Gear Review: Garmin Forerunner 110 GPS

As a long time fan of the Garmin 405CX I reviewed here, I was fascinated to see that Garmin had launched an entry level GPS running watch in the Forerunner 110.

Coming in at around the £160 mark online, compared to £250 for the 405CX, it’s considerably more affordable than its big brother. But the question is, how many of the 405CX’s fantastic features have Garmin dispensed with in order to shave so much off the price?

And the answer, unsurprisingly, is most of them. But having lived with the 110 for a few weeks now, I’m beginning to think that that’s no bad thing. So rather than focusing on what’s been taken away, it’s probably more worthwhile discussing what the Forerunner 110 does well.

Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity

Advanced runners who want to analyse every nuance of their performance might as well look away now, because this thing really isn’t for you. It’s clearly aimed at the new and only moderately serious runner, and does a very good job of providing just the information you need and nothing that you don’t.

Answering the setup questions took me all of two minutes, after which I put on the not especially comfortable chest strap that contains the heart rate monitor and waited a further minute or so for the GPS to establish my position.

Once that was done, it took just the push of a button to start everything off, and then a further push of the red page/menu button to flip between the three main screens , which are time and pace, heartbeat and actual time. Though in fairness, I don’t generally need to know the time of day when I’m running, so it’s a pity that this last screen isn’t disabled when you’re in running mode.

The most useful of the three screens (left)  displays distance, elapsed time and current pace from top to bottom, though it’s worth noting these facts from the user guide before you set out, as the red wording at the top and bottom of the bezel that tell you what the numbers indicate is totally unreadable.

The heart rate screen, however, uses all the available space to display your current heartrate, making it ideal for those of us who like to train in different zones from time to time.

Tracking your runs

Like every Garmin GPS, the Forerunner 110 uses a clever, clip-on charger which allows it to stay waterproof to IPX7 standards (shallow water for up to 30 minutes). In the case of the 110 also enables it to hook up to a Mac or PC with a USB slot, which then takes you to your own page on the Garmin website, where you can view a map and stats for your run, including heart rate, distance, average pace, pace per mile and elevation.

Crucially, this is all better laid out and more thought through than anything I’ve seen from Polar, RunKeeper, or many of the other proprietary GPS websites on the market.

The predictable summing up

Despite the fact that I love the ‘virtual partner’ feature of the Garmin 405CX, not to mention its incredibly cool ‘strokable bezel’ control, I totally get the point of the Forerunner 110.

It’s a no-frills way to track your pace, route and heartrate, and then analyse them on the Garmin site. The controls and set-up are idiot-proof and it even sets the time of day automatically using the satellite signal.

So if you’re just a casual runner, or simply don’t have £250 to blow on its big brother, the Forerunner 110 is a great training tool, and entirely worthy of its 5 Jelly Baby Rating.

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Gear Review: Garmin Forerunner 405CX – (Part One)

forerunner 405 CXHaving recently rubbished the abilities of the iPhone 3G as a GPS-enabled training tool, I was delighted when the brand new Garmin Forerunner 405CX finally showed up here at Jelly Baby Towers; the first one that was dispatched to me having, somewhat ironically, become lost in the post…

Nevertheless, having taken the frankly gorgeous unit out of the box and attached the rather nifty ‘clip on’ charger, I set about to read the manual, and quickly realised that attempting to review this thing in one go was slightly pointless; as not only do I want to see if it really is the state of the art as a GPS unit, I’m also keen to see if it’s any use in making my training any more effective.

So this is just Part 1 of the review, where I’ll probably make fun of it’s gadget value a fair bit. But I’ll also be posting Part 2 in a couple of weeks, discussing the heartrate-based calorie counter, followed by Part 3 detailing all of its technical wonderfulness a couple of weeks after that.

Setting up the Garmin 405CX

Well, OK, so after reading the manual, it all sounded pretty straightforward. You control the 405CX’s functions by tapping the relevant words on the bezel, and scroll through the function menus by ‘stroking’ the written part of the bezel in the direction you wish to scroll. The ‘Start/Stop’ button acts as an ‘Enter’ key, and the ‘Lap/Reset’ button acts as a ‘Go Back’ key. So far, so straightforward? Well, yes and no. Even after following the setup ‘wizard’ that makes you try each technique in turn,  I really struggled with this system for about 45 minutes, as it was entirely new to me. But having now lived with the unit for 24 hours, and run with it earlier today, I’m already completely comfortable with it. In fact, it’s very, very clever once you get the hang of it; a bit like the scroll wheel on an iPod, but without the moving parts.

Going for a quick run with the Garmin.

garmin virtual partner modeThe 405CX is just about as high-tech as things get. Not only will it wirelessly sync with your PC or Mac using a USB dongle called an ANT stick, it also comes complete with a wireless heartrate monitor. However, I didn’t bother with the HRM today, as, still struggling with injury, I was only planning on a slow 5.5 miles, at around 8 minute mile pace. So I entered the ‘Training’ mode, noted that the unit acquired satellite reception in 5 seconds flat, selected ‘Virtual Partner’, scrolled the target pace to be 8.0 minute miles, pushed the ‘Start’ button and set off.

I found the display to be easily readable, and it was also easy to tap the bezel and switch to other views including a standard stopwatch. But apart from the GPS measurement function, which is great for analysing your run afterwards, I think that Virtual Partner is the really crucial tool, especially for unsociable weirdos like my good self. The little chap at the top is your partner, the little chap at the bottom is you, and the large display shows exactly how much you are ahead or behind your intended pace. Simples! And an absolute boon to those of us who don’t like running with a real training partner…or, who simply have no friends who run…or simply, have no friends…

The only small flaw came when I got back home and pressed the ‘Lap/Reset’ key button instead of the ‘Start/Stop’ button, which meant that another minute and ten seconds had been added to my time before I realised my mistake and pushed the’Start/Stop’ key.

garmin run pageOnce indoors, the Garmin uploaded the data to my Mac without even being asked, and I was then taken to the Garmin Connect website, where I could view not just a map of my run, but splits for every mile, average pace, quickest pace, and a whole raft of other data. It was quick, seamless and well laid out.

My only quibble is that I couldn’t edit out the 1:10 added to my run by my own clumsy stupidity. However, another quick read of the manual allowed me to alter the Garmin’s settings to ‘Auto Pause’ the timer whenever I stop running in future, so this can’t happen again. And, if I’m honest, this was my fault rather than the unit’s.

So is the Forerunner 405CX any good?

Well, let’s see. It looks great, and is far less bulky than any other GPS unit I’ve ever tried. It acquired a satellite signal in about 5 seconds flat, using something called, if I’m not mistaken ‘HotFix.’ Once I’d gotten over my initial ham-fistedness, the controls turned out to be spectacularly clever and easy to use. It even set the clock to the right time of day, all by itself, using satellites.

Best of all, the ‘Virtual Partner’ function meant that I was able to set a sensible goal for my run, and meet it exactly, which would suggest that this thing really will help me to increase my currently appalling level of race fitness,  by helping me to meet further, slightly more ambitious goals in the not too distant future.

Naturally, it remains to be seen if that will happen. And goodness knows what I’m going to make of the heart rate monitor and calorie counter function when I have a go of that over the weekend.

5 jelly baby ratingFrankly, with an RRP of £329.99, or an Amazon.co.uk price of £281.77, this thing really has to be very good indeed. But in the interests of honesty, my first impression of the Forerunner 405CX is that here, finally, is a GPS unit that gives runners everything they need, including simplicity of use.

So if you have that sort of dosh lying around, this could be exactly what you’re looking for. And so, having failed to find anything wrong with the 405CX that isn’t actually my own silly fault, and which Garmin have a fix for anyway, I’m afraid that I’m going to have to give the Garmin Forerunner 405CX a resounding 5 Jelly Baby Rating. Though in fairness, it probably deserves the whole bag…

Product Specification

• Advanced heart rate-based calorie computation

• Fits most wrists with either the original strap or the included fabric wrist straps

• High-sensitivity GPS receiver with HotFix™

• Touch bezel interface

• Training and motivational features: Virtual Partner®, courses, workouts, goal

• Battery life: up to eight hours (training) or two weeks (power save mode)

• Water resistant to IPX7 (1 meter of water for 30 minutes)

• Weight: 2.11 oz (60 g)

• Display: round four-level gray FSTN, 124 x 95 pixels

• Size (mm): 45.75mm x 70.5mm x 16.4mm

• Distance accuracy: 99% with clear view of sky

• Temp range: -4oF to 140oF (-20oC to 60oC)