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would you recommend a VA3?

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  • would you recommend a VA3?

    reading forums , i think its easy to get a biased views of products as users tend to come online to report and resolve issues, rather than just say how great they feel the product is.
    but still, some of the VA3 issues highlighted concern me. (particularly the altitude)

    anyway, despite the issues, would you still recommend a VA3 to me?

    some background:
    - I do some running for fitness, and enjoy having some metrics
    - I live in the mountains, so hike regularly, usually around 1.5-2 hours a day with my dogs.
    - Id like to track my sleep patterns, and general fitness.

    ok, so Ive had a 310xt for a long time, and have loved its accuracy, and flexibility... and although i have used it on a bike, really its mainly been for running.
    however, there is not constant monitoring, the chest strap is undesirable, and its a bulky bit of kit.

    honestly, though the 310xt had lots of things i didn't really need - id say the only thing id miss on the VA3 is the virtual partner.
    Ive considered the FR 645, but honestly, its probably overkill for running/hiking.
    (* I'm not really that interested in 645M/music, as really given I'm off-the-beaten track, i really should be taking my iPhone will me for safety purposes)

    however, the only think that might tip me, is if the 645 was more reliable (altitude/gps/hr) , but the 645 looks to have similar problems,
    perhaps its based on the same hardware/software platform?


    so I'm a bit unsure, ive recently been using a lifeBeam VI, but its inaccurate HR, is driving me mad... so i really don't want the same issues.
    and my 310xt was so good, Id hope going back to Garmin would be a safe bet.
    (and i don't remember the same kind of issue when the 310xt was release, or perhaps i got it after the initial teething troubles were cured!?)

    thanks for any pointers
    Mark



  • #2
    For your use case I'd say it wouldn't hurt to try as long as you get it from somewhere that has a good return policy so you can evaluate it for 30-60 days and see if it works for you.

    The people that I would steer away for the VA3 would be frequent/avid swimmers as that's where I see the biggest, and very valid, complaints. The VA3 works well enough for me as a daily wear/activity tracker, bike commute, easy treadmill run watch. But I did pick up the 645 because I'm a dedicated runner and the VA3 falls down a bit for more serious running like workouts, and while I actually liked the touchscreen more than I thought I would for scrolling between widgets during the day I didn't like it at all while running.

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    • #3
      Unless you're very familiar with the area you are hiking in the mountains, another consideration is the VA3 is very limited when it comes to navigation. Other than that, it should fit your needs

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      • #4
        I am only a new user, but obsess over this stuff (being an embedded hardware/software engineer). The big seller for me vs. the higher end units or the FitBit Ionic is the battery life, and the cost if it were to get mashed. I don't want to drop ~$500 when I do something a little too "active", like bringing in fire wood.

        The only thing I really don't like is the display. While it is great for supporting long battery life being a full-sun color LCD with back-light, I am getting older and my eyes cannot resolve tiny text without a lot of brightness, so without bright ambient indoor light, I struggle to read many of the cool watch faces available. The FitBit wins in a big way here, but the penalty is poor battery life, size, and cost. I wanted something that can record an entire weekend of hiking, didn't break the bank, was reasonably sized, and had a more technical application with details which the Garmin has with its phone app and ecosystem.

        As far as elevation, I have had no issues with mine at all. It seems pretty accurate, and I have been hiking some decent hills, but not mountains (yet). Heart rate detection is superb, and it has yet to miss a step or take longer than 10 seconds to get a GPS lock. This is with 3.40 firmware.

        Looks was a distant requirement, but the va3 is nice.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by R_Tellis View Post
          e VA3 falls down a bit for more serious running like workouts, and while I actually liked the touchscreen more than I thought I would for scrolling between widgets during the day I didn't like it at all while running.

          thanks @R_Trellis
          yeah, I'm not too much into workouts for running, i just open the door and run ... and just tend to use time and HR as indications of improvements.
          this is where the V Trainer was good , i use similar routes regularly, and i like to have on the run feedback,
          the VI was great for reporting new 1k, 5,k,10k PR as you run.
          also i tended to use manual 'laps' so i could set waypoints e.g. at the beginning/end of a steep section... as 1k on flat terrain is not comparable to a 1k climb

          but that's really all i do on the running side.. its too hilly here to do anything like intervals, as you kind of have to push, when the terrain allows

          hmm touchscreen, yeah, id read that...
          does the 645 or VA3 have the auto scrolling mode? ie. where it rotates thru the pages constantly, i preferred that on the 310xt rather than manually switching pages during a run.
          i also might be concerned about, entering manual laps via the touchscreen if its not accurate.

          whats the 645 like as a 'daily watch'? is about the same size - no? i.e. is there any downside (except price ) of a 645 vs VA3


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          • #6
            You mentioned altitude was a big concern of yours. You may want to read the FR645 forums as there's currently an issue about altitude and calibration. It seems manually calibrate of the 645 has been omitted That seems crazy to me but if that's the case, I foresee a lot of returns. Garmin's auto calibration works so-so and manual calibration is a must.

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            • #7
              Yes, both support Auto Scroll. Manual laps with the VA3 is a double tap on the screen which I was able to master for using the Strength app when doing weight training but less so while running. Then again I didn't use this watch much for outside runs as I continued to use my 735 for actual training and really only use manual laps for some workouts where I have warm ups and recoveries set to end on a lap press.

              Elevation wise, as said above, the 645 currently lacks the ability to manually calibrate the altitude. Otherwise there's no downside to the 645 and it handles all of the daily stuff pretty well for me so far.

              I just got my 645 last week so I haven't been able to test how well the strength app works on it in comparison to the VA3 yet and probably won't for at least a week since I'm recovering from a race that beat up pretty bad.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by TMK17 View Post
                You mentioned altitude was a big concern of yours. You may want to read the FR645 forums as there's currently an issue about altitude and calibration. It seems manually calibrate of the 645 has been omitted That seems crazy to me but if that's the case, I foresee a lot of returns. Garmin's auto calibration works so-so and manual calibration is a must.
                yeah, ive read that... I'd also guess they'll find a way to resolve this - but i have to say, this was one reason i was unsure the 645 was any more reliable, as seems similar complaints.


                navigation... no real desires in that area, main hiking/running area i know very well, and if i don't i prefer to use a map - doesn't lose gps locks, run out of battery

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                • #9
                  Q. on altitude/calibration...
                  so on the 310xt, as i remember it... it has a barometer which it uses for altitude, and what it does is calibrate that using the GPS when it gets a lock.
                  is this the 'auto calibration' that's discussed here.. is this not working satisfactorily on the 645/VA3?

                  ( I don't ever remember manually calibrating the 310xt, and don't remember any altitude issues)

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                  • #10
                    I don't think I would recommend the technology at all -- not at the current price. My suggestion to a new potential customer would be to buy a second-hand VS3 (about £30 from eBay) to get a feel for what the technology is capable of. I have yet to be convinced that a more expensive device would fix the things that bug me about the VA3, because I think the problems are inherent in the technology. There's only so much that heart rate can tell us, even if it measured perfectly, and there are many reasons why it isn't measured perfectly.

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                    • #11
                      I don't think the 645 is even doing an autocalibrate right now. The start/finish line elevation for the race I did this weekend, according to USGS, is 13' and the elevation graph on Connect shows 150' at the start and 124' when I finished.

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                      • #12
                        I would recommend it, absolutely - yes.

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                        • #13
                          As much as I gripe about some things with the VA3, I would recommend it as a good "jack of all trades" at a middle of the road price.

                          For me, I do either a swim/bike/run/soccer activity almost each day and VA3 gives me "almost" all the metrics I really want or need. For your hiking, the VA3 has "return to start" basic arrow pointing and a compass (although I've never used either so can't comment on how well they work).

                          I am mildly interested in the activity/sleep tracking ability of VA3 and it seems to do a good job with this.

                          If you want or need more navigation, music, specific metrics, etc. -- you pay for it.

                          On the other hand, if you want to save $ and can live with the looks, the VAHR may not be a bad choice either.

                          As R Tellis says -- maybe just get device from Amazon or other place with good return policy and test if it's right for you.

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                          • #14
                            In my case I have not had many of the failures or problems reported here in the forum.
                            The good thing about the VA3 in general terms is that it gathers many benefits for a lower cost compared to for example FR935, Fenix5, etc.
                            To run is normal, like any watch, it is the most basic activity, unlike models like the 735XT, 935, Fenix, etc. it does not show training effect, lactate threshold, and other advanced metrics, only VO2MAX.
                            For mountain I do not know completely, it has a navigation function but it is very basic, through Garmin IQ Connect you can download some applications to track, etc.
                            To control sleep and daily activity is excellent, the VA3 is the highest-end watch of the live series.
                            And with respect to the altimeter, sometimes it is precise, but sometimes not depending on the climatic factors, I believe that this happens in all the barometric altimeters.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by godolphins View Post
                              As much as I gripe about some things with the VA3, I would recommend it as a good "jack of all trades" at a middle of the road price.
                              Pricing is certainly important here. The price of the VA3 might be "middle of the road" in some localities, but it's decidedly expensive in the UK and western Europe, compared to typical disposable incoming. It's possible that I have high expectations of technology like this, because it's at the upper limit of what I'm prepared to spend on something non-essential.

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