July 19, 2011

Garmin Forerunner 110 Review

I finally broke down and got a Garmin watch (the Forerunner 110), so I thought a little review might be useful for some people reading the blog. I'm not going to go into too much details, because if you want all the tech specs on GPS watches there are plenty of good sites that break down every little detail.

There are lots of watches out there that have all sorts of crazy (or some might say useful) features. All I want is distance and time. I can do basic math in my head, and I don't need a gadget to beep at me all the time, or pre-programmed workouts, or a touch screen that will be impossible to use when I have 2 pairs of gloves on in the winter months. I mainly just want to know how far I've run, especially on routes that I can't accurately map (dirt roads, trails, etc). On longer tempo runs, I find it very useful to have my mile-by-mile splits. On workout days where I'm doing shorter reps, I'm probably on the track anyways, so I'm using my trusty and foolproof Timex Ironman watch.

Bottom line: This Garmin 110 watch gets the job done. I'm really happy with it after using it for about a week. Its about the same size as a typical sports watch, it picks up satellites in 10-15 seconds, and its really simple to use. It is also preset to record 1-mile splits, which is perfect (although you can customize it to give you whatever splits you want, or you can do the splits manually). It also gives you your average pace since the previous split was recorded, which is also useful on tempo runs.

Comparing the output to routes that I know the exact distances for shows that the mileage data is pretty much right on the money. The elevation data is a little wacky, but that is true for pretty much every single small GPS device (it requires some smoothing to eliminate spikes in the elevation profiles).

The bonus is that it was also relatively inexpensive. There are fancier versions that are marketed towards "hard core" runners... although I don't know many people that are more hard core about running than me, and this is all I could ever need in a GPS watch.

Some sample output data from a run I did this past weekend - Jeremy Ranch Long Run and a workout I did this morning - Emigration Canyon Run. In both cases, the mileage is right on, but the total elevation gain is overestimated by 30-50%. Neither run was a "roller coaster" like the profiles show... the hills were more steady and gradual.


  1. With the Garmin 205. 305, 310, etc there is an option in garminconnect to disable the mapping reconciliation, which will often smooth out the elevation and make it more accurate (and sometimes less accurate if you are running in a steep canyon). That does not appear to be present with this one. I wonder if that is why the elevation gain is wrong.
    On your run up Emmigration the Elevation Loss was about 300 ft less than your gain. Is that the more accurate one? I wonder if there is a way to know which to trust. I've wanted this watch for a while, but I would really like a watch with an accurate accumulation of elevation gain/loss.

  2. You can disable the mapping reconcliation for the 110. I just did that and it seemed like it smoothed things out quite a bit, except for the initial 0.1 mile, where it shows a weird spike. In any case, doing that gave me an elevation "loss" of 1100 feet for the Emigration Canyon run, which is pretty much right on the money.

    I'm not as concerned w/ total vertical gain for my runs (I already keep track of so many things!), but w/ all the trail running you do, I can see why you want that to be as accurate as possible. For skiing and mtn biking I will still use my GPSMap60 b/c in those cases I like having very accurate elevation details.