May 092012
 

 

Garmin announced the Forerunner 210 in October of 2010. The 210 is one of of four Garmin running watches released in 2010. These included the 110, 210, 410, and 610. These products all have GPS, and are targeted mainly to runners. With the 210, Garmin offers three models; a black model that comes with the watch only and sells for $199.00, and a men’s black or women’s teal color that comes with a heart rate monitor strap, and sells for $249.99.

Before we get started, we should tell you a little bit about us and how we perform product evaluations. We have a group of 4 people who do the evaluations of all of the gear. One person is the lead on a piece of gear, but everyone gets a chance to evaluate the product. We have 2 guys and 2 ladies, so it’s a good mix of people. It gives us better insight, and we get a better review overall. Everyone has an input to the review, and if there is a major disagreement, we will note it in the review. If you want to know who these people are, check out our About Us page. Four of us are seasoned triathletes, and 2 of us are are also full time Pilates instructors. Jennifer Lynn, who is a guest blogger, is a full time Pilates/spinning instructor. All swim, bike, run, do Pilates and Yoga, and use all of the gear on a daily basis. Many of you have read the FitnessElectronicsBlog disclaimer, but here it is in case this is your first time reading one of our reviews. For the record,  we are in no way connected with Garmin or any of the companies whose gear we review. We remain disconnected, in large part, because we love playing with the latest technology, and we couldn’t keep our hands off this stuff if we tried.  Garmin gave us the watch for a 60-day trial period, and after our review, we box it up and send it back.  No give-us-gear for a favorable review, or anything like that. We call ‘em as we see ‘em. It keeps us honest. Typically, if we like the product, we will buy it to have around, use, and be able to check out software updates and answer questions.  So, enough with the babble. Let’s get to the review.

 

What’s in the box?

Here is the product box for the Forerunner 210 with Heart Rate Monitor Strap:

Here is what’s inside:

 

Here is a closeup of the Garmin strap:

This gives you an indication of the thickness of the watch:

A side view:

The display is easily readable. The display resolution is 52 x 30 pixels:

Here is a size comparison. The watches from left to right are Suunto Quest, Garmin 405, Garmin 910XT, and the Garmin 210:

A side view:

 

So what are the features?

Here are the major features of the watch:

  • Unit dimensions, WxHxD: 1.8″ x 2.7″ x 0.6″ (4.5 x 6.9 x 1.4 cm)
  • Display size, WxH:  1.0″ x 1.0″ (2.5 x 2.5 cm) diameter
  • Display resolution, WxH: 52 x 30 pixels
  • Weight:  1.8 oz (52 g)
  • Battery: rechargeable lithium-ion
  • Battery life:  3 weeks in power save mode; 8 hours in training mode
  • Water resistant: yes (IPX7)
  • GPS-enabled: yes
  • High-sensitivity receiver: yes
  • Basemap: no
  • History: 1000 laps
  • Waypoints/favorites/locations: 0
  • Routes: 0
  • Heart rate monitor: yes (some versions, including the version we tested)
  • Bike speed/cadence sensor: no
  • Foot pod: yes (some versions)
  • Automatic sync (automatically transfers data to your computer):no
  • Garmin Connect™ compatible (online community where you analyze, categorize and share data): yes
  • Virtual Partner® (train against a digital person): no
  • Virtual Racer™ (compete against other activities): no
  • Courses (compete against previous activities): no
  • Auto Pause® (pauses and resumes timer based on speed): no
  • Auto Lap® (automatically starts a new lap): yes
  • Auto Scroll (cycles through data pages during workout): no
  • Multi-sport (changes sport mode with a press of a button): no
  • Advanced workouts (create custom, goal-oriented workouts): no
  • Pace alert (triggers alarm if you vary from preset pace): no
  • Time/distance alert (triggers alarm when you reach goal): no
  • Vibration alert: (choose between alert tones and/or vibration alert): no
  • Interval training (set up exercise and rest intervals): yes
  • Heart rate-based calorie computation: yes
  • Swim metrics (stroke type, stroke count and pool lengths): no
  • Training Effect (measures impact of an activity on your aerobic fitness): no
  • Customizable screen(s): no
  • Barometric altimeter: no
  • Unit-to-unit transfer (shares data wirelessly with similar units): no
  • Power meter compatible (displays power data from compatible 3rd party ANT+™-enabled power meters): no
  • Temperature (displays and records temperature while you ride): no
  • Shock Resistant: yes
  • Sport watch: yes
Here is the battery life chart from the owners manual:

So how does it compare to other Garmin running watches?

As we said, the 210 is one of four models recently released by Garmin. These include the 110, 210,410 and 610. The main differences are shown in the table below:
110 210 410 610
Display resolution, W x H 52 x 30 pixels 52 x 30 pixels 124 x 95 pixels 128 x 128 pixels
Touchscreen no no no yes
Waypoints/favorites/locations 0 0 100 100
Bike speed/cadence sensor no no yes(optional) yes(optional)
Foot pod no yes(optional) yes(optional) yes(optional)
Automatically sync (auto transfer your data) no no yes yes
Virtual Partner (train against a digital person) no no yes yes
Virtual Racer (compete against other activities) no no no yes
Courses (compete against previous activity) no no yes no
Auto Pause pauses and resumes timer based on speed) no no yes yes
Auto Scroll (cycles through data pages during workout) no no yes yes
Advanced workouts (create custom, goal oriented workout) no no yes yes
Pace alert (triggers alarm if you vary from preset pace) no no yes yes
Time/distance alert (triggers alarm when you reach goal) no no yes yes
Vibration alert no no no yes
Training Effect no no no yes
Interval training (set up exercise and rest intervals) no yes yes yes
Customizable screens no no yes yes
Unit to unit transfer no no yes no
Price $179.99 $199.99 $249.99 $349.99
Price with heart rate monitor $229.99 $249.99 $299.99 $399.99

So what is the big difference between the 110 and 210? Mainly the addition of interval training and the capability of adding an optional foot pod in the 210.

The interval options are set on the watch, not in Garmin Connect.  You can set warm up, interval, rest, and cool down times or distances. They must either be all times, or all distances. You can also set the number of intervals.

The pace option can also be changed to mph in case you want to use the watch on a bike.

Using the watch

The watch is very easy and intuitive to use. To go for a run, press page/menu. the watch will take a minute or so to get a GPS fix. Once you have a GPS satellite fix, press the start/stop button to start the timer. When you are done with your run, press start/stop. That’s it! If you want to save your workout, press and hold the lap/reset button. During your run, your distance, and pace or speed, along with your workout time, are shown on the display:
The display can be changed to show current, average or lap speed or pace at the bottom of the display.
If you want to use the watch indoors, it’s pretty simple. Press the page/menu button, and the watch will start searching for GPS. Press it again and it will ask if you want to use indoors.  Select yes, and you are ready to start your indoor workout:
Here is James putting in an indoor spin workout with the watch at Studio S:

Here he is wrapping up his interval spinning workout:

Some cool things to do with the Forerunner 210:

If you want to create an interval workout, you can’t create it in Garmin Connect.  It needs to be created on the watch. To do this, you press and hold the page/menu button, select Interval, then Set. Next, enter a distance or time interval, and press OK. Select Distance or Time for your rest interval, then enter the value. You can enter a warm up and cool down if you want to. To perform your interval, press the start/stop button. If you have a warm up programmed, you will need to press the lap button to start the first interval.

You can set heart rate alerts. Press and hold the page/menu button, and select HR Alerts. Enter your high heart rate alert value. You can also select a HR zone. press OK. Enter the low HR value or zone. Press OK. The alert will sound when you are above or below the set values.

Accessories and sensors

The Forerunner 210 is compatible with the following Garmin accessories:

 

Garmin HRM Strap. This heart rate monitor strap uses the 2.4 GHz ANT+ wireless communications protocol.

 

 

 

Garmin Premium HRM Strap.This heart rate monitor strap uses the 2.4 GHz ANT+ wireless communications protocol. The battery life is approximately 4.5 years when used for an hour a day.

 

 

 

Garmin Foot Pod

 

 

 

 

Saving Your Workouts

So how do you review and analyze your workouts?  The Forerunner 210 is fully compatible with Garmin’s logging and analysis software, Garmin Connect. To upload your workout, connect the USB charging cable to your PC. Next go to the Garmin site at connect.garmin.com. If you don’t have an account, you will need to create one. Once you are logged in, in the upper right hand corner of the page is the upload button. Click that and you will be taken to this screen:

I clicked “Upload All New Activities”. I can then click on the details of the workout, which displays this screen from our recent trail run:

I ran out of screen, so here is the rest of the workout:

You can see that there is a lot of really useful data here. Heart rate, distance, pace, elevation, lap split times, and a map are just a few of the items and screens that you can view. Tutorials on Garmin Connect is covered in some of our other reviews and posts, so we won’t go into a detailed review of GC. This is just intended to give you an idea about your analysis possibilities. The data can also be uploaded and viewed on other sites like TrainingPeaks.

Thoughts, Opinions and Summary:

Pros:
  • The watch felt good on our wrists. It is soft and comfortable, and the watch doesn’t feel too big.
  • The heart rate monitor strap felt good, and did a good job of picking up heart rate without any issues. In the past, we have some issues on hot days, when your shirt gets too wet, or under some really dry conditions with a dry fit shirt.
  • Using the watch is easy to use. The display is easily readable, and it is backlit at night with the press of a button. This makes moving through the menus and settings straightforward.
  • The watch works with the optional running foot pod. This is great if you are indoors or want to know running cadence.
  • Uploading is easy with Garmin Connect. I really like Garmin Connect when I want to analyze and study my workout. It is web based, so you can upload on any computer.
  • We like the interval feature, and heart rate zone readout.
  • The interval feature is a plus over the 110, but you need to program it on the watch. Higher feature watches allow you to create a workout and download it to the watch. This allows more flexibility, but programming on the watch is ok.
  • The manual  is pretty good, not great.
Cons:
  • Only supports 1 person at a time. All of the settings assume only 1 person uses the watch.
  • It can be used on a ride, but the optional cadence/speed sensor does not work with the 210.
Conclusion:
This watch fits nicely into the Garmin lineup. it sits above the 110, and below the 410 and 610. Garmin’s watches are well made, and if you’ve used one, the others function very similarly, so you’ll feel right at home.
So, the the question we always ask each other is, “If it were our money, would we buy this watch?” The answer is, if we were looking for a GPS watch with these features, in this price range, we would definitely buy it. Of course, we are always drawn to the high end watches with all of the features and gadgets, but for a mid range watch with these features, ease of use, and price, we say yes. It also works well inside, so if you are a gym rat who is into running, this could well be the watch for you. Also, having settable heart rate zones and alarms is really nice as it provides us some much needed assistance at keeping our heart rates in our desired training zone. All-in-all, the 210 is a good-looking, mid-budget, GPS enabled training/racing watch with accurate heart rate training features.

We will leave you with a few videos of the Garmin 210.

This video is the Forerunner 110, but the only differences are the ones listed earlier in the review:

This video shows how to get set for your first run:

And here’s how to use Garmin Connect:

Happy Training!

 

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