Hands On Review: Garmin Forerunner 910 XT

Two months late, but the Garmin 910XT has finally arrived – available in all Marathon Sports stores.  In addition to several new features not available in the 310XT (which the 910XT will eventually replace), it boasts a little heftier price tag - $399.99 w/o HRM; $449.99 w/HRM.  I’m sure the question on everyone’s mind is – “Is it worth it?”  Well dear readers, yours truly has the review you’ve desperately been waiting for.  Here are my ratings on key features on a scale of 1 – 10.

Looks:  8 – This piece is sleeker than the 310XT, but still a hefty piece of wrist jewelry.  The new all black casing is less flashy, but manages to look sporty and sophisticated at the same time.  Perhaps not as design driven as comparable pieces from Suunto or Polar, it’s still remarkable that a unit this small is able to house such massive amounts of technology.

Functionality:  8 – After using the touch screen interface on the 610 model for a number of months, going back to a non-touch screen was a bit of a change.  I appreciate the ease of use of the 610, and it felt less efficient having to press a myriad of buttons in order to set defaults, preferences, and access features, but omitting the touch screen is the price you pay for a swimproof training watch.  The menus are well laid out and make intuitive sense, but there is a lot of data options to choose from and customizing the watch to your preferences can take some time.  I recommend allocating at least 1 hour before initial use to familiarize yourself with all the options and to give yourself time to customize it.  The 1 touch sport mode change is simple to use.  HRM functionality is as good as any other Garmin, same thing with GPS (no surprise as it utilizes the same chip as the rest of their ‘10’ series).

Swim Feature:  8 – This, dear readers, was the new feature that I was excited to try out.  Generally speaking, I was pretty impressed.  It was able to track my cadence, number of strokes, and identify the difference between freestyle and breaststroke.  I’m pretty sure it was able to track the number of laps – my count was 64, but the 910XT counted 66.  I of course was subject to the swimmer long swim daze and my human error could have miscounted.  It’s a good indicator that it counted an even number.  I’m looking forward to testing out the GPS mapping feature on an open water swim – but that will definitely have to wait until the summer, or when I take a vacation to somewhere tropical.

Cycling:  N/A – I unfortunately did not have a chance to test the 910XT while on the bike.  The bike feature that I think will appeal the most to all of our avid cyclists/triathletes is the number of bikes that can be added – up to 5!

Negative:  The biggest disappointment is the fact that the 910XT doesn’t have a default power-saving standby mode which allows it to act as an everyday watch.  In non-GPS, non-HRM, non-foot pod mode, the battery lasts a paltry 50 hours at best.  Considering this is their newest product, that it features a thinner profile, and that the battery is 2.5 times more powerful than the 610, it seems like a reasonable expectation that it can be used as an everyday watch.  I’ve spoken with Garmin regarding this issue and they are working on it, seeing if there is a way they can update the software to add that functionality.

Overall, I give the 910XT a review of 7.5 out of 10.  It is definitely a worthy successor/replacement for the 310XT, but the lack of standby mode and battery life are a notable negative for me – especially considering the price tag.  One “plus” that I will give Garmin products in general is their use of the ANT+ technology, which works with other ANT+ products (Timex, Suunto, most cardio-fitness equipment at the gym).  You could theoretically use a Garmin watch, a Timex HR strap, and a Suunto footpod on a CycleOps spinning bike.  That component interchangeability/compatibility is valuable to anyone who enjoys using gadgets from different brands, or who wants their gadgets to communicate with the cardio equipment at the gym.

review provided by our Accessory Buyer, Dan. For further questions about the Garmin 910XT or any other accessory products, just shoot him an e-mail at dan.soleau@marathonsports.com