In almost every industry there is a product by which all others are compared. How many times have you seen a car commercial with the phrase “More room than a Camry?” And of course when it comes to mobile phones, there are the never-ending comparisons to the iPhone. And when it comes to GPS watches, specifically multisport capable watches, the comparison is always to Garmin. Prior to Garmin’s 2011 product announcement, all comparisons were made to Garmin’s 310xt—a product that many agree helped to define the multisport watch market. Come 2011, Garmin brought out its newest—and current—triathlon-specific watch, the 910xt. Garmin’s newest watch, the Fenix 2, has many similar features. But that’s a review for another day.
We have had the 910xt for a month now, which is a little longer than we usually spend with a product for a “first ride.” However, we wanted to utilize the watch for all 3 sports to get a feel for all of the 910xt’s features. Additionally, the schedule worked out where we got to race with the 910xt.
When the 910xt launched, its swim features were some of the most significant updates from the 310. While the 910xt and the 310 both have the ability to record open water swims, the 910xt’s new lap mode was where it really shined. Obviously this is going to be a huge selling point for swimmers that often lose track of their lap count. In fact, after unboxing the 910xt, one of the first things we did was jump in the pool and swim a quick 20 laps. However, upon looking down, we were a bit shocked to see the 910xt reporting that we had just finished 1000 yards.
This brings up a key point. Before starting your swim workout with the 910xt, you will first need to input the length of your laps. Once you start the swimming the built in accelerometer determines the change of direction and begins to automatically tally up the laps. Of course this works great for consistent swimming. However, we have noticed that if you are doing intervals and sit on the wall between sets, the watch will sometimes detect a change of direction and add an additional lap.
Garmin has also included two metrics to help determine your swim dynamics—average efficiency and average SWOLF. Average efficiency is calculated by total time plus strokes normalized to 25 meters. Average SWOLF (swim golf –http://marathonswimmers.org/blog/2012/04/swolf-swim-efficiency/) is the time in seconds plus the strokes it takes you to complete one pool length. A lower number is considered to be ideal for both metrics.
Anyone who has used a Garmin Edge device is going to be familiar with the features found on the 910xt. The 910xt allows up to four different data fields to be displayed on a given screen. The 910xt supports ANT+ (sorry, no Bluetooth) and we have had no issues pairing it to speed, cadence, heart-rate, or power devices.
Our 910xt triathlon bundle came with the quick release kit. The quick release kit replaces the standard straps of the 910xt with a quarter-turn mount and strap. The appeal here is that you can quickly pull the watch off your wrist in T1 and place it on your bike. Unfortunately, this is one area where we have had a small amount of trouble with the 910xt. To date, we have found that because the back of the watch wraps around the catch for the mount, not all mounts have enough room. For instance, both the Garmin bar mount and Speedfil A2 mount have difficulty with the quick release kit. On the other hand, the K-Edge TT mount has no issues.
Similar to the bike, anyone who has used a Garmin GPS watch—or pretty much most any other brand’s GPS watch—are going to feel rather comfortable with using the 910xt. You have access to pacing, distance, and speed information all at a glance. Garmin has also included features such as run\walk alerts and a virtual training partner, but we haven’t had a chance to look at those yet (stay tuned for our Final Thoughts).
We’re big believers in the adage, “never try anything new on race day.” However, when we looked at the calendar and realized we had an upcoming race, we decided to throw caution to the wind and use the 910xt on course. Afterall, if a watch failed us, it’s still going to have very little impact on our race outcome compared with a wheel set or new nutrition strategy.
When setting up a multisport event, you can select your sports (typically Open Water Swim, Bike and Run), as well as determine whether or not you want to record separate transition times. Once you hit start, you will automatically launch into your first event. Hitting “Lap” will advance you on to the next event, and so on. In the past, we have had some negative experiences with other devices. Specifically, they can become “confused” when switching from one event to another. Or the watch can accidentally transition when jostled and hit during a particularly rough swim start. However, so far we’ve yet to experience any of this with the 910xt. During our race earlier this month, no matter how many times we were hit in the swim, the watch held true to the right sport.
Once the event was over, the watch created five separate results files for Garmin Connect (the three sports as well as the two transitions).
Syncing + Charging
The Garmin includes an ANT+ USB stick for use with your computer. Once you install the software, bringing the watch within a few feet of the computer (when the watch is powered up) automatically uploads any new data to the Garmin Connect site. This has been a feature we love, since all too often we get lazy and forget to plug in our Edge 500 to pull our latest metrics.
For charging, the 910xt uses a two-pronged clip that attaches to the side of the watch. Unfortunately when the quick release kit is being used, the band prevents the watch from charging. You will need to detach the watch from the band to begin charging (not a huge deal, but something worth noting).
Our biggest initial thought regarding the 910xt is just how easy it has been to use. We loaned it to a friend who was familiar with cycling computers but had never used one for running. From the first time they put it on they were able to not only make sense of the data presented, but use the data to set a new PR. On top of that, the fact that we could use it on race day without a single hiccup is a huge win in our book. Our biggest fault so far is the fact that the quick release kit does not match well with many of our favorite bike mounts. But we are still looking for other options there. Also we really miss that in standby mode the watch does not display the date and time. We mentioned this in our WiRs and got a few ideas that we are going to try.
The reality is that we have barely scratched the surface with the 910xt. This watch is an extremely powerful device, and over the next month or so we expect to learn quite a bit more about it. However, in our short time with it thus far, we already see why this is the watch that is used to benchmark the competition. As always, let us know if there is anything specific you would like to see regarding the 910xt or any of the products we are currently testing.