The Garmin 630 is firstly a great GPS running watch, with basic smart functionality as an additional benefit. It is made for runners; and with a focus on a single activity (no distractions from tracking other sports) the watch delivers exceptionally well.
First, and foremost, the Garmin 630 is aimed at runners and that’s fine with me; it’s my activity of choice and I’m more than happy with a product dedicated solely to running.
The watch captures performance data exceptionally well when synced with the heart rate monitor (HRM). Personally I wouldn’t want to use the watch for running without it. The watch is too good to not make the most of its features. And the features only come to life when the HRM is used: data points like vertical oscillation, balance and ground contact time.
The activity-tracking feature is an additional bonus. I’ve also added lifestyle to incorporate sleep and inactivity too. I love to be reminded to move. When one works in an office and sits at a desk all day it can be far to easy to remain seated and still for hours sometimes. An hourly reminder can have a real positive effect – I like to take that as a hint to go and walk up and down at least 4 flights of stairs.
The sleep tracking is a nice touch, especially if you aren’t getting much sleep and want to know just how little you’ve had!
Garmin 630: The Pros
The watch is easy-to-use and can be used straight out of the box without needing instructions. It comes well presented and feels sturdy but pretty light.
Garmin GPS watches seem to be getting faster and faster at locking in on satellites. The 630 tended to take under 20 seconds regardless of location or weather, which is handy as it’s been pretty cold recently! So no waiting around trying to get a satellite lock is a big tick in my book.
I’ve always been happy with GPS mapping with Garmin products and this watch was no different. But where it was different was the additional data the watch recorded and the feedback that it provided.
I’ve only recently started getting back in to running after a good few months of taking it easy. The feedback the watch gave seemed highly effective and motivational. Notifications such as how long to rest until running again, how much I was improving, as well as providing additional data on oscillation and balance all made my runs that bit more rewarding. I could tell, for instance, that a slight hip discomfort was affecting my running when I reviewed a particular run’s data:
48.5% on the left, and 51.5% on the right.
I suspected that I may have been running slightly unevenly and this was the information I needed to give myself a few additional days off.
Additionally the battery life is phenomenal when compared to a smartwach such as an Apple Watch. I got well over a week from a single charge wearing the watch the whole time and using the smart functionality too.
To pair the watch with a smartphone (iPhone in my case) was nice and easy. Again, no need to look up how to do it. Get to the Bluetooth setting on the watch and use the app. Setting up notifications was also nice and easy. The notifications are basic and I would consider them as merely a nice-to-have. It would be unfair to pitch the watch as a smartwatch, it’s an impressive running watch with smart functionality as a bonus.
I really enjoyed my runs being automatically uploaded when I got home without even having to remember. My first reminder that I hadn’t uploaded my run was when I received my first Kudos on Strava! The seamless connection with the watch and smartphone (or Wi-Fi) meant no more having to sync up with a computer.
Once you’ve used the watch for a couple of weeks the features really start to stand out and performance improvement becomes easy to track. I liked being notified during runs that things were looking better from a stats perspective. I found them highly motivating and definitely encouraged me to run that little bit further, faster or both!
Garmin 630: The Cons
Unfortunately the watch does have some drawbacks. I would say some are subjective and others are due to technology or misfortune.
Subjectively the watch doesn’t have the finesse of some other day-to-day smartwatches. Personally I would prefer the watch to function well over being pleasing to the eye, however when priced at the higher end of the scale the styling could be a bit slicker and the Garmin branding more subtle.
For me though, the drawbacks were far more related to software glitches in the iPhone app, a major challenge trying to set the watch as an activity tracker and trying to update the firmware.
I set the watch up on Christmas day and there was clearly a surge in traffic to the Garmin servers as most of the features on the app were failing. So no new watch faces for a start. That was an unfortunate issue but clearly exceptionally high demand means that Garmin is becoming an ever-increasingly popular brand.
I really struggled to set the watch up as an activity tracker. The watch would record step count and let me know when to move, etc. but I could not activate the option on the app to set the watch as my activity tracker. Whenever I tried to set the watch up for activity tracking in the iPhone app I would receive the following error message: “Unable to set as activity tracker. Please try again.”
I restarted the watch and phone multiple times but just did not have any luck.
It was only when I eventually plugged the watch into my computer and used the Garmin Express program I discovered that my old Vivofit watch was my registered activity tracker and it needed to be deactivated before I could sync my step count with my phone. I could not find any information online of this bug and as my old Vivofit was not showing on the app I could not crack the issue without connecting to a computer.
I also had a challenge updating the firmware and the watch froze on the updating screen for hours. Eventually I turned the watch off and when I turned it back on the watch started instantly and the update had been applied. It was frustrating trying to live with the watch and having no functioning watch for over three hours while giving off the impression that an update was being processed.
I really liked the Garmin 630. It’s a great motivational tool that is comfortable and easy-to-use. The data that you can get from the watch is ideal whether you just like stats or whether you are using data to manage your training and goal tracking.
The touchscreen takes some getting used to but quickly becomes clear why it needs some force when running. It’s great that the watch is waterproof although if worn in the shower it keeps thinking the screen is being touched if the watch is locked.
If you are a keen runner and want a watch that will help you improve or keep you updated on performance with some great data the Garmin 630 is the perfect choice. It’s clearly aimed at all types of runners and can handle training programmes and various types of runs (e.g. long runs, intervals, etc.). The basic smart functionality is a nice-to-have, but for me would not be the feature that sells the watch. The battery life for a product like this is also amazing.
So if you are serious about running this watch is ideal. I would not recommend it to someone that only goes on the occasional run, but if you are running 3x or more per week and love data this watch is a real winner.
Review: Andy Puddick