It’s been 3 months now since I received my Garmin Fenix 3 and wrote my initial review so I thought it time for an update.
The strangest thing about the watch is that the GPS seemed so accurate on those initial runs, showing clearly where I had run and making me happy with my purchase. Within a few days there were some issues, but GPS is never perfect and nobody should expect it to be. However, there clearly are some ongoing issues with whatever algorithms they are using because corners are constantly (and consistently) cut which means that overall distances are shorter than they should be.
Now, I have to say this doesn’t bother me too much but it does bother many people – a quick read of the Garmin forums will show that people are returning it, or debating returning it unless Garmin sorts it out soon.
I have taken part in several USATF certified races this year and every single one of them has measured short – if you know anything about how USATF certifies courses, then you will no that it would be impossible to run a shorter distance during one of these races. It would be very normal for a GPS watch to actually show longer than the race distance because it would be extremely difficult to stay on the shortest track around the whole course.
Why doesn’t it bother me too much?
- I mainly use the data to review and compare runs after I get back. During the run I may use it as a guideline to see how fast I have been going (average pace) and how far I have gone, but not to worry about what pace I am running at one particular time (it does seem to get that wrong too often to rely on).
- In some ways I like that it measures short – I know it’s not overestimating how many training miles I’m doing, and it also means that it is recording a slightly slower average pace because of that.
Why does it bother me a little bit?
- All of this data loads to services like Garmin Connect, Strava, Mapmyrun, etc. and those sites will automatically indicate when you hit a best time over standard distances – of course that is most likely to happen in a race, but if it doesn’t measure the whole distance, the site isn’t going to pick up on it.
- If I were in a longer race without mile markers, and if I didn’t know the course already, I might want to use my watch to let me know how much further I have to go – of course I can try to compensate for the shorter measuring from the watch but that’s a pain, and then what happens when they fix it and suddenly it’s showing me the actual distance?
There are conflicting reports over whether Garmin are working on a fix or not. Apparently this isn’t the first time they’ve released a watch with similar issues, so I would assume that at some point all will be well and most people will be happy with it again.
Ultimately it’s up to the individual how important this is to them – for me it’s not such a big deal although some improvement would be nice.
Update June 25, 2015: In the last couple of days Garmin have provided updates to address the accuracy issues. In my single run since installing the update, a run that was previously recorded at 8.3 miles was recorded at 8.6 and more accurately reflected the actual path I ran. The Garmin forums appear to show a mix of responses, with most noting that it is a definite improvement.