|Garmin FR310xt in "action" - I've covered 72km at this point, and my heart rate is currently 145bpm|
(pic taken during the 2015 BHF London to Brighton Bike Ride)
So here is the write up!
Purchased: May 2015, from Amazon, with "premium" HRM belt.
Regular retail purchase (no "freebies" for me!)
Price Paid: iirc, about 130 pounds (c. 200 dollars, c. 170 euros)
Features: well, it is a GPS watch, so it records your position using GPS!
It has a few other tricks, too:
1) Waterproof - as in, go swimming with in on - remember, the 310XT is marketed as a "triathlete's" watch. The sensor for the "premium" HRM belt is also waterproof - note that it doesn't record underwater, but at least it will still work after you get out again!
Handy if I ever fall in the canal, and something to think about if you cycle on canal towpaths, as I sometimes do.
The 310xt is listed as being waterproof to 50 metres depth - so if you like a bit of holiday swimming in a nice warm sea (or even a bit of snorkelling), this watch will be fine with that.
Waterproof also means sandproof ... which might be a consideration for some.
Would YOUR bike computer stand falling into a canal/river?
2) Claimed 20 hour battery life.
My longest ride to date has been a bit over 14 hours, and the 310XT managed fine. Didn't even get the "low power" warning!
EDIT: I tested this today, and the 310XT actually keeps recording! The screen switches to "charging" mode, however, but when you take the battery clip off, all the data for the charging period is there. So you CAN charge while the 310xt is in use as long as you don't mind not reading the display!
There is a special charging "clip" on the watch end, but the other end of the charging cable is a standard USB connector, so you can charge it from a computer, smartphone charger (note that the supplied charger has a higher power output than a "normal" smartphone charger, so it will take a bit longer!), or USB battery pack (yep, I just happen to also own a small rechargeable battery pack with a USB outlet! - I estimate it would give me about 1 or 2 extra "full" charges for the watch, so I could do an "overnight camping" ride, and recharge the watch overnight!).
The standard USB charger unit comes with a "swappable" plug end on it, with three plug ends supplied. Perhaps a slightly "clunky" solution, but if you were travelling to an overseas event, at least the extra "plug" heads are pretty small to carry!
My smartphone, if everything except gps is switched off (including the "phone" signal!), can handle about 10 hours before switching off, and it is beeping warnings for the last hour!
3) My kit came with a "premium" Garmin heart rate belt. The 310XT is also available "on its own". For the "tech" nerds, the belt included in my set is the "HRM3" belt, with the third "fabric" heart sensor at the side (an attempt to reduce "spikes" in the HR trace with folks who insist on wearing entirely synthetic clothing!)
4) Ability to sync up to LOTS of sensors (ANT+), both "bike" sensors AND "running" sensors - like I said, it is marketed as a "triathlete's" watch - it even records ANT+ data from a (now) rather obscure set of weighing scales! HRM, Cadence, Speed, "Vector" pedal (for power measurement - Gramin list both the Vector S pedals and the newer Vector 2 and 2S pedals as suitable) as well as other ANT+ power meters, footpod running cadence sensor, and more ...
5) Buttons work in gloves! No touchscreen (it would be too small, anyway!)
6) Displays up to 4 data fields at a time. The choice for the data fields is WIDE!
For running, I usually display Elapsed Time, Distance, Lap Pace, and Heart Rate, while for cycling I usually go for Average Speed instaed of Pace, but, for my most recent training session, I changed that for just Speed (yep, I am doing a bit of "speed work" at the moment in an attempt to raise my notoriously low speed, as well as trying to increase the intensity of my sessions to compensate for the lower amount of training time I am putting in for the Autumn period, when things get busy at work)
The watch offers (in screen order!):
Distance (Last Lap)
Heart Rate (%HRR)
Heart Rate (%Max)
Heart Rate (Average)
Heart Rate (Average %HRR)
Heart Rate (Average %Max)
Heart Rate (Lap)
Heart Rate (Lap %HRR)
Heart Rate (Lap %Max)
Heart Rate (Zone)
Pace (Last Lap)
Power (30s average)
Power (3s average)
Speed (Last Lap)
Speed (vs 30s)
Time (Average Lap)
Time (Last Lap)
Time of Day (yep, you can actually use the 310xt as a "regular" watch!)
So that's plenty for most folks. You only get to display up to 4 at a time, but you choose which 4!
Downsides (for some):
1) No Bluetooth or Wi-fi - upload is via a "ANT+" mini-dongle to a PC/Mac
2) Doesn't record indoor swimming (but I don't like swimming, anyway!)
3) Doesn't record HR for ANY swimming (indoor or outdoor!) (I still don't like swimming!)
4) No barometric altimeter (the Garmin Connect site auto-adjusts for known heights from a master map, but when you transfer the data for an activity to, say, Strava, Strava strips out the Garmin Connect "corrections", and misses out all the small climbs (as Strava does!). This means that THE SAME RIDE WITH THE SAME DATA FILE will generate figures that can vary by up to 30% for climbing, and by up to 50% for "calories used" when comparing Garmin Connect with Strava.
5) No Left/Right Power display, according to DC Rainmaker (btw, his reviews are excellent, and very thorough!). But, hey, I use "platform" pedals anyway, and afaik there are no "power" platform pedals! If I went the "power meter" route, I'd be getting a nice PowerTap rear hub! Vector (and Vector 2) pedals ARE supported by the 310xt, however, just as an "aggregate" power figure.
6) No 10 second average Power data field option. This was implemented on the 920XT with a "firmware" update, and although there is no particular hardware or "tech" reason why the firmware for the 310XT didn't get that extra featurem that was just a decision Garmin made. You want the extra feature, you gotta buy the newer watch! So with the 310xt, you get power as "instantaneous" 3s average and 30 second average, but not 10s average. As I don't even own a power meter (yet) this is not really a downside for me. Given the life time of electronic devicesm I have get a power meter in 5 years time, I will see how I get on using my 310xt, but equally well, I may upgrade my watch in 5 years time or so for the (then) ageing 920xt or Fenix 3 models that will be on "end of line clearance" by then!
7) Plastic. Pretty easy to put a scratch in the "silver" of the front of the case. The front "glass" is plastic, too. This can be a "plus" or a "minus" - the watch "glass" will scratch, rather than shatter :-)
The thing about "tech" is that it isn't really supposed to last for ever - the new models in 5 years time will be SO much better than what we have now that we will all upgrade anyway! (as mentioned above, I might get a 920xt in 5 years time, when it is down to the sort of price I paid for my 310xt!)
Comparison to other products.
Smartphone - I started out recording my rides for Strava with a smartphone. Not too bad on the bike, but compared to the price of a decent smartphone, this unit will do more for less money. Will your smartphone sync to your powermeter? Or your cadence sensor?Then I started running again this year, and after a bit I bought a Bluetooth HRM belt, and started recording that data too. But it is not that good running with a smartphone in your pocket! I found that. as well as recording my HR, I wanted to train at a particular HR too, which meant the need to look at the screen. Not too easy to keep getting the samrtphone out of my pocket. In the winter when I wore a jacket, it wasn't too bad, but in the late Spring, when I was wearing only a t-shirt and shorts, the 'phone was bumping against my leg, and interfering with my concentration. I know a number of folks seem to run with an iPhone strapped to their upper arm, but the 310XT is FAR LIGHTER than a smartphone (!), and how would you feel if you tripped and fell on your fancy smartphone!
Garmin units have a reputation for having FAR better GPS software than smartphones, too. Often they actual GPS chis is the same, but whether Garnin have a better aerial in the watch, or whether it is more intelligent smoothing, I can't say. But with the 310XT, suddenly I'm not running through houses!
One last thing - my 'phone had a habit of sometimes crashing the Strava app partway through a ride, leaving me with no data ... until I realised and then I got a route with a "straight line" between the bit before the "crash" and the bit after. Crashes also seemed more likely when swicthing between Strava nd the 'phone camera - but, hey, i like to take a few pic while I am out.
As yet, this hasn't happened to me with the 310xt. the ONLY reason the 310xt has split a ride was injudicious fiddling partway through by yours truly, who really pught to read the manual!
As for price, smartphones cost from 100 pounds up, but few of them are ANT+ suitable, so if you already have some ANT+ equipment, this may affect your decision. As it happens, I actually have an ANT+ smartphone (the 4 to 5 year old SonyEricsson Experia X8), but guess what - although the phone can handle ANT+, it won't work if you are recording using Strava!
Garmin Edge 500 - an "ex-Pro" cycle computer that used to be all the rage with the Pro Tour. Like the 310xt, the Edge 500 has now been replaced by newer, and fancier, models at a higher price.
The Edge 500 also makes a great buy if you get it at a suitable price. It even has a barometric altimeter!
Battery life is quoted at 18 hours (the 310xt is quoted at 20 hours, but whether there is any real difference between the two, I can, say. I guess that the smaller screen of the 310xt uses just a bit less power!). The Edge 500 is IPX7 water-resistant, which means it is designed to be OK if you get splashed by a passing car, while the 310xt is genuinely waterproof (the 310xt is designed for swimming!)
I looked at the specs for the Edge 500, and I gave it very serious consideration.
The Edge 500 is often bundled with a cadence sensor, while the 310XT is often bundled with an HRM belt, but, of course, either sensor can be bought for either device.
For me, what pushed me to the 310XT over the Edge 500 was the fact that I had already included running in my training program (whilst I do not think of myself as a "runner", I regularly use running as a training technique to support my cycling). The waterproofing of the 310xt was just a bonus!
So, If I had gone for the Edge 500, I would still have had the problem of needing to find a solution to my running needs! Running and Cycling - hmm, and I went for a "triathlon" watch over a "cycle" computer because ...
The Edge 500 is available from Amazon (UK) for about 100 quid (about the same as the 310xt watch), and for 120 quid bundled with an HRM belt AND a cadence/speed sensor (about the same as the 310xt plus HRM belt, but no speed/cadence sensor) Note that although you seem to get more with the Edge 500 bundle, the HRM belt appears to be the lower-spec "standard" HRM belt rather than the "fabric" HRM3 belt (which has the waterproof HRM "pod" clipped to the front with press-studs, rather than being part of the belt as with the older "Edge 500" HRM belt) that came with my 310 XT. However, some Edge 500 sets (particularly the "Red" ones), seem to have a "Premium" "fabric" HRM belt, though, and are priced on Amazon UK from 130 pounds and up. The cadence sensor with the edge 500 "bundle" is the older model "combined" speed/cadence unit that uses a magnet, and is available on it's own for about 35 pounds. Indeed, I may well add a cadence sensor early in 2016 to my bike, and it will sync up with my 310xt.
You could, I expect, even strap an Edge 500 to your wrist using the QR kit originaly designed for the 310xt - but it is going to be BIG.
Magellan Switch UP - this unit seemed to offer more than the Garmin, also at, currently, a heavily discounted price. Even has a barometric altitude sensor. So why didn't I get one?
Well, the battery life is only 8 hours, and while there is the facility to actually add an extra battery pack (taking that to 16 hours, and with extra swaps, WAY beyond that), I was unable to find anywhere that was selling the axtra battery units when I looked (Spring of 2015). Maybe when this watch was released (2012) the extra battery units were available, but they seem to be a "hen's teeth" item now.
One thing I have learnt in my 50 years on this planet is not to rely on getting "rare" parts for already out-of-date equipment.
So, looking at a battery life of just 8 hours, this unit was a non-starter for me.
I might add that the Switch UP is bigger than the 310xt, but smaller than the Edge 500.
Indeed, the Swich UP has to be one of the largest sports watches made - and that could be a problem if you want to tuck it up your shirtsleeve while travelling to an event.
The price is incredible, though - the Magellan Switch UP can be picked up on Amazon (UK) for just 75 pounds, including a quick-release mount, and a bundle with a HRM belt is priced at just 90 pounds.
If only that battery life was longer, I might well have bought one ...
Still a bit "massive" though - more like a small bike computer you can strap to your wrist than a watch!
Garmin ForeRunner 910xt - this was the replacement for the 310xt, and again, was aimed at the "pro" triathlon market. Basically it is a 310xt with a barometric altimeter. More fancy stats than the 310xt are available if you have "power meter" pedals, as the firmware was updated to allow this, while the firmware on the 310 was only updated to cover basic power functions.
The indoor swimming metrics were also improved.
This is now the current "ex-pro" watch on Garmin's site, and can be picked up on Amazon UK for about 176 pounds with out an HRM belt, or 202 pounds with the HRM belt.
So, as the 910xt is basically an "improved spec" 310xt, it is all about price.
124 pounds for the 310xt with belt (99 without)
202 pounds for the 910xt with belt (176 without).
Are the extra "power" metrics, the better "indoor" swimming metrics and the barometric altimeter worth 75 to 80 pounds for YOUR uses?
Me - I'm putting my money towards something else ...
Garmin ForeRunner 920xt - the replacement for the 910xt. Quite an upgrade this time. GLONASS satellite support is added, and up to 40 hours battery life - although this is in a new "UltraTrac" mode, so it could just be a firmware thing - record the data points less often, and out the processor into a lower power mode, and suddenly battery life extends!
"Training" mode gives you 24 hours, so that is the figure to compare more directly with the 310xt/910xt. There is also a "Watch" mode that is claimed to last 4 months - I'm guessing it switches off the GPS/GLONASS and puts the processor into low power mode.
But hey, a plastic watch (which is all the 920xt is in "Watch" mode is pretty cheap :-)
I do my long ride with a cheap quartz watch on my other wrist, anyway! Gives me a fifth "data field" - 4 on my 310xtm and the fifth (time of day!) on my other wrist.
I suppose the big extras for most folks (compared to the 910xt) are BlueTooth and Wi-Fi.
For folks that run a lot (for me running is just a secondary part of my training), the 920xt works with the new "Running Dynamics" HRM belt.
Again, it comes down to cost.
The 920xt is really just a "super-improved" 310 xt, just as the 910xt was an "improved" 310xt.
124 pounds for the 310xt with belt (99 without)
202 pounds for the 910xt with belt (176 without) - adds barometric altimeter and more power stats.
279 pounds for the 920xt with Running Dynamics HRM belt, pretty much the same price without the belt. - adds Running Dynamics, GLONASS, slightly improved battery life, WiFi and BlueTooth.
For me the choice came down to 124 pounds for the 310xt, and putting the other 155 pounds (saved vs the 920xt) towards something else.
If the 920xt ever gets down to the 125 to 150 pounds price range, then I may just be tempted.
But as it is I think that unless you have the money for a power meter as well (or you already have one), you'd be better off with the 310xt and saving for a PowerTap rear hub/
But it's YOUR money and YOUR choice.
For MY money, at the moment, it is the 310xt and 155 pounds ($240, 200 euros) towards a PowerTap hub!
However, in 5 years time, the 920xt may well be my NEXT gps watch/device if the price has dropped to the sort of price the 310xt sell for now!
Fenix 3 - a few folks bought this one, no doubt lured in by the much vaunted 50 hour battery life. Catch is, that figure only applies in "UltraTrac" mode, and if you want all the stuff on (sensors, gps etc. etc,) you get 18 to 24 hours battery life (sources seem to vary)! So not much better than the 310xt then, and no better battery life than the 920xt.
The Fenix 3 adds a temperature sensor to the 920xt spec, plus some extra navigation features I can live without.
You can have this one with "glass", rther than just plastic, and there is even a low-scratch "sapphire" glass model. Sapphire glass is good - but it isn't indestructable. I have a Rolex Explorer 2 watch with sapphire glass that had a bit less than 20 years of regular "hard" usage (the scratches in the stainless steel body and in the stainless stell bracelet bear witness to it being a "working" rather than a "show" watch). Guess what, The sapphire glass in my Rolex has no scratches in it. But it does have a few minor chips in it at the edge of the face! I don't know if the Garmin watches have a better or worse type of sapphire glass than a Rolex, but, given the relative price of each, I find it hard to believe that the Garmin has better!
I rather doubt than any Garmin watch of any type will actually be put to twenty years of hard use, so I doubt that, for most users, the sapphire will be anything other than fabulous.
The "elephant in the room" again is the price.
124 pounds for the 310xt with belt (99 without)
202 pounds for the 910xt with belt (176 without) - adds barometric altimeter and more power stats.
279 pounds for the 920xt with Running Dynamics HRM belt, pretty much the same price without the belt.
300 pounds for the Fenix 3 "regular" with Running Dynamics HRM belt, (270 without).
430 pounds for the Fenix 3 Sapphire with Running Dynamics HRM belt, (399 without).
For my money and my uses, it still has to be the 310xt (and I'll take the scratches!), and about 300 pounds ($465, 390 euros) left towards a power meter! If you already have a power meter, and you have a large budget, or you are drawn to the various "hiking" and "navigation" features of the Fenix 3, then it's your money, and with the Fenix 3 "regular" being just a bit more expensive than the 920xt, then it max be worth a look for some. But for me, compared to the other models Garmin offers, the Fenix 3 is just priced too high.
Garmin Epix. Touted as combining pretty much all the features of the 920xt AND the Fenix 3, with a larger, colour, screen than both, the Epix is garmins current "triathlon plus some other stuff" top dog. Oddly, the wifi that is on the 920xt and the Fenix 3 was dropped for this model, but there is still bluetooth and USB.
342 pounds with a "Euro" map preloaded - apparently no "included" HRM package available.
The price puts this one between the Fenix 3 "regular" and the "Sapphire" variant.
If you want a 910/920xt with maps, this is the one.
I might question just how good a map will be on a 1,4 inch screen, even if it is high-res.
A smartphone with a 3.5 to 5 inch screen will provide a MUCH better navigational experience for most hikers (!), and some of the Edge models provide a MUCH bigger map for cyclists.
What the Epix offers though, is portability combined with MUCH better battery life than a smartphone.
This one didn't influence my decision to buy the 310xt (I didn't know it existed!), but you can tell from my comments above which way I would have chosen.
If you have the budget, and want a tiny map on your wrist, this is the one to get. For me, though, it is still the 310xt, abd save the rest of the cash (possibly towards a power meter, as I keep mentioning!).
A power meter and an old-fashioned paper map, both properly used, will make you a MUCH better athlete than a tiny map on your wrist.
On the other hand, if you actually are a secret agent, or a bush pilot in, say, Canada or Australia, then the Garmin Epix might just save your life.
As for me, I'm a suburban cyclist, who goes on a few rural rides, but never out of mobile telephone range - cycling to Lomdon or Oxford is NOT the same as travelling from Paris to Dakar! :-)
Other Garmin "Edge" cycle computers - same issues as the Edge 500 I mentioned above - i.e. not suitable for running! They are as big as a smartphone!
A man I work with loves his new Edge Touring, because it has great maps and suggests ride routes.
Me - I like to get lost sometimes, and discover unexpected things. Other folks like the higher Edge models that have bigger screens and navigation and sync up to everything and all that. All about the usual "how much do you want to pay?, and how many features do you want?".
Plus, afaik, NONE of the Edge models is waterproof (something to maybe consider if you ride trails/towpaths next to canals/rivers!)
For my money, the 500 is the best value Edge computer, and put your money towards a set of power pedals or a power hub or an indoor trainer or something like that. You'll get far more out of power pedals than you ever will out of a colour screen or a map! (although, as I got a bit lost on my 232km ride in the Summer, some of you might think that I should get an Edge with mapping!). So if you already have an indoor trainer, and a "power" system, then by all means get a "high model" Edge computer, but if you don't have this stuff, then get an Edge 500, and either save the rest, or buy some other training stuff with the difference.
Gotta have some pictures, so here we go:
|Nice box with a nice GPS watch|
|310xt, charging block and charging cable|
|Size comparison for the Garmin charging "block"|
|Size comparison for the Garmin charging "block"|
|The Garmin charging "block" has a removable|
|Three "heads"/ pin adaptors|
|The 310xt was down to about 18% battery power, so it was the ideal time to test a "field" recharge with a "battery extender".|
I set the watch going before I attached the charging clip.
|Start time 06:55, with 18% power.|
When the charging "clip" is attached, the "normal" display is replaced by the "charging" display you can see above.
|The Garmin 310 weights just 77 grammes.|
Must be all that plastic that keeps the weight down.
|The "HRM3" belt that came with my 310xt|
|Yep, the Garmin 310xt is fully waterproof.|
Here it is shown (switched on) sitting in a jug of water.
Update 20th September 2015:
I've been using the Gramin 310XT for about 16 months now, and I am VERY pleased with it!
I've used it for jogging and for cycling.
I've also used the GPS on it to mark the positions of our "finds" when we are out fossil hunting.
It really is a remarkable bit of equipment.
(indeed, a company in the USA even made a heart-rate belt for a horse that links to a Garmin 310XT, used on "other" sport!)
|On the 2015 Tour de Vale|
(the local chrity sportive)
|On the 2015 London to Brighton|
|Using the GPS to mark fossil fimd locations. |
Take a picure of the fossil, then a picture of the watch, then a picture of the scenery.
bought a footpod (on offer!), and that syncs up just fine to my Garmin 310XT, too.
|O-Synce Ant+ footpod works with my Garmin 310XT|
|Data captured by my 310XT, and displayed by Strava.|
Pace is Blue, HR is red, Cadence is purple.
HR data is from my Garmin HR belt.
Cadence data is from my O-Synce footpod
Now I have a new use for my garmin 310XT.
I have just bought my first "turbo trainer", and it comes with a "dual" frequency speed and cadence sensor bundled in with the trainer. the sensor does Bluetooth and ANT+.
Yep, it works with my 310XT.
Here is a Strava recording from my first turbo trainer session.
The distance and cadence readings are from the sensor that came with the trainer,
|The Garmin 310 XT works with just about any approved ANT+ sensors, like this Tacx T2015 speed/cadence unit that came bundled with my new trainer.|
|Data captured by my 310XT, and displayed by Strava, from my first session on my new turbo trainer. |
The cadence and speed data comes from my new T2015 Sensor
So, having owned the 310XT for a decent length of time (16 months) what do I think?
It still offers the great value it did when I bought it.
the watch has helped me to train, and for pacing in events (I aim to keep my heart rate within certain bounds on longer rides)
Yes, fancier models have some more features (particularly a barometric altimeter and two-sided power recording).
I bought the Garmin 310XT, with included HR belt, PLUS a foot pod (on clearance offer!), plus a turbo trainer with a bundled speed cadence sensor for LESS than the price of a Garmin 920XT (with HR Belt).
I paid £125 (including shipping) for the Garmin and belt, £13.50 (including shipping) for the footpod, and £129 (collected locally) for the turbo trainer and speed/cadence sensor, for a total of £267.50.
A Garmin 920XT from Amazon, with hr belt, (which is where I got my Garmin 310XT) costs £302.
OK, so the HR belt is the more fancy "Running Dynamics" version, but for my level, the "standard" belt plus a footpod is just as good.
So, an "old model" pro-triathlon watch (the 310xt), and a foot pod, and a turbo trainer, and a speed/cadence sensor OR a "current model" pro-triathlon watch (the 920xt - no need for the foot pod, as the HR belt has running dynamics).
For me, the "old" watch and the turbo trainer will give me MUCH more than just the "new" watch.
After all, the watch is just a recording device - the turbo-trainer is a piece of exercise equipment, and the speed cadence sensor works on the bike, whether I am on the trainer on I am cycling on the road.
More to follow!