Monday 10 March 2014

Garmin Forerunner 110 Review

A user friendly review of the Garmin Forerunner 110 GPS Watch

There comes a time for every keen runner when spending ridiculous amounts of time attempting to remember and plot your every twist and turn into MapMyRun, or similar online run tracking sites, just doesn't cut the mustard any longer. You just want a simple and reasonably priced GPS device that does the work for you, helping you keep track of your training routes, speed and distances covered. After 1000's of 'clocked and recorded' kilometers with my first GPS running watch, I thought it was time to let you know what my thoughts are on the Garmin Forerunner 110......

- Time, date and alarm
- Backlight for use in the dark
- GPS tracking of your running routes
- Records your speed/pace, distance and time running
- Lap splits and auto lap 
- History of your runs viewed on the watch screen
- User profile: enter your measurements, age etc to estimate calories used on each run
- Heart rate monitor compatible 
- Rechargeable battery gives around 8 hours GPS usage or 1-2 weeks normal watch features
- Battery charge indicator
- Connects to Garmin Connect via charger cable to upload run information for more in-depth analysis on a PC
- Water resistant

Size and comfort:
The Forerunner 110 is perfectly sized for use as both a GPS running partner and as an everyday watch, much unlike previous units that required incorporating bicep curls into your fitness regime to enable the user to be able to lift their arm when wearing it, or left your wrist and arm looking like a 5-year old wearing their Dad's watch. The only time you may struggle is fitting it under a tight shirt or coat cuff. I find the 110 a very comfortable watch to wear all day long, and therefore is certainly no inconvenience on a run.

Using the Forerunner 110 as a watch:
I am only going to briefly touch on this, as I imagine the majority of people viewing this review are far more interested in the GPS functions of the Garmin Forerunner series, but it is worth taking a brief moment to consider that an expensive purchase for your running can be further justified by doubling as an everyday watch. The watch will last approximately 1-2 weeks on a full charge of its rechargeable battery if you don't use the GPS. Leaving the watch untouched gives around 2 weeks, but as soon as you begin to use the backlight or use any of the functions it brings it down to around a week. Quite handy is the addition of the alarm, helping you get up for an early morning run or to remind you of something important during the day!

Using the Forerunner 110 as a GPS:
If you want to do a little 'pre-setup' you can set the watch to either record in miles or kilometers, input your sex, age, weight, height and activity level to give you an estimated calorie usage per run, and even ask the watch to let you know every time you reach a predetermined distance (auto-lap feature) which most users set to every mile/kilometer. Also, you can choose between seeing your speed (kph or mph) or pace (time to run 1km/mile).

Upon pressing the page/menu button the unit begins to search for satellites. This can take anywhere from a few seconds if you are using the watch in the same general area as on your previous run, up to a few minutes if you have travelled somewhere new. I found that the further I travelled from my usual place of running, the longer it took for the watch to find satellites.

Once the watch has found satellites, you are ready to begin your run with the simple press of the start/stop button. Then you just let the unit do its thing, it really is as simple as that.

If at any time you want to pause your run to tie your laces, take in a view or stop and have a chat to someone, simply press the start/stop once to pause and again when you resume running. When you finish your run, press the start/stop and then hold the lap/reset to end and save the run. This then stores the run in the history of the watch ready to view simple stats on-screen or download to Garmin Connect on your PC for more in-depth analysis. On screen stats include the date and time of the run, distance and average pace/speed, time running and an estimate of calories burnt based on your user profile information.

Charging and data uploading:
Connecting the charger cable is not the simplest of things I have ever come across, but you get the hang of it eventually. A four pin connector grips onto the watch and connects with four small metal plates on the back of the watch. The watch can then be plugged into a PC via USB or a wall socket with the supplied plug adaptation.

Garmin Connect ( is very simple to use and is often updated to improve its user-ability. From here you can get as obsessive as you like with analysing your run data. I like to keep things quite simple and keep check on my longest runs, average speeds and total distances covered each week and month. Also very handy is the quick-view personal bests and longest run features. But if you are one to scrutinise every single step, twist and turn, elevation and splits then Garmin Connect will not disappoint.   

Things I have really liked about the Garmin Forerunner 110:
- It is a neat, tidy, light and comfortable unit that can be used as an everyday watch as well as a GPS
- It is very simple to use as a GPS watch, including viewing the data on the screen
- Enables you to keep track of your current run by providing all relevant data needed on the screen
- Records all of the information you need to keep a basic check of your training
- Data is easy to download and view via Garmin Connect

Things I would like to see improved:
- A longer GPS battery life would be a fantastic improvement; 8 hours is not enough for ultras and not enough to last the average person for a weeks use without charging
- Improved waterproofing; the unit often 'fogs up' when sweating in hot weather and it is not advised to use the watch if swimming. It would be much better if the waterproofing was improved and you could just wear it whatever you are doing, such as swimming on holiday or after a hot run
- Improved internal workings; see next two points below 
- On the odd occasion the unit has lost satellite reception and failed to record my runs accurately, completely defeating the point of having a GPS watch, and these have even been on my usual runs where reception is excellent
- I have had to have the whole unit replaced once as the unit completely stopped working, wouldn't connect to satellites or even stay switched on. I was told by the shop (and confirmed with further research online) that they have seen a few Forerunners returned with these problems. On the plus side of things, the unit was replaced without any issues and I was very happy with Garmin customer service
- Improved satellite reception; it can take far too long to find satellites, and if the weather is cold no one wants to stand around for a few minutes waiting for their watch to receive reception

Overall, for a GPS watch that can be picked up for just over £100 in most places, I have been very pleased with my Forerunner 110. It has been comfortable to wear, simple to operate and enabled me to view and record all the relevant data I need whilst on the run, as well as once I am back at home reviewing my training. There are a few issues that need rectifying concerning the sometimes-slow satellite reception, possible intermittent reliability of the watches software on some units and not quite up-to-date waterproofing, but if you are after a basic GPS watch to keep track whilst on your everyday training runs and to record all the basic relevant data, the Garmin Forerunner could be the watch for you!

Happy Running

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