Friday, January 25, 2013

Garmin Forerunner 410 - A review

"Where does he get those wonderful toys!?"
                                              - Jack Nicholson as "The Joker"

In all the (well deserved) hype surrounding Christopher Nolan's Batman Trilogy, a lot of people forget that Tim Burton's Batman was actually a pretty good film. Why am I mentioning this? Because I just happen to have the answer to the Joker's question. The answer is: He got them for "Three Wise Men Day".

He is not the only one. I sure got a wonderful toy in the form of the FR 410. I know a lot of runners go crazy for GPS watches and a lot more have offered their opinion on them so I thought I'd throw my two cents in regarding this particular model so if you are considering buying one of these(or any running watch) or just did, you might want to read on. Here is a pic of mine:


When the watch is "asleep" (i.e. not doing anything) it looks like this. If you want to "awaken" it, you just press Start and it will also show the date. Then you can navigate it's features.

The 410 falls somewhere in the upper half of the hierarchy in the Garmin line. Not quite on the level of the 610 (their top running watch) and certainly not at it's price, it is still quite loaded in terms of features. When researching this watch, and reading on The Loop (The Runner's World public forum) I found a lot of talk about this watch in particular and running watches in general, that they are complicated and have a steep learning curve. Here is what I found out after two weeks of use: They say there are two sides to every story? Well there are two sides to this watch.

On one side, using this watch out of the box could not be any simpler. You charge it, turn it on, after choosing the language and some other info (which conveniently doubles as a mini - tutorial to learn how to use the touch bezel which is how you navigate the watch's features) you hit "training mode" press start and go run. When your done running you hit start again and that's it. You are done. The watch just recorded about a gazillion bits of info regarding your distance, pace, time and heart rate (if yours comes with the HR monitor like mine did). It also tracks calories. You then transfer the info to your computer using the ANT+ stick and viola! A plethora of information regarding your run is at your disposal. You haven't figured out how to transfer the information yet, you say? Fear not, the watch can store up to a thousand (yes, 1,000) runs in it's memory so you can take your time with that one. And that's it. You just successfully used your FR 410.

Now, you are probably thinking: "Wait a minute Frank. If it's THAT simple to use, why all the hoopla I hear/read about learning to use this watch?" Well, like I said, there are two sides to this watch. here is the other one:

Where this watch gets complicated is in its flexibility. Every single feature can be customized by the user so the watch shows you only what you want to see. When you run, the watch can cycle through up to four different screens and each screen can show up to three data fields. That's 12 different pieces of data you can view WHILE you run. You get to choose between 35 parameters. Every way you can measure pace, speed, distance and heart rate, its there. You see how it can get complicated? Just choosing what you want to see can take time, not because its hard to program but because you have to use the watch for a while to figure out what information is more useful to you during the run.

For me, four screens is a bit of overkill. I like having all that info after the run but during the run it's too much. I personally use two screens: One shows me the basics: distance, pace and time. The other shows me heart rate and percentage from maximum heart rate. I'm testing out this second screen to see if I can optimize my running by checking my heart rate. Otherwise, I would only use one screen. I find that having all the screens on keeps you more focused on the watch than the road. You can set how fast the screens cycle but I find that when I look at the watch during a run, I'm looking for something specific which means I have to wait until that particular bit of info shows up. I don't like that. However, variety is the spice of life so its nice to have all the options and who knows, I might become more of a freak in the future and use them all. For the moment, having all that info afterwards is extremely valuable for me.


                                                         

This is how I set my screen: Distance on top in big numbers, then pace(the blank value on the left) then total time. That's good enough for me.


A word about the GPS system: It's crazy accurate.  Before this watch, I was using my phone. I used three apps: Cardio Trainer, Map My Run and Run Keeper.(not at the same time of course) These apps are not terribly accurate but then again, a smartphone is doing a bunch of other things besides tracking your run plus, the apps are free so I sure wasn't complaining. However, whenever I would see my run afterwards, the track line was wobbly and the distance would always be off. (You should see the "ovals" it made when I ran at the track) But the 410... wow.  All of a sudden, 3 miles is actually 3 miles. This thing tracks straight and true and it will pick up the slightest change. Like, I'll switch lanes (3 ft from my original line) and sure enough, it will pick it up. This might not sound like a big deal for people used to GPS running watches but those of us "upgrading" from smartphones can sure see the difference.

I realize that I'm running a bit long so I'm gonna continue the rest of this in another post. Next I will talk about the other features the watch has. Yes, it has more.

To read the rest of the review go here.

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