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Garmin Forerunner 110 In Depth Product Review

When the Garmin Forerunner 110 was first announced earlier this spring, many folks were excited to finally see a GPS watch that didn’t look like a cinder block attached to their wrist.  As GPS chipsets and the supporting technology got smaller, more focus went towards making the watches smaller as well.  So it was only inevitable that it would finally get down to a normal sized watch form factor.

With GPS comes the ability to not only track exactly where you went on a run/activity, but also how far and how fast.  These would end up being the key focal points of Garmin’s FR110 marketing campaign (or ‘scheme’ for you Brits).  The watch would be targeted at runners looking to get into GPS watches for the first time.  As such, the user interface would be simplified to ensure that users didn’t end up on the starting line still trying to make their watch work.  During an interview with the Garmin Engineering team regarding the FR110, they related how the overwhelming goal was to reduce stories where their engineers went to races only to find some folks simply couldn’t successfully operate the more complex Garmin fitness devices.

Like all my reviews, they tend to be pretty in depth (perhaps overly so) – but that’s just my trademark DC Rainmaker way of doing things.  Think of them more like reference guides than quick and easy summaries.  I try and cover every conceivable thing you might do with the device and then poke at it a bit more.  My goal is to leave no stone unturned – both the good and the bad.

Because I want to be transparent about my reviews, as I mentioned when I first got the device – Garmin sent me this FR110 for a period of 60 days as a trial unit.  Once that period has elapsed, I send the whole beaten box back to the folks in Kansas.  Simple as that.  Sorta like hiking in wilderness trails – leave only footprints.  If you find my review useful, you can use any of the Amazon links from this page to help support future reviews.

Lastly, at the end of the day keep in mind I’m just like any other regular triathlete out there.  I write these reviews because I’m inherently a curious person with a technology background (my day job), and thus I try and be as complete as I can.  But, if I’ve missed something or if you spot something that doesn’t quite jive – just let me know and I’ll be happy to get it all sorted out.  Also, because the technology world constantly changes, I try and go back and update these reviews as new features and functionality are added – or if bugs are fixed.

While Garmin Forerunner 110 is the latest and most streamlined running GPS available, how does it stand up to real world pounding? For that…onto the review…

Unboxing:

Once you get the FR110 box in your hands, it’s time to take it all apart.  But first, we will take a moment to observe the outside:

Garmin FR110 Outside Box Shot

Ok…observation complete.  Let’s tear it open.

Garmin FR110 Unpacked Box Shot

Now that you have all the parts laid out in neat little lines on the table, let’s go through what they all are:

Garmin FR110 Unpacked Box Shot with labels

First up, you have the watch itself.  This comes with a handy little yellow tag reminding you to charge it prior to using it.

Garmin FR110 with warning label

After that you’ll find the required charging and data transfer cable.  This is unique to the FR110 and does not interoperate with any of the other Garmin’s.  It uses USB to both charge and transfer:

Garmin FR110 Charging Clip

The kit also comes with a wall charging block, that allows you to connect the USB cable for non-computerized charging.

Garmin FR110 Wall Charging UnitGarmin FR110 Wall Charging Unit

Next is the ever important miniature paper manual.  This basically tells you to turn it on and that you shouldn’t expect it to work in temperature above 140*F, among other things.

The ever so useful manual

And finally, last but not least – depending on which version you bought – it comes with a classic heart rate strap:

Garmin Classic Heart Rate Strap

We’ll get into the heart rate strap a bit later on in the accessories section.

With all the parts and pieces complete – let’s get onto seeing how big the watch really is.

Size and Size Comparison:

The first thing you probably already noticed, is that the FR110 is the first GPS watch that’s FINALLY normal sized.  After years of work, we finally have a watch that doesn’t look like a giant 1980’s era cellphone on our wrist – and for that, we can all be thankful!

But, just how big is it compared to some of the other models out there?  Well, let’s take a look:

Garmin Foreunner Size Comparison - 310XT, 305, 405, 110, FR60

(Yes, that’s a rolling pin…how else would you line up five of them?)

(From left to right: Garmin FR310XT, FR305, FR405, FR110, FR60)

Clearly, it’s pretty small and pretty much in line with the FR60 non-GPS watch and the FR405 GPS watch and on par with your average stop watch you might pickup at a department store.

Getting Started:

With the introductions out of the way, let’s get to using the thing.  First up though, charging it.  Remember, you did read the little yellow tag, right?

Garmin Forerunner 110 Charging Tag

Just simply connect it to either a computer, or the supplied wall charger:

Garmin Forerunner 110 Charging Clip

A bit later you can come back and get ready to start using the watch.  It charges pretty quickly.

First up, let’s turn it on.  When you do so, it’ll start by asking you what language you speak:

Garmin Forerunner 110 First Startup

Then, it moves onto asking you things like statue or metric (miles or KM), your age and weight.  This allows it to determine calorie usage.

Garmin Forerunner 110 Weight Entry

From there you’ll want to set it by a window (or just walk outdoors) so it can get its first satellite reading.  This allows is to determine the correct date of time for your location.  It’s kinda like a cell-phone in that respect.

Once done, it’ll show you the time of day, and be ready to roll:

Forerunner 110 Ready to Play

Now…let’s head outside!

Running:

Without question, the FR110 was designed for running.  As such, you’ll probably want to wear it on your wrist.  The device doesn’t include any sort of detachable wristband – so the wrist is the best place.

Garmin Forerunner 110 Outside

Once outside, simply tap the Page/Menu button to turn on the GPS.  Within a few seconds it’s pretty much ready to start running.

Locating Satellites

From there, you’ll go ahead and press the ‘Start/Stop’ button to initiate the run.

At this point, it’ll start to show you distance travelled, lap pace – and if you have the heart rate strap, your current heart rate.

Garmin Forerunner 110 Running data fields

Note that the FR110 actually only has four data fields that it will display.  They are: Lap Pace, Total Distance, Heart Rate, Current Time of Day.  There are no other fields than those I just listed.  Meaning, just the picture above – and the picture below (except one more showing just time).

Garmin Forerunner 110 showing lap while running

The lap pace field is determined by the total lap distance divided by time spent within that lap.  Laps can be set manually (by pressing the lap button), or automatically using Auto Lap (which I’ll discuss in a moment).  Note that most GPS watches actually show ‘instant pace’, whereas the FR110 shows lap pace.  What’s the difference?  Well, pretend you’re running 5 miles at a constant pace.  In the middle of that effort you decide to sprint all-out for 30 seconds.  In the ‘instant pace’ scenario, the speed/pace would show your speed at that exact point in time (fast).  But the ‘lap pace’ speed would only show that as an average over the entire distance of the lap (5 miles as an example), so it wouldn’t change the speed displayed very much at all (and be slower looking).  Just something to be aware of.

Garmin Forerunner 110 Lap Split

Auto Lap:

Auto Lap is pretty cool feature that will automatically create splits/laps every time you go a set distance.  Many runners do this today in races or training when they see mile marker signs, this simply saves you that step.

You can configure the Auto Lap feature in increments from .25 miles to 2.0 miles.  By default it’s 1.0 miles.

FR110 Auto Lap Quarter MileFR110 Auto Lap Mile

During a run, when you press the lap button it will show a mini-summary of the past lap, including information such as your average pace, and total time spent running:

FR110 Lap Summary

You can turn Auto Lap on/off whenever you’d like via the settings menu.  Once you upload the data, you can see it shown for each split in more detail:

Garmin Connect Lap Data

Heart Rate Data/Monitor:

One of the major drivers to getting a fitness watch is the ability to monitor your heart rate while exercising.  The Forerunner 110 allows one to utilize any ANT+ heart rate strap to get heart rate readings.  Depending on which FR110 bundle you buy, it will either come with the heart rate strap, or you have to buy it separately.  I discuss the heart rate strap in more detail in the accessories section.  Pairing the strap is relatively easy though, and only takes a moment.

Pairing FR110 Heart Rate Strap

Once paired, your current heart rate will display on one of the three data pages that you can show.

FR110 Heart Rate Display

Heart rate data is then recorded continuously while in recording mode, and is then part of the data that is available on Garmin Connect once you upload the data from the watch.

Garmin Connect Heart Rate Data

Indoor Use:

You can use FR110 indoors if you just want to utilize it as a simple stopwatch to record an activity with time/splits.  Or if you’re just training indoors often and want to record heart rate.

FR110 Indoor Mode

When in this mode, the watch will only display the current lap time, heart rate and time of day.  It won’t display distance (because GPS isn’t being used).

FR110 Indoor Mode Timing Split

All of this data will record just as normal and can be uploaded to Garmin Connect, where you can display your lap splits.

Note, that as of this writing (July 13th, 2010), you cannot use a footpod (Garmin ANT+ or otherwise) to connect to the FR110.  I talk about this more in detail in the accessories section.  If this changes, I’ll update this section.

At night/Backlight:

The backlight on the FR110 is exceptionally bright and certainly isn’t your little old lame stopwatch light.  This thing could be used as a beacon to flag down passing aircraft if need be.

So much so that getting a good picture of it was surprisingly difficult.  Nonetheless, I sorta prevailed…98 photo attempts later:

FR110 backlight

Anyway, the light stays on for 8 seconds, though unlike other watches in the Forerunner/Edge series, the time it stays on is not adjustable.

History View on the watch:

While most folks will probably be viewing history on Garmin Connect (which I discuss later) – you can actually view an abbreviated version of your historical information on the watch itself.  By holding down the Page/Menu button for a few seconds, the history option will appear:

FR110 History Mode

From there you can navigate into the different activities one at a time and view summary information for each activity – including distance and time.

FR110 History Mode Details

It’s brief, but it’s great if you’re standing roadside and want to quickly review what you just completed.

Cycling:

While cycling is not this watches main purpose in life – it does work quite well.  First up, you’ll want to switch the display mode from ‘Pace’ to ‘Speed’:

FR110 Speed

You can use the watch on your wrist, or pickup the relatively inexpensive Forerunner bike mount (shown below).

Forerunner Bike Mount

Next, you just use as normal. It will display your speed instead of pace, shown on the bottom of the watch:

FR110 while cycling

In the above picture, I have heart rate shown as well.  Beyond that, the watch works in the exact same manner as while running.  Meaning functions like auto lap still work, as well as history, etc…

You can of course also just use it on your wrist, which is what I normally do.

Garmin FR110 while cycling

Swimming:

While one might be inclined to swim with the FR110…that would turn out to be a very poor decision.  See, the FR110 isn’t exactly fully waterproof.  The current version of the manual notes that it’s IPX7 – but doesn’t list what that means (I’m pretty sure the manual is now being updated).  Unfortunately for the first FR110 demo unit that Garmin sent me, this meant it met a very early death.

See, I use a simple stop-watch for 99% of my pool swims.  Most of the time I just use my trusty FR60 watch – which is waterproof down to 30 meters (scuba diving depths).  Naturally, given this looks like a normal stopwatch, I assumed it too was at least waterproofed to 10-20m.  But…it turns out it wasn’t.

After just 20 minutes of swimming (technically below the IPX7 30 minute threshold), it had fogged up.

FR110 Fogged Up

A few hours later, it would be dead.  Sad panda.

Now, luckily I’m a handy person – and I really wanted the data that was on the watch.  So I set about with a screwdriver, a hairdryer…and made right again.  Probably much to the Garmin team’s dismay when they got their mostly reassembled watch back in the mail a few days later.  Sorry guys, that one last screw just wouldn’t go in quite right!

FR110 Taken Apart

You can see in the above picture why the waterproofing failed, it simply wasn’t designed to seal a watch for prolonged periods of time.

FR110 and a hairdryer making love

I did indeed get the data off (Read: I won) – but the watch went back to Garmin for a swap out.  I asked the Garmin Engineering team why the FR110 wasn’t waterproofed like the FR60, given they are about the same size.  They said it was primarily a tradeoff in materials and the ability to keep the costs down.  While I can to some degree understand that – I will point out that the FR60’s base cost is only $99, compared to the  FR110’s base cost at $199.  A simple $20 Timex stopwatch from Walmart is waterproofed to 30 meters.  A $200 stopwatch should be as well in my opinion.  But that’s just my two cents.

FR110 and Niagara Falls

So the lesson learned here is…avoid water submersion.  A quick shower or running with it is fine, but swimming is not. Niagara Falls Maid of the Mist boat ride is fine (above), but scuba diving is not.

If you’re looking for a GPS-enabled swimming device – your best bet is the fully waterproofed Garmin Forerunner 310XT (with the new openwater swim mode), or for non-GPS, the FR60.

Sport Device GPS Accuracy:

I suspect the most common question folks ask when they first start looking at GPS based watches is: Are they accurate?

In short: Absolutely

In long: You have to understand how they work and the limitations.  Primarily that generally speaking you’ll see slightly (very tiny, within 1-2% usually) variations of the distance measured between two devices doing the same route on the same day at the same time.  Why?  Well, GPS has a certain accuracy level (+/- a few meters).  Thus, over the course of a multi-mile route, that variance can cause slight changes in distance.  However, I generally find them very accurate.  I train using GPS devices every day – often up to two workouts a day.  And in most cases, they are pretty close to matching.  Here’s an example I did on a run back a few weeks ago using both the Garmin 310XT and Garmin FR110 (one on each wrist).  Pretty close after 10 miles of running – especially since I had a few seconds where one was stopped and the other wasn’t.

Garmin FR110 and 310XT Run Comparison

(As you can see above – after 10 miles, they were only off by .03 miles in total, and the longer one had four additional seconds, probably about .01-.02 miles right there – making them virtually identical)

Finally, even if you removed GPS and went to a footpod based system – that technology while very accurate, does have limitations with respect to stride changes and portability between shoes and people (re-calibration required).

Battery life:

A huge challenge amongst any fitness device is balancing battery life with functionality.  The FR110 makes good strides in this area for the most part.  My general test is actually rather simple: Does it feel like I’m always charging the thing?  And the answer here is no.

See, the FR110 is designed to operate as a normal watch the majority of the time, which means it must be ‘lean’.  The FR110 works to accomplish this in a few ways.  First up, is the automatic power saving mode.  After five minutes of inactivity (not in recording mode), it’ll quietly go back to regular time mode:

IMG_9173

Second, is by using less memory to record less data streams, and doing it less often.  The FR110 uses Smart Recording mode to save both battery life, as well as eventual storage/transfer space.

But what does the end resultant on battery life look like?  Well, let’s start with Garmin’s published chart for the FR110:

image

In my experience, this has been fairly accurate.  It’s hard to match tests 100% with battery life and sport devices, because there are so many factors involved – meaning, it’s not as easy as just leaving it on for a few weeks.  But, in my case, it easily lasted a full length flight in recording mode from Washington DC to San Diego (about 6 hours including delays), with plenty left over to go back into normal watch mode.  That’s pretty solid in my book.

Other sports/adventures:

Probably my favorite thing about the FR110 is that it just looks like a normal watch.  This means that I can pretty much do anything with it and record standard GPS data.  For example – say you take an airplane flight – you can record that data:

Garmin FR110 on an airplane

(You can see the speed listed above as 544 MPH on one flight)
(Here’s a different flight up the coast shown in Garmin Connect)

Garmin Forerunner 110 flying route

Want to go skydiving?  Sure, no problem:

Garmin FR110 Skydiving

See, because the FR110 via Garmin Connect can then be downloaded to a GPX file – which is the industry standard for exchanging GPS data points – you can do virtually anything you want, and the data is easily accessible.

FR110 Export Menu

Accessories

The FR110 is designed to be simplistic and minimalistic – that means that accessories are currently kept to a minimum.  Your current choice of accessories is simply two different heart rate strap versions (if you bought the FR110 without the heart rate strap).

The Classic Heart Rate Strap:

This is the old school classic heart rate strap that comes with (or is compatible with) virtually every Garmin fitness device out there.  The battery lasts forever, and the device is simple to use and wear.  You can pair it with any number of different Garmin devices as well.

Note that the FR110 (like all Garmin devices) is only compatible with ANT+ heart rate straps.  So straps from non-ANT+ devices won’t work (like a Polar device).

Some folks don’t like the plastic feel of the strap, and opt instead for the premium soft fabric strap instead.  But here’s a picture of the classic one on top, and the premium one on the bottom:

Garmin Heart Rate Straps

You can pickup the classic strap on Amazon.com for about $32.

The Premium Soft Heart Rate Strap:

Introduced last summer in conjunction with the Garmin 310XT– the new Premium Soft Strap incorporates a soft fabric strap the entire way around – with only a tiny plastic piece in the front of the strap.

Personally, I love this strap and use it day to day for everything I do with all my devices.  My girlfriend also uses it and loves it.

Premium Heart Rate Strap

You can pickup the premium soft strap on Amazon.com for about $70 (see picture above).

Running Footpod:

As of this today (early July 2010), the FR110 does not support the footpod.  This means you can’t use the watch indoors to record distance on a treadmill (but heart rate will work just fine indoors).

Garmin Footpod

However, what’s interesting is if you look at the display carefully, you’ll notice a little icon for the footpod – just like what they have on other watches to indicate the footpod is paired.

Garmin FR110 Footpod Support

I asked the Garmin product team about this during a recent call and was told ‘They didn’t want to box themselves in and wanted to keep their options open’.  I then pushed forward and asked if they were planning on adding ANT+ footpod support and was essentially given the silent smile (I describe the silent smile as essentially pleading the 5th…).

I’d be very surprised if we don’t see this enabled in an upcoming firmware update…

Speed/Cadence Sensor:

The FR110 does not support the existing GSC10 ANT+ speed/cadence sensors that other Garmin units support.  If you want cadence (or speed while indoors on a bike trainer), you’ll need to look at the FR60, 405, 305, 310XT, or any of the Edge cycling computers.

Also, the FR110 does not support any cycling power meters.  Which, is pretty logical when you look at the market segment they are targeting (not cycling power users).

Software:

In this section I’ll walk through how the included software works, as well as a few other options for tracking your training.

Downloading Data/Connection:

The Forerunner 110 connects to your computer using an included USB charging/synchronization cable.  This cable in turns makes the FR110 appear to your computer simply as a mass storage device – or basically, just like a USB thumb drive.  This will be familiar for Edge 500 and Edge 705 users.

FR110 Download Clip

Quick note: This next section is more for geeks than regular users. As a regular user, you can just skip to the next section titled ‘Garmin Connect’.

Once plugged in, on a Windows PC it will look like this:

FR110 on PC

While on an Apple computer, it will look like this:

FR110 on Mac

If you were to drill down into the the activities folder, you’ll see a list of files.  One for each activity.  These files are stored in Garmin’s .FIT file format, which is an encapsulated binary format designed to maximize file space.

FR110 File Structure

Of course, a file unto itself isn’t terribly useful (especially because if you open it with Notepad, you’ll just see junk).  The good news is that as a normal user, you’ll pretty much never look at these pieces.  Instead, you’ll fully utilize Garmin Connect…

Garmin Connect:

Garmin Connect is Garmin’s premier online site for managing all your activities from all your Garmin fitness devices.  The site is fully free to users of Garmin devices, and also integrates with fitness devices such as the Tanita BC-1000 ANT+ scale.

Once you plug-in the Garmin FR110 and browse to Garmin Connect, you’ll be able to start uploading your activities directly from the device itself.

Garmin Connect Searching

After a few moments it’ll collect any files which haven’t been uploaded yet.

Garmin Connect Uploading

Garmin Connect Upload

From there you can select a given file to view details.  In this case, I’ll select a simple run I did down in Florida.  You can see that it shows the route of the run, as well as the high level summaries on the left hand side.

Garmin Connect Run Overview

If I scroll down, I’m presented with detailed graphs for Pace, Elevation and Heart Rate.

Garmin Connect Detial Page

In addition, it should be noted that the FR110 does track calories, based on your age and weight data entry when you first configured the watch.  Also, it utilizes a fitness score (1-10) that’s based on how often you exercise to try and narrow down the calories a bit more.

Calories Burned

I can also delve into the cool player functionality, which will automatically do an ‘instant replay’ of your run in high speed.  Pretty cool to watch the different values (pace/heart rate/elevation) go up and down correspondingly:

Garmin Connect Player

In addition to being able to view individual activities, it also has a calendar for viewing your full activity schedule.

Garmin Connect Calendar View

Like the FR110, Garmin Connect is ideally suited at those looking to get ‘the basics’ of their fitness data.  It’s easy to use, and simple to manage your data.

Training Peaks:

Training Peaks is a popular online tool used by many athletes (amateur and professional) to store and analyze training data.  I personally use Training Peaks daily as a method to upload and transmit my workouts to my coach, who then in turn analyzes them and provides feedback to me…all electronically.  The service is fully web based, but has a piece of software that you can install on your desktop to assist in uploading training data to the web.  This piece is called the Device Agent.  Training Peaks offers both a free and paid version of the software, though the free version will cover virtually all of the features a user of the FR110 would likely use.

To upload works, you simply install and then open the Training Peaks Device Agent software:

Training Peaks Device Agent

From there, in the dropdown you’ll select the Forerunner 110 as the device type and then choose your activity file:

Training Peaks Device Agent Upload

Once that’s completed it’ll upload the file to Training Peaks (TP) – where you can go online and check out your activity.

Training Peaks Calendar

Like Garmin Connect, TP offers map views, as well as detailed analysis of your pace and splits.

Training Peaks workout overview

Here’s the basic map view:

Training Peaks Map View

I can then drill into the different paces and splits for each run if I wanted to.  One of my favorite features of Training Peaks is the ability to show ‘bests’ for different laps – such as best pace, like below:

Training Peaks Bests View

Training Peaks also offers a host of other features, including tracking your daily metrics (weight, food, calories, you name it) as well as compatibility with a slew of other device.  I use Training Peaks with my Edge 500 and Forerunner 310XT as well, as it offers in depth analysis that I desire for day to day tracking of my workouts.

Sport Tracks:

Sport Tracks is my favorite downloadable application for managing your athletic activities (and also some 85,000 peoples favorite as well!).  To start with, it’s free!  And secondly, it’s got a ton of plug-ins that you can also grab for free doing all assortment of interesting things (see my huge post here on that).

The only challenge with Sport Tracks is it doesn’t natively support the newer Garmin .FIT files within Sport Tracks 2.0 (current version).  An update to the next version coming out shortly (Sport Tracks 3.0) will support the .FIT files – but in the mean time you’ll have to do a two-step-tango and export the TCX file from Garmin Connect first.  But I talked with the founder/lead developer of Sport Tracks tonight, and that’s just a few weeks away.  Soon!

Garmin Connect Export Files

However, once you do that…the reward is significant!

Sport Tracks 3.0 Import Files

In the Sport Tracks main console you’ll see all your activities that you’ve been doing.  You can customize this a million different ways:

Sport Tracks 3.0 Overview

But we’ll go ahead and drill into a FR110 activity.  Similar to both Garmin Connect and Training Peaks, ST allows you to view satellite maps as well as heart rate and pace information.

Sport Tracks Run Overview

One feature though that only Sport Tracks has is the ability to reparse your laps in any distance you’d like…on the fly.  Meaning, instead of having a ‘lap’ every 1 mile, you can see what it would look like if you created laps every quarter mile instead (or any distance you choose).  This allows you to better analyze your workouts based on whichever distance you’d prefer.  Think of this as variable lap splicing.  Splits on demand!

Sport Tracks Variable Lap Splicing

You can grab Sport Tracks free from their site at Zone Five Software.  Also check out the very active user forums if you have any questions.

Comparison Chart:

Function/FeatureGarmin Forerunner 110Polar UniteTimex R300 GPSPolar Ignite GPSGarmin Forerunner 45/45S
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 27th, 2020 @ 5:02 am New Window
Price$140.00$149$129$229$199
Product Announcement DateMAR 29, 2010June 30th, 2020Feb 2019June 26th, 2019Apr 30th, 2019
Actual Availability/Shipping DateMAY 2010July 2020Apr 2019July 2019Early May 2019
GPS Recording FunctionalityYesOnly via Phone Connected GPSYesYesYes
Data TransferUSBUSB, BLUETOOTH SMARTBluetooth SmartUSB, BLUETOOTH SMARTUSB, Bluetooth Smart
WaterproofingIPX7Yes - 30m50mYes - 30m50 meters
Battery Life (GPS)~10 hoursUp to 50hrs with phone GPS (4 days standby)20 hours GPS (and 28 days standby)Up to 17 hours13 Hours
Recording IntervalSmart1sVariable (every few seconds)1sSMART RECORDING (VARIABLE)
Quick Satellite ReceptionGreatGreatGreatGreatGreat
AlertsLap OnlyVibrate/VisualAudible/VisualVibrate/VisualSound/Visual/Vibrate
Backlight GreatnessGoodGreatGoodGreatGreat
Ability to download custom apps to unit/deviceNoNoNoNoWatchfaces only
Acts as daily activity monitor (steps, etc...)NoYesYesYesYes
MusicGarmin Forerunner 110Polar UniteTimex R300 GPSPolar Ignite GPSGarmin Forerunner 45/45S
Can control phone musicNoYesNoYes
Has music storage and playbackNoNoNoNo
Streaming ServicesNoNoNoNo
PaymentsGarmin Forerunner 110Polar UniteTimex R300 GPSPolar Ignite GPSGarmin Forerunner 45/45S
Contactless-NFC PaymentsNoNoNoNo
ConnectivityGarmin Forerunner 110Polar UniteTimex R300 GPSPolar Ignite GPSGarmin Forerunner 45/45S
Bluetooth Smart to Phone UploadingNoYesYesYesYes
Phone Notifications to unit (i.e. texts/calls/etc...)NoYesYesYesYes
Live Tracking (streaming location to website)NoNoNoNoYes
Group trackingNoNoNoNo
Emergency/SOS Message Notification (from watch to contacts)NoNoNoNoYes (via phone)
Built-in cellular chip (no phone required)NoNoNoNoNo
CyclingGarmin Forerunner 110Polar UniteTimex R300 GPSPolar Ignite GPSGarmin Forerunner 45/45S
Designed for cyclingBarelyYesYesYesYes
Power Meter CapableNoNoNoNoNo
Speed/Cadence Sensor CapableNoNoNoNoYes
Strava segments live on deviceNoNoNoNo
Crash detectionNoNoNoYes
RunningGarmin Forerunner 110Polar UniteTimex R300 GPSPolar Ignite GPSGarmin Forerunner 45/45S
Designed for runningYesYesYesYesYes
Footpod Capable (For treadmills)NoNo (but has accelerometer for indoor running)No (but can track indoor run)NoYES (ALSO HAS INTERNAL ACCELEROMETER)
Running Dynamics (vertical oscillation, ground contact time, etc...)NoNoNoNoNo
Running PowerNoNoNoNo
VO2Max EstimationNoYesNoYesYes
Race PredictorNoNoNoNoNo
Recovery AdvisorNoNoNoNono
Run/Walk ModeNoNoYesNoYes
SwimmingGarmin Forerunner 110Polar UniteTimex R300 GPSPolar Ignite GPSGarmin Forerunner 45/45S
Designed for swimmingNoSorta (waterproof but HR only tracking)No (but is waterproof)YesNO (PROTECTED THOUGH JUST FINE)
Openwater swimming modeN/ANoNoYesN/A
Lap/Indoor Distance TrackingN/ANoN/AYesN/A
Record HR underwaterNoYesN/AYesN/A
Openwater Metrics (Stroke/etc.)N/ANoN/AYesN/A
Indoor Metrics (Stroke/etc.)N/ANoN/AYesN/A
Indoor Drill ModeN/ANoN/ANoN/A
Indoor auto-pause featureN/ANoN/AYesN/A
Change pool sizeN/ANoN/AYesN/A
Indoor Min/Max Pool LengthsN/AN/AN/A20M/Y to 250 m/yN/A
Ability to customize data fieldsN/AYesN/AYesN/A
Can change yards to metersN/AN/AN/AYesN/A
Captures per length data - indoorsN/ANoN/AYesN/A
TriathlonGarmin Forerunner 110Polar UniteTimex R300 GPSPolar Ignite GPSGarmin Forerunner 45/45S
Designed for triathlonNoNoNoNoNo
Multisport modeN/ANoNoNoNo
WorkoutsGarmin Forerunner 110Polar UniteTimex R300 GPSPolar Ignite GPSGarmin Forerunner 45/45S
Create/Follow custom workoutsNoYesSorta (Yes but not with GPS)YesYes
On-unit interval FeatureNoSorta (offers structured workouts)Sorta (race mode, but not intervals per se)Sorta (offers structured workouts)Yes
Training Calendar FunctionalityNoSorta (offers daily workouts)NoSorta (offers daily workoutsYes
FunctionsGarmin Forerunner 110Polar UniteTimex R300 GPSPolar Ignite GPSGarmin Forerunner 45/45S
Auto Start/StopNoYesYes
Virtual Partner FeatureNoNo (but can give out of zone information)Yes (past efforts only)No (but can give out of zone information)Virtual Pacer
Virtual Racer FeatureNoNoYes (specified distances)NoNo
Records PR's - Personal Records (diff than history)NoNoVia appNoYes
Day to day watch abilityYesYesYesYesYes
Hunting/Fishing/Ocean DataNoNoNoNoNo
Tidal Tables (Tide Information)NoNoNoNoNo
Jumpmaster mode (Parachuting)NoNoNoNoNo
GeocachingNoNoNoNoNo
Weather Display (live data)NoNoYesNoYes
NavigateGarmin Forerunner 110Polar UniteTimex R300 GPSPolar Ignite GPSGarmin Forerunner 45/45S
Follow GPS Track (Courses/Waypoints)NoNoNoNoNo
Markers/Waypoint DirectionNoNoNoNoNo
Routable/Visual Maps (like car GPS)NoNoNoNoNo
Back to startNoNoNoNoNo
Impromptu Round Trip Route CreationNoNoNoNoNo
Download courses/routes from phone to unitNoNoNoNoNo
SensorsGarmin Forerunner 110Polar UniteTimex R300 GPSPolar Ignite GPSGarmin Forerunner 45/45S
Altimeter TypeYesNoneGPSGPSNo
Compass TypeN/AN/AN/AN/ANone
Optical Heart Rate Sensor internallyYesYesYesYes
SpO2 (aka Pulse Oximetry)NoNoNoNo
Heart Rate Strap CompatibleYesYesNoYesYes
ANT+ Heart Rate Strap CapableYesNoNoNoYes
ANT+ Speed/Cadence CapableNoNoNoNoYes
ANT+ Footpod CapableNoNoNoNoYes
ANT+ Power Meter CapableNoNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Weight Scale CapableNoNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Fitness Equipment (Gym)NoNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Lighting ControlNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Bike Radar IntegrationNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Trainer Control (FE-C)NoNoNoNo
ANT+ Remote ControlNoNoNoNoNo
ANT+ eBike CompatibilityNoNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Muscle Oxygen (i.e. Moxy/BSX)NoNoNoNo
ANT+ Gear Shifting (i.e. SRAM ETAP)NoNoNoNo
Shimano Di2 ShiftingNoNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart HR Strap CapableNoYesNoYesNo
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence CapableNoNoNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart Footpod CapableNoNoNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter CapableNoNoNoNoNo
Temp Recording (internal sensor)NoNoNoNoNo
Temp Recording (external sensor)NoNoNoNoNo
SoftwareGarmin Forerunner 110Polar UniteTimex R300 GPSPolar Ignite GPSGarmin Forerunner 45/45S
PC ApplicationGTCPolar Flowsync - Windows/MacN/APolar Flowsync - Windows/MacGarmin Express (PC/Mac)
Web ApplicationGarmin ConnectPolar FlowN/APolar FlowGarmin Connect
Phone AppGarmin FitiOS/AndroidiOS/AndroidiOS/AndroidiOS/Android
Ability to Export SettingsNoNoNoNoNo
PurchaseGarmin Forerunner 110Polar UniteTimex R300 GPSPolar Ignite GPSGarmin Forerunner 45/45S
AmazonLinkLinkLinkLinkLink
Backcountry.comLink
Competitive CyclistLink
REILinkLink
WiggleLinkLinkLink
DCRainmakerGarmin Forerunner 110Polar UniteTimex R300 GPSPolar Ignite GPSGarmin Forerunner 45/45S
Review LinkLinkLinkLinkLinkLink

Forerunner 110 Review Summary

I think any time you go to purchase a device – be it a TV or a fitness device – you need to evaluate what your needs are, and whether or not that product is the right fit for your needs.  In the case of the Forerunner 110, the product is aimed at runners wanting to get into the ‘how far and how fast’ world of GPS fitness devices, all while doing so on a slim and ‘pretty’ form factor.  To that end, the FR110 meets that goal quite well.  There’s no doubt it’s easy to use, and looks nice.  It also does a great job at recording data and uploading it to Garmin Connect.  If I’m out for a run where I just want to simply run (and not worry about hitting exact intervals or heart rate zones) – then the FR110 is the perfect watch for that.  A recent 10 mile run I did in New York’s Central Park is a great example of that.

For the other end of the spectrum, there are athletes and runners who want a different set of functionality from their devices.  They (like me) are looking for complete customization of the device, and the ability to get more information out of a single device, as opposed to having multiple devices.  In the case of the FR110, it doesn’t quite meet the goals of more advanced users of these fitness devices.  Choosing a FR310XT or FR60 is probably your best bet.  That’s not to say that Garmin couldn’t take it in that direction with either a software update, or the next generation of the product.  It’s just that as the software sits today, they’ve taken the approach of keeping it extremely simple – by removing functionality found in their higher end and multisport devices.  Make sense?

Pro’s & Con’s

If you’ve managed to survive to this point in the review (I applaud you!), or just simply skipped ahead – here’s the boiled down list of pro’s and con’s:

Pro’s:

– Easy and simple to use device (you can’t screw it up!)
– Records data flawlessly, no issues with data loss or data drops
– Finally a GPS watch that looks ‘normal’
– Good battery life
– Very quick satellite acquisition with latest GPS chipset
– Accurate

Con’s:

– Simplified interface means loss of many common Garmin features
– No current support for ANT+ indoor footpod
– No workouts, courses, interval training, etc…
– Not waterproof (beyond simple rain)
– Doesn’t show current pace – only lap average

Hopefully you found this review useful!  At the end of the day, I’m an athlete just like you looking for the most detail possible on a new purchase – so my review is written from the standpoint of how I use the device.  Also, I took a lot of pictures over the course of writing this review – 374 of them to be exact.  And I know that a lot of folks (like myself) like to see different angles of the product used in different ways.  So instead of just leaving them on my hard drive forever, I’ve taken a fair chunk of them and put them up in this little gallery above for you to be able to browse through.

Found this review useful?  Here’s how you can help support future reviews with just a single click!  Read on…

Hopefully you found this review useful.  At the end of the day, I’m an athlete just like you looking for the most detail possible on a new purchase – so my review is written from the standpoint of how I used the device.  The reviews generally take a lot of hours to put together, so it’s a fair bit of work (and labor of love).  As you probably noticed by looking below, I also take time to answer all the questions posted in the comments – and there’s quite a bit of detail in there as well.

I’ve partnered with Clever Training to offer all DC Rainmaker readers an exclusive 10% discount across the board on all products (except clearance items).  You can pickup the FR110 below (with or without HR strap). Then receive 10% off of everything in your cart by adding code DCR10BTF at checkout.  By doing so, you not only support the site (and all the work I do here) – but you also get a sweet discount.  And, since this item is more than $75, you get free US shipping as well.

Garmin FR110 Red (Pink and Black also available)

Additionally, you can also use Amazon to purchase the unit (all colors shown after clicking through to the left) or accessories (though, no discount).  Or, anything else you pickup on Amazon helps support the site as well (socks, laundry detergent, cowbells).  If you’re outside the US, I’ve got links to all of the major individual country Amazon stores on the sidebar towards the top.  Though, Clever Training also ships there too and you get the 10% discount.

As you’ve seen throughout the review there are numerous compatible accessories for the unit. I’ve consolidated them all into the below chart, with additional information (full posts) available on some of the accessories to the far right. Also, everything here is verified by me – so if it’s on the list, you’ll know it’ll work. And as you can see, I mix and match accessories based on compatibility – so if a compatible accessory is available at a lower price below, you can grab that instead.

ProductStreet PriceAmazonClever Training
Garmin ANT+ Heart Rate Strap (Classic Plastic Strap) - HRM1
$37.00
$37.00
Garmin ANT+ Heart Rate Strap (Premium Soft-Strap) - HRM2
$69.00
$69.00
Garmin ANT+ Heart Rate Strap (Premium Soft-Strap) - HRM3
$50
$50
Garmin ANT+ Replacement HR Strap (for HRM3/HRM-RUN - just the strap portion)
$28.00
$28.00
Garmin Bike Mount Kit (for mounting any watch onto handlebars)
$10.00
$10.00
Garmin Forerunner 110/210 Charging/Download Cable
$16.00
$16.00

Thanks for reading!  And as always, feel free to post comments or questions in the comments section below, I’ll be happy to try and answer them as quickly as possible.  And lastly, if you felt this review was useful – I always appreciate feedback in the comments below.  Thanks!

Finally, I’ve written up a ton of helpful guides around using most of the major fitness devices, which you may find useful in getting started with the devices.  These guides are all listed on this page here.

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283 Comments

  1. carlos

    I used my garmin forerunner 110 for the first time this past Saturday. It went under water for less then 5 seconds. Now it’s NOT working. I know it’s water proof. What can I do. Any tip/help would be appreciated.

    • You can try letting it dry out. You can take it apart a bit and see if that helps, but I’d just give it a few days inside a bowl of rice first.

      The unit is technically IPX7 waterproof, so you should have been good. What usually causes waterproof issues though is a small crack if it was dropped (or a manufacturing issue).

  2. Michael

    Thank you! This was very informative. The factory-provided owner’s manual is woefully incomplete.

  3. TR

    Is it normal that I’ve just had to replace already a 2nd FR110 due to misting issues ?

    First one lasted 6 months and got replaced by a refurbished unit, which worked in the same conditions until almost one year later now, when it occurred again. The temperature was about 7°C both times and mist was inside the unit. I’ve contacted Garmin in my country and they replaced it again with a refurbished unit. Now I don’t know what will happen next year, when the warranty goes out, I’ve already expressed my dissatisfaction with them (and that I will buy a different vendor in the future) when sending it in and they said they’re sorry.

    On the same note, my brother bought a FR15 last year which also started misting now after one year, which makes me think that the quality on those entry Garmin devices just ain’t good enough to last the warranty period. At first I thought about FR25 when seeing the initial review, but now I’m just done with Garmin.

    Am I exaggerating here ?

    • So every once in a while Garmin tries to state that the misting is normal, but ultimately – it’s not (and is extremely rare).

      The misting occurs in one of two scenarios:

      A) A unit is dropped (or whatever) and somehow loses it’s waterproofing seal. With the FR110 that’s honestly pretty easy because it has such a poor (almost no) waterproofing.

      B) During manufacturing, there’s an issue where the humidity inside the plan isn’t correct – which can result in the misting appearing later at certain temperature combos.

      In the case of the two, A is the most common, but B does happen from time to time. I haven’t honestly heard of anyone seeing it on the FR15 (or FR25), but it was far more common on the FR110/FR210 due to the lack of proper waterproofing.

    • TR

      Regarding A : I’m positive I was careful with both of the units, the purchased and refurbished one, unless it just happened over time as you said.

      As for B, I suspect that the refurbished unit was better (and perhaps more recently) built, since I continued with workouts over winter without a single case of misting. But then the case A happened again.

      I didn’t test the newly received unit at same conditions yet, but I do have the whole winter in front of me, so plenty of time for that. I guess if it occurs again, then I could really try to press them for a model upgrade, specially if the waterproofing is originally so bad and they don’t advertise against using it in such conditions.
      I’d understand it happening in a highly humid climate, but I live in central Europe. Bike rides in the summer are far more humid then now and there never were any signs of water damage or misting.

      Thanks for the prompt reply and thoughts, I really appreciate it.

    • TR

      Hey Ray,

      just a follow up on this issue.

      The 2nd unit I received had started to show similar symptoms with misting, so I’ve sent it back again to service with explanation of the issue (quoted you as expert statement regarding FR110 being poorly waterproof) and a demand to swap it for FR15 (50m WP, equivalent in price/value) as per instructions from tech support.

      I’m happy to say, I did receive a brand new FR15 unit, so props and thanks to Garmin for handling this and thank you Ray for sharing your insight.

  4. Liesje

    Hi
    Very useful all this info. I only do not know how to toggle while running between heart rate and time. Or did I miss that somewhere in the manual?
    I want to see my heart rate during running but definitely also total time!
    Thanks

  5. L. Shell

    “Note that most GPS watches actually show ‘instant pace’, whereas the FR110 shows lap pace. What’s the difference? Well, pretend you’re running 5 miles at a constant pace. In the middle of that effort you decide to sprint all-out for 30 seconds. In the ‘instant pace’ scenario, the speed/pace would show your speed at that exact point in time (fast). But the ‘lap pace’ speed would only show that as an average over the entire distance of the lap (5 miles as an example), so it wouldn’t change the speed displayed very much at all (and be slower looking). Just something to be aware of.”

    Ugh. Thanks. I always wondered what the hell was up with that. I never knew it was a lap pace and not an instant pace. That’s annoying but it explains a lot.

  6. Ivan

    Hi,
    i have a problem with my 110..
    Well the problem is that my battery drains fast in GPS mode ,it takes about 1,5 hour of my training to watch goes off.
    In power safe mode it holds charges well …should i replace battery or do something else ?
    Pls help…

    • Cristian Ciolea

      Hey Ivan.
      I have the same battery problem, and that’s why I switched off the GPS when setting the time (now I have it on manual); it took a long time until it reached full GPS signal and the battery was drained in a few minutes, even after a full charge. I contacted Garmin, and they said that after 2 years they do not guarantee the same results as a new watch has, and they offered me a deal: I send them my old 110 and I can buy a new 110 at a lower price. That didn’t help much, to be honest.

  7. Marcia

    Boa tarde, tenho um Garmin forerunner 110 é preciso de uma nova pulseira, pois a mesma quebrou. Como posso adquirir uma nova pulseira? Obrigada

  8. Em

    Thanks for a really informative review. I am feeling a bit lost in the world of Google and your review was the 1st that really told me everything! The 2 features I really want on my running watch are instantaneous speed (not average or lap pace) and to be able to download & play my audio book from the watch, without carrying my phone, obviously this watch isn’t the right one for me. Do you have any recommendations? Thanks, Em