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Garmin Forerunner 110

By Tom Demerly

“Elegance is not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Journalist, Pilot.

“We can now send instruments of all kinds into the ionosphere and by transmitting their readings back to ground stations obtain information which could not possibly be learned in any other way.” Arthur C. Clarke, “Wireless World” magazine, February, 1945; author of “2001: A Space Odyssey”.

Consider the technology athletes use today: The amount of data the athlete can access today often exceeds their ability to interpret and apply the information. Like the adventurer Saint-Exupery said, perhaps we reach optimal efficiency when there is nothing left to take away.

Then again, Arthur C. Clarke had a point about the value of satellite technology.

Enter Garmin’s Forerunner 110: The GPS watch for 85% of us.

The new Forerunner 110 probably has every function we really need- and none we don’t. It does not provide an extrapolated “virtual training partner”, or the other features from Garmin models like the Garmin Forerunner 310XT (did you know the 310XTwill interface with a Tanita BC-1000 body composition scale?) but it will give you super accurate speed, distance and pace (or MPH on the bike), and is easier to use than any previous wrist worn GPS sportwatch.

“The new Forerunner 110 probably has every function we really need- and none we don’t.”

Example: The Garmin 110 owners’ manual is 15 pages long. The Garmin 310 XT comes with an entire data disk as an owners’ manual. There is a commensurate difference in capabilities, but be honest with yourself- what functions do you really use every day?

The Garmin 110 gives you:

  • Distance: How far you have run, walked or biked.
  • Speed: Displayed as pace per mile or kilometer.
  • Bike units: Speed displayed as MPH for bike use.
  • Automatic Lap: You set the watch to record an individual split at a given distance interval, usually each mile or each kilometer.
  • Time: Clock time and elapsed stopwatch time, set automatically with satellite accuracy.
  • Garmin Connect: Will interface with Garmin’s web based online utility to store and analyze data- a detailed and easy to use online training log. The newest version of Garmin Connect has integrated Google Earth satellite views of your route.
  • Garmin Training Center: The on-your-computer Garmin training software.The goal of the new Garmin Forerunner 110 is to make GPS as simple and user friendly as a standard sportwatch- and as affordable. At $199.99 for the Forerunner 110 and $249.99 for the same unit with heart rate strap they are still well north of a Timex Ironman TAP Sleek at $89.95, but with much greater capability. Garmin has executed the rest of the design requirements flawlessly.Another thing worth considering is the bike computer capability of the Garmin Forerunner 110. All you have to do is switch units to make the Forerunner 110 read speed instead of pace. This provides the same interface with Garmin Connect and aids in route finding, sharing routes and mapping. It is as valuable on the bike as it is on the run- especially with Garmin Connect and Garmin Training Center.

    “The goal of the new Garmin Forerunner 110 is to make GPS as simple and user friendly as a standard sportwatch.”

    Firstly, the Garmin Forerunner 110 is faultlessly easy to use. I’m a cynic when it comes to “easy to use” technology but the Garmin Forerunner 110 is absolutely intuitive. You can use it without opening the owner’s manual. The button arrangement has come a long way, the logic circle- the way you progress through the modes is, well… logical. It makes sense and navigates intuitively.

    Secondly- and this is a big leap for GPS: The new Garmin Forerunner 110 uses Garmin’s HotFix satellite prediction and acquisition technology. This means you acquire satellites much faster than previous wrist top GPS units.

    We tested HotFix on the Garmin Forerunner 110 against a non-HotFix Garmin 305 GPS from 2 years ago. Our older Garmin 305 took an average (over five trials) of 1:49 (one minute, forty nine seconds) to acquire a three dimensional satellite fix. The HotFix equipped Forerunner 110 acquired full satellite fix for position and altitude in a staggering 3.17 seconds for the fastest acquisition and only 39.7 seconds for our longest time to acquire enough satellites for an accurate speed and position fix.

    The new HotFix equipped Garmin 110 acquired satellites a full 98% faster at peak performance than the previous generation Garmin (non-HotFix). With the new Garmin 110 you basically walk out the door, select the stopwatch function, it acquires satellites in very little time- and you train. You don’t need to stand around to acquire satellites anymore. This is a leap forward for GPS.

    The Forerunner 110 is the missing evolutionary link between an everyday sportwatch and a GPS training tool: It’s both conventional sport watch and advanced GPS unit- the Australopithecus of the watch world. The unit recharges from your computer or a wall outlet via the included USB cable with charging clip. The clip grips the watch. This is also how the watch communicates with your computer and Garmin Connect and Garmin Training Center.

    The Garmin 110 is a minimalist but functional GPS, and with that theme there is bound to be something previous GPS users will miss. For me it is Garmin’s automatic stop/start function that pauses the stopwatch automatically when you stop moving. When you stop running at a red light to wait for traffic, your stopwatch stopped automatically too. That’s gone on the Garmin Forerunner 110. When I asked Garmin’s Karsten Hagen about the omission he told me:

    “We had to make the call somewhere on what to include and leave off. Different people consider different functions essential based on their experience. With the new Garmin Forerunner 110 we think we’ve nailed what everyone needs- there is nothing there you don’t absolutely need. For the first time GPS user every feature on the 110 is relevant.”

    “With the new Garmin Forerunner 110 we think we’ve nailed what everyone needs”, Karsten Hagen, Garmin USA.

    While the Garmin Forerunner 110 may be sold as Garmin’s stripped down unit it retains the full usability of Garmin’s web-hosted utility, Garmin Connect and their software housed on your computer, Garmin Training Center. Basically Garmin Training Center is a detailed log that stores your downloaded GPS data on your computer. It opens a whole world with maps and charting of your data that also allows great analysis and admiration of your workouts. It’s fun.

    If Garmin Training Center is fun then Garmin Connect is even more fun, entertaining and motivational. The web based utility, Garmin Connect, expands on the logging capabilities of Garmin Training Center by interfacing with Google Earth and by animating your workouts on the screen. This is good information, but it’s also great entertainment- “infotainment” so to speak. It is also a great perspective on how and where to train.

    The combination of Garmin Connect, Garmin Training Center and the Forerunner 110 is a great way for athletes to begin to build more technology and analysis into their workouts. It lets you add more layers of insight as you become more curious about your performance and more interested in learning the technology. This ability to expand your experience through Garmin Connect means the Forerunner 110 itself is simply the tip of the technology iceberg.

    In the real world the Garmin forerunner 110 is as easy to view as an everyday watch or sportwatch. The display window is 25 mm wide with a total outer dimension of 45 mm. A standard size dive watch like a Rolex Submariner is 40 mm wide with a display of 30 mm- the Garmin is a trifle larger than a standard dive watch. I wear 2.0 power reading glasses and can plainly read the 9 mm high numerals in the main display line of the Garmin.

    If you love watches like I do it is worth knowing that the time keeping accuracy of the Garmin Forerunner 110 is as good as it gets- full satellite accuracy. The unit takes its time hack and synchronization directly from the GPS constellation so it is faultlessly accurate.

    A minor annoyance I had with the 110 is the pace information in the stopwatch mode begins reading out the moment enough satellites are acquired. You see a pace like “44:35” if you are just milling around to start your run. As Garmin’s Karsten Hagen said, they had to pick what to include and what to leave off.

  • The Garmin Forerunner 110 is “water resistant” to the IPX7 water resistance standard. This means it can be accidentally immersed for 30 minutes in up to 1 meter of water. The IPX7 standard is not a “swimmable” standard and, as such, the Forerunner 110 is not a swimmer’s watch- you should not swim with it. There is a seperate IPX8 designation for instruments that are tested and approved for total immersion and operaton underwater such as a diver’s watch.

    The new Garmin Forerunner 110 rounds out Garmin’s complete sportwatch line when contrasted with the same price point Garmin FR60 Bundle at $199.99 that includes an inertia-sensing foot pod and comes with a heart rate strap (the Forerunner 110 with heart rate strap is $249.99).

  • The Garmin FR60 does not use GPS but relies on a wireless footpod for distance information. The Garmin FR60 works indoors and on a treadmill, the Garmin Forerunner 110 needs a clear view of the sky to acquire satellites and will not compute distance or pace on a treadmill. If you do a lot of indoor training you are an FR60 customer. The stripped down version of Garmin’s FR60 without the foot pod is a full function sportwatch/heart monitor for only $129.99- the heart rate strap is included in the box at the $129.99 price, but not the footpod for reading distance on the FR60.

    Garmin’s new Forerunner 110 brings GPS accuracy and convenience to a new, affordable price point. It does double duty as a running tool and cycling tool. More importantly, it is an introduction to the highest levels of training telemetry and technology, a place to begin analyzing your workout data and a portal via Garmin Connect and Garmin Training Center to make your workouts come to life. It is a good first piece of training technology to buy, and one you probably won’t outgrow. I say the simple, easy to use Garmin Forerunner 110 is one of the most important product introductions of the year.