The Epix is Garmin’s first GPS watch that supports mapping and I have been testing it out for the past few months. It’s their flagship product, and comes with a price to match, but they have squeezed a massive amount of features into a watch. The unit itself is quite large – it doesn’t really suit people with small wrists at all and is bigger than most normal watches. That being said it is still suitable for everyday wear and is quite lightweight. I didn’t notice it on my wrist anymore than a regular watch, but I did have a few people comment on its size.
Garmin have included most of the features from all their fitness watches. They have also added in, the long awaited ability for maps and navigation on the watch. While the maps were very handy a times – it supports topographical maps with roads as well as satellite imagery. It's the size of the screen that makes the difference. The maps are only really useful to check that you are on a track or trail that you have already planned out. Trying to scroll around and zoom in and out on the screen is possible, but ends up being a real pain. The touchscreen does pinch to zoom, but putting two fingers on the screen takes up almost the whole screen. I did find it a little annoying that the GPS status bar keeps popping up when scrolling the map, as this takes up already precious screen space. Overall I found the mapping to be useful, but you definitely want to plan your trips out in advance.
The other outdoor functions included with this watch are a compass, thermometer and barometer/altimeter. I found the compass great for quickly checking that I was headed in the right direction – it is fast and responsive. The thermometer, barometer and altimeter are all constantly on and will give you a graph of the last 4 hours which is really cool. I found the altimeter graph really handy when hiking, but didn’t get all that much use out of the other two sensors. The temperature seemed to be always five or so degrees higher than what it should have been, but I think that is because it is on my wrist. Garmin do sell a separate temperature sensor for people who need accurate temperature, but as a rough guide the internal sensor was ok.
As well as the new mapping and outdoor sensors the Epix also has combined the fitness, activity tracking, and notification features from their other products. The fitness features cover most of the activities I normally do and a few more. There are a whole bunch of different sports the unit supports, but I tested it out cycling, running, and swimming. For cycling it does the usual speed and distance which it what I primarily use it for as well as working well with my heart rate and cadence sensors. The map was also nice to have on rides where I didn’t have any particular destination in mind. It also supports power Ant+ power meters, but I am not planning on buying one of those until they start costing less than my bike!
For running it worked quite well for setting a pace and getting me to stick to it. I have not yet tried out any of the more advanced workout features, but I’m only a beginner runner, so I’m sure I will need these later when I am trying to increase my pace. I tried out the fancy new heart rate strap which has cadence, vertical oscillation and ground contact time. While it was cool to see these figures, I couldn’t really make sense of a lot of the information. I guess the more I run, the more useful these statistics will become.
I was particularly looking forward to the swimming features on this watch, as I find it difficult to remember what lap I am on when swimming and the Epix will count the laps and distance automatically. It did end up being 2 laps out over 20 however which was a little disappointing, but I think this was because I was resting at the end every few laps and it was an indoor pool, so it really struggled to get a GPS fix. The activity tracking is fun at first, and it was good to have a step goal to aim for every day, but I found it didn’t take into account your other activities so it was less useful for the active person. You can go on a 20KM bike ride and an hour later it will be telling you to move and you might not even have reached your step goal for the day!