Garmin 310XT – First Impressions

13 08 2009

OK, lets get it out of the way, this watch is AWESOME. The customizable screens and integration with my Powertap is just priceless (well, it has a good price).

Now, lets talk about the stuff that can be improved. My impression is that the watch is great, the software that is provided with it (Garmin Training Centre and Garmin Connect) did not catch up yet! There are a few bugs and sub-optimum reports that can be improved. Keep in mind, I have the watch for 24 hours now and I did two workouts: run and bike (paired with the powertab), so this is really my first impression based on that.

RUN:

After I came back from the run I uploaded the data to both softwares, which is pretty cool. I just got close to the computer and it started downloading automatically. Nothing is required! Well, you have to close Garmin Training Centre for it to work though. The “Ant Agent” runs in the background, detects the watch and downloads the new activities to both applications:

Garmin Ant AgentThe first time it tried to download it didn’t work, because Training Centre was open, so for some reason it didn’t like it. As soon as I closed it, it worked.

Let me just explain these two softwares before I go any further:

  • Garmin Training Centre: a PC software that resides in your computer. You can download it free from Garmin, and it will show you all your activities (workouts that you actually did), your planned workouts (which can be downloaded to the watch). It also provide you with some graphs (HR, Speed, Cadence, etc) as well as a BASIC map with your routes.

Garmin Training Centre

  • Garmin Connect: a web based application, similar to Garmin Training Centre, but with a different look. It has more information than Garmin Connect, but it doesn’t have from example, a calendar.

Garmin Connect 1Have a closer look at the map in Garmin Training Centre. Not only it has little to non details, but it is actually wrong. I never crossed the 401! I was always north of it! The graph at the bottom is OK, but you cant chose a section to zoom. If you use the zoom button, it will zoom both X and Y axis’s. Although, if you expand the activity (mid left of the screen (see below), you can high light a lap and the graph will be for that lap only:

Garmin Training Centre 2

So, for running, it is actually fine. Other then the map that is totally useless, you can get descent information out of it. I really wished it had at least an average line, but it does show it above on a table. The graphic is also allows you to have up to four data streams at the same time (e.g. Speed, Heart Rate, Elevation, Cadence). Just as a side note, the elevation is useless. The variation form the JPS altitude makes flat look like a rolling hill!

As for the map, you have the option to export it to google earth… which is pretty simple:

Garmin Training Centre 3

Note how the 401 is below the route!!!

As far as Garmin connect goes, it is not bad for running either. It shows the graphic in the “Activities” window, as well as a map and averages.

Garmin Connect 2

One of the things I believe is missing is a customizable graphic. Although you have a graphic for HR, Elevation, Pace power, cadence, etc, you can’t see them all in one graphic, nor can you zoom to a particular section of the graphic. If you run a half marathon, the data would be pretty compressed in this graphic. It would be nice to select a portion of the ride and see the Averages, Min and max values… and having the normalized power would be awesome!

There is also the neat option to “Play” your ride. It is basically the map above plus a graph that shows you your data at the specific location (see screen shot below).  The graphic under the “Player” has one option: you can chose two data points (e.g. Speed and Heart Rate). No zoom, no average line… the average is represented at the bottom of the screen and the actual speed/heart rate is a bar that moves as the subject is moving in the map. This would be good “if” you could click on the course and have the data for that point, or even better, highlight a portion of the course and have the graphic dislplayed for that segment (along with a statistical table, including , Distance, HR average, Pace, etc.)

Garmin Connect 3In addition to the “Player” you also have the splits for each lap:

Garmin Connect 4

That reminds me that if you “do workout” (e.g. run 45 min @ HR range), the autolap wont work. Therefore, after you download the data, the table above becomes basically just one lap for your whole workout. This is a pretty anoying bug, since you can’t even add a lap later one.

Bike:

First of all, Garmin Training Centre has NO POWER INFORMATION! NOTHING, NADA, NITCHS!! The data is actually stored somewhere since I exported it and imported to Training Peaks website and I had power info there. However, there absolutely no information displayed in the Training Centre:

Garmin Training Centre 4

It is AWESOME that the Garmin works with the power meter, but the actual software does really “care” about the data! Having said that, Garmin Connect does show the Power information. There is no 5s peak, 30 min peak or anything like that, but is shows the average and so on. It has as much information as speed or Heart Rate:

Garmin Connect 5

Now, when I went to the Player for this activity, for some reason the route doesn’t completely match what I did, in fact it is fine in the “Details” window (above), but not in the player! From what I figure, the Player uses less data. I believe it discards a lof of the data, therefore it doesn’t match the actual route taken. If you would take a straight line route, it wouldn’t be an issue, but when you add turns… the point where you changed direction might be discarded, and the representation gets “weird” to say the least.

Garmin Connect 6Another issue that I have with Garmin Connect, is that I can’t use it as my “Log”, since I can’t create manually an activity for swimming. The only way to create an activity is to upload it from the watch… that means that I would have to use my $500 watch/GPS/HR as a stopwatch in the pool, then upload the time. Even in this case, I wouldn’t be able to manually enter the distance. BTW, I could do that in the Training Centre.

So, in short, I find the watch is GREAT. Everything that you see on youtube and Garmin’s website does work. The watch is extremely customizable. One thing that I didn’t mention above is the ability to create a workout (e.g. Hills Intervals) with Training Centre and upload it to the watch! There are several cool features that makes this watch the best Triathlete watch that I have seen. I have the Polar S625X, but that isn’t really close to Garmin 310XT, but in other hand, Garmin has lots to catch up with Polar Precision Performance (Polar’s Analyzes Software).

Oh, one more note. Training Peaks WKO+ does not work with the 310XT. The only option is to use their web app, which is pretty good, but the basic version doesn’t have all cool features and the Premium version costs $119/year. I wouldn’t mind paying $100 for WKO+, but not every year! So that is out of the question.

I’m going to import the TCX files to Polar Precision Performance (PPP) and continue to use it as my training log. I like flexibility of the graphs and reports, which are MUCH better then Garmin’s version. I’ll be uploading to Garmin anyway because I have to do it to create the TCX files and it is so easy it wont be an issue. Therefore, when I want to see the route, I’ll go to Garmin’s webpage, otherwise I’ll check the data in PPP. Well, at least until Garmin gets the software to a point that it is a usable analyzing tool.

Update: after this review I found an ugly flaw on the 310XT

Advertisements

Actions

Information

2 responses

14 08 2009
Bruno

Hum… kind of frustrating your impressions about the software. At least the software “seems” easier to improve than the watch itself.

Make sure you send all these suggestions to Garmin – who knows? They may implement them!

Bruno.

14 08 2009
Hans Winter

I sent them a note with some highlights and a link to the blog. Not sure they will consider it though. We will see!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: