Garmin Forerunner 920XT – best fitness “smartwatch” on the market?

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At first glance you’d be forgiven for classifying the Garmin Forerunner 920XT as “just another smartwatch”, albeit on with more of a sporty twist. This is another category of “wearable” entirely though – best described as a multisport GPS watch it offers a massive range of data for various exercises and delivers far more than your average gadget when it comes to monitoring and managing your fitness.

Running through just some of the features you’ll find running dynamics including cadence, vertical oscillation and ground contact time, swim distance, pace, stroke type identification, stroke count, drill logging and rest timers and a whole bunch of support data such as race predictors, a recovery advisor and smart notifications to let you see alerts from your smartphone via the device. It’s also very much embedded in the Garmin Connect community for planning and sharing workouts, and promises to be a one-stop solution for those more serious about their fitness.

We’ll get straight down to business and take a look at how this high-end device fares.

Wareable gives the 920XT 4.5/5 and lauds its capabilities as an all-rounder, calling it “the most fully-featured multi-sport watch on the market right now”. These features include tracking seven types of activity including biking, running and swimming, both indoor and outdoor, and triathlon along with the ability to track general movements like your less versatile fitness accessories. This does come at a cost though – “The Garmin Forerunner screams function more than beautiful form” and what this means is there are some design compromises to be made to have all this functionality on your wrist. This isn’t a fashion accessory and is described as having a chunky face “that’s about half the size of a standard business card and about 13mm thick, it’s at the larger end of the scale among its rivals and might not sit so well on small wrists.” It’s fairly light, but this doesn’t really work for it as weighty timepieces can add a feel of sophistication, but if you can get over these issues there’s plenty to like.

Techradar describes the Forerunner as a “a powerhouse of a watch that’s like a coaching team that sits on your wrist”, rating it an impressive 4.5/5 and though it has similar issues with the rather large design points out that this does make the buttons very easy to access. The only other problem it has is the phone connection is a little inconsistent, and can take a bit of time to establish if there are a large number of buildings around. Otherwise the range of functionality is impressive and it seems as though there’s enough data provided to keep you motivated in the long-term –  the “VO2 Max lets you know how much fitter you’re getting, and over time the watch becomes more adept at working out your abilities”. The battery was also very impressive at 4-5 days between charges, and that’s even with all-day activity tracking, and it concludes that while better for more serious users, “The Garmin 920XT delivers on nearly all fronts”.

We’ll turn to Bikeradar for a more in-depth look at how it works. It highlights the range of connectivity options (Bluetooth, ANT+, GPS, Glonass, Wi-Fi, USB) and real-time measurements alongside estimates for things like VO2 max (maximum oxygen consumption) and recovery time. Though it is very configurable, you needn’t get bogged down in trawling settings menus.

“The Garmin 920XT delivers brilliantly right out of the box, providing good data on the fly and a plethora more for post-exercise analysis, with automatic wireless uploads to Garmin Connect, Strava and TrainingPeaks via your home Wi-Fi network or your Bluetooth-enabled smartphone.”

It’s also very fast to connect and immediately uploads data to a smartphone without prompting once you’ve finished an exercise. This works in the other direction via Bluetooth, displaying texts and notifications as they arrive, though some may not want to be bothered during a workout and there seems to be limited management of what types of data arrive. Other little tricks like allowing friends and family to see your location and follow your workout in real-time could be handy.

Bikeradar puts the watch through its paces in each of the core exercises. For running it notes a few novel readings such as “cadence, vertical oscillation and ground contact time for running, captured via the HRM-Run monitor that also provides distance and speed estimations when running on a treadmill”. It recorded a 95% accuracy when running on a treadmill and it does a good job of staying involved with a recovery advisor that “pops up a few minutes into a workout, and lets you know how your heart is doing”, also advising you how much time to take off at the end.

Indoor swimming did reveal some issues getting a GPS signal but the accelerometer can kick in here and capture total distance (after setting the pool length) which seemed to work very well. After you swim a neat graphic appears with data such as stroke count and speed, it had a 90 to 95% accuracy detecting stroke type, though as with most other watches it isn’t possible to record heart rate while swimming.

For cycling it points out that this is no substitute for a dedicated handlebar-mount unit, both in terms of accuracy and “If you want to do power or heart rate-based intervals and closely monitor the data, twisting your wrist is definitely a second-rate option to just staring”. Detailed GPS and heart rate information is very good though, and a wide range of cycling metrics include “such power-based fields as current, 3sec average, left/right output, normalise power and Training Stress Score.”

It rates the 920XT at 4.5/5 and concludes by saying that it’s “the best multisport device we have tried”, so it’s another fairly glowing review to round off the impressions so far.

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All signs seem to point to the fact that if you’re serious about your fitness, particularly if your favourite exercises include running, cycling or swimming, this is just about the best device on the market right now. It’s not cheap by any stretch though – at £419 it’ll cost around the same as a mid-high end smartphone, so will need a serious fitness and financial investment to justify a purchase.

Garmin enter ‘wearables’ with new Vivofit wristband

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Although it doesn’t officially open until tomorrow, CES 2014 is already becoming the ‘year of the wrist band’. The latest company to announce its entry in to this market is Garmin, who are probably better known for their satnav devices. The new Vivofit (prounced veevo-fit) is a lightweight fitness band featuring a curved display that always stays on – with a user replaceable battery that should last ‘over a year’.

The Vivofit greats a user with their personalised daily goal, tracks progress and reminds them when it’s time to move. It also displays steps, calories, distance and time of day.

Amongst the band’s features are “Achievable Daily Goals” where the device learns the user’s current activity levels and then assigns an attainable daily goal. It also records calories burned throughout the day. As milestones are met, the Vívofit will adjust the goal for the next day. The “Time to move” is about encouraging you to take frequent, short walk breaks throughout the day. A red move bar appears on the display after 1 hour of inactivity and builds when users have been sitting too long. Walking for a couple of minutes will reset the move bar, and get users out of the red.

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Other features include a sleep monitor and a heart rate monitor. Vívofit will be available in black, purple, teal, blue and slate and both small and large sizes come in the box. Vívofit will begin shipping Q1 2014 and have a retail price of £99.99 and £129.99 (heart rate monitor bundle). For more information check out their dedicated site http://sites.garmin.com/vivo/

 

Garmin nuvi Satnavs: Getting Real Behind the Wheel

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100 years ago Rolls Royce cleaned up at the Alpenfahrt Rally through the Austrian Alps, taking the first three places. Enthusiasts will be celebrating the centenary with another mountain rally, covering 1850 miles and tracing the original 1913 route. Only this time instead of trying to make out details in unwieldy map books they’ll be using Garmin’s latest premium satnav on their journey through the mountains. Garmin invited us to play with the nuvi (and to ride around the streets of London in a vintage Rolls Royce).

There’s a lot more traffic on the streets of London than the Austrian Alps and that’s when Garmin’s free real time traffic alerts come in handy. The Digital Traffic service is subscription free thanks to updates via a built in DAB technology which does not require an internet connection. Digital Traffic is available on the new Garmin nuvi Advanced and Premium series. The virtual route marker changes to red to highlight traffic congestion up ahead.

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Garmin have also made it easier to follow directions with the introduction of ‘Real Directions’. So, instead of “turn left in 200 metres”, you’ll now get “turn left at the church” or “turn left at the traffic light”. The system is updated four times a year in case churches and traffic lights move or disappear.

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The premium model has a 5 inch screen, Digital Traffic capability, lifetime maps and Bluetooth connectivity. With an aluminium casing and a convenient magnetic mount it’s priced at £299.99.

You can still get a 5 inch screen on the advanced model for £149.99, but you’ll have to do without lifetime maps and Bluetooth and settle for a plastic casing. If you’re happy with a smaller 4.3 inch screen you can pay £139.99 and still get the Digital Traffic navigation features. There’s also an ‘essential’ model which excludes Digital Traffic.

For more info head to www.garmin.co.uk

Garmin Street Pilot

For old-school Sat Nav companies, the motto is: if you can’t beat smartphones, join’em. That’s why Garmin have released a new Street Pilot App for the iPhone, bring with it UK and Ireland maps, free real-time speed camera alerts, traffic avoidance options and loads more premium sat nav features.

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Where the app excels is in its use of preloaded maps, to allow for easy navigation without tapping into your data plan. It’s a feature sorely missing from other sat nav offerings – or from regular mapping services like Google Maps.

Alongside the maps, Points of Interest can also be stored on the phone, meaning no data charges whatsoever – perfect if you’re navigating the wilds of the UK with no signal.

The company states that “millions” of inbuilt POIs are included, accessible from the search bar or via the in-category quick search option. For more details, the app hooks up to Google Local Search so you can get the most up-to-date information in the area and route you directly to it.

Other Garmin-exclusive features have also made the jump to the iPhone, including the PhotoReal junction view for easier navigation of complicated roundabouts, lane guidance, 3D buildings and the “Where am I?” safety feature.

Aside from functionality, the user interface also has a degree of customisation that would be nice to see on other apps. Drivers can choose what information they want on the map screen, switching between arrival time, time or distance to destination, direction of travel or even elevation.

The app costs £44.99 from the App Store, and those of you who use your iPhone for in-car audio need not worry: it’ll still play music while running Garmin UK & Ireland – and it’ll drop the volume for voice commands, too.

NuLink! 2300 series: Garmin now lets you see what lies ahead

Garmin has finally found a ground breaking idea to bring it out from behind Tom Tom’s rather large shadow. Its next generation of Sat Nav’s, the NuLink! 2300 series incorporates PhotoLive pictures (via a subscription) from live traffic cameras along your selected route. The company has announced it is committed to giving drivers the very best traffic avoidance possible and this neat idea will certainly be a welcome addition.

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The new system will have access to over 80 million traffic sources across Europe in its war on waiting, so as well as live traffic cameras we’ll receive information from radio travel reports, traffic hazard stories like road debris, Google local search and even en-route weather radar, airport arrivals and departures, fuel prices and even exchange rates.

In an excellent security move, Garmin has included a built in tracking system that can be activated by the owner’s instigation. The tracking can be monitored on the web, posted to social networking sites or to another 2300 unit and provides another level of enhanced safety that can be used in all kinds of situations.

The 2300 series is packed with new features that herald the next generation of portable satellite navigation. POI’s (Points of Interest) have been completely overhauled and combined with Google Local Search, and with Automatic Speech recognition technology you can give your unit a name and just wake it up by calling it out. Once it’s awake you can navigate through the menus by voice recognition making it truly hands free. Of course the knock on effect is the Bluetooth enabled advantage of dialling phone numbers through the voice recognition too. PhotoReal Junction View displays a digitised view of your approaching junction in a split screen view so you can be fully prepared for your next manoeuvre and you can save real money by following a proposed EcoRoute to reduce fuel consumption.

On the face of it, the 2300 series is a leap forward for Sat Navs, and we can only guess what Tom Tom will come up with in response.

The NuLink! 2,300 series £229

Summer’s must-have cycling gadgets

With summer well and truly here, it’s the perfect time to dust off your bike and get back in the saddle with these awesome accessories.

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Image courtesy of skippyjon from Flickr

Garmin Edge 305 GPS Bike Computer – R.R.P £259.99

A nifty little device that doubles as a GPS system and personal trainer, the Garmin Edge 305 is easy to use and comes with its own bike mount. The computer measures a variety of stats, including distance, speed, time, altitude, heart rate and calories burned. With a personal trainer function, it doubles as a virtual cycling partner and will map specific ‘courses’ to let you race against your best time. Able to detect your location even in challenging terrain, you’ll never have to take a map break again.

Archos Helmet Cam – R.R.P £169.99

Complete with built-in remote and microphone, the Archos Helmet Cam is the perfect way to record extreme stunts and journeys. The compact, light-weight camera fits onto the top of your helmet and comes with its own head band. For cyclists on a budget, cheaper models include the Actioncam Action Video Camera (R.R.P £39.99) and the OregonScientific ATC3K Action Camera Extreme (R.R.P £99.99).

Oakley RAZRWIRE Bluetooth enabled sunglasses – R.R.P around £150

Oakley are famous for making classy eyewear but now they’ve gone one step further and produced these Bluetooth enabled sunglasses, meaning you can answer calls with the press of a button and chat while you ride. The headset works up to 33 feet away from your mobile and, if your handset has voice-activated dialling, you can call someone on the go without having to look for your phone. The wireless technology promotes freedom of movement and the glasses are also available with prescription lenses.

Winkku Cycle Safety Mirror and Indicator Light – R.R.P £20

Every cyclist knows the perils of the right-hand turn. Holding your arm out in the path of an oncoming car and hoping any vehicles behind have noticed you is not an appealing prospect. Thankfully, the days of wobbling all over the middle of the road are over with Winkku’s indicator lights. Designed to fit onto the end of your handlebars, the lights serve as a rear view mirror and indicator so you can see who’s behind you and let them know where you’re going while maintaining your balance (and dignity).

Arrive in style: Garmin’s sleek Nüvi 3700

With so many Satellite Navigation systems on the market it is difficult to know which one to go for. They generally share the same functionality, so choosing your next sat nav can be a difficult decision. And Garmin thinks that the look of the sat nav can be a deciding factor.

Garmin have decided to design something that looks stunning; it’s the best sat nav in terms of its look that we have ever seen. Their latest incarnation the Nüvi 3700 series is touted as the thinnest on the market and when we first laid eyes on it we actually thought it was a new iPhone and not a Sat Nav.

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The responsive, crystal clear LCD display is thinner than CD case at just 8.7mm and shares the pinch gesturing from the iPhone, which allows you to zoom and navigate with ease.

Garmin have spent a lot time making personalising your new sat nav an enjoyable experience. You can give it its own voice by using Garmin’s Voice Studio, so you can make your sat nav come alive with any voice you know and love. The top of the range models comes with a truly hands-free experience via Bluetooth.

The Garmin Nüvi 3700 series comes with the usual plethora of different features including; subscription-free premium pan-European lifetime traffic alerts – something TomTom charge for. Cyclops speed cameras alerts – that will always be alerted about incoming Gatso locations and Park position recall – so you never loose you car when you have parked up.

A new function in this year’s model is the rather clever lane assist and PhotoReal Junction View; which helps you navigate difficult junctions by representing exactly what’s in front of you. This is combined with an unprecedented level of detail showing 3D terrain, buildings and landmarks, which mean the road ahead has never looked so realistic.

We think that this Nüvi 3700 series sat nav is a very impressive piece of kit; sure it’s not a game changer. But the look of the system is sure to win over many people when they first set eyes on it. And with so many of major functions you won’t be compromising on functionality, which Garmin must be applauded for.