Here at Ultra168 we are very lucky to be in a position to work very closely with a number of the companies working really hard to bring new and exciting products to the trail and ultra running market. One of those companies willing to let us loose on their products in development is Garmin. Over the last few weeks we have been trialing the new Garmin 910 XT GPS Watch in various training and racing scenarios and this initial review hopes to shed a little light on whats new and what you can expect if Santa is kind to you this Christmas.
First a caveat and for those of you who have read the more in-depth reviews available on the internet, most of us have only been able to get our hands on a beta version or late stage development product. We are no different, but I would hasten to add that it is good to see companies willing to push their product out to a small but informed audience to iron out the last few gremlins before the final product hits the market.
A couple of us had a good play with the watch and as someone who is wedded to the Garmin FR610’s touch screen I immediate struggled to return to a push button design. For Andrew who was making direct comparison to his 310XT this was not such a problem. Cosmetically, the design and shape is not a million miles from the 310XT, albeit a little slimmer, it feels slightly better made and for some reason it feels lighter although we are informed the final version will be similar in weight to the 310XT.
Andrew is less fashion conscious than me and was comfortable utilising the sleeker black and anodised design by wearing it in a business setting. I would tend to disagree and see it as still a pretty chunky watch compared to my 610 or say something from Suunto. At the end of the day, its less about the form and more about the function when it comes to ultra running gear so lets move on to the new bits.
It is clear that Garmin have not tinkered with some of their key stock in trade assets such as battery life and multiscreen setup. These remain on the 910XT with similar 18-20 hour available GPS usage from this watch. And for someone as talented as Andrew, he was able to race GNW100 with it without the concerns of the battery failing. To date no watch would keep burning brightly for those of us looking to come in over the 24hour mark. We can but dream.
New features include for the first time on this range a barometric altimeter . Why is this useful? Well accurate ascent and descent in some of the more rugged terrain we train on often causes some errors in the accuracy that a GPS can ping-back results and so discrepancies can creep in. On some of the runs we completed there was a small but meaningful difference between non barometric results. Another good feature is that is displays the grade you are climbing or descending on. This really helped me on gauging hard hard to push into the famous red zone when cresting a climb.
Also worth noting is that they have added the excellent Virtual Racer feature carried over from the 610. As you will have seen from our previous review of the 610, this for some is a real deal maker in terms of the must have feature. It allows you to race against yourself over a previously marked course in real time. You can also download other runs and race against them. Ideal for those who want to have a crack at Andrew’s GNW100 record or a 2hr 02 minute marathon !
Another new feature is the Run/Walk Alert, this basically allows those endurance athletes who need to build in a walking component to their running to dial in a set period of running, say 20 minutes, followed by an alert,then a set period of walking, say 2 minutes followed by another alert to return to running. This is an awesome feature for those of us who compete in 12, 24 and 48 hour track runs. In addition,all the other alerts we know and love with Garmin are also still in operation at the same time to remind you to eat or take onboard salts etc.
For those multi sport athletes who bike and swim, there are numerous new features built in that we haven’t had the opportunity to test, but we have been reliably informed that for the swimmers there are some neat stroke identification, pool length and swim distance features.
The watch is as usual, ably supported by Garmin Connect although again due to our watch being a beta version we were unable to see the swim functions displayed in graphical form.
So first impressions are good and initial demand is very high for those looking to upgrade from their 310XT or needing a watch that performs well over the longer stuff where the 610FR runs out of puff.
The watch is available to order now with a large allocation being available from Footpoint Shoe Clinic at a pretty good deal.
We would like to thank Garmin Australia for their kind support and as always with us we will check back in once we have more km’s on the clock!