A Runners Review of the Garmin 210 GPS Sports Watch
As both an avid fan and long time user of the Garmin Forerunner Sports Watches I was very excited to hear that Garmin were releasing a new model. The Garmin 210 is set to bridge the gap between functionality and price, as not only does it incorporate some essential features that unfortunately were not included in the previous 110 model, but Garmin have also opted out of including some of the more superfluous features (such as wireless technology and training partner) that although are good to have, are not essential for your training and only pushed the price up on some of the other Garmin Forerunner watches.
This Garmin Forerunner 210 Review explains the main features of the Forerunner 210 as well as some experiences and opinions as I put it through its paces over the course of a few runs.
The reliable and accurate GPS functionality of the Forerunner Series has been one of the main reasons why they are a firm favourite with runners all over the world. The new ‘Hot Fix’ technology allows the watch to both find satellites more quickly and remain locked on to those satellites for longer, ensuring that the training data the 210 provides as up to data and accurate.
After loading details like my age, weight and measurement units, the next thing was to take the watch outdoors and let it find a satellite so that it would set the time and be ready for running. With my old Garmin 405, the ‘finding satellite’ time varied considerably from run to run even though I was usually running from the same starting point most of the time. With the new Garmin 210 however, the watch only took 38 seconds to locate a satellite during setup and less than 15 seconds for each subsequent run after that.
I tested the watch firstly on a long 10k route that incorporated tunnels and bridges into the route and I am happy to say that the watch performed excellently, picking up the signal within five seconds of me running out into the open. I have yet to test the watch around a city with hi rise’s but even if GPS signal is going to be a problem in these areas then the optional Footpod that you can buy with the Forerunner 210 is really going to pay for itself.
Current Pace (Finally!!!)
Garmin made a big mistake with the model previous to the 210 in that they really didn’t seem to listen to what training indicators runners said they wanted in a sports watch. As the 110 was limited to only displaying ‘Average Lap Pace’ this effectively restricted the watches potential as a useful training aid and really only allowed it to be a GPS watch for beginner runners. Although Average Lap pace is a good statistic if you are running relatively short splits (such as 800m or 1km splits) as any changes in your pace will be reflected pretty quickly by the watch. If however you are running longer distances like 10k’s, marathons and ultra marathons and you don’t break these races up into singular 1km or mile splits, then the ‘Average Lap Pace’ statistic pretty much becomes useless as by the time you have realised that you are running slower than your target pace you could have ended up minutes behind your target time – not good!
The Garmin Forerunner 110 seems to have resolved this problem with the inclusion of the ‘Current Pace Statistic’ which gives you virtually real time pace data and lets you keep track of how fast you are running at any point during you run. Unless you are a very consistent runner, this statistic can wander all over the place but it is still an essential tool for any serious runner. I tend to use it mostly towards the end of a race when the finish line is only a few minutes away as then one quick look at my current pace and time lets me know if I am going to make my target time or fall short. I honestly don’t know what I would do without it and in my opinion Garmin have made a big improvement over previous models by including this in the new Forerunner 210.
The Garmin Forerunner 210 also lets you display Average Pace which is a measure of your pace over an entire run. It is not something that I especially look at until after a long run to review my performance, but I do use this frequently in interval sessions to track my overall average pace over all my intervals up to a point. It’s a useful statistic to keep track of, especially when reviewing your performance after a run as it is a really good way to measure overall gains in fitness.
Distance and Time
The Garmin Forerunner 210 wouldn’t be a sports watch is it didn’t keep track of times and distances. The watch displays both your total activity time and distance as well as individual lap time and distances.
The Forerunner 210 battery takes about an hour to charge from empty and that one charge will give you enough juice for about a standard week’s worth of training (if there is such thing). The inbuilt power save mode turns the GPS off after a period of non use which greatly improves the standby time of the watch and the light button only turns the light on for eight seconds, which is a big improvement over older Garmin watches where you had to remember to turn the light off after you enacted it.
Charging can be done using either the supplied AC mains charger or the USB cable, but charging from the USB charger takes a little longer – even though you have the added advantage of being able to upload the 205’s runs at the same time.
The Forerunner 210 allows you to change the length of each lap split that you would like it to view training statistics for. Set to either one mile or one kilometre by default (depending on your unit’s selection, you can change this distance to whatever you like to reflect your preferences or training goals. The watch not only beeps to let you know when you have run the required distance for your current lap, but also momentarily displays your last lap’s data before resetting automatically for the new lap. Your totals are carried over to the next lap but both your lap pace and lap time is reset automatically, meaning you don’t need to fiddle around with the unit mid race or training session.
Interval Training Sessions
Another new addition to the Forerunner 210 over previous models is the Interval Session functionality. The watch allows you to quickly setup an intervals session with a few clicks and lets you customise both the distance and rest periods of each interval. When you are out running the watch beeps to let you know that you have covered the required distance for each interval and then beeps again to let you know when rest time is over and it is time for the next interval.
This is an incredibly useful feature and one that I use regularly purely because it is such an easy way to train. Not only do I not have to worry about looking at my watch every few seconds to make sure that I am not over or under my required distances and rest times, but I don’t even need to touch the watch until the end of the session. All too often with my old 405 I would be half way through a hill reps session to realise that I hadn’t quite tapped the touch bezel in the correct place or not hard enough and as a result my last few intervals hadn’t been recorded properly. The interval workout feature of the Forerunner 210 solves this problem and as a valued addition to the watch.
A big improvement over some of the previous Forerunner models is the water resistance capabilities of the new Forerunner 210. Previous models were pretty much only splash proof and were not designed for prolonged pool sessions or water sport activates, whereas the 210 has been updated with a much needed 1m waterproof capability.
Although Garmin don’t recommend that you use the 210 for prolonged swimming I have used the Forerunner 210 during a 2.5km swim session with no problems. Being an indoor pool the GPS functionality wasn’t applicable and I am unsure if the GPS would work consistently (if at all) in open water. As this is something that I really would like to find out I am going to head to an open air pool in the next couple of weeks and see how the watch performs.
Heart Rate Monitor
Another big improvement with the new Garmin 210 watch is the heart rate functionality. With older models you were given a heart rate monitor that had a large heavy plastic section on the front of the strap that provided the watch with your heart rate readings. The old style heart rate monitors were heavy and as a result were very poorly fitting. In order to obtain a relatively good fit you had to tighten up the strap to an annoyingly restrictive level to ensure that the monitor didn’t start to slip off mid training session. I am happy to say that Garmin have made a big improvement with their new style heart rate monitors that are supplied with the Forerunner 210 as a standard. Not only are they lighter due to a reduction in the size of the actual heart rate sensor, but they are also much better fitting and comfortable to wear due to both the reduction in size of the sensor and the new style elastic strap.
Using the new style heart rate monitor with the Garmin 210 is incredibly easy and straight forward. You simply fit the strap to your chest, making sure that is sits just below your pectorals, and then the watch should pick up a reading within a few seconds. If it needs a little encouragement, then tap the page button on the 210 to set is scanning for pair-able devices in range.
The heart rate functionality has been pretty impressive when I have taken the Garmin 210 out running with me. The watch picked up the monitor quickly and easily before every run and the heart rate level always seemed to be reflective of my exertion and there was very little delay between when I upped my pace and the increased reading on the watch.
Heart Rate Calorie Calculator
One of the advantages of combining the Garmin 210 with its heart rate monitor is the ability to benefit from the watches inbuilt calorie calculator. The Forerunner 210 essentially looks at the body weight figure that you entered into the watch during setup and then uses this and your actual heart rate to calculate the amount of calories you exert over a run or training session. This feature is not only useful for any avid calorie counters out there, but also will come in handy for long distance marathon or ultra runners who can make a better informed decision as to when and how much they need to eat during a race.
Gym Equipment Compatibility
Another advantage of the wireless Heart Rate technology is that it is compatible with some gym cardio equipment. I am not really sure why you would want to use the heart rate monitor with the cardio equipment instead of using the watch but I guess it does give you another option if your Garmin 210 runs out of battery or you don’t want to keep looking at your watch to find out your heart rate.
Heart Rate Alerts
One last option that the Garmin Forerunner 210 gives you is the option to setup heart rate alerts. You can chose from either five pre determined heart rate zones or a custom zone and the watch will beep if your heart rate drops below or above your selected band. Each of the five pre determined zones are calculated by the watch from the age that you enter during the watch setup whereas the custom band can be set to whatever you like. Both the maximum and minimum heart rate alerts are incredibly useful, but I use the maximum far more than the minimum when out training. If like me you have a tendency to try and give your most in every training session, those long easy lactate threshold runs can easily turn into short and sharp 1ok’s as you push yourself too hard. I use the maximum heart rate alert to make sure that I keep me exertion below 145 bpm to ensure that my easy days stay as just that and don’t turn into junk miles.
Garmin Connect Online Portal
One of the main reasons that Garmin GPS watches are so highly thought of amongst the running community is because not only have they managed to produce a range of high quality watches that accurately record vital statistics and metrics, but they have also created an online portal where you can transfer this data from your watch using the provided USB cable, so that you can track your long term performance. This portal is called Garmin Connect and is a free service that anyone with a Garmin Forerunner Watch can sign up to. Whist reviewing the Garmin 210 I made large use of the Garmin Connect portal, the main features of which are listed below.
Every run you record and transfer to the Garmin Connect portal can be viewed on a Google map that sows you exactly where you ran. This is great for remembering old routes and keeping track of any potential new ones.
The first thing you see when you log into the Garmin Connect portal is a section displaying your last training sessions’ details. There are a number of statistics displayed, including Time, Distance, Average Pace, Best Pace, Worst Pace, Total Calories and even Elevation. You can view this data for the whole run or for each split which means there are a whole host of metrics that you can judge your performance against. You can also rename your individual runs or activities so you can find them easily at a later point.
This is a relatively new feature that has only been added to the Garmin Connect portal over the past few months. The player section of the portal lets you play back your run (in varying amounts of speed) and displays your location on a map as well as your speed and elevation at that point on the map. This is great for gaining a graphical picture of your performance over a run and lets you see whether a slowdown in pace was due to elevation or something else along your route.
Reports is one of the most powerful tools in the Garmin Connect portal as it aggregates all of your training data and lets you track your long term performance. You can view all of the statistics recorded by your Forerunner 210 over any kind of time period that you like. Personally I use this section of the Garmin Connect portal to keep track of my total mileage for the month to make sure that I am not inadvertently running too little or too much (as I am currently rehabbing from a knee and hip injury I don’t want to build up the mileage too quickly). I also check to see if my overall average pace is on the downward trend along with my heart rate as a guide to how well I think I might perform in my next race. It is possible to pull some quite scary statistics out of the reporting section as you can find out things like how many calories you have burned over a year and how many hours of your life you have spent running. Always good for a laugh…or a cry depending on how you look at it!
Again, the Health section of the Garmin Connect portal is relatively new and not something that I have explored much. You need something called a Tanita BC-1000 which measures body statistics such as weight, body fat percentage, muscle mass and bone density – all of which are very useful things to be aware of, especially if you are running as part of a weight loss program. The Tanita BC-1000 can be bought from the Garmin website and according to the Garmin site, transmits date to your Garmin 210, 310xt, FR60 or Edge 800, with some of the data being displayed on the watch whilst all of the 9 readings are stored for future transmission to Garmin Connect. I am a bit dubious about this working with the 210 as I haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere else apart from on one page on the Garmin website but as you can see from the screen shot below from the Garmin Website, they clearly imply that the Tanita Bc-1000 is compatible with the Forerunner 210.
The goals section of Garmin Connect is another pretty useful tool as it lets you define and track your own running goals. You can create your own goals based around total time, distance, calories or frequency over a variety of different time horizons and then every time you complete a run using the Garmin 210 your progress will be displayed as a cumulative percentage. This is something that is pretty useful if you are training for a marathon or ultra and need to ramp up your mileage every month.
Last but not least is the Explore section of the Garmin Connect portal. This section of the site lets you search for activities (running, cycling etc) that other people have uploaded to the site from their own Garmin Forerunner watches. It is possible to search for an activity in a certain geographical area by keywords so for example, if you want to train for a specific race, then you can type its name in the search box to bring up a list of runs that people have used their GPS watches to record. When you find a run you like the look of, you can find out details like the runners heart rate, pace and splits as well as incline and a Google map of the route – the level of information available is pretty insane.
Watch Look and Feel
This Garmin 210 Review wouldn’t be a review at all if I didn’t mention a few points about the watch’s look and fee. Straight from the box it is possible to see that the Garmin 210 is much a similar size to the previous 110 model and weighs about the same. The big difference between the Forerunner 210 and watches like the 405 is the fact that the 210 is fitted with buttons and not a bezel, which make operating the watch during runs and in the cold and rain much easier. As it is controlled by buttons and not a bezel, the Forerunner 210 looks more like a conventional sports watch and as such wouldn’t look as out of place in an office or for normal everyday wear. The watch fits comfortably on both small and large wrists and is still comfortable to wear after use in a swimming pool.
Garmin seem to have finally struck the right balance between functionality and price with the new Forerunner 210 GPS watch. By adding key features such as current pace, heart rate monitoring, interval session setup and adequate water proofing they have turned the watch into a performance training tool that is more than suitable for runners of all abilities. From my Review of the Garmin 210 I have found the following features to be most useful.:
- Track important training indicators such as Pace (current, average), Distance, Time, Calories and Heart Rate by both splits and over the entire activity, using GPS or footpod.
- Heart rate based calorie calculations make the watch ideal for marathon or ultra runners who need to keep track of when they need to eat and how much.
- Alerts if you drop above or below one of five predetermined heart rate zones.
- Setup advanced interval workouts with the touch of a button.
- See a summary of your past lap after each lap, of entire completed activity before uploading to Garmin Connect.
- Use Garmin’s advanced Online Connect Portal to track your long term performance, set fitness goals, share runs and activities, play back your runs, and plot your routes on Google Maps.
Garmin 210 Review – Where to buy
As is the case with most electrical products, the cheapest place to buy is online. Amazon is by far the cheapest retailer that I have found and delivery times are usually one to two days.
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