The Massive 2020 Sportswatch Year in Review with DesFit

Back by popular demand, DesFit has just published our sprawling 2020 Sportswatch Year in Review video, where we iterate through nearly 20 different watches from the beginning of the year to the end – discussing the highs and the lows. Last year’s video garnered more than 300,000 views! We talk about what worked well…what didn’t, the trends of the year, and what to expect for next year.

In its second year, the Year in Review started last year as an impromptu video while Des was in Amsterdam for the 2019 DCR Winter Open House. We decided to sit down one morning and just chat about all the watches that came out this year. Of course, wanting to be over the top, we also got all those watches out – found their respective chargers, and had them on-hand.

Given the global SNAFU this year, we did it virtually instead. Meaning…we had almost 40 watches on hand between us. Insanity! Also insanity: We actually filmed for just shy of 2 hours. My footage alone was 142GB. Des’s internet hasn’t been the same since. Now, since the point of the video is to discuss all these units, I’ll make it easy for ya to find the parts of the discussion you’re most interested in, here’s the quick and easy legend (you can click on any of these links to skip right to it. Also, you can drag along within the video up above, and it’ll show the YouTube chapters with those same markers. Magic!

0:00 Intro
2:41 Suunto 7
7:04 Casio GBD-H1000 G-Shock Move
10:56 Fitbit Charge 4
13:20 Polar Grit X
16:46 Polar Unite
19:29 Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Solar & Instinct Solar
23:12 Fitbit Sense & Fitbit Versa 3
27:00 Samsung Galaxy Watch 3
29:00 COROS Pace 2
33:05 Apple Watch Series 6 & Apple Watch SE
39:13 Garmin Forerunner 745
43:07 Garmin Venu SQ
45:55 Ticwatch Pro 3 GPS
46:54 Polar Vantage V2
51:35 Garmin Instinct E-Sports Edition
55:47 Wahoo ELEMNT RIVAL
1:00:32 Wrap-Up

Phew!

Of course, if you watch it through from start to finish you’ll find plenty of funny exchanges and moments, such as when Siri decided to drop in and give her opinion on some of the watches…more than once. Seriously.

With that – thanks for watching, and looking forward to maybe next year being able to do it back in person again!

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32 Comments

  1. JB

    Is there a break-up with Shane/GPLama?

    • Based on the number of eggplant and llama emoji that Lama has sent me via text in the last 24 hours – definitely not. Seriously. 38 texts in the last 24 hours, with 5 eggplant and llamas. Or basically a 7.6% eggplant rate.

      We’re looking at doing a combined larger Year in Review beyond just sportswatches – including trainers, power meters, bike computers and more (with Des too). Hoping to get it recorded in the coming weeks.

    • JB

      Great to hear Ray 🙂
      Looking forward to it – and some possible road trips and DCR open house in ’21!

    • Michael Adrian

      I can’t second the request for road trips and Open Houses enough. In each case it’s good to hear that there’s nothing to worry about the DCR-Lama relationship. Still (really!) missing the podcast though.

    • Steve

      Great! Des is so good!
      Love it. Please more videos of the two of you.

      Videos with GpLama only if he forgets about his sponsorship deal with wahoo…

    • Thanks Steve!

      I can also attest to the volume of eggplant emojis. No breakups there.

    • Swing and a miss there Steve. No need to throw punches my way. Enjoy the content that is produced here for you, and move on.

    • Frank

      I am completely in love with lama’s content. We should not forget that these are websites/channels with one guy’s content and opinion. Ray has always been considered as Garmin Boy, I would say that Lama is too much Zwift over FulGaz, but in the end, we are all grown up and should be able to make our own opinion. I am a fervent user of Suunto and cannot stand the bashing from Suunto’s users when Ray gives a negative review on Suunto’s product. I know he is looking for something else in a smartwatch than I do and I am aware that I overpay for what I get in terms of functionalities. So keep on the great work guys, enjoy the holiday season and keep safe.

  2. Nighthawk700

    The ding you and Des have on the crown interface with the Pace 2 really got me. As a left handed person who wears my watch on the right wrist, I can’t even imagine how awkward it would be to use it. I’d either be blocking the screen while adjusting, or holding my hands/wrists at weird angles to do anything. Do they have software options to “flip” the watch to the other wrist? Although then the crown would be on the bottom rather than the top which seems weird as well.

    • Justin. B

      Yes you can flip the watch screen. on Coros (at least the Apex which is the same button layout as the Pace), so like you said the dial would be at the bottom but it would work.

    • Yup, can confirm that you can flip the orientation of the dial. But as Nighthawk700 mentioned, it’s sort of awkward being on the lower left hand side of the watch. It’s much more ideal with the crown in the middle like the Vertix and Apex Pro.

  3. JR

    Curious whether you see room (or likelihood) of a middle-ground display. Something transflective but with much higher contrast and resolution? I’d be all over something like that, as I really don’t like having a bright light shining on my wrist all the time. I’m not sure if the specs bear this out, but it seems that Garmin transflective displays are not as nice as Polar or Suunto. Or is it just that such a product is too niche to get much R&D?

    • inSyt

      I’m very curious as to why Garmin does not go with a higher resolution. I always thought it was a manufacturing limitation. Is Polar and Suunto transflective displays that much better?

      Personally, even if they bring AMOLED battery life up to par with a transflective, I will still choose transflective for it’s always on with no backlight capabilities.

  4. Heinrich Hurtz

    Welp, not that it matters much in the scheme of things, but I don’t watch vid reviews unless I’m really really interested in the item and there’s no good text&pics alternative. I greatly prefer to go at my own pace and jump/skip through the material, silently.

  5. AUN

    I posted it here before but I don’t get why so little happened in the activity tracker space from Garmin or Polar. I wear a classical Swiss watch and don’t want another watch but keen for 24 HR and gps during some runs here and there. I even wouldn’t need a display and let all visuals happen on the phone. What is your view Ray? Is that category dead? Can’t be that the only recent release is a Miband 5…

    • Robert B

      link to sony.co.uk

      I’ve got in excess of 20 watches, albeit only 2 Swiss automatics. The only thing that stopped me buying it was Sony’s previous treatment of similar devices. This has itself been on the market a long time now. So I’d stay away at present

    • David

      I use a Garmin Vivosmart 4 for exactly that purpose. It’s been out a while. Might be due for an update. But I’m currently happy with it.

    • AUN

      That’s exactly the point. All that is out there is quite old, some from a technical others from a design point of view. Hence would love to hear what Ray or others think about that device category in general (not as an entry type device but for the advanced user that just doesn’t want another watch but the data)

    • Leo

      @AUN. Those devices you are looking for used to exist, like you said, but are not updated by their manufacturers.

      That can only mean 2 thing: either demand for those devices is to low or manufacturers make more money buy selling more advanced (more expensive) devices.

      Either way, you are out of luck. (Sorry to say that so blunt, but he, I’m dutch)

    • Michael Adrian

      That sounds like a Whoop band or an Oura ring could be an interesting option for you. Unfortunately, both are not integrated in the Polar or Garmin eco system. It’s a pity that Whoop seems to struggle with accuracy – at least based on Rays experience that basically match my personal experience with the Whoop band.

    • We actually saw Fitbit refresh their devices this year – the Charge 4 for example, and then then the Inspire 2. Modest upgrades, but then, that’s kinda the Fitbit way.

      I’m semi-surprised we didn’t see Garmin refresh anything in that realm this year. And launching at CES wouldn’t honestly make a ton of sense (since this segment tends to do best in the holiday period). Or maybe, like said above – they’ve just found very reason to push it forward.

      In fact, I don’t even think we saw any sales on the Garmin low-end Vivo activity trackers this year. That’s always been an easy sale throwaway for them.

      I do agree though that Garmin could do a Whoop-like tracker. So could Polar. Or Apple. In fact, when I talk to the investment crowd, that’s one of their key concerns with Whoop. That aside from marketing, it’s something that any one of the big players can come in and mostly decimate it overnight. I think it’s too niche for Apple, and probably too sports-focused for Fitbit, but Garmin has shown they can think outside their corporate-looking box when pushed (see: MARQ series). And metrics-wise, Garmin has all the same underlying things, just presented far more poorly (but with far battery accuracy).

      *CES: Well, what’s left of CES anyway. Or that timeframe.

    • Dan G

      The Vivosmart 4 does exactly what you want. It’s difficult to see how it could be improved — it does constant HR, all-day stress, sleep, it does Body Battery, it even does PulseOx — so I’m not surprised there hasn’t been a 5 this year. Why would there be?

      (I’m not aware of any activity trackers that have onboard GPS but not a large screen e.g. that on the Charge 4.)

    • AUN

      Thanks all for your comments. Great to see how you see the current market situation.

      @Leo: But that is my point: for me such tracker doesn’t need or better shouldn’t be an entry / cheep device. I want it to be more advanced / expensive as long as it comes with good accuracy and design (read not like the miband 😂)

      I also don’t think I am alone with it. Whether that is enough for Garmin to jump on such train is a different question 😊 Have a good weekend ahead

    • usr

      Perhaps there are no updates because those simpler “lifestyle health trackers” are just selling well enough this year without? From a product strategy point of view trickling out improvements now might appear wasteful, better leave them to a more impressive update later. As a bonus, if only the higher classes get updates this year, some of those interested in the lifestyle health tracker class only because of the pandemic might actually get upsold to a more expensive class by the accompanying news buzz.

      Being one of those buyers myself (still in the first 24h of wearing a Vivoactive 4s, before that my smartest watch was the F-91W. Here in formerly cash-fanatic Germany even Garmin Pay is very much a pandemic feature) I don’t have a charging routine yet. Which gave me an idea that routine users might not have:

      Ray, you are the metrics guy. How about a metric for charge speed? The batteries in sports watches are so small that surely USB mA isn’t the limiting factor for charge speed (unlike with smartphones …or with Teslas, if you squint hard enough) but the charging electronics inside the device and/or battery chemistry. A simple “minutes of charge per day of standby, minutes per hour of runtime” extrapolated from a simple partial charge observation and claimed runtimes should already be quite valuable for determining which charging routines could be viable and which are not. Given the always-on nature of fitness tracking (and sleep tracking!) I believe that this metric could be quite useful even in a low accuracy implementation.

  6. inSyt

    Polar Unite is $229? Thought it was $149.

  7. Andrew

    I know it’s probably harder to monetize, but any chance you’ll go back to podcasts? I used to like listening while running or just doing yard work

  8. Anon

    One aspect of the Garmin FR 745 is that I think it has the innards of their MARQ line.

  9. Koen

    How do you rate the Suunto 7 at its current price point (taking into account switching from a Suunto Spartan sport, thus with 30% discount)? Sums up around 265,- euro a.t.m… I’m somewhat intrigued, but want to be able to perform trail runs up-to 5 hours (with routing on), and hiking up-to 10 hours (with routing on). Probably the only thing I will be using is its detailed maps (no smart watch functions).

  10. Sean K.

    Fun year end review! In looking over my purchases over the past year Fenix 6 Pro Solar and Polar Vantage V2, I share similar thoughts. For me it’s fun to have more than one device because one take away is that there is always a sweet spot between the various vendors in terms of if my ideal device had this Garmin feature or this Polar feature, etc. Great work!

    Sean

  11. Jim E

    You guys should team up and do a podcast! 😉

  12. Joseph

    Hi, thanks for this extensive review! I am looking for a smartwatch suitable for triathlons with must have good gps tracking in open water and nfc payments. Light enough to wear it 24hs and monitor sleep too. It would be nice to have maps and music but not a must… I thought the 945 could be an valid option, Could you please help me? Thanks