EPSON 347 Performance Review
Epson 347 Review by Robbe Reddinger
Epson 347 GPS Watch MSRP: $309.99
Pros: Precision GPS, above average battery life, reliable heart rate monitor, crystal clear electronic paper display even in bright sunlight
Cons: Possibly the worst app I’ve ever seen in usability, design, and reliability, confusing watch navigation, inconsistent syncing, clunky size, design elements reminiscent of Soviet-era bloc housing
Takeaway: This is a good watch for purely utilitarian purposes. It may be ideal for endurance runners, as the battery is reliable and the data display is clear and accurate. It takes a learning curve to figure out how to use its sub-features (i.e., combing the entire online manual plus critical thinking skills). I’d say avoid the app at all costs, but you’re forced to use it at times. It is one of the more frustrating things I’ve had to deal with in life outside of parenting a toddler.
In 2015, Epson (yes, the printer company) attempted to enter the small but crowded GPS wearable market when they released their first offering of GPS watches, a three-watch lineup under the RunSense moniker. That lineup didn’t exactly send shockwaves through the running community, so Epson made the (odd) decision to double down and release a new line of five new GPS watches just two years later. The new line falls under the ProSense banner and features some upgrades to the RunSense watches, most notably a longer battery life across models and a better display.
For this specific review, I’ll be detailing only the ProSense 347, which is more or less their top tier model, second only to the 367. The only apparent difference between the two is the glass used for the watch face ( a mineral for the 347 vs. sapphire for the 367). This model comes in at $309.99, while others in the ProSense line range in price from $99-$249, with varying features and battery life.
I compared the 347 against my Garmin Forerunner 305 over the course of nine runs, ranging from regular routes to a track workout to races (both a half marathon and a 5k). (And yes, I’m fully aware that my Garmin is a dinosaur of a watch, but its GPS accuracy lines up with other Garmin models).
The Epson 347 came out of the box with the bare essentials, its charger, and a quick start manual. First impressions weren’t bad. The chronograph case is a bit hefty (47mm diameter and a 15.5mm depth), but I also have wrists the size of a baby bird’s leg so that it may work better for others. It’s bulky, to the point where it’s challenging to wear non-athletic long sleeves or jackets over it. Despite its overall size, its weight comes in at 2.2 ounces but still feels light on the wrist. I particularly loved the silicone wrist strap that can fit any wrist size comfortably due to its dual hole design running the length of the strap. Currently, the 347 strap only comes in black, without replacement options. The lower models offer other colors, so maybe there will be more variety in the future. There’s one loop to hold the strap, but I felt like it could’ve used two. I found the strap came flapping out of its loop on several occasions during activity. The flapping will be a continual annoyance for those with smaller wrists.
Control-wise, the watch features five buttons— up and down navigation and an ‘Enter’ button on the right side, and ‘Start/Stop’ and ‘Back’ buttons on the left side. Wearing the watch on the left wrist, the buttons are a little awkward to access during activity. I know some Garmin models the user can “flip” the watch and recalibrate it for button preference, but that capability doesn’t exist in the Epson line.
Setting up the watch was… interesting. The quick start manual directs the user to download the Epson View app and create an account. After doing this and syncing it with Bluetooth, I noticed a firmware update was available, which I began downloading. The update was running for 40 minutes when on the last step I got a crash error on the app screen and a termination of the update. Disappointing. However, after closing and reopening the app, it appeared that the update did take place. Still, not a good start.
I’m just going to get this out of the way- the Epson View app is trash. It looks and feels like a high school engineering intern built most of it as a final project. The activity screen is okay, but for changing settings, I had to use a poke-and-hope approach that led down weird and confusing trails. Buttons are sometimes disguised as oddly-placed text, while some of the text even runs beyond the borders of the screen. Additionally, it seems like the app has an endless parade of “Accessing Settings…” notices between menus. Because of this, navigating between menus can sometimes take more than a minute. All of this wouldn’t bother me much if I could forgo the app altogether and do everything from the watch, but the user is forced to use the app for specific functions, as you’ll see going forward.
USAGE AND FEATURES
The watch has the capability for multi-sport, including heart rate monitoring in open swims, but I’m only a runner and casual city biker, so this review is strictly based on running.
Before testing the watch, I put it on a full charge, which takes 2.5 to 3 hours. The charger is a small clip that is easy to use and transport. I dedicated myself to wearing it with the heart rate monitor on 24/7 because I wanted to do sleep monitoring as well. However, the size of the watch kept me awake at night, so I gave up after two nights. Also, setting the sleep schedule can only be done through the app, in a buried menu, so it just wasn’t worth it to me.
The activity screen has a near endless possibility of combinations; unfortunately, none of these can be changed from the watch. From within the app, the user can choose up to 35 different measurements ranging from the standard time and lap measurements to everything from recovery time to total ascent/descent. These measurements can be displayed on up to four different screens with 1-3 lines of data, whichever you prefer. Once these settings are transferred to the watch, you can then cycle through them during your activity, using the up/down navigation or auto scroll.
During activity (or anytime), the display is phenomenal. The data is clear even in bright sunlight, thanks to the electronic paper display (similar to an Amazon Kindle). The data screens can be set to auto-scroll, or you can switch between them with the navigation buttons. On night runs, the backlit display turns on at the tilt of the wrist and offers perfect clarity. I found the screen to be the most appealing aspect of the watch.
Regarding GPS, I found the Epson 347 to be extremely accurate over the course of my nine runs. My Garmin can sometimes take up to a minute or two to connect to GPS; however, the 347 connected within 10 seconds on every run, even inside my house. This may be attributed to Epson’s assisted GPS (which can be turned off/on), that periodically updates your location for quick GPS connection when called upon.
Regarding accuracy, I was a little nervous after my first run when it was over a half mile off from my Garmin on an 11-mile long run. However, the Epson 347 uses stride sensing and positioning algorithms for better accuracy during poor reception, and I feel like it may take a couple runs to get this correct. In fact, after looking back on the numbers and routes, I feel that my Garmin is sometimes off. During a track workout consisting of 8400 meters on the inside track with a little extra at the end (approx. 5.3 miles), the Epson came in a tenth of a mile closer than my Garmin. That said, in a half marathon and a 5k race, both the Epson and the Garmin came in with the same results.
Epson touts the battery life as being the best in its class (GPS & HR (46 hours), GPS Only (50 hours), Activity Tracking (7-14 Days), and Watch Mode (60 Days)), but I feel the reality may be a little less than they promise. As I stated before, I used it in activity tracking mode during my waking hours with heart rate and auto backlight turned on (the light turns on when tilting the wrist to look at the watch). In this scenario, I did 24 miles of running on a taper week (roughly 3.5 hours of GPS during activity) over the course of seven days before the watch died. Epson claims the watch can do 46 hours of battery life with the GPS turned on. I wasn’t doing any ultras, so I can’t confirm this, but I was expecting a little more activity time before the watch died. Perhaps turning off assisted GPS and saving the backlight for runs would’ve given my battery an extended life. That said, as a whole, I found this battery life acceptable for my personal use. I’m okay with only charging my watch once a week. However, be aware it may not be as incredible as Epson promises. It sure beats the hell out of my Garmin though.
The heart rate monitor seemed to be pretty accurate for the most part, although on one run it flatlined out for about a mile (maybe I died, who knows). Overall, I found it to be acceptable, and I don’t have to wear a chest strap, so I was cool with that. There is a Vo2 max estimator as well, but it can only be used when autopause was off, which I didn’t realize, so I can’t attest to its usefulness.
Syncing to Strava was hit or miss. Apparently, at times my watch randomly disconnected from my phone’s Bluetooth, although the watch gave no notice of this, and continued to show the Bluetooth icon on the home screen. The solution was to restart the app and turn the watch off and back on. I was then able to reconnect and sync the data. Syncing can also be done through the Epson View app.
Other features of the watch include the ability to design workouts, although it’s another thing that’s confusing as hell within the app, with no direction whatsoever in the user manual. You just kind of have to figure it out through trial and error. There’s also a music control of some kind. I accidentally turned it on once, and had no clue how to get it off, and was forced to listen to that awful U2 album that was forced on my iTunes. Additionally, the watch also has the capability of pushing phone notifications. The notifications are so bad that they’re kind of fun. It only displays the first ten characters of the text or message, so it’s an entertaining guessing game trying to figure out who texted me.
The watch is also water resistant to 10 bars (i.e., 100 meters). I only wore it in the shower, but it was fine.
EPSON 347 FINAL THOUGHTS
Look, this isn’t a bad watch at a functional level. If you’re looking for solid technical specs that outperform many other GPS systems, but you don’t care about aesthetics, then this watch would suit your needs. I think this watch could and should be marketed more towards the trail community. I’ve heard plenty of horror stories of watches going dead on the trails, and this watch would not only give great battery life but would also present a perfect display both in the day and at night. Anything to help cut through the brain fog in later miles. I balk a little bit at the price point, but I guess that’s the price of a long-lasting battery (the next model lower has less than half the battery life for $249). It’s a shame Epson didn’t spend a little more on design and user testing for their app. They claim their app outperformed Fitbit and Garmin in usability studies— they are either straight lying, or they picked three blind people to do the study. If Epson could get that together, and add some nice design and custom options, they’d have a real winner. It’s a shame because it seems like their Seiko arm could’ve added some valuable input in this regard. Right now it’s not an everyday watch, but maybe they’ll learn some lessons and combine their technology with usability, to produce a watch that’s ready to stand with the rest of them.