Archive for November, 2010

Garmin Forerunner 405CX Review

November 10th, 2010

Pros:

  • Very accurate GPS tracking and workout data
  • Various display options available
  • Comes with dock/clip for rechargeable battery
  • Backlight is bright but not battery-draining
  • Reliable in various temperatures
  • Reputation among users as one of the best available

Cons:

  • Software for Mac OS is barely compatible and behind on updates (most Mac users use third party software instead)
  • Bevel control is highly contested
  • Somewhat clunky for users with smaller wrists
  • Small screen and text can be hard to view while running
  • Non-intuitive operation requires thorough instruction reading to start

Review

Garmin Forerunner 405CXThe Garmin Forerunner 405CX is the most recent edition of Garmin’s popular Forerunner GPS running watch series. The watch tracks a considerable amount of data, much of which can be read on the watch face while running, and all of which can be uploaded to a computer for filtering, tracking, mapping, and comparison after the run.

The Garmin 405CX records time, pace, distance, route (including altitude), heart rate, and calories burned. With the exception of GPS location, the data collected by the watch can be viewed by users while they run. The screen allows for up to four fields of data, which many users find convenient, but a few find difficult to read. In addition to recording current data, the watch can be used to recall previous workouts, and runners can compete against their own workout history with the watch’s Virtual Partner feature.

After the workout, collected data automatically uploads onto the owner’s computer when the watch is within wireless range. For the most part, owners are pleased with the Garmin workout tracking software, which provides a wide range of tools for filtering, tracking, comparison, and organization. However, the Mac version of this software is notoriously problematic and infrequently updated, and Mac users overwhelming turn to third-party software for use with the Garmin 405CX.

The GPS feature on the Forerunner 405CX has been praised as one of the most geographically accurate among running watches. In cases where the GPS function is not needed (such as indoor workouts or wearing the watch in a stationary location between runs), the GPS can be turned off, which helps conserve battery life.

The battery is rechargeable, and the watch fits easily into a charging clip so it can be charged on an ongoing basis. The watch’s power save mode allows it to operate for up to two weeks on a single charge. Garmin says it runs for 8 hours in regular mode with GPS enabled; some owners have reported shorter battery lives and some have reported longer.

The Garmin Forerunner 405CX is very well received and has earned consistently positive reviews. The most frequent complaint about is about the functionality of the bevel-switch. Numerous owners have reported that sweating causes the bevel to stick and stop working, but most owners who regularly rinse the watch with clean water or towel it off report that these measures keep it working fine.

Bottom line: The Garmin Forerunner 405CX is one of the leading and most well-received GPS running watches on the market. Its design isn’t perfect and its software could be better, but it is extremely accurate and records an impressive range of data, which allows for excellent workout tracking.

Garmin Forerunner 310XT Review

November 10th, 2010

Pros:

  • Numerous custom screens, to view stats however you prefer
  • Powerful battery life for long events
  • Buttons and screen are easy to use and read while running
  • Accurate workout data
  • Exceptionally strong GPS
  • Truly waterproof

Cons:

  • GPS doesn’t work in water (although this isn’t possible)
  • Software and upload features could be better
  • Heart rate monitor not as accurate as competitors
  • Some breakage complaints upon dropping watch face-down

Review

Garmin Forerunner 310XTThe Garmin Forerunner 310XT is a GPS running watch specifically designed for triathletes and others who compete in long events: it is waterproof, both wrist- and bike-mountable, and boasts a battery life of 20 hours.

NOTE: Potential buyers should be aware that GPS signals do not penetrate water, and Garmin is straightforward about this limitation even in the product’s documentation. Nevertheless, some owners of the Garmin Forerunner 310XT give it poor reviews because their final GPS mapping is skewed in the water portion of their triathlon training. Swimmers who place the watch in the top of a swim cap do report better readouts than those who wear it on the wrist.

For the running segment, the GPS functionality of the Garmin Forerunner 310XT is powerful and accurate and earns some of the best reviews among GPS running watches. In addition to GPS location (latitude, longitude, and altitude), this watch records distance, pace, average pace, and heart rate. The heart rate is collected wirelessly from a heart rate monitor that comes with the watch (it’s also available without the heart monitor for about $50 less); an alternate, softer heart rate monitor can be purchased separately.

For the biking segment, this watch is compatible with an easy-dismount bike attachment and can also work wirelessly with a pedal unit to record and track cycling cadence.

For the swimming segment, this watch is waterproof to a depth of 50 meters. So even without GPS mapping, the Garmin Forerunner 310XT is appealing to lap and distance swimmers interested in tracking their speed and heart rate.

The screen of the Garmin Forerunner 310XT is large and very easy to read, even while running. It also has large buttons that make switching between views easy. The display can be customized ahead of time to show stats however the athlete prefers.

The data that is recorded can also be tracked by segment according to different sport modes. For example, if you plan to swim, bike, then run, you program those segments into the watch before you begin, and can start each segment as you go. It also records transition time, so you can see exactly how long you take to switch between each event of a triathlon.

Once recorded, the data will automatically transmit to your computer (set up ahead of time) once you’re within range. The data can then be tracked, monitored, and filtered as you desire, using Garmin’s included software (better for PCs than Macs) or whatever software you prefer.

Bottom line: The Garmin Forerunner 310XT is a powerful and robust waterproof GPS watch that does just about everything except map GPS routes underwater (which isn’t possible). Its display is easy to customize and it tracks pace, distance, heart rate, and GPS location. Collected data is wirelessly updated to a computer for tracking statistics. This watch is waterproof up to 50 meters and has 20 hours of battery power.

Garmin Forerunner 110 Review

November 10th, 2010

Pros

  • Easy to use / little to no setup
  • Affordable
  • Small, comfortable, lightweight
  • Looks like a regular watch
  • Heart rate monitor available separately, if desired
  • Strong GPS signal (reads satellites within 10-15 seconds in most areas)

Cons

  • Less robust features than pricier models (esp. no “current speed” reading)
  • Data updates via USB (some other models update wirelessly)

Review

Garmin Forerunner 110The Garmin Forerunner 110 is a simple but high quality GPS running watch. It is designed to track distance and pace, keep track of a geographic route, and to save data for downloading, assessing, and comparing over time. This watch is one of the simplest in the Garmin GPS lineup, and as such it has fewer bells and whistles than other models, which some users like and some don’t. However this also makes it more affordable. For users who are interested in heart rate monitoring, a compatible monitor can be purchased separately for around $30.

The data is recorded while runners are out on the road or trail, and it can then be uploaded to a computer using the included USB cable. The data is then viewable with Garmin’s robust online workout tracking programs (which are free to us with the purchase of the watch). This includes seeing the route replayed on Google maps.

Garmin excels at GPS technology, and the Forerunner 110 is no exception. Though a few have had trouble in specific geographic areas, most users pick up GPS satellites within 10-15 seconds and rarely, if ever, lose them over the course of a run. This results in highly accurate mapping within the tracking program.

One advantage of the Garmin Forerunner 110’s simplicity is its profile. This watch is smaller, lighter, and generally more comfortable than many of its cousins. This has especially been praised by runners with slim or average wrists, who often find the other watches cumbersome. The slim profile and simple design also allow runners to wear this as a regular wristwatch if they desire.

Another advantage is the ease of use. The Garmin Forerunner 110’s display and controls are straightforward and the setup time is very minimal. Consequently, all of this simplicity also makes this one of the more affordable Garmin GPS running watches on the market.

The only notable complaint about this unit is that it doesn’t report a runner’s current speed. It shows average speed of the total run, and average speed per split (which users can set as short as a quarter mile). The split speed is sufficient for many runners, but those who prefer immediate, current speed display (like a speedometer in the car) may find this watch insufficient for their needs.

Bottom line: The Garmin Forerunner 110 is a high quality basic GPS running watch that records route/position, speed, and distance, all of which can be tracked over time using Garmin’s online tools. This is ideal for runners who want a simple, lightweight, affordable running watch. Runners seeking extra bells and whistles should consider pricier models.

Suunto X10 Review

November 10th, 2010

Pros

  • Many features not found on other watches (e.g. barometer)
  • Saves up to 500 waypoints
  • Waterproof up to 100 meters/330 feet (farther than competing Garmin watch)
  • Very lightweight and compact

Cons

  • Consistent construction problems make watch unwearable: numerous horror stories of watch face and buttons falling off due to cheap adhesive

Review

Suunto X10The Suunto X10 Watch is designed as a high-grade, complex, multi-function GPS athletic watch. Suunto has a reputation for very high end watches. The number of exceptional features found on this watch are well above most competitors: the company has put considerable thought and effort into equipping the Suunto X10 with nothing short of every bell and whistle they could think of.  Unfortunately, the watch’s construction does not seem to have been approached with that same level of care. Consistent complaints of structural defects, if unaddressed by Suunto, will make the purchase of the X10 a gamble.

It’s an understandable gamble: the laundry list of features on this lightweight watch (its housing is just 76 grams) is impressive. Its menu-based interface gives users control of some of the standard GPS running watch features, including distance, speed, stopwatch, etc. It also tracks the route of travel using responsive GPS technology. The Suunto X10 will mark and keep track of up to 500 waypoints.

Less common features include the X10’s compass, barometer (with storm watch technology), thermometer, and altimeter. It is water resistant to a depth of 100 meters (about 330 feet) and also features adjustable declination. In addition, the X10 contains a calendar and can be set for 5 alarms at once: 3 daily alarms, 1 altimeter alarm, and 1 weather alarm.

More conventional, practical features include the Suunto X10’s backlight, rechargeable battery (charger is included), and low battery indicator. Suunto recommends the X10 for use in backcountry travel, military assignments, and generalized outdoor adventure activities.

Like other GPS watches, the data that the Suunto X10 collects can be tracked for statistical comparison overtime and is compatible with Google Earth (to recreate routes travelled).

One final feature of the Suunto X10 GPS watch is its inclusion of a 2-year warranty. This, unfortunately, is a feature noted by many owners of this watch because they have had to take advantage of it. Despite Suunto’s reputation for high quality watches and clear emphasis on multi-functionality, numerous owners report structural integrity problems. Specifically, the adhesive used to hold the watch together does not hold. The plastic watch face, as well as the buttons, have both fallen off for multiple owners of this watch. Though Suunto replaces the unit quickly and politely, the replacements do not seem to be any better.

Unless Suunto has improved their assembly and found a new adhesive, the bells and whistles may not be worth the purchase.

Bottom line: The Suunto X10 is a high-end GPS watch that has many fun features and gadgets not found in other GPS watches, including barometer, digital compass, thermometer, and even altimeter. Unfortunately, the X10’s lightweight plastic housing is not always held together with reliable adhesive. Unless Suunto has changed their manufacturing practice, buyers should be ready for the possibility of the watch falling apart, literally, at the seams.

Timex Ironman Global Trainer Review

November 10th, 2010

Pros

  • Attractive, high quality appearance
  • Four-display screen is very easy to read
  • Customizable displays
  • Massive amount of features and options (compass, map, etc.)
  • Good for multi-sport athletes (customize settings for up to 5 sports)

Cons

  • Satellite signals can load very slowly and aren’t as accurate as Garmin
  • No foot pod
  • Limited to TrainingPeaks software
  • Marketed to triathletes, but unclear whether it’s waterproof

Review

Timex Ironman Global TrainerThe Timex Ironman Global Trainer GPS with Heart Rate Monitor is a robust GPS running watch. This watch offers a slough of customization options compared to some of its competitors and collects a considerable amount of data. The data that it records includes pace/speed, distance, GPS location (including latitude, longitude, and altitude), heart rate, and more. Than data is then uploaded to PC software or the internet for tracking workout patterns and statistics over time.

One downside to the Timex Ironman Global Trainer GPS running watch is its lack of additional devices, specifically a foot pod to track distance covered on treadmill workouts. Another fairly common complaint is inconsistent GPS reception and accuracy. But the deeper you get into this watch, the more bells and whistles you’ll find, including a compass function, viewable maps, and more.

One of the most appealing features of the Timex Ironman Global Trainer is its display, which is crisp in appearance and easier to read than many of its competitors. The watch face features four small display screens, each of which is customizable and can be toggled through during a workout. This allows athletes to view overall information such as total distance and total time (or time per split) while also viewing more dynamic data, such as pace and heart rate.

The Timex Ironman Global Trainer also allows users to establish different settings for up to 5 sports. For example, owners can access preferred displays for biking, hiking, distance running, sprints, etc., rather than adjusting settings each time they switch sports. For triathletes in training, this GPS running watch can also be programmed to switch from one sport to another, including transitions, at the touch of a button, which allows for accurate speed statistics.

Unfortunately, not all users are pleased with their post-workout options. Data reported and collected from the Timex Ironman Global Trainer can be imported into the software Timex provides or into its online training statistics program, both from TrainingPeaks. To access more advanced tracking features, users must pay a monthly subscription to upgrade, and it appears that the data cannot be used with any of the other training programs or websites currently available. (If you buy this watch and find Garmin to have changed their policy, please let us know.)

Bottom line: The Timex Ironman Global Trainer is a GPS training watch that tracks heart rate, distance, speed, and route. Although an attractive watch with many high-end features and options, this watch is one of Timex’s first attempts at a GPS running watch. It has several functional downsides that may be reason to wait for a newer model or select a more experienced competitor.