Dave Roberts checks out the Budget Posma W3 GPS watch and ponders whether it’ll persuade him to ditch the Garmin/Suunto and pocket the money saved.
For around £40, depending on how generous Amazon and the sellers are feeling, you can be the proud owner of this dirt cheap Posma W3 running watch, sometimes branded as Trywin and probably a few others! Many watches at that price point are just running watches, without GPS and perhaps with a pedometer instead. For us, anything without a GPS is an absolute non-starter for our activities as we like to keep a record of where we’ve been and perhaps you’ve noticed, share them on the site with you!
The Posma W3 is sold as a watch suitable for running, walking and cycling. There’s even a version that comes with a cadence meter, or you can connect your own ANT+ device. That includes HRM monitors from the likes of Garmin, in theory. Having owned various Garmin GPS watches, I did have a HRM that I believe came with a Garmin 305 Forerunner nearly ten years ago. This connected flawlessly with the watch and I was suitably impressed! We didn’t have a cadence meter to try out.
The Posma W3 is packed minimally in recyclable cardboard, which means we could get the watch out without going six rounds with plastic and stuff. There’s a USB clip for uploading and charging as well as a teeny CD containing the software. Strangely this includes a product key, but why you’d need an illicit copy of the software is beyond us as it’s only useful for this watch. Our main PC doesn’t actually have an optical drive, nor a floppy or a zip drive or a compartment for carrier pigeons or any other such depreciated means of data transfer. We did have another PC that did, thankfully!
The build quality of the Posma W3 feels OK – and its difficult to tell how durable the plastic is in just a month’s use. The clip is also a pain to connect, but that’s the nature of these things.
The user interface looks rather basic, though if this were a £400 watch then the proper adjective would be retro. I’m sure I had similar graphics on a hand held game in the late 80s. But behind that are most of the functions a beginner or a cheapskate would need. You can change the screen to display distance, pace, current pace, speed and so on. The UI isn’t polished, but it’s functional and reasonably straightforward to navigate. We would have liked to have been able to change these displays to a few standard options such as running, walking and cycling to show screens that would most suit those activities.
Other options available are Training, where you can set a number of goals and interval settings. This is rather basic, but enough if you’re starting out. We like the Ghost setting, which allows you to challenge yourself against another workout you did. Much easier than having to fiddle creating a challenge under training!
There’s a Compass setting which allows you to follow a bearing, but you need to scroll down in 1° intervals to get to the bearing you need! Fine if you’re following a bearing of 10° but a chore for most bearings, we’d just use a compass. Finally there’s a mapping screen – that basically shows your route on a blank background for re-tracing your steps, and an electronic compass – which might be useful for some but not a feature we’d use often.
The Posma W3 finds the GPS signal reasonably quickly. It’s not lightning fast, but that’s only to be expected at this price. If you’re using this to replace a more expensive watch, you’ll be disappointed, but didn’t find it markedly slower than budget offerings from Garmin.
Sometimes the watch is just flaky. You have to switch it off and on before starting an activity, and we found we had to switch it off before connecting it to the PC for upload. Once you’re off on your activity, it just sits there quietly logging the route.
It also just stopped recording the test walk when we went inside a building – highly frustrating. It may have been an accidental button press, but we can’t see how we managed that and it should be more difficult to stop the activity.
It did last for the entire 21km route, being on from 8am to 7pm and logging the route for 5 hours or so with still some juice left. That’s impressive considering how many points this watch actually records – a sure battery burner. We scrolled through all the settings and couldn’t see a way to change this.
We had to filter the points down – the full file was a full 1mb in size -that’s huge for a gpx file! You can zoom in and see how accurate the plot was. The only other editing we did was the removal of two dog leg diversions, what’s left is as close to a perfect route recording as you’ll find.
Anything you don’t like?
The software provided with the Posma w3, however, leaves a lot to be desired! The first warning signs were the copyright 2014 or some date in what’s the equivalent of digital prehistory. I’ll give them this, at least it works largely as described. You can import your routes from the watch and then export as gpx, kml and csv files and upload to your activity site of choice. You can also merge activities, which is a useful feature that usually needs fiddling with 3rd party apps or websites to achieve. We were forced to do this to our walk that was aborted half way, so the watch sort of redeemed itself. The manufacturers claim that it works with Strava, so we set up an account there for fair testing as the created files didn’t work with the Garmin Connect site. We did find that the gpx file worked in other essential areas such as on Strava, for editing on OS Maps and crucially on Mud and Routes! What struck me was the accuracy of the trail recorded. It must be recording the points every second, as we had well over 5000 points for a 21km walk.
While all this is great, we encountered critical errors if we created an activity with the HRM. These files threw up errors in all our applications (Strava, Garmin Connect, Tracklogs 3 and OS Maps – just to be sure!) and was only opened by GPS Utility. As we only have a trial version, and the full version costs somewhere in the region of the actual watch thanks to the weak pound, that wasn’t a real solution. Posma support were quick to help, suggesting we upload to an online converter site, which did the trick. Having to export the file and import to an application after my activity was in itself becoming a chore (yes, we’re lazy) and having to do this extra step or lose the HRM was one step too far for us. That’s especially so as the activities are saved as a proprietary format on their watch. It boggles the mind why manufacturers of budget kit like this can’t use generic files such as gpx that could be accessed directly from the watch as needed.
The provided software also had difficulty in displaying some of the routes, so we weren’t impressed. Direct access gpx and using your application of choice would vastly improve the watch. It would also mean that the watch was compatible with Mac and Linux computers. Calories burned isn’t calculated correctly either.
For dipping your toe into GPS watches, the £40 Posma W3 is a tempting prospect. The bug with the HRM data is a huge one for us, but maybe acceptable if you don’t want to share the file, and perhaps use the provided software to store any activities. If you’ve only got £40 and absolutely don’t want to splash out more on a budget Garmin, then this will do the job with just a few issues as mentioned above.
Not too bad for £42!