Friday, June 27, 2008

Polar vs. Garmin

I have been wanting to write something about Polar vs. Garmin for some time now. Today, I finally got a few minutes so here's my feedback on Polar vs. Garmin.

Two years ago I invested in a Polar watch with Heart Monitor. I didn't get the shoe node that tracked the distance. I was mainly interested in knowing what my heart was doing while I was running.

Over the next year, I found there were things that I liked and disliked about the Polar. I like that the Polar is similar to a regular stop watch. The menus are is to navigate. The options are easy to review and running through a specific work is straight forward. You can manipulate the views so that you can focus just on the heart rate, overall time, or lap time. And so far, I haven't had to change the battery.

On the down side, I hate that I didn't get distance monitoring tool. This would have been nice to have.

I guess the troublesome part of a Polar is the heart monitor chest belt. To get it working you have to wet the connections and some times it takes several attempts before the watch finds the signal. Also the snaps are hard to get on and off.

I still use my Polar for Fartlek workouts. It just easier to use Polar for a Fartlek workout if you are not interested in measuring the distance.

In December of '07 I moved to the next level with a Garmin. Over the next 7 months I tried to understand the features and functionality of the Garmin.

I found that I liked the way Garmin heart rate connection hooks up. The chest belt easily snaps into place and Garmin finds heart rate signal fast. The distance tracking is great on the road and on the bike, I found if you use it on the track or on trails, it tends to run a little short in measuring the distance. The menus are easy to navigate and only take a few minutes learn.

The battery life is a pain. After 5 or 6 runs you need to recharge the battery. It should be noted that the Garmin is not a true watch but tool. Thus my comparison is only partially accurate.

The download process is great. The Garmin syncs using a USB port. This great in comparison with the Polar which does this audio signal sync. It is a pain and you have to have the entire room quiet to be successful.

If you are interested knowing the time, Polar displays the the time when not use. For the Garmin, you have to move to the menu view and then the current time is display in tiny numbers at the bottom.

If you are interested in viewing the heart rate, the Polar view can be switched while in use to a heart rate view and the view is very readable. The Garmin has the heart viewable on the main screen but it is very tiny and hard to read while running.

The Polar watch is always ready to use at any time but the Garmin needs to be turned on each time. Layne and I found that if you place the Garmin on your wrist and move around, it takes longer for the Garmin to sync with the satellites

Once you download the data, there is a Garmin training center to review the workouts. It presents all of the comment features of distance, rate, pace, and heart rate. For the Polar the data gets shipped to web site where similar info is viewable. I am not a fan of the Polar approach because you have to have a internet connection for it work.

I do regular download for my Garmin with each recharge. I finally gave up on Polar. I manually copy of the workouts and record them in my training log.

My only other complaint about the Garmin is the size. I have the 305 version which is a bit bulky compared to the Polar. There is a 405 version out which gets closer to looking like a watch. But since I just bought 305, I am not looking to move up just yet.

That's my comparison of the Garmin vs. Polar.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review. I've been using the Garmin 305 for years and have never tried Polar. So I will add what I know. A few of your 'cons' for the garmin aren't really cons, you just need to configure your data fields. You can show heart rate (current, max, average, etc) in any field and you can also show current time in a big field if you want. Though strangely, it only shows heart rate in that tiny field if you go with a 3-data field setup. Whether you pick a 2, 3, or 4 data view, you can put heart rate to show in any. There are something like 25 data fields to pick from and you can set it up to toggle between 3-4 screens on the fly! Just press the up/down buttons during the workout to switch to different arrays of data fields.

When I run I have one data screen showing me total elapsed time, average pace, time of day, and total distance. I can touch one button in a run to switch to heart rate view which shows me current, average, and peak rates. I can toggle again to calorie counting view but don't care much about that during the run. And I have a 'last' mile view to show what the stats were for the last mile I ran. I have it set up to automatically trigger a lap after each mile.

All this can easily be done right on the watch.

BTW, I recently re-built my home pc and thought I had backed up my garmin data file but couldn't find it. But when I synced new stuff it downloaded ALL my runs since I had got it new! I was amazed it holds that much data!

Cool Down Runner said...

You make a good point. Maybe I should look/adjust data fields.

I had my Garmin more than 2 years and have never changed it.

And, I agree it does hold a lot of data.

But the one thing, I have found is if you use record every second. It definitely fills up faster. Because I use it for both my runs and bike rides, I have to delete it every couple of weeks.