Garmin Forerunner 610: A Review in Progress

25 Jan

I will do my best to update this as I go and learn how to use my new toy.  I literally just got the package today and opened it up five minutes ago.

After some research, I broke down and bought myself a Garmin Forerunner 610 off of Amazon.  I had some “company points” from my work (ie: non-cash bonuses that normally only have offers at places I’d never set foot in) coming to me so I figured I’d cash them in on an Amazon gift card (this is a new option for our point program and it is the first one I’ve found that makes a point worth a dollar….you know $200 = 200 points instead of for 400 points you can get THIS AWESOME TOASTER!).

The package arrived today and I opened it up carefully.  I got the heart monitor package so inside we found the watch, the charger, the USB ANT stick, books, a CD, the heart monitor, and the strap.  Everything is tightly packaged and individually wrapped.  I like that because when you open something and there are 400 pieces all mixed together, it makes for a not so fun assembly process.

Next I opened up the quick start guide and read up on the charger.  I’m kind of old school so I had never seen a charger with a separate North American adapter prong thingy.  You can take the prongs on and off for use in different countries but the short little nubs on the chargers AC adapter kind of confused me until I found the piece that clips into those nubs for North American outlets.

After that, you have to “clip” the charging mechanism to two little holes on the back of the watch.  This was a little tricky to do, but the engineer in me figured it out after several tries.  When the watch lit up and made a noise, I knew I was in business.  The watch, which has never been turned on, is now at 41% charge after about 12 minutes.   The heart monitor snap buttons (like on your western shirt or your old coat back in elementary school) to the strap and then you adjust it to fit snuggly around your chest.  Wearing something around my chest will be an adjustment for me.

updates to come

I took off for the gym at about 7:30 and came back around 8:30 to find the Forerunner 610 completely charged.  This took just over an hour for the initial charge up.  The manual says the watch will run for one week using the Forerunner 45 minutes per day with Power Save Mode on the rest of the time.  The watch automatically kicks into power save mode when not in use.

I picked up the watch, took it off of the charger, and began to go through the setup.  It was easy.  You just go through and it asks you language, height, weight (not the time to lie about it, this is YOUR watch), miles/kilometers, age, etc.  The touch screen takes some getting used to.  It is very counter intuitive to me to apply my fingers, with any level of pressure, to a $400 watch. At first I thought the screen wasn’t working or wasn’t activated, but once I got firm with it, the screen changed accordingly.   Next, the watch buzzed and asked to pair with the heart rate monitor sitting on my desk.  I did not have to do anything accept hit “ok”.  I put the monitor on my chest and watched as the watch caught up with and displayed my heart rate.

Next I began the ANT Stick and Garmin Connect setup.  Again, it was pretty user friendly.  You just go to the Garmin Connect site, setup your account (easy, they ask for NOTHING personal but an email), install the software, and the watch does the rest.  It takes a few seconds to sync after coming out of sleep mode, but all seems to be working well.  I clicked, “start” on the watch, then stop, hit and held “reset” to end my first fake workout, and then my computer toolbar icon for the ANT stick said it was transferring the data.

So far so good.  I have yet to do any actual running with this watch, but I am excited to see how it fares and how quickly I learn the various functions.  I’ve never had a device of any kind that setup so easily right out of the box.  No phone calls, no secret codes, just hook it up and let it work.  You also don’t have to set the time, the satellites do that for you, just like your car GPS.  I used to hate digital devices because they’d get all out of whack or on military time with no way of changing them.  The Garmin setup is way easier.

update 1/26/12 First Use

There is nothing fun about running in the rain in January, but I had to try my new toy out tonight.  It kept its signal despite being under my sweatshirt, which should not be a surprise given auto GPS units can find and maintain a signal through metal and glass.  I ran a quick two miles, out and back as the rain got harder and harder.  I could see the display fine under street lights and on darker spots, the LED light button was easy to hit for a quick check.   Every mile, the watch would vibrate.  You can change this setting, but for now, miles are fine.  The heart monitor was barely noticeable once I got going, which was a pleasant surprise.  When I reached  home, I hit “stop” and then held the reset button to save my workout.  Before I could get in the house, out of my shoes, and up the steps, the ANT stick had successfully transmitted and logged the workout data.  The amount of info, even using only the most basic of the watch’s capabilities, is pretty darn impressive.

So far, I have to give the Garmin Forerunner 610 and its devices and software two BIG thumbs up!

Update 2/8/12

After about two weeks of use, I’m sold.  I have used only a handful of the functions, but the functions I wanted most: mapping, distance, pace, heart rate, and time are working great.  I ordered the Foot Pod separately and it arrived yesterday.  The Garmin Foot Pod allows you to use the unit indoors to measure speed and distance.  If you plan to run inside, you will want this accessory.  The Foot Pod clips easily onto your shoe (easier than tying a D-Tag).  The watch automatically detects its presenc and pairs with it. 

Once you are on a track or treadmill, simply go to the calibration menu, hit start, and run the calibration distance (800M or 1/2 mile).  I did this on the treadmill and, assuming my treadmill is accurate (I am confident it is), the foot pod stayed right in time with it.  Adding the foot pod also allows you count you steps per minute (cadence) which is helpful if you are working on a more efficient stride.

I am extremely satisfied with this watch.  The ease of use has been excellent.  The touch screen is a little tough to get used to as Garmin didn’t want to make it overly sensitive given the fact that a user could bump the screen and screw up their settings, but once I figured out the right amount of pressure to apply, using the touchscreen became much easier.

Update 3/15

Aside from the watch buzzing every ten seconds as it goes into power save mode, I love the 610.  To me, the primary reason for buying it was for tracking and recording distances and routes.  It does that well, but that is only about 20% of what the watch does.  My rule for buying gadgets is, buy it for the one feature that will make your life or a task far easier.  The GPS mapping does that.  I am slowly beginning to use other features like “saved routes” “return to start” and “virtual training partner” and they are nice extras.  Totally worth the money.

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Posted by on January 25, 2012 in Uncategorized


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