Whoop is popular with professional athletes
Now on version 4.0, Whoop is an activity and health tracking device that has no display. Instead you are meant to use the app or website dashboard to view the extremely detailed recovery stats, SpO2, temperature and other vitals metrics. The latest generation is smaller in size and, in addition to the wrist, you can wear it on other parts of the body such as a torso, waist and calf.
Whoop is popular with professional athletes who are primarily after the detailed recovery insights. But the service comes with a monthly subscription. For many, that’s where the attractiveness of such a device tends to fade.
So far Garmin has chosen not to take that route and we applaud them for that decision. In our mind, if you buy a fitness device you should have access to most of the stats it is capable of producing. Unfortunately more and more companies are choosing the subscription route. Fitbit and Oura are other examples.
Garmin has a huge following as well
Garmin is also popular with those serious about their athletic pursuits. It has a range of health devices, sports watches and outdoor watches. Whichever activity you are into, there’s bound to be a Garmin for that.
More recently the company has also focused on making their advices attractive to the female crowd. The introduction of smaller sized Fenix watches and devices such a Lily cater to this segment of the market.
But for a long time, Garmin could not compete with Whoop, Oura, Polar and some other names as far as recovery-type stats. This has changed with the introduction of the Forerunner 955 and 255 about a month ago. These devices brought with them two additional metrics called Training Readiness and HRV Status.
The first quantifies a range of factors in order to assess your readiness to exercise. HRV Status, on the other hand, only looks at the variability of beats between your heart beats. This is another indicator of how stressed your body is – the lower the figure the more fatigued you are.
In addition to these, Garmin also has Recovery Time and Body Battery – both of which can be used to assess your readiness to train. So you could say the company is catching up to Whoop as far as these types of metrics. We are expecting more Garmin watches to get Training Readiness and HRV Status, and there’s already an Alpha version of software with these features that is available for the Fenix 7 line and Epix 2 watches.
Are these new Garmin features a Whoop killer? Let’s compare the two.
Garmin Forerunner 955 vs Whoop 4.0: head-to-head comparison
In this article we are looking at Garmin devices that have the new recovery metrics, primarily the 955. But this also includes the Forerunner 255 along with Fenix 7 and Epix 2. What they all have in common is that they are circular watches with physical buttons on the sides. Some have touch-display functionality, a few have more premium build – but the overall look is the same.
Whoop 4.0, on the other hand, comes as a simple fitness band. As mentioned above, there is no display so you entirely rely on your smartphone and/or web dashboard to review your stats.
Of course, there is something to say about a minimalist design. Some people may prefer that. Plus the device is more durable as you don’t have a screen on your wrist that can break. Ideal for sports such as rugby, hockey, etc – where wearing a watch might be a bit risky.
Another positive for Whoop is its water-resistance down to depths of 100 meters. Some Garmin watches have the same 10 ATM rating but most are stamped with a 5 ATM water-resistance rating. Which should suffice for the vast majority of people.
If you don’t mind a more cumbersome look, Garmin provides you with various design options to choose from. Plus you get something on your wrist that serves other functions. Something that tells you the time, for example!
Moving on to battery life and Garmin watches come clearly out on top. They can keep going for well over a week on a single charge. Plus you also have the option of purchasing a timepiece with solar, which will keep the device on your wrist going for even longer. Whoop, on the other hand, only offers between 4 and 5 days of battery life on a full charge.
Sports and health tracking ability
As far as sports tracking, Garmin watches can monitor everything under the sun. Their health metrics are also quite good, and you can track everything 24/7 with a great amount of detail. Whoop provides similar data, although not to the same amount of detail.
Heart Rate Monitoring
Whoop devices have suffered with heart rate accuracy in the past. There was a DC Rainmaker review a while back of the gen 3 band which alluded to this. The latest iteration in the Whoop series, however, has largely rectified this problem. Just make sure to wear the device snugly when exercising, so that the heart rate monitor can detect your vitals information accurately.
Having said this, we still consider Garmin’s Elevate V4 heart rate sensor to be superior. Particularly when it comes to high-intensity exercise or activities which require lots of wrist movement. Which translates into a better estimate on how hard you are pushing your ticker during exercise.
One area where Garmin lacks is sleep tracking. For some reason, the company is struggling to nail this down. For example, you need to define a window during which you typically sleep. Why is this necessary? Surely the wearable on your wrist can figure out when you are in a horizontal position, not moving. Apparently not.
What’s more, Garmin devices can’t track naps. A cheap fitness band can do this. What’s going on?
For me, that throws Garmin’s recovery stats out of whack. Because I tend to have a shorter than necessary sleep session overnight, and then supplement this with an hour of two nap-time in the afternoon. But Garmin does not take this into account so my Forerunner 955 constantly grades my sleep as “fair” or “poor”. Which negatively effects my Training Readiness score.
There is no such nonsense with Whoop. It keeps tabs on your sleep around the clock. So Whoop is clearly better on this count.
Here we’re only talking about recognising when you fell asleep and woke up. So not sleep cycles – as no devices are really accurate when it comes to that type of information.
Now we get to recovery data. Garmin is moving into this area with its new metrics as explained above. The company’s Training Readiness score is more transparent than Whoop data. You know exactly what secondary metrics contribute to the overall score, and where there is room for improvement.
What’s more, HRV readings give you a nightly average, a seven day average – and all of this is compared to your long-term baseline. The fact that it takes into account multi-week trends in HRV means Garmin can give you a good understanding of how fatigued you are.
But the problem for its devices are its poor sleep stats. And it is primarily for this reason that we would put Whoop ahead of Garmin when it comes to recovery-type data. Their sleep stats are more accurate, and this is one of the most important factors when it comes to recovering from a workout.
With the Whoop strap, you don’t pay a flat fee like you do with the Garmin. Sure the device is free, but you have to opt for the 30$ monthly membership program (check current price). We are not fans of subscription-type services. Few people are. Unfortunately, this is the route more and more companies are taking, Oura and Fitbit spring to mind as other examples.
In contrast, when you buy the Garmin watch, there are no recurring fees to use the device. Garmin does not charge for data. Let’s hope they keep it that way.
Garmin Forerunner 955 vs Whoop 4.0: The verdict
Garmin will probably have an edge for most people over Whoop. It is the one to go for if you want an all-round sports and fitness device that has a great display, a mix of health and fitness tracking features, built-in GPS (dual-band on some watches), on-board music storage, contactless payments, excellent battery life, design options and much more.
The company has also narrowed the gap with Whoop quite a bit as far as recovery-type stats. However it needs to improve its sleep tracking in order to outshine its competitor on this count.
So Whoop 4.0 still has this going for it. We therefore see the wearable maintaining its popularity amongst the professional sports folk. It will also appeal to those who are after something that is minimalistic in design and will not get easily damaged.
However, the one big negative of Whoop is the subscription. With Garmin you only have the initial purchase cost of the device. Beyond that, access to all your data is free. A Whoop 4.0 device is free, but to view your data you’ll need to pay $30 each month. That can quickly add up.
Make no mistake, whichever option you go for, you will be purchasing a quality product. In the end, both Garmin and Whoop offer a good experience and provide info that will teach you to be more in tune with your body and make healthy lifestyle changes. But Garmin is superior as far as activity tracking and breadth of features, while Whoop is still a bit more useful for sleep and recovery insights.
More information on Whoop including purchase options can be found on whoop.com.
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