Thursday, October 29, 2009

Garmin Forerunner 305, Suunto T3, and Polar RS400sd Review

The two most important variables that define any form of motion are distance and time. We can say that an object has moved if an object has traveled a certain amount of distance in a given time interval. Okay, enough with the physics lesson. Perhaps, one very useful tool for any runner is a watch. Nowadays, there are a variety of running watches each with unique features. Some runners depend on the biggest watch you see at the starting line. Others such like myself prefer to use a digital watch worn at my wrist. The amazing thing about today's technology is that many running watches go beyond just recording your time. With products like Garmin, Suunto and Polar, running watches have never been the same.

Running watches nowadays offer the ability to predict your running effort through the help of heart rate monitors. And since time and distance are important variables in running, they also have the ability to measure it. Some provide GPS capability, which looks cool when loading into Google maps. Since my blog has been dedicated to running and the gadgets the help runners achieve their goal, then I'd like to give my reviews between 3 running watches specifically Garmin Forerunner 305, Suunto T3, and Polar RS400sd.

Garmin Forerunner 305

If you are looking for just a training computer and doesn't mind not having to use it as a dress watch, then Garmin Forerunner 305 provides you the most important features any runner can get. It records speed and distance and plots your course so that you can upload the data to your computer and have it displayed even to Google maps. It also comes with a heart rate monitor. It also comes with a virtual training partner. So if you are up to the challenge of racing your virtual partner, then you can do this to motivate you. Accuracy wise, its pretty accurate. I almost always get the same distance on the same course I ran with it. The price is also quite cheaper compared to Suunto and Polar.

The problem with Garmin though, and perhaps to most GPS computer is that the pace wouldn't help much. The pace varies drastically, and you can get really frustrated if you simply plan to rely on this. However, at least using the average pace value could be more useful. I would suggest to use the average pace variable when monitoring your pace. Another problem is the fact that you can get the cheap monitors outside the Philippines. I got mine through Amazon, and I was just blessed that a colleague went to the US and had him buy the gadget for me. Now what I really hate about the Garmin Forerunner 305 is its really bad quality. I would have given the gadget a high rate, but mine didn't last a year. And the problem is I'm not anywhere near a dealer who can have the product fixed within warranty. My Garmin wasn't in fact an isolated case. There are many rants about the product on the Internet, all with the same experiences. Because mine broke and it didn't even last a year, then I'm giving the Garmin Forerunner product a grade of 2 out of 5.

Suunto T3

This was my first running watch and I had some sort of withdrawal syndrome when I shifted to the Garmin Forerunner 305. It has the capability to measure speed and distance using the foot pod. It also accurately measures your heart rate. Unlike Garmin, you can easily get the watch from any Time Depot shops that you can find in the malls. One particular unique feature of Suunto T3 is the training effect. The training effect gives a certain amount value stating how well you did your training. It can help you monitor if you trained well enough or not. Perhaps I can attest that the Suunto T3 has helped me improved my fitness level. I have no question whatsoever with the quality of this watch. It is almost with me for more than 2 years and the only complaint I've had with it is when the heart rate broke after more than a year. The good news is if you get this product, it is under warranty for 2 years. So I was able to replace the heart rate monitor easily without spending a dime.

When you look at the foot pod accuracy, it is fairly accurate, however I can see slight differences when changing shoes. However, this isn't really bad, because the difference is like +- 50 meters if it is well calibrated. What I hate about the Suunto T3 is that it is very expensive. When you get the watch, the foot pod, and the USB connector are not included. You need to buy them separately and their prices are really sky rocketing.

Polar RS400sd

This watch is quite similar to Suunto T3. It allows you to monitor you heart rate, and measures speed in distance. But what makes this watch unique is the ability to test your fitness using Polar Fitness Test, and the ability to also determine your fitness after you train via the running index. Now I am able to check and monitor if my fitness is really improving by doing. For the past weeks, I have been lacking training so my fitness level wasn't at its peek. In fact when I raced the Race for Life, I managed to finish the 5K race at a measly time. True enough, the polar gave me a running index of 57. But after the 21K run and continuous training up until today when I racked a 10K distance at 44 minutes without having my heart rate overshoot, the watch gave me an index of 59. What is cool about the indexes is that it gives you an idea of the trend of your fitness. If it is moving up, then you're improving. If it's moving down, then you're slacking. If it remains constant, then perhaps you're over training. This watch is fairly new so I cannot comment much on the foot pod accuracy. But as far as I've been using it, after calibrating it yesterday, its pretty much gives accurate values. In the Philippines, since Polar products can be found everywhere, then having the watch fixed if problem arises isn't much of a problem. You also get 2 years warranty. Unlike Suunto, when you get the Polar RS400sd, they will include everything such as the foot pod, heart rate, and USB connector and software that come with it. I got mine a lot cheaper than when I got my Suunto T3. Another plus for the watch is that it looks good. I am able to use it even when I'm not training.

Don't believe that when you get the foot pod out of the box that it is at the minimum 97% accurate. It can be far more inaccurate than that. When I got mine, its 5K was 500meter shorter than the actual 5K. After calibrating the foot pod though, everything seems to be fine. I will have to do more tests.


Arvid said...

Clearly the GPS technology is going to win over the long run. With GPS becoming imbedded into smart phones and a million other devices, getting smaller and smaller, it's only a matter of time before someone comes along to challenge the Garmin and does it better, smaller and cheaper. Suunto won't be able to hold on to their price premium for much longer.

Since logging and tracking performance is such an important part of your fitness plan, I can't believe you didn't make mention of software for doing post-run analysis. I'm using SportTracks (get at ) which has some amazing capabilities for slicing and dicing data and seeing just where I hit the wall on that long run.

Tech Spec said...

Arvid - Thanks, I so believe too. I believe Nokia will be introducing (or has introduced) a GPS phone with heart rate monitor. I believe they have tied up with Polar to make this happen. About the software, I haven't really tried the software you mentioned. But thanks for posting the link. I can check it out, and perhaps give my review of the software some time soon.

Anonymous said...

Hey ,thanks for the info. must useful