Which watch is really going to help you beat your times and feel fitter?
With its extensive pedigree in navigational devices, Garmin should be pretty good at tracking… and it is. The 645 provides benchmark accuracy for GPS tracking of runs and cycles, and crunches a lot of data based on your cardiovascular efforts. It can suggest recovery times, estimate your VO2 Max, tell you how optimal your training load is and much more.
For activity tracking – the entry-level stuff Garmin has been behind on previously – it also excels. Usefully, the 645 counts and sets targets for your ‘intensity minutes’ – the amount of time spent doing something more exerting than walking to the shops. And it’s attractive enough that you happily wear it all day, from the office to the (juice) bar.
The Ionic’s HR monitor can be a bit odd. It seems accurate during intense activity, but erratic at lower levels of exertion. For general tracking and resting/average heart-rate and workouts in the higher cardio/threshold/ intense zones, the watch is good. It’s just the area in between where things go a bit zany. A further failing of the Ionic is that although it shows your heart rate when you work out, it
The Ionic breaks your nights down into deep, light and REM sleep
doesn’t show what zone you’re in, so you have to remember where each one begins or ends.
For optimal training, you need rest and recovery, and the Ionic monitors not just your hours of sleep but also the quality, according to your heart rate activity and movements. It then breaks your night down into deep, light and REM sleep, which is pretty advanced.
Like Garmin, the Apple Watch encourages you to meet a minimum number of minutes of exercise each day (which could be vigorous walking or a workout). In the Workouts app, you get continuous heart-rate monitoring once you’ve told it you’re starting an activity, though the wrist-based monitoring seemed less accurate than the Garmin. Frustratingly, it took 2-3 minutes to detect a HR strap pre-workout for more accurate tracking, which eats into your activity time. The GPS was also slower than the other watches.