Wednesday, 14 March 2012

New toy time?

As regular readers may already know about me, I have a weakness for small electronic gadgets - anything that measures, records and makes charts and maps of sporting activity is especially appreciated. I should add that this is somewhat at odds with my complete lack of technical capacity; I have no real understanding of how these things work, and what's more, I don't really care. I just want them to work.

Anyway, one of the things about swimming (unlike something like triathlon, for example) is the relative lack of gadgetry, outside of lap-counting watches (also greatly appreciated, given the tendency for my mind to wander while I'm pool swimming, causing me to lose count after only a couple of laps). Until very recently, the possibilities for excessive recording of data were fairly limited, but then - oh glory of glories - comes not one very promising GPS-based OW swimming gadget, but TWO.

The first is the Garmin 910xt:

Worn on the wrist, this is an all-singing, all-dancing triathlon device, promising instant feedback across a variety of metrics.

The second newcomer is the Finis Hydro Tracker:

This clips to the goggle straps on the back of the head, and gathers data which can then be downloaded onto a computer later.

I'm not in a position to offer a review of either of these, but am, inevitably, trying to decide which one I should go for....because let's face it, it's only a matter of time in spite of my very best intentions to resist. So how should I decide....and what factors am I choosing between? (I should add that I have no connection with either company and these are only my personal views....although if Finis or Garmin are reading this, my loyalty can be easily bought in exchange for shiny toys).

Well firstly, the Garmin retails around the £350 mark, so it's quite an investment. The Finis Hydrotracker isn't yet available directly in the UK, but is retailing at $129 in the US. So, in absolute terms, there's a significant price difference between the two. Secondly, there is the difference between immediately available feedback versus post-swim analysis. The possibility of getting that instant feedback from the Garmin is very appealing, especially given the tendency of my attention to wander in the OW and drop off the pace. However, at the end of the day, I'm not sure whether that's something I'm prepared to pay the extra £200 to have. And the final important difference between the two is how they are worn. To gain the benefit of the instant feedback, the Garmin has to be worn on the wrist (as intended by design), while the Hydro Tracker is on the back of the head. My wrists and hands are quite small, and I find that large sports watches aggravate the ongoing tendon problems that I have with my right wrist. So I wonder how long I would be able to swim with it on. I'm assuming that I would get used to having the unit on the back of my head, but I'd be very worried about losing it.

I'm sure that there are far more subtle differences between the two, but at the moment, I'm dealing with the two different concepts rather than their specifics and trying to decide which is the best option to go for (if at all...). Any advice from the early adopters out there?


  1. Hi Karen

    So I have the previous generation Garmin device, and I use it in the manner of the Finis device (I mount it on my goggle strap) in order to get the best GPS signal. I'm not too concerned about looking at stats while I am actually swimming, and truth be told not sure how useful that would be (your speed indication is modified by current so you can't really tell level of effort that way)

    I'd say the main argument for the Garmin compared to the Finis in this case is that the Garmin has alot of other functions (lap counting in pools, other sports), so you need to figure out if you will use those or not.

    Worth looking at the DC Rainmaker review of the Garmin device if you have not already seen it

  2. Thanks for this David. Good point about the current etc - most of my everyday OW swimming is in current-free lakes, so that side of it probably would offer some useful information (although nothing that measuring the course and timing laps doesn't solve anyway).

    Good point too about the other functions - I've got a lot of these covered with other toys (Poolmate; older, non-waterproof Garmin), but there is an obvious appeal of consolidating. Still a bit concerned about the size for pool swimming. But food for thought....and the review link is really helpful.



Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.