Monday, May 12, 2014

Garmin ForeRunner FR620 Review

My teammate Roy unbox this unit not too long ago and you can read about it here. As it has been done, I will not do another unboxing and concentrate more on the actual use of the FR620.

A watch for runner

The FR620 was done specific for runner.To start with the watch is super light. This is true when compared to my 910XT and Fenix. The size allow for all information to be glanced through at an instance and work perfectly fine as an everyday watch. To add on color, the unit comes in two different choices and the test unit provided by Garmin to the 2ndSkin team was black-blue, with the other choice being white-orange.
On wifey's hand
HRM-Run : Contact Time and Vertical Oscilation
The FR620 is a feature laden watch. It comes with WiFi connectivity, Bluetooth and a specific HRM-Run that can record your "contact time" between the feet and the ground. Interestingly, it aim to help you achieve the desirable contact time in millisecond via muscle memory. So, it could be an answer (in another review) to understand your strides beyond just "SPM" or "Stride per Minute".
The vertical oscillation is an interesting feature, as it captures how much you "bounce" up and down in your run. This is an advanced matrix as many pro runners oscillate less, meaning they will be running more efficiently than many of us. 
I've noticed that the watch itself has an accelerometer, which allowed for the unit to record SPM without the HRM-Run strap/module. Below is a sample taken from one of the run I used the FR620.
The Garmin running Dynamics says that they (Garmin) has researched many runners of all different levels. The data values in the red or orange zones are typical for less experienced or slower runners. The data values in the green, blue, or purple zones are typical for more experienced or faster runners. Less experienced runners tend to exhibit longer ground contact times and lower cadence than more experienced runners. However, taller runners typically have slightly slower cadences and slightly higher vertical oscillation. Go to for more information on running dynamics. For additional theories and interpretations of running dynamics data, you can search reputable running publications and websites.
I am yet to use the new HRM-Run as I hate to soil it for the next tester. However, just based on the cadence reading alone, I know I am on the "Green and Blue" band. 
Yes sirree!
However....only with the HRM-Run
Perhaps one day, I will buy this FR620 and test out to verify my vertical osc and the ground contact time. For now, I be happy with just the Cadence.
Good enough for general training
Real Use of FR620
The FR620 is a touch-watch. While it has 4-physical button on the sides (two each side) where you can switch it on/off and turn on the white back-light, quick press to enter into run mode, run start/pause/stop and the connect button. On the surface, you will see the return key and the menu key. The whole watch surface is touch-sensitive and it does take a bit of getting used to. 
Satellite locked. Ready for run?
Initially had to tap pretty hard just to get to the page I wanted. It turned out a firm touch would be sufficient. I blame it on my un-calibrated fingers that has been using an iPhone for many years.
Start up were fast. A press on the lower left button shows a "locked" screen. This auto-lock prevent the FR620 from being activated when used as normal watch.
Press any button and it will ask for confirmation to "unlock"
Tap to unlock and the unit will then search for Satellite signal. In all my test, a lock was obtain in less than 1-minute. Quite acceptable if you ask me. 
Locking onto satellite
Once the satellite is locked, as shown by the solid "satellite" icon in the photo above, all you need to do is press the top right button and the timer will start.
Immediately asking if you want to SAVE or DISCARD. If you leave it as it is, you can "start" again and continue the run
Usage is simple and right out of the first full charge without tinkering much.

Once you are done with the workout, press the same top right button and you will have the option to "Save" or "Discard". Tap on the screen to move the menu up or down, and tap again for your choice. It is that easy.
You can read the "History" per all Garmin devices
I was indeed excited about the connectivity of the FR620 with my iPhone (Android not available at this point of time) where the metrics could be broadcasted and shown on the device. While this is cool, it does meant you will need to bring along the phone to the run - which defeats the purpose of trying to minimise on electronics that aren't sweatproof in the first place. However, as I found out, the bare minimum for bluetooth connectivity is the iPhone 4s. I own an iPhone4, which meant I could not exploit this feature. 
Can't pair up
However, the reason why the above shown up on the Garmin Connect Mobile app is because i've set it to link via WiFi. Meaning, I have the option of uploading the workout via WiFi without actually physically having any cables attached to the laptop or PC. Tested and it worked fine. 
Old School
However, call me old school despite the techno-gadgetry that i embraces. I like to use the cable to link up, as it also provide a mean to charge the device while it's sync-ing. This ensure the unit to be fully juiced (charged) for the next run (a long one, hopefully).
For full connectivity function, you will need to download the Garmin Express Fit program. You only need to link it once with the software (via pc) to set up the linkage to WiFi and the rest in the future will be sorted easily. Uploading via WiFi is independent of a laptop and it goes right through (but limited to "recognised WiFi" only at setup)
Pre-registered via Garmin Express Fit 
Easy Peasy!
This software is not to be confused with the ANT+ software that I used with my 910XT or the other Garmin based software such as Garmin Express, Garmin Basecamp and Garmin Mapsource that I use interchangeably for other functions.  

Battery Life
The unit was tested from 100% fully charged to fully drained in 6hours 32mins at "Smart" tracking and inside the trail, where it draw more power to secure a satellite fix. This was verified when wifey used the FR620 during Sabah Adventure Challenge (Day 1)

This fall short of the promised 10-hours battery life and the usage may even be lower if you link it up with Bluetooth (even at Low Energy or in this case, Bluetooth Low Energy BLE).
However, if used purely as a watch (which meant you bought yourself a very expensive digital watch), it claimed can go on for 6-weeks. For the short period i tested it (3-weeks), I would say the battery life as a watch looked somewhat promising as the drop is minimal for 5 days of inactivities.
Bottom Line
This is the top of range running watch by Garmin. Not to be compared to the multi-sports 310XT and 910XT or the outdoor-orientated Fenix/Tactic/Fenix2. From the test, it served me well as to do what it is supposed to do without issue. I decided NOT to read the manual and fully rely on zero knowledge to fiddle with the watch. I would say it is easy to understand and use. So those of you that do not read manual - rejoice. No rocket science involved to use this.
Among other features I've not explored:
- Full running metrics that require the HRM-Run module
- Full connectivity functions that requires iPhone4s and above
- The VO2Max test
- The Recovery Advisor function (that will predict how long you need to recover based on the amount and intensity of your workout)
- The race predictor, which maps out your 5k-10k-21k-42k finishing time based on the algorithm VO2Max and HR functions
For those above, I will leave it to my other team-mate to explore. Stay tuned for more soon.

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