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The new Timex Run Trainer 2.0: The Garmin Slayer?

Written by Eric Mellow for

Honestly, I haven’t been this excited for a Timex release for quite some time, but the new Timex Run Trainer 2.0 has me as giddy as a kid on Christmas Eve. GPS watch evolution has allowed watches to get increasingly closer to a regular watch size, but has also allowed for the addition of numerous functions and settings; the beauty of the Run Trainer 2.0 lies in its simplicity. Timex has made a GPS watch with the most useful functions, while leaving out the frivolous, creating a GPS watch made for the majority.

Define Yourself By What You Can Do, Not What You Can’t Do

The first thing to note about this watch is that it is not a triathlon watch. There are no swim or bike functions. That being said, you can set it up to view speed on one screen and pace on another (the Run Trainer 2.0 gives you 3 screens with 2 or 3  lines each of customizable data), so it could definitely be used for cycling and brick workouts as well. However, whether you’re a triathlete or solely a runner, this is one of the nicest, simplest watches I’ve used for running.

100% More Screen Colors

Out of the box, the set up is automatic and simple, taking you through the few things you need to set before you head outside and run. These are, however, just the basics to get the watch set and functioning. You’ll at least want to customize the display screens so you have the information you want when you’re out running. You can also invert the colors so the screen is black with white numbers. While this doesn’t make you significantly faster, I think it is easier to read in dark/low light situations and it definitely looks cooler if you’re just wearing it around.

Customizable Screens, But You Still Can’t Tune In The Walking Dead

You can customize the 3 chrono screens with 2 or 3 lines of information. In a smart move, Timex got rid of the 4 line option, which I never used on their Global Trainer because it made the information so small that it was unreadable. Not only does this allow you to see the information you really want, with everything from the obvious (pace) to the “what the heck?!” (previous lap distance), but you can easily switch between the three screens on the fly. Not only that, but a display comes up showing you what information you’re changing to, taking out the guesswork and the need to flip through the screens before you settle on the one you want. This comes in useful when you’re really suffering and you don’t want to see your heart rate creeping towards its max, or how slow your pace is for how hard you’re working.

Outer Space is Cool: GPS Satellites and Stuff

Your first time out the door the GPS will take a little while to synch up, but after that it remembers where you are so it is significantly faster, as long as you’re leaving from the same place. For instance, this morning I turned it on when I walked out the door and in the time it took me to lock the door behind me and put my key in the key pocket of my shorts, the Run Trainer 2.0 had connected to the GPS and my heart rate monitor. Speaking of connecting, the watch is compatible with ANT+ sensors for heart rate and foot pod data. I had no trouble getting it to synch with my heart rate strap from my 2 year old Global Run Trainer.

Size Matters

We’re never satisfied – always complaining that our amazing watches, which can connect to Global Positioning Satellites, are too big, despite what they can do – but the Run Trainer 2.0 has made significant gains in that department, being quit a bit slimmer than the original Run Trainer. Although not the smallest on the market, it is now comparable in size to other GPS watches in its category. I’ll be honest, I have the wrists of a small girl, but the Run Trainer 2.0 fits me well, with a few notches left on the strap. It’s small enough that it doesn’t knock against my wrist bone, and is just slightly heavier than wearing a regular watch. I don’t notice it at all when I’m running.

Level Up!

One of the greatest things about the Run Trainer 2.0 is how clearly you can see the information, with a new, simple layout and their high-resolution screen. It’s a significant improvement from the original Run Trainer, which looked similar to playing 8-bit Tetris. The new interface has also been made more intuitive, so switching between modes and screens, as well as most of the set up, has been made incredibly easy. Some of the options (setting up chrono and interval zones, for instance), can still be a bit tedious to do on the watch, but once connected to your computer to charge, you can easily set it up in their Device Agent instead.

New Functions Are New

My favorite addition to the new Run Trainer 2.0 is the vibrate alerts, but they’ve also added nutrition alerts. Now, like I said earlier, this is not a triathlon watch, but with features like the nutrition alert and being able to see your speed data, it definitely straddles the line between pure running watch and triathlon watch. Now that I think about it, this could be the perfect duathlon watch. Anyway, the nice thing about the nutrition alert is that you can set one for hydration and one for nutrition, to remind yourself to eat or drink at separate, regular intervals. This is great function when you’re battling it out with someone in a race; it reminds you to eat/hydrate before you bonk and it’s too late.

Round 1. Fight!

We all know that Garmin is the king of GPS, but Timex rules the wristwatch world – which makes sense, as they have been making them since 1917 when the U.S. Army requested a pocket watch that soldiers could wear on their wrists. This has been an epic battle; one in which Garmin came out swinging and landed some pretty big blows, but Timex seems to be pulling a Rocky Balboa and is turning this fight around. GPS technology has reached a point where most devices, regardless of brand, are fairly similar in terms of accuracy across the major functions (speed, distance, etc.). The Run Trainer 2.0’s competition is the Garmin 210. Both are accurate and simple to use, but the Run Trainer 2.0 does have some distinct advantages. The 210 may be slightly smaller, but the Run Trainer 2.0 has auto start and stop (based on speed), pace zone (alarm if you vary from a preset pace – as well as heart rate, speed, and cadence), nutrition alerts, and customizable screens. I can’t say that all of those are a big deal, but the customizable screens are a definite uppercut. In addition to that, the Timex is $25 less than the Garmin.

The Little Things

The Indiglo feature is much improved on the 2.0 version, which is nice because the brightness of the Indiglo on the original Run Trainer was severely lacking in brightness. This is something that Timex shouldn’t have a problem getting right, as they introduced the first electroluminescent watch face over 20 years ago. There is no Start/Split button below the watch face, so if you’re familiar with their Global Trainer or one of their more traditional, non-GPS watches, this will be a slight adjustment. After just a week of running with this watch, the buttons were already second nature.

A Swing And A Miss

No product is perfect, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you where this product falls short. The big one for me, which I’m sure will be fixed in time, is the vibrate alert on the auto split function. Now, the fact that the Run Trainer 2.0 has a vibrate alert is amazing. I have long been jealous of friends who have newer Garmin watches with the function, as I sometimes don’t hear those little beeps if I’m running along a noisy street. The vibrate function makes the entire watch vibrate against your wrist so you never miss an alert. The only problem is, there is a bug causing you to get no notification if you have the Button Beep option turned on. For now you can turn off the Button Beep function and you’ll get a vibrate and beep at every hands-free recorded lap. We contacted Timex about this issue and they said they were aware of it and it will be fixed in the new software update, which should be out in the next 1-2 weeks (by the end of April).

Some people feel that the number of runs you can store on your watch is way too small. You are somewhat limited in that respect, but I personally don’t feel like it’s that big of an issue. If you’re using your watch regularly, you’ll be charging it regularly. Every time you plug it into your computer to charge it, you can upload the data and clear it from the watch. This is a better idea anyway, because it is somewhat time consuming and cumbersome to flip through your splits on the watch. Training Peaks give you numerous ways to look at the data you want to see and be able to analyze it (if you’re into that).

Give It To Me Straight

The new Run Trainer 2.0 is a significant upgrade from the original Run Trainer. The new interface is easy to use and the display is amazingly crisp and easy to read. At $225 (without heart rate monitor), it is an exceptional value. That, combined with the ability to customize the data on your screens, makes it a fierce competitor to the Garmin 210. Once they fix the auto split alert function, this will surely become my go-to running watch. Garmin struck the first blow, but we’re into Round 3 and Timex just came out swinging!

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