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By 13 September 2010 | Categories: gizmos

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When it comes to running not everyone likes big and bulky do-it-all sports watches. Garmin’s FR60 forsakes the company's usual onboard GPS, in turn slimming down and focusing on getting the basics right, specifically heart rate monitoring and pace/ distance tracking.
 
Style
 
The FR60 is sleek and stylish while not being overly sporty, and for those of us with slightly smaller wrists it’s a perfect fit. Its screen is large enough for details to display properly although trying to track the smaller font while running is a bit of a hassle. An autoscroll function makes it easier to keep a tab on your status, automatically rotating the different screens that display your current pace, distance and time.
 
Garmin has designed the watch’s layout perfectly, with the buttons big and spacious, while the important Start/Stop button loomed large enough at the front bottom of the device. The FR60 stores 100 laps or up to 20 hours of data, more than adequate for most runners, especially if you transfer data frequently.
Pairing it up with the heart rate monitor and footpod (which takes care of distance/ pace monitoring) was no hassle at all. Garmin claims 98% accuracy on the footpod out of the box - very decent seeing that the Nike+ system only claims 90%.
 
Garmin could have done a lot more in providing more info on how to get a lot more use out of the heart rate monitor since not a lot of people are aware of the benefits of this in training or upping your fitness.
 
Onboard
 
Digging into the watch's menu to set-up some of the functionality was much easier than expected and it is here that you’ll find some of the FR60’s smarter options. We particularly enjoyed the auto-stop function that stops tracking your movements when you get sidetracked by a busy intersection or a shoelace that has gone untied. As soon as you hit the gas again it starts tracking.
 
Seeing that the FR60 does not include some of the work-outs featured on other Garmin devices, the Virtual Partner came in handy. You can set a pace for this virtual training partner beforehand, with the watch then showing how far in-front, or in our case, behind you are during the course of your training. A pace alert (a little alarm that goes off if you vary off your pace) and time/ distance alerts are also present.
 
The watch is water resistant, although the buttons housed quite a few drops of water after completing a few laps. Bikers or triathletes will also be glad to know that the FR60 can be paired up with cadence sensor (sold separately) to give accurate reading when biking.
 
 
On the PC
 
Although it was no hassle to get up and running with all devices connected to the watch, we had slight difficulties on the PC. Our review unit did not include any software so we had to download the drivers needed to get the ANT+ receiver to wirelessly receive data from the watch, as well as software for the Garmin Training Center. This 100 MB download might not go down well with people with limited bandwidth to their disposal.
 
After downloading we had not trouble to set up the software and to start downloading training data off the watch. Downloading data from then on forth was a breeze. As long as you have the ANT+ USB stick plugged into your PC it will pick up your watch as soon as you come near and request download.
 
And online
 
Garmin’s Training Center for PC, although practical, is very basic. For something a bit smoother on the eye and more in-line with Nokia’s Sports Tracker (now just known as Sports Tracker) or the Nike+ website, you need to join the community over at Garmin Connect online. Here you can track and analyse your data easily while Garmin also enables you to share your training on Facebook or Twitter. The benefit of the more basic Training Center above Garmin Connect is of course that you don't need to be online in order to track your training.
 
Conclusion
 
We really enjoyed the Garmin FR60, it is a good quality product that does everything it's supposed to do very well. This stylish training solution should provide sportsman exactly what they need, granted they just don't need a GPS. Our package that included a footpod and heart rate monitor comes with a retail price of R2100 and is available from all good sports stores. 
 
If you are interested in running, also check out our Best Tech to get Fit feature. 

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