My 5 Favourite and Least Favourite Garmin Features
I’ve been forcing myself to use a Garmin Edge 540 recently as my main bike computer alongside a Forerunner 965. As a consequence of that, I’ve been reflecting on what I like about Garmin for my training and what I’m less keen on.
There are a couple of peripheral featurettes here you might not have come across or known what to do with, and other favourites are complete features while others are just aspects that I like.
Fave #1 – AMOLED Screen
I’m a sucker for a pretty screen. I always wanted one on my sports watch just so I wouldn’t be embarrassed to wear it outside of sports. The Garmin Forerunner 965 is the first Garmin watch that has made me happy in that respect.
What’s special about the 965 is that it has a much bigger screen than Garmin typically puts into its mid-size watch case, with a 1.4″ display at 454x454px. I don’t have the brightness set to full and can still read it in sunlight.
Fave #2 – Lap by Position
I moaned that Garmin lacked this feature for a couple of years. They eventually (re-)introduced it, and then I promptly switched away from Edge units to use Wahoo for a while. I’ve rediscovered this feature on my Edge 540 and regularly use it.
Lap by position works by changing how a manual lap button press works. When you press LAP, Garmin remembers the position, and for the duration of your ride, it will always automatically insert a new lap at the same position, give or take a few meters.
Multiple end lap positions can be used in any single ride. I think I managed 5 once, but only because I mistakenly pressed the LAP button.
I use this for laps of Richmond Park, and I also add a lap as I start the ride near home, which has the added benefit of adding one automatically when I return home. I’m not quite sure what I will do with these laps, but I’m sure they will come in handy one day.
Fave #3 – Accurate Autocalibration of Elevation by Location
You should do this.
Garmin performs several kinds of elevation calibrations that look at relative changes based on barometric pressure, a 3D satellite position, and the position from a Digital Elevation Map based on a 2D position. However, what takes priority over all of those is a manually set elevation.
Get a GPS fix on the pavement outside your house. Now enter the correct manual evaluation calibration based on whatsmyelevation.com (yes, really!). Finished. Now, forevermore, once you leave home, your workout will always correctly have the correct starting elevation.
Fave #4 – SatIQ
The consensus was for years that Garmin had accurate GPS. Or at least that’s how it seemed when I read other review sites. It didn’t. It wasn’t accurate. That was another decade-long moan that I didn’t especially enjoy making. However, that’s all now changed with Garmin’s Airoha GNSS chipset, which does give accurate location readings based on multiple constellations and dual-frequency bands. The problem is that the accurate mode gobbles the battery juice too quickly for my liking.
Handily, Garmin introduced SatIQ, which intelligently turns on the high precision, battery-hungry mode only when reception conditions are poor and it is really needed.
Fave #5 – Logging HRV
Your Garmin will already be happily logging HRV at rest, for example, when you sleep.
A good way to eat a bit more battery and increase the size of your workout’s FIT files is to also enable HRV during exercise in the system settings. This records every single beat rather than a single reading per second.
Most of you will get no benefit from doing this, but if you use some of the true AI/ML sports tools like AI Endurance, then these HRV readings can be used to determine quite clever insights into your physiology. For example, a dfa a1 analysis can be performed by AI Endurance to give you your lower threshold LT1/AeT as a potentially more accurate limit for your easy workouts than the same figure back-calculated from an LTHR/LT2 test.
Fave #6 – Connect IQ
OK, I said there were 5. Sorry.
This one shouldn’t be on the list really, but I do use it a lot and like it a lot, so here it is. I use CIQ apps and data fields mostly for linking to weird sensors that I need as part of this blog. As a triathlete/runner, I don’t think I would ever normally use CIQ, as Garmin has all the basic features that I would need out of the box, except maybe for a Stryd data field.
However, CIQ is Garmin’s big commercial differentiator, and many of you really do use it. It also gives small startups a way to integrate their new product or service into your Garmin ecosystem.
Fave #7 – Stamina
I don’t quite know why I like Garmin’s newish stamina feature as it’s almost certainly inaccurate.
However, I do regularly have it on display on longer rides and runs, if only to see it fall to zero and then say, “Ha ha! I knew it was wrong.” However, with proper manual zones and proper sensors (i.e., a chest strap and accurately calibrated power meter), it’s not too bad.
Fave #8 – Morning Report
Even though the data it shows is often complete pants (readiness and sleep stages), I do look at my morning report almost every morning when I get up. It’s a really neat idea just poorly executed because of inaccurate data and/or algorithms.
It’s nice to see recommended workouts for the day or event details.
My Least Favourite Features/Aspects
A few years ago, ‘accuracy’ would have been my biggest complaint. Garmin seems to have sorted out the accuracy of the basic inputs if you use the correct sensors, so the inaccuracies that still appear must be due to poor algorithms.
Gripe #1 – Physiological Stuff
Garmin has many awesome ideas when it comes to presenting physiology-based insights. Many of them are often plain wrong. Just because a company’s marketing materials say something is accurate doesn’t mean it is.
I used the Forerunner 955 with all the defaults for several months and let the watch determine my zones and LTHR, etc. It gave me complete rubbish – one example that made me laugh was biking for an hour and getting an actual average 60-minute power, which Garmin then said was above my FTP… that just can’t be right! With the 965, I’ve tweaked the zones, and that does improve the quality of the associated physiological insights.
Gripe #2 – Refreshing CIQ-type Data
Whenever I go to look at the weather on my watch, it tells me to refresh the data connection to the app. So, I open up the phone and look at a weather report there.
Similarly, I get tide information from the CIQ widget, AK Tides. But it needs updating via the phone. I want a proper service for these things to update via WiFi and/or LTE.
Gripe #3 – The Garmin Forerunner/Fenix Charging Cable
These just don’t work. Over multiple years and multiple watches, when I plug the cable into the watch, it simply doesn’t automatically get recognized by my PC even though it does charge.
What are your favourites or least favourites?
From survey responses, I know a lot of you like Garmin’s take on VO2max.
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