As long as I’ve been participating in endurance sports I’ve had some form of a Garmin watch. Most recently I was a long time user of the Forerunner 305. While functional, I found it at times to be clunky, not terribly user friendly and somewhat spotty with its satellite connections. Many an early morning run was delayed while I awkwardly stood around waiting for my watch to find a GPS signal. Another area for improvement was the 305’s docking system. The clamps were pretty small for the size of the watch and it didn’t take long for the connections to corrode. As a result I spent way too much time fastening the watch down with rubber bands trying to find just the right amount of pressure to allow it to charge. More than a few times I would grab my watch for a run only to find out the connection had broken at some point and the battery was dead. These experiences gave me some pause when looking at the 920xt, however I’m happy to report that this model is a significant improvement and has all the bells and whistles that any triathlete could want.
The first thing I noticed when my new watch arrived was the size and weight. The face is about as large as the 305 but the 920xt is probably about half as thick. It also weighs considerably less, such that the majority of the time I don’t realize I’m even wearing it. The second thing I realized (happily) was that the docking station appears to much improved. While the 305 would easily pop out when docked, the 920xt is snugly locked in there (I guess I’ll have to find another use for my rubber bands).
During the first week of use I was amazed at how quickly the 920xt finds a GPS signal. Once outside I haven’t had to wait more than 30 seconds to begin my workout. The interface takes a little bit of effort to learn, but once that initial hurdle is overcome I found the watch to be very user friendly and easy to use. Like many other Garmin watches you can track your run and bike workouts – the 920xt also has a nice feature of letting you select the “indoor” version of each of these in which the GPS is automatically turned off (conserving battery life). Previous Garmins have required you to go into the Settings menu to manually disable the GPS for this feature. The run option will track your pace, distance, time, elevation and has the “Virtual Partner” option. This allows you to set the pace of your virtual running buddy and track how far ahead or behind you are at any point. The watch will also calculate your VO2 Max, cadence and has a nifty race predictor.
In addition to running and biking the 920xt will track both open water and indoor pool swims. This may be the most useful feature I’ve found so far. I cannot remember how many times (way too often) I’ve lost count of my laps in the pool. Well no more. The 920xt is amazingly accurate in not only measuring your distance but also stroke count and pace per 100m. No more can I tell myself I’ve just finished a 400m interval when in reality I’ve only done 250m (this watch keeps you honest….dammit, no more excuses).
Another fun feature is the 920xt’s activity tracker which will count your steps throughout the day, your sleep cycles at night and has an optional “Move Alert” which will tell you if you’ve been idle for too long at any one time.
The 920xt has blue-tooth and wi-fi capabilities making syncing your data to Garmin Connect, Strava, MapMyFitness and other similar sites a breeze. When connected to your phone you have option of being notified of calls, texts and emails on your watch as well. I’ll let you decide if that’s a good or bad thing….getting an email from a client 30 miles into a ride can be a bit of a buzz kill.
Finally I’m pleased to find that the battery life on this guy is superb. I’ve found that I only have to charge it about once a week, even while doing hour plus long workouts twice a day.
The 920xt retails for around $450 ($499 with heart-rate monitor) so I wouldn’t call it cheap. That said, if you’re looking for a watch with endless features you can’t go wrong with the 920xt. Used correctly it can easily help you take your training to the next level – or just give you an excuse to nerd out.