Garmin Forerunner 310XT review

Before I get into the review proper, I’ll start with a bit of background. I’ve got a love-hate relationship with Garmin products. I love the functionality they offer, but I think they have a problem with reliability.

My first Garmin was the Forerunner 305, which served me well for 2 years, after which time it would no longer charge. Garmin have a reasonable out-of-warranty support program, whereby you send back the faulty watch, along with $AU120 or so, and Garmin send you back a replacement watch. I did exactly this, and a week or so after sending off, my new unit arrived.

Unfortunately it had its own problems, chiefly that it took a long time to ‘find’ satellites. When I say “a lot”, i’m not referring to a few minutes, as seems to be standard for the 305, but up to 1 hour. Needless to say, this was pretty frustrating, and rendered the device basically useless to me.

So, what did I do? In addition to organising yet another replacement (no charge to me, apart from postage to return it to Garmin in Sydney), I got the newish 310XT.

Garmin listened to most of the main gripes with the 305, and the 310XT is the product of this. It has all the features of the 305 – current pace, target heart alerts, custom workouts, automatic recording of splits, full customisable display, ‘virtual partners’, sport-specific training modes, and many, many other things – plus a range of improvements.

Triathletes complained that the 305 wasn’t waterproof. No problem, you can swim in the 310XT. They also complained about the battery life. While you’d get 10 hours out of the 305 if you were lucky, with the 310XT promises to last well beyond an Ironman cut-off time (20 hours, in fact). I haven’t tested this, but have no reason to doubt it. Garmin also recognised that the strength of the 305′s GPS receiver wasn’t up to scratch, and fitted a more powerful receiver that generally picks up satellites within 30 seconds.

Some other slightly less exciting improvements include a far less bulky design. It still isn’t what you’d call svelte, especially on skinny wrists, but it doesn’t look like you’re lugging a small computer on your arm.

Alerts can now be set up to trigger a vibration. The 305 alert was a beep, which could be difficult to hear around traffic, but the vibration cannot be ignored. As with the 305, you can customise what criteria you want to trigger an alert, whether that be completion of a certain distance, heart rate moving out of a particular zone, incorrect pace, or pretty much anything you can imagine.

The green backlight has been replaced with a blue backlight, which I find easier to read. You can also adjust the brightness of the backlight and, as with previous models, how long it stays on for.

The 310XT supports Ant+ which enables it to connect wirelessly with other devices that support this protocol, chiefly bike power meters. This is pretty handy, because the standard head unit that comes with a Powertap doesn’t have a backlight, unlike the 310XT. Unfortunately Garmin have opted to make Ant+ the only method of downloading data to your computer. The idea of wireless data transfer sounds great in theory, but in practise it’s really slow. It would have been nice if USB was also supported, but I guess that would have increased the size of the device.

Another strike against the 310XT is the watch face. While I didn’t get a single scratch on my 305 in the 2 years that I owned it, in the couple of months that I’ve owned the 310XT, its face has a few noticeable scratches, and it’s not as though I’ve dropped it or mistreated it.

There’s a new, redesigned band that is more secure than the old one, but also more difficult to adjust. The clasp has a couple of ‘nodules’ inside that I guess are designed to hold it in place, but also serve to make it hard to push the end of the watchband through the clasp.

My biggest concern though, is reliability. After a couple of months, I’ve already had my first ‘major’ issue. When I turned it on, it would not boot up, but just switch off after about 1 second. A quick search on Google shows that other people have had this same issue, and plenty of people are having other issues with their 310XTs.

These reliability issues are really disappointing, given that it’s such a useful tool for training and racing, when it’s working. I think people underestimate the benefits of being able to able to accurately track and monitor multiple dimensions of their training. It’s one thing to know how long you’ve been running, but it’s another to know exactly how far you ran, where your heart rate may have spiked, and where your pace may have dropped a little, how much you climbed, what your maximum power was, etc.

I want to be able to unreservedly endorse the 310XT. Unfortunately, given the price ($449 in Australia) and my experience with it and its predecessor, I can’t.

Garmin Forerunner
Reviewed by Hookturns on .
A useful training tool with great features, but some very serious quality issues
Like most products that I’ve used from Garmin, the Forerunner 310XT is a useful training tool with great features, but some very serious quality and reliability issues
Rating: 2.5

2 Responses to “Garmin Forerunner 310XT review”

  1. Adam Inglis says:

    Ive JUST bought this one and have had one issue right off the bat… Eg. Do a 4km run in 20 mins – It’s obvious the average pace should read 5mins/km at the end of the sesh, but it will say 7 or 8 mins. Anyone else had this problem?
    The pace is spot on WHILE running, but when I stop it at the end, the summary is WAY off!

  2. jedro says:

    I’m guessing when you’re looking at the summary, it’s appearing in miles. I’ve never had that problem, and 5 minute/km would translate to between 7 and 8 minute/miles.

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