This weekend I had the opportunity to try out the Garmin Forerunner 15 GPS Running Watch courtesy of a friend and his trainer, Those who know me or follow me in social media know that I’m an avid cycler so this was a great gadget to get my hands on for a few days.
First impression? Yikes – so big! I have become accustomed to the size of my Fitbit Force unit and the Garmin is definitely much larger. However, it is quite light and I forgot about having it on pretty quickly.
It does all the same stuff my Fitbit does and a bit more. Count steps, track activity level and estimate calories burned (more on that in a bit). It also can remind when you’ve been idle too long and nag you into getting in some more steps. It all syncs to the Garmin Connect site and even has the expected social components to link up with friends and such.
There is an optional heart rate monitor (HRM) that my loaner unit didn’t have. Pity as without it you can take the estimated calorie burn for walks, runs or bike rides with a grain of salt! But I reckon that is always the case. If you don’t have a HRM on the software is just flat out guessing.
But you know what this thing has that my Fitbit doesn’t? GPS!
Saturday morning I gave it a shot while doing a 1.5 mile dog walk with the wife. I had my Fitbit on one wrist and the Garmin on the other. Each counted steps and the Garmin also generated a pretty map. Step counts were pretty comparable and the reported distance from the GPS looked reasonable as well.
Saturday afternoon I took it for a 21 mile bike ride just around the neighborhood. I also ran Strava on my Android phone which connects to my HRM. Strava said we went 21.4 miles and the Garmin said 21.35. My bike’s odometer said more but I’ve always suspected it is a bit off. Since the two GPS units essentially agreed on distance I figure I know what to trust going forward.
Oh, how about the calorie estimates? Well Garmin said 2395 and Strava (with the HRM) says 756. And that’s why if you get this Garmin you want to spring for the HRM!
Sunday I took it for another ride: Downtown Denver to Golden and back again which was right around 53 miles. I planned to compare it with Strava again, but since the Strava app blew up and disappeared at some point during the ride I reckon it was good I had the Garmin with me! And hey, good news: it is easy to export data from Garmin Connect and import it into Strava (but rats, no HRM for extra analysis).
Now the bad news. That second ride was a bit shy of 3.5 hours – and the battery indicator was down on the bottom “bulb” most of the last half of the ride (I started with a fresh charge). Battery life may be a concern… The web site claims 8 hours life with GPS and 5 weeks with GPS off. I’m not sure I am convinced but I will concede I should have down more testing.
But then again, this watch is definitely aimed primarily at runners, not century bike riders.
Slick, lightweight unit and reasonably priced for a GPS watch. If you’re a running I would definitely encourage a look. Cyclist? Definite “maybe” as I liked everything about it but do have that concern about battery life.