Fitness watches home test

CHOICE member Gareth Davies and his family put five fitness watches through their paces.
 
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01 .Fitness watches

A CHOICE home test is not the same as one of our comparative tests. For a more detailed explanation of the difference between a comparative test and a home test, please click here.

There’s something special about seeing the number of kilometres you’ve run, hills you’ve cycled or laps you’ve swum. And the satisfaction of beating the clock and sharing it with friends is also pretty special. The very athletic Davies family – Gareth, Liesa and daughter Miren – gave us the rundown on a few popular fitness watches (also known as fitness trackers or sport watches).

For more on exercise equipment, see our diet and exercise section.

 

tomtom-multi-sport-grey-km-hrm-230x175

Tom Tom Multi-Sport GPS with BlueTooth HRM 9UJ000100 ($314.85)

This has a simple menu system, and getting started is very easy to do. Both Liesa and Gareth found it very easy to read and adjust settings while exercising, but Miren noted it doesn’t show everything she expected it to. Gareth says data retrieval takes a bit of work to set up as it's difficult to download a preferred file type to review the data (it’s not Strava or ANT+ compatible).

That said, this was the clear favourite – comfortable to wear, lightweight and with a soft, flexible band. It covers a good range of sports activities, including indoor swimming (but can’t track a triathlon because the GPS doesn’t operate in swim mode).


garmin-forerunner310xt

Garmin Forerunner® 310XT with HRM ($329.95)

This is the largest model on test, with a good-sized screen and clear button operation. Liesa found it frustrating if you enter a building and lose GPS or are exercising indoors. You need to set up a Garmin account, but it’s also Strava compatible. It has excellent battery life and can track a triathlon but can’t track indoor swimming. Gareth found it comfortable to wear, but Liesa found it too featured and bulky.


magellan-switch-withheartratemonior

Magellan Switch with HRM ($199)

The screen can be can be difficult to read in motion – particularly if you normally wear reading glasses – and the buttons aren’t very intuitive. You need an online account with Magellan active, and it can’t be used with Strava or to track indoor swimming. Miren found it too complex and bulky, but Gareth argues that despite its relatively short battery life, it’s a good price for a multi-sport watch that can track a triathlon.


polar-rc3gps

Polar with RC3 GPS + HRM ($294)

This is a thin-profile watch that’s comfortable to wear. A Polar account needs to be set up and it’s not compatible with Strava or ANT+. Liesa found its huge number of functions overwhelming. It’s fiddly to attach the micro USB to charge, and both Liesa and Gareth wondered how durable the fitting and flap over the port would be. The complex operations and busy screen make it difficult to read and use at times. It also has no swimming function, and can’t track a triathlon.


polar-rc3gps

Nike GPS Sports Watch with Polar Heart Rate Sensor 92043571 ($272.85)

This also has a comparatively slimline profile, with a well laid-out screen and good battery life for a runner’s-only watch. Gareth found it a bit difficult to find the right type of file to review data, and there was some concern over the durability of the USB tab in the wrist strap.

The verdict

The Tom Tom is the clear favourite for both ladies and gents, whether for general multi- or single-sport use. For the more serious triathlete, the Garmin can track outdoor swims, and has the longest battery life. Gareth suggests listing the training and competition activities you plan to do, and match the watches’ capabilities against them.

What is a home test?

Often we turn to CHOICE voting members to do some small-scale, qualitative testing on a product category for which we cannot justify a full test – whether it be because of low demand, prohibitive test costs or a number of other reasons.While a home test does not have the same scientific rigour of our normal tests, they do have the benefit of being conducted in a "real-world" environment that may uncover things a lab test may not. Plus, we have absolute faith in our CHOICE membership and trust them to give an honest and lighthearted assessment of the goods we've asked them to test.

If you'd like to take part as a home tester, please sign up to be a voting member.

What is Strava and ANT+?

Strava is an app that allows you to view your sport, fitness and health monitoring data in real time on your mobile device.

ANT+ is a free online service that allows you to track and compare performance online.

 
 

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