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Garmin Forerunner 310XT PDF Print E-mail

Introduction

I have long been a fan of the Garmin 305.  I got one back in 2006 and have used it steadily since then.  It is a great tool for both the runner and triathlete.  There was no better device for monitoring your workout and for keeping track of your training history.  (See the recent article on RunningAhead.com's ability to upload Garmin data.)

That may no longer be true.  Garmin has recently released an upgrade to the Forerunner 305: the Forerunner 310XT.  On paper, this new GPS unit offers some serious advantages over the 305.  For those with limited attention spans, here is a list of features:

  • Waterproof to 50 meeters
  • 20 hour battery life
  • More comfortable design
  • 5 grams lighter than the Forerunner 305
  • Waterproof, soft-strap heart rate monitor
  • Wireless connectivity to your PC
  • PC or Mac compatible
  • Uses heart rate data to calculate calories burned
  • ANT+ connectivity to accessories and ANT+ compatible power meters
  • Still no barometric altimeter!
  • $25 Quick Release
  • $60 Speed & Cadence bike Sensor
  • USB Ant Stick (included, additional sticks at $50)
  • Footpod Option 
  • $349 without the HRM
  • $399 with the HRM

Not all these features are unique to the 310XT, so lets review them one by one.

Waterproof

The Forerunner 310XT is waterproof down to 50 meters.  For runners and triathletes, two meters is good enough.  Unless you are going to swim with the 310XT (and I can't think of why you'd do that) this really isn't much of an advantage over the 305.  I've used my 305 while running and riding in all kids of rain and it never had a problem. I also took it swimming a few times, just to see what would happen.  (I'm not recommending that you do this, however.  I was just experimenting.)  My 305 got wet on the outside, but kept working so I assume it stayed dry on the inside.

Battery Life

I don't compete in Iron Man races and I tend to not wear speed and distance units in races, but I can see why some people do.  Given that, the jump from 10 hours to 20 hours could be a significant advantage for some.  If you are competing in a 10 to 15 hour race and you are depending on your GPS for pacing data, then the 305 just didn't cut it.  The 310XT solves that problem.  For some, this is huge,

More Comfortable

Comfort is in the eyes of the beholder.  I never considered by 305 or my Garmin 201 to be uncomfortable.  But more comfort is always a good thing.  The 310XT is also 5 grams lighter, according Garmin.  That isn't much, but lighter is always better, especially since the 305 is a bit on the heavy side.

Waterproof, Soft-strap HRM

This is a big deal.  The HRM that came with the 305 was bombproof, but hard, rigid, and uncomfortable for us skinny types.  An HRM that is waterproof is also important for triathles.  The HRM doesn't work while you are swimming, but if you are using an HRM during a Tri, you don't want to have to put it on in T1.  Hats off to Garmin for this!

Wireless Connectivity to Your PC or Mac

I'll have to wait to evaluate this one.  After all the troubles I had using Polar's infrared connectivity I actually like the hard wired connection of the 305.  I don't see the advantage of a wireless connection to your PC.  You still have to have the ANT+ stick taking up one of your USB ports.  The 305 is also compatable with both a PC and Mac so no advantage for the 310XT here.

Uses HRM Data to Calculate Calories Burned

This is also a big deal.  The 305 used elevation data to calculate calories burned.  Since the elevation data of the 305 was bogus, so was the calorie data.  The 310XT uses heart rate data as a basis for calculating calories burned. Having a device that calculates calories burned is important for a number of reasons, but I like the fact that it allows me to compare the workouts of various sports.

ANT+ Connectivity to Accessories and Powermeters

Great!  One monitor to display all the data from a variety of devices.  I like this!  Garmin's ability to allow the user to customize the displays makes this particularly nice.  Now all I need is a Powermeter.

Still No Barometric Altimeter!

What?!?  Garmin missed the boat on this one.  Using GPS to calculate altitude is hopeless.  The Garmin Forerunner 305's ability to calculate elevation and grade is non-existent.  Given that the 310XT uses the same technology, I can't imagine that it will be any better.  Lets hope I'm wrong.  Why didn't Garmin put a barometric altimeter in this one.  I'd pay a little more for that or I'd trade it for a watch that is only waterproof down to 2 meters!

Conclusion

I might get a 310XT just because my 305 is getting old.  I've beaten that thing up and it has served me very well over three years, but if my 305 were fairly new, I don't see a significant reason to upgrade unless you have money to burn.  The price increment is about $100, based on models with an HRM and based on list prices.  If the 310XT had a barometric altimeter, I'd say that additional $100 was money well spent.  Without it, I think its close, but I still give the nod to the Forerunner 310XT.  The waterproof and soft HRM, the increased battery life, the ANT+ connectivity to accessories and powermeters, and the smaller, more comfortable design all tip the balance in favor of the 310XT.

Hey, the thing looks cool.  It's got that going for it!

Garmin Forerunner 310XT

For those of you who still haven't read enough, here are some more links:

Slowtwitch Formum (Always a lively discussion)

Garmin Blog
Garmin Product Information
Garmin YouTube Video