garmin fr60 review: part 1

Run speed

For my run­ning pro­gram, this has been a year of firsts: In Jan­u­ary, I bought my first MP3 play­er since 1999 and start­ed run­ning with music. Music! But music doesn’t make you faster. My inner engi­neer decid­ed that more data was need­ed. A few months ago, Garmin released the FR60, the first prod­uct that cor­re­lates foot-pod accelerom­e­ter and heart rate data in an agree­able-look­ing dig­i­tal watch. I know sev­er­al peo­ple who are fans of the sim­i­lar Nike+ sys­tem, and I’ve often won­dered about these foot pods—are they at all accu­rate? Garmin’s lit­er­a­ture promised “98% accu­ra­cy,” which is good enough for me, so I bought one.

Turns out, Garmin lies. My first run with the watch was a huge let­down: the instan­ta­neous pace read­out, the main fea­ture that led me to pur­chase the prod­uct, was indi­cat­ing more than 1 minute slow­er (per mile) than I believed I was run­ning based on old-fash­ioned esti­ma­tion. That would rep­re­sent an error of more than 12%. To check my san­i­ty, I bor­rowed a fanci­er watch that uses GPS, not accelerom­e­ter data, to cal­cu­late speed. I did a quick jog/walk with both prod­ucts and cor­re­lat­ed the data shown here: GPS speed (Fore­run­ner 305) in blue, foot-pod speed (FR60) in red. Sure enough, my speed esti­mates were more accu­rate than the watch read­out! But I was sur­prised to see the cor­re­la­tion improve dra­mat­i­cal­ly dur­ing walk­ing.

While Garmin makes no effort to call out its neces­si­ty, the FR60 offers a cal­i­bra­tion pro­ce­dure to improve the foot-pod accu­ra­cy. Will cal­i­bra­tion improve run­ning-speed accu­ra­cy at the expense of walk­ing? We’ll find out in part two.

10 Comments

  1. Jacktar December 30, 2009

    Polar is anoth­er option for foot pod accelerom­e­ter based watch­es & heart rate mon­i­tors. I have RS400 SD, and a friend has the RS800, both rec­om­mend ini­tial cal­i­bra­tion, and even ref­er­ence it when chang­ing shoes. I find accu­ra­cy is much sub­ject to my ener­gy level/pace. My wife has the Nike  and even after simul­tan­ious cal­i­bra­tion after run­ning iden­ti­cal dis­tance at the same pace, the very next mile, Nike  always thinks is longer by between 50 and 300 feet.

  2. Karen December 30, 2009

    Sooo…  I actu­al­ly got one of these for Christ­mas and just hap­pened to see this – did you ever com­plete part 2?

  3. Simon Lewis January 24, 2010

    I also want to know if you did part 2.  I have an FR60 but no foot pod.  I was think­ing of get­ting one so I am inter­est­ed to know if it got more accu­rate.

  4. Scott January 25, 2010

    Yes, I did even­tu­al­ly cal­i­brate my FR60 foot pod on a run­ning track and I am hap­py to say it seems very accu­rate now–at least at nor­mal run­ning speeds.  I have not yet checked it against the GPS at walk­ing speeds.  I will have to do anoth­er com­par­i­son.

    Unfor­tu­nate­ly my FR60 is now back in Garmin’s hands to repair a prob­lem in which the lap but­ton does not work at cold tem­per­a­tures.

  5. Miguel February 9, 2010

    I was explained that the gps sys­tems are actu­al­ly less accu­rate than the foot pod, espe­cial­ly around curved routes.  The rea­son is that the gps takes points peri­od­i­cal­ly.  If you are on a curve when it cal­cu­lates the dis­tance it is a straight line so it doesn’t take into account the arc.  So on long runs with and curvy roads if your gps is not tak­ing many points/readings it may not be as accu­rate as you want.

  6. Miguel February 10, 2010

    I got the watch yes­ter­day and unfor­tu­nate­ly it broke all ready.  I was run­ning in the dark and need­ed to use the back­light a lot.  I unfor­tu­nate­ly noticed that the light but­ton had fall­en off!  I am on my way to take it back to the store short­ly. 

    The set­up and ease of use was much eas­i­er than I expect­ed.  I had read that it was dif­fi­cult to nav­i­gate and there was not start stop func­tion­al­i­ty.  I found it to be very easy.  I set things up very quick­ly with no pre­vi­ous expe­ri­ence on a device like this. 

    The foot pod was pret­ty accu­rate with­out any cal­i­bra­tion.  It seemed to be very close to what I expect­ed for the route I took. I will mea­sure it on a real track over the week­end. 

    I hope the store will replace it with on that the but­ton will stay on!

  7. mhar012003 February 27, 2011

    Garmin FR60 …..THIS PRODUCT REALLY IS A WASTE OF TIME AND MONEY!
    I bought this prod­uct yes­ter­day from Sam’s Club.
    Set­ting the time was easy, but that was the only thing, set­ting up this device is redicu­lous­ly com­plex and unin­tu­itive.
    There are many more than a few things you have to do before you are ready to go.
    This device does not make your work­out sim­ple…. and you will hate the com­plex­i­ty of this device, the dis­com­fort, and the quick set­up guide is any­thing but quick and it refers you to a man­u­al which you have to access on the web. It is clear that this is a quick to mar­ket device to steal mon­ey from impulive buy­ers who will put it in a draw­er nev­er to be used again.
    The set­up video on the Garmin site is mis­lead­ing, this device is not sim­ple.
    After fol­low­ing Garmin instruc­tions, I strapped on the heart rate mon­i­tor, and start­ed thru the screen menus try­ing to get it to work,
    after about 30 min­utes of back and forth, screen to screen, I final­ly got the heart rate to showup, but I don’t know how I got it to work, as as soon as I changed screens it quit work­ing.
    The screen menu is com­plex and unin­tu­itive.
    Next I tried the vir­tu­al part­ner, it was just as con­fus­ing and frus­trat­ing.
    Ok I moved on the foot­pod. It was eas­i­er to set­up but still com­plex.
    I went run­ning with the foot­pod and it mea­sured time and dis­tance, but I could nev­er mon­i­tor heart rate at the same time.
    Afer com­ming back from run­ning, I down­loaded the Garmin­Con­nect which is required to get infor­ma­tion into your com­put­er. The down­load took too much time but final­ly came through.
    Next.. get the Ant  stick to pair with the FR60…after an hour of load­ing, reload­ing, rebooting…etc…. the ANT stick could not find the FR60 for pair­ing.
    I returned the device to SAM’S FOR A REFUND.

    SAVE YOUR MONEY, YOUR TIME, AND FRUSTRATION, FORGET THE
    FR60 WITH ANT  com­mu­nic­tion.

  8. Joe April 3, 2011

    mhar012003 is obvi­ous­ly a retard. You bought a device, use the man­u­al – I got one with mine I sus­pect this is the same for most and I don’t see the valid­i­ty in your com­plaint regard­ing the online ver­sion (you seem to have man­aged to go online and post that tes­ta­ment to your stu­pid­i­ty) it should be direct­ed at the store you bought the item from. Evi­dent­ly you don’t mix well with tech­nol­o­gy so here’s a bit of advice get your­self a watch and a map.

    In any case the accu­ra­cy of the foot pod can be ques­tion­able but I have found that if cal­i­brat­ed on a run­ning track it should aver­age out cor­rect­ly that or a new bat­tery may be need­ed for the foot pod. Over­all I have found this to be a good prod­uct for the mon­ey.

  9. Runner April 19, 2011

    The FR60 is an excel­lent watch.  It’s this “review” that is worth­less.  It’s like try­ing to watch a mon­key start a car with a banana.  Look for oth­er reviews with real infor­ma­tion and read the man­u­al. Jeez.

  10. Chris July 5, 2011

    I was using a Garmin 305 and found it to be a great watch but too bulky for my pref­er­ence. I did a ton of research before set­tling on the Garmin FR60. I liked the reports, the ease of use and most impor­tant­ly the size. Like most, I was con­cernced about the accu­ra­cy as com­pared to the GPS. I wore both wathch­es for sev­er­al runs and found them to be off by more than 10%. I recal­i­brat­ed the FR60 at a track and after that the watch­es were nev­er more than 1% to 2% off. The bat­tery life is some­thing that I did not con­sid­er because all I knew was the 305.
    It is a bonus fea­ture. I have not had to change the bat­ter­ies in over 1 year with the watch. As a side note, I only use it out­doors and I live in Flori­da so trees are not a con­cern for GPS.
    I don’t have to charge it. I don’t have to wait for a sig­nal. It is small. It is accu­rate. There are many good watch­es out there and I only have expe­ri­ence with these two. I would rec­om­mend either one but love the size of the FR60, which is noth­ing more than a pref­er­ence.

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November 15, 2009 November 15, 2009 reviews by Scott [permanent link]