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Garmin Forerunner 310XT HRM Bundle

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1 Review

Manufacturer: Garmin / Type: Running

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      21.09.2013 17:04
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      I wouldn't be without it

      ~What is a Garmin Forerunner 310XT?~

      When I first started running I had no idea that things such this existed. A few folks at the running club had these gigantic computers strapped to their wrists and it turned out that they were called 'Garmins' and that they used satellite signals to tell you how fast and how far you were going. My mind was blown! And so it was that I bought my first ever Garmin. It was gigantic and very basic. By the time that one died a natural death the market in GPS sports watches had moved on quite some way and I invested in a Garmin 405, but I didn't like the fit of it on my tiny wrist, so when I was offered the chance to buy one of the latest models at the time, a 310XT, for half of the RRP I jumped at the chance. That was a good number of years ago now, but I still love my 310XT.

      The Forerunner 310XT is a multisport watch, designed specifically with the long distance triathlete in mind. It is waterproof, can be switched between the disciplines of swimming, cycling and running and the battery lasts for 20 hours. Now, I am no triathlete (I did one, once, never again), but I greatly enjoy the benefits of it being waterproof and not needing to be charged as often as my previous models.

      ~Wearing and Using the Watch~

      The 310XT is a nasty orange colour (that nearly put me off buying one), but luckily not too much of that is visible. The unit itself is still pretty big: the square face of the watch is 5cm x 5cm and is 1.5cm thick. However, this is smaller than the Forerunner 205 and 305 that were the most popular predecessors, as those had a protruding part that housed the satellite trackers. I really like the large screen as it is much easier to read than the smaller, round face of the 405. The 310XT is also considerably lighter than the 205/305. You could never wear it instead of a normal watch, but as an activity tracker I like the size and weight.

      The strap is all plastic but is very flexible and has 13 sets of holes so will fit any wrist size, including my puny ones. If I have it fastened too tightly it can give me pins and needles in my fingers and a bit of a numb arm, so I prefer to have it just a little bit loose.

      The buttons are easy to operate, which is a huge improvement on the 405, and operation is similar to the 205/305. There are buttons for on/off, start/stop, lap/reset, mode, enter and up and down scroll buttons for the menus. No awkward bezels that don't work with wet fingers, no auto powersave to switch your watch off just as you're about to start your race. That used to drive me potty with the 405!

      The menus are also extremely easy and logical to navigate. Everything is pretty much where you'd expect to find it.

      The large display is very clear and can be customised to show one, two, three or four separate fields of information. You can also set second, third and fourth screens with up to four fields each, and either scroll through them yourself as you run, or set the watch to autoscroll. I never really felt the need to use that option though, as I don't tend to need quite that much information and if I tried to read all that while running I'm fairly sure I'd fall over!

      ~Setting Up~

      When you first use the unit you'll need to program your details into it, such as gender, weight, age and activity level. This enables it to calculate your calorie burn more accurately. You'll also need to pair it with your computer, the data transfer stick, the HRM strap if you have one and locate satellites for the first time. A 'Quickstart' guide is provided in the box, which I found to be really easy to follow. I had mine set up and ready to go in minutes.

      There is a baffling selection of options available to show on the screen:- Time, Time - Avg Lap, Time - Elapsed, Time - Lap, Time - Last Lap, Time of Day, Total Ascent, Total Descent, Cadence, Cadence - Avg, Cadence - Lap, Calories, Dist - Lap, Distance - Last Lap, Distance - Nautical, Elevation, GPS Accuracy, Grade, Heading, Heart Rate, Heart Rate -%HRR, Heart Rate - %Max, Heart Rate - Avg, Heart Rate - Avg %HRR, Heart Rate - Avg %Max, Heart Rate - Lap, Heart Rate - Lap %HRR, Heart Rate - Lap %Max, Heart Rate - Graph, Heart Rate - Zone, Laps, Pace, Pace - Average, Pace - Lap, Pace - Last Lap, Power, Power - %FTP, Power - 30s Avg, Power - 3s Avg, Power - Kilojoules, Power - Max, Power - Lap, Power Zone, Speed, Speed - Avg, Speed - Lap, Speed - Last Lap, Speed - Max, Speed - Nautical, Speed - VS 30s, Speed - Vertical.

      I have to admit to having no clue what most of those are for. Clearly the nautical ones are for when you use it for swimming, and the Power and Speed ones I presume are for cycling. Personally I only use it for running. For racing I have three data fields showing - Time, Lap Pace and Average Pace. For training I use the second screen, which I have set up with Distance, Time of Day and Lap Pace.

      You can set the watch to automatically beep at you at a certain distance, to record a lap split automatically (this can be a distance of your choosing, a time or even a specific point on your course), or pause automatically when you stop, eg to cross a road. Mine is set to beep at me every mile. On a normal training run I'll set it to record a lap split every mile, but if I'm doing an intervals session I'll turn this function off and press the lap button myself at the end of each rep. I don't use autopause as in the past this has managed to confuse matters when I forget it has stopped itself and I ended up accidentally stopping it completely. My brain doesn't work when I run!

      ~Training Features ~

      There is a feature called Virtual Partner where you can set the watch to a certain pace per mile and then try to keep up with the little man running across the screen. The little man representing you runs alongside (well, underneath I suppose, technically) and the display tells you how far ahead or behind your partner you are. I used to use this facility a lot more on my old Garmin when I was a novice runner but I don't seem to use it any more.

      You can program intervals sessions into the watch, which are completely customisable. There are also some pre-set workouts. You can even set up very complicated sessions on the online software Garmin Connect and send the workout to your Garmin. I've used this function when I've needed to do intervals sessions on my own and have been running set distances but not on a set route, so I have no idea where to end each rep. The beeps are different from normal distance alerts so there's no danger of cutting your workout short by mistake.

      There is even a navigation function, although I find this extremely difficult to follow. If you get lost you can simply go to navigation mode and press 'return to start'. No doubt it will send you back the same way you came, even if that isn't the shortest route back, but at least you'll get there eventually. Probably. I downloaded a 20 mile route to mine from the internet and assumed it would be easy enough to follow, but actually it's just a line on the screen with an arrow. If there is more than one road that goes right when the arrow points right you have absolutely no way to know if you're taking the correct one. It turns out I did not take the correct route and the 20 miler was actually well over 23 miles by the time I got back home.

      ~Accessories~

      The watch I have came with a HRM strap. This wasn't necessarily something I wanted and as such I haven't really used it much. The strap is actually much more comfortable than others I've tried, being elastic for all but roughly 7cm right at the front. Personally I don't like wearing a strap around my chest while I'm running. I find it gets in the way of my bra strap, and if I'm wearing my backpack or hydration pack then it's beyond uncomfortable. I'm guessing that men would find this less of a problem ;).

      It also came with a charger, that is in the form of a clip rather than the cradles of previous versions, and the ANT+ wireless transfer stick. This is great. It is like a USB that you plug into your computer. If your Garmin is switched on it will automatically transfer your training information to your computer when you are within about 10m of it. A foot pod is available to buy separately, which would enable you to use the unit without the GPS, for example, on the treadmill.

      ~Garmin Customer Service~

      I manged to drop my beloved 310XT on the concrete floor of the changing rooms at the running club. It must have landed on a weak spot as the screen cracked from one side to the other. I actually cried! I tried to hold it together with sticky tape, but water got into the screen, making it difficult to read. Of course, it was out of warranty. However, Garmin were great when I contacted their customer service. They took it back and sent me out a new, refurbished unit free of charge. I think they were aware of a fault with the weak spot on the screen actually. Usually they'd charge £50 when the warranty is out of date, but even that is a great deal better than buying a new one. I assumed it would take weeks to get my new watch through so panic bought an emergency backup of a Forerunner 205, but actually I had my new 310XT within 10 days.

      My new one took a battering when I slipped on a wet manhole cover as I rounded a corner coming down off a bridge and went flying. The casing is scratched, but this time the screen survived intact. If there was an issue then it appears that Garmin have fixed it!

      ~Verdict~

      I can't be without my Garmin. I'm not great at judging pace without it. I have tried and I usually go off too fast and die a death. The Garmin stops me from dashing off too quickly at the start of races, and equally makes me keep my head down and press on when the going gets tough. Being able to measure the distance I have run is also fantastic. I don't have to spend ages pouring over maps, I can just run, wherever I want, in the woods, on canal paths or on roads. I don't pay too much attention to anything other than distance unless I'm doing a 'session', but the data you can upload afterwards is just scintillating for the running geek. Lap splits, elevation, every detail can be analysed on Garmin Connect, or another online facility. I use Fetcheveryone.

      But do I NEED a 310XT? Admittedly I don't use many functions of my watch, but I love the lighter weight and longer battery life. Since I bought it though, a large selection of other GPS watches have appeared on the market, and not just in the Garmin range. I am not 100% sure that I would buy this exact model again given that it still costs around £160 even without the HRM. For the functions I require I dare say I could pick up something rather less expensive. I suspect it would depend on how flush I was feeling at the time!

      *Review also appears on Ciao*

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    • Product Details

      Garmin Forerunner 310XT HRM Bundle. GPS - Run. This bundle includes the Forerunner 310xt with Premium HRM, Cadence Sensor and Quick Release Kit The Quick Release Kit is the ideal training aid for multi-sport enthusiasts who want to switch between disciplines without their kit slowing them do ....