I get one in hand, I’ll toy with it a bit more from the streaming side, which will probably end up on YouTube more than here. Or, my super-secret Twitch channel. So, if you haven’t subscribed to my YouTube channel, swing over to that.

Till then, thanks for reading!

Note: You can now order the Garmin Instinct ESports Edition from Amazon, for just about immediately delivery. Plus, it helps support the site!

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61 Comments

  1. pavlinux

    Are they also athletes? 😀 😀 😀

  2. pavlinux

    When will Garmin release watches for masturbators? Competitions against time. Records for the number of approaches. The volume of fluid released. Inside™ ratings. 😀

  3. Nathan

    That’s my password.

  4. James

    Nice. What’s the chances this could come to the next gen of consoles that are just around the corner? Xbox series X and PS5? I guess it would need to be baked into the operating systems of both of those so would require Sony and MS to be on-board, but wouldn’t be surprised to see this in a console OS update further down the line.

  5. Jordi

    Can’t wait until businesses start to hand these out to desk-job employees

  6. Andras Beck

    Hi Ray,

    Interestingly, you can overlay such things for eSports with Pulsiod (DOOM guy bleeding according to HR level is very nice 😀 )

    So the market already building, albeit I, too fail to see why a teen would by a G-Shock replica with such functions for 300 bucks when Pulsoid does the same (almost minus battery stuffs, but it’s configurable at least) for a few bucks / month…

    KR,
    Andras

  7. william McAnirlin

    It does not need solar charging since it is Esports. They do not leave their basement…

  8. Klaus

    Looks like they had some old Instinct Watches in stock and then a clever Manager come around with the Idea let’s rebrand. Watch Programmers add a little peace of software to the existing code and possible they found some windows code and compiled it as str3amup.

    What I’m real missing is the integration of a RedBull drink reminder.

    😉

  9. Dave Lusty

    This is what I hate most about Garmin. I’d like to say it will kill them eventually, but it’s probably only going to make them more money. Instead of adding value for their existing customers by making some generic software that can stream Bluetooth and Ant+ metrics and create overlays, they instead segment the market and products such that you have to buy yet another device to benefit. It’s hugely ironic that you praised them for reusing hardware when in fact we should be cursing them for not making the most of software. Apple get this – one (or there abouts) hardware version at a time, which is gradually improved. One version of software at a time that adds all features that can be supported by the hardware. I get that different hardware types appeal to different people, for sure there’s a place for Marq and for Vivo series stuff. Do we need to create a whole new product every time someone has the smallest idea though? Really?

    • “It’s hugely ironic that you praised them for reusing hardware when in fact we should be cursing them for not making the most of software.”

      I don’t follow. I literally talked about software re-use (which is what I did). And then I summarized with:

      “Which is why I’d love to see this profile available on other units. For example, why can’t a Fenix 6 or even MARQ series watch have this profile available? Just another sport profile like any other. Garmin says at this point the the STR3AMUP! software doesn’t work with any non-esports sport versions. But I’m waiting for clarity on whether or not we’ll see that profile expand anywhere else. I’d hope so, since that’s an area that tends to frustrate Garmin consumers, when the company releases new features to watches that cost a fraction of higher end watches.”

    • GLT

      It may have existed as a technology demonstration intended for something else and they decided this is the initial feeler to see what market acceptance will be like. Like the original Venu, there is really only one major appeal that would draw a buyer to this specific model. If it sells well, it isn’t a mystery why.

      After they recover their costs I would imagine they will eventually make the general capability available on more expensive offerings. If it flops, then it won’t technically be a failed Fenix or Forerunner feature.

    • Bill O'Hara

      I agree with the commentator. The american way was for manufacturers to provide more options and release the same hardware as version 2. Additionally the price would not be increasing significantly. You mention an effective price increase over the older models which is higher than inflation. Plus, you seem to find such as acceptable.

      You are praising the European model of segmentation. America is moving backwards and wondering why manufacturing is dying. Think Europe is smart? Much of German manufacturers are involved in niches that could evaporate immediately upon an evolution in technology or supply the ICE car. It’s an epic fail.

      The poster explained it clearly.

      I find your “review” as biased. You continue to support Garmin’s efforts. In my lens I don’t see review of the strong competition emerging from Stages, Lezyne, or Sigma. You wrote a review for yet another Garmin product, which is essentially the same as the last.

      Sigma was pushing the envelope on mapping and Lezyne seems to have reliability and batter power down. Garmin doesn’t. Yet, you ignore them. You are almost apologetic when Garmin releases the same tired product at a higher price point then the current release carries. Am I not supposed to think that you are a Garmin supporter ??

  10. Andrew

    Wonder if Garmin sponsors any teams with this. The crossover between people who are the target market for this and people who know that such a thing exists is likely pretty small. Sponsor a few teams, get the overlay on stream, get their coach to do a bit on Youtube about how body battery and sleep tracking helps his players be aware the way physical health affects their play and you’ve probably got enough sales to unload these older model instincts. If they want to do more than that they’ll likely need to bring it to other devices. Training and fitness is definitely part of the eSports scene these days and there is definitely a market for this if they can get it in front of the right people.

  11. Will

    I’m enjoying the irony of selling a sports watch to people who sit indoors and play computer games all day. It’s a bloody brilliant move by Garmin. But then again watch companies have been selling aviator and diving watches to yuppies for years.

    • KalImuscle

      You do realize that there are people who do multisport/strength training and sit on their ass all day in front of the computer on their rest days?

    • Matthew B.

      >You do realize that there are people who do multisport/strength training and sit on their ass all day in front of the computer on their rest days?

      I feel personally attacked.

    • Dave

      I also sit on my ass (and bust it, hard) on my Concept2. All I want from Garmin there, is the ability to detect my stroke rate (if they can do it with swimming, they can do it with a single dimensional, longitudinal displacement/acceleration) and rebroadcast my HR to the PM5 on the rower.

    • Dave

      I also sit on my ass (and bust it, hard) on my Concept2. All I want from Garmin there, is the ability to detect my stroke rate (if they can do it with swimming, they can do it with a single dimensional, longitudinal displacement/acceleration) and rebroadcast my HR to the PM5 on the rower.

    • Will

      I used to enjoy rowing too. I remember my HR strap being displayed on the head unit.

      But yes, greater Concept 2 integration to Garmin would be really good.

    • Neil Jones

      @Dave – The Indoor Rowing activity on the fenix line has been able to accurately track stroke rate for years, I use it all the time on my Concept2, or am I misunderstanding your ask?

    • @Dave I have recently bought a Concept2 with PM5 myself. I wrote a pretty long post about 5 different ways to get the activity from it to Garmin Connect. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to share a link to my own blogpost here, but if you click on my name, it will bring you there, and my last post is this. tl;dr: if you have a PM5, just use the ErgData app and connect it to Garmin Connect / Strava.

      But yes, I absolutely agree, indoor rowing activity should be able to recognize C2 as an ANT-FE-C sensor, and just record everything.

    • inSyt

      I also use this the indoor rowing activity on my Forerunner and it detects strokes fine. It also also broadcasts to Concept 2 just fine. But for some weird Garmin reason, the concept 2 cannot send data like distance or power to the watch?

  12. jww

    “If there’s anything that Garmin is the master of, it’s re-using hardware across product divisions”

    This times 100, and few appreciate it. It costs virtually nothing to add an activity profile and market to a new niche channel.

    The resulting number of wearable SKUs give people pause – look at all the new MARQs, 25 flavors of fenix. But not a problem when you own the factory. No min order runs, and all the SKUs pull more business to Garmin’s own dot com.

    They then expand to peripheral sensors. Look at the new fenix based diving watch with $400 oxygen tank sensors.

    Company is a machine that few understand IMO.

    • Peter

      It might’ve been the way of the past when Sony might release 500 models of Walkman, all slightly different from each other with almost identical feature sets. But it’s not how the biggest and best consumer electronic companies are operating today.

      It’s incredibly annoying. I spend €800+ on a watch, then they release additional features only on a cheaper hardware platform to the one I already own. I don’t want two smart watches – I’m not Ray! And I especially don’t want to buy a cheaper inferior watch to the one I have in all regards except one software feature. I would’ve even been happy to purchase the new features as an in-app purchase or something.

      All it has done for me is left a sour taste in my mouth until I eventually left their ecosystem. Still interested in their products (they do some cool and interesting things) but, as a consumer, I think their strategy harkens back to the 80s/90s.

  13. Tyler

    Just an FYI about the mild Kansas diss — Kansas was among the first states in the US to have e-sports scholarship sports at our state universities.

    We also have a fairly thriving entrepreneurial environment.

  14. _tido_

    The day Garmin found a community which will not complain on GPS accuracy

  15. 3underscore

    STR3AMUP! really needs to include some lower case letters to be a satisfactory password.

  16. ReHMn

    On fly metrics are important…
    Now imagine connecting those with IFTTT…

  17. Jelle

    “Did you just delete $table from the production database?”
    “Nope! Wasn’t me!” (stress level through the roof)

    “IT’S HIM! BURN HIM!”

  18. Aman

    Hey Ray, can you ask Garmin why we refuse to bring software update to older watches? For example, PacePro introduced in Fenix 6 is completely a software feature. Fenix 5 Plus should be able to support it as well but Garmin refuses to bring it to 5 plus. Keep in mind that 5 Plus is only about 1.5 years old. Apple is bringing new iOS updates to phones that are 5 years old!

    When you spend $500-700 on a watch I think we need to demand more from Garmin. I am hesitant to purchase more Garmin products because I know Garmin will abandon software updates.

  19. Personal Trainer

    esports?! Eating pizza and drinking XXL-sized coke has nothing to do with sport.

    • Mikk

      You do realize that most pro e-sports athletes do regular workouts? The one you talk about is casual gamer who will never be intrested in things like this.

  20. klaus

    Str3amup! software need BLE support on Windows. Is BLE working stable now with Windows 10?

  21. Rick Goodman

    I bought a $850 Fenix 6x to have access to all software features and Garmin is going to lock something I would legitimately use to a $300 watch?

  22. Fran

    “It’s horrific to type, or even try and remember.”

    So horrific you didn’t get it right in the section title 😉

  23. Roberto

    Hi all, in 2012 I run my first marathon and I also joined Riot Games. For years I worked hard to make gaming and esports mainstream. In my personal life I was training hard and achieve PBs and through running I met incredible and inspiring athletes. Through my work I also met incredible and inspiring athletes. Some of you think of them as kids sitting on a sofa and eating doritos, but the reality is that these young adults are smart, they train hard both in game and physically, they have dedication and passion.
    Some kids nowday struggle with sports, especially in this 2020, as community of athletes we should welcome them with open arms. Something as a small as a instinct esports watch may bring a gamer outside a bit more for a more balanced and healthy lifestyle. We are both very passionate communities and it sadness me when I see certain type of comments, It’s 2020, not 1984.

    • Yup – totally agree. Streamers in the esports realm work their asses off. I can’t imagine being on camera 3-8 hours a day. That’s crazy.

      Note my comments making fun of Garmin’s software spelling were all about Garmin’s marketing choice there. To me, it plays into the hand of trying to hard to be cool by pretending to speak leet, whereas the consumers buying this watch are largely 20-40 years old, very technical, probably very smart, and use piles of tools with real product names. Nobody wants to try and type that product name all the name.

    • Roberto

      Yes, also I’m not entirely convinced on how useful long term stream up is. Two things I would have done if I were Garmin (you can send me my consultant fee anytime):
      1) Go entirely with esports route. How can we use physio to increase performance? Broadcast of data of all players while playing/training for coaches to analyze, stress alarms during gameplay for rotations when team mates are in difficulty. How can I control my breathing and keep my heart rate low my so that my concentration is optimal? – Very niche, but definitely there is value there for esports athletes and the ecosystem.
      2) Going broad and target gamers. Similar to what logitech does with keyboards that change colors or flash depending to what happens in game, what about added functionality that use your physio to change the gameplay? What if the watch send my heart rate to the game so it knows when to double down on stressful situations, to change difficulty if I see that I’m too relaxed or give me a jump scare?
      This is really hard to make, requires a lot of work and direct collaboration with gaming companies or even better the creation of an API that developers can easily integrate, but definitely it’s a game changer. I can see myself going to buy a watch just because of that. Seriously, contact me if you want to develop it.

    • Good comments.

      1) I think there’s absolutely value in this space for stress to sleep to performance type metrics. They’re just going to have to abstract it up a layer, similiar to how Whoop does. For example, one thing you can configure in Whoop is a ‘Peak Performance Day’, where Whoop then auto-calculates the best bedtime for you based on sleep needs/etc. Basically, Garmin could take that concept a step forward. They don’t need to know the output (which would normally be pace/wattage/etc), just like Whoop doesn’t. In fact, not many people realize that there’s ZERO connection in Whoop between the Recovery side of the house and the Load (workout) side of the house. The equations never meet. Not saying that’s actually good, but just notable.

      2) As for this piece, yes, definitely – that’s much tougher. But I think it could be cool to see where this goes.

    • Pavel Vishnyakov

      Hi Ray,
      as you’ve mentioned Whoop, I have a question – in your review you’ve pretty much destroyed it, but in the videos you still wear it. Why?

    • Super simple: Every week I set out thinking I might have time to sit down and shoot a detailed YouTube review of it. And by Friday at 5PM (like it was 5 mins ago), I’m sitting here trying to get through the other pile of things that was on tap for the week.

      So…maybe next week?

      Eventually I’ll take it off. But, since I really do want to get a YouTube review out since it’s largely a different audience (little cross-over).

  24. Just one comment on Body Battery and Stress Level: I have hit 5 numerous times in the last couple of months. For most of the cases, it happened on days, when I haven’t done any runs, rides, etc. I just had to wake up early to go to another city to teach for 6 hours, have consultation with students for some additional hours, etc. And by no means am I a gamer, but I can remember, how exhausted I was after trying to finish off Duriel with a summoning Necromancer without any curses in DiabloII. My HR was over the roof for a long time.

    Also, I’m pretty sure, that if the market is viable, Garmin will find new meaningful ways to help eSport athletes. Drink/Eat reminders can be obvious (and already existing ones). Breathing exercises are already available. With an advanced HR strap, posture could be monitored. etc.

  25. Andrew M

    So, when is the MARQ Gamer going to be released?

  26. Klippert

    Hi Ray! Hope you’ll have a look at the new Descent Mk2. Not particular from a divers POV, but with the new tech in play – New inductive buttons, screen cycling with double tap, new broadcasting method below water etc. All things that could trickle to other products in the Garmin line-up I guess 🙂
    Regards from Denmark!
    Patrick

  27. I’ve been capturing my heart rate for my full-time Twitch stream with OBS + various sports software solutions + ant dongle + broadcast from whichever Garmin I had for run/bike/swim/row/ski for the last 6+ years.. I can’t believe they went to the trouble of creating this awesome software and only have it working with one watch, that I happen to have no interest in! I would LOVE to use a native Garmin app to have clean easy capture finally after all the fiddling over the years, but I love my current Venu and don’t plan on switching to the Index line ever >.< I really REALLY hope they expand the software to be usable with their other devices. There are tons of content creators on all the platforms that would gladly use this with Garmin's various watches.

  28. Art

    I’m wondering what would your response be if you reviewed the $180 Amazfit GTR 2 watch…. Would be amazing if you did!