When you’re bashing out laps and tumble turns in the pool, checking your pace and splits on a watch screen is difficult. Beaming your vitals to a Heads Up Display (HUD) style smart goggles makes much more sense.
If you want to smarten up your swim training with some intelligent eyewear, your options in the pool and out in open water are limited to two main players, Form Swim Goggles (which we reviewed back in 2019) and the newer Finis Smart Goggle.
Both track your pool workouts watch-free and overlay stats fighter pilot-style onto your goggles in real time. But which smart goggles offer the best experience? We took the plunge to find out.
Sales of the Finis in the EU and UK have been paused until the product gets its CE certification. Finis told Wareable that would be early 2022, though they’re still available in the US and some retailers may ship to the UK.
When they eventually go back on sale in the UK and EU they’ll be considerably more expensive. £253.80 in the UK compared to Form at £179.
Form: $199/ £179.00 / €199.95
Finis: $235 / £253.80 / €235 /
Finis and Form take two very different approaches to design. Form’s sensors and tracking unit is built into the goggles, making them a little heavier and bulkier than your traditional goggles.
By contrast, Finis comes in two parts with a set of goggles and a removable Smart Coach sensor that clips into the side of the eyepiece. The tracking unit can be swapped between compatible goggles, making it easier – and cheaper – to replace your eyewear. With Form, if something breaks, you’re replacing the whole lot.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Finis goggles feel noticeably cheaper and a little more disposable. They’re much lighter, which is a good thing while you’re swimming but they also feel less robust, with much thinner straps and a more plastic quality overall. By contrast, the Form goggles feel built to last.
Both offer a good range of sizing options: six interchangeable nose bridges with the Finis and seven in the box with the Form. We found it easy to find a good leak-free fit with both, though the Form swim’s wider straps are marginally more comfortable and easier to adjust.
The other important difference is the location of your stats on ‘screen’. Form puts your metrics directly in view with simple dot-matrix style readings that are easy to see without feeling like they’re distracting or in the way.
Finis, on the other hand, made a conscious decision to place its stats further into your peripheral vision to allow you to swim without interference. Bizarrely though, because you end up having to actively look into your peripheral vision to see them, it actually feels less natural and more interruptive than the Form experience. The first time you use them, you also have to use the app to adjust the stats location and the process is a little more fiddly than Form.
Another important distinction: Form lets you switch the stats display between eyes. With Finis you’re stuck with the left eye only.
Form metrics and HUD
Both goggles track the basics in real time with automatic stroke detection for all stroke types. Form, however, offers a much broader selection of metrics while you swim and in the post-swim app analysis. Plus much more extensive customisation.
In the pool, Form has two in-swim modes (lap swim and intervals) with three main display screens (swim, turn and rest), each with two metrics. These are easy to customise in the partner app where you can choose to display things like split time, stroke rate, distance per stroke or pace per 100 visible.
The Finis forces you to choose one mode, though you can switch between modes in the app later.
You tell it what you usually do in the pool, choosing between swimming for time, swimming sets, laps or a standard swim mode. On the goggles you get the same trio of screens for swim, rest and turn.
Finis metrics and HUD
But unlike Form’s customisation, the metrics are set for each mode. For example, in standard swim mode, while you swim you get a lap count total and timer. After a turn, Finis serves up your last split time.
During rest data scrolls between total laps, clock, total swim time, set time and number of laps and rest time.
The Finis app is nicely detailed and fairly coherently presented. It offers total swim time with breakouts for active time and rest time. Plus pace, distance, lap count, lap spits. The app also breaks down your sets with time, distance and average splits for each set.
Form’s app includes everything you get from Finis plus valuable extras such as distance per stroke, stroke rate, average stroke count per length, SWOLF and average SWOLF efficiency scores, pace per 100m.
You can also add heart rate stats to Form’s offering by pairing in a Polar Oh1 goggle-worn sensor and goggle clips are available. Those the OH1 and clip need to be bought separately.
Another point of difference, the Form Swim can also be used for open water and some compatible swim spas though with a shorter list of metrics tracked. Though distance and pace only work in open water when you pair it with an Apple or Garmin watch, piggybacking the GPS tracking.
If you’re looking for coaching – and you’re happy to pay a subscription for it – Form also recently added guided swim sessions, a sort of virtual coaching tool that delivers real-time instructions to guide you through structured training sessions.
Form is currently offering a one-year free trial to all users though after that, it’ll cost an extra £8.95 per month.
Form syncs your swims with Strava, Garmin, Training Peaks and Apple Health. Finis doesn’t offer watch pairing and only plays nice with Strava.
The only areas where Finis offers more than Form is that it lets you add your local pool and store the pool lengths and you can also edit your post-swim data to fix incorrectly detected strokes.
Because we’ve only got one pair of eyes, we couldn’t test the goggles directly head to head.
However, against a Garmin Enduro and our own lap counting, both sets of goggles were as reliable as the watch on laps and distance – and often within one or two lengths of our manual counts over 1,000m swim in a 25m pool.
That’s fairly standard for most swim-tracking watches. Stroke detection was pretty solid too on both though again not 100% perfect. That’s where the Finis workout editing tool will definitely prove useful.
In our tests, both lived up to their claimed battery life performance.
The Form goggles offer considerably more swim time on a single charge, with 16 hours compared to the Finis’s top-whack 6 hour staying power.
Both also use a proprietary magnetic USB charger to power up.
There’s only one winner here. Form Swim’s all-round package is Olympic pool size lengths ahead.
It outperforms the Finis in almost every area: bigger battery life, wider suite of metrics tracked, better HUD display, better – if a little bulkier – overall design, and those real time coaching skills. All at a cheaper price.