Tag Archives: Gear

Decided on the Garmin Fenix 6S Pro

Well, so much for trying to find a tiny GPS watch! In prior posts I discussed my love for the Samsung Galaxy Fit2 as a daily wear – the only issue being no GPS so I always end up bringing a Garmin handheld for longer day hikes which seems like overkill on familiar or established trails. I would bring my Polar M400, but that is geared towards runs, IMO, and the battery life isn’t really great for hiking which is more than 4-6 hours, which it almost always is.

Fit2 vs Fenix 6S watch face

In the end I decided that if I couldn’t find a tiny GPS watch I’d just buy a full-featured one instead. It’s only money! I found it for the lowest price I could and I’ve been very happy with it after some adjusting to settings (1 sec interval, no idea why that isn’t default – why would anyone want inaccurate tracks?), t’s been great. It *is* heavy on my wrist even though this is the smallest version, which also makes the map a bit harder to see, but, hey, it has a map, that’s so cool! The battery life is more akin to a modern handheld unit, depending on settings, and it’s easy to grab and go. I have dropped it once trying to put it on as the face is pretty hefty so any loss of grip before it’s strapped on is a precarious time. It kinda knocked up the outer ring a tad, but the face was unharmed. I put it on over my lap now.

I would prefer the inset-type band on it instead of the belt-type band, that’s my only complaint. I don’t like having some extra bit that can catch on clothing and I find the search for the correct loop a bit of a struggle on my skinny wrists.

Fit2 vs Finix 6S band size and style

Feature-wise, it does far more than I will ever need it for. It’s fairly attractive and about as small as I can expect. Lots of stats can be added per-screen and per-activity, which I like as I like to read as much as possible with one glance without scrolling.

I still prefer a hearty handheld for multi-day trips for it’s big screen that is easy to plan route changes, but if I was on familiar ground I might grab the watch instead. It is still too big and heavy for me to want to use it for daily-wear, so the Fit2 remains attached to me 24/7 and my go-to for easy timers during strength training and basic tracking for small hikes and local walks.

Part 2: Tried FitBit, Mostly Fixed Garmin, More Stats

Ignore all my long-stressed over words and skip to Bottom Line.

In the last post, I was complaining about a lack of Garmin accuracy on the smallest watch with built-in GPS I could find between Polar and Garmin, the Garmin Venu Sq. It’s not really much smaller than the Polar M400, but it’s less bulky and the band is thinner and just feels tad nicer to wear (plus newer tech is fun). Anyhow, I am pretty irritated that I have to dive into Garmin settings on all their newer devices to get their GPS to be accurate. I never used to have to do this, but the new handheld 66i is a constant struggle (the 64 never was) and this watch I finally got distance and map accuracy to match the laser-sharp Polar – mostly due to asking it to save every second versus whatever “auto” was doing. Hilariously, to me, the choice between “Smart Recording” and “Every Second Recording” states “Smart recording captures key data points as changes occur in your direction, speed, heart rate or elevation. This method is recommended as it saves space on your device and has no negative impact on GPS accuracy” which is total bull as it was 3% off (not massive, but annoying) before. The result is now tit-for-tat mile notifications between both devices on a recent 7.8 mile run on a hilly trail. The only issue left is the elevation chart which is really choppy, and I think inaccurate, resulting in the gain/loss being wrong. I’ll dive into the details below…

Did I run with four watches on? Yup. It was weird and very sweaty but during activity it wasn’t bothersome outside of a bunch of beeps and shakes from all over the place.

The problem still was that I wasn’t going to wear a 38mm wide watch constantly, and that width is on the small side! I have been hoping to find the one GPS watch to rule them all so I could have just one gadget and one app and one website. I somehow realized that FitBit makes watches with built-in GPS that are really small! Great, I thought, and immediately bought the FitBit Charge 5… a week before it’s on sale for Black Friday, of course. ANYHOW, it’s 22.6mm wide, which is more the width of bands on most watches – and it’s shorter than all my other contenders at 36.6mm tall. Nice. Still, despite being nicely far shorter than the very tall 46.6mm of my daily-wearer, Samsung Galaxy Fit2, it does feel noticeably wider than the Fit’s 18.6mm width and every other watch’s band feels huge compare to it’s mostly 16mm width. But this was far smaller and really tempting, especially as there are more features on the FitBit besides GPS such as oxygen levels, so the only thing left was to test its GPS on a run. Spoiler alert: it sucked. I’m returning it. It’s a really great lifestyle band, actually, but I already have one of those and my goal was to use one watch and there is no way this thing is made for serious activity tracking. I wish I read DC Rainmaker’s review first, though I did not experience loss of GPS or heart rate as he did.


BandTimeDistanceCaloriesPace (min/mi)Cadence (steps/min)StepsElevation GainElevation LossElevation MaxHeart RateGPS TypeExportBattery DrainCableFace DimenionsBand
Polar M4001:41:277.8 miles83713:02 avg (max 9:01)138 avg (max 222)13,888820 ft804 ft841.8 ftN/AGPS, GLONASS, GALILEAOGPX, TCX, CSV~16%Micro USB38mm W x 50mm H x 12mm D29mm, thick and stiff classic watch style
Garmin Venu Sq1:42:237.8 miles93713:00 avg (max 8:59)134 avg (max 166)N/A, user error1117.4 ft1179.9 ft850.1 ft156 bpm (max 178)GPS, GLONASS, GALILEOGPX or TCX ~16% Special endpoint37mm W x 40.6mm H x 11.5 mm D20mm, soft and flexible, classic watch style
FitBit Charge 51:41:438.1 miles94112:26 avg (no max given)Not shown13,732No elevation map or stats provided in their apps151 bpm (no max shown)GPS, GLONASSTCX only ~16% Special magnetic cradle22.6mm W x 36.6mm H x 11.2mm D20mm, soft and flexible, come w/two sizes, wraps inside
Samsung Galaxy Fit21:43:02
7.2 miles (no GPS)63214:34 avg (max 7:56)131 avg (max 166)not per activity, but under 14kN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AImperceptible, though heart rate was not fully activeSpecial clip-on cradle18.6mm W x 46.6mm H x 11.1mm D16mm, soft and flexible, wraps inside

The obvious:

  • it’s not that the FitBit didn’t have some of these stats, like elevation, they just refuse to show them within their mobile app or website. I don’t know why, it’s insane.
  • the Samsung won’t track heart rate unless I actually start a session, I just kinda forgot and let it auto start – so it also marked it as a walk (I guess I was slow? lol) – and it doesn’t have built-in GPS so it’s just guessing (I don’t hit the trails carrying a phone, I don’t even take a walk with it).
  • Setting the Garmin to track every second definitely worked to improve accuracy and it buzzed nearly with, but usually a smidge after, the Polar beeped. I somehow, while digging around to get the GPS up-to-snuff, turned off “activity tracking” which meant no step count. /-:
  • NONE of the built-in GPS watches are gonna last longer than a day hike and they all went down in battery life about 16% for 1.75 hours. The Polar M400 will start to cry about low battery if I’m out for 8 hours, and it seems the rest will, too. Also, the others are more set up for ‘smart watch’ things and drain a bit just sitting around even when not worn, so you’ll be charging often if using as your daily-wear. Fitness bands, especially the Samsung Galaxy Fit2, never seem to wear out. The first gen one was about week and this one is about 3 weeks: daily workouts, auto-activity for walks and runs (I’m sure I could waste battery if I manually started hiking which uses the heart rate monitor much more frequently), wearing all day and night, wearing for days on end in the backcountry – and, unlike the others, it charges FAST – within 20 minutes usually. It’s a bit nuts.

About The Bands

Polar’s M400 is kinda stiff so it’s a bit difficult one handed and it’s super long on me and sticks out / can occasionally catch on clothes (doesn’t stick, just a pull). The clasp and pin are metal which is not going to rip. Again, this thing is a tank, but I do have problems getting it on at the correct size and off is a small struggle. It’s not as soft as other bands, so it slides – especially when sweat-soaked.

Garmin’s Venu Sq is a very soft band, you choose the size when you order, and it’s all plastic. These are marketed as “women’s” watches so it generally feels a tad more delicate than you might find on their more activity-focused, large-faced options. Like the M400 above, it’s a standard watch clasp system that goes under a loop, just like pant belts. The pin is plastic and I kept getting it caught in another hole while trying to remove it – not the biggest deal.

FitBit Charge 5 band is similarly nice and soft. They sell you both band sizes – I guess this is nice for off-the-shelf purchases, but it’s a bit of a waste as I doubt anyone would use both. This is the newer style where the end wraps inside. There is no pin on the clasp, but there is a kind of button that fills one hole after you fit it on. It’s a tad awkward, I just personally didn’t love it, but it was fine and I do like having the band inside.

Samsung’s Fit2 also has the inner band, but there is a pin on the clasp. This thing is real easy to get on and off, once you get the hang of the inside-band style.

I must have freakishly tiny wrists because I am within one or two holes of the end on every single band. As my wrist changes sizes with body heat or whatever, I sometimes change the Fit2 to be on hole 2 when the usual 3rd hole is feeling really loose.

Website Screens Note

The last post goes into what I like and don’t like about the Polar and Garmin website screens, but FitBits was every bit as unpleasant as Garmin’s, more so, maybe, because it wasn’t even responsive to browser window width. See screenshots below.

Chart Comparison

I am not showing anything from FitBit on here as the charts given on the website didn’t give at all the same level or detail or the same stats – they were kinda pointless graphics, as seen in the mobile app screens later on. It did require another click to make them be distance vs time, just like Garmin, which I hate: just show both rather than making me choose? Anyhow, I continue to strongly prefer Polar’s all-in-one which shows allll the data (except heart rate since the watch doesn’t have that built-in) which I adore. Again, Polar ‘just works’ across the board without editing settings of any kind.

App Screen Comparisons

Well, now that I have paid good money to allow four companies to sell my data, I can judge their mobile apps. I have never downloaded Polar’s before – I never used the M400 as a smart-watch, though it can and, judging by it trying to connect to my Fit2, desperately wanted to Bluetooth pair with something. It’s not much different than the website, hurray! It also makes syncing, which has always been slow and is no different now, a bit easier as it doesn’t need to be plugged in, obviously, to my desktop computer.

FitBit info was thin, even less than the Samsung Health app, which was really shocking to me. Maybe they would give me more information if I paid their monthly fee for ‘Premium’ but that is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard and not something you need from these other brands. And, again, I could not find an elevation map, cadence, or max pace stats anywhere. Maybe if you used your phone? But then what is the point of built-in GPS if you have a phone?

Garmin’s app screens were only slightly more condensed than their website: there is a lot more scrolling than Polar on activity details.

The only issue I ran into Polar’s apps overall was it was difficult to see step count: this isn’t on the main activity page, it’s in a seperate ‘Reports’ area, which is kinda weird… unless it’s considered that Polar is, thankfully, made for athletes and every other aspect of their UI shows this: there’s less stupid lifestyle stats, unless you want them, the charts and info are easier, less white space and more data, less colors and more focus. To that end, there are only 2 screenshots instead of 3, for this app.

Might as well throw in the Samsung Health app (aka my daily wear that provides a wealth of data for whatever Samsung does with it). Overall, it’s more lifestyle focused which is totally fine as it’s my daily-wear and doesn’t have GPS so I don’t use it for distance accuracy: it’s more step count and estimates and tracking of data I enter. It’s also by far the cutest. It has changed a lot over time, which is kinda nice to know they are always improving it – though the calories bit was de-emphasized (I was tracking specific foods for a while and that is totally removed). I get the feeling it wasn’t worth development time plus some social response that we shouldn’t be so stressed out about weight and calories and macros? Dunno.

Statistics Comparison Tool

I downloaded Garmin, Polar, and FitBit activity, all in TCX since FitBit won’t gimme GPX which is weird, and put them into an online tool to merge them. Ignore the top stats as ‘merge’ make it one long event that was over 5 hours long, haha, just look at the map and charts below at: https://quantified-self.io/user/s0vK9b1q0HVpaYSnFYdhatYAisC3/event/0eoi8nYuzvomNGwdXHhJ

The Garmin is now tracking nearly exactly with the Polar – there were a few blips but the Garmin I am using is a “less serious” type of device than the “made for athletes” Polar I have. There are “better” Garmin watches, but my goal, if you remember, is SMALL. This one is nearly the same size, nearly every other option is, to me, impossibly larger. No, thanks! That being said, once I messed with settings, the Venu Sq results are really very good… save one issue: the elevation chart remains very choppy, which is incorrect, and the gain/lost is way off which I assume is due to this. I have no idea what is going on there, and I’m not sure how much patience I have left for spending time in settings and with Garmin’s customer service. There is a per-activity setting, no idea why it isn’t a global setting, to use “Elevation Correction” – without it the values are worse for me, so enabled is better, but 300 ft difference in gain and loss is nuts. The claim is “Elevation Corrections are calculated with data from professional surveys instead of the data from your device. If your device has a barometric altimeter, Elevation Corrections are disabled by default” but I can’t believe this based on the results. I don’t love the barometric altimeter on my Garmin handheld 66i, but even if the exact elevation is off the gain and loss are still accurate and chart is okay – the Venu Sq is just not a serious enough device for my elevation needs.

The FitBit bounces off track a lot, though not enough to account for the extra 1/2 mile distance. In the map, you’ll notice there are no mileage markers for the FitBit – whereas the Garmin and Polar are really close to each other and are very accurate to real, measurable distance, IMO. I don’t know what this means, except that the FitBit Charge 5 must not use GPS for distance tracking which is the most insane thing I’ve ever heard of. No elevation map, no distance tracking, what the heck does this GPS do, just save a map? That is basically useless for activity tracking – afterward, it’s the least important part of a run. I know where I’ve been, lol. I can only assume FitBit is taking a wild guess at distance based on steps, which is what the non-GPS Samsung Fit2 already does. The difference appears to be that it over estimates vs under. This is when I decided to return the FitBit Charge 5 which I now deem totally useless for running and hiking. I have no idea what is going on, but this company’s stats and GPS usage are garbage. I do think the watch face is small and nice, and it’s an attractive product overall, but I already have a lifestyle / step counter and it’s way thinner with and app that is nicer and a price that is less than one third. Yikes!

Where Does That Leave Me?

The Garmin Venu is the only one that sits flat like a non-tracking watch might. This seems nice but the downside is the fragility: I’m not just leaving it atop a pile as the screen or rear monitors will touch or rub on things.

I don’t know. I cannot find a small enough GPS watch to daily wear and I’m not convinced the Venu Sq is worth keeping: it may look nicer than M400, have built-in heart rate and some other newer technical features, have a thinner band that is also shorter so it doesn’t stick out and catch on things, but the elevation is troublesome and I don’t like the app screens as much. Before a run or hike I do not want to have to mess with settings, and afterward I just want to have a quick glance of stats and not have to dig around to multiple screens.

I am also concerned about toughness with the Garmin: I can’t toss it into a pile as it lies flat so one part or another will rub against something. It feels like I shouldn’t abuse it. Meanwhile, that Polar M400 is an indestructible beast and, if I would just clean the filthy thing, looks brand new 6 years in. I bought it to train for a half-marathon (which I will never do again because running far on pavement sucks IMO), and I keep it as the small alternative to a handheld GPS unit for trail runs and small hikes. It does lack modern features: no buzzing only beeps, no color screen, no optical monitors for heart rate or oxygen, band is too wide and too stiff, no touch screen (honestly, I kinda like that bit) etc. But it has worked as expected from day one, shows 4 stats on a screen that is easy to read while moving, and the Polar ecosphere is just more focused than others on activity – all data presented fast and together, for the most part.

Product Bottom Line

There isn’t a tiny watch face with built-in, accurate GPS. Bummer.

If you need accuracy, you’ll need to buy a bigger watch from Polar or Garmin that are absolutely made for training. You might need to fight with Garmin settings, as their customer service will point you to actually pages in their support about this, but most things can be fixed eventually – except elevation which I struggle with on watch and handheld. I care about elevation so much that I’m thinking I have to sell this Garmin and am “stuck” with the Polar which I’ve never needed to monkey with at all to work correctly.

FitBit Charge 5 GPS is useless outside of a map that is good enough for most people, but who cares about a map without splits and elevation? So you could be fine and happy if you want this as a fitness band and use your phone as GPS when out, but then why pay this much for built-in GPS when you can pay 1/3-1/2 as much for a thinner tracker that can do that anyhow? If I wanted to bring a $1k phone with me on walks, my cheap, thin Samsung Galaxy Fit2 can get GPS, too. I do not understand the market for Charge 5 at all.

I can’t quit Polar, Garmin accuracy lacking

Backstory and Motivation

Skip to review if you don’t want to put up with how much I type or don’t care, I’ll understand.

It doesn’t make sense that I have been buying new GPS watches hoping to replace something that has never failed me. I think I’m doing it because I want something smaller and more attractive to me with a side of I’m a good consumer and also into gadgets. I bought a Samsung Watch4 recently because of some “free” money they gave me as part of a promotion that came with buying a new phone and I just didn’t know what else to spend the gift card on: I have plenty of SD cards and don’t need any other accessories… But while it was en route I did more research and the battery life just wasn’t going to fly with me – plus the 40mm round watch face still seemed way too big, though very much on the small side for baked-in GPS wrist devices. I sent it back without opening it. But as I was researching “small GPS watch” I ended up seeing all the other options out there and that led me to buy another.

I had a Swatch when I was young that I thought looked neat, but otherwise have never worn watches. I do, for reasons unknown, look at my left wrist when discussing the time, even if nothing is there and even if my phone is nearby or in-hand.

My First Integrated GPS Watch

I bought a Polar M400 in 2015 or so because I was running a *lot* more and decided to trail for a half marathon. Having distance accuracy and easy access to pace and cadence was immensely helpful. I only wear the watch when out of a run, its battery doesn’t last long enough for high-mileage hikes, let alone multi-day trips into the backcountry – but I have pushed it and always enjoyed the features during both activities. Splits are easy, what shows on the screen is customizable, etc.

It does not track heartrate, which I only glance at when I do have it, and it won’t buzz so I will occasionally not hear the beep if I’m in a noisy area such as along busy streets or near people talking. I do find it bulky – the band is kinda extra wide, too, and so long it wraps all the way around and I should trim it but never have. My small wrists combined with not wearing a watch often so it feels huge when on – but it’s gear for a purpose and hasn’t had any problems and I truly do not notice the perceived bulk while running. It is filthy currently, as seen in the photo, but that’s on me except that the band had these ridges underneath that I need to get a brush to clean and it’s unfortunate.

All-day Wear with Samsung Fit2

Samsung Fit2 and Polar M400 on my wrist
Samsung Fit2 and Polar M400

Anyhow, when I starting doing exercise from home Q2 2020 because, you know, Covid-19, I decided it might be fun to have a tracker. I love stats but also don’t care about them outside of right after the activity: I love the quick post-workout run down. Otherwise, it’s just calendar tracking which I still do on paper, too, since I print out calendars for work already. Helps me to see schedule, rest days, what strength training I did, etc. To that end, I bought a Samsung Fit. It’s basically a kind of Fitbit thing: tiny at under 19mm wide, no GPS, easy to track workouts and steps, does have heart rate which is useful for HIIT, and battery lasts a long time so I am able to leave the thing on *all the time* which offers sleep stats (but I found these questionable and pointless so I don’t look anymore). It does get phone alerts which allows me to ignore things that aren’t important and avoid getting lost in the phone too much. I upgraded to the Fit2 which gave a slightly larger usable screen while only being functionally a little taller. A physical button was lost, and sometimes the touch-only screen stops a workout if it touches my back or something else, but it’s rare and the battery life on this thing is incredible. I can do daily workouts of 45-60 minutes, go on a multi-day backpacking trip, and it still has juice for days. It also charges crazy fast, easy to do when I sit at work for a few minutes every few weeks. The old Fit is here, but dormant, as I just got used to this new one and just love it. Software updates have improved at lot and it accurately auto tracks walks and runs. It’s a pretty good guess for distance, too. <3

Research Led Me To Garmin

On my quest to find a smaller GPS watch I ended up back at Garmin, which I do use already: I carry a handheld unit for hiking and backpacking. Those units have battery power for an entire day at least. I had the 64 and it was very accurate, bullet proof, and I needed nightly charging. I just switched it out for the new 66 mostly because I was ready to starting using Satellite for emergency help back up and for my loved ones to track me (monthly only when needed). The 66 is having fairly significant distance issues: in-unit is overestimating by enough to bother me but when I sync up at their website, the elevation chart is accurate and ends long before the summary so with every single recording I check the chart and edit the distance on the main stat. I have been with customer service about it, it doesn’t matter. The 64 had no such problems. The 64 unit used GPS and GLONASS and GALILEO. The 66 unit could get the same 3 plus more, but for the InReach capabilities the antennae set up cannot handle it so it’s GPS and GALILEO only. I think it also tracks some statistics different due to a barometric altimeter as I am finding elevation stats also way off. Some settings have gotten this better, but it is absolutely nowhere near as accurate as the 64 was. I might find myself 30 feet off on the maps, but now the distance and elevation stats are significantly wrong. The screen is far better and the battery life is outstanding, but I’m fairly upset at the lower accuracy compared to cost. ANYHOW, the point is that I am coming in angry to another Garmin device.

Samsung Fit2 and Garmin Venu Sq on my wrist
Samsung Fit2 and Garmin Venu Sq

Back to the watch part: Garmin makes “women” watches which basically just means they are smaller and, arguably, more cute. I found their color selection very boring: white with gold (ew), lilac (no to pastels), and grey (better than black, I guess). Zero fun colors. I did consider a “kids” one but those lacked features, I think.

The round faces were, just like the Samsung Watch4, 40mm, which I still find too wide. Good news, though, as the Venu comes in a square variant, also drastically on sale (ie. on the way out) and it’s a bit thinner. It’s good looking, IMO, but the touch screen wants my attention and I’d rather use buttons while running or hiking: my hands are sweaty and dirty so having to go without buttons is very annoying and works less often. There are buttons, but it seems to want other input for a lot of things – the physical buttons just don’t always do what I’d like them to so forced to touch the screen to change screens and make choices. I also thought being in the Garmin ecosphere might be good since I was already there for hiking, but… more on that later.

My Review: Garmin Venu Sq vs Polar M400

Size & Looks – GPS winner is Garmin.

For reference of what I like for all-day wear, the Samsung Fit2 is 46.6mm high x 18.6mm wide x 11.1mm tall, touch-only, an underneath band setup so no bits poke out, and it’s a fun, bright red color. The charger is like an inch long, lol, and is snap in (the first gen was is also a custom cradle, but is an un-fidgety magnetic grasp and the cord is long).

Polar M400 is 50mm high x 38mm wide x 12mm tall, the band is effectively as wide which is big for me, the band is long and really sticks out the other end which sometimes catches on things, it’s just solid black, I don’t like how big and black it is. To be fair, during activity I don’t really care, but no way I’d wear this thing all day. Very rugged: it can take a beating. Micro USB to charge, a cord I have for a lot of things like cameras and the Garmin handheld.

Garmin Venu Sq is 40.6mm high x 37mm wide x 11.5mm tall, it’s a generic grey that doesn’t offend or ask for attention, the band is thinner / standard at 20mm and is still long but not so much it catches on things, the screen is touch and wants to function that way for most things leaving the 2 buttons not doing much which is difficult during activity, it just *feels* smaller than the Polar M400, though almost seems too delicate for rough use, which is better for looks but unsure about what happens if branches hit it or I bump a rock. The cord connection is completely proprietary: I hate that!

In-Watch Functionality – Tie

Polar M400’s screen is simple in black and white with large letters that stay visible so very easy to read during a run. With no touch screen, the four physical buttons are so easy to start, manage, and end activity. I love how it works, I love being able to show four stats of my choosing that I can read easy without pausing my run to inspect and how easy it is to get to other screens with more stats. No heart rate integrated and it does kinda have a clunky old tech feel to it. I have never had a problem operating it, but there is only a small beep and sometimes I cannot hear it. Gets GPS real, real fast on clear days. The battery life on 9 mile was good, lots left.

Garmin Venu Sq doesn’t seem to offer the same screen settings (not all the stats I wanted on one view) and I often think the font is too light, but the screen is super bright so it’s still easy to see. Integrated heart rate, if you are into that, plus an oximeter and generally it feels modern. It is also basically a smart watch, so will get alerts to let you avoid picking up the phone, and it vibrates so I can feel each split and never miss passing a mile. Took a bit longer to lock onto GPS, but not enough longer to matter. Battery was similar to the Polar, I think it got a bit less once I was near my phone – the whole “smart watch” thing sucks juice. But does it have to? The Fit2 does the same thing: I get notices from every dang thing on my phone on that wee band, do workouts daily, and its battery lasts forever.

Accuracy – Polar wins and, to me, it isn’t even close

As I mentioned in my long, meandering intro, I did come in biased as the new handheld Garmin has accuracy problems during use, but I have brought all three watches on 3 trips: two 1 mile walks and one 9 mile hike/run and every single time the Garmin is over. And not just against the Polar, but also the non-GPS Fit2, which is only guessing based on steps (pedometer). First 1 mile walk: Garmin says 1.07, Fit2 guessed 1.02. Second 1 mile walk: Garmin says 1.04, Fit2 guessed 1.01. 9 mile hike/run: Garmin says 9.24, Fit2 guessed 8.88.

I know these paths, I can build them with Google Maps or add up known park trail lengths, the Polar is accurate, the Garmin is not. If we look at the two maps screens zoomed in to an area of the 9 miler from today (below), it’s easy to see the accuracy of Garmin isn’t at all the caliber of Polar. The lines vary, not tight like Polar. This will not matter if you are 10k or less – it’s close enough – but I am glad I was using Polar while training for that half-marathon! I continue not trust Garmin for long runs and hikes. Also, I wouldn’t want to pay *hundreds* of dollars for a high-end watch, like I did with the handheld 66i, and have it not be this accurate. I can’t say whether this is unique to the more lifestyle-y Venu or not, but since the handheld also has problems, I can say I’m getting fairly upset with new Garmin devices at this point.

The cadence on all three varied wildly so it’s impossible for me to say which is accurate unless I manually count, too, which I will never do. First 1 mile walk: Garmin says 99 avg/132 max, Polar 102/120, Fit2 95/109. Second 1 mile walk: Garmin says 96/133, Polar 102/112, Fit2 99/144. 9 mile hike/run: Garmin says 120/178, Polar 130/208, Fit2 118/161. This tells me these stats are generalized. The Garmin seemed more believable on the long one, and the averages on walks seem correct, but it’s max’s were too high on the walk. I don’t know what to think about the others – but I have used Polar cadence to try to move my legs faster vs just loping along and during a run it seems accurate – ie. looking down from time to time seems to work… EDITED to add link to comparison tool: even the elevation chart on Garmin is not smooth, which is wrong. )-:

Websites – Polar wins, easily, but could be preference

The dashboard for Garmin is far to messy for me, and even with the handheld I thought this. Polar’s calendar dashboard is a dream for me: easy to see all the recent activities, tiny summary, all space used. Garmin had left over white space, I could add a calendar widget but that doesn’t show activities at all! It just wants to hook into my personal calendar. LLLAAAAMMME

The activity page is much the same: Garmin has it all, but the right side space is wasted, it’s all spaced out so there is more scrolling. I far prefer the condensed view, with option to see more, on the Polar page.

Bottom line: I wish Polar was easier on the eye and much smaller, but I’m selling the Garmin because for GPS accuracy is king

I want to keep the Garmin Venu Sq because the form factor is superior for me. I can get used to website differences and using a touch screen on the watch face. I’m sure there are settings I just don’t know about to fix some watch style issues and screen data. But, man, I just can’t with that accuracy. It just falls farther and farther behind as the miles stack up. I have no idea what that is about, but I have to guess that software and methods of processing data are just way, way better on Polar. Honestly, a ton of people that use other GPS watches still buy the Polar chest straps for heart rate monitoring, which proves some of their gear is just way better for accuracy on key metrics.

I am about to resell the Garmin to make a few bucks back, but I do want to have one more outing after I spend time with some settings. I do NOT like that you have to dig in to get Garmin accuracy better: I don’t feel like Polar or Samsung are like that at all. Polar just works – the only settings I dug into was watch faces and that has a website interface that makes it sooooo easy. Never had to monkey with it to get GPS to work better. /-: