The Garmin Forerunner 210 GPS Watch
Garmin recently released the Forerunner 210 GPS watch using its latest design and satellite technologies. The watch is much smaller than the traditional 305 model, and carries a distinctive set of features. My review below is based on over two months' use of the Forerunner 210.
As mentioned, the 210 is a smaller GPS watch than virtually all of Garmin's other Forerunner products. It feels about as big as a large-faced men's sports watch, and hardly looks out of the ordinary as a daily-use watch. It is perhaps slightly heavier than a normal watch, but that is to be expected from the extra technology packed inside to track satellite signals.
As a day to day watch, it looks fine on both mens' and women's wrists. It comes in black only.
Whereas other Garmin watches can take minutes at a time searching for satellite signals, the Forerunner 210 has Garmin's latest satellite acquisition technology, HotFix, which quickly locks onto satellite signals oftentimes in less than a minute. This might not sound like a huge difference, but most people are busy and could use those extra minutes on a day to day basis. Especially if trying to squeeze runs in before work!
Signal reception is excellent compared to earlier Forerunner models. It tracks your run easily through wooded areas and urban city blocks. If you do lose your signal there is also an indoor option for running on a treadmill, but it also kicks in if you go through a tunnel or other area without access to satellites. However, this requires buying the Garmin Footpod accessory.
The satellite reception automatically turns off after a few minutes of inactivity, to save power on the battery. With the touch of a button, it comes right back on. This makes the watch super easy to transition between use for fitness and everyday use.
The accuracy of the satellite tracking is nothing short of excellent. The watch easily computes your running speed (both instant and average) and also shows the distance travelled. I've found the watch to be accurate to within a few hundredths of a mile when compared with a measured track distance.
Ease of use
The Forerunner 210 solves the problem of the 405 model's sensitive touch bezel simply by omitting it from the watch. The 210 uses normal buttons to navigate between menus and functions, just like any normal sports watch. Less is more these days, right? [For those who love the idea of using a finger to swipe between data screens just like an iPhone, you might try the Forerunner 610, Garmin's first fully touch-screen GPS watch.]
- Light (LCD backlight)/Power
It is extremely user-friendly in this regard, as your options are pretty well laid out by these four general levels of information. Other functions are accessible by the menu screens, but I found them all very intuitive and easy to use.
One great feature of the Forerunner 210 is capability for setting interval workout sessions. You can specify the number of intervals you wish to run, either by distance or time, and also set the amount of rest in between each one. It will keep track of your progress for you, showing 3 out of 5 completed intervals of whichever distance you have chosen, and then count down the time or distance until your next interval. It's really easy to set up, and encouraging for getting you to complete all of the intervals in your goal.
But don't overlook the Lap button, which allows you to create a lap at will, be it after a half mile, a third, two fifths, and so on. Whenever you want to start a new lap, manually hit the lap button and you're off.
The 210 unit is water resistant to IPX7 standards. It will hold up under 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes, plenty resistant enough to handle running in the rain or other inclement weather. This is also a big advance over the Forerunner 205 and 305. But for true waterproofing that you can swim with, check out the Forerunner 310 XT.
The Forerunner 210 only has three display screens during an activity, and they are not customizable. This may be a drawback to some users, but I find the screens perfectly adequate for the main details you need on the run.
The first screen is the time and date. This is the default view screen when you are wearing the Forerunner as a normal watch.
The second screen is the stopwatch field, with the standard pace and distance fields on the sides.
The third screen is the heart rate field, also with the standard pace and distance fields on the sides.
That's all you get on the run. You can switch between seeing the time of day, the length of time of your run, or your heart rate. On the latter two are always included your pace and distance. No more options, no customization. Some athletes will balk at the simplicity, where others may appreciate it. I rarely used other data fields besides these on earlier Forerunners, like elevation, sunrise, and calories. Some of them were fun to see, but during a workout, pace, distance, and heart rate are about all I need.
You can, however, see more data such as Calories burned on the History screen, after your workout.
Mapping your route
Unfortunately there's no map display on the 210, even though you can see your map after your run (with satellite pictures) on your computer. This can be a problem for the runner wandering in foreign territory, relying on the tracking display to get back home!
Note that this data works just as well globally- my watch had no problems mapping the Great Wall International Marathon in China.
The 210 records more data than you actually see on the run. It does take elevation measurements, records your running route to see on a GPS map, and also cadence data (with the footpod accessory).
It can also wirelessly import your body composition data as measured by the Tanita BC-1000 scale, which includes multiple data fields besides weight, like body fat, muscle mass, daily caloric intake, and more.
There are a few ways to use the data your Forerunner 210 gathers. One is to use Garmin Training Center on your computer, a local application for tracking all of your fitness data. For an online option, Garmin Connect also offers a free database for tracking your results, and gives some options for both tracking your fitness and social networking.
Connecting to the computer and recharging
The Forerunner 210 must use the included USB cable to transmit data to your computer, and to recharge the lithium-ion battery. The cable uses a clip to attach to the pins on the back of the watch. It can be a little finicky to align them just right, but it's not too difficult.
Battery life is impressive. As a day to day watch, it can last over a week straight on just one charge. For fitness use, the battery can fit in probably about six or seven days of training before running low, provided it's turned off in between events.
The 210 is compatible with Garmin heart rate monitors and the Garmin footpod. You can purchase all three pieces together in a bundle package, or you can buy the accessories separately. The new Garmin heart rate monitor strap is a big step forward in comfort and ease. The footpod works excellently indoors, and also during normal runs for tracking cadence data.
Overall the Forerunner 210 is an excellent step forward in the GPS watch industry. It's really a watch, not just a GPS unit strapped to your wrist. It's also very easy to use- just minutes out of the box and you can take off on your first run. This is an excellent watch for the runner looking to have more data and feedback about their runs without any fuss. For those looking to get the utmost flexibility and customization out of their GPS watch, the 210 perhaps isn't the way to go. Try the aforementioned touchscreen 610, or the 410 with a touch bezel.
But for the typical road and trail runner, this watch certainly won't disappoint!