The new 920 has amalgamated features from Garmin’s enture range in one lightweight training tool. But can it really live up to the hype?
When Garmin launched the Forerunner 910XT in 2011, a new multisport world was born. Here was a training tool that delivered a triathlete’s dream – metrics across three disciplines. That, aligned with Garmin’s Applelike ability to create gadgets that are easy to use, elevated the 910XT to neargodlike status.
Three years is a technological eternity, and the interim’s seen strong competition in the form of Polar’s V800 and the Suunto Ambit3. But now the Forerunner 920XT’s arrived, packing in a magazine’s worth of features. In fact, too many to list here, which is why we’ve focused on the key changes over the 910XT…
The most striking is its ergonomic design. It’s 14.3% lighter than the 910 (70g to 60g), though not at the cost of screen size, which ensures data’s clear to view on the fl y. Unlike the runspecific Garmin 620, it’s not touch screen. Instead, four sizeable buttons scroll through the myriad of features. Its blue and black colourway mimics the 620 and there’s also a red/white number, though no womenspecific sizing, so
petite wrists may feel dwarfed.
Garmin Connect data analysis is much easier on a laptop, so we appreciate the new WiFi connectivity between the device and, in our case, a MacBook Pro. It also has Bluetooth Smartphone connectivity to Android and iOS devices, and again consistency and speed rules. Live Tracking means your partner can watch you struggle around the Vitruvian. Eclipsing all that is satellite pickup, which is extraordinary. Historically, Garmin has led the GPS pack in this department and, with a new satellite prepopulation data feature, it’s even faster.
This is where you receive key upgrades over the 910, albeit pocketed from the 620 and only if you purchase the HRMRun strap. Running dynamics reveal your ground contact time and vertical oscillation. We have questioned the usefulness of this on the 620 because, unless there’s a next step to guide you, this data’s redundant. We put this to Andy Silver, a product manager at Garmin. “Coaches are beginning to explore running efficiency in detail, primarily because it’s never been measurable in the wild,” he says. “In the past, treadmills with pressure plates have been the only way of measuring these metrics. Not now.” Garmin offers a comparative scale, giving the results context – the less ground contact time, the better – but how do you improve run economy beyond raising fitness? Garmin doesn’t tell you, but brief research reveals that plyometrics and squats are proficient methods. It’s one for the dedicated performance seeker, a useful interval/rest timer that maintains consistency of intervals sets. For cycling, recovery features as seen for the run are again a neat addition, though it’s only applicable if you have power data. Then again, the 910 was brimming with so many bike features that this isn’t a negative.
You can also track daily activity thanks to technology borrowed from Garmin’s Vivofit.For keen triathletes, it might appear superfluous, but we found hitting 10,000 steps a useful tool for recovery days. Garmin Connect’s been upgraded too, with your multisport exploits now clearly charted in a clear, flowing narrative rather than as a file for each discipline as before.
SWIM AND BIKE SUBTLETIES
“What about the swim and bike?” we hear you cry. For swim, there’s potential disappointment for 910XT fans who thought the next incarnation might feature heartrate data, though cheststrap slippage seen on tools like the Suunto Ambit3 means Garmin is still working on that one. Actual swim upgrades over the 910 include the swim drills feature found on the Garmin Swim, and Despite the inwatch advancements, it’s thirdparty input that will be the greatest addition over the 910XT. Connect IQ gives thirdparty developers the tools to create apps and widgets that could transform your 920XT into the ultimate training computer. It’s a wise move by Garmin considering the inevitable success of the Apple watch, and you should begin to see these hit the market this year. The 910XT was a gamechanger. The 920XT isn’t… but it didn’t need to be. Yes, there are in watch tweaks, but it’s the less headline grabbing advancements like satellite pickup, slimline look and Connect IQ that ensure it’s a worthy successor to the 910. In a world often ruled by marketing, Garmin should be applauded for this subtle but effective evolution.
It’s an evolution rather than revolution, but the 920XT is the new industry standard. Plus third-party app abilities could take it to a whole new level.