I colleague at work had a pair of home power line network adapters so I borrowed them to play. The idea is that if you can’t pull a wire (or won’t) and can’t do wireless then this is a last choice solution to providing networking to a remote machine in your home, dorm or whatever. The way it works is it uses the power lines in your walls to create a network between the two adapters (you need at least a pair). The adapters work like a hub and create a link for you. You can put one next to your home router for example and that will allow you to have this network join your existing network in your home as well as to provide internet to the remote computer. The adapter have absolutely no configuration possible. They do not have a DHCP server so if you are not plugging into an existing home network then you will have to do manual IP address. The ones I tested provide one Ethernet wired connection and plug into the wall. The item is a little bulky so blocks the use of splitters/octupus, and they do not have passthru on them. They can not be plugged into surge suppressors or UPS because the transformers in these will block the signal. Security wise this is none. So be aware, while I have not proven it, it seems likely that your neighbor could purchase the same adapter and tap into your network (and your internet) without your knowledge. This is a bit troubling for me … To use this particular layout would require a wired ethernet adapter, something not all laptops have. Speed wise from these devices (which are VERY old) I got about 1MB/s when one was upstairs and the other downstairs. When they were right next to each other this picked up to about 3-4MB/s but either way a far cry below the advertised 85Mb/s (notice that’s bit/s). So in the end the work, are simple as pie to setup but are slow (well these ones are anyway).
If your like me you have some old video tapes. Mine are home movies of my daughter when she was young. They are precious and I didn’t want to loose them. Some are more than 15 years old and I was concerned they would eventually degrade so I wanted to digitize them to keep them for all time, as well as make them more convenient to watch. So I looked around a bit and found a cheap USB video capture adapter on Amazon. It was supposed to come with uLead but came with a barely functional PVR from a company called Honetech. I dug out the VCR (actually had to borrow one from a friend the drive belt on mine had disintegrated), found the cables and hooked it up. The code once installed is super basic but does work. I didn’t bother trying to edit the captured video, rather simply pressed play and pause and separated the videos by topic. On default settings here are the capture settings:
The captured video ends up being 16.3M/min. So a 55 min video ends up around 900MB. This works out to only be around .27M/s so a USB 2 device is more than adequate. All of the encoding is done in hardware by the device so you don’t need anything too powerful to do the capture. The file once captured seems to require a video codec that isn’t there by default on Windows. Kodi had no issue playing it on a variety of platforms. DVD players also had no issues with it. At the end of the day the output is adequate and well worth the time to preserve important videos. The capture adapter was cheap, $20 so well worth it. Time wise it is very time consuming. 1hr takes 1hr (thanks Captain Obvious).
Getting all your activity/sleep etc data in one place is challenging. The makers like fitbit etc have no motivation whatsoever to allow you to have devices from different companies. In fact, they use it to trap you into their ecosystem. If you happen to change trackers, do you want to change your scale? Of all the companies I’ve played with Fitbit, Polar, Misfit, and Xiaomi only Fitbit allow you to export your data. And then it dawned on me, in the Apple world there is a bridge to bring this data in one place, Apple Health! So let’s have a look at this …
When you install an app that supports Apple Health, you can control what amount of access it can have to Apple Health, ie what it can read and write. When you uninstall an app you can also choose to remove all data in Apple health from that app. You can easily see what sources currently have read and write access and tailor it as you see fit.
For this to be a savior you need to keep an eye on how well the individual app works with Apple health. I found Garmin connect had some anomalies that were polluting the sleep data. It seems Garmin did not think of the possibility that you might not always sleep with your Garmin device and it used the definition of normal bed time (which is used to mute the device) on those occasions to populate your sleep? WTF.
Fortunately it’s pretty easy to simply remove Garmin Connect’s access to just the sleep data.
Fitbit have chosen for now to completely ignore Apple Health, likely to keep your data in their vault. Fortunately there is an app out there that simply takes your fitbit data and pushes it into Apple health called Health Sync. It works well.
Fitbit do an incredible job of taking data from multiple devices and merging them. You can wear your Flex for part of the day and switch up to a different tracker and it merges them nicely. Apple Health however makes not attempt to do this. It does however allow you to prioritize which data is likely to be more accurate.
Additionally you can manually edit and delete entries easily.
Data can be exported from the Apple health app, but I see no way of importing it. This is potentially a challenge if you don’t use the backup/restore method of migrating to a new phone at some point. The exported data comes out in an XML file that is challenging at best to do anything with. Fortunately there is an app called QS Access that will allow you to export exactly what you want to a CSV that in turn can be imported into Excel for graphing and analysis.
So an in all it can be done, but definitely could use some work by Apple …
I’ve owned a number of the Fitbits and love the data you get out of them. I’ve seen the Misfit product line and been curious. I got a chance to snag one on the cheap so it’s time to satisfy some curiosity. This is by no means a new device, and in fact there is a shine 2 out.
The Shine takes a different approach to tracking, in that it makes no attempt to be anything but a tracker. Don’t go looking for notifications (I don’t think there is even a vibrate motor in it), doesn’t attempt to add a display (although there are lights on it that if you take the time to interpret can be used to read the time and percent to your goal you’ve done) nada. It just goes about it’s business tracking your steps and sleep while you get on with your day. There’s nothing to recharge, it runs on a disposable CR2032 battery that should last months. And within the app you can see the charge on the battery.
The Shine can be worn in two ways out of the box. Either with a band on your wrist or a clever magnet that can wrap around belt loops, pockets etc.
There are also optional necklaces that can be bought or you can just carry it in your pocket. But I can only imagine the black will get scratched off by keys/coins.
The magnetic based loop works well and has a reasonably firm grip. Using this or the necklace frees up your wrist for other things like watches. A couple of cautions about the magnetic loop. Call me captain obvious but be careful not to have it close to things like credit cards, ID badges etc because it might just erase the magnetic strip. I also found that the magnet would latch onto belt buckles and rivets in belts. When it did that it was very easy to get loose (and potentially fall off). Speaking of fall off if you walk away from your phone or loose your Shine, sadly, the app will not inform you. It’s just gone. And misplace it and you can manually get it to light up, but it can’t buzz. So finding it can be a challenge. Same thing was true of Fitbits by the way. And there’s no signal strength within the app (there are apps for that) that might help you at least figure out the general area it’s in.
The app was dead easy to initially setup (I did it on an Iphone) and every time you open the app it syncs the data off. No idea how much memory it has for wearing it disconnected.
The Shine picks up cycling as steps, but with a Fitbit it uses some back end data processing to massage out the data. No such luck on the Shine.
The home screen of the app gives you a non-customizable view of your activity.
It prominently displays some bizarre point system, and you can’t change it. Give me my steps instead in that nice display. It does however give you what more you need to do to meet your goals for the day. All in all the app is fine. All data is then uploaded to the Misfit portal by your phone. Default units were miles etc, I changed it over to Kms.
You can share you progress from the home screen to variety of different places.
The portal itself is also fine, a little basic. I see no way to export the data, although you can enable it to send your data to Apple health (something Fitbit has chosen to not do). I am not sure I understand where companies come off thinking your data belongs to them and shall never be removed from there cloud. It irks me. At least Fitbit allow you to export it one month at a time for external data analysis. We live in a world that is data rich, and information poor. If you don’t analyse and mine the data what are you collecting it for? End rant …
And don’t expect to be able to have apps like Endomondo feed into Misfit so you can get a total picture of your exercise. This is a HUGE miss … I like getting a complete picture of my exercise in one place. The apps it does support are VERY limited, and sadly none of the ones I currently use, but on the positive side they have included a link to Walgreens so you can ear rewards for your healthy choices? Seriously I couldn’t make something this silly up 🙂
Like Fitbits the Shine lacks an activity reminder, a prod to get off your butt and walk around …
Socially speaking the app can search your Facebook/Twitter and Contacts for people using a Misfit product. Oddly it found no one for me. It does give you a friend it calls Mr.Fit and average of all Misfit users today to compare yourself against. If you deny access to your contacts your going to go and manually dig to approve it (Setting, privacy, contacts). Once it finds friends you can add them, but you can not see if they are active or not (Fitbit does).
I had to replace the battery and had a devil of a time. I eventually figured out I had misread the instructions but in the process had gouged the aluminum. Then putting it back together the battery clip on the circuit board bent, and then broke off. Presumably I did not get the rotation of the lid correct. So this gave me the opportunity to try Misfit’s customer support. They are very limited in ways to get a hold of them, email was the only option. I tried to find a way to call them, no joy. It took Misfit support 6 business days to even return my email. They eventually sent me a new one which was generous of them. They could have said it was my fault for not following instructions. Of course I could say it was poorly designed (which I think it is). In the end it took a whopping 21 business days to get a new tracker. Wow.
If your looking for no muss, no fuss, no glitz, no glamour tracker, the Misfit Shine may very well fit the bill. But do be super careful when changing the battery 🙂
If you’ve turned on Windows 10 lock screen spotlight images (how to enable spotlight) every now and then you see an image you like, and would like to save. Sadly Microsoft left out this capability. A quick Google found a number of suggestions for how to do this, all of which are way too complicated. So I decided to make it simpler. Here’s a simple series of commands you can run to save them off. It isn’t perfect in that it grabs some other crap in the process but it’s relatively easy to clean these up. Here are the commands. Note there are only a few of the images saved so if you like what you see do it sooner rather than later.
xcopy %userprofile%\AppData\Local\Packages\Microsoft.Windows.ContentDeliveryManager_cw5n1h2txyewy\LocalState\Assets\*.* c:\windows-images\
ren c:\windows-images\*. *.jpg
Today’s lighting market has become increasingly complicated leaving a consumer with lots of options to wade through. Especially so when buying a new fixture, however evening existing lighting fixtures can give consumers options. Let’s take a quick look …
The obvious starting place is physical. In the halogen area the base size is called G8 or G9 (as well as others):
There are increasingly options albeit pricey ones to replace halogen bulbs with LED which offer better energy efficiency thus less heat.
In the incandescent space there is a small, medium and standard base. A medium base can screw into a standard base but sometimes not the otherway around, and small is unique in size.
There are other sizes I could ramble on about but these are the most common.
Next up is the technology used to generate the light. The older style is simply called incandescent and dates back into the early days of tungsten bulbs. Incandescents consume the most power, generate the most heat, wear out the fastest, are the cheapest, but deliver more normal color of light (more beige than white).
Halogens have made a lot of headway in track and pot lamps. Honestly I hate them, I find them expensive, don’t last anywhere near as long as they say they should, deliver a narrow beam of light and as mentioned above I’ve had issues getting them out of sockets.
CFL or compact florescent entered the market a while back. The designers got clever and figured out how to make them fit in a normal standard incandescent socket. Honestly, again, I hate CFLs and have no idea why they are in the market. Each and every CFL contains mercury which creates a health hazard if it’s broken and a disposal challenge. If you simply throw them in the garbage that mercury ends up in our landfill and potentially our water table. Mercury is a NASTY chemical. CFLs take less power than incandescent but can be slower to turn on especially in the cold (we do live in Canada eh), and deliver a more white light.
Lately LED bulbs have been hitting the market in a variety of existing form factors promising lower power consumption and longer life. Let’s have a look at a box of a particular LED bulb.
There’s lots of information on the label to digest. Lets start with how bright it is. Because incandescent, LED, and CFL all use different methods to generate light comparing them based on the old way of watts makes no sense (or cents for that matter:)) So instead they use a unit of measure of the brightness called lumens. Here’s a chart comparing lumen levels. You can use it if you are replacing an existing light/fixture.
Next up you can see the number of watts this particular bulb consumes to generate those lumens. In this case it consumes 10W to generate the same lumens as a 60W incandescent bulb.
Next up you can see the projected life of the bulb. In this case it is 10,000 hours. Compare this with the incandescent which translates into 1971 hours. This would imply the LED bulb will last 5 times as long as the incandescent. If you look at the price of incandescent bulbs not even counting the inconvenience to change them, buy them and dispose of them they are between 0.50 and $1.25 at CanadianTire. I paid $15 for a 6 pack which works out to be $2.50 a pop. So if the projections of life can be believed LEDs can be justified solely on the basis of their life.
Next up we can look at the savings from an electricity point of view. For every hour they are on they save 50WH and will run for 10,000 hrs according to the manufacturer. So that’s a savings of 500KWH for the life of the bulb (per bulb). According to my hydro bill the cheapest hydro is during off peak hours is $.087 per KWH so this would translate into a savings of a min of $43.50 in hydro bills over the life of the bulb. At a fixture level I replaced a 4 bulb 60W chandelier with a 5 bulb 10W (not that it needed 5 just the one I bought) so that would be a savings of 190WH which translates into 1900KWH over the life of the bulb or a savings of a min of $165.30!
One word of caution some manufacturers quote years based on number of hours per day the bulb is on. Be careful, this can be misleading and is VERY dependent on your use case of the bulb. If you were to leave a bulb on 24×7 this would be 8760 hours so a 10,000 bulb would only last 1.1 years. This is particularly notable on fixtures I noticed when I was buying that did not have a replaceable bulb. IE you replace the fixture not the bulb.
Another thing worth noting is that some of the LED bulbs are not compatible with dimmers. If you want to use a dimmer you need to be careful with the bulbs you choose.
Well I would have to say, I have been slow to jump on the LED bandwagon and I am SUPER skeptical on the number of projected hours for the bulbs life but it looks promising with NONE of the negative effects of CFLs!
I spend a lot of time at keyboards. Typing blog posts, emails you name it. So finding the best keyboard out there is always something I look for. To top it off I have a bunch of devices I use everyday from a Windows laptop to an iPhone to an iPad. Now the easiest solution is one keyboard per device. But this keyboard offers the possibility of covering off 3 devices at a time. Its the party trick it brings to the table.
Up in the top left corner of the keyboard you will see a dial, this allows you to pair and then select from three different devices to talk to. And each device can be uniquely configured as iOS/Mac or PC/Android which customizes the special keys. The special keys are all here from the windows key (cleverly mascarading as a start button?) to the options key on Mac. Start f1 on iOS performs a home function for an iPhone/iPad. Alt/tab functionality works perfectly on an iPad (sadly this function is not built into an iPhone) which allows you to quickly switch between apps.
Switching between devices is fairly quick, takes about 1-2 seconds to have it register. Not instant but not horrible either. I did find myself forgetting which device I was set to and typing on the wrong screen
The keyboard also has a nice slot to hold your iPhone/iPad.
Physically speaking if your looking for the perfect travel mate, this isn’t it. It’s a big bruiser.
Height: 7.68 in (195 mm)
Width: 11.77 in (299 mm)
Depth: 0.79 in (20 mm)
Weight: 820 g (1.81 pounds)
It is powered by a pair of AAA batteries. Given the size of this keyboard why it doesn’t use a rechargeable or AA batteries is beyond me.
I made a mistake and tried pairing it as an iOS device on Windows and it cleverly came up and told me I’d selected it wrongly. I had to delete it and repair it.
Pairing went super smoothly.
The battery level can be seen inside the optionally downloaded ap on the PC, but there is no iPhone or iPad app (there is Android). So without that your guessing the current battery level. The app will also allow you to change some options on the keyboard.
The power switch on the keyboard is oddly located on the underside of the keyboard. A silly decision and give the size of this bruiser it is perplexing why they would do that.
Feel wise the keyboard reminds me of an older chicklet style keyboard. It does not in all honesty have a great feel. Accuracy wise it is ok but not perfect. The lack of feedback from the keyboard means mashing the keys or making mistakes. It is really not a great feel.
Logitech wisely put rubber feet on the bottom of the keyboard and it works well to keep it in place.
There are some curiously missing keys: Page Up/Down, Home/End all of which I use often …
So all in all a great idea, marred by a cheap chicklet feel. Honestly I would not recommend it.
I’ve reviewed a couple of external batteries lately, pokemon Go is a HUGE power draw. Most people that are as addicted as I am walk around with a power bank in their pocket (or two) and a cable to the phone. Onto this one. So far I’ve been impressed by Aukey …
This one is reasonably small and light but they manage to pack in 5000 mAh worth of power. On the output spec it can pump out 5V 2A which is needed for Android phones and some iPads. My iPhone 6 can’t use the 2A, but this makes it more flexible. The only thing missing (spec wise) is qualcom quick charge that would add 9 and 12V output options for even faster charges.
The unit does not have a charge indicator (other than one LED that changes color based on the charge, red bad, green ok, blue good?), nor does it have an LED that could be used as a flashlight. Why this isn’t on every one of these devices is beyond me.
Input wise it can suck back in 2A for faster recharges.
On my iPhone 6 I was able to get 2 full charges out of it. It pumps out a steady 1A into the iPhone. This would amount to about 75% efficient. Not bad at all.
Recharge time was about 3 hours from dead. Not super quick but reasonable.
The charger does not support pass through so you will need to add a cable just to charge the external battery.
My good friend Lance was wandering through a park and tripped over one of these, so he gave it to me to play with. Searching the web says it’s not uncommon for these to become parted from their owners. Like most other trackers it does not alert you when it becomes disconnected from the phone. Also like other trackers, when you link a found tracker up with your phone it makes no attempt to reunite it with it’s former owner.
The MiBand (first gen) is a super cheap, Chinese activity tracker, think like $20 on Amazon. And it looks every bit as cheap as it is IMHO. So let’s see what we have. Delving into the app you find some interesting artifacts of Chinese all over the place. And it seems China has no idea Canada is a country when you go to setup it’s region. Ok so I guess I’m an American? Setup requires you to give it your phone number and a password to create an account. It then sends you a text with a passcode you enter and your done. Then you enter the usual handful of personal stats, age, sex, weight height etc. The app kept finding a firmware update was needed but it kept failing with no hint of why.
Like other activity trackers it tracks steps (which get converted into kms and calories) and sleep. Interestingly the calories do not include basal calories (active calories only), something I wish others would do. There is no move reminder. As an example Mi Vs Fitbit Flex: Steps 14519 vs 16230 (-11%), Kms 10.5 Vs 11.95 (-12%) calorie count is 580 Vs 2634, but when you remove basal of 1200 it compares with 1434. So other than calories the Mi does an admiral job of step counting. Especially when you include the price!
Sleep tracking is extremely basic and only tells you the time you were in bed and the time you were in deep sleep with light sleep being the left over. Nothing about how many times you were restless etc.
Comparing the Mi to Fitbit flex time in bed: 6.3 hrs Vs 6.9 (-9%). Again not a bad at all.
There does not seem to be a portal to view your stats on, so your limited to it on your device, I also see no way to export the data. The data can be fed into Apple health, a nice surprise and something Fitbit choose to not do.
Notifications (on an iPhone) for phone calls and alarms can be turned on in which case it vibrates quite noticeably, but the default is this is off, and no other notificatons come through to the tracker. Likely to preserve battery life.
There is a find your tracker function, in which case it buzzes if it is in bluetooth range.
The Mi unlike the Fitbits tell you clearly when you last charged it and the exact battery percentage. In 2days it went down a mere 8% which would project out to 25 days which is HUGELY impressive. My Flex gets about 7.
The app is basic, there’s no portal, and no way to export but if your looking for a budget tracker this is a much better choice than I anticipated. If they added full notifications it would present an additional use case for the device.
Hot no the heals of the Fenix 2 I decided to return it and try the Fenix 3, I was that impressed with it.
The Fenix 3 comes in a host of different models to suit your tastes, and budget. Everything from the bottom end Fenix 3 to the Sapphire all the way up to the Sapphire HR (heart rate). I really had to push my mental limits on price for a watch to reach for this model. I bought it from GPSCity refurb for $529. The difference in price between the Fenix 3 and Sapphire was only $50 and changes to a metal band (although a rubber is included to swap out) and the crystal is a more durable sapphire. So I splurged.
A number of folks may only read this post so I will do it as a stand alone post. For those of you that read the Fenix 2 there will be some overlap, sorry about that.
My use case for this device is potentially an everyday watch, activity tracker, as well as use in sports such as hiking, biking and kayaking.
On with the write up. This is definitely a big watch. I have a small wrist and it’s noticeable. It looks a whole lot more elegant than the Fenix 2 but still noticeable as a sports watch. The metal band that is on the Sapphire is really quite heavy. Top that off with the fact that it is not possible to use the metal band with a handlebar mount and you have an issue. Fortunately they did include a normal rubber band and the screw drivers to change the band. Changing the band is a quick and easy task. I would have preferred that they included a spare set of pins but they did not.
The Fenix 3 includes a dizzying array of sensors (same ones as on the Fenix 2), a digital compass, a barometric altimeter, temperature sensor, gps and accelerometers. All packed in a watch. Without the metal band the weight is not that bad, 85g, the metal band weighs in at over 90g on it’s own. And it is actually possible to wear it sleeping. Even on my small wrist. As with any metal band you will need tools to get it sized right for you. Or take it to a jewler. Be sure and watch the direction you need to push the pins out to remove them, it is marked on the under side of the band.
On initial setup on the watch you have to enter your age/weight/sex etc. I guess this is in case you are going to use the watch face without a phone/computer but this just seems like a silly step.
The Fenix 3 uses a very different kind of screen which they refer to as “1.2-inch sunlight readable Garmin Chroma Display”. It’s focus is two fold, make it readable always (sometimes requiring a backlight), and consume as little power as possible. This is a color screen, but just barely. Don’t go looking for a bright vibrant Apple watch or Samsung Gear like screen. Colors are dull and washed out. That is not the focus point of this watch. It is generally a good display, although I am not sure I like it more than the Fenix 2’s …
The backlight on the Fenix 3 now has a setting that anytime you push a button it comes on. Brilliant (and obvious at the same time). Timeout can be set to anything you want, including always on which I am sure will have dramatic effects on the battery and be a good size distraction while your trying to sleep. I wish they had a setting for on during workouts. This would be handy for when in the forest mountain biking or anywhere there is low light.
The watch is controlled by a series of large buttons around the edge of the watch. This is not a touch screen. This is in keeping with the primary purpose of the watch which is a GPS watch. The buttons have a much nicer feel than the Fenix 2 and can be managed with some light gloves.
One of the major improvements for the Fenix 3 is the addition of support for Connect IQ. This is Garmin’s extensible architecture that allows third parties to release there own apps, widgets (data fields for the watch faces), watch faces and data fields (for use in activity screens). Connect IQ is managed from the Garmin connect app on your phone that then sends them over to the watch. Connect IQ support is a HUGE move for Garmin. I love the idea of it but Garmin seems to have SEVERELY limited Connect IQ. You can only have a set number of “open slots” that you can install these into and only so much space for them. Garmin gave you an area to manage the storage which shows you within the phone app how much storage and slots are available but you can not uninstall from this same screen. Clumsy. And the built in Garmin apps/widgets etc can be disabled but do not free up space. I had some challenges trying to figure out how to add back an app I had removed/hidden. Turns out its done on the watch not the phone. And try and uninstall from the phone your current watch face and you get a nasty failed message with no hints as to why. And once you’ve downloaded to your phone a particular app/widget etc they remain on your phone cluttering your lists indefinitely. As a neat freak this is troubling. I know get over it, but really Garmin could have done a much better job of this. I have to say the way it’s done takes a lot of the excitement of having this wonderful and extensible feature. Dear Mr Garmin … please please pretty please work on Connect IQ. Signed your loyal customer 🙂 I do digress .. Oh and be aware that installing these apps/widgets etc while your fussing with a bunch of them really can smoke your battery fast … I had an issue that deleting watch faces was not freeing up slots to install another one, this was only resolved by a reboot of the watch. Oddly also missing is the ability to change the watch face from the phone, it can only be done on the watch. And on the watch there’s no preview so your stuck finding the name of the watch face on the watch and then finding it on the watch. Again, clumsy …
I love the ability to get different watch faces. I found the device and it’s screen lend itself far better to digital rather than analog ones. There are about 900 different watch faces out at time of writing. Here are some of my favorites:
Steam Guage X-WF GNX Digits Ab Initio LCD Digits
There are watch faces that display your heart rate, but these seem to only work with the Fenix’s with heart rate monitor built in. It will not try and connect to an ANT+ heart rate monitor. Similarly there do not seem to be built in apps that will just display the ant+ heart rate data outside of an activity. I did find a third party app that will give you current, min and max heart rate as an activity of it’s own Cardiometer
The Fenix 3 can do complete activity tracking including steps (that gets translated into kms and calories), floors climbed and descended (first time I’ve seen the ability to differentiate between ascend/descend, likely because of the barometric altimeter) and sleep. Steps and kms compared well with my Fitbit however calories are obviously calculated differently between the companies as they varied by over 20% with Fitbit being higher. Sleep stats are very basic but they are there. The watch can easily be worn while sleeping. Garmin even included move reminders, something Fitbit are still struggling to get on more than there newest devices. Like most of these devices they have forgot to pause step counts while in a workout, so I did a ride and it detected a thousands of steps 😦 Just difficult can it be to get this right?
I did notice one really stupid thing. I took the watch off, went to bed and picked up the next morning. As far as it was concerned I had slept 100% the entire time. Doh. Dumb. Oh and Garmin automatically mutes notifications when it detects sleep, brilliant, however they seem to have thought of the possibility of taking it off to sleep and notifications just kept coming, waking me up. Doh, again dumb. The easiest solution to this is to turn on do not disturb mode on the watch and set your sleep time in the phone app (settings, user settings normal bed times). This does cause another issue, if you dont wear the watch while sleeping but it’s on and you have set the normal sleep time connect logs your normal sleep time in Apple health. And I woke up, took the watch off to shower and it thought I had been asleep the time I was in the shower. All in all the sleep area of the watch could use some attention.
Using Garmin Basecamp I was able to transfer waypoint between my other Garmin devices over USB. In fact from what I can see USB is the ONLY way to get waypoints/courses etc to the Fenix 3, you can’t do it over bluetooth or wifi (Fenix 2 was the same by the way). Unlike the Fenix 2 which slowed down when the waypoints got loaded up the Fenix 3 is fine. Waypoints are again sorted by proximity (to your last known location) and there’s no option for alphabetic. Waypoints are now called saved locations rather than user data as they were on the Fenix 2. Makes more sense.
When the watch is being used every day you have access to the altimeter, barometer and compass using the up and down arrow from the time. Garmin created a one screen app that is too confusing for me called ABC. Fortunately you can disable it and have access to each on their own screen. The compass doesn’t include an arrow to north, instead gives you the degrees. Not my preference but heh …
I couldn’t for the life of me get the Garmin weather app to work and lots of people complain about it so …
Watch wise Garmin have hit all the marks with multiple alarms, a stopwatch, and count down timer. You can also create a hotkey shortcut to the count down timer which shortens the number of clicks to get to it. Very convenient. Setting the countdown timer is a little clumsy but not unmanageable.
Garmin oddly refer to activities as apps. You can control which activities the watch displays and can add new ones. For each activity you define the set of screens that will be displayed during that activity. If you don’t add that screen to the activity’s definition you can’t get to it. To get back to the time/apps off the main screen press and hold the down button, then press back to go back to your app. Oddly a visual compass does not seem to be available within a workout but there are ones in the Connect IQ store.
My fav is Compass data field
Heart rate alerts have been improved. Setting them is a bit bizarre they give you two thumbwheels to set your min/max (for custom). One has two digits and one has one. So to set 180 you set 18 on the one and 0 on the other. It confused me at first. Once set it works absolutely perfectly. It beeps, flashes the screen and pops the heart rate screen on for you to see. Very well done.
While in an activity (or not) you can start navigation to a pre-saved point or back to start or track back. Saved locations as mentioned above are sorted based on closest to your current location. Once you sort through your waypoints, and this watch can store 1000 (wow) you are ready to navigate to it. Garmin have dramatically improved the navigation screen. Navigation now becomes an added screen on your existing activity (rather than a separate activity as it was on the Fenix 2). On this screen you get an arrow to your destination and the distance to it (albeit in a super small font) on one screen. There’s a fair bit of wasted white space on the screen not sure Garmin didn’t make more efficient use of the space with bigger font/arrow.
When on other screens you get a little arrow showing you constantly the direction to your waypoint. Wow. I am thoroughly impressed by how well they have done this. Thanks Garmin you have restored my faith in you! The map of your current activity is also super easy to read with a nice wide track of where you have been and is easy to see. A really huge improvement
While in an activity you can press and hold the down button and get taken back to the time of day, and can then call up things like the music app, ABC etc. The music app by the way is super basic and even a little clumsy. You can use it to start stop etc the music. It works fine but don’t go looking for song playing etc it’s just not there.
Activities saved can be uploaded through the phone (through bluetooth, so be patient this can take minutes to complete) or you can set them to auto upload using WIFI in which case magic happens and it just works. Next thing you know the activity is on Garmin connect. It seemed to get the password for the WIFI from the phone. This is SUPER convenient.
From a biking point of view you the Fenix 3 supports speed/cadence sensors. There’s no explicit mention of a speed only or cadence only sensor but I believe it supports it. Standing still and spinning the wheel shows a speed so I am pretty sure it uses the wheel sensor to determine speed/distance when available (yay).
Sensor wise you can have multiple sensors in each category. You can manually rename them to something that is more meaningful rather than some silly number of digits. Sensors can easily be added/deleted, something that was an issue on previous Garmin devices. All in all the management of the sensor pool is well done. One odd thing though is there is no way to tell it for an activity to ignore sensors. As soon as you start an activity it attempts to connect to various sensors. The only exception to this is you can decide to turn off the GPS for a particular activity such as an indoor one. Garmin as always support only ANT+ sensors (not bluetooth), but you can always buy dual mode sensors (bluetooth and ANT+) such as the Wahoo Blue SC, Speed or Tickr heart rate monitor.
Battery life on this watch is dependent on what your doing with it. GPS mode draws the most. Watch mode the least. Measuring actual battery life is very difficult unless you dedicate time to doing just measuring the battery life ie not using the watch. So I don’t have actual numbers for you. Garmin claim up to 50 hours in UltraTrac mode; up to 20 hours in GPS training mode; up to 6 weeks in watch mode. I can’t think of too many devices with that can compete with this. Using this device all day while snowboarding/skiing is very possible. Recharge time from dead is a little over 2 hours so not horrible, and is about half of what the Fenix 2 took. In about 2.5 hours the watch dropped a whopping 22% so that would translate out to about 11.3 hours. Way below the 20 hours they quote and well above the Fenix 2.
Garmin include Livetracking which allow you to share your current location, speed distance etc from your current activity. This can be shared over email facebook etc.
Garmin have included functions to find your phone from your watch and your watch from your phone. Assuming it is within Bluetooth range. They do not appear to have included a last seen location for your watch should you loose it. Something Motorola does.
Garmin have included a search utility to find friends, but it found only one. I know others using Garmin connect so I have no idea why …
Notifications are pretty well done on the Fenix 3. You get a nice little buzz on your wrist then the message pops up on the screen (in albeit small font size, unchangeable). This is comprehensive and covers all notifications on iOS including phone calls. You can even decline this phone call from the wathc. This works well and is super convenient while in the middle of a ride. They also notify you when it’s time to get off your butt 🙂 The notifications come up nicely within a ride but the font is so small as to be unreadable. But they go away quickly.
Garmin wisely included the ability to power off the watch. This allows you to power it off and come back to it the next time you want it and it’s all powered up ready to go. A number of others forget this super obvious function. Some people do have more than one watch you know. No really they do!
There are a dizzying array of things to setup on the Fenix 3. And pretty much every one of them have to be setup on the watch itself (can’t be setup on the phone) and none of them can be backed up. Seems like an odd oversight.
There are definitely things that annoy me with the Fenix 3. The menu system and change of buttons from past devices being just a few. But even with that I have to admit this is an amazing watch. If you have a loved one that is into gadgets and like physical activity this may be the perfect decadent toy for them. Will it change your life, well no, but it real is a wonderful piece of technology!
For another even more in depth review checkout DC Rainmer’s review. Always one of the first places I go to for fitness based tech!
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