With the holiday season upon us, you may be scrambling to find the perfect gift for the fitness nut on your list. Fortunately you are spoiled for choice no matter what your budget. Anything from water bottles, to outerwear, to race registrations make great gifts. If you’re looking to go above and beyond, however, there is one gift that is king for many fitness geeks and runner’s especially: the GPS watch. For the past 6 months I have been running with Garmin’s flagship running watch, the forerunner 620 and thought it might be fitting to share my experience for anyone looking for last minute gift ideas.
First off, this is a serious gift. The Forerunner series was upgrades by Garmin last year and now includes the 220 and 620 options. The 620 will set you back a considerable $399.99 US or $449.99 US if you need the heart rate monitor included. Compared with the 220 at $249.99, the difference is real. That being said you do get a lot of watch for the price.
In terms of hardware, the 220 and 620 are nearly identical. Ignoring the different color options (which offer unique masculine and feminine color scheme for each model) the only noticeable differences are the alignment of the holes on the wrist band and the fact that the 220 has two scrolling buttons on the lower left hand side of the watch where the 620 has just one button. This is because the 620 includes a touch screen for easy navigation through its many menus. The buttons on the 620 are also metallic versus plastic on the 220, a nice detail in terms of quality.
Where the 620 truly shines is in the wide range of metrics it allows a runner to track. Both the 220 and 620 provide real-time data on pace, distance, heart rate, and cadence (foot turnover rate), and training zone; but the 620 also offers information on ground contact time and vertical oscillation. After a run, the 620 keeps on giving with estimates of VO2 Max, a race time predictor, and a recovery advisor that tells runners how long they should wait until their next workout to avoid over-training.
Both the 220 and 620 offer customizable screens that a runner can navigate while on a run, each displaying only the information the user wants. The 620 allows runners to design up to 4 data screens compared with the 220’s three, with up to four different metrics displayed at once. This feature is great if there is a particular aspect of your running you want to improve. For me, being able to see my cadence in real time has allowed me to gain speed without much additional effort.
Possibly the most impactful difference between the 220 and 620 for me personally has been the wireless capabilities of the latter. After my run, with the touch of a button, I can transfer all my data from the 620 to the Garmin Connect website. This only requires an initial configuration of wifi settings and can be done for up to three networks. The 220, conversely, must be plugged in to transfer data. It may seem like a small difference, but the last thing I want to do after a 20K run is dig around for a USB cable. I should mention that the one area where the 620 falls short of the 220 is in the quality of the USB cable included. Where the 220’s charging cable locks the watch in place to the point where you could swing it around your head and not lose it, the 620 is held in place with a magnet. This makes it easy to accidentally knock it off the dock, mid-charge. The battery on both watches lasts around 10 hours with GPS enabled and up to 3 weeks with it disabled (normal watch mode).
Overall, I would say you can’t go wrong with either of these options. The 220 is a phenomenal watch for a runner who is just beginning to get serious about their training, possibly with their eye on their first half marathon. The 620 by comparison is geared towards the runner who has been putting in long distances for a significant amount of time. It allows for fine tuning of running metrics that less avid runners might not even care about. That being said the 620 would also be a great choice for a new runner with a love of measurement and data. The graphs alone on the Garmin Connect website are enough to make this a toy worth having.