Garmin today announced two significant updates to its Forerunner GPS watch lineup, the entry-level Forerunner 220 ($250; $300 with heart rate) and the more advanced Forerunner 620 ($400; $450 with an all-new heart-rate monitor package, HRM-Run). The watches will replace the existing 210 and 610, respectively. I have been testing the 620 for the past week, and have included some of our early findings below.
Thinner and lighter, both watches have physical dimensions that better suit a broad range of wrist sizes. Whereas previous models were bulky and the case had a rounded shape to accommodate the GPS-receiver chip, the new 620 and 220 incorporate the chip into a smaller package. A flexible hinge point connects the strap and case.
The 620 and 220 share a number of common features, including a high-resolution color display; the 620 is a touch-screen than works even if you’re wearing gloves. The 620’s screen feels much more like a smart phone’s display. It’s much more sensitive and responsive to the touch than the 610, which required extra pressure to navigate among on-screen options.
Whether indoors or running in an area where GPS signal is limited, a built-in accelerometer will track your distance and pace, so you don’t have to use a separate foot-pod sensor.
Before a run, customized workouts can be downloaded to the watch from Garmin Connect. During a run, alerts at predetermined time or distance intervals—such as every mile—will trigger sound and vibration alerts. Afterward, the watch will display personal records it has recorded, like your fastest time over common distances from one mile to the marathon, as well as your longest run.
At this time, we’ve been unable to test wireless functionality on our sample device, but both are supposed to include Bluetooth Low Energy connectivity. This allows you to link the watch to the Garmin Connect smart phone app (currently only on the iOS platform) to transfer workouts, use a live tracking service, and share your run via social networks. The 620 also features Wi-Fi functionality, so you can connect to a home or office network wirelessly and upload your workouts directly to the Garmin Connect website.
The Forerunner 620 offers a number of other advanced features, like a recovery advisor, VO2 max estimate, and race predictions. It also is available with a new heart rate strap, HRM-Run, that can offer feedback on three running form metrics.
When a runner trains with the heart rate monitor, the 620 uses your beats per minute, running speed, and other data to estimate your VO2 max, or the amount of oxygen you can consume (expressed as volume in milliliters, per minute, per kilogram of body weight), an indicator of your aerobic fitness.
Based on that figure, the watch predicts for how fast you can run four common distances: 5-K, 10-K, half-marathon, and marathon. How accurate is it? Well, the predictions in my first week of testing have proven slow, but that’s most likely because I was laboring unusually hard on several key runs during this short test period—a 6-miler on an unseasonably warm day mid-week, followed by an 8-mile mountain race on Saturday that included 3,500 feet of elevation gain. Obviously, my heart rate during both efforts was elevated relative to running speed.
After a run, the watch shows a color-coded gauge suggesting how much time you need to fully recover from the effort. My weekday easy runs usually resulted in somewhere around 20 hours of recovery time. The mountain race, however, led to the recommendation that I take 63 hours to recover.
The new heart-rate monitoring strap features an accelerometer that measures how much your torso moves and gives you a glance at three running form metrics: cadence, vertical oscillation, and ground contact time. Cadence is the total number of steps you take per minute. A lower number can be an indication that you’re overstriding. Vertical oscillation is a measure of the up-and-down movement during your running stride, measured in centimeters. Bouncing up and down requires energy that could otherwise be spent moving forward faster. Finally, ground contact time is a measure of how long your foot makes contact with the ground, measured in milliseconds. Combined, these three figures can give a runner an indication of their running form.
More information, including availability, can be found at Garmin.com.