A swim watch that falls in the latest category of "gadgets" that will tell you more than, or maybe exactly, what you want to know.
Quite a few things... keep reading.
One of the better options out there in this new category of swim watches.
The Finis SwimSense is a new type of training gadget for the pool. It uses accelerometers, magnetometers, and other fancy calculations to provide you with tons of information from your swim workouts. Quick note, these are pool workouts. It has no use in open water, but we are told that Finis is "working" on this. We have been testing this for over a month, so here are our initial thoughts, comments, complaints, etc.
The setup is fairly simple as you basically input your gender, age, weight, etc. The 2 important items are Watch Position (left or right hand) and Pool Distance (which can be set in Y or M). Below is a snap shot of all the main menus available on the SwimSense and here are links to the Quick Start Guide and Complete Instruction Manual .
Finis has chosen a square design for the SwimSense, which we are not a big fan of for many reasons. Maybe this is the only way they could cram in the technology to provide this data? The dimensions are 1 7/8" W x 1 5/8" H x 3/8" D. It has a fairly slim profile and still feels fairly comfortable on your wrist. Below are a couple of pictures with dimensions and also showing the size compared to a normal Timex watch.
There are 4 buttons, one in each corner. With the watch being a square shape, the buttons seem hard to press while pushing off the wall (which you should only have to do when you start the swim, as it counts the laps for you) and when "pausing" the workout for a rest interval. Maybe we are just spoiled or used to the idea of the "lap" button on the face of the watch, which is much easier to push while entering the streamlined position.
The screen is a fairly large LCD screen, but it needs a lot of work. The first issue was the lack of a back light. We swim at an outdoor pool, and most of the time the workouts start before the sun comes up. This makes it nearly impossible to read the display. Next, the overall brightness of the black and white screen seems dull compared to other displays. And lastly, the general placement of the data fields on the square LCD screen make them very hard to read while underwater.
The SwimSense logs distance, splits, laps, pace times, stroke count; stroke rate, distance-per-stroke and calories burned, which might be data overload for some folks. However, we found all of this to be very interesting. You can easily see if your stroke count, 25y splits during a longer effort stayed the same, deteriorated, etc. Another great feature, if you use the "pause" button correctly, is the workout time and rest time. This would be a great tool for those people who stand at the wall and talk more then they swim. What's impressive is that the Finis SwimSense automatically distinguishes what stroke you are doing (backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and freestyle). We couldn't fool it and trust me, our strokes are not great. It will store a maximum of 14 workouts.
One important factor to remember about all of the swim metrics that the SwimSense reports, is that they are calculated based off of 1 arm. Since the watch doesn't know what your other arm is doing you may very well have swam 10 strokes per 25 vs. 9 strokes. So, you have to keep that in mind while analyzing the data.
Finis claims that the life of the battery is 12+ hours of swimming use, 150+ hours of non-swimming use, 300+ hours in sleep mode. We did not test these exactly, but would say the swimming use time is pretty dang close. The "non-swimming" use would be leaving the watch on, but not in swimming mode. We suggest putting the watch in "sleep" mode when you finish your workout and throw it in your bag. One big feature the watch is missing is a "lock" option. The way it is now, if you slightly bump a button, the watch will power back on and there goes your battery. In most cases, we simply upload and charge the watch after each workout.
The device is really simple to use during your workouts, sans the problems we mentioned above with the screen and buttons. Choose "Swim" then you are off. You have some options for your rest intervals, kicking, drills, etc. (see the image below) Finis suggests using the Pause button for all of your rest intervals and while drilling/kicking, which is best since the watch will not calculate distance for drills/kicking. The Pause button creates an interval. If you touch the Stop Button, it will not create an interval. You should only use the Stop button to end a workout.
If you do get to the pool again without having uploaded your last workout, no problem. Just be sure to Reset the workout so it will save it and create a new workout for you.
Charging is relatively simple. You simply place the watch in the cradle and plug the USB cable from your computer to the cradle. One important thing to remember here is to make sure the Finis logo on your watch and the cradle are facing the same direction. In other words, the watch feels like it will snap in either way, but will only charge if the watch is in the correct position. You can see the cradle below and the Finis logo.
Uploading Data and the SwimSense Training Log
Once you have the device correctly seated in the cradle, you are ready to upload. To upload, you must first download the SwimSense Bridge. It works just fine on Windows and Mac. It would be nice if this were a browser plug-in similar to Garmin Connect etc. so that you didn't have to launch an additional piece of software to upload.
Once uploaded, you can view your data at http://swimsense.finisinc.com. We are not going to go into detail here on the training log as there is a TON of information. At first look, the software interface seems a little "old school", but after using it, it is a simple and straight forward way to analyze your data. Below is a screen shot of the workout detail. (go ahead and laugh at the times now... remember, triathletes, well most of us, are NOT swimmers)
The Finis SwimSense is priced in line with the very few devices in this category.
TriBomb Bottom Line
A device that needs some improvements, as most "new" devices do. But, a cool toy for your swim sessions if you love data.