by Darin Robertson, Triathlete
While my 910XT has been a work horse for me the last couple of years, when the new Garmin Forerunner 920XT was announced a few months ago, I was really looking forward to it and all the new features. Mine finally arrived a few weeks ago, and I'm still just as excited—it's everything and more that they've advertised.
As I've aged, one of the first things to go has been the vision. The 910XT had a good display, but it really was never crisp. Because of this, I picked up a 510 last year for the larger display and so I could also display more fields. The first thing I really noticed when I started using my 920XT was that this display is crystal clear. In bright sunlight or even in the dim light of the basement on a trainer, this display is very easy to see and read. I've done a few night runs and set it up to leave the backlight on for the entire run, and it was very bright and really didn't bring the battery down much at all. I will admit when I heard that the display was color, I was hoping for some really bright vivid colors like a cell phone. I found that the colors were more muted than I'd hoped for and they are really more or less just an accent, but the clarity more than makes up for it.
Training with the Garmin Forerunner 920XT
For the swim, I really didn't like using the 910XT because it was so bulky and heavy. It was hard to get a wetsuit over it and I just didn't use it. The Garmin Forerunner 920XT is still good sized, but it's about half the weight, and it shouldn't catch nearly as easily on the wetsuit once that season comes back around.
I've been using it in the pool for several sessions and really do like the feedback. I have a swimming background and am used to watching a pace clock, but as most of my tri training is done more on interval plus timed rest rather than timed intervals, this watch does well. When you come into the wall and press the lap button, it changes displays and shows how much rest you have had on the wall and tells you total distance and time on that last repeat. Press again when you push off and it times the next sequence. Or, you can just leave it run and it still does a good job in counting distance and maintains a pace clock on the display. The only issue I've noticed is that it can count drills incorrectly. It looks like it increments when you push off, and I've had it over-count a couple of times, but no more than 50 yards on the workout.
For the bike, what I really like here is the pooled sensors. Instead of having to set up a profile for each bike, you just sync your sensors to the device and it auto-detects. You can setup multiple profiles, but it's not needed with the 920XT. Another great feature is the indoor bike profile. In this mode, the GPS is already disabled so you don't have to go in and do it each time you are on the trainer. If you are outside riding, the GPS seems to lock on almost instantly, and I haven't had any drop-offs. The GPS seems to track better than any of my previous devices.
For the run, I'm not a runner and I need as much feedback as I can get. This is primarily what sold me on the Garmin Forerunner 920XT. Using the new HRM-Run strap, the sensors can provide feedback on stride length, cadence, bounce in your stride, as well as just HR. It's great feedback for me as I try to improve my strides.
One of the areas that I've always had trouble with on my 910XT was really erratic HR readings from my strap. If I wore a dri-fit shirt, it would read 130s, and spike up to 190s all the time, and sometimes not read at all. With the new strap, so far the readings have been really stable. Big improvement here!
Just a few more comments that I've noticed over the last few weeks. The battery life is impressive. Their documentation says it should be good for 24 hours on a charge (using GPS tracking) or even up to 40 if you go into "ultra" mode where it doesn't track the GPS bread crumbs quite as often. Right now, I'm wearing the watch 24/7 (yes, it also has a watch function which the 910XT didn't), and with about ten hours a week training right now I'm only charging it after about six days when it gets down to about halfway.
With all the new activity trackers out right now, the Garmin Forerunner 920XT does track your steps over the course of the day. And if you are sitting idle for a while, it will vibrate and display a message for you to "move" so you can keep burning those calories. It also does have a sleep function. While it doesn't use the HR monitor in this mode, it will track your movement over the night so you can see if you had a restless night, or not.
What is the best function of all? It automatically will sync to Garmin Connect using either WiFi or Bluetooth through your phone. No more needing to connect using an ANT stick or plugging it into a USB to upload your workouts.
Overall, the Garmin Forerunner 920XT is a great product and offers some major improvements for the triathlete that tracks everything!