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Attackpoint - performance and training tools for orienteering athletes

Discussion: What is the current best GPS watch

in: Orienteering; Gear & Toys

Apr 17, 2020 6:45 PM # 
I have had a Garmin 620 for quite a few years. However, recently the heart rate monitor stopped working. I change the battery, and it works one time, and then stops. After 3 battery changes, I think it must be something in the electronics. Also, the watch's main battery dies before 3 hours. Any recommendations for a new good GPS watch that gives accurate routes?
Apr 17, 2020 7:18 PM # 
Garmin Fenix.
Apr 17, 2020 7:37 PM # 
My Garmin Forerunner 235 does everything I want it to. However, I think the optical-sensor heart rate monitor suffers from cadence lock so I use it with an old chest-strap heart rate monitor.
Apr 17, 2020 7:38 PM # 
Danny Riley:
Don't confuse price with accuracy though, my Forerunner 35 is far, far more accurate in terms of GPS route (not in terms of wrist-mounted heart rate) than my old Forerunner 235 was for $100 less.
Apr 17, 2020 9:07 PM # 
I confirm FR 235's accuracy is very poor, in any setting
Apr 18, 2020 12:30 AM # 
I like the FR 235. I take the optical wrist sensor HR info with a grain of salt (and pair a HR strap if I want a better reading) but the routes, distance and climb are close enough for my purposes, and probably will be for yours, Evan.

I use it as my everyday watch. Battery lasts a long time (days) if you're not using the watch to take a track.
Apr 18, 2020 10:54 AM # 
Reasons why people might think their gps watch is very poor:
1) They have the watch set to record a point the default every four seconds instead of the possible every second.
2) They have the watch set to pick up only the American GPS satellites instead of also the Russian GLONASS satellites
3) They try to find the satellites while under a heavy canopy of trees or around buildings. Then it will take time for the watch to correct as it locates more satellites
4) They are trying to locate the satellites while on the move
5) They are just prone to complain.
Apr 18, 2020 11:36 AM # 
Don't forget turning on the GPS a minute before being called to collect a map on an O course and wondering why it hasn't picked them up by the time they start running!
Apr 18, 2020 12:00 PM # 
IMHO latest watches actually are less accurate. Because for marketing reasons these new models has smaller antenna, just to make it smaller, slimmer and more lightweight. Only orienteers need good positioning accuracy, rest of the user base prefers slim form factor over overly accurate positioning. When new technology like GLONASS and new chips are available antennas get swapped to smaller to make the device slimmer.

Just compare old 305 and these latest devices, both size and accuracy and figure how things has been evolving.
Apr 18, 2020 12:42 PM # 
Indeed, Jagge. I use an Ambit 3 Vertical (which lacks the "knob" antenna of the other Ambit 3 models) for training and everyday use, and a (much older) GPS Pod for competitions. The latter has way better accuracy.
Apr 18, 2020 1:10 PM # 
Is there an aerial you could wear on your head/helmet which bluetooths into a watch? I use an external antenna for mapping with my handheld, but it has a wire.
Apr 18, 2020 3:22 PM # 
The way I orienteer, an antenna on my head or helmet wouldn't last very long.
Apr 18, 2020 7:09 PM # 
I like my Polar Vantage M.

Battery life for orienteering is 30 hours.

I find it comfortable, durable, accurate.

It’s also my every day watch. As an watch, in non GPS mode, battery life is a couple weeks.
Apr 18, 2020 10:46 PM # 
Everything (or almost everything) about fitness gadgets and comparisons between them.
Apr 19, 2020 2:56 AM # 
pick up only the American GPS satellites instead of also the Russian GLONASS satellites

There ain't no way I am letting my watch receive a signal with instructions from Kremlin!
Apr 19, 2020 7:58 AM # 
Terje Mathisen:
I have had a bunch of Garmin watches (405/405/405/410, 620/620/620, 735/735), I have to agree with both Jagge (the chipsets are getting better and better but we don't get the potential improvements due to design/power usage considerations), and gordhun (always turn on one-second logging and all available sat constellations).

(I've paid for 3 watches, the rest have been free replacements from Garmin.)
Apr 19, 2020 10:18 AM # 
My personal favorite is the Garmin vivoactive HR, but I heard it's been discontnued. I don't really know how accurate it is or anything, I think it's just that I'm very used to it by now.
Apr 19, 2020 11:39 AM # 
I can hear them in the Kremlin now, "где "Юрец". Мы должны найти этого тупого парня."
Apr 19, 2020 12:38 PM # 
Get a Coros.
Apr 19, 2020 1:45 PM # 
Nothing is accurate in urban sprint terrain (eg a uni campus). But outside of mappers, orienteers don't really need a high level of accuracy. When you download your route after an event, you've already got a pretty good idea of where you went, so the major issue is really bragging rights, ie 'My route was shorter than yours!'

I've used a 305, 310, 235 and 735 and haven't noticed a lot of difference - except the 235/735 wrist HR is not as accurate as the chest band on the 305/310.
Apr 19, 2020 2:04 PM # 
So, any reason to go beyond the 35 if you just want a track logger of reasonable accuracy for orienteering and a watch? I'm not seeing anything in the discussion above to suggest so.
Apr 19, 2020 4:31 PM # 
@feet: No.
Apr 19, 2020 8:51 PM # 
Like BrianJohnston, I am a satisfied Polar Vantage M customer.

GPS accuracy not perfect but as discussed above, it's hard to find one in watch size that is perfect. It's good enough for my purposes and (that iamstillhungry alluded to) rates it as comparable to most of the rest. (Aside: dcrainmaker is a great website for these devices, the only "complaint" I could possibly come up with is that it is so much detailed information, it can be hard to get to the point.)

The heart rate that it reports (wrist sensor, personally I could not be bothered with a chest strap) usually seems sensible but I haven't cross-checked it against other devices. There are definitely periods, usually just the first few minutes of a run, when reported the heart rate is 50-100% too high.

The main thing to distinguish the Vantage M is, as Brian mentioned, the 30-hour battery life when tracking at one-second interval. I charge it once every week or two, with one or two hours of tracked activity each day.

So to feet's question: The Vantage M won't do anything beyond what the Forerunner 35 will do, and the latter costs a lot less. Unless you want to track a full rogaine, or a 100 km trail run, or a 3-day backpacking trip.
Apr 19, 2020 10:57 PM # 
To get an accurate position, any GPS reciever must first download information about the health of each satellite and determine the correct time. This "cold start" procedure takes about 12.5 minutes before a precise location can be logged.
I have a FR-10 which works great for logging my orienteering. My Garmin 310xt may be marginally better if I am recording data to use in mapping.
Apr 20, 2020 4:40 AM # 
Terje Mathisen:
@haywooddkb: Yes, a gps needs all satellite orbit parameters (ephemeris) as well as an approximate position & time.

However, a modern gps watch will get that info over bluetooth from a connected cell phone (235/735/etc) or via a PC while usb charging (620). The result is that even after a full reset and subsequent cold start, my 735 locates itself in a minute or two.

Warm starts are down to 5-10 s.
Apr 20, 2020 5:34 AM # 
You should always know pretty well where you went without gps, that's not what it is for. And if you don't know it usually is not that useful to know where you were when you were lost.

More interesting is how time was spent, seconds lost and gained here and there and how those seconds accumulate and is tehre patterns where you typicalle loos or win. less accurate gps track is less useful tack is for this analysis and only bigger differences can be deteted reliable way, also manual work is smaller if track are acurate.

here is plenty of all kinds of analysis tools, here is a video of me using on and comparing two tracks recorded with not that accurate cell phones (some manual work needed as you can see).

With good gps you pretty much just need to push button, here I often have to tweak tracks to make at least hit control circle. Needless to say good gps accuracy makes analysis like this a lot easier and reliable.
Apr 20, 2020 4:03 PM # 
Most of the time, yes. But occasionally a different type of analysis ---how the hell did I get lost???? (that was me last Saturday)--- is taking place and that is where a good accuracy gps helps.

The difference between FR 305 and 235: with 305 I had a proof that my
perception during the run "this control is set incorrectly" is true (or false). With 235 it is still an allegation after downloading the track, most of the time.
Apr 20, 2020 4:10 PM # 
In that situation, there is the question of whether, even if the GPS is accurate, is the map accurate?
Apr 20, 2020 4:15 PM # 
Used Garmin 23 for about year. Gps precision is quite good. Wrist HR monitor not really useful while exercising - records BR about 20-30% higher then actual, switched to chest band.

Couple notes.
- Battery doesn't hold charge after 1 year: now it's down to less than 2 days on charge vs initial about 5-6 days.
- Time from time watch wasn't able to connect to iPhone on Bluetooth. System needed complete power off/on circle to restore connectivity
- At least twice gps stopped talking to watch, and didn't record any tracks. Same power off/on helped. This problem most likely fixed in recent firmware update.
Apr 21, 2020 5:24 AM # 
Terje Mathisen:
@div: I've had free replacements of my Garmin watches 2 or 3 times when the battery stopped holding a useful charge. Try contacting their support which is the best I have ever been in touch with, at any company.
Apr 21, 2020 7:23 AM # 
Funny that - I would have ranked them among the worst. Have made several contacts about getting a screen replaced on my 235 and not a single reply.
Apr 21, 2020 8:06 AM # 
even if the GPS is accurate, is the map accurate?

when you compare two accurate enough race tracks it doesn't matter how accurate maps is or if there even is a map at background at all (paper map at hand is usually enough).
Apr 21, 2020 8:19 AM # 
simmo, I think the US supplier is better than the Aus one. I've seen several comments on AP about getting free replacements for Garmins but I've always had to pay for a 'refurbished' replacement (generally about half the cost of a new one).
Apr 21, 2020 8:47 AM # 
I've had good service for my handheld Garmin. In NZ there's a freecall number which is handled by Garmin Australia.
Apr 21, 2020 10:25 AM # 
it doesn't matter how accurate maps is or if there even is a map at background at all

Well, consider the hypothetical case where someone felt that a control was misplaced, let's say by 20 meters, too high in a reentrant and therefore not at the center of the circle. A GPS track could be superimposed on a scan of the map, and then used as proof that the control was in the wrong place. There are more factors than the accuracy of the GPS unit that need to be considered when deciding whether that proof is solid.
Apr 21, 2020 10:41 AM # 
Right, I agree. Misplaced or not can be tricky question with sketchy maps. I have seen case where same flag was on right boulder when approaching from north and on wrong boulder when approaching from south.
Apr 21, 2020 2:04 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
@Jagge: That is more or less the definition of a bad control site and/or a bad map. :-)

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