The Timex Marathon GPS is a rarity – a sports watch with built in GPS that costs less than £100. Timex does not have the profile of Garmin, Polar or Bryton when it comes to sports watches, but that’s a bit of a paradox since Timex has been making GPS watches for a long time – since way back when GPS units were a box you strapped to your arm or wore in a pocket. In fact Riyad still has the original Timex Speed+Distance watch that launched over a decade ago!
With a current price of just £90 you can’t expect a vast array of top end features from the Marathon GPS and one thing that is notably absent here is the ability to upload data to an online portal. For those of you that want to retain your full training history in the form of mapped routes, compare your progress over time using graphs, and get social with all that data, this is not the watch for you.
And if you are one of those people who wants to use a heart rate monitor to get the fullest information possible and really measure effort against output, well, you’ll have to look elsewhere too because the Marathon GPS doesn’t talk to heart rate monitors.
Still, Timex has managed to make this watch in three different colour combinations. There’s an all black version, and the almost obligatory and rather vile looking all pink version, and the one I was sent to review, which is mostly black with blue buttons. That’s actually my preferred colour match as it is a little different from the norm.
The range of features is relatively basic, but the essentials are here. The Timex Marathon GPS will measure speed, pace and distance, take a guess at how many calories you’ve burned, keep the last 30 workouts in its memory, and double up as your everyday watch. In fact, on that latter front, battery life is simply stunning. I’ve used it as a watch for a month off a full charge and the battery life indicator has not dropped a bar.
Timex says you’ll get eight hours of life with the GPS on, so if you want to use the Timex Marathon GPS on long distance walks you should be OK, and it ought to be fine on a week’s holiday without the charger too. Anyone who runs more than eight hours a week may be better off with a more sophisticated computer anyway. The impressive battery life is e a good thing since the charger is pretty clunky and would be a pain to put in your bag for a long weekend away somewhere.
It is worth noting that this device is also very much a watch. Two time zones and five alarms help it stand out from its similarly priced rival, the Garmin Forerunner 10, though the Garmin has a fair few more sports related features, notably a virtual trainer which you can use to pace yourself, and the ability to upload data to Garmin’s online portal, Garmin Connect. An additional plus for the Timex Marathon GPS is that it is 30 meter water resistant so it should be OK if you accidentally wear it in the shower or the pool.
Unfortunately build and usability both let the Timex Marathon GPS down. On the latter front, I found the screen just that bit difficult to read due to small numbers and a cluttered layout.
In time mode the screen gives over far too much space to the day and date, and even displays which of the two time zone you are in as well as having one of those a silly circles that slowly fills up each minute only to disappear and fill again, and again, and again. The time display is relatively small so that I had to look rather than glance to see it. The am/pm notification beneath 12 hour time display is completely unnecessary and way too small to be useful.
The same can be said when using the Timex Marathon GPS on the move. You can see time, distance and pace with the slightly larger bottom display reserved for the latter. You can’t show other metrics, and I found it difficult to see this information while on the move.
When it comes to build I have two criticisms.
First, this is quite a bulky watch. I do quite like large watches, but in this case the watch is way too thick for its overall size, and to emphasise the point the screen is small and lost in a sizeable bezel. At least the buttons stand out well so they are easy to find by touch alone.
My second criticism is that the small ring that holds the strap in place is too small. It is a struggle to get the end of the strap in and out. Taking a watch off and putting it on should be a job that takes a couple of seconds and can be done by touch. Here it takes longer, and is quite fiddly.
Setup is a very simple process, involving you entering the usual gender, age, weight and height information – this is used to calculate calories burned. The thin and rather minimal quick start guide gets you through the process, providing the button press sequences for the entire menu system for setup, as well as for seeing your training history.
You have a little control over how information is displayed, but not very much. You can decide whether you want to see kilometres or miles and that’s it as far as actual data is concerned. You don’t get the option to change what is displayed. When you are out exercising the display shows time, distance and current speed, and that’s it. Rather bizarrely you can set the screen contrast – this is worth doing as out of the box I found it a little hard to read.
One thing you may well find useful is the ability to take automatic lap times. These are handy as you can see how you are doing throughout a run. Many people fade in the third kilometre of five, and the seventh kilometre of ten. Finding out if you are one of them, and then working to compensate, can really improve your overall time.
Distance intervals for automatic lap recording are set at 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 miles or kilometres as well as 0.4 units. If you are wondering about that latter option it does actually make perfect sense. 0.4km is 400 metres. It will appeal to track runners. Handily you can also take manual lap times too just by pressing a button.
There’s also a simple chronograph which you can use for recording all kinds of activity, but you don’t get multiple timers that you might want to use for intervals, nor do you have the option of count down or count up timers. It’s a bit limited. But then that’s the Timex Marathon GPS all over – a bit limited.
Timex is not the only company to make a sub £100 GPS watch – it’s certainly worth reading my review of the Garmin Forerunner 10 for comparison. There is definitely a place in the market for a GPS watch at this price with a relatively limited set of features. But Timex does itself a disservice in limiting the features a bit too far when you look at what Garmin offers. Build and screen quality are also disappointing.
Insult is added to injury in that Timex doesn’t even bother to list this watch at its UK website, and the info at the global site can only be viewed if you create an account first. Fortunately plenty of UK retailers have information about this watch at their sites, but it does beg the question of how much Timex really cares about the Marathon GPS as part of its lineup.
- Good battery life in watch mode
- 400 metre auto lapping
- Clunky design
- Fiddly strap
- Cramped screen
- Woeful feature set
- Outclassed by Garmin