The Massive 2021 Sportswatch Year in Review with DesFit

It’s up, the massive 2021 Sportswatch Year in Review video! Now going on the third year in a row, we sat down and discussed the nearly 20 different sports and fitness wearables that have been released over the course of the year. While this might have seemed like a quiet year, once in the rearview mirror it’s just as busy as any other on the watch and wearable front.

Last year’s video has sailed past 410,000 views, while the previous edition in 2019 has more than 330,000 views. As usual, we talk through what worked well, what didn’t work, and how we think things might change going forward (both at the product level and industry level). Also, a fire extinguisher was brought out at one point.

We filmed for a minute shy of 2 hours, but Des has cleaned up all our inappropriate jokes to give you the easy to find version below. Of course, since the point of the video is to discuss all these units, we’ve made 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 and Overall Thoughts on 2021
2:25 Garmin Lily
7:05 Garmin Enduro
11:37 Polar Vantage M2
14:21 Polar Ignite 2
17:30 Garmin Venu/Venu 2S
19:56 Casio GSW-H1000
24:45 Forerunner 55
26:54 Forerunner 945 LTE
32:48 Suunto 9 Peak
36:00 COROS VERTIX 2
44:52 COROS PACE 2 Eliud Kipchoge Edition
46:18 Samsung Galaxy Watch4
54:53 Fitbit Charge 5
1:01:02 Polar Grit X Pro
1:03:57 Polar Vantage V2 Shift and Red
1:04:57 Apple Watch Series 7
1:15:25 Whoop Band 4.0
1:19:18 Oura Ring 3
1:26:34 Final Thoughts

Got all that? Good – it’s a doozy!

Of course, if you watch it through from start to finish (as most people do) you’ll find plenty of funny exchanges and moments, including that fire extinguisher situation, plus some insights behind our testing that never quite made it to light.

With that – thanks for watching, and looking forward to doing it again next year!

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20 Comments

  1. Tim

    Watched for comments on 945 LTE specifically, having bought one near launch and noticed it has seemed fairly ignored or abandoned since I wondered what discussion would say.

    Glad Ray noted the fears of it being left behind in short order as it really seems to have been already. Maybe they’re waiting until next gen comes out to reveal updates and new features but in the first ~6 months of release it has maybe had 1-2 firmware updates (and that could be including the day0 update?)

    I guess my nearly only complaint is standby battery using being nearly 2x claims. (“smartwatch” mode for me – basically phone connected and OHR on). I think I’d be quite lucky to make it 7 days with 3 hrs of GPS activities a week (maybe 45 minutes of that with LTE power-save LiveTrack).

    Eagerly looking for what comes next to decide if I upgrade or not (for this issue or other features), but the lack of attention and seemingly poor spec has left me a little miffed at Garmin right now – coming from a ~13 yr Garmin “fanatic”.

    • GREGORY C

      I love my 945lte. Prefer it over the fenix for weight savings, size and the tracking features. Wife can see where I am and I know she can send an alert if someone sketchy shows up.

      Battery life is pretty solid imo, but I use a normal watch face. Charging time is crazy fast.

      Hoping they update it, but honestly it works just fine and not sure what other features other than lte text messaging that I would want.

  2. Tina

    I’m quite grumpy about what Garmin did with the Lily to be honest: Being a small woman I just want a good multisport/running watch that isn’t as big as the Forerunning 945LTE. Instead, what ‘I’ got is a feature-light watch that is more of a fashion statement, in metallic, with a few tracking options. I mean, I’m sure there’s a market for this, but what about women that do sports and want all the features, but also want a watch they can wear all day round and get a long-sleeve top over it? The Fenix 6s looks huge and thick on my wrist, and the running tracking is rather poor (last 6k run was ‘only’ 160m short, which is somewhat of a positive record). Other than that there aren’t many options out there, and that’s just sad.

    • Have you looked at the FR745? It’s very similar to the FR945, except slightly smaller (albeit…without maps).

      That said, I don’t think I’d hold a grudge against the Lily for not being a FR945. It’s an entirely different market/focus area. There’s other things to be annoyed with Lily about (namely, the screen).

  3. Mordy Eisenberg

    Thanks for the great content as always.

    Here’s my deal (and question)

    I am primarily a cyclist, do some CrossFit on the side. I use either Zwift/Fulgaz or my Edge 1030 Plus for all my rides.

    I have the Vivoactive 4 but don’t use it to record much other than the CrossFit stuff.

    I really would like to have the sleep widget as well as all of the first beat training widgets on the watch so I don’t have to open other places to look.

    Any recommendation on the right Garmin? Are the F6 or 745 overkill?

    • Yeah, the FR745 is indeed overkill probably – especially since you do pretty much all your cycling on the Edge or Zwift/FulGaz. You could look at something like the Venu 2, which does have the sleep widget, but you won’t get the training widgets.

      On the bright side, the FR745 is on sale right now – so while overkill, at least it’s a cheaper overkill. Also, it’s the overkill I use. 🙂

    • Me

      Wish they would just add the training widgets for the vivoactive series.

  4. TedP

    Thanks for the video. The Polar hw design looks pretty nice.

    Maybe I missed it but any particular reason the Wahoo wasn’t included?

    • Thanks!

      Yup, the Wahoo RIVAL came out in November 2020, so last year.

      While many watches, including the RIVAL, did receive significant firmware updates this year, that would sorta open the can of worms to this video being like 5 hours. 🙂 We had contemplated it, but once we looked at how many update not just Wahoo, but Garmin, COROS, Suunto, Polar, Apple, and Samsung all release for 2020 watches – it was gonna get bonkers!

      So, we just kept it at what hardware announced/shipped in 2021.

    • Jeremy

      Maybe because it is a 2020 release?

  5. Anton

    Good day! Tell me, for what reason does Garmin not add the widget of the barometer and altimeter to its native one, if it is there, is she greedy or does she really use it to cut it for the sake of other more expensive models?

    • I’m not sure I understand? On virtually every half-way recent Forerunner/Fenix watch that has an altimeter, you can simply go to “Settings > Widgets > Add > ABC” (If not already there).

      Are you referring to something else?

  6. Nickm

    Always a good watch! 😉 Can’t wait for Wednesday Jan 5th, hope that Fenix 7 review is good to go! Strong way to start the year… it looks sooo good.

    My only issue with the Garmin watches is that they won’t show a cycle done on Zwift using a Tacx product, you have to use your watch to measure it as well, so you end up getting a double count. When you spend so much on a watch and a turbo trainer it a massive disappointment they cant get this right. Someone needs to roll up a newspaper and smack them on the nose and say, “No. NO. Naughty Garmin. Bad Garmin. Don’t do that! Very bad Garmin!”

    On another note, I tried to find some DC merch and saw that the Cycling jerseys are sold out, any chance of getting some more in soon?

    • C.Sco

      I watched the whole video and it was very entertaining and good, I learned a lot about some watches I haven’t really spent any time learning anything about before.

      That said, the whole time I couldn’t help but think “come on guys, turn off the camera and finish writing your “other” upcoming reviews 😀

      Kidding aside (sorta), great video guys! Here’s looking to a fantastic 2022 year of fitness reviews.

      Ray, by the way my wallet hates you, I can’t even begin to tell you how many products I’ve bought partly (mostly?) because of your reviews… Fenix 6, Venu 2, RD Pod, HRM Dual, HRM Pro, Inreach mini, Kickr headwind, NPE Runn… the list goes on and on. But so far, I’ve been very happy with everything! My wallet, not so much.

  7. J

    So, I want to kind of thread a needle and push back on the dumpster fire comment about the Fitbit.

    Does the Fitbit suck at activity tracking, absolutely. Spot on with the dumpster fire. BUT, let’s recategorize it for a moment- let’s look at it against the Whoop, the Oura ring, and the Apple Watch for sleep tracking and recovery analysis.

    First- for recovery analysis, I think they’re all pretty on par. Whoop has a slight edge here, but really it’s slight.

    Second- on sleep tracking, now having used all of the above, I’m convinced that the Fitbit has the most accurate sleep tracking with a close second of Oura. Apple watch gets dq’d here because if I don’t go to sleep with a full charge my watch is dead or near dead in the am, meaning I can’t wake up and do any activity i want to track, because first I need to charge the watch.

    Third- price. The fitbit 5 is pretty reliably 150-175 now, making it cheaper than all of these. For all the tracking we do of our fitness, our sleep is at least as important (to me anyways, but I think the data now show this too), and yet we we don’t do much sleep tracking. Thus, even far more $$ make it worth it for me, but it’s nice that the fitbit is the cheapest of the bunch.

    Fourth- features. Only the apple watch and the fitbit have alarms on them. That’s a big deal for many of us, especially those of us with partners who don’t like to get up at 4-5am to work out :). Also, the fitbit doesn’t need to be recharged every day- the battery life is spectacular on this thing- similar to Oura, probably not quite as good as Whoop, but really once you get over 2-3 days of battery life it might as well all be the same- rare/intermittent charging.

    Anyways, my point is, given a few specific uses, probably not quite the dumpster fire, but still not a great activity tracker.

  8. Brian Dudek

    With the constant turnover of new devices and the ever growing problem of electronic waste, I’d like to see these companies rated on sustainability – especially Garmin. They contribute significantly to the problem through planned obsolescence and consumers who care about preserving the planet have few options when it comes to proper disposal / recycling because the companies take as little responsibility as possible – usually when it is only required by law.

    • Richmond

      I love this idea and agree 100%. It should probably be a “by brand” metric (rather than “by model”) and absolutely needs to be a purchasing consideration. We could go further and examine the overall cradle-to-grave product sustainability (looking at what’s involved in the manufacture as well as disposal) but even just thinking and reporting about end-of-life for these electronics would be a start. Please think about providing information on manufacturers’ sustainability as part of the reviews!

    • inSyt

      That will be nice indeed. Also non replaceable batteries. Casio watches of old were able to get waterproofing with replaceable batteries, so I don’t see why current smart watches should not be able to offer the same. Also, it’s easier to offer on smart watches than say smart phones, as the screws can easily be hidden on the under side of the watch.

    • Yeah, I think there’s probably three different levels of things here to consider:

      1) Environmental sustainability practices: So stuff like material sourcing, recycling programs, etc… (it’s a long list). One could also get into manufacturing sustainability and programs, though I think at that point you’re far more dependent on feel-good PR information about workers rights than real information from the source. One can try and deduce based on country of origin, but that’s again, feel-good the other way (where one might presume that perhaps Taiwan manuf is better workers-rights-wise than China manuf, but in reality it’s just going to come down to the exact facility being used).

      2) How companies offer updates (software) to older products: We actually talk about this in the video numerous times, especially towards the end, but really it’s a theme throughout the video

      3) So-called “planned obsolescence” – and this one is trickier. Because, I don’t think most people know what it actually means. The term comes from when physical things break at relatively planned timeframes, either physically or digitally break. However, in recent years I see people (incorrectly) using this term because they want software upgrades given to newer products. That’s not planned obsolescence – as frustrating as it may be. That’s just a company making a business choice, and in turn, you making a future product choice. But it doesn’t impact your current product. Your current product continues to work just fine, but instead, you just want new features. Thus, I’m curious about the comment in relation to Garmin specifically, on examples of planned obsolescence.

      I think we have to be careful not to mix the last two above. While they may seem similar, they aren’t. In fact, I’d struggle to think of any company in this space doing planned obsolescence. In fact, I’d really struggle to think of a Garmin example of it. Given that there’s actually no end-date on support. It’s something they’re super proud of, that in theory you can call up for hardware-related support on a watch a decade old (this is more applicable for their other product lines, but it’s true here too). Now, you might not like the price you’re quoted, but hey…it’s there. In fact, the closest we could get to a non-support scenario is Suunto in the last year or two, and even they had to back away from most things they proposed. Though yes, they still effectively removed functionality for people – and I think it’s pretty fair to say they paid the price for that.

      In terms of replaceable batteries, that’s gonna be a tough one. And I’m very leary it’s the fix people want environmentally in wearables (smartphones are different for a variety of reasons). For the most part, the smartphone battery game has stabilized, and swapping out batteries in a smartphone is massively easier than wearables. Mainly because 100m waterproofing isn’t an issue with phones. While coin cell batteries were a thing on watches, the battery demands are far higher now, and thus it’s not just a case of a relatively easily accessible battery. It’s a battery that takes up the majority of the internals of the watch, just perfectly fit into a given space.

      Ignoring all that, while battery death is a problem long term, it doesn’t tend to be the main reason people switch to a new watch. The overwhelming majority of people move to a new watch because they want new features, and if we’re talking these time scales, it’s in the 3-5 year range. And in that case, most of those features are new hardware dependent, as opposed to something that can be done via software updates. If we look at Garmin, they do offer a battery swap program. It’s not cheap of course, which is perhaps part of the problem – but it’s certainly cheaper than a new watch (even if the ROI for you as a consumer doesn’t make a great amount of sense). But all batteries eventually die, from every device and every company.

      I’m not saying no, but I think once you start actually working through these issues, one realizes that the number of people meaningfully helped by battery replacement programs on wearables this decade, is incredibly small. Instead, I think I’d rather companies work on better recycling programs and other sustainability things like promised firmware upgrades for a given period of time, etc…

  9. pierre

    Hi there! I don’t do a whole lot of triathlon activities. Mostly strength training in my basement with my own equipment. Which watch would you recommend? I had my eye on the PM2 and FR745.. I’d also get a chest strap to pair with it.