A Tale of Five Garmins (310XT, 910XT, FR610, FR620, and Tactix)

Garmin Running Watches/Sports & Fitness Trackers

I’m always looking to see what’s happening in the Wearable Technology space at the same time as I’m looking for what I will use day to day for my own training across a number of different sports. I’m hard on my equipment and have high product standards.

I expect that anything I use will meet the following:

  • It will be intuitive to use.
  • It will survive water, temperature extremes, shock, and rough use.
  • It will have enough battery to last for the given type of training
  • It will be easy to read in any condition, day or night, moving or stationary
  • It will be simple to sync the data to TrainingPeaks (my system of record)
  • It will work 100% of the time.
  • Ideally I can wear it as a regular watch as well.

Of the five Garmins I’ve tested, they really break up into three categories:

  • Ultra-distance, navigation, backcountry:
  • Triathlon watches:
    • 310XT: designed for multi-sport including swim sections
    • 910XT: even better than the 310XT – includes open water and indoor swimming tracking
  • Day to day running, cycling, workouts:
    • FR610: black and white touch screen GPS watch for runners and cyclists
    • FR620 color touch screen GPS watch for runners and cyclists

As people know, I like to get to the punchline fast. I think the best basic watch is the FR610 and the best for longer events (even against the Suunto Ambit) is the Tactix or Fenix. The 310XT and 910XT are great watches for triathletes and hikers in the middle of those two ends of the spectrum.

The product team who built the FR620 is doing some really interesting things. It has wifi, Bluetooth LE, and USB for sending updates. The updates are fast. The basic UI is very intuitive. But the color screen is washed out, and that was a poor trade-off to make on a small screen. The FR610 is way easier to read. Also the one I tested locked up four times in an hour and failed to install its own firmware updates four times in a row. When I checked the support forums, they were filled with issues around wifi and bluetooth connectivity and a host of other issues like GPS accuracy that steered me away. Again this is personal preference and bias. I know other people like Ray at DCRainmaker.com love this watch.

Here is how I graded them.

Screenshot 2014-01-11 15.06.32

Here is a diagram showing how they interoperate with their various Garmin connecting technologies. Garmin seems to be having a hard time rationalizing their application portfolio. It’s pretty confusing.

QSDeviceAppEcosystem r7dGarminOnly