garmin swim feature

Laps with Garmin Swim: Is it the Best Swimming Tracker?


If you’re looking for a running watch, a cycling computer, or a good fitness tracker, you’ve got your pick of lots of different devices, all claiming to be better than the competition.

But what about swimmers?

Athletes who spend most of their time crossing a pool could use some advanced technology to help them count laps, count strokes, monitor their time, and generally keep track of everything related to their workouts. But when it comes to dedicated swimming trackers, the choices are fewer.

Garmin Swim price when reviewed: $120.27


A Tracker Just for Swimmers

Garmin, the hugely popular and well-regarded manufacturer of navigation products and sports trackers, is doing its best to position its Garmin Swim watch as the ultimate training device for serious swimmers.

Is it really the best?

Let’s have a look.

Swim. Garmin Swim.

garmin swim 2Really a movement and acceleration sensor, the Garmin Swim can track your time and distance, including lap segment time and pace; all you do is tell it the size of the pool in which you’re swimming.

All of that’s expected for a swim tracker, though. What’s most impressive about the Garmin Swim is that it actually detects what stroke you’re doing. Now that’s advanced.

Other cool features of the Garmin Swim is its ability to monitor your SWOLF score, or your overall swimming efficiency. This is a helpful piece of information to know, as it improving your efficiency will improve your form in the pool.

There are also functions for serious swimmers, like interval training, drills, and timed sets.

Other Things to Like About Swim

garmin swim frontThe Garmin Swim is easy to use and navigate, with a clear readout of all your numbers. Plus, using the Garmin USB ANT Stick (it’s in the box with the device), you can wirelessly transfer your workout data to your computer.

Upload it to Garmin Connect (which is both a web tool and a free app) for graphic output and analysis. You’ll also be able to share workouts and be part of a supportive community of swimmers.

It’s also low profile and lightweight, so there’s no off-balance feeling while you’re doing laps. And, if you don’t mind a watch that’s somewhat sporty looking, you can even wear the Garmin Swim all day.

Of course, it’s highly water resistant — you’re good up to 50m.

Finally, the price is pretty good: £129.99.

garmin connect swim

Some Minor Drawbacks

No device is perfect, and while the Garmin Swim is fairly impressive, it has its limitations. For all of its ease of use, there are no graphics on the watch itself; you’ll need to use Garmin Connect to see any visuals.

garmin swim analysis

It’s also a bit frustrating that the Swim doesn’t upload directly to the mobile app. It’s still wireless, and there’s just one little extra step involved, but it feels like it should pair more immediately with a smartphone.

Other things: there’s no heart rate monitor, so if you’re hoping to do zone training, you’ll need a separate way to get your heart rate. There’s also no built-in GPS, which isn’t such a problem, as its movement and acceleration tracking are more than adequate.

Finally, the Garmin Swim is designed for pool use only; if you swim in naturally occurring bodies of water, you won’t be able to track laps.

Standing Up to the Competition

There are other fitness trackers out there that are highly water resistant and approved for swimming. Popular ones include the Polar Loop, the Basis Peak, and the Misfit Shine.

There are even others by Garmin, like the Vivosmart and the Vivofit. However, none of these are dedicated swimming trackers — they’re just fitness trackers that you could use in the pool if you wanted to.

Premium swim tracker alternatives

V800There are also multi-sport watches that can track swimming, like the TomTom Multi-Sport Cardio GPS Watch, the Polar V800, and the Garmin Forerunner 920XT. These are all robust training devices that can give you a fair amount of detail about your swimming performance and more.

However, they’re much more expensive than the Garmin Swim, running upwards of £250 or more. (The Forerunner 920XT is a whopping £389.) And again, these aren’t dedicated swim trackers.

Swimovate PoolMate Live

There are other swimming watches on the market, which may be more direct competitors of the Garmin Swim. There’s the Swimovate PoolMate Live, which is a dedicated swim tracker. However, it’s got some inaccuracy issues, and it’s not compatible with any mobile devices — two huge drawbacks.

Suunto Ambit3 Sport

There’s also the Suunto Ambit3 Sport, an awesome multi-sport tracker with all sorts of swim metrics and built-in heart monitoring. However, at £275, it’s more than twice the price of the Garmin Swim.

Moov fitness tracker

moovFinally, the minimalist Moov fitness tracker can keep tabs on all of your swimming data, but there’s no display. You’ll need to check the corresponding app after you swim to see your stats; there’s no way to look mid-workout.

Is the Garmin Swim the Best Swim Tracker?

Here’s the bottom line: if you’re a regular and focused lap swimmer who wants a standalone, dedicated swim tracker, then yes, the Garmin Swim is probably your best choice. It does just about everything you could want, it’s accurate and easy to use, it looks pretty good on your wrist when you’re out of the pool, and the price is totally reasonable.

It’s the training gear of choice for many serious pool swimmers.

However, if you want a device that will also track your daily activity (including your sleep) in addition to your pool workouts, or if heart rate monitoring is important to you, then the Garmin Swim simply can’t give you what you need.

The same goes for athletes who want a more all-encompassing sports watch for swimming plus running, cycling, cross training, or whatever. The Garmin Swim is, as the name implies, for swimming only. It tracks swimming, and it tracks it well, but it’s not a multi-feature, all-purpose device.

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The Breakdown


There are 2 comments

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    • Max

      Hi Patrick,

      The smallest pool size for reliable results is 18 yards. Garmin are aware of this issue, as many users swim in smaller pools and may tackle it at some point, however it’s not high on their to-do list.
      Source: Garmin support

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