Whenever we test a new product we strive to keep an open mind. After all, we don’t want our personal expectations or concerns to cloud our reviews in any way. Although we’d be lying to you if we said we didn’t already have very high expectations when the Garmin 910xt showed up in our office. As we mentioned in our First Ride, the 910xt is the gold standard when it comes to triathlon watches. As living proof, during a recent workout with our friends at the Wolfpack, we saw the majority of them wearing the 910xt. This is obviously a well-trusted watch in the triathlon community.
Let’s recap. The 910xt is the successor to the hugely popular Garmin 310xt multisport watch. While many small changes went into the 910xt, easily the largest improvement took place with swim metrics – specifically lap swimming. From the start of the review, our plan was to test this feature the heaviest. We’ve all been there – sometime during our set we completely forget what lap we’re on. With the 910xt, that issue became almost non-existent.
When starting a workout you are asked to input lap length. Once you begin your first set, the built in accelerometer determines the change of direction and computes the distance. In almost all situations we found this to work perfectly. The only exception came from an abrupt wrist movement while resting between sets. This led to a slight overage in our workout distances. However, we never once had a workout record less than the actual distance traveled.
On the run \ bike we found all of our workouts came well within 1% of the recorded distance of any other devices we brought with us (or used on a known distance). From our perspective, we had complete trust in the provided distance data.
One of our favorite features of the 910xt was the ant+ syncing. For those unfamiliar, the 910xt ships with a small USB dongle compatible with any PC or Mac. When running Garmin Express, just bring your 910xt with a few feet (typically 10-15) of your computer and it starts syncing automatically (of course the 910xt does have to be on for this to work). For us this meant simply wearing the Garmin into the house after a workout and the data auto synced (and uploaded) to our laptops sitting on our kitchen table. After plugging in our Edge 500 for so long, this was a huge plus!
Is the 910xt a Watch?
One of the interesting conversations we had around the AG office was whether the 910xt was technically a watch. Our definition of a watch was a device worn on the wrist that natively tells time. Therefore, by our definition, the 910xt is really not a watch. Instead we feel it’s better classified as a triathlon computer. But that certainly doesn’t mean it cannot perform the duties of a watch if you want it to. Dan E. actually gave us the idea on how to accomplish this. The 910xt is always in one of three modes—swim, bike, or run. In each of these modes, you have four different possible pages/data views. So make our 910xt function like a watch, we set the fourth page in each mode to display the Time of Day only. That way we could easily view the time from any of the three modes. With its claimed 20 hours of battery life (more than enough for a full Ironman), you easily can wear it all day at work and use it to pace your run when you get home – something we did on multiple occasions.
Following our first ride article, Sara, an avid AG reader, reached out regarding pace smoothing with the 910xt. For those unfamiliar, pace smoothing is how often your speed\pace data will be updated to you. As you run, your arm is moving in a pendulum motion which, as expected, makes computing your exact speed\pace quite difficult. By increasing the interval between updates, you can decrease the “noise” showing up in the data. Some products allow the user to configure the level of smoothing of the data.
Unfortunately the 910xt is not one of those products. From one glance to the next, you can get a fairly divergent set of numbers (8:15 pace one minute and a 7:23 the next). To get around this we found that basing our pace on mile splits was much more reliable than using the actual real-time pace numbers. We would definitely prefer if the 910xt offered some sort of smoothing option (and hopefully a future successor will), but the mile split information was definitely a fine solution to maintaining a consistent pace.
Quick Release Kit
Garmin sent us the 910xt triathlon bundle which includes a speed\cadence sensor, heart rate monitor, and quick release kit. We had heard mixed things about the quick release kit and were eager to give it a try. Throughout testing, we never once had the watch come off inadvertently. Throughout two races and many, many laps in the pool, the watch never so much as came loose. Although we did notice that it was possible to misalign the watch when placing it onto the watch strap, which could contribute to people losing it. But at least from our testing perspective, we never saw it come off.
Unfortunately we did have issues with mounting the 910xt onto many Garmin compatible bike mounts (including the mount that came packaged with the 910xt itself). It always seemed that the watch shape was just slightly off when we attempted to pair it with multiple mounts. We tried K-Edge, Garmin, Speedfil, and a couple other mounts with varying degrees of success. What was most confusing was that often the mounts gave us trouble initially, but given time (and a bit of muscle power) they started to work as expected. Case in point was the Speedfil Z4+. While we had a number of issues getting the mount to work (though after numerous tries, it eventually did), Speedfil sent us this instructional video showing how to mount the Garmin with no issue.
Our suggestion is to give it a try. If the mount doesn’t work initially, try to realign the watch and start again. If it is anything like our experience, once you get it right once, you shouldn’t experience future issues.
So was the 910xt all that we were expecting? Did it live up to its reputation as the gold standard? Absolutely. We have little trouble seeing why this is the benchmark that all multisport watches are measured against. It was reliable, easy to use, and trouble free. The couple issues we had were mere nitpicks—certainly not deal breakers for us. Really the only interesting question is how the 910xt compares to its latest competition from Garmin itself – the Fenix 2. But for that you need to stay tuned for our First Thoughts on the Fenix 2 later this month!