Garmin Forerunner 630 In-Depth Review
It’s been almost two months since Garmin announced the FR630, alongside the new Garmin FR230 & FR235. They started shipping the FR630 about 5 weeks ago, and I’ve been using it on and off since, in conjunction with the other new Garmin watches. You’ll find my In-Depth review of those two units here.
Meanwhile, the FR630, at a fair bit more cash, is Garmin’s most advanced running-specific watch. It’s the successor to the FR620, and the FR610 before that. It’s not designed as a multisport watch (that’s the FR920XT/Fenix3), or a hiking watch (again, the Fenix3 or Epix). It’s a runner’s watch. Or perhaps a runner that rides very occasionally.
Finally, before we dive into things, I’ve had a small flotilla of FR630’s to test with. One I got through normal retail channels, and two different ones from Garmin to test (different colors). The units came at different times over the past 41 days. The loaner units will go back to Garmin here in the next week, while I’ll keep the other one I own.
First up is getting this puppy unboxed. There are a few different variants you can buy, depending on the color you want, and whether or not you want the heart rate strap (HRM-RUNv2).
In my case, I’ve got the unit with the new HRM-RUN (but if you have an older HRM-RUN strap with the little runner icon on it, you can upgrade it).
Next, here’s everything that’s in the box: The FR630, the HRM-RUNv2, some manuals, and a USB charger. There is not a bunny, or leftover Halloween candy.
First up, we’ve got the quick start guide and other former tree products. After this review, it’s unlikely you’ll need those.
Then we’ve got the HRM-RUNv2. The main difference you’ll notice from the exterior is that it’s a bit more of a molded pod – just like the recent HRM-TRI. I’ll dive through all the differences in a short bit, hang tight. At a software level, it has a few more features than the HRM-RUNv1 did, but Garmin has also recently enabled HRM-RUNv1 folks to upload and get the v2 features.
With the HRM-TRI & HRM-RUNV2, the pod no longer comes off the strap. However you can still change the battery by popping off the cover. In theory Garmin says that the strap has been designed to last considerably longer than past straps. Unfortunately, only time will tell if that’s true.
Next is the charging cable. It’s new, but it’s also the same as the FR230/235. I’d be thrilled if they actually managed to keep the same charging cable beyond one months worth of watches. It simply clips onto the side.
Finally, the watch itself. It’s basically the same thickness as the FR230/235, and about the same width too. Really, if you were more than a few feet away from someone – you’d never know the difference.
With that – let’s move on to size comparisons.
Weight & Size Comparisons:
Next, let’s take a look at the weight. The unit comes in at 44g:
The FR230 & FR235 are very similar in weight to the FR630. The FR230 weighs 41g, and the FR235 weighs 42g.
Next, here’s a side-profile view of many modern GPS running watches on the market.
From left to right we’ve got: Garmin Epix, Garmin FR920XT, Suunto Traverse, Suunto Ambit3 Peak, Polar V800, Garmin FR225, Garmin FR630, Garmin FR235, TomTom Spark, and Garmin FR25.
So basically, I’ve pretty much showed what we already knew – the FR630 is a very slim GPS running watch that doesn’t weigh much.
Lastly, there might be some confusion on the various HR straps that Garmin bundles. Here’s a simple picture that shows them all!
Basically, here’s what you need to know:
A) In order to get the additional Running Dynamics metrics, you must have a HR strap with a little runner icon on it (HRM-RUNv1 or HRM-RUNv2 or HRM-TRI)
B) Even if you have a HRM-RUNv1/v2/TRI, you also must have a Garmin GPS watch that supports Running Dynamics. The FR230 and FR235 do not. The FR620 supports the 1st generation metrics, while the FR630/FR920XT/Fenix3 support the 2nd generation metrics.
C) Garmin HRM-RUNv1 & HRM-TRI straps are easily updated to 2nd Generation Metrics, it’s free and only takes about 20-30 seconds. This occurs via the FR630, Fenix3, or FR920XT when it connects to the strap.
D) All current Garmin running watches give you running cadence, without the need for any HR strap or footpod. This is done via the internal accelerometer.
E) The Garmin Forerunner 230/235/630 will connect to the HRM-SWIM for pure HR when out of the water. They will NOT be able to connect to it while in the water, or download data from swims after it. Said differently: No, you can’t use the FR630 to download swimming HR data from an HRM-TRI or HRM-SWIM.
Got all that? Don’t worry, I’ll talk about what the heck Running Dynamics are later on. For now, this portion of the test only requires knowing which strap is which.
Running & Watch Basics:
I’m going to quickly run through the basics of using the watch, before diving into some of the FR630-specific features that aren’t really found on other GPS watches. Do note that later on I have created a whole section on just the touch-screen aspects, as well as the widgets.
So to start a run, we’re going to tap the little runner man button, which is the upper right button. While the touch screen is used for many things, you can’t start a run without pressing this button.
Next, you’ll select a specific activity profile, such as a Run, Bike, Run Indoors, Other, etc… You can also select a Connect IQ app here as well.
A key difference between the FR630 and the FR230/235 is that on the FR630 you can create additional sport profiles. Whereas on the FR230/235 you can only enable/disable the small set of included ones. So with a FR630 you can create something named ‘Cow Tipping’, whereas with the FR230/235 you’re ‘confined’ to just a generic profile called ‘Other’.
Once you’ve selected that profile it’ll start searching for satellites (if applicable). The unit has the option to enable both regular GPS as well as GLONASS. Further, you can change from 1-second record to Smart Recording. Note that the FR630 carries over the UltraTrac functionality that reduces the GPS sampling rate and allows long-battery life scenarios for things like multi-day hikes.
In general, as long as you sync your watch semi-regularly (WiFi/Bluetooth Smart/USB) with Garmin services, it’ll download satellite cache data – which means the satellite acquisition process generally only takes a few seconds.
At this point, you’ll be looking at data pages for your run. There are a series of default pages, but you can also create your own custom pages. Each page can have up to four data fields on them (1-4).
Total Data Pages You Can Enable/Disable:
– Four Customizable Data Pages (1-4 fields each)
– HR Zone Gauge Page
– Virtual Partner Page
– Clock Page (just the time of day/date)
– Music Controls
– Running Dynamics Page 1
– Running Dynamics Page 2
– Navigation Page (if navigating)
Phew! Tons of options. Here’s a small gallery of all of those pages with a few different layout options, or at least, most of them:
If you have a HR strap, now’s a good time to pair it. You’ll do this through the sensor menu by just putting the HR strap close to the watch:
With all that set/paired/decided, it’s time to run! Once you press the start button again, it’ll start recording. You can pause that at any time too by pressing the same button.
As you run the unit will use GPS for pace and distance. At this time, it does not use a footpod while outdoors for pace and distance, even if paired (indoors it will).
Like all Garmin watches made in the last two years, the FR630 displays pace in :05s increments – i.e. 7:50/mile or 4:40/km. For lap and/or averages, it’ll display it to the exact second.
Along with most Garmin watches, you can configure features such as Auto Lap (to automatically create laps on a preset distance such as every mile/kilometer), as well as configure alerts for exceeding various thresholds. These thresholds and alerts can be for pace, heart rate, time, cadence, distance, calories, or walk/run.
The FR630 also includes a Metronome feature. This allows you to setup a beeping/buzzing metronome that you can match your running cadence too. This has been offered on all higher end Garmin running watches for the last year.
When it comes to training options, those include setting up workouts in a number of ways. You can create an interval workout directly on the watch, as well as download custom workouts from Garmin Connect via your phone or desktop. Somewhat annoyingly though, you have to create these from a desktop – as the Garmin Connect Mobile app doesn’t allow you to create them.
You can also race an activity – either one that you’ve run in the past, or one downloaded from Garmin Connect.
Further, you can race against a set time/distance combo – such as trying to hit a 40-minute 10K.
In the same menu that you can race a specific time, you can also race against your predicted finish time (based on VO2Max), or your existing PR (albeit based only on workouts on that watch).
In the event your watch says you’ve got a long time till the finish-line, you might need some navigational assistance. This feature was cut within the FR620, but has come back by popular demand (or probably more like angry mob-like demand) to the FR630. With the FR630 you can do simple back to start navigation, as well as the ability to navigate to a given saved waypoint.
You can save various locations for future reference/access, as well as display exactly where you are at any point in time.
Once all of your workouts are done, no matter how you do them, you’ll get summary information.
This includes the ability to look at personal records, or VO2Max records. These are not transferred from previous watches though, or from Garmin Connect – so if you haven’t done it on your FR630 yet, it’s ‘new to you’.
I’ve found that the VO2Max functionality is particularly slow to stabilize, compared to that of the FR230/235. I’m not really sure why that is. Mine should be about 4-8 units higher based on other watches and actual VO2Max tests. I suspect if I gave it a few more weeks it’d stabilize, it usually does eventually.
It’ll also give you a recovery time estimate too. Though, I find this generally completely overestimates my recovery time:
The completed workout information is then sync’d to your phone via Bluetooth Smart, or via your home or office’s WiFi networks. From there it’s sent onwards to Garmin Connect for online analysis – such as looking at a route like the below (here’s a link to this workout):
You can also simply plug the watch into your computer via USB, in which case the .FIT files are accessible just like any other USB thumb drive. From there Garmin Express (the PC/Mac desktop software) will also take care of uploading to Garmin Connect.
Advanced FR630-Only Features:
I’ve already discussed a number of FR630 specific features in the previous section, so before we go much further, let’s recap those sport features not found on the FR230/235:
– Ability to create additional sport profiles
– Ability to ‘Race an activity’
– Metronome functionality
– UltraTrac GPS recording rate functionality
Next, I’m going to dive into a few more things that are specific to the FR630 (and in some cases also offered on the Fenix3/Epix/FR920XT. Basically, things not found on the FR230/235 (or lower).
First up is the Stress Score function. This function will give you a stress score, on a small gauge. Interestingly, this is actually a Connect IQ app, though Garmin doesn’t make it available otherwise. The test should be taken while
relaxing (ok, standing apparently):
The test requires you wear a HR strap, in which it uses your heart rate (likely heart rate variability) to determine how stressed you are:
It takes about three minutes before it comes back with a final result:
I think that the score is pretty much useless. I’ve taken it a few times when I’m pretty stressed out, and every time it comes back with low to no stress. Perhaps I don’t exude stress or something. Updated note: For those curious, I’ve tried the test both standing and sitting – with both as low – despite having run both days and both days being relatively stressed. For example, if you look in my initial preview post I did it standing:
Next we’ve got the Lactate Threshold function. The aim behind this is to identify your Lactate Threshold (LT). This value can then be used to determine/improve both heart rate zones to a specific lactate threshold pace that you can use during training or racing.
There are two ways to get a LT value: Taking a test, or letting the unit auto-calculate it. If you dive into the Lactate Threshold menu item, you’ll see the option to let it automatically determine it:
In my testing, I’ve only had it determine my LT value once – on a semi-random run that had some harder efforts in it. I’ve tried running identical runs to that since then, without any success in getting other values.
The next option is to complete an actual LT test, per the instructions the unit will provide you. To do that, you’ll dive into the menu system and start following the steps.
After a 10-minute warm-up, the program will have you increase your pace/intensity sequentially in chunks of 3-4 minutes. The culmination of which will in theory result in a Lactate Threshold value.
As it’s doing this, it’ll give guidance on what HR zones you should be in for each section, and how many minutes are left. The test is designed to take 20-30 minutes, and the unit should end the test once it determines your LT value.
In my case however, the unit was oddly unable to determine my LT value. Upon me finishing what I would presume to be the last step within the test, it just told me ‘tough nuggets’:
It’s unclear to me if this is why the unit has struggled over the last month to provide me any other LT values on workouts that I’ve somewhat purposefully structured to be more difficult.
As for the earlier/singular automatically calculated value, it did appear rather high for me. Given BSX for example spit out a number near 30/sec/mile lower (slightly more reasonable).
Finally, we’ve got Running Dynamics, or rather – the Gen2 version of Running Dynamics. The previous Running Dynamics, which were introduced with the FR620 included Ground Contact Time and Vertical Oscillation. Now that’s been extended with Gen2 to add: Stride Length, Ground Contact Time Balance, and Vertical Ratio.
These new metrics require an HRM-RUNv1 or HRM-RUNv2, or HRM-TRI strap in order to enumerate. They’ve also been ported to the FR920XT & Fenix3. You can view these metrics during the run itself if you’ve enabled the Running Dynamics Pages:
The stride length metric is pretty straightforward, simply the actual length of your stride. While the GCT Balance shows the left/right foot balance for your ground contact time. And the Vertical Ratio attempts to normalize the previous HRM-RUN metric of Vertical Oscillation by applying stride length to it.
Additionally, after the fact you can view these metrics on Garmin Connect:
Note again that the Running Dynamics absolutely require Garmin’s HRM-RUN or HRM-TRI strap. They are NOT compatible with any other 3rd party straps, as Garmin has locked down the metrics to be proprietary to them. 3rd parties however can view the data afterwards on their own platforms, but just not during the run. This has ultimately caused competitors such as RunScribe and Wahoo to come up with their own metrics, and pushed those companies further towards the Bluetooth Smart camp rather than Garmin’s own ANT+ technologies.
As for whether any of these FR630 features are worth the additional cost over the FR230/235 is more of an individual question. At this point, with the FR230/235 gathering so many features that used to be at the higher FR620 level, I’m personally pretty likely to just use a FR230/235 as my running-only watch going forward. The only thing I think I’d miss would be the ability to easily dismiss smartphone notifications with the swipe of a finger (as silly as that sounds).
So what about GPS accuracy? Things seem pretty strong, both on my unit as well as looking through other sources like the Garmin Forums for complaints.
You’ve got two options when it comes to GPS, one is to use just the default GPS option, and the second is to enable GLONASS. Doing so would take a slight hit on battery (usually about 20%). For me, I’m OK with that. My runs to date have mostly been city runs, with a handful of runs in/around parks, one forest run, and some runs out in the middle of nowhere northern Finland on quiet snowy roads.
Within the city environment (the most demanding I’ve run), I haven’t seen any issues, and GPS is on-par or better than any other unit I’d use concurrently.
In fact, I’ve found it does better in some areas than other units. For example, I’ve found a few ‘challenging’ spots near my home that can often trip up GPS units. These are tricky because they’re coming out of taller building areas and then immediately crossing a bridge – giving a small margin for error. Still, in this recent case the FR630 (purple) nailed it, while the FR920XT was a bit more casual:
Here’s another snippet from that same run – this where I corner around a bit of a park. Right now they’re setup for a Christmas Carnival of sorts. So I had to run into the road. You can see the purple (FR630) track nails it each time, versus the FR920XT was very close, but just a few meters away from where I actually ran.
Here’s another one, this one out through the woods for a bit before dropping down onto a running path. You’ll see both the FR630 and FR920XT nailed the track through the woods – almost as if they were snapped to the roadway:
While both units were perhaps a couple of meters ‘inside’ on this turn around a bunch of trees, we’re really only talking about 3-4 meters difference.
Picking another city run, starting off at a high level – all three units tracked near perfectly:
About the only difference I could find in this track was when the three passed Notre Dame, and the FR630 & Suunto Traverse took a slightly more scenic route through the gardens, rather than staying on the road like the FR920XT. Notre Dame rises some 96m high (approx. 314ft), which would have blocked the signal fairly well (the buildings on the other side of the street are 8-10 stories high). Even then, the disturbance is only for about 50m long, and about 15-20m offset.
Ultimately I’m just not seeing anything here that’s of concern from a GPS accuracy standpoint. Most of my running is city running, so it’s possible if others are doing more dense tree running, they might see different results (though I did one run in dense trees without issues). Still, I haven’t seen a single complaint about GPS accuracy in trees on the Garmin Forums or elsewhere. Given tens of thousands of units have shipped by now, at least someone would have complained once if so.
(Note: This weekend I’ll upload the full package of runs and comparative files from all devices, as usual, should you want to do your own comparisons.)
While the FR630 isn’t explicitly a great cycling computer, it’s certainly more than functional for most users. The FR630 contains a specific cycling mode, which can be found upon pressing the start button:
You have two choices for this mode – either an outdoor option or an indoor mode. While indoors the GPS is turned off, and thus for speed/distance you’d depend on a separate ANT+ speed sensor.
Meanwhile, while both indoors and outdoors you can also pair to an ANT+ Speed/Cadence combo sensor, or individual speed/cadence sensors. These can be paired within the Settings > Sensors menu on the unit:
The main difference between running modes and riding modes is that the unit properly categorizes it as a ‘bike ride’ versus a ‘run’. So when uploading to Garmin Connect or other 3rd party sites, it doesn’t mess up various running personal records (i.e. your fastest mile ran). You’ll see this shown in the upper corner of sites like Garmin Connect (here’s a link to a random ride I’ve done):
Further, by using the bike mode you’ll get metrics in speed rather than pace. So you’d see 20MPH as your speed, and not something like 3:00/mile. You can of course also switch to metric too – and use KPH instead.
The vast majority of functions, such as Auto Lap and HR alerts, work just fine in cycling mode just as they would in running mode. And you can customize them for the cycling mode too – which is great. So in cycling, many folks would want something like a 5-mile Auto Lap, rather than auto-lapping every 1 mile.
However, there are some features that do not work in cycling mode – most notably the Lactate Threshold testing option. That’s a running only feature.
Also note for completeness that at this time the FR630 does not connect to power meters, which means it also can’t connect to the Stryd Running power meter (on the proper power channel, it can connect to it if you hijack one of the other ANT+ streams). Now this is somewhat of a temporary limitation, as once Connect IQ starts allowing 3rd parties to write information to the .FIT file (the recorded activity file) in Q1CY2016, then that limitation will effectively evaporate.
Given that Suunto allows the Ambit3 (and even the Ambit2) to connect to running power meters, it’s somewhat surprising that Garmin is holding back on this one, since ultimately it’s just going to drive folks to buy the less expensive FR230/235 (or the Ambit3). I feel like opening up support for that now is kinda a little cherry on top that might push folks in that direction over the FR230/235. Oh, and in case you’re curious – Connect IQ already properly supports power within running, as seen in some of my FR920XT activities where I just switch the mode from cycling to running after the fact.
The FR630 includes activity tracking that is functionally identical to that of the FR230, Fenix3, FR920XT, and numerous other recent Garmin watches – so if you’re familiar with those, there’s nothing different here. If you’re new to the Garmin line-up, here’s what you need to know.
The unit will track daily activity metrics like steps, calories, and distance walked. It’ll also track your sleep. You can swipe at any time to the right to see your step counts for the day:
In addition, you’ll see a red bar, which is the inactivity/move bar. This basically tells you that you’ve been lazy for the last hour. If it fills up – then you haven’t moved enough. It takes about 100-150 meters of walking to clear the bar.
All of the step information is transmitted to the Garmin Connect Mobile phone app as well, and then onwards to Garmin Connect.
When it comes to sleep, the unit will automatically track your sleep for you. You need not press any buttons. Upon pairing your watch to your phone it’ll ask you for your rough sleep times. I’ve found that it doesn’t matter a ton what you put in here. Ultimately, I’ve had no problem with it tracking my sleep:
The sleep times here match very closely with my actual times I fell asleep and woke up, and also match what the Withings Aura was giving me for sleep too.
Smart Notifications & Connect IQ Support:
The FR630, like most recent Garmin wearables, supports both Connect IQ and smart notifications. With smart notifications, you’ll get things like text messages and incoming phone call alerts from your phone. This is supported on both iOS and Android, using their respective notification centers.
In the case of notifications, they’ll display immediately on the watch the moment they arrive at your phone:
You can simply tap the clear button and it’ll disappear. It works really well, and actually better than the Apple Watch, because I don’t have to twist my wrist like I do on the Apple Watch. This is especially nice in meetings, dinners, or other situations where you can see your wrist and don’t need to turn it further.
If you miss a notification, or just want to review all of that notification love you’ve been getting, you can simply swipe once to the left to the main notification page:
From there you can open any notification as before. Note that unlike an Apple Watch though, you can’t respond from the FR630. So it’s a read-only thing.
In addition on the smartphone front you’ve got the ability to see your current calendar items, as well as control your phone music (but not Spotify), and see the weather. All of these widgets can be found by just swiping left/right from the main screen.
You can get more widgets from Connect IQ via the app store.
With the Connect IQ support you can customize your watch faces, as well as install applications. Here’s an example of a watch-face I’ve installed:
(This is the FITNESS watch face)
You can do the installation of apps from the Garmin Connect IQ App Store (all free) from either your mobile phone or your desktop computer.
I’ve discussed quite a bit about apps here in this series of posts.
Backlight & Touchscreen Display:
The FR630, like the FR620 and FR610 before it – has a touch screen display. However, unlike those units Garmin has made a few tweaks to it. First off is that the touchscreen needs to be ‘grounded’ to your body, either directly or indirectly, for the screen to respond to touch.
Meaning that it’s fine if it’s on the outside of a coat, the touchscreen will work. However, if it’s on a bike handlebar mount – you won’t be able to change/swipe on the screen. The physical buttons will still work however.
Next, at the bottom of the screen is something called the ‘hamburger’. Officially it’s not called that, but in the user interface world, that’s what that little menu is known as (it looks like two pieces of bread and a burger inside). I’ve found that while the main portion of the screen mostly works just fine for me, that little hamburger is an area that I’m often fumbling with. It’s just kinda awkward sometimes.
Garmin has released a handful of firmware updates since the watch started shipping about 40 days ago, and some of those updates have specifically targeted the touchscreen. I’ve found that my experience has gone from ‘finicky’ to ‘mostly reasonable’. Not perfect, but generally good.
Next, is that I’ve found while taking a shower, it’s best to lock the display (simply hold down the lower left button for a few seconds). That’s because the unit is prone to the heavier running water causing it to do all sorts of funky display things. During a run I don’t see this as much of an issue, as the force of the raindrops hasn’t seemed to impact it (though I haven’t run in any massive thunderstorms yet either).
Next let’s look at backlight. For that there’s been a fair bit of discussion that the FR230/235/630 are ‘dimmer’ than others – both in a non-backlit situation and at night. And when compared to something like the FR310XT or 910XT, that’s probably true. But at the same time, it’s probably important to understand in the dark, just how much light is required?
First though, remember that anytime you see photos of watch backlights – the exact luminosity of that display really comes down to the photographer. I can make any display look as bright or poor as I want merely by changing settings on the camera. That said, typically I just leave the settings largely on automatic. In this case, the only thing I tweaked after the fact in Lightroom was the white balance of the photo (in total) to get rid of the yellow glow. That’s it.
First, the photo you see above is all three watches (FR230, FR235, FR630), simply with their backlights enabled. On one of the units I put it at the pending/watch display screen. This means that it has white text on a black background. The other two are on usual mid-run screens with data fields.
Below are the same three watches, this time all lined up and all in running mode. From left to right they are: FR235, FR630, FR230
Note, I’ve seen some photos/videos of folks posting pictures of a backlight of various units during daylight – I’m not sure I totally understand the point there to be honest. Said differently: Try it in the dark, you know, where the light is for.
Finally, I zoomed back and took another photo, this time adding in a Garmin Fenix3 for comparison. As you can see, it’s brighter – so much so that it ‘blows out’ from a brightness standpoint. The rest of the photo is brighter than the others because there’s simply more light in the photo for the sensor to capture.
So is it bright enough to run with? Yes, absolutely. Approximately 80-90% of my runs with the unit were in the dark. It’s just that time of year for running.
Is it as bright as the Fenix3, or even the FR620? No. But it also doesn’t matter. It’s perfectly readable, and those watches are what I’d describe as ‘excessively bright’. Yes, it can be nice to have such a bright display if you’re trying to use it as a flashlight, but when I’m running, there’s no tangible benefit to that extra brightness. I can see the display just fine with the current brightness state. Some would even argue it makes it harder to see the text.
Of course, any brightness comparisons can be a personal thing and differ from person to person, but it’s not really something that bothers me on any of these units.
Bugs & Quirks:
While the FR630 is pretty stable, there are some minor quirks that I’ve seen that don’t yet appear to be resolved by firmware updates (though it’s certainly possible they could be):
– The hamburger touchscreen menu ‘button’ can be a bit finicky from time to time
– The Lactate Threshold automatic determination function seems a bit…slow. At least to respond. I suspect it’s probably 3-4 weeks for it to really stabilize.
– The VO2Max also seems slightly slow as well. While it’s normal that it takes a few workouts to stabilize, the FR630 seems a bit slower than other Garmin watches (even the FR230/235) in this respect.
– The touch screen goes a bit crazy when you’re in the shower with the unit.
– The sensor pairing process is a bit wonky. They took something that was very clean in other products (Add/Search/Remove) and somehow made it overly complicated.
I suspect that the majority of these can and will be solved via firmware updates, still, if these are of significance to you – it’s something to be aware of.
Like all products I’ve reviewed, you’ll find the FR630 in the product comparison tool/database. This means you can mix and match features against other products I’ve reviewed or used. In the case of below, I’ve placed the FR630, FR620, and FR230 in the table. But you can easily mix and match your own comparison table right here.
Copyright DC Rainmaker – Updated November 21st, 2016 @ 5:27 pmNew Window
Product Announcement DateOct 21st, 2015SEPT 16, 2013Oct 21st, 2015
Actual Availability/Shipping DateNovember 2015OCT 31, 2013November 2015
GPS Recording FunctionalityYesYesYes
Data TransferUSB, WiFi, Bluetooth SmartUSB, WiFi, Bluetooth SmartUSB, Bluetooth Smart
Waterproofing50 Meters50 meters50 Meters
Battery Life (GPS)16 hours10 hours16 hours
Recording Interval1-second & Smart1-second & Smart1-second & Smart
Satellite Pre-Loading via ComputerYesYes, 7 daysYes
Quick Satellite ReceptionYesGreatGreat
Ability to download custom apps to unit/deviceYesNoYes
Acts as daily activity monitor (steps, etc…)YesNoYes
Can control phone musicYesYes
Has music storage and playbackNoNo
Bluetooth Legacy (pre-4.0) to PhoneNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart (4.0+) to Phone UploadingYesYesYes
Phone Notifications to unit (i.e. texts/calls/etc…)yesNoYes
Live Tracking (streaming location to website)YesYesYes
Emergency/SOS Message Notification (from watch to contacts)NoNoNo
Built-in cellular chip (no phone required)NoNoNo
Designed for cyclingYesBarely (Speed mode only)Yes
Power Meter CapableNoNoWITH SOME CONNECT IQ APPS (BUT CANNOT RECORD DATA)
Speed/Cadence Sensor CapableYesYesYes
Strava segments live on deviceNoNoNo
Designed for runningYesYesYes
Footpod Capable (For treadmills)Yes (internal accelerometer)Yes (internal accelerometer)YES (Also has INTERNAL ACCELEROMETER)
Running Dynamics (vertical oscillation, ground contact time, etc…)YesYesNo
Designed for swimmingNo (protected though just fine)No (protected though just fine)No (protected though just fine)
Record HR underwaterN/ANoN/A
Designed for triathlonNoNoNo
Create/Follow custom workoutsYesYesYes
On-unit interval FeatureYesYesYes
Training Calendar FunctionalityYesYesYes
Virtual Partner FeatureYesYesNo
Virtual Racer FeatureYesNoNo
Records PR’s – Personal Records (diff than history)YesYesYes
Day to day watch abilityYEsYesYes
Tidal Tables (Tide Information)NoNoNo
Jumpmaster mode (Parachuting)NONoNo
Weather Display (live data)YesNoYes
Follow GPS Track (Courses/Waypoints)WaypointsNoNo
Routable/Visual Maps (like car GPS)NoNoNo
Back to startYesNoYes
Impromptu Round Trip Route CreationNoNoNo
Download courses/routes from phone to unitNoNoNo
Optical Heart Rate Sensor internallyNoNoNo
Heart Rate Strap CompatibleYesYesYes
ANT+ Heart Rate Strap CapableYEsYesYes
ANT+ Speed/Cadence CapableYesYesYes
ANT+ Footpod CapableYesYesYes
ANT+ Power Meter CapableNoNoNo
ANT+ Weight Scale CapableNoNoNo
ANT+ Fitness Equipment (Gym)NoNoNo
ANT+ Lighting ControlNoNoNo
ANT+ Bike Radar IntegrationNONoNo
ANT+ Trainer Control (FE-C)NoNoNo
ANT+ Remote ControlnONoYES FOR GARMIN VIRB
ANT+ eBike CompatibilityNoNoNo
Shimano Di2 ShiftingNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart HR Strap CapableNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence CapableNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart Footpod CapableNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter CapableNoNoNo
Temp Recording (internal sensor)NoNoNo
Temp Recording (external sensor)YesNoYES (TEMPE)
Compatible with Firstbeat HR toolsTBDYesTBD
PC ApplicationGarmin ExpressGarmin ExpressGarmin Express
Web ApplicationGarmin ConnectGarmin ConnectGarmin Connect
Phone AppiOS/AndroidiOS/AndroidiOS/Android/Windows Phone
Ability to Export SettingsNoYesNo
Clever Training – Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programLinkLinkLink
Clever Training – Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programLinkLink
Remember, you can mix and match your own comparison table here in the product comparison database.
The FR630 is sorta an interesting duck in the Garmin running lineup. On one hand it’s designed to represent the most advanced running watch that Garmin has, and from a functionality standpoint it largely accomplishes that. Yet on the other hand, Garmin has (thankfully) moved so many of the higher end features that used to be in the FR620 down to the FR230/235, that there’s less of a reason to purchase the FR630 now.
There are certainly unique features to the FR630 (and Garmin’s other higher end units), such as the Running Dynamics, Lactate Threshold, Stress Score, and touch screen capabilities. Whether or not these are valuable to you will probably vary quite a bit. Ironically, for me these features were already on the bubble in terms of being less useful for me personally. Yet much of these seemed a little less mature than I’d need them be to push them over the edge to get me to desire them. If Stress Score was more accurate, or if Lactate Threshold more reliable – I might be inclined to be swayed.
That said, when it comes to core running functionality – the FR630 excels at that quite nicely. It’s easy to use and super-dependent. I rarely had to worry about battery life (unlike the FR235 today), and the smart watch aspects of it felt the smoothest of any Garmin wearable to date. While it’s not appreciably different than others in most respects, there’s tiny little tweaks which are notable as a day to day watch (such as the responsiveness). The hard part is now simply deciding whether these tweaks are worth the extra $70-$150 over the FR230/235.
Found this review useful? Or just want a good deal? Here’s how:
Hopefully you found this review useful. At the end of the day, I’m an athlete just like you looking for the most detail possible on a new purchase – so my review is written from the standpoint of how I used the device. The reviews generally take a lot of hours to put together, so it’s a fair bit of work (and labor of love). As you probably noticed by looking below, I also take time to answer all the questions posted in the comments – and there’s quite a bit of detail in there as well.
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Garmin FR630 (select drop-down for bundles)
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Thanks for reading! And as always, feel free to post comments or questions in the comments section below, I’ll be happy to try and answer them as quickly as possible.