Garmin Forerunner 110 – First Look Review

You may have noticed earlier today that Garmin announced via press release their latest GPS watch – the Forerunner 110.  Given I get a lot of questions about their new watches when they come out, I figured I’d get ahead of the curve a bit here.  As I mentioned back in January, I expected to see a new watch in their running lineup – and this mostly fits that mold.

Garmin Forerunner 110 WatchThe watch is focused on the mainstream runner – which means it’s target audience isn’t really someone like me, set into hardcore training day in and day out.  Its feature set focuses on things the more casual runner would want: Plenty of storage so you don’t have to worry about uploading data, easy to use interface (no touch bezel), and simple GPS route tracking – uploading to the web based Garmin Connect.  From the new spring chicken runners standpoint, this pretty much looks like an ideal place to get into the GPS watch game.

But, once you get beyond the flashy site with pretty pictures and embedded video of athletic models – what do you actually have?

Well, let’ s break it all down.  I should have one of these in my paws here very shortly for some hands on action, but in the meantime, here’s a teardown of the specs:

A runner’s watch:
This watch is clearly a runners watch.  It’s not a triathletes watch, or a running watch that also wants to be a cycling watch.  Nor is it a beginners watch that wants to be everything but can’t afford to be anything.  It does the run, and run only. You notice this due to the lack of cycling support in the compatibilities table:

Garmin 110 Bike/Cadence Sensor Specs and ANT+ Specs

One other area you probably caught on the table above is the lack of Foot Pod, which means no indoor treadmill running, nor any cadence on the run.  Cadence on the run isn’t really a big issue for the target audience of this device – the ‘mainstream runner’ – but the lack of foot pod enablement on a treadmill is in my opinion a gap for folks once winter shows back up again.

Garmin Forerunner 110 ANT+ Partners

That little middle icon above (red one) is also interesting, as they note in the specs that is it indeed using heart rate based algorithms to determine calorie use – something that was introduced last year to some of the other watches.  This is good, as it helps to make the calorie calculations more accurate – something key to the ‘fit in that bikini/speedo’ crowd (and me, let’s be honest, I just want to eat cupcakes all day).

Though, one strange twist is it doesn’t at this time appear to support the Tanita BC-1000 ANT+ Scale.  Given the target audience is folks looking to get healthy, allowing a pairing between these two devices would make a lot of sense.

Basic GPS support:
The key goal of this watch is to offer a baseline product that does GPS.  As such, it fulfills that requirement.  It records your route track and associated HR (along with pace, etc…), and then uploads them to Garmin Connect.  Garmin Connect is compatible with this new watch, based on previous development efforts.  It’s also compatible with Garmin Training Center, which means is good news for 3rd party developers since it means it likely uses the rather standard .FIT file format, which means other software developers can pull device data without having to recode their apps.

The device will hold 200 hours of activities before you must sync with your computer (or delete data), so clearly they’re aiming towards a group that probably doesn’t rush home and sync it with their computer 18 seconds after entering their homes door.

Back to basics design:
One of the first things I actually noticed is the lack of touch bezel (like the 405).  It appears Garmin is moving away from that with this watch – going for the most simplistic design possible.  The touch bezel was pretty much a love it or hate it type feature.  I personally was not on the love it side of life with it, mostly due to usability.  So I’m happy to see they’ve kept with the KISS design.

From a charging perspective, they are continuing moving forward with the standard contact-charging system used on the Garmin 310XT and 405 watches, which is nice.  They’ve also increased battery life over the Forerunner 405 – up to 3 weeks from 2 weeks.

Garmin Forerunner 110 Battery Life
Form and function:
The biggest complaint most people have about the Forerunner 305 and 310XT’s is their size.  People want a watch that doesn’t look like hamster tied to their wrists.  And while most folks get used to the size after about 2 minutes of running, it’s still a barrier to entry.

The Forerunner 110 takes the same form factor as the FR60 watch (which I love), and simply adds GPS (though removes some additional features).  For people sitting around a running/shoe store looking into the glass case of toys at the counter, having a watch that looks appealing is key.

Price:
One tricky area is always pricing.  Price a watch too high and you won’t get the market pull through you want, and price it too low and you leave something on the table.  The challenge with the pricing on this watch is where it sits above the older-school Forerunner 305.  At $250 for the Forerunner 110 with the HR strap, its comparatively a bit on the expensive side given the reduced feature set.  It’s almost $100 more than the Forerunner 305 is these days, and about $100-$150 more than the non-GPS enabled FR60.  The $200 reduced cost version of the Forerunner 110 is certainly an option though to reduce the costs a bit.

Garmin Forerunner 110 Price Table

There’s a saying in the software industry that’s often true elsewhere in consumer electronics: Your biggest competitor is your own (older) products.  And that’s certainly true here in many ways.  But when you look at the larger non-Garmin market for GPS running watches, the pricing is pretty competitive with other products out there – especially given the overall competitive landscape for GPS watches is pretty small.

Hope this helps those folks pondering the options, I’ll update this post and post a full review of the watch once I have it in my hands.  I’m looking forward to giving it a run for it’s money…no pun intended.  Thanks for reading!

Update on 4/25/2010: It looks like at least the women’s version is now available for order on Amazon (to the left).  The men’s version still appears to be widely unavailable.  There were some of both available at the Boston Marathon this past year (a week ago Monday), but that and the Chicago Garmin store are pretty much the only places to find them currently.  That situation will likely improve soon as more retailers get the watches into the channel.

Also note that the version currently being offered includes the bundled package as opposed to just the watch itself.

Thanks for dropping by!

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44 Comments

  1. just wanted to say i stumbled on to your blog last week while doing research on the 310XT. Needless to say i really enjoyed reading your blog besides the one you did on the 310. Thank you for doing the research and comparisons. As a newer triathlete with many milestones ahead of me,I really enjoy what you have to say and appreciate your non-intimidating nature. Thanks!
    reguards, cheska, austin, tx
    PS got my 310 today- got it all set and can’t wait to use it tomorrow AM.

    Reply
  2. Looking forward to some photo comparisons of this watch and the 405. Hard to get a sense of from the Garmin site exactly how big it is.

    Reply
  3. It’s nice of Garmin to try to introduce new products but I’m curious to see where the market is going now that phones have pretty good GPS. I just got a Nexus phone and will be trying out various tracking programs I see in the android market to see how they compare to the garmin GPS.

    I wonder if bluetooth could be used to throw in foot pods / heart rate monitors in the mix, rendering the watches obsolete. I already carry my phone when I run anyways, whatever can reduce the amount of electronics I carry on a run is welcome.

    Reply
  4. Dekel

    Two points that you didn’t mentioned in the preview:

    1) The FR110 uses the new SiRFstarIV chipset which means it may have better tracking accuracy than previous Garmin watches.

    2) Garmin removed many features from the FR110:
    - No interval workouts/advanced workouts
    - No courses
    - No customizable screens

    Reply
  5. Hi Derek-

    Yup, I saw the information about the new chip – but at the moment it’s unclear if that means ’1-2 second acquisition’ or ‘just faster’. Each new version they’ve increased the chipsets, which is great – and they are getting faster. Just being the data geek I am, I look for pretty specific ‘How long does it really take’ analysis’. ;)

    As for the other items, yup – the watch does indeed have a much smaller featureset. I think in general it aligns with the target audience, but the lack of customizable screens kinda sucks.

    Reply
  6. Dekel

    The new chip also offers better tracking accuracy:
    link to gpspassion.com

    On the other hand, the antenna of the 110 is smaller than those of the other Garmin models.
    It would be interesting to see a comparison of the tracking accuracy in urban area of the 110 against the 310xt.

    Reply
  7. Hi Dekel-

    Thanks for the link, cool stuff there!

    Yup, I did indeed notice the new chip…but, I didn’t mention it specifically because until I have a chance to test out the tracking side by side, I’m hesitant to quantify a specific benefit. Meaning, sometimes that kinda stuff is just marketing fluff. That’s where my in depth interviews come in. :)

    Thanks for dropping by!

    Reply
  8. JP

    My wife is getting into running, but at this time has no interest in cycling or tris like me.

    The biggest feature I think that is missing on this watch that is essential to me in running long training and races is the virtual partner. On the 205/305/310 it is the best way to keep a steady pace, which is really valuable for the inexperienced runner.

    Reply
  9. ‘m a hardcore runner and just picked up the 110 w/HRM from my local Roadrunner Sports (Columbus, OH). They had only one and it was delivered the day I called.

    I had borrowed a friends 310 for a couple runs and visited Garmin Connect before I decided the 110 would work for me.

    It’s nice. I’ll wear it as my regular watch. It looks like a large mens watch. It’s also Ohio State colors!!!

    I’m planning on wearing it for the Cleveland Marathon in a week.

    Reply
  10. New note-

    I still like the watch but it doesn’t tell you what pace your running!?!

    It only can tell you your average pace for the lap you are running. I know, you’re going to think I’m wrong but I’ve researched it. Seems dumb to me. I guess I might like to know what my average pace for a run was afterwards, but during a run it’s pointless information.

    This is my only (but big) complaint.

    Reply
  11. So this isn’t good for beginners? I was looking forward to get one of those, but now I can’t decide on which one is the best for me! Can you help me and tell me which garmin do you suggest for a begginer like myself?

    ps- Love your blog, I’m addicted to it!

    Thank you!

    Reply
  12. Hi Aninha-

    My primary concern with the FR110 for beginngers is that they’ll ‘grow out of it’ and regret it – specifically with respect to being able to get accessories for indoor running and outdoor cycling.

    That said, Garmin just sent me a unit on Monday, so I should have some updated thoughts soon on it.

    Thanks!

    Reply
  13. Hi John-

    RE: Pace while running/cycling

    You are indeed correct, and I was able to validate it tonight. And yup, it’s pretty dumb.

    To others – the FR110 as it stands right now doesn’t allow you to actually see your current pace (either while running or biking). It only allows you to see the average for the lap.

    I’m trying to get some clear answers on ‘Why the heck’.

    Reply
  14. JME

    The 110 really doesn’t show current pace? Very disappointing!. I’d like to begin training using the FIRST running program, which is based on a strict adherence to pace. The 310xt is too expensive and probable more watch than I need, but I’ll have to give it another look.

    Reply
  15. Frank

    Do not buy this watch if you want to view your lap times FROM THE WATCH DISPLAY at the end of your run without having to wait to upload the data to Garmin Connect on your computer. All running watches, even those advertized as “basic”, have had this core function until Garmin decided it was not necessary in the 110.

    Reply
  16. hi
    just wondering how your testing of the Forerunner 110 is going… I have read through your reviews, they are really useful!! I hope your training is going well, thanks, Rita

    Reply
  17. Hi Rita-

    I’m still testing it. Well…was anyway. I managed to kill it in a simple 20 minute pool swim. So it went back to Garmin to get a new unit swapped out.

    In short though, while the watch had/has tremendous potential in its market segment, my testing thus far have found it to be rather disappointing. At the moment, I really can’t recommend it to anyone – primarily for the following reasons:

    1) Does not display current pace
    2) Cannot display current lap time/distance unless you use autolap
    3) Waterproof is worse than a cheap $20 watch

    To me, those are three critical items in a sport watch. Even non-GPS watches can do #2 & #3. This $200 watch cannot. Now, that’s not to say that they can’t add it – in fact, they could rather easily through a firmware update. It’s just for reasons beyond my imagination, they didn’t/haven’t.

    If you follow a number of the different forums (including Garmin’s own), you’ll find many people are simply returning the device after purchase. :(

    Again, incredible potential here – just at the moment poorly executed. It’s quite possible that in a week or ten, it’ll be fixed and the device will be great. But not as of today.

    Reply
  18. Thanks very very much for your feedback – my reaction: oh dear oh dear oh dear. I got all excited by the size/looks of it (typical female I know – with think wrist though) and the price (132GBP, unisex, from my favourite UK garmin retailer, ebay auction). I really hope that, as you say, they will fix this issue with displaying the current pace, although I have to admit that I was only using this function on my 305 when I was cycling as at most other times it was really off. Well. I hope to take mine out for a run this weekend, and will let you know how it goes – I think I am more their target audience and what i like the most, post-run map analysis, should be (I hope!) still available…

    Reply
  19. OMG. Just re-read comment n2: 2) Cannot display current lap time/distance unless you use autolap – that’s shocking! (I knew of n1…). Wow.
    oh silly me. Very disappointing about waterproofness, although I would lie if I said it affects me in any way…
    thanks again for getting back to me, and for all your comments!

    Reply
  20. Anonymous

    This is quite disappointing. For someone “graduating” from a Nike+, what would you recommend?

    Reply
  21. Hi Rita-

    I had a great call with Garmin Engineers today about the FR110 and what they are aiming to do here. The general goal is to make the watch ‘foolproof’ for beginners. Meaning, that if you were to turn it on, it would just work. No chance of getting weird data fields shown (like Max Pace) and getting frustrated with it. Whether or not I fully agree with how they’ve implemented it is different…

    Hi Anon-

    RE: Nike + Converter

    I’d look at either the 305 (cheaper), 310XT (more expensive) or the 405. The 405 is the one aimed primarily at runners. It has a touch-bezel system which some folks love, and some hate – so I encourage you to try it out first. Good lucK!

    Reply
  22. Hi Rainmaker,
    Many thanks for this, will see how it goes, at least I didn’t spend the full price. Somehow I still have a good feeling about the watch! I might just not sell my 305. You are really good though, to get back to us all with updates… have a great weekend.

    Reply
  23. When the FR110 was first announced, it looked to me exactly the type of GPS device I was looking for – simple to use, not too bulky, and looks like a watch (as opposed to the 205 and 305 etc), so I was rather disappointed to see the negative comments.

    I still think it might be right for me, so I’d be interested to see how Rita gets on with it over the weekend.

    Cheers for all the feedback, guys!!

    Reply
  24. Anonymous

    Looking forward to hear more what you have to say about the FR110, really don’t wanna get the 305, it’s HUGE on my wrist, looks horrible…

    Reply
  25. Hi, only got my forerunner 110 on Friday (long story) and so far I am very happy with it, despite its obvious limitations. I love the size of it, it’s so much smaller than the 305, and all the others seem total monsters compared to it (have to say I have a rather small wrist). I find that it locks into satellites much faster than my 305. I tried it in 3 places: n1, at home, where 305 would normally find satellites in 2-3 min without problems. The 110 was there in about 20-30 seconds. At the 2 other places (work and 2nd home, in another city), I was never really able to use my 305 (close to buildings and must be some sort of blind spot), but again, my 110 found the satellites in about a min. – and it’s just crucial for me. When out running, it never lost connection.
    The lack of some of the features (lap time, lap count etc) is really annoying, but where I am now with my training, the 110 is perfect for me. However, I will definitely not sell my 305 – will be good for cycling etc. Thanks, Rita

    Reply
  26. I like the in-depth reviews that you have written. Looking forward to seeing you complete this one after testing.
    I’ve noticed that IT work is heating back up. Hope that you can steal away some time.

    Reply
  27. Sign me up for two entries, (Facebook).
    Mike S.

    Reply
  28. Thanks for the great give-aways and congrad’s on the big hit’s in June.

    Reply
  29. btw, I shared on facebook too

    Reply
  30. Hi All!

    The In Depth Review is completed, please continue any comments here:

    link to dcrainmaker.com

    Thanks!

    Reply
  31. Henry

    Is it possible to pair the Garmin heart rate monitor from my Edge 500 with this the FR110 or any other Garmin watch simultaneously? Going from biking to running would be nice without having to pair the watch and strap once off the bike. On a side note, great blog.
    Thanks,
    Henry

    Reply
  32. This comment has been removed by the author.

    Reply
  33. Dan

    Hello. First off – awesome website! There’s tons of great info on here.

    In regards to the Forerunner 110.. how big are your wrists around? Just for comparison’s sake from the pictures since I only have 16cm wrists.. Thanks.

    Reply
  34. Anonymous

    Disappointed the 110 doesn’t track active pace….just looked online at Garmin and they are promoting two new products the 210 and 410 both due out 4th quarter 2010. Any plans to review either of these. The “hype” around both, particularly the 210 seems to address the issues you note in the 110….although shows only selling with a HRM.

    Reply
  35. cjw

    DC, any word on whether the FR 210 will be waterproof? Thanks mate.

    Reply
  36. Anonymous

    Hi DC, can you pls post a review of Forerunner 210? I’m thinking of buying either of the 210 or 405cx. Thanks in advance.
    Dennies

    Reply
  37. Anonymous

    My Forerunner 110 is very inconsistent about finding satellites. Sometimes it finds them before I finish stretching. Other times I stand around on my driveway for 5 minutes waiting. Any advice? The watch is 3 months old and I’m about to take it back.

    Reply
  38. It sounds like you may want to perform a quick soft-reset on your FR110, since it may have locked onto some bad satellites and they’re still in memory.

    Also – get the latest update as well, which was just released a few weeks ago for the FR110:

    link to forums.garmin.com

    Finally, as a side note, I’ve actually posted a more In Depth FR110 review here:

    link to dcrainmaker.com

    And for those asking about a FR210 review – that’s here:

    link to dcrainmaker.com

    P.S. – I really recommend the FR210 over the FR110 (but that device came out some 6 months after the FR110 and when I originally wrote those).

    Reply
  39. I just got the Forerunner 110 and tested it for two runs. This is my first time ever i use a watch like this while running. I searched for information, but only found bits and pieces of what i was looking for around the net. Your blog awnsered all my question at once :) tnx for that.

    I love the watch, but really really miss the fotpad thingy for treadmill running(im from norway – winter half year around). Do you think its possible that this watch will get this fot pad feature in the future, os is the only way to get this, to bye a new watch?

    But also, i usally hate reading blogs, your were very enjoyable to read. I missed 2 hors of worktime because of your blog :p Keep it up m8

    Reply
  40. Does Garmin Frontrunner 110 work in HK? Why are there a pacific and european version for the Garmin 210?

    Reply
  41. No problem in HK or Europe – with GPS being global, it works anywhere on earth. Only at the absolute north and south poles are there some issues, and even then – only a small portion of that area.

    Enjoy!

    Reply
  42. Paul

    Great reviews on a variety of GPS watches.

    I’ve recently signed up to a triathlon and looking to buy my first GPS watch to monitor my running and cycling, without breaking the bank. I read you review on the FR10, which looked to tick all the boxes. However, I understand the forerunner 110 is newer. I’ve also been looking at the soleus 1.0, I know your not a fan of their data store site.

    In short, what watch would you recommend? Also for daily use and must have an alarm clock

    Thanks
    Paul

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      The FR10 is newer, by almost two years, than the FR110.

      If you don’t need ANT+ data (heart rate for example), then definitely go the route of the FR10.

      If you need/want HR data, or want to be able to run indoors on a treadmill (footpod), then go the route of the FR210.

      I generally recommend either the FR10 or FR210, and don’t recommend the FR110 due to lack of instant pace and lack of footpod (treadmill) support.

      Reply
  43. Paul

    Or is it worth paying the extra for the fr210? Only £30 extra now….

    Reply

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