| Garmin Vs Suunto | Dodgy Data | GPS + oHR | What would you do?

OK here is a test from yesterday on my MTB on a trail. I was specifically looking at how optical HR handled a bumpy but flat hardened, mud/grass trail. The vibrations can cause problems for optical HR in general, so that is what I was looking at ie a demanding scenario.

The Edge 820 is a reference device using a HRM-TRI chest strap. It should be correct. Then again, it is the Edge 820 so you never can be too sure.

There are stories about Suunto’s WHR having problems with oHR at the moment. There were stories about Suunto having GPS problems last year.

suunto spartan sport whr valencellYet in this particular test the Suunto’s optical HR track is good with only one trough/spike and the section of the track I have shown has the Suunto delivering a near-perfect GPS track. FWIW all 3 devices were GPS-only with no GLONASS. FWIW Suunto’s SPARTAN SPORT models have delivered among the best GPS results I’ve PERSONALLY had.

Yet clearly the Garmin Fenix 5X delivers an EXTREMEMLY poor oHR track and an OK GPS track.

Fenix 5xSo do I toe the commonly accepted line that Garmin are wonderful and hide this result?

Do I take solace in the multitude of functions on the 5X? My new toy.

Do I moan about Suunto only supporting Bluetooth sensors and if they didn’t they would soon rival Garmin?

Or do I bemoan the fact that the Garmin 5X is the most expensive sports watch I’ve ever bought and get accused of pro Suunto bias?

Or do I wait until someone says that I’ve deliberately  miss-labelled the FIT files in Sporttracks? Or that I’ve selectively chosen a section where the Suunto’s GPS performed well? before wasting 10 minutes of my life and posting the original FIT files and linking to them (here) 😉 … there’s currently no link. I’m waiting; comments below please.

Or do I wait until someone points me to a Facebook page where lots of people get perfect Garmin results and everyone else there gets awful Suunto tracks? And then waste another hour of my life reading that?

Or do I perform lots of tests for the 5X on a stationary turbo trainer in HR Zone 2 where results will be great? I can then use that data to mask the performance shown above.

Or do I try an alternate line in that maybe we all need to chill out a bit about accuracy, even though that is the thing we all want?

Or do I post some alternate graphs where Suunto does not do so well (I have some)?

Or do I post views from other bloggers like fellrnr saying that the F5’s GPS is not great? or from DCR, in balance, saying about oHR that  “things are pretty good (the best we’ve seen from Garmin’s sensor tech) while running, but a mixed bag while cycling

Or do I realise I’ve wasted an hour so writing this and need to get back to my day job to earn some money? 😉

What would you do?

PS I keep getting accused of pro Garmin bias one week (and then anti-Garmin bias the next). Yet they now refuse to send me PR devices and, last year, I turned down some sort of Garmin ambassador thing they were offering that would have given me early access to new models (but not privileged access). Really I don’t toe the Garmin line. And REALLY I am no official/sanctioned part of their marketing strategy.

A: Well what I did was re-test the results today with pretty much the same test. The differences were: the weather; me going a bit faster despite an underinflated tyre; an errant dog-walker; and the F5X was switched to per-second recording from SMART recording.

This is what I found. Suunto still has a good GPS track (BLUE) but both the WHR and F5X suffer on the oHR. But still the Suunto is ‘better’ (note the colours of the lines have changed for each watch)

What is QUITE strange is that, in this instance, both ohr devices seem to need just over 15 minutes to ‘warm up’ and I’ve heard that this is something the manufacturers are aware of and might factor in to algorithm improvements later in the year.

But this variability then raises new questions (thanks Tim @inginero). I appreciate the oHR will have off-days and will most likely not play ball in certain conditions (like MTB). So do I wear a chest strap in those conditions? And then what about those scenarios where perhaps 1 in10 set of results will not be great? But then where do I draw the line? a 1 in 5 or 1 in3 or 1in 2 scenario?

FWIW: the data that has gone into my proper training log was from the Garmin Edge+HRM-TRI as I like to record EVERY sporting heart beat as reasonably accurately as I can. But I don’t mind chest straps.




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11 thoughts on “| Garmin Vs Suunto | Dodgy Data | GPS + oHR | What would you do?

  1. i can’t believe you have deliberately missed out all of the other brands of devices in this review, you clearly have a Sunto/Garmin alliance and are paid handsomely for each time you include their name in a sentence.

  2. I’d argue one just posts all test data (original files) while using said device from unboxing till clicking publish. That makes it easy – you’ve shown what each device does during all the times you used it. You then pick either random activities to cover in a review, or pick what you believe is representative of your total experience.

    1. yes you are right, I suspected you might be first with the correct answer.

      three issues spring to mind though
      1. Almost no-one will bother to check the source data (might be easier with your analyser thing, I’ve not really looked at it). But I suppose it just takes one person to check and prove that what is shown is not representative.
      2. collating all those files takes time (you have the luxury of this being your job and therefore an easier justification)..or maybe it requires organisation and I could do better on that front.
      3. confidentiality/security – I have had some weird people doing weird things in my general direction to the point where I won’t publish anything that indicates where I live. Having a young child you can probably appreciate that and you have a high profile and must be more concerned??. So I have to remember to press ‘go’ somewhere else….I have a bad memory and forget to!

      What are your thoughts on the warming up issue?

      1. RE: Checking source data: It’s true, it’s very rare people comment at the data files I provide (though many do actually look). But yes, the Analyzer makes it a million times easier since it does overlays already. So it’s just one click away with everything pre-aligned.

        RE: Putting together files: Also true, it’s a solid pain in the ass. And in fact, the singular reason the Analyzer now exists (and is open to anyone). I find that if I do it just after finishing my workout, it only takes a minute or two to grab the files, versus trying to do it weeks/months later is a nightmare. Still, I did it prior to making this my full time job.

        RE: Confidentiality: Also true, living in the city makes it easier in that I don’t really care if people know where I live. Virtually everyone knows that already. I feel that at present the security of our building is pretty solid. But it’s something we’ve often talked about if we lived in a suburban neighborhood how we might handle it down the road. Likely as you implied – going somewhere else and pressing start.

        RE: Warm-up: There’s some truth to this. Obviously, if people don’t wait for a HR lock, can’t help there. And on a warm summer day, no HR warm-up either. But in winter or cold conditions, there’s plenty of data that shows how if your limbs (arms/wrists) are cold, you’ll see optical HR issues until warmed up in those regions. Though typically speaking, if it’s that cold in most cases you probably (according to smart sport scientist peoples) be wearing long-sleeves anyway. Though, I tend to ignore said device. All aside, cool/dry day problems are a very real issue for HR straps though, even when licked. It’s just that people have forgotten that. For years it would be my most popular annual PSA ‘How to fix your HR strap issues’ post each year (total views per years).

  3. Slightly off topic but I get very accurate GPS tracks with my Ambit 2 Peak when I compare to people cycling the same routes as me using Garmin devices.

  4. Like it!
    I have fenix 5 and did not like my suunto spartan from start, but love my Sport WHR. And like many have told, the gps problems from fenix 3 did follow over to 5..:)
    Love the design of the fenix5 and ui/interface is sweet, but my Spartan Sport Whr just have better gps right now, and valencell´s hr works very solid for a ohr.(if you place it right)..
    I use my Rhythm+ 99% of the time on bike tho, and that one works great.
    After the start of spartan ultra and “Beta” feeling of Interface/watch i thought i never use suunto again, ambit3 had very solid gps. But after updates and the new sport whr i use now i must say it works great, much they can improve on..but guess suunto will give out a few updates over 2017..:)

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