28 October 2012 ~ 0 Comments

Garmin Fenix & Garmin 310XT Wristwatch GPS Review

I want to mention five things about these two devices:

1. Faulty Heart Rate Straps In May of 2012 I purchased the Garmin 310XT wristwatch style “triathlon,” multi-sport GPS. I got it primarily for use with SUP, but also starting using it for cycling (and uploading my rides to Strava). It was supplied with their “premium” heart rate monitor chest strap. When I travel fast on the bike (isn’t that the point of a road bike?), the wind created static electricity causing erroneous readings. Several of my friends have a similar issue with their Garmins. The readings were way too high. At the recent Interbike show I stopped by the ANT+ booth and talked themas this device uses this 2.4 GHz standard. They said it is known problem and suggested I “upgrade” to the standard chest strap. (The ANT+ group is owned by Garmin I was told). After getting a second premium strap from Garmin that didn’t work, they finally sent me a standard one and the problem is now almost gone, but does happen on occasion while cycling. (I will say that their customer service was actually pretty quick and they responded to my e-mails in a punctual manner once I got a “repair ticket” going).

2. Waypoint Downloading Problems There was one major flaw when using the 310XT with SUP. When I was attempting to following a route, it was difficult to do on a paddle board because there is no path or road. Consequently, when I got off route (which was often), the GPS freaked out and told me to go backwards to get back on route. (For recording where I have been this unit was OK, but sometimes, like when crossing a wide lake, I want to be able to know where to go, just not just recording where I have been.) So the only way to do long distance SUP travel with a GPS is to put in individual waypoints (which I put it at home using an online mapping app) and “go to” each waypoint. Upon arriving at the waypoint, I reset the GPS with my next pre-programmed point and so forth. I attempted to “go to” the beginning route instead of a waypoint, but by doing this, it recorded each new “go to” as a complete new event, thus making it impossible to record a “complete” event at the end of the day. The problem with the 310XT is that it would not accept downloading from an external source waypoint coordinates—dumb.

3. Lousy Instruction Manuals So, yesterday I took back my Garmin 310XT wrist watch GPS to REI and got full credit and upgraded to the new fenix. It is now doing what I want…that is I can download ind. waypoints from the web and complete routes without. No complete instruction manual was included (only a quick how to brochure). I downloaded the PDF online documentation but it failed to give me a clue what the abbreviations for the data fields mean (the old 310XT documentation DID indicate this). For example what do these mean?
Final ETE
Final VDST
Final VSPD
Next ETE

After doing several Google searches, I found this obscure Swiss site that had the documentation I was seeking.

So what’s new with the Garmin? Same lousy documentation as always (one would think that for a $470 purchase, it might include at least some decent PDF documentation). When you are king of the hill there is no motivation to change.

4. Wireless vs. Wired Oddly enough, the new fenix now ONLY connects to my Garmin via a USB cable, instead of the easier-to use ANT+ wireless system found on the older 310XT. That is odd, going from wireless to WIRED?

5. Maximum Heart Rate Oh, one last thing, while I’m venting. My Sigma heart rate monitor was much more sophisticated in it’s analysis of cardio data displayed one very important stat: the maximum heart attained during a workout. Both of these Garmins, despite having some 50 odd data fields, do NOT display this simple stat—instead I have to wait until I get home and download the data to their website. Dumb. (When doing intervals I LIKE to know, right after a 5 or 10-minute gut-wrenching hill climb, where I maxed out.)

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