Customer Review

224 of 234 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars excellent watch; but the charging issue kills it., December 2, 2011
This review is from: Garmin Forerunner 610 Touchscreen GPS Watch With Heart Rate Monitor (Electronics)
I purchased this Garmin FR610 watch to replace my old FR305 that I somehow lost, even though a new 305 could be had for only a third of the price of a new FR610 at the time.

There's a lot of things to like about this watch. When turned on, it takes anywhere from a few seconds to a couple minutes to find its location but it reliably does (if you are outdoors). The touchscreen works well and its interface is well thought out. Though the screen may become somewhat unresponsive when it gets wet from rain (as it also happens to smartphones), that hardly matters because important functions that you use while running, such as Start, Stop, and Lap, are handled with the buttons on the right side of the watch. Improvements over the FR305 include a battery charge indicator, so you know how much you have left at the beginning of a practice or race and won't be left stranded while you are at it. When you press the Start/Stop or Lap buttons or use the auto-lap feature, it vibrates in addition to making the conventional beeping sound, which I found useful and reassuring to quickly know that my press of the button did register and therefore did not missed a lap. That feature may be turned off if it's a matter of personal taste. The watch also tells you when you begin a run that the chrono has not been reset to zero when that's the case. With the old 305, I had spoiled the data of many workouts by not noticing that, thus starting a run where I had left off during the previous day's practice. That's a real annoyance that just won't happen with the FR610. A very welcome new feature is that it will shut down its battery-eating GPS tracker after 5 minutes when idle. Then the screen will just show you the time of the day like a regular watch, and the battery will last a very long time (don't know how long but LONG).

As others have reported, this watch tends to overestimate a bit the distance traveled. About 0.5% to 1% by my own estimate. This appears to be systematic rather than random, but I am comfortable with it and do not believe it is excessive. Importantly, the margin if error is noticeably smaller than the FR305 unit I used to have. Anyway, I ran the Philadelphia Marathon last week (without my watch), and could not help but chuckle when I invariably heard a cacophony of its familiar lap-completed sound made by other runners' watches, always one or two or three hundred meters before reaching every mile marker.

In sum, I was very satisfied for spending $415 for the FR610 unit instead of $130 for a FR305 that does basically the same things but is bigger, clunkier, and has an older chip.

Then The Flaw revealed itself. The watch employs an innovative system of magnetic contacts that you connect to the charger by clicking the contacts into place. After a couple of months of use, the charge indicator appeared to convey that it was being discharged, i.e. the charge % decreased while connected to the charger. If allowed to reach 0, the unit wouldn't power up. I thought that maybe the watch was not making good contact with the charger, and inspected the contact points. I had not really bothered to clean and dry the watch during normal use, and it was then that I noticed that the magnetic contacts had collected some dirt and/or rust, I could not tell which. Cleaning with isopropyl alcohol and a microfiber cloth did not help much, perhaps because it is very hard to reach into the small holes where the pins and contacts are located in both the charger and the watch. (Maybe I should have paid more attention to cleaning the watch after use, but then again, I had not subjected it to abuse, other than running with it on my wrist as it was designed for, and also, the cause of the watch's erratic performance could be software-related). Back to the topic, if you are persistent and babysit it while charging, you can manage to get some charge back into it, and it behaves normally for all purposes except when you are trying to charge it. However the problem occurs with increasing recurrence at the time of this writing. I read these reviews and Garmin forums and, to my surprise, this appears to be a common problem.

I like how this watch works and would like to recommend it. But the problem I described is something major, so I strongly advice that you save yourself some aggravation and a few hundred dollars by first researching and finding to your satisfaction that this issue has been addressed by Garmin. Or if you are upgrading from another device, don't sell the old one yet.
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Comments

Tracked by 9 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 23 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 5, 2012 3:44:03 AM PST
Allan Reid says:
I received a Forerunner 610 from another retailer, in the UK, with the same charging issue, except in my case I have not been able to use it at all. The review by Ricardo Colon gives a well balanced view of a product which is well specified but does have production quality issues and anyone looking to purchase this watch are advised to ensure the production glitches have been resolved.

Posted on Mar 19, 2012 2:57:21 PM PDT
Mark Wilden says:
Garmin suggests cleaning the contacts with a pencil eraser. It worked for me.

Posted on Jul 5, 2012 9:40:56 AM PDT
L. Williams says:
I posted on another reviewer's site before I read this.
I really started using mine this season and it is very tempermental. I clean the ports on the watch and charger with a cotton swab and alcohol like the manual suggests. It sometimes drains the battery and when I am off to run, no 610.

I will try the eraser and report back.

BTW - Mine was one of the original first releases if that makes a difference.

Great review!

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 19, 2012 10:33:19 AM PDT
03mp says:
a pencil eraser. hmm, who uses a pencil anymore? ah, my wife has an old erasure in the drawer. OK, i'll try it... dang, took the watch off the charger sweet spot (not easy to find!!!) to "clean it" as you suggested. now i can't find that sweet spot again. OK, give me a few minutes of pushing this way and that, and maybe it will start charging again.

what a frustrating aspect of this watch!!!

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 19, 2012 11:04:04 AM PDT
L. Williams says:
My apologies for not updating. I called Garmin and they are aware of the charging issues. Long story short, they sent me a replacement watch. The updated watch has large brass ports. Charges quickly and no issues at all.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 5, 2012 7:40:56 AM PDT
FireChuck says:
Garmin support is running me through the ol' pencil eraser stick. Seems to me they know of this issue and have come up with an improved design. If so, why are they wasting my time if they know they have a problem.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 5, 2012 10:22:53 AM PDT
L. Williams says:
Depending on your method of payment for the 610, I would contct the cc company to get some warranty help. Most credit Card companies double manufacturer's warranty. Good luck

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 31, 2012 8:52:45 AM PDT
Brad P says:
I have a 610 and the tiny hole that the contacts are inside of (they are recessed) makes cleaning them with an eraser impossible. This was a very good and workable solution with the 305, because the contacts were exposed to the surface, but does not work with the 610

Posted on Oct 31, 2012 8:57:00 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 31, 2012 8:57:17 AM PDT
Brad P says:
I have experienced the exact same love/hate relationship as this poster. When the 610 works, it is a fantastic device. But the charging system it completey unreliable, and makes it a $400+ dollar paperweight right when I need it to go out on a run. It has gotten so bad that if I have a race coming up, I have to turn on the 610 to double and triple check the watch to make sure that it is ACTUALLY fully charged, and not displaying the "false 100%" charge that it does when the GPS "loses it's place" on the level of the battery charge. As I type this, my 610 has been plugged in and charging for 4 hours now, and it still slowly discharging until it reaches the bottom point where it will start to recharge. It is not down to 5% and I hope it doesn't go down to 0%, I have heard bad things about 610s being totally non-functional if they go down that low.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 27, 2012 6:29:11 PM PST
A. Solovay says:
Mine is out of warranty, because--fool that I am--I bought it right when it came out. Just shot them an email asking if they can cut me some kind of deal on repairing it. It's not worth the full $99 (for an out-of-warranty repair) when a brand-new Nike SportWatch is $160.
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