Wearables

Garmin's Marq Athlete a sporty, handsome smartwatch at a price

The $2,499 Marq Athlete smartwatch is the cheapest of the five new Garmin Marq models launched in Singapore.

The other models are the Diver ($4,199), Aviator ($3,199), Captain ($2,999) and Expedition ($2,799) indicating their target audiences.

The Athlete - for anyone who runs, swims or cycles - is perhaps the most accessible model in the series.

On looks alone, it is a winner - with a sleek titanium watch case with curvy lugs, black titanium bezels that surround a 1.2-inch round sapphire display and an elegant, textured black silicone strap. It easily doubles as a dress watch.

It is packed with features, including built-in heart-rate monitor, digital compass, barometric altimeter, thermometer and pulse oximeter for monitoring the body's oxygen saturation.

Thus, apart from tracking daily physical activities, it also tracks advanced running dynamics such as maximal oxygen uptake and provides recovery time after a workout. It also tracks sleep quality, stress levels and body battery, which is Garmin's own measurement of a person's energy level.

It has Garmin Pay, Garmin's cashless payment scheme that works like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. It also supports Garmin's Connect IQ, which allows you to add apps, watch faces and widgets to the smartwatch.

The display is not a touchscreen, so you have to use the watch's buttons - there are three on the left and two on the right - to navigate the menu and change settings.

If you have been using a Garmin running watch, you will not be overwhelmed by the buttons. But otherwise, it might take a while to get used to the controls.

The top-right button is for activating GPS tracking and selecting options, while the bottom-right one works as the back button. The top-left button switches on the backlight, and the middle and bottom-left buttons serve as the up and down buttons respectively.

  • FOR

    • Good-looking

    • Packed with features

    • Accurate tracking of workouts and sleep

    AGAINST

    • Poor screen for its price

    • Expensive

    SPECS

    PRICE: $2,499

    MATERIAL: Titanium watch case, sapphire glass display and silicone straps

    WATER RESISTANCE: 100m

    CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi

    WEIGHT: 94g

    RATING

    FEATURES: 5/5

    DESIGN: 5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 2/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

The display resolution of 240 x 240 pixels is quite low and not sharp enough - certainly not good enough for its price tag.

Thankfully, the Athlete is excellent in tracking physical activities. For distance tracking through GPS, its readings over my usual 5km jogging route came within 50m of the actual distance.

For step tracking, readings are only 4 per cent off from the readings of my calibrated Apple Watch Series 4.

To track pool swims, you have to first set the pool length - 25 or 50m - before you start. It was spot-on with its lap-counting in a 500m swim I did.

As for sleep monitoring, it accurately pinpointed the time I went to bed and woke up, and recorded the amount of light and deep sleep I had.

The Athlete's battery life is superb. It is rated at 12 days in smartwatch mode and up to 24 hours in GPS mode.

I wore the watch daily for five days, with notifications switched on the entire time, during which I did two 5km GPS-tracked runs and a 500m swim. The battery level only dropped to 40 per cent. By comparison, my Apple Watch Series 4 usually lasts for about two days at most.

But as good-looking and feature-packed as the Athlete may be, it is still difficult to justify its price of nearly $2,500. You can almost buy four entry-level Apple Watch Series 4 with that amount of money.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 11, 2019, with the headline 'Sporty, handsome smartwatch at a price '. Print Edition | Subscribe