Image source: Whoop

Garmin Forerunner 955 vs Whoop 4.0: head-to-head comparison feature

In this article we provide a head to head Garmin vs Whoop comparison. The recent introduction of recovery-type metrics on the Forerunner 955 and 255 means both brands now monitor very similar data.


Whoop is popular with professional athletes

Whoop 4

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 Forerunner 955

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

Design

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!


Battery life

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.


Sleep tracking

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.


Recovery data

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.

Garmin Training Readiness
Garmin Training Readiness

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.


Cost

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.

Garmin.com is the best place to go to if you’re interested in a Garmin watch. Make sure to also check prices on Amazon as they sometimes offer better deals than on Garmin’s website.

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3 thoughts on “Garmin Forerunner 955 vs Whoop 4.0: head-to-head comparison feature

  • Does Garmin actually take in to account the specific sleep score to give a training readiness calculation or do they look at the actual raw data throughout the day to come up with the score? I have a FR245. While it does not pick up when I nap and credit it toward sleep, the nap is reflected in the body battery graph exactly like sleep. So the data is still there even though it doesn’t call it sleep. So the readiness score based on the raw data may be easily as accurate as Whoop…especially considering the newer Garmin devices have a superior HR monitor.

    Reply
    • No-one knows for sure except Garmin! I don’t know how much weight they give to sleep vs Body Battery. At least for me, it seems it is always underestimating my readiness to train – I typically sleep about 5-6 hours per night + 1-2 hour nap in the afternoon. However, on the nights where I actually do put in 7-8 hours of sleep and don’t nap in the afternoon – it gives a boost to my training readiness. Even if it recognises it, perhaps it doesn’t equate nap time to be the same quality as nightly sleep.

      Reply
  • Recently bought a Garmin Epix watch and I’ve used Whoop since v3. Took me a while to figure out sleep and SPO2 in the watch.
    Things learned: (1) The sleep phase you set is just to set a night time watch face and dimmed setting it does not start and stop sleep time recorded. The Garmin device does determine when it believes you are asleep and when it believes you wake up. (2) Garmin will not track SPO2 if you select batter save in the sleep settings…hard to find this out but I’ve proven it. If you set sleep time for the watch face don’t select battery save.
    I’ve just started comparing Whoops analysis of my sleep stages h:m awake, light, deep, REM with Whoops and I only have a few days. There’s a high degree of variability but it varies in both directions meaning its not clear to me just from the data that one is any better than the other, they just allocated time between sleep stages for any one night differently and inconsistently.
    The Whoop interface for sleep and recovery has become intuitive after more than a year and finding my way around the Garmin sleep and training readiness is still a bit clunky. But if I satisfy myself that the data is as useful even if slightly different and if not one can prove to me that one devices sleep splits are just plain wrong then I’ll drop the Whoop subscription and go with Garmin because of all the other functionality it gives me.
    Fun first world problem to play with. Thank you for the great review.

    Reply

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