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Discussion: Garmin FR230 vs Polar M400

in: Orienteering; Gear & Toys

Jan 23, 2016 7:24 AM # 
Does anyone have experience with either of these? They seem to have similar features but the Polar is significantly cheaper. I am particularly interested in the accuracy of the GPS data.
Jan 23, 2016 2:01 PM # 
If GPS accuracy in forest is interesting better stay away from these light weight wrist GPS watches. The trend seems to be as soon as GPS chips get better antennas are swapped to worse ones to make watches less bulky and more light weight. This is why new watches perform fine when there is no forest, but in forest accuracy is quite poor.
Jan 23, 2016 4:30 PM # 
Sorry I wasn't clear. I am actually looking for a watch HRM for training. Within this category, I am curious about how the GPS data compares. Jagge, my old Garmin 305 has finally died. Will the newer watches given their smaller sizes have less accurate GPS?
Jan 23, 2016 5:44 PM # 
I've got the FR235.. love it so far (sine mid December). GPS has proven quite accurate and I haven't even tried it with GLONASS turned on which would effectively double the visible satellites to work with. Haven't run an O course with it yet though. And having HR without needing a chest strap is nice...
Jan 24, 2016 5:59 AM # 
Thanks for the info. Was looking at the 235 but was a little unsure about the HR without chest strap. How is the battery life? Can u turn the HR function off?
Jan 24, 2016 6:53 AM # 
You might die if you turn your HR function off. I recommend against this course of action.
Jan 24, 2016 7:02 AM # 
Jan 24, 2016 8:07 AM # 
Amazon has the Forerunner 225 on sale for $238. I don't know how long the sale runs.
Jan 24, 2016 10:36 AM # 
With small light weight I was referring to these 45 .. 55 g watches. Just think about it, after strap battery and everything there can't be too much grams wasted for antenna. So antenna is really tiny or watch bezel is used as an antenna. Because gps chip is modern it works just fine with clear view to the sky, but accuracy gets poor in forest. Don't get me wrong, these are fine units for the purpose they are designed for, jogging by the road or such. Why would average jogger consumer want bulkier and heavier watch with ability to track well in deep forest he never enters or needs tracks logged accurately in forest. What majority wants somewhat reliable distance. So that's what these units deliver.

Here is example how these units with inferior antenna typically perform.
As you can see everything is fine unless you enter forest and as soon as you enter open area from forest track gets correct again. Low sparse forest is no problem, but typical old scandinavian forest is too much of a task for the antenna.

Devices with bulkier antenna have no problem - simultaneus log, same run, same hand
(Even if this is logged different brand this is the type of track I get with old fr305)
Jan 24, 2016 1:23 PM # 
You can turn off the optical HR feature of the 235, or use a chest strap with it if you want. I have found that a lot of times the optical HR is pretty good (and certainly convenient), but it does sometimes get stuck at the wrong value. So I don't really trust it yet. The optical sensor wants to be a bit further up your arm than you are probably used to wearing a watch. On the other hand my chest straps often give bad readings, but those are usually a bit more obvious. I do like the optical sensor for RHR tracking.

Battery life is comparable to others of the same size but I think a bit less than the rated 11 hrs / 9 days. I usually recharge from 50% every 3-4 days. The one time I took it out for a long day in the cold it died after recording about 5 hours, but I'm not sure if it had been fully charged. We have been getting almost weekly firmware updates so Garmin is presumably working on the issues.
Jan 24, 2016 2:19 PM # 
I would always look at the DC Rainmaker site when considering GPS watches. Lots of good information and reviews there:
Jan 24, 2016 3:19 PM # 
Optical HR has seemed pretty solid for me, a couple times in cold weather it's gone wonky, but tightening up the watch band a few notches fixes things, probably due to reduced blood flow to the hands in the cold.

Battery seems ok, but I usually recharge on my drive to work each morning so only gets low on weekends if I'm not driving anywhere.. It does operate while recharging, so for really long runs (ultras/rogaines) I may toss it on a USB battery in a fanny pack while still running to recharge. I'm not as likely to look at it as much at night anyhow.
Jan 24, 2016 6:41 PM # 
I´m really happy with my polar m400. takes some time to find the gps but then it is very accurate (even in the forrest) HR is pretty decent too :)
Jan 24, 2016 7:43 PM # 
Unfortunately DC rainmaker does not do any real accuracy comparisons. Here is slightly better site but I believe they don't do accuracy tests in forest either.

It is difficult to say is good if there is nothing to compare with. M400 is rated as the least accurate device at the fellrnr site. Old 305 is not there but 205 is tested, it is essentially the same device without HR functonality.
Jan 24, 2016 7:53 PM # 
a couple times in cold weather it's gone wonky, but tightening up the watch band a few notches fixes things, probably due to reduced blood flow to the hands in the cold

Somehow the idea that applying a tourniquet in this situation is a good idea creeps me out. :-)
Jan 24, 2016 8:08 PM # 
from fellrnr site: "With the Garmin devices especially, you can see that the older watches generally do far better than the newer ones. I suspect this is due to compromises to get better battery life and smaller packaging and the cost of GPS accuracy. "

That's exactly what I tried to say. And the difference is greatest in track accuracy in forest, and that's exactly what orienteers usually use it for.
Jan 25, 2016 4:53 AM # 
Thanks for your responses everyone. Great info, Jagge. That is what I was curious about.
Jan 25, 2016 8:51 AM # 
Comparison of TomTom Cardio Runner (large Antenna around screen and 4-way button) versus Garmin Forerunner 610 (smaller antenna around screen). Steep forest with usually rather bad GPS signal (the south-east part of the loop was on a ridge, with better GPS reception).

TomTom watch was clearly better. I don't how much newer Garmins improved (does Glonass really make a difference?).
Jan 25, 2016 11:57 AM # 
WR, to get better comparison you should do half of the loop the opposite direction to reveal systematic errors. Or even better, not doing a loop but an winding out and back section instead. As you can see both tracks differ most on the way to the loop vs. back from the loop.

I am quite certain old 205/305 would beat both of these hand down. Newer garmins may not be better than your unit, it may well be the opposite. Polar v800 and Ambits still have ceramic patch antennas like in the old garmins had and that shows in accuracy and weight/size. None of the recent garmin models I am aware off has such an antenna any more - not needed for triathlon or such exercises with unobstructed view to the sky.
Jan 25, 2016 1:07 PM # 
You may be right, Jagge. Unfortunately i sold my Garmin recently, but maybe I'll collect some GPS watches at the next club meeting and make a more sophisticated comparison.

Garmin FR 305 was my first GPS watch. GPS accuracy was the same as for the FR 610, but finding satellite signals took much longer. Accuracy and acquisition speed of TomTom is better than both...
Jan 25, 2016 1:53 PM # 
You ha to wait for old 205/305 to lock at least 10 satellites to get accurate track. If you start moving too early (when it says it has fix and suggests you can start) you did got poor track, just like the 610 delivers. So one ahd to be very patient to get most out of the device.

But still you may be correct and tomtom may be more accurate that I thought. Fellrnr had tested it and did not rate it that well, but now when I look at it the accuracy issue looks more like an antenna direction issue than poor antenna/device thing. Feels like it produces two tight paths, one for both running direction and the correct path being halfway in between. And that makes average error figures look somewhat large and that results as a low rating compared to the accuracy in practice. You seem have similar systematic error in your track, error to the side you were carrying the watch. With some devices (like Ambits) I can erase that error by wearing it differently (inside wrist, upside down). I suggest try it some time for out and back course, may make significant difference making track staying all the time within +-7 meters on that course (now you had about 25m between out and back track). But still cant know how it behaves in old tall dense spruce forest. I have seen several gps devices slightly more accurate than 305 in open area being far more inaccurate in forest like that, for too small antenna.
Mar 17, 2016 1:38 PM # 
Looking for a new watch. How is GPS accuracy of FR 910XT , compare with 305?
They are now refurbished $129 with 1-yr warranty on ebay.
Mar 21, 2016 12:11 AM # 
I have had a Polar M400 for almost a year. Liked it, and the forest accuracy seemed reasonable - but since Christmas the export function on the web site has been very erratic in exporting a TCX file. Minimal response form Polar - 'they are working on it'
Mar 21, 2016 12:35 AM # 
I think 305's for $129 (or $99 if you send a broken one to them) is a great deal.
Mar 21, 2016 8:49 AM # 
From Garmin line I would most likely pick 910xt. It still had an actual antenna (not steel bezel used as an antenna) and it recorded track just fine. I had opportunity to try one couple of days. It felt like a bit disappointment back then what it comes to accuracy because there wasn't much improvement over 305, but it felt not that much worse either. From today's perspective it sure was and is a great watch for more recent devices being less impressive. The baro altimeter in it is pretty poor. Or at least that's my impression of the device, there must be several users here who know better.
Mar 21, 2016 9:20 AM # 
I picked up a Forerunner 15 when I was in the USA last year. It is great and just as accurate as my 305, very simple upload, runs in watch mode for a few days but in GPS mode only 4-5 hours so no good for rogaines but fine for most normal runs

Also much cheaper than other options

This discussion thread is closed.