As a Christmas present to myself, I'm looking into getting a GPS watch that would work for the swim/bike/run portions of the race. Any recommendations of what does or does not work well?
Ah, the age-old question.
One of our very own DC Tri members does a lot of technology reviews, and has spent considerable time breaking down the different GPS watches from various brands ([link]www.dcrainmaker.com]). Check out his break downs of all the latest GPS devices.
The most commonly recommended all-in-on watch that folks will probably recommend to you is the Garmin Forerunner 910XT (replacing the 310XT). It's built as a multi-sport specific watch that allows you to record data in the pool (lap swimming), open water swimming, road cycling (and stationary, when paired with a power meter or cadence/speed sensor), as well as running. It also allows you to use it in a race to switch from swim to bike to run modes during a race (and collect transition times if you want), all at the press of a button.
However, it comes at a price ($400, or $450 with HR monitor/strap). Certainly worth it if you like data.
I really like mine. Bottom line, up front, I find it works well. It's easy, it's not too big, and serves all my needs. It has a barometric altimeter and it counts laps in the pool for me so I don't have to. It's water proof. It's accurate within acceptable ranges. Doesn't weigh a ton.
If you're on a budget, you can probably pick up a 310XT for cheap and still provides plenty of fun data.
Most all other watches I find to be way too big (Timex Global Trainer) or don't capture all three disciplines.
I've used both the 310/910XT, so I can go more in-depth if you want to learn more.
+1 on what Trevor said. The 910XT is excellent.
You can get by with the 910XT for the bike, but the ultimate set up is to add the Garmin Edge 800 for the bike. The primary advantage is a bigger screen for more easily readable metrics to be displayed (including true, not calculated, left right power).
Another advantage of a separate bike GPS is the ability to load courses and have it tell you where to go (like car NAV units do).
I'm tacking on another question if anyone knows the answer... are newer Garmin watches (ie 910xt) more accurate than older generations (ie 305, 310xt) in regard to satellite tracking, or will they all have varying degrees of error?
-Andy Sovonick of Gaithersburg
My Garmin 800 on the bike shorted out 2xs and Performance would only give me a refurbished one - now it won't record cadence. Garmin gave me a bible listing of instructions, but I haven't finished my PhD yet in order to interpret them - to fix the cadence monitor.
If you buy any Garmin products, make sure you buy from someplace that will take it back and actually give you one that works when it shorts out. I'd suggest REI.
I will never ever buy any Garmin products again no matter how tempting!
Check this out.
I would second the REI route even it's a couple dollars more then somewhere else. They have been very good about returns if I had a watch stop working, even when it was more then a year since I bought it.
Andy: They should all be about the same for accuracy for most of the stuff we do. But the newer 910 will find the satellites quicker when you start up.
Garmin Forerunner 310XT for $250 WITH HRM strap, on Groupon right now - 3 December, 2.5 days until the deal is over. Originally $300.
$207 on Amazon for just the watch, plus shipping because it's not sold directly from Amazon.
Is the 310xt an older or newer garmin model?
-Andy Sovonick of Gaithersburg
Having used both Garmin 310Xt and Garmin 910Xt, I think Garmin 310XT is a better product. Garmin 910XT does seem to have better satellite reception, longer battery life, more advanced interface/firmware, not to mention an assortment of new functionalities (power balance, lap swimming, and a barometer). However, Garmin 910XT is notorious for its elevation problems. I just got my Garmin 910XT replaced from the manufacturer (Garmin Inc) because of a "elevation death spiral problem". I knew something wasn't right when it told me I'm at 20000m above sea level.
Go with Garmin 310XT unless you really want to track all your swims.
Another thing: the new heartrate strap that comes with Garmin 910XT is better. I had problems with erratic heartrate readings (250bpm or something more ridiculous) using the Garmin 310XT heartrate strap when running, but so far no problems with the Garmin 910XT heartrate strap.
One more thing: Garmin customer service is quite good. I've replaced a number of things under warranty.
Only had to replace Garmin 310XT once.
I have the 310XT and have been wearing my buddy's newer 910XT as well, for comparison. Also, he's been having trouble with it. I'm not so sure he's not the problem but that's another story.
I'm so used to the my 310 that I prefer it as well. The 910 is definitely sleeker and less boxy. Also, the buttons seem a little harder to push due the the sleekness of the watch body. I'm sure I'll buy one someday but I haven't gotten to the point of wearing my watch for the swim portion of the Tri's yet and if I did I would just put it in my cap.
A firmware update released last week allegedly fixed the elevation problems and reviews in the Garmin forums have been generally positive. Although not noted, reports are that the new firmware also improved instant pace of running.
Official list of fixes:
1. Improve total ascent/descent values.
2. Improvements to reduce elevation drift during an activity.
3. Improvements to reduce spurious changes in elevation.
4. Improve elevation auto-calibration at power up and between activities.
5. Improve elevation performance when GPS is turned off.
6. Improve elevation performance after swimming.
Foreign language corrections.
Changes to support manufacturing.
Thanks. I thought I did have the latest firmware on my 910XT. Anyhow, I got it replaced under warranty (had to pay the shipping cost but nothing else). The new unit is doing well and I have my fingers crossed.