Garmin 620

I bought a Timex to replace a Garmin and now I bought a Garmin to replace the Timex. Actually I bought 2 Garmin – the 620 and the 220. But I have only used the 620 to date whereas the 220 is being used by the sidekick.

Photo from Garmin website

The 620 cost much more than the 220 and after using it for more than 5 months, I felt quite stupid that I bought it instead of saving the extra money for something else. Not that the 620 is a bad watch. In fact it is a wonderful watch with a lot of features which was the problem. I never did use any of the extra features!

Anyway, here are some of the special features of the watch apart from the usual GPS, HRM, Interval, etc

  • Touchscreen
  • Customised screens
  • Wi-fi
  • Auto sync
  • Foot pod
  • Running Dynamics
  • VO2 Max Estimator
  • Recovery Advisor
  • Race Predictor
And a whole host of other features which other than the customised screens I have not used to date. Read more in the Garmin’s site

Initially GPS lock on was quite erratic but this seems to have settled down after a few software updates. Locked on is usually under 15 seconds. The touch screen is easy to scroll through. Customisation of the screens is a bit difficult to do in view of the small screen but the readings are easy enough to read through with a maximum of  4 displays per screen though I find that 3 is the optimum.
The strap looks replaceable unlike the previous 110 that I had previously. And it is waterproof which means I can bring it into the shower or even go for a swim in it.
So far I have no issue with it except for the auto pause feature. It will pause by itself even if I was running. I figured it could be because my arm was not swinging enough but it was irritating and consequently the distances were off. So I turned this feature off. 
But it is still early days. Just a few months and since I haven’t been running a lot, have not really been making full use of it which is a pity considering that I paid so much for it. So for those who are looking for a super duper GPS running watch, this is highly recommended but if all you need is a watch to measure distances and time, the Garmin 220 or even FR10 will suffice.

For a super comprehensive review and a run down on all the features, go read DCRainmaker‘s review of the watch.

The Problem with Timex Run Trainer

I bought the Timex Run Trainer online in September 2012 after reading favourable review of the watch on web sites. It was to replace my slowly disintegrating into several pieces Garmin 110.
I was amazed at the features of the watch especially the flexibility of the interval program. One small bug bear that I faced was the erratic GPS lock on. According to web review, it was supposed to be fast and it even had the ability to remember the last site. However, in my usage, GPS lock on was really bad. Sometime it can be so fast and sometime it can take up to 10 minutes! And the thing about remembering the previous start site. It didn’t work. I run at least once weekly from the park connector next to my place and that place has one of the worst lock on rate. Maybe it is because there is a Singtel sub station there and it interferes with the signal but I don’t see the same problem with the sidekick Garmin 210.
Anyway, I could live with the erratic GPS – just turn it on earlier but still the reading can drive me nuts. One time, I started my run at the open area next to the High Street Centre in Hill Street. Throughout the run, the watch keep beeping “Weak GPS signal”.  I was puzzled. Only when I got home and upload the run data did I realised that the GPS showed that I started in Bukit Timah which was like at least 10 km away! Another time, the GPS signal just dropped and disappeared reappearing a few kilometres later and I swear I was not even in any built up area!
Then somewhere in the middle of last year, barely less than a year after I bought it, my computer failed to recognise the watch. Or at least it could charge the watch but I could not upload my run data because the computer couldn’t find it. Just in case it was an isolated problem peculiar to the notebook that I was using, I tried on 2 other computers and it was the same. All the computer, notebooks couldn’t read it. I tried resetting, reinstalling,  writing email to Training Peak and Timex, they couldn’t solve the problem. Finally I got an email from Timex asking me to send it back to US since at that point in time there was still  no local agent. Unfortunately,  because I was still using the watch to run and not upload the run data, I delayed until the warranty period was over. So I carried on using it until one fine day late last year. Inexplicably in the middle of a run, the GPS disappeared again. And this time it stayed away.
This is what I got now when I try to activate the GPS
A Waiting for GPS message that just wait forever until it auto switch back to Time mode. So I gave up and am now back running with a Garmin 620. 
Meanwhile, Timex has came out with a new Run Trainer 2.0 which hopefully will resolve the GPS problems which has been reported in many forums. Until it does, it is caveat emptor!

Timex Run Trainer

After considering almost every GPS watch available to replace the Garmin 110, my first option was the cool looking Motorola Motoactv. It is packed full of features and most important of all was available in Singapore. But in the end for one reason or another, I settled for a more time tested and reputable watch from an established watch company, Timex and not some pseudo gadget company.
After comparing the 3 models available from Timex, I settled for the Timex Run Trainer. The Timex Global Trainer is Timex’s first GPS watch. A gigantic size watch also crammed full of features but  was simply too big for my liking. The latest Timex GPS watch is the Marathon GPS. This was Timex answer to the Garmin 210 and the low end GPS watch. The Run Trainer was right in between. And so it won me over with   the features, size and the pricing. 
First the size. Compare it to the Garmin 110, it is not much bigger. In fact it looks better on my wrist than the Garmin 110. DC Rainmaker has a very nice photo comparison of the various GPS watch here.

Display Mode

Because of its size, it has very big display making  it very easy to read while on the run. This in effect makes up for the very dim indigo blue light that Times uses on its watches which is almost useless. Note the extra big characters in the middle row. This is double the size of the other rows. In fact, the watch can be customised to display 3 or 4 lines of data.

This is the 4 lines display layout. The text are visibly smaller but still quite readable during daylight. Apart from being able to display either 3 or 4 lines of data, Timex allowed for 3 pages of customisation with any one of them being the default display screen.

The setup for the display and in fact everything else can be done on the watch but since there are so many features, it is easier to do it on the Timex Device Agent software. This is the set up for my display.There is an mind boggling list of data that can be displayed that it took me a few tries before I settled on what I want and how to read them.  

The other most critical thing about a GPS watch is of course the GPS function. Here, I am a little dismayed by its reliability. At my home, under my block of flat, it took almost 5 minutes to detect the GPS signal. This was not just once but repeatedly even though the manual had stated that it can “learn” the location. But in other area, the pickup was almost instantaneous.

Also, during my last run at MacRitchie, I strapped the broken down Garmin 110 to my hydration bag and took it along for the ride. The distance reading was 21.82km for it against 21.14km for the Timex Run Trainer, a quite drastic difference of almost 700 metres. But on about route from my home to Meridien JC, it was almost identical at 2.12km.

Now for a summary of the features.

Interval Mode

In my opinion, the most value for money feature on this watch is the Interval mode. One can customise an almost unlimited variation of interval training and save these setting for easy retrieval. You can create an interval of x number of sets and repeats with each set being based on distance, timing, pace, heart rate or altitude.  I can created a simple one with a warm up of 10 minutes, run 400 metres(interval 1) and rest 30 seconds (interval 2) and repeat for say 15 times with a cool down of another 10 minutes. I can also go for a more fancy setup with say a warm up, interval 1 – run 5 minutes, interval 2 – rest 30 seconds, interval 3 – run 1 km, interval 4 – rest 30 seconds, and so on….In fact again the permutations is totally up to one’s imagination!

Chrono Mode

The Chrono mode is the main run mode. The value add here are the “hands free” auto start and auto stop where you can set the pace or time threshold  for the watch to autostart and stop. This is particularly useful for traffic lights, toilet breaks etc but I must admit I find the auto start so irritating because it auto start by itself even before I was ready to start my run. Probably my threshold was set too low but I turned it off. 
Another feature is the reminder for drink and food, something that I have yet to use but which people doing long distance run might find useful.
And the auto split – unlike the Garmin 110 which only has a few options, the auto split here is totally customisable and I can choose to split at any distance or even time. Of course it can be turn off too.

Timer Mode
There is also a Timer mode which is the usual countdown timer that is available in most chrono watch.This is something I understand is not available on most of the Garmin watches although personally with its powerful interval mode, I don’t think this Timer Mode will be really used unless one use it to countdown sets of body weight exercises like crunches.

Recovery Mode
I haven’t make use of this yet so I am not too sure how it works. Reading the manual, I believe this is for the wearer to check how fast the heartbeat normalise. For this to work, I think it has to be paired with the optional chest strap.

Alarm Mode
This one needs no explanation. It is simply an alarm clock function but one can set up to 5 alarms.

Configure Mode
This is where one configures the watch and the users from weight to sex, to heart rate, pace etc etc etc. A ziillion information can be configured here but I settled only for the minimal.

Sensor Mode
The Timex Run Trainer can be paired with a heart strap or a foot pod for running indoor. These are optional purchase but I understand it can be paired with any ANT+ devices.

Review Mode

On the watch, there is a Review mode which allow the user to view the result of the last 15 workouts in all its full glory. But best of all, if the total distance is not cleared, the first screen will show the total distance ran on the watch: 

Watch Mode

Finally there is the watch mode. After all, it is still a watch. The watch can be customised to display up to 3 time zones and can display time based on the GPS. Battery life in Watch mode is touted to be up to 10 weeks and 10 hours on GPS mode. Personally I don’t think too much of these type of promises as the battery invariably starts to deteriorate after several recharging.The Timex Run Trainer is also waterproof up to 50 metres.
Ir is still not available in Singapore even though it has been launched for quite sometime in the States. Over there, it is currently retailing for about USD190.00 without the heart rate strap and footpod. I got a friend to get it for me while she was over there for a chance and the conversion rate turn up to be only S$243.00 much cheaper and value for money than the Garmin 210 which is retailing her for S$260. 
Feature for feature, cost for cost, I will say this is the better option than its closest competitor, the Garmin 210 or the Nike GPS watch which has only recently been launched in Singapore and sells for about S$270.00
Apart from the Timex Device Agent software, data can be uploaded to the Training Peak online program. Now that is another awesome program reserve for another lengthy review.

The Problem with Garmin Watches in Singapore

My 2 year Garmin 110 is still ticking away but unfortunately, like a runner, while the “body” is still working, the “legs” have gotten injured. But unlike a runner who can walk into any hospital in Singapore, it is not possible for the watch to get “treatment” here.

First to go was the watch band. That wasn’t so bad since worse case I can use a rubber band or a wire tire to secure the strap.

Spot the difference. 210 on the left and 110 on the right
Then I discovered a small break in the strap itself. And another break between the watch body and the strap. Which means the watch certainly won’t last another run.
The 2 breaks in the watch
So I thought to get the watch strap replaced. And that was when I discovered being a Garmin watch owner has its disadvantages. Polar watch can be replaced here. So same with Casio. But Garmin?
The local distributor said they don’t have the equipment to do the replacement and have to send it to Taiwan.  And it will cost $95.00 for the replacement and another $60.00 for the service. And it will take 3 – 4 weeks. And the friendly guy on the phone has the cheek to tell me it is more worthwhile to get a new watch!
I think it is a shame that the local distributor does not see the need to invest in the equipment to service the  local market considering that Garmin is the most popular running GPS watch here.  They have taken us runners for granted.
Me. I took the guy advice and promptly went a buy a new GPS watch – but not a Garmin. A Timex!
PS: Updated: The watch strap disintegrate into several pieces eventually. It appears the strap is not suitable for our local weather and is too brittle.

Another New GPS Watch

Surprise surprise, another company is launching a new GPS watch and its not Casio!

Epson Japan has announced that it has developed the World’s lightest GPS watch.

From Epson’s website: Seiko Epson Corporation (“Epson,” TSE: 6724) has developed the world’s lightest*1 GPS-enabled running monitor, which also boasts an extremely thin design. Designed to be worn on the wrist and equipped with long battery life*2, the monitor uses GPS to provide runners with accurate distance, pace and other data.

Epson claims it has the most accurate GPS and up to 12 hours of battery life. Whether that is true we will only know when the watch reach the market. And of course, the other questions remain. What type of pricing and will it ever reach our shore?
Read the full press release from Epson here

More than Garmin

Here in Singapore, practically every runner I know who wear a GPS watch have a Garmin. Mostly because there isn’t much of an option in the first place. Other than the Garmin, the only other “running” watch easily available here is the Polar.
But unlike the Garmin, the Polar watches do not come with any built-in GPS. For measuring distance, it relies mainly on the separate foot pod or as in the Polar watches which all require a separate GPS pod which comes with its own arm band for wearing on the arm. Not very runner friendly!
Then there are a small number of people who go for the sexy factor and pump for the Nike Sportband. This is of course a poor cousin to the GPS based watch as it utilizes a pedometer to count the strides and distances.
But there is hope for those who do not want a Garmin.
First off is Nike who has come up with a GPS watch – the Nike+ Sportwatch GPS. It looks pretty cool too and should be a hit when it reaches our shores.
Timex, the Ironman watch has been surprisingly slow in catching up with Garmin and I am sure it has lost market share but it is slowly catching up with the Timex Global Trainer launched in 2010 and the Timex Run Trainer last year. The Timex Ironman Global Trainer is now available in Singapore but it may take a while for the Run Trainer to find its way here. Hopefully they can also price the watch as cheaply as their Ironman series!

Timex Run Trainer

And then there is the uber expensive Suunto X10. A beautiful rugged looking watch for the adventurers and trails runners but at a big hole to the pocket. Price check on Amazon is USD580.00
For those who are budget conscious and not prepared to cough up well over $300.00 for their watch and do not need all the works but just need a watch to tell them how far they ran, there is the nifty cheaper Soleus GPS 1.0. Just a basic watch with a built in GPS to measure the distance and that’s about it. No frill and with a no frill price of less than USD100.00.
Surprisingly, there is a new entrant to the market – the Motorola MOTOACTV. Now just why Motorola has chosen to enter this segment of the market beats me, maybe because they getting a beating in the mobile phone market and needs to look for new revenue stream? This is a great little watch with GPS and MP3 and wifi and a thousand other little features. And oh yes, it tells the time too. USD300.00
Finally, fresh from this year CES, comes the Magellan Switch and Switch Up GPS Multisport Watch. Not a very pretty looking watch but quite feature packed from the review. But will it ever reach our shore? And at what price?
Last not least, there is a rumour that Casio is also coming out with a GPS watch. Now that will be one watch to look forward to.