Gear Review: Garmin Fenix 3 Multisport GPS Watch

In the world of fitness wearables, we have seen a ton of new products flood the market recently.  While there still seems to be a lot of feature convergence going on as they move away from specialized devices, the high-end market still seems to be dominated by two key players, Suunto and Garmin.  If you are a tech nerd like me, these two brands are the only ones that deliver solid products with all of the features desired for those that like to get far away from the world.  If you haven’t picked up on it before, I have been a Garmin guy since I started running.  I have been using the Fenix 2 for over a year and have been pretty happy (you can find my review here).  Given my overall satisfaction, I was actually hesitant to upgrade to the Fenix 3, but am really glad I did in the end.  There are a lot of similarities between the 2 and 3 in terms of features, battery life, etc. so instead of doing a full blown review here, feel free to read my Fenix 2 review.  Instead, I decided to highlight the key differences I have observed over the past few months with the Fenix 3 that made me glad I upgraded.

Garmin Fenix 3

fenix3

Key New Features

  • Color Display.  Ok, this is not a HUGE deal, but it does a couple of things for me.  One, it is a higher quality display than the black and white one on the Fenix 2 that improves the readability.  Second, it gives it a bit more of an everyday watch feel, which is important for me since I like to wear mine as an everyday wristwatch.
  • Fitness Tracking.  This is a big addition if you are in to the fitness tracking stuff.  It tracks many of the common metrics like steps and sleep schedule.  Not a big deal if you aren’t into it, but I have actually found the data quite interesting in assessing my activity when I am not running.
  • GLONASS Support.  For those that don’t know, GLONASS is the Russian satellite network that just recently became publicly accessible.  With this turned on, you get an additional 24 satellites to key ping against.  I have found that the watch does a great job at finding satellites quickly with this enabled.  It also seems to help with data accuracy, which I describe in more detail below.
  • WiFi.  This is another nice to have for me.  It allows you to connect the watch to a wifi network.  When in range, the watch will automatically upload activities and download updates.  You never have to worry about manually syncing via bluetooth or connecting it to a computer.

Key Improvements

  • Bluetooth!  My biggest complaint with the Fenix 2 is the bluetooth functionality.  They used a high power chip in the Fenix 2, which drained the battery faster.  They improved this with the Fenix 3, making Bluetooth relatively cheap to use in terms of power consumption.  It is also much more reliable when connecting to Garmin Connect on my iPhone.  A win-win overall and by far the best improvement between the two models.
  • Not as bulky.  It is about the same size from a diameter perspective, but it doesn’t sit as high off of the wrist at the Fenix 2, making it a little less unwieldy to wear while running and as an everyday watch.
  • Simultaneous ANT and Bluetooth Usage.  This was another issue with the Fenix 2.  You couldn’t have bluetooth enabled while using the ANT heart rate strap.  They fixed this with the Fenix 3 allowing you to use them both.

Things To Keep An Eye On

  • I have heard a lot of people talking about how their Fenix 3 is tracking short in more secluded/wooded areas.  In running routes that would fit into this description, I have noticed the Fenix 3 tracking a little short in comparison to my Fenix 2.  They may make some improvements to this with future firmware updates, but I have noticed that accuracy seems to be restored when I enable GLONASS.  Doing so doesn’t seem to have any noticeable impact on battery life, so is might be worth it.

If you like this post and would like to stay up to date when future gear reviews, race reports, and other related posts are released, please follow my Facebook page at Ultrarunner Joe!  Also, I generally focus my reviews on trail running.  If you are looking for crazy amounts of details, you can always check out THE man, DC Rainmaker and his review here.

Gear Review: Mio Fuse Activity Tracker + HR Monitor

With technology becoming more precise and people becoming more obsessed with using data to fine tune their workouts, the popularity of wearables continues to grow.  While it appears that some degree of convergence is taking place, the perfect all-in-one device for the right price point continues to be elusive.  Even for a mountain trail runner and self-proclaimed data geek that is loyal to my Garmin Fenix watch, I still find it to be overkill with some things and lacking in others, such as cross training activities like weight lifting and circuit training.  For one, I HATE wearing heart rate straps.  Second, my watch is really geared toward running-related activities, not those with less forward movement.  It is for these reasons that I ultimately discovered the Mio Fuse.  Initially, I was looking for something that was easy to use that would allow me to keep track of my heart rate without using a strap.  After using it though, I found that I could get much more out of it.  Let’s take a look…

In The Box

The Mio Fuse comes in a very small, eco-friendly package.  It is usable within a couple minutes of taking it out the box after some quick configuration (through the Mio Go smart phone app).  It also comes in two different sizes, based on your wrist size.

MioFuse1

Price: $149, includes:

  • Watch
  • USB Charger

I found the price of the watch to be comparable to other wearables on the market with similar functionality.

Look and Feel

The Mio Fuse is primarily black with an accent color (currently blue for the smaller version and red for the larger).  It has a somewhat wider look to it, being about 1 1/4″ at its widest point.  The band is rubberized, making it comfortable during active and everyday wear.  I have worn it for several days without taking it off with no comfort issues.  I did find that if I wear it too tight, the holes on the band do start to bother me wrist, but that is quickly resolved by adjusting the fit.

MioFuse2

Feature Overview

The Mio Fuse offers a number of benefits, both from an activity tracker and heart rate monitor perspective.

  • The key feature of Mio products are their ability to accurately track your heart rate through your wrist using a sensor on the underside of the device.  YAY, NO STRAPS!  In fact, Mio is a leading patent owner in this technology (many other brands actually use Mio technology).  What’s more, I found the accuracy to be perfect.  When wearing my heart rate strap at the same time, the numbers to be nearly identical, with the strap being more flaky at times than the Fuse.
  • Activity tracker and workout modes allow you to track your key stats.  This allows you to use the device all day.  The HR sensor only functions in workout mode, which allows you to Maximize battery life.  Stats, such as distance and pace are calculated using an internal accelerometer, all based on your movement throughout the day.
  • Touch activated buttons on the Fuse allow you to quickly cycle through your data.  Key information includes:
    • Time
    • Distance
    • Calories
    • Steps (in activity mode)
    • Heart Rate (in workout mode)
    • Goal
  • The battery life is pretty solid, with about seven days during activity mode and over six hours in activity mode.  This on par or longer with many of the other devices on the market.  The USB charger has a small footprint and snaps magnetically to the back of the watch, charging through contacts on the back.

Smart Phone Integration

The Mio Fuse easily integrates to iOS and Android smart phones through the Mio Go app.  I read some unfavorable early reviews of the iPhone app, but I have to say that my experience was quite the opposite.  This tells me that Mio listened to the feedback and made the necessary improvements to the app.  It provides a clean, easy to use interface for configuring the Fuse and provides all of the key data, including steps, distance, calorie burn, average speed, average heart rate, and pace.

MioGo1     MioGo2

Key Uses for the Endurance Runner

As I mentioned, I am an avid fan of my Garmin watch for my running activities, so I wasn’t sure how the Mio Fuse would fit in to what I do.  I did find a few instances were the Fuse is beneficial from this perspective.

  • I have officiallt started to use the Fuse in place of my HR strap on all of my runs.  It easily syncs with my Garmin, allowing me to ditch my HR strap.
  • The Fuse is much better during cross training, where my HR strap would often get in the way and cause discomfort.
  • Many of the higher end watches, my Garmin Fenix 3 included, have a large wrist footprint.  As a guy with somewhat smaller wrists, I have found that I prefer to wear the Mio Fuse for everyday wear.

My Final Thoughts

Pros

  • Extremely accurate heart rate tracking through the wrist.  Mio nailed it with their HR technology.  I found it to be as accurate as my heart rate strap and more reliable.
  • Works with my Garmin via ANT+.  This allows me to use it as my HR monitor when I am running in place of the strap.
  • Comfortable for everyday wear.

Cons

  • I have found that the steps and distance underestimate by about 15% compared to other devices.  I understand that this is on purpose as Mio believes other brands often overestimate, but you definitely need to take it into account.  On the bright side, if it gets you to walk even more steps in actuality to meet your goal, that isn’t a bad thing right?
  • No sleep mode.  A lot of people like to track their sleep patterns and heart rate.  I think this a key missing features versus some of their competition.

Conclusion

I also love the innovative mindset of the company and I have really enjoyed my Mio Fuse overall.  As an endurance runner, such as myself, using it in cooperation with my Garmin is fantastic.  I love that I can get rid of my heart rate monitor strap.  I think this is also a strong option for users looking for a solid activity tracker that they can also use to track their heart rate workouts, but don’t necessarily want to break the bank.  The current version of the Mio Go app and its simplicity definitely rounds out the great user experience of the product.  Overall, I would say that given the solid features and functions of the Mio Fuse and the trailblazing approach of the folks at Mio, this product is definitely worth a look.

If you like this post and would like to stay up to date when future gear reviews, race reports, and other related posts are released, please follow my Facebook page at Ultrarunner Joe!