Wednesday, 25 September 2013

GPS watches

Earlier this year I looked into upgrading my running watch, this wouldn't exactly be difficult because the only watches I had was 2 that I got free with a 'Running World' subscription and one that I bought of Ebay with a heart monitor for £10.
The first 2 watches ( a male version and a female version - long story) were basic running watches that told me nothing more than how long I had been running for and included a stopwatch - very basic.
The second one was beyond useless - it wasn't a GPS (none of them were) and the heart rate monitor was terrible and never seemed to keep it's connection. The calorie counter had to be reset every 30 mins so that proved pretty pointless too, it's not easy to run and fiddle with a watch at the same time.

Originally I wanted a Garmin - the latest model - and would still love it but I just cannot warrant the cost. It's funny but if Mr SG wanted something like that I would insist he have it regardless of the cost - I just don't like spending over £300 on myself so I had pretty much settled on buying a second hand one off EBay and was watching a couple of 305's in the hope of bagging a good deal.
It was while I was waiting for the auctions to end that I did some research on the watches and subsequently discovered a whole mine of information that kind of got me concerned about what I was buying.
One issue I found with the Garmins is that the ones I would need (heart rate monitor etc) weren't waterproof (except the new expensive models) - some had basic waterproofing but I'd read reviews that claimed it wasn't sufficient. I'm not sure why the waterproofing was an issue for me at that point because I only run and I had no intentions of going near water, but it was the first chink in the Garmin armour for me.
The next issue I found affects all GPS watches as far as I can tell and not just the Garmin. The batteries to these watches are not your average tiny battery you pick up from a local supermarket, they're big beefy batteries that have to be soldered.
I did some Youtube research on replacing the batteries but it put me off attempting it myself and from what I reviewed online it can be real expensive to have them replaced by Garmin - which you should do if you want to keep a warranty or insurance valid.
With this in mind I had to make the choice between buying a brand new Garmin at a brand new price (second hand ones would have unknown battery life left)  or looking at other brands - I chose the latter.

The watch I eventually settled on is a Bryton Sport cardio 35

Not my image.
It had all the features I needed such as Pace, Time, GPS, Calories, Heart rate monitor (at no extra cost) and was waterproof to 50mtrs. It also had functions specific to Biking and Running and I actually preferred the look of it to the Garmin 305 - less bulk on the wrist.

Not my image.

Not my image.

I paid around £60 for the whole kit and caboodle.
It's very easy to use the watch once you're familiar with the buttons and has been very accurate on all my runs and bike rides.
The few downsides:
* It can be a long process to set it up before each run. I have to wait for it to pick up satellites which can take a fair few minutes here in the Highlands.
* You can only see the data for one function at a time while running. Basically you choose what that function is before you run and then if you need to see other data you have to scroll while running. I think the Garmin show all data on the face - simpler and preferable.
* If it loses satellite (which it has done on 3 occasions) it doesn't always pick it back up and as there's no warning to let you know there's no signal being received so you generally don't know about it unless you clock watch every few minutes. This could actually be more of a problem of area rather than the watch though.
* Bryton has its own dedicated website for downloading data but the site isn't as interactive as Garmin sites and is pretty basic.
* Bryton watches aren't supported by many other independent interactive sites or apps so you're quite limited in that respect.

I love my Bryton sport 35 - I really do BUT although I'm not a gadget gal generally, I am when it comes to getting the best out of something that I use regular and with that in mind I would still love to get my hands on the Garmin Forerunner 910xt.


  1. Good review. I'm glad I live somewhere where it can pick up the GPS thing pretty quickly. I wish these fitness watches didn't cost so much. Does the heart monitor mean you have to wear something so that it can check it?

    1. Just had a look to see how much this watch costs here in Australia. The cheapest I found was $199 and they are as expensive as $269. Wow.

    2. Flippin eck, that is a ridiculous hike in price isn't it? And it's the same watch? I don't understand how they can get away with such a huge price difference.
      In answer to your first query, yes, for the heart monitor you wear a chest strap that sends data to the watch. I bought mine specifically for that function but haven't bothered using it yet, I'll probably use it when I stuck running on the dreadmill in winter.