It is 2014 and Apple still hasn’t revealed a smartphone. Meanwhile several other tech titans continue to pump out smartwatch models with some serving as a glorified accessory for your smartphone while others try to function independently and try to do all sorts of things. But no company has really perfected this grand approach. Smartwatches are still a solution looking for a problem and it is great to know that smaller companies like Garmin continue to focus on what they do best – make GPS navigators and GPS watches. Garmin’s Forerunner lineup of GPS watches has been very successful despite the aged technology (monochrome displays). Back in late 2013, Garmin made the big step to color displays with the Garmin Forerunner 620 leading the way.
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The Forerunner 620 is a slightly refined version of the Forerunner 610 model but the biggest and most obvious upgrade has to be the color display. It isn’t in the same level as the highly dense Galaxy Gear display but the screen is large enough and the interface is pleasing while being friendly on the battery life. As for the rest of the design, the watch is actually a bit thinner and it feels lighter overall which is always nice since you are going to be running with it. In fact, the Garmin Forerunner 620 is light enough to be an everyday watch.
The touchscreen of the Forerunner 620 is another nice improvement over its predecessor. It is more responsive and you can even operate it while wearing gloves. The circular display is outlined with this thick but nice looking bezel with a color accent giving the watch that sporty look. It also has a button on the left and right of the display which has the same “Back” and “Menu” symbols that you would see on Android smartphones. This Garmin Forerunner is no Android device but it is nice to see Garmin cater to the smartphone crowd in terms of usability. The watch only comes in Black/Blue and White/Orange designs and that might be a bummer for the ladies that like the White/Violet design of the Forerunner 220 but need the advanced features of the 620.
The Garmin Forerunner 620 is more than redesigned 610 with a color screen; it has a number of extra internal components including an accelerometer. This allows the watch to get estimates of the speed and distance without the need of a foot pod. Treadmill users will get a real kick out of this.
In the previous model, the watch could wirelessly upload workout data to the Garmin Connect if you attach a special USB dongle to your computer. With the Forerunner 620 you won’t need it because the watch already has built-in Wi-Fi. Bluetooth functionality is baked in as well allowing easy data uploading to Garmin Connect by means of a smartphone. You can even keep the watch paired with the phone and use the LiveTrack subscription service to real-time tracking. Garmin Connect is a pretty cool service since you can review your data from the PC or your smartphone using the appropriate Garmin Connect apps. It also has some social features in case you want compare your data with other Garmin Connect users.
You can opt to get the Garmin Forerunner 620 with a heart rate monitor so you can make use of other features. Once paired, the watch can serve as an advisor as it can calculate an estimate of your VO2 max based on the recorded heart rate, heart rate variability and speed and then calculates the time it will take for you to recover. You can rely on the watch’s advice if you should workout more or take a break. The heart rate monitor comes with its own accelerometer so it can track your torso movement which can be used to compute other stats. The accelerometer also aids in gait training as it can take the vertical oscillation and ground contact time values into consideration.
As mentioned earlier, battery life doesn’t take a hit because of that color display. Keep the watch in watch mode and it should last about 6 weeks. Leaving the GPS on brings down the battery life to 10 hours which is still pretty good since you can track about 50K distance.
The Forerunner 620 is the recommended purchase if you want need the touchscreen for better control and you want the built-in Wi-Fi for easy syncing. Advanced features like the recovery advisor, VO2 max estimate and race predictor are exclusive to the Garmin Forerunner 620 as well. If you need that all-in-one workout companion that you can wear, you might as well spend $449 for the bundled package because the heart rate monitor adds far more functionality. Getting the Forerunner 620 without this monitor will save you $149.