Top positive review
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Simpler, smaller... but lacks some critical things
on October 16, 2012
What I want from a running watch is pretty simple. I want a watch that shows me my time, distance, and pace, in reasonably big font that I can read while running. I want decent battery life, so I don't have to charge every single run. I want a watch that doesn't make me wait for 5 minutes while it looks for satellites. And I want a watch that looks and feels like a watch rather than a small computer strapped to my arm.
For years, I've run with the Forerunner 305. It is a product I love to hate. It works well, and in a way it's been indispensable to me as a runner, but it is also a little bit deficient in nearly every respect mentioned above.
I've considered buying a new Garmin, such as the 410, but always decided not to after reading reviews. So when I heard about the 10, I was thrilled. Finally, Garmin had figured it out.
I've had it now for a couple weeks. The watch is a big improvement, but it also remains deficient in some critical respects. In fact, sadly, I am not sure I will keep it.
It is small. It looks and feels infinitely better than the 305. The display is easy to read. Big font means I can see and read it at a quick glance. The buttons are easy to find. The interface is simple and intuitive, making it easy to scroll around and program the watch. The battery life seems very good so far. Finally, it seems to pick up the satellites much quicker than the 305 does. In short, there are many things to love.
1. The display is not fully customizable. There are only four things that it can display (1) pace, (2) distance, (3) time, (4) calories. You can display two and only two of those at any time, in pairs.
2. While running, I generally want to know three things -- pace, distance, and time. On the 305, I can customize to view all three at once. On the 10, I can't. I understand the trade-off: if the watch displayed three things, then the font would be smaller, and so you couldn't see stuff at a glance. So I get why they made this choice. But it is nonetheless a drawback.
3. [See UPDATE below.] I could live with 1 and 2. But then there is the killer -- it will not display lap pace. Instead, it will only show current pace.
Over the years, with my 305, I've come to rely on lap pace for the simple reason that it is much, much more accurate. "Current pace" jumps around a lot, even if you are running at a completely even pace. The reason, I suppose, is the watch only communicates with the satellite every few seconds, so then it makes a sort of quick estimation about your spot pace. Lap pace, by contrast, has a bunch more data points, everything in the last mile (if you have it set to auto-lap at one mile). So it is far, far more accurate.
Let's say you're running a 7:35 pace. Your lap pace will say 7:35. Your current pace, however, will jump around -- 7:20, then 7:40, then 7:30, etc.
I'm sorry, but if you are even a remotely serious runner, this matters a great deal. If you are running a race, you probably have a goal in mind. You therefore probably have a specific pace you need to run. Like you want to run a 1:50 half marathon, so you know you need to stay with a 8:23 pace. The Garmin Forerunner 10 will not help you very much -- because you can't tell whether you are actually running an 8:23 as opposed to an 8:15 or an 8:30. Because all you get is the rough approximation of "current pace."
Now, if you have it set to auto-lap, then it will display your lap pace as a "lap banner" at the completion of each lap. So you have it set to auto-lap each mile, then at the end of each mile, it will show you your exact time. That's good, and to some extent, it helps to make up for the lack of constant lap pace display.
But in a way, that almost makes the whole thing more maddening. I know that my watch is calculating lap pace -- it is in there somewhere. But I can't see it until the end of my mile. Why? WHY???
I understand that they made a choice to cut down on features to make a simpler watch. But this watch still has a few more elaborate features like "virtual pacer" (which I will never use). If they can have that, why can't they at least give you an option of viewing lap pace?
I am running a half marathon next weekend. I would like to wear my new pretty Forerunner 10, but I will probably end up wearing my old clunky 305, just so I can know what my actual pace is. And honestly, that is hugely depressing.
UPDATE 7/22/13 -- I'm upgrading to 4 stars based on the lap pace firmware update.
This watch has been in a drawer, unused, for 6 months. I was finally getting around to selling it on ebay when I saw that Garmin had made a firmware update allowing for lap pace and average pace display. So I downloaded the update and run with it a couple times.
There is something a bit funky about the lap pace. It bounces around more than it should, and it seems to jump up randomly at the beginning of the lap. Nonetheless, this is a big improvement, and kudos to Garmin to listening to customer feedback on this.
I'm going to run with it for a few weeks, including some runs wearing multiple watches, and I'll update again if there is anything noteworthy.