FORM Swim Goggles – GPS distance & pace for OWS
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FORM Swim Goggles added GPS distance, workout pace/100m, HR and HR Zone a few months back by linking to data broadcast from your Garmin watch.
After a few months totally off swimming early in the year, I became despondent as I returned to the lakes to find myself quite a bit slower, having lost all of the swim and S&C gains I made over the winter. Consequently, I didn’t want FORM to tell me exactly how slow I was 😉 Point being, I only just recently got around to testing the new feature.
I used the FORM Swim goggles quite a lot in the pool in 2019. They are a GREAT product and I like them a lot.
FORM goggles beam your near-real-time pool swim stats straight into your field of vision. Initially, the product worked only based on; the knowledge of TIME ELAPSED, a manually-input pool length and an accelerometer that detects when each length was made. So you don’t know how fast you are on the current length but you know the time/pace of your last length, so that is near-real-time info and certainly superior to any other pacing tool that is available in your goggles. To cut to the chase – this product is cool and it worked well in the pool. My only minor reservation was the restrictions of peripheral vision.
Next came the announcement that the Polar OH1/OH1+ was supported. This was cool too. The OH1 is clipped onto your goggles and reads a GOOD and ACCURATE optical HR from your temple. Form introduced some new metrics and VOILA! truly live heart rate is now available in your goggles. Likey, Likey. Surprisingly there were few downsides here, perhaps the only ones being that it looks a bit silly and getting the OH1 in JUST the right place can be tricky at first.
That summarises where I thought FORM might get to in terms of their innovation with this piece of tech. However, they went further than I expected when they introduced Garmin compatibility – I’ll quickly re-cap on and then provide some OWS feedback on how it works in the lake.
Garmin and FORM Join Up
Garmin introduced the broadcasting of HR data a long time ago. However, it was only over last winter where the TREADMILL/INDOOR/VIRTUAL RUN mode took a big boost where other data like STRYD-pace was re-broadcast from some Garmin watches to apps like Zwift. I used that feature quite a bit over the winter and it worked well. A similar principle was then applied to the link-up from Garmin to FORM’s swim goggles.
Now, the problem here is water. Kinda essential for swimming. But kinda problematic when it comes to broadcasting and receiving data from sports gadgets.
What Garmin does is broadcast distance and optically-derived heart rate over BLE to the FORM goggles. No laps and no caching is involved. But that should be OK as FORM keeps track of the time and so should be able to determine your workout average PACE and show a very recent or live HR
So the main questions here on usability come back to the Garmin and the quality of the source data. In my case, I used the Garmin FR945 and despite going through an AWFUL OWS accuracy patch sometime in 2019, I would say that now the FR945 is the best of any watch I’ve used for OWS GPS accuracy. But then that’s just me talking about it drawing a pretty picture of my laps of one of the local lakes. Looking at exactly how accurate it might be at any one instant is something that I hadn’t considered in detail as it was never relevant. Next, we come to the accuracy of the HR, I would probably begrudgingly admit that Garmin’s latest ELEVATE oHR sensor is probably what most people will find to be the most accurate. I’m not one of those people, however, and do have issues with it. Nevertheless, if I had to rely on Garmin oHR rather than ‘nothing’ for OWS swimming I would do that but I’m ALWAYS going to have a chest strap under my wetsuit if I remember my HRM-TRI.
Finally, there is the problem for FORM of receiving the data that Garmin is transmitting. If EITHER your watch OR FORM goggles receiver is underwater then no data is received. NADA. ZIP. NOTHING. With no data being cached either, I sensed an insurmountable problem. TBH I didn’t think this new Garmin hook-up would work very well at all but DCR put something out a while back on this so that pushed me over the edge and was the impetus to splash around outside with a new toy.
Setting up the hardware is excellent. There is a great wizard in the FORM app. The bottom line is that you download the FORM Swim CIQ app data field, put it in your OWS profile and it automatically and silently pairs to your FORM Goggles (yep, that’s right).
Here’s what I found with the swim tests.
OWS Swim With Garmin Forerunner 945 and FORM Swim Goggles
Firstly I wore my HRM-TRI. I hoped that somehow the oHR would still work during the swim and that the HRM-TRI would retrieve the accurately cached data at the end. It doesn’t. So all I got was the “HR not detected” message. Fair enough. There’s also a bug on the Garmin at the end of such a workout as the FR945 doesn’t retrieve the cached HR data like it would do normally when no FORM Goggles are present (the bug could be linked to the FORM CIQ field). I also think the CIQ field is battery-hungry.
Next, I tried the Polar OH1+. That can’t work as a source of HR either. Your choice is having your FORM Goggles working with the Polar OH1+ **OR** the Garmin watch.
OK, I knew all that wouldn’t work but I had to try 😉
When you start swimming, the average pace/100m pace is either blank or wrong. HOWEVER, I’d say within 30 seconds it becomes correct. Even better. It stays correct all the way through your OWS session. Job done FORM.
I was bilaterally breathing every 3rd stroke and at just more than one stroke per second. I can’t do the maths but there was probably a chance of the FORM goggles and the FR945 being able to connect every other second. That seemed to work and seemed to display fine. My suspicion is that the HR display just stays ‘as is’ until it has a new piece of HR data to overwrite it, perhaps there’s also a time-out of several seconds if no HR is received at all.
Anyway. HR worked surprisingly well
I often find OWS a bit boring probably because I tend to use it to swim just under an hour at the same pace every time. Either that or go for a fast lap and then collapse with exhaustion. The FORM Goggles DO add a little excitement into the mix. You could CERTAINLY use them to target HR levels if you were to perform intervals of some sorts but the distance and average pace are fixed and based from the start of your workout.
Let me caveat this by, once again, saying that I think the FORM Goggles are a brilliant product for pool usage.
- I did enjoy using FORM in OWS. They added a degree of novelty and data excitement.
- I don’t like how HR is dealt with. I would like a ‘correct’ HR track if at all possible but I am prepared to simultaneously accept an indicative HR reading displayed live
- If the oHR from Garmin could be displayed BUT the HRM-TRI data recorded into the FIT file that would make me happy
- If the Polar OH1+ could be paired and displayed for oHR and AT THE SAME TIME AS the Garmin is paired for PACE that would also make me happy. I would like it if the Garmin also recorded HRM-TRI data to the FIT file.
- The pace is good and, dare I say it, it even seems ‘correct’…or close to correct. Which is an achievement in itself for OWS. However, the session average pace becomes somewhat meaningless after a while. Sure it’s fine for my one-hour mono-pace plods but not for any changes in pace. It is what it is. I’m NOT a great swimmer but even I’m good enough not to need a gadget to pace consistently-slowly for an hour.
- I would like LAP functionality, please
- The goggles are a good fit for me with no leaks. My only criticism in the pool was that there were strange peripheral reflections (I swim in a bright outdoor pool normally). In a dark and dingy lake, I did NOT have that problem – GREAT! I was somewhat dreading the reflections as I am quite a sensitive person and it doesn’t take much to make me feel nauseous when swimming (‘sensitive’? something like that!).
- However, my normal quick glance for ‘sighting’ the next buoy was problematic. The buoy would typically be just where the bend in the lens was ie I couldn’t see the buoy. Sure, I could raise my head a bit higher and see it perfectly fine but I’d rather not have to do that. Perhaps the physical design of the FORM Goggles lens will work perfectly for some of you and less so for others? I don’t know.
Compatibility: Garmin Forerunner 945, Fenix 5 Plus, Fenix 6 Pro
& Apple Watch 5/4/3
A brilliant product for the pool and a product with potential after a few more OWS tweaks. Despite that, if you like gadgets, it’s a great gadget even for OWS.
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FORM Swim Goggles Discount, Price & Availability
They are available at Amazon worldwide and direct from the manufacturer.
Get it here: FORM Goggles Direct & at Amazon