SUP Review: Garmin Forerunner 620 HRM/GPS

Intro

Courtesy Garmin website

Courtesy Garmin website

As I pointed out in the review of the Polar V800 and Polar M400 which you can read here and here,  I am always looking for something that will improve my paddling experience. I was lucky enough to receive a Garmin Forerunner 620 from Garmin Australia to have a play around with. Once I finished with the watch I then sent it back, so don’t think I am getting a free watch just for doing a review, enjoy.

Unfortunately all the pictures that I took during the process of the review have disappeared into the much feared ether so apologies for the lack of my own pictures.

In the box

In the box you get the unit itself, Garmin HRM-Run strap (if you purchase the option that is packaged together with the watch RRP $499 or $449 without, otherwise the HRM-Run strap is $119), USB Sync/Charger cable and the obligatory instruction manuals.

What does it do?

According to Garmin here is some of the functionality of the watch:

  • High-resolution Color Touchscreen
  • Vibration Alerts
  • Auto Lap
  • Auto Pause
  • Personal Records
  • Fast GPS Fix
  • ANT+™ for sensors
  • Heart Rate Zones
  • Heart Rate Alerts
  • Training Plan Support
  • Advanced Workouts
  • Interval Workouts
  • Virtual Partner
  • Configurable Data Fields
  • Wireless Uploads & USB Connectivity

To see more head on over to the Garmin Forerunner Coach site 

Comfort & Everyday wearability

As covered previously I have average sized wrists and I like wearing my watch a little loose and down around my wrist bone. The rear is flat while the strap itself is average with regards to how soft and pliable it is. This may increase the durability of the strap therefore extending it life. This was one concern that I had for the Polar V800 and M400 watches and for the Suunto Ambit3’s bands as they were very soft and comfortable. Despite all that the watch is still comfortable when worn for a full day. The charging and USB connection  are located on the underside. There is no discomfort caused by the connection and it is recessed on the left side of the base. It is a four pin, flush connector that maintains the watches waterproof ability, no rubber covers here.

I received the white/orange watch for the trial which isn’t really a colour scheme that I would go for. The black/blue version is a much better looking watch, in my opinion. My best guess is that the white/orange version is aimed at females. The watch itself is not overly large however does resemble exactly what it is, a sports watch. The face or screen of the 620 is a touchscreen and does have a bit of response or flex to it. I am not a big fan of touch screens on watches. My old 405 had a touch bezel and I am not a real fan of it, in fact I hate it. The 620 is not nearly as sensitive however it does inadvertently “go off” when hit my rain drops and is a bit of a pain if your hands are wet. The face however doesn’t seem to scratch and I say that knowing that the test unit that I had was part of the “review pool” from Garmin. I am guessing that it had seen some use.

Ease of use - Watch

The 620 is relatively easy to use, especially if you are used to the Garmin universe. Coming from the Polar watches prior to this though I found it not as user friendly. Again the wet finger issue came into effect here. When using a pre-programmed interval session I would navigate using the side buttons and then to begin the session I would have to touch the “play” button on the screen. Wet fingers make this a fun experience. Yes you can use the buttons on the side so why have a touch screen??? 

When navigating to your desired function I found this watch to be extremely easy to use. All buttons are labelled on the face of the button. The screen also has two touch buttons being the back and menu buttons. 

Garmin have a very good interface for setting up intervals and you can also setup a training calendar and plan out your week, month or whatever you want.

The screen is easy enough to read, however, when you have 3 data fields on the face at once it does get a little busy.

What I really like – 

Countdown beeps/vibration. To use one word to describe this, awesome. Either at the start/end of a programmed interval the watch will do a 5 sec countdown to the start or end of the effort. For me, this is a great feature as I may be explaining something to my group and can break off to count it down for them without having to watch the time like a hawk.

Battery life. It is pretty good. Garmin claims 10 hours of GPS tracking on a single charge. Not quite as good as the Polar V800 but better than the M400. Considering that this watch sits in between both price wise, that is more than acceptable. Garmin also claims a very healthy 6 weeks of battery life from one charge if used purely as a watch. Why you would buy one just for use as a normal day to day watch I don’t know. Regardless this is a massive step in the right direction for Garmin watches as previously that has been a big knock on them.

Things I would like changed/fixed – 

Alarm/Tone. It is awesome that the alarm beeps and vibrates however the beep that emanates from this watch scared the absolute crap out of me when I chose to use it as my gentle wake up in the morning. As with the Polar V800, it would be nice to be able to choose either one or the other. Silent alarms is why I will be keeping my Fitbit. It would also be great if you could disable the tone except for maybe during an activity. 

Touch screen. Just no. Smart phones, yes. NCIS – LA style touch screen, yes. Touch screens on small devices that don’t like water droplets on them and can be used in water, no. End rant.

Ease of use - Software & Apps

Garmin have a very good interface for setting up intervals. It is very easy to do and you can customise the sessions in multiple ways including by time, distance or triggering with a press of the Lap Button. Set it by pace or use heart rate zones also. IT is very easy to register repeats effort and rest periods. You then can name the workout and send it to your device ready for your next session. The best part is that you can have a heap saved in Garmin Connect and you can then send them to your device using the Garmin Connect Mobile app. Brilliant!!

You can also setup a training calendar and plan out your week, month or whatever you want. Garmin Connect Mobile works very well with the 620 downloading the latest activities easily without any issues, that I saw.

For me though I am not a huge fan of the layout of the “Modern” Garmin Connect. I know that you can customise what appears but there really is way to much information being presented straight up. Maybe I will get used to it, but I am not good with change. The saving grace is that you can go back to the old version. The modern version just has so many different areas that, to me could mean different things causing confusion. Again maybe I will get used to it.

You can also easily export your activities for use in 3rd party apps as .TCX and .CSV files as well as .KML files for Google Earth. This makes life easy if you want to export to other sites or apps that aren’t already supported by Garmin like Training Peaks. Sites that o have support include Stava, MapMyFitness and Endomondo. You can also export to Facebook to tell the world of your exploits.

I tried the Garmin Connect Mobile on Android and iOS with no real issues. 

What I really like-

Export of your session. You can export your activities in either GPX (Route info) or TCX (all of the info including HR, Speed etc) format for use in other programs like Strava and Training Peaks.

Workout/Intervals creator. As noted above creating workouts (intervals) is easy. Being able to send them fgrom your mobile device is a great feature. If you could create them on there as well………

Things I would like changed/fixed/added – 

Sliders for post activity analysis. Polar Flow has this and it is fantastic. Being able to look at different splits adhoc and post an activity is a function that I really like.

Where is the SUP sport profile????? There is the option to change your activity post the event to  I am happy to be your guinea pig 

Conclusion

This is a really solid offering from Garmin. This biggest drawback for me is the touch screen functionality and the overall “busy-ness” of Garmin Connect. The scare factor of the alarm is a probably on a level below these other drawbacks. 

On the bright side of the equation Garmin Connect Mobile is slick as is the integration and uploading of activities to 3rd party apps and the way the workouts/intervals work both on the app and the watch. The countdown, both audible and vibrate, in and out of intervals is excellent. 

The Garmin Forerunner 620 sits right in between the two Polar offerings and if you really didn’t want to cough up $500 plus dollars for the Polar V800 but really wanted the vibrate functionality that is lacking in the M400, then this is an easy option. If you have previously existed in the Garmin ecosystem then this is going to be a familiar friend. If you are coming from either Polar or Suunto then there is going to be some cursing and getting lost moving about Garmin Connect. Saying that, the Garmin Connect Mobile app is fantastic, easy to use and quick to transfer info to and from the watch.

The BIG question is do you get this watch or do you pay a little bit extra and get the Forerunner 920XT? The reason you may toss them up may just come down to your preference on size. Do you have massive sausage fingers or elegant slender ones? Are you swinging spaghetti arms or arms like Popeye? Nobody wants to have something that looks like an iPad Mini strapped to their wrist nor do you want to be stabbing at a smartie sized watch face with your bratwurst fingers.

Smiling Caveman Head Rating:

3.5 out of 5 Smiling Caveman Heads