Garmin 620

DSC_7498cropped-2

Intro

Let me first explain that I ran approximately 6 days a week for 2 years with the Garmin 610. On a steep downhill section in a marathon in the fall, my 610 spontaneously popped off my wrist. It slammed into the asphalt, cracked the screen, and froze. Given the opportunity, I decided to preorder the 620 instead of replacing my 610. There were some key features that attracted me that ultimately made me decide to upgrade. This sucker runs about $400.

 

ExpectationsDSC_7501cropped

I want to focus on these features and let you know if they lived up to the hype or at least the weight that I put on them.
1 – Smaller and lighter
2 – Better battery life
3 – WiFi and other wireless features
4 – Waterproof
5 – New types of data recorded when paired with the new heart rate strap

 

Results

1 – Smaller and lighter – By now you have probably read the specs. The 620 comes in 31 grams lighter than its predecessor the 610. That is quite a bit when you are going from 75 grams to 44 grams. (It is worth noting though that the 610 originally had a metal back. When it was updated with a plastic back it weighed in at 62 grams.) Honestly though, the weight of the 610 never really bothered me, and that is coming from a guy with little wrists. I’m serious, they could be mistaken for my mother’s…or a teenage girl’s. Take your pick.

 

DSC_7507croppedWith that said, the bulk, or lack thereof, is definitely noticeable. On my wrist, the 620 feels as close to a normal watch as any GPS running watch I have tried on. Garmin has sure made huge advances in trimming this thing down. I think the majority of people would now feel comfortable wearing the 620 around town as a casual watch. I even wore mine to the office today. One big difference is how the band attaches to the watch itself. I had a few women tell me that they purchased the 310XT, years after it had come out and newer watches were released, specifically because the band could fold flat and therefore the watch would fit their small wrists. This is the same with the 620. It really fits both men and women well.

So, smaller and lighter feature…I give it 2 thumbs up! It is lighter and noticeably smaller.

2 – Better battery life – Garmin claims 10 hours of GPS tracking on a single charge. I am yet to run for a full ten hours so I cannot attest to this directly. However, with my normal use I can tell that the battery lasts longer than my 610s battery did. I do not have to charge it as often. How is that for scientific for you? There is this though, a few weeks ago I ran 30 miles. I started the run on a full charge and finished in under 4 hours and 30 minutes. When I tossed the 620 on the charger it said that I had 56% battery left.

I would say that the 10 hours of battery life is more than sufficient for most runners. However, DSC_7517croppedfor those of us that are running longer distances, I for one wish the battery life was extended. I would have loved to see the 620 get touted for having 20 hours of life or more. I would gladly sacrifice a little bulk for a larger battery. Seems like it wouldn’t be too difficult to offer a version of the 620 that is a little bigger and has an extended battery life. I would even forgive Garmin for calling it the 620 MAXX or 620 ULTRA like phone manufacturers. (Why are there always 2 Xs on “MAXX?”)

So, better battery life feature…I give it 1 thumb up. It is better than the 610, but I was hoping for a little more.

3 – Wi-Fi and other wireless features – This was one of the biggest selling points for me. Call DSC_7503croppedme lazy, but I hated having to plug my 610 in to my computer to upload the data to Garmin Connect, or any of the many 3rd party sites out there. It was just another step that I had to complete after my run before my work day could begin. I often found myself speeding to work because I was running late again because I just had to upload my run before going to work! That kind of behavior had to stop. I wasn’t going to change, so clearly my watches capabilities needed to!

The first thing I did after pulling my 620 from the box was hook hook it up to my computer with the included USB cord so I could configure my Wi-Fi settings [ed note: Grrrr, another dang GPS cord to clutter my desk!.] I wanted to see my data automatically upload after my first run. This was bound to change my life. I got home from a longer weekend run, hit “Save,” and like magic 2 little arrows appeared at the top of the screen. I was still in my driveway and my data was uploading to Garmin Connect! Once I got inside, being the skeptic that I am, I pressed the “Connect” button located on the bottom right of the 620. Within seconds it displayed a screen stating that I didn’t have any files to upload. I quickly grabbed my phone and opened up my Garmin Connect app. Sure enough, there was the data from the run.DSC_7499cropped-2

For almost two solid months the auto uploads worked flawlessly. I believed that magic did exist. And then in early February the arrows no longer appeared after a run. I pressed the “Connect” button and after an extended appearance of a screen reading “Searching for Wi-Fi Network” it displayed “Cannot find a known Wi-Fi network.” I was devastated. I shut the 620 off and turned it back on. Still no “known Wi-Fi network.” I frantically tested every other mobile device in my house to see if my wireless network had just gone down. Sadly, it was just the 620 that was having issues.

I have not been able to solve the problem for the last couple of weeks. Twice now, my data has uploaded despite the 620 telling me that it can’t find my network. I even received an over-the-air software update that seemed to download fine. I have resorted to uploading my data using the Garmin Connect app on my wife’s iPad for now. Hopefully I will get to the bottom of this issue soon though because it really is my favorite feature of the 620.

DSC_7521croppedThe other wireless features that are appealing to some include the ability to setup live tracking through the Garmin Connect app. This was not a selling point for me because I rarely, I mean next to never, run with my phone. I can see the appeal to the live tracking feature though. Especially come race day. How convenient it would be for my wife or other family members and friends to know exactly where I was and when they needed to be at a certain location to see me run by.

So, Wi-Fi and other wireless features…I give it 1 and a half thumbs up. I would love to give 2, but have to knock of a half because of the issues I have been having. Like I said, when it was working it was like magic, but losing it after experiencing it was like learning the tooth fairy isn’t real, and isn’t going to bring you money anymore.

4 – Waterproof – The 620 is not just water-resistant like the 610. It has the similar protection to

Waterproof!
Waterproof!

the 310XT and the 910. It can be fully submerged without worry. I rarely swim so I was not looking at the waterproof feature through my goggles wearing a swim cap. Instead, I thought

about vacationing at a beach and diving into the cool ocean right after a run. I could do this without having to take my watch off. I could also hop directly in the shower after a run and not have to worry about my watch. It’s these little things that make life easier.

I am guessing that Garmin was thinking about these types of things when it decided to make the 620 waterproof. They didn’t seem to have the swimmer in mind because the 620 lacks the swimming features that are included in the 910. Remember, the 620 is Garmin’s premium running watch. It is not specifically targeted towards triathletes.

So, waterproof feature…I give it 2 thumbs up! Less worry and less hassle equals a better life.

5 – New types of data recorded when paired with the new hear rate strap – If you have researched the 620 at all you know that when paired with the new HRM-Run monitor you get data for cadence, ground contact time, and vertical oscillation. I am a self-proclaimed analytic. Really, all that means is that I love data and I love analyzing it. When I saw that I was going to get more to analyze with the 620 I was excited. Garmin has marketed the 620 heavily using these added features. But, part of me wanted to know if they were just gimmicks. Were they just going to be novel for a few runs and then I would forget about them? Let’s break them down one by one.

Cadence – There are many that say that the perfect cadence is 180 steps per minute. Obviously this number is dependent on the person. Everyone is different and not everyone is going to hit

Data!
Data!

180 steps per minute, nor should everyone strive to. Your cadence is going to change depending on terrain, pace, and other factors. The one thing that Garmin doesn’t really go out of its way to point out is that the 620 records cadence without the HRM-Run monitor. So, if you don’t care about ground contact time or vertical oscillation, you can save yourself a few bucks and opt for just the watch.

Ground contact time – This is pretty self explanatory. Ground contact time is a calculation of the time each foot is spent on the ground. It is measured in milliseconds. I have not read that there is an ideal ground contact time, but more or less the goal is to have your feet on the ground for as little time as possible. In short, the less your ground contact time, the less friction, the faster you are.

Vertical oscillation – In layman’s terms, vertical oscillation means how much you bounce.

Geek alert!
Geek alert!

Vertical oscillation is a measurement of how much your torso goes up and down as you run. Theoretically, the more you bounce, the less efficient you are.

OK. So, this is a lot of new data. Does it matter? The casual runner (whatever that means) is probably going to see the novelty of this new data wear off pretty quickly. Those that utilize spreadsheets, you know who you are, to track their training are going to love them! The best way that I have found to use this new data is too look at it by comparing the beginning, middle, and end of a run and then by comparing multiple similar runs.

DSC_7511croppedWhen looking at a single run, I like to see how the time on my feet effects me. It is easy to see if my pace slows down by the end, but with the new data I can see how tired I am and if my form is falling apart. If my cadence drops, I can see where my stride likely changed because of fatigue. If my ground contact time increases, I can see where my hips and quads likely tightened up and I just wasn’t as quick at picking up my feet. Lastly, when my vertical oscillation increases, it is probably because my core was spent and any chance of good form went out the window. I can then do a similar analysis between multiple similar runs and see which days I was feeling more on top of my running and which days I wasn’t.

So, new types of data feature…I give it two thumbs up! As I said, I am a data junky. I love to analyze my running and see where I can improve. I recognize that these features are not for everyone but I enjoy them. If you think the new data is overkill or you wouldn’t use it, look closely at the 220. It is a feature packed alternative to the 620 at a great price.

Verdict

That’s a wrap on summing up my experience of running with the Garmin 620 for 3 months. I love the 620. It almost fits my needs perfectly. Sure there are a few things that could be tweaked, as I mentioned, but overall it is a solid GPS watch. If I went back in time 3 months with the knowledge that I have now, I would purchase the 620 again. Just because it works for me though doesn’t mean it is the watch for everyone, but if you’re a data junkie like me, it’s a great place to start.

That's James.
That’s James.

 

[ed note: James Clissold is a data junkie and creative running attorney who occasionally blogs at jamesclissold.com and posts photos on instagram @james_clissold.  He was kind enough to review this Garmin ForeRunner 620 for us, as too many buttons and numbers make my head spin.]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>