There isn’t a short term review for Garmin’s Forerunner 210 because I wasn’t writing this blog back then, but I’ve been paired with it for over 18 months now, and I think we’ve figured each other out. When I decided to purchase my first GPS watch, I knew there were lots of GPS running products available. I had heard great things about Garmin’s offerings and when checking out different options in the store, the Garmin met my needs best. Having super skinny wrists means its reasonable size wouldn’t bother me like something with a larger face, which was incredibly important to me, and the 210 also came in at a decent price point ($249.99). With GPS services, heart rate monitoring, indoor and outdoor capabilities with a foot pod, preset intervals, lap timing and online tracking with connect.garmin.com, it had everything I could want in a running watch. The package I purchased contained one GPS watch, one heart rate monitor with strap and one foot pod for use indoors.
After removing the parts from their box, I pulled out the manual and started the initial setup. This was fairly easy, and after I relived it recently by performing a master reset, it was equally as simple even without the manual. Setting my desired language and distance units, then age, height, and weight by using the menu and arrow buttons, the time was set by allowing the watch to locate and connect to the Garmin satellite. Both the User Profile and Setup menus are easy to navigate and it’s here that you set your lap distance which allows you to see your splits. Because my speed work changes from week to week, I find the Intervals function very easy to operate and extremely useful. With options to set running and resting intervals by either time or distance, or one of each like I do (run distance, rest time), and the ability to tell the watch how many reps you plan on doing, an additional benefit is the Warm Up/Cool Down feature. If you’ve chosen to use the Warm Up/Cool Down feature, you will begin your Interval program in Warm Up mode. To complete your warm up and start your first run, all you have to do is hit the Lap button. After completing your final rest interval, you will automatically go into Cool Down until you again hit the Lap button.
I love the Interval function and have never had a problem changing the run and rest distances or times. The worst problem I have had with changing a setting has been when switching from Miles to Kilometers. The setting is easy to find and switch, but it seems the settings menu doesn’t always communicate that with the satellite that determines your speed. During a race last fall, I switched units (miles to km) only seconds before hitting the Start button and was running a miraculous 2 minute kilometer. I knew something was seriously wrong with that, but it was a race, so on I went. After about five minutes, I looked down to see a much more realistic pace and was glad the watch had sorted itself out. I re-encountered this issue recently, but have learned to prevent it by giving the 210 a few minutes of satellite contact before hitting the start button after changing unit types.
Keeping a full charge on the watch also seems to alleviate this problem when switching distance units. With battery life averaging 10 hours of GPS use, one full charge a week gets the job done for me. I’ve never worn it as a normal watch, but Garmin claims the battery will last 3 weeks in power save mode. The watch beeps to let you know your battery life is reaching its end, but does so with plenty of notice. I’ve run for up to an hour more after hearing the dreaded tone. A full charge does take some time, but leaving the watch on the USB wall port charger for a night always does the trick. Getting the charger/transfer prongs and the receivers on the watch to match can be difficult, but usually a little wiggle gets the charger and the watch talking again. If a wiggle hasn’t solved it, I’ve always been successful simply wiping off the receivers on the watch.
I’ve found that as battery life dwindles or if the sky is very overcast, the watch will struggle to find satellite reception. Satellite pick up will also be especially slow when there’s a long history in the watch’s memory. After logging over 1,500 miles with my running buddy, the history was starting to get a little thick and as a result, it took a few seconds longer to find satellite reception than it did with few entries. A full memory also gave the watch trouble with pulling up History entries, so long, in fact, that the watch would alert me it was going into Power Save Mode to save battery life as it tried to get me the data I wanted. Making sure I backed up all my data with Garmin Connect, I solved this problem very easily with a master reset.
I have had positive experience with the foot pod feature, though I have gotten feedback from others saying they had difficulty with it. Several times at races my watch has picked up the heart rate monitors and foot pods of others, but with it programmed to ask if you’re wearing one or the other, those functions can be shut off. I’m not much of a treadmill runner, 125 treadmill miles in eighteen months, and recently my Foot Pod began to beep and show Foot Pod Battery Low on the watch’s screen. Like the battery of the watch itself, the Foot Pod gives you plenty of notice before giving up and lasts for another couple of hours after the first beep. Changing the battery in the foot pod is somewhat of a challenge, but a trip to the store where I bought it quickly had the cover popped off and a new battery installed.
The connect.garmin.com site is wonderful and the technicians at Garmin are continuing to improve it. The most difficult part of using Garmin Connect can be actually getting your watch to communicate with the computer. As mentioned above, sometimes the receivers on the watch’s body get finicky about lining up with prongs on the USB cord and it can take a few solid shifts, wiggles and wipe-offs to get the two devices talking. Once data is uploaded, using the Garmin Connect site is very easy. The Calendar function is one of my favorites, and I like being told how many miles, calories and hours I’ve run, burnt and spent without having to hunt for a calculator. The Dashboard features your PRs at various distances and most recent workouts, with the Analyze tab holds an Activities page where all activities tracked by the watch are listed in chronological order, making it easy to find specific workouts. This tab is also home to Reports, where you can pull up your total number of miles logged in any activity type (road running, trail running, bicycling etc) over a given amount of time. I’ll use this feature most often to check the mileage on my shoes. You can save and manage different courses you run with the Planning tab, which also allows you to save workouts for the future and set goals. Overall, the site is easy to navigate and using it is fairly intuitive. The most recent addition is a Feedback feature that allows to you to click on a small button at the bottom of your Garmin Connect page and tell the techs exactly what you are thinking without leaving the site, which is a great way to make sure you remember to tell them what things you would like to see added.
The Garmin Forerunner 210 is best known as a pure runner’s watch and I love mine. Tech support is always very helpful and the watch is simple to use. The Garmin Connect application is likewise easy to navigate and organizing data is straightforward. The myriad features are a major pro, as is the ease of use and the Garmin Connect site. Cons include the sometimes slow connectivity to satellites and the occasional difficulty of connecting the watch to a computer.