There was no doubt when the Forerunner 210 was announced that the goal was to offer a more feature rich version of it’s slightly older brother – the Forerunner 110. The Forerunner 210 touted new features such as foot pod support, additional data fields and intervals. But, would it be enough to warrant its price? And, what little hidden features would I find along the way?
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 FR210 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 210 is the latest and most streamlined running GPS available, how does it stand up to real world pounding? For that…onto the review…
Now, it’s time to unwrap it. Of course, you’ll first have to bask in the glory of the shiny box:
Now…let’s tear it open. After you’ve dissected the box, you’ll have an assortment of parts in plastic bags lying about:
After removing the bags, you have the following:
First up, you have the watch itself. This comes with a handy little yellow tag reminding you to charge it prior to use. Once you remove it, you’ve got the all important piece lookin’ back at ya:
After that you’ll find the required charging and data transfer cable. This is unique to the FR110 and FR210, and does not interoperate with any of the other Garmin fitness units besides the FR110 and FR210. It uses USB to both charge and transfer:
The kit also comes with a wall charging block, that allows you to connect the USB cable for non-computerized charging via an AC outlet.
Then you’ll find the tiny coin-sized foot pod (assuming you picked up the bundled package), useful for running indoors on treadmills:
Next is the ever important miniature paper manual:
And finally, last but not least is the new 2010 edition of the premium heart rate strap – which aims to reduce heart rate spikes and dropouts:
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.
The kitchen rolling pin has slowly become a staple of my reviews – and not just because I find it to be a really useful object for making pie crusts. No, it’s also great for showing comparative watch sizes.
So, here’s the roundup of all the major GPS watches on the market today:
Above, from left to right: Forerunner 110, Forerunner 210, Forerunner 405, Forerunner 310XT, Forerunner 305.
And here’s the side angle, to see how high each one is:
Getting Started/First Use:
After you’ve successfully freed the FR210 from its cocoon of packaging, it’s time to start using it. First up is the task of turning it on. Which…requires all of about one button press.
Once the watch is on it’ll walk you through a series of questions aimed at giving you more accurate data – and for this first part in particular – more accurate calorie measurements. First though, it starts off with allowing you to choose your language:
And then lets you pick either miles or kilometers:
From there you go through weight, height, and fitness class – which are all aimed at better calorie calculations (more on that later).
After this, the watch is ready to roll. Well, almost. It first needs to phone home. The satellites do that. See, like most GPS units, this one relies on satellites to set its date and time. So give it a good view of the sky and a few moments and you’ll be up and running:
Once you’ve got satellite reception – it’s time to head outdoors!
With the Forerunner 210 built for running, there’s no doubt that it excels at getting you going quickly. The core design principals of the FR210 are the same as its earlier sibling the FR110. In both of these watches the goal was to design a watch that’s both easy to use and hard to get confused by. Garmin wanted to eliminate the race starting line problem of folks being in odd states unable to get the watch simply started due to being in the wrong mode or data field set.
So, when you turn on FR210, you’ll notice you don’t have many configuration options when it comes to data fields and configuration. First off, let’s start with the data fields available.
Data Field options
The Forerunner 210 adds one new data field over the Forerunner 110. But that one data field is critical: Instant Pace.
The previous watch only had either lap average pace, or overall average pace. The reason for this was that folks new to GPS based speed and pace found that the instant pace jumped around too much – due to the way the GPS watches handle slight changes in satellite reception and changing accuracy information. While the end-state information would be correct, the interim display was often hard to follow.
By averaging this information over a longer time period, you removed the jumpiness. However, it also removed the more detailed instant-pace for those that wanted it.
So, the instant pace field is now available on the FR210 – like all other Garmin fitness units except the FR110.
In addition, the FR210 has the following data fields available on it:
– Pace/Speed: Lap Average
– Pace/Speed: Overall Overage
– Distance: Lap
– Distance: Overall
– Time: Overall
– Time: Lap (added in firmware update)
– Heart Rate: Current
– Heart Rate: Zone
As you’ll probably note from the above, the list is a fair bit more limited than many of the more advanced Garmin fitness watches like the Forerunner 310XT – or even the older Forerunner 305. This is again due to the desire to keep the watch simple. Further, while the data isn’t displayed on the unit itself – all data is recorded, so you can easily access this information post-run through a variety of software applications (which I’ll cover later).
Finally, as I’ll cover in the intervals section – there are a few other data fields that are shown when interval mode is invoked.
3/26/2012 – Updated Note: In firmware version 2.50 Garmin added lap timer feature. The page shows the current lap distance in the top timer field, the lap time in the middle, and the lap pace in the lower
Like nearly all devices within the Garmin fitness line, the FR210 contains the Auto Lap capability, which allows you to automatically have the unit create lap markers at pre-determined distances. Lap markers are essentially the way you create ‘splits’ within a Garmin device. These laps are recorded and viewable later on through any software application that can read the Garmin .FIT files (virtually everything out there).
You can setup Auto Lap via the Configuration menu:
You’re able to specify a minimum lap distance of .25 miles, and a maximum lap distance of 2.0 miles. You can also set a minimum lap distance in kilometers as well.
Note that you can use both auto lap and manual laps/splits together at the same time, should you choose/need to.
Another key feature added to the FR210 that the FR110 doesn’t have is the capability to build and execute intervals. Now, this feature is different than the full capabilities of ‘Workouts’ that you can build in Garmin Training Center. Instead, it offers a more simplistic view on intervals.
Using the interval functions you have the following options – all specified in either time or distance:
1) Warm-up Length
2) Interval Length
3) Rest Length
4) Number of intervals to complete
5) Cool-down length
To set these up, you walk through a series of prompts on the watch – a wizard of sort:
Once complete, you’ll head out for a run.
I used this on some recent interval runs I had scheduled and it worked quite well. In addition to all your normal display pages, you’ll also now have the capability to display how much time is left in a given interval. And it’ll display which interval you’re on.
I find the display of the interval and time left pretty useful – especially when you have a high number of short intervals and don’t want to get mixed up.
During the rest interval, it’ll also tell you how much time you have left – you can differentiate rest from run, due to the little man bending over dying:
(Sorry for the slightly blurry photos – these were taken while I was actually doing my real workout – a workout that was giving me quite a beating)
Finally, the unit has tones that’ll let you know the final three seconds of the interval – which is pretty sweet as you can completely ignore the watch until it yells at you. Though…sometimes I wish I wouldn’t hear the beeps at the end of the rest interval…
Heart Rate Monitor:
The Forerunner 210 includes the capability to read your heart rate through the use of any ANT+ heart rate strap. Depending on which package you purchase, your FR210 will come with such a strap. If not, you can purchase one of a number of different ANT+ heart rate straps in a variety of price ranges between about $35 and $90 (which I discuss more later on in accessories).
You can display your heart rate on the watch on one of the data fields, which will always be available to you during your run.
In addition, this data is recorded continuously for later access through Garmin Connect or other compatible applications:
Also, the unit allows you to setup heart rate zones – quite a few in fact – that allow you to map your heart rate numbers (i.e. 165) to specific zones (i.e. Zone 4). This is useful if you train more by heart rate zones, as opposed to numbers.
It should be noted that while the heart rate straps are all waterproof – they won’t actually display heart rate readings in the water. This is because the ANT+ signals are unable to penetrate more than about 1-2” of water. After this distance, the heart rate signal will dropout. In addition, as I’ll discuss later on – the waterproofing of the FR210 doesn’t really convey well to swimming with the unit.
Finally, it’s important to note that the FR210 includes the latest update to the Garmin Premium Heart Rate Strap. This new version aims to fix many of the dropouts and spiking issues seen with previous iterations – including previous soft strap versions.
In my testing, the new version of the soft strap solves about 95% of the spiking/dropout issues I’d previously see – a significant improvement over the previous soft strap.
The new ‘2010 Edition’ (for lack of better marketing term) of the soft strap is available on all premium Garmin units, including the FR210. It will be available shortly to buy separately, but as of today – is not yet available for purchase individually.
Indoor Use/Treadmill (Foot pod use):
The second major item added to the FR210 is the capability to use a foot pod. A foot pod is critical to gathering distance data in cases where you don’t physically move anywhere: such as a treadmill or anywhere else indoors. Because the watch normally depends on GPS satellites for distance, without such a foot pod you’d be unable to gather distance data indoors or in areas without GPS coverage (such as long tunnels).
Depending on which bundle you purchase, your Forerunner 210 may come with a foot pod, which looks like the below:
The small pod simply snaps onto your shoe, and is about the size of a quarter.
You’ll want to calibrate the foot pod using a track or other accurately measured distance. It’s very important that it be an exact distance – and not an ‘estimated’ distance. For example, while trail markers along the side of your favorite running path are generally ‘accurate’, they probably aren’t accurate enough to get a very specific distance to use for calibrating your foot pod. For this, I recommend a track.
Once calibrated, you’ll be good to go. Though, even without calibration – it’s fairly accurate.
When the unit finds the foot pod, it’ll note on the screen and ask you if you want to run indoors:
When it does this, if you choose ‘Yes’, it’ll turn off the GPS and record and display speed and distance using the foot pod, as opposed to GPS.
However, regardless of which mode you’re in (indoors or outdoors), the unit will also record running cadence (turnover) as well. This is useful if you monitor your running cadence.
Note that the FR210 will work with any ANT+ foot pod, including those not manufactured by Garmin.
The Garmin Forerunner 210 will utilize one of three different calorie calculation methods, depending on how much information you provide to it. The most accurate of the three requires external testing, however, the second most accurate requires nothing more than a heart rate strap. And finally, the third method using simple speed/distance/weight provides rudimentary calorie calculations.
These three methods are outlined below:
1) New Leaf VO2 Test Profile: This method requires testing at one of a number of New Leaf testing centers around the country. New Leaf is actually a 3rd party company that’s developed a pretty comprehensive way to determine calorie burn based on VO2 tests that are done. The tests are not terribly unlike your common VO2 max test, and involve you being hooked up to tubes and wires. The tests though are sport-specific, meaning you complete a running test to allow the Forerunner to determine running activity calories.
2) Firstbeat Algorithm (Current – 2nd Generation): The Firstbeat algorithm is the most accurate Garmin device calorie measurement that can be done without external testing. The calculation uses user inputted variables including gender, height, weight and fitness class. It then combines this data with heart rate information from the ANT+ heart rate strap. Specifically, it evaluates the time between heart beats (beat to beat) to determine estimated MET (Metabolic Equivalent), which in turn is used determine actual work expenditure. Finally, this metric also ‘learns’ you as an athlete on a given device. Meaning, over time it has a weighted algorithm to note changes in your fitness level and adjust calorie burn accordingly.
3) Speed/Distance Algorithm: This is the most basic method of determining calories, as it is only used when a heart rate strap is not enabled/used (default). Given the lack of heart rate data, the unit will simply use speed/distance, as well as the weight you entered in the device setup. The reason this is less accurate (65-80% accurate) is that it can’t differentiate how much effort you’re expending to travel a given distance – which while less important for running, is quite important for cycling. For example, if you’re coasting down a 7 mile descent, you’ll burn virtually no calories compared to ascending the same mountain.
I recently put together a fairly comprehensive look at the different calorie calculation methods that Garmin has made available on their fitness devices. This post can be found here, and includes information directly from the Garmin engineering team during conference calls regarding the subject.
The Forerunner 210 includes an easily readable backlight, giving you a way to still see your watch in the dark. The backlight can be activated via a quick tap on the upper left button – which is simply marked ‘light’ (insert light bulb moment here…).
The light stays on for 10 seconds, before fading back to darkness. Unlike some of the more advanced Garmin Forerunner watches (FR310XT and FR305), the backlight display time is not configurable on the FR210. This is likely due to the desire to better manage battery life for a device that is intended to be worn as a regular watch.
Compatibility with ANT+ Scale:
Strangely, this feature isn’t listed anywhere on Garmin’s site – but I stumbled on it by accident when I went to take the above photos at night in a dark room. The FR210 is compatible with ANT+ scales, which – at the moment – is pretty much just the Tanita BC-1000.
The unit will wirelessly connect to the BC-1000 after you’ve pressed both the ‘Light’ and ‘Lap’buttons at once, after which it’ll ask you to step on the scale. Once you’ve done so, your weight will be shown to you, and then recorded for later uploading to Garmin Connect.
Garmin Connect features a basic weight history graph where you can record weight and other metrics transmitted by the BC-1000 scale:
To learn more about the Tanita BC-1000 scale – check out my In Depth Review on it.
While the FR210 is clearly built for running, they have made a few concessions to still make it functional when on a bike. Namely, Garmin carried over the FR110’s capability to switch from displaying speed in ‘Pace’ units, to in MPH speed (or KPH).
This allows you to then display in miles per hour – such as 15MPH – rather than minutes per mile (4:00/mile).
When on the bike you have a choice of wearing the watch on your wrist, or picking up one of Garmin’s rubber bike mounts, meant for the Forerunner series.
These rubber mounts simply pop right onto you bars, and then allow you to strap the watch over it – just like your arm:
You can also zip-tie the rubber mount onto your bar as well, though I find that generally unnecessary (as long as your rubber mount isn’t on your roof at 60MPH without being secured).
But, for as cheap as the rubber mount is – it’s perfect for the occasional bike ride.
The unit itself functions identically when using the watch in ‘bike’ mode, the only difference is the speed is displayed in MPH instead of minutes/mile.
And don’t worry, if you forget to put the watch into bike mode (aka setting it to ‘Speed’) prior to starting an activity, you can easily change it later, or just change the activity type in Garmin Connect.
Like the Forerunner 110, the Forerunner 210 is not waterproof. Not in the slightest. You may remember my FR110 fail when I killed the media trial unit that Garmin sent me. I had gone to do my swim workout, and after 20 minutes it fogged up, by the end of the day it was dead.
The FR210 carries the same waterproofing as the FR110. Suspecting this, I asked the Garmin folks this time before I swam with it to confirm this – so I wouldn’t kill another yet on them. They were able to confirm I should avoid the pool.
While it’s fine in the shower and in the rain – sustained immersion is not in the books for the FR210. I’ve had no problems with using mine in the shower 1-2 times a day for the past month.
So, if you’re looking for a watch to use in the pool – this is not the one for you.
Sport Device GPS Accuracy
I’ve had a lot of questions around sport device GPS accuracy – and how well they perform. In my testing with the unit, it’s been on par with the Forerunner 310XT – which was one of the units I recently did a comprehensive two part GPS test with.
To read more about those tests, and how GPS units designed for sports handle, check out the two parts:
Battery life is an incredibly difficult thing to measure. While it sounds ‘simple’ to capture in theory, in reality, there are so many variables. Especially with a device such as a GPS based fitness watch. There are many properties that can affect battery life on the Forerunner 210, including:
– GPS enablement
– Backlight use
– Use of heart rate/foot pod ANT+ device
– Use of alerts/tones
While some of the items have a smaller battery footprint (specifically, recording of additional ANT+ accessories), others have a larger impact.
For me, I tend to put battery life into one of three camps:
1) It seemed just about right
2) It seemed too short
3) It seemed to last forever, so long…that I forgot it ran on batteries
In this case, I put the FR210 in the first camp – of being ‘just about right’. Every once in a while I charge it (once a week), but otherwise it just records my normal training workload easily. All while at the same time acting as my day to day watch.
Of course, you probably still want the official answer on battery life from the manual, which is as follows:
In my testing, I’ve found that the above battery life statements are fairly accurate and in line with what I’m experiencing.
One of the big things I like to note about GPS based devices is how versatile they are. Even though this device is aimed at runners – it’s hardly limited to runners. I’ve used the Forerunner 210 over the last month as I’ve travelled more than 40,000 miles around the globe. Twice.
All of this can be then uploaded to Garmin Connect, and then exported out into standard GPX files. GPX files are the internet standard for distributing GPS-related data. So once in GPX format, you can utilize them across literally thousands of applications and sites.
For example, I can import my data into Google Earth should I want to:
The options are really limitless, just a matter of where your adventures bring you. Best of all, with a device that looks like a normal watch – you can easily take this GPS recording device anywhere.
Day to Day watch
While it may be obvious given its size, the FR210 acts great as a day to day watch. For the past month I’ve travelled around the world and simply used this as my normal watch. In fact, it’s kinda nice travelling with it, as it’ll automatically set the correct time based on satellite reception.
In addition to simply displaying the time, you can set a simple alarm to remind ya to wake up:
Given the battery life of the watch, this is by far the best combined day to day watch and fitness device that Garmin’s made to date.
The Forerunner 210 has a number of compatible accessories that you can either buy individually, or with one of the bundled packages.
Heart Rate Strap
Ok…hold onto your seats – this is gonna get messy!
Garmin introduced a slightly new heart rate strap with the Edge 800 – and that same strap is being carried through to the Forerunner 210. This new strap aims to reduce many of the spiking/dropout problems of some of the previous straps. And based on my testing – it does a pretty good job of this. It’s reduced those problems for me by about 95%. There’s still an occasional spike – but mostly they’re gone.
This new strap looks like this:
However, be aware – there are still two older (more common) types out there, which compared, look like this:
The new 2010 edition of the premium soft strap is currently only available with the bundled FR210 and Edge 800 units, however, Garmin has confirmed will eventually be sold separately as well.
One of the major new adds for the FR210 (over the FR110) is the ability to add a foot pod for indoor use. There are a slew of different ANT+ foot pods out there, and all of them will work with the Garmin FR210. However, some of the FR210 packages will include a foot pod – the Garmin variant – which is shown below.
Out of all the foot pods I’ve tested, you can’t beat this tiny little foot pod, about the size of a quarter. Plus, the battery lasts forever (at least a year).
You can pick this up for $60.
Rubber Bike Mount
Perhaps one of the best priced accessories out there, the rubber bike mount is great for when you want to mount the watch to your bike’s handlebars (or any similarly sized object).
One non-Garmin accessory that integrates with the FR210 is the Tanita BC-1000 Wireless ANT+ Weight Scale. This scale uses the ANT+ protocol to communicate with the FR210, allowing it to wirelessly record your weight and body fat readings, which are then transmitted to Garmin Connect.
I wanted to briefly call out two items that aren’t supported (read: don’t work) with the Forerunner 210, mostly because they tend to work on many of the other Garmin fitness units, and thus could cause some confusion.
First up is the most common one – the ANT+ Speed/Cadence sensor. This would allow you to ride your bike indoors on a trainer and still get speed/cadence/distance. Unfortunately, this is not enabled on the FR210.
Second, is less common – but still out there, which is ANT+ power meters. No ANT+ power meters are compatible with the FR210, since it’s primarily aimed at runners and not cyclists.
The Forerunner 210 connects to your computer using an included USB charging/synchronization cable. This cable in turns makes the FR210 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, Edge 705 and Edge 800 users.
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:
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.
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 is Garmin’s official activity management site, used to display and analyze all your Garmin fitness activities. In the case of the FR210, you upload activities using either the Garmin Communicator plug-in for automated uploads, or individual file uploads on computers without the plug-in. The plug-in is compatible with both PC and Mac.
Simply plug in your FR210, and communicator will find it, and the activities you’ve left to upload:
After uploading the activities, you’ll want to open a given activity up to see how things went. Garmin Connect will show you details such as pace, distance and time – as well as elevation using the units GPS altimeter.
You can also display lap and split information, if you used either Auto Lap, or simply created manual splits using the lap button:
And finally, you can re-play your activity using the Player, which overlays your exact speed/pace/heart rate and other metrics, directly on a moving map:
Garmin Connect offers a fair bit of other functionality as well, including a health section to chart weight (either manually, or using the Tanita BC-1000 mentioned earlier). You can also plan out goals and keep tabs on your progress via the calendar.
I recommend Garmin Connect as a good starting point for using the FR210. But I find that most advanced users will want something with a bit more analysis capabilities, which is why I discuss two additional 3rd party applications that I use to analyze my runs.
Perhaps one of the most well known sport activity management platforms out there – Training Peaks offers an online suite that gives users far more detail and analysis capabilities than Garmin Connect does. Training Peaks is available in a variety of flavors from free to not-so-free. I personally use it to upload workouts and share them with my coach, who is able to follow my account.
Most users of Training Peaks will download the device agent, which allows quick and seamless uploading to the site. Though, you can always choose to just upload files using the website instead. The device agent is available for both Mac and PC.
Once uploaded, you’ll go ahead and open the activity in Training Peaks:
The site allows far more control and analysis over splits, bests, and averages. Perhaps my favorite feature is the ‘bests’ section, which allows me to see per lap (or entire activity) my best and average paces, heart rate, and cadence.
I generally recommend either Training Peaks or Sport Tracks (next) for those users looking to get more detail out of their workouts.
With Sport Tracks 3.0, ST has introduced the capability of importing Garmin .FIT files – which is the file type that all of the new Garmin fitness units use, including the Forerunner 210. Sport Tracks has two versions – a free version which supports up to two plug-ins and some limited reporting, while the full version costs $35. Sport Tracks currently only works on a Windows based PC.
To import a Forerunner 210 activity into the watch, simply start Sport Tracks and then select to import files:
Once imported, you can drill into a given activity, but it’ll start you with an overview page of your activity:
Sport Tracks includes quite a bit of reporting and extension capabilities – allowing you to manage pretty much any device ever created on the planet – especially with its plug-ins.
However, perhaps my favorite feature is its ability to create ‘virtual splits’. On the left hand side I can create splits based on any distance or time I’d like – I’m not just limited to what I actually recorded in the file when I ran my run:
I’ve written a fair bit on Sport Tracks in the past, so I recommend you check out my Sport Tracks 3.0 post for more information on all the latest features there.
I find that for 95% of runners, the FR210 is the perfect running watch. It offers a completely streamlined look and an easy to use interface. It’s also the best overall introduction into GPS enabled fitness devices, without the complexity of some of the other units out there. With the addition of footpod support and instant pace, this product line is now a realistic option for serious runners.
The remaining 5% of runners this watch isn’t ideally suited for are those looking to create and download complex workouts to the watch, or that want more customization of the display. For triathletes looking for the one-size-fits all watch – this unit isn’t really it. While I (probably more than anyone else) would love to see a FR210 sized device with the firmware from the FR310XT – it’s important to understand this is a runners watch, and not a full triathlete’s watch. That said, as a triathlete – you can be sure that on the majority of my runs, I’ll be using the FR210 over my FR310XT – simply because it’s smaller.
No review would be complete without the pros and cons list – after all, a good percentage of you probably skimmed down to just this one section. 😉
– Small and streamlined look – not bulky
– Adds foot pod support
– Adds interval support
– Adds ‘instant pace’ support
– Easy to use, ‘simply works’
– Functions as a regular watch, includes alarms
– Great battery life – 1-3 weeks in standby watch mode depending on use
– Easy to use download system and mass storage platform
– Well integrated Garmin Connect platform for activity management
– Uses .FIT format – so compatible with all major up to date 3rd party platforms
– Not waterproof for extended immersion (but safe for rain/showers)
– Doesn’t include support for downloading workouts from computer
– Doesn’t allow the user to change data fields
– Doesn’t take advantage of other ANT+ accessories for cyclists (cadence/speed sensor and/or power meter)
– Isn’t really suited to the triathlete, aside from running
Here’s a chart I put together comparing the features with Garmin’s other popular recent GPS based running/triathlon watches – you’ll likely have to click on it to expand to a readable size:
With the Forerunner 210 priced at a base price of $300, you may wonder why you’d purchase it over the usually similarly priced FR310XT – which has exponential more features. And the answer all comes down to one thing: Size.
I receive an astounding amount of e-mail each week from folks looking for the perfect athletic sports watch that doesn’t look like an orange brick strapped to their wrist. And while I disagree that the FR310XT size is really that big – I also understand the concern. For example, you’d never wear the 310XT as your daily wrist watch – thus an indicator of its size.
In addition, Garmin notes that the FR110/210 models are aimed at folks that just want an easy user experience. They talked about times where they went to the start of races and found folks with FR305/405/310XT’s that had gotten themselves into a state where they couldn’t even start the race – as it was showing all the incorrect data fields. With the FR110/210 – that’s basically impossible.
Finally, the FR310XT (and similar models) aren’t designed to be ‘always on’, whereas the FR210 is. It’s designed to show you the time for weeks on end.
So in part, you’re paying a premium for size. And the other part is for the ability to have a simpler watch. Less is more, anyone?
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 FR210 (various options below). 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.
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.
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.
You probably stumbled upon here looking for a review of a sports gadget. If you’re trying to decide which unit to buy – check out my in-depth reviews section. Some reviews are over 60 pages long when printed out, with hundreds of photos! I aim to leave no stone unturned.
I travel a fair bit, both for work and for fun. Here’s a bunch of random trip reports and daily trip-logs that I’ve put together and posted. I’ve sorted it all by world geography, in an attempt to make it easy to figure out where I’ve been.
The most common question I receive outside of the “what’s the best GPS watch for me” variant, are photography-esq based. So in efforts to combat the amount of emails I need to sort through on a daily basis, I’ve complied this “My Photography Gear” post for your curious minds! It’s a nice break from the day to day sports-tech talk, and I hope you get something out of it!
Many readers stumble into my website in search of information on the latest and greatest sports tech products. But at the end of the day, you might just be wondering “What does Ray use when not testing new products?”. So here is the most up to date list of products I like and fit the bill for me and my training needs best! DC Rainmaker 2021 swim, bike, run, and general gear list. But wait, are you a female and feel like these things might not apply to you? If that’s the case (but certainly not saying my choices aren’t good for women), and you just want to see a different gear junkies “picks”, check out The Girl’s Gear Guide too.
My FR210 is great for what I do, but I have one question re downloading.
Can the FR210 connect to an iPad via the wahoofitness Ant+ key?
No, it doesn’t transfer via ANT+ unfortunately. Here’s a few options for the FR210 (though, I can tell you upfront, none work with the iPad/iPhone): link to dcrainmaker.com
I am looking for a new HR monitor and daily watch and am torn between the Garmin 210 and Suunto Quest. The Quest is around $50 more and lacks the GPS function. At the moment I run with the run-keeper App. however I find that the GPS gets redirected to passing cars sometimes when running in the city. Would this be a problem with the 210?
Also as I am looking to use this as my daily watch, does the 210 support day of the week on the display? From pictures online I can see it displays Time, Date and Seconds, but no day.
Thanks for your time and effort you put into your reviews.
FR210 gps reception performances aren’t perfect at every moment (urban canyons and heavy tree foliage are big troubles sources for every gps receiver), but the overall performances are far better than smartphones, imho.
FR210 doesn’t show day of the week (only date). despite this little issue (maybe due to the non-graphic nature of the upper and lower parts of the display), i think is a very good daily watch.
Hi, thanks for the reviews, they were very helpful when I purchase my 210. Lately been having some problems with mileage recording unevenly. It seems like the first mile wants to add on 2-3 tenths, but usually only on the first mile. I’m pretty confident of this, only because I’ve used it one well measured runs….so my first actual mile doesnt beep until im at 1.3, but device is saying im only at 1.0 mile. any suggestions….thanks!
Try doing a soft-reset. It sounds like the satellite cache may be dorked out. That’ll likely straighten it up and get you back on track. Enjoy!
Thanks, I usually turn off the device after runs so I guess I’m always doing a soft reset and not knowing it:). I’ll try it for tomorrow’s run and see what happens. I’m wondering if a full reset is my next step if this doesn’t work? Thanks!
Solid reviews here – thanks very much, they are really helpful!
I use the WahooFitness app on the iPhone and it allows the user to import a workout from a Garmin watch, which it does via the Ant+ adapter.
I see in the above table that you note the 210 uses USB to transfer workout data even though the watch supports Ant+. Is the data transfer configurable? Or do you think it will still work via Ant+?
If not, looks like I will have to go buy the 410 instead and risk the frustration with the bezel.
no way, on FR210 files are transferred only via USB. ANT+ is reserved to HRM and footpod.
No worries, thanks for the reply. I read elsewhere this morning that Ant+ HRM can transmit to two receivers – so I can simply keep my iPhone running as well as using the watch and not need to upload the Garmin data.
Hi rainmaker, could you offer some advice please? I am after a gps watch to track my running and mountain biking. I would like to wear it all the time as my only watch so I’m not going to leave it somewhere. I want it to record speed hight gained and map my runs and rides. I need it to be water proof in terms of getting wet through rain( I live in the uk) do you think this is the watch for me or should I choose something else, regards Scott.
The FR210 is a good option. Note that it doesn’t have a barometric altimeter in it though, so that’s something to keep in mind. Also, it doesn’t support the cadence sensor (you may use that on mountain biking). In many cases, the FR310XT is a bit bigger, has a mount for the bike (quick release), and has more mountain biking related metrics. These days, it’s the same price.
Of course, you won’t be able to wear it 24×7, but I’d evaluate if that’s really an important feature (personally, I’d just go with a cheap wrist-watch for $15 for that).
This is very helpful; thank you! My only question to you or others, is, does the White Garmin 210 get dirty, or does it hold up the color well if it is used often?
I’m a cyclist who has started running a lot recently, and I’m excited to get a running Garmin for time, distance, HR, pace, etc. I’m moving to the DC area (for work) and excited to “run” (ha!) into you with my new Garmin on the road! Thanks for all of the info!
Hmm, I haven’t heard any issue on the white edition. Fwiw though, Garmin released a rebate program today for the FR210: link to garmin.blogs.com
I bought a FR 210 with Heart Rate Monitor based on your review in June. It works fantastic! No fog issues. Very, very easy to use (which I love), no fumbling around at the start of the run. I use Garmin Connect and really like it. It gives me all the info i could ever want. My only knock is that i don’t like the USB cord, non-standard.
Thanks for the review, it was a big help!
I also have an FR210. I think Garmin opted for the system they use as it makes it a lot easier to make the watch water-resistant. Even a micro-usb port would allow significant amounts of moisture – rain or sweat – to penetrate into the watch (and consumed a lot of space internally).
I’m about to bought an FR 210, but prior to that, i need to know if I can review the Heart rate while in interval mode, I mean, can I change between pages when I’m doing an interval? Of course without stopping the interval itself?
Sorry about my english! i’m from Argentina.
And thanks for all your reviews, they are amazingly deeper and accurate!
Yes, you can changes pages to see your HR.
Thanks for the amazing reviews! I’ve just spent my first 2 weeks with the 210 (via Clever Training – thanks!) This is my first GPS watch and I mainly need it for running. I am new to tracking my runs and I feel like I just need basics: lap pace, current pace, distance…. and learn to program interval training…As I get more seasoned with training I’d like to grow into using more functions. I am contemplating swapping the 210 for the Timex TRT 2.0. Can I get your — and other runners — opinion on these questions I have?
– Most pressing issue is WATER: I am going to be in a SUPathlon and while in theory (!!!!) I shouldn’t be under water, I am concerned about wrecking the Garmin 210 if I do wind up taking a dive off the SUP board.
– display fields/alerts: I often can’t hear the sound alert for mile splits and so miss out on seeing my last lap pace. It seems like Timex fixes this by allowing you to chose Lap Pace as a field AND having a vibrate alert. Correct? Or am I missing something about the set up for the 210?
– GPS accuracy – the 210 seems petty spot on, but I am reading user comments for the TRT 2.0 and it looks like there are lots of bugs.
I really appreciate any opinions on whether you think it’d be worth it for me to switch!
Re: Water: If you’re just falling into the water briefly you’re good. If you’re planning on doing swimming (active/stroking), and/or staying in the water for sustained periods – not so good.
RE: Display/alerts: There isn’t a vibrate feature on the FR210 unfortunately.
RE: GPS accuracy: I think the TRT2 issues are limited to a small subset of users that were experiencing issues. I’m not seeing very many issues these days – so I believe those folks that were having problems got all sorted out form support.
Now that the Garmin FR 210 was released 3 years ago (in October) do you have a feeling when Garmin will come out with a new version? Is the new $25 rebate a sign they are trying to get ride of their old inventory? How do they announce their new releases?
Your reviews have been really helpful, thanks.
We typically see running watches released around this time of year. Given the FR210 is fairly overdue, that’s something to consider.
Wasn’t the FR10 the successor to the FR210?
Great review! I am not between the FR210 and FR310XT… And I need to purchase a footpod, which is an extra $50+, so right now surprisingly the 310 is cheaper! Not sure if I really care about a HR monitor, or really want to run with it around my chest…
I mean now between.
Personally, I’d go FR310XT if you don’t plan to use it as a day to day watch. It’s just more functional.
Hi Rainmaker, thanks for all your great reviews.
I bought the FR210 two years ago and I was really satisfied with it. It’s ridicously easy to use and works just fine.
The only feature I was really missing is the ability to define interval training with different intervals (e.g. 3×2000 + 2×3000).
Unfortunately after two years of frequent usage the wristband has broken, and there is no way to fix or replace it. I asked the Garmin shop where I bought the watch… nope. You need to buy a new one.
The same thing happened to one of my running buddies.
To me, this is a *MAJOR* drawback and, if I could go back, for sure I wouldn’t purchase the FR210.
Greetings from Italy!
Garmin support will swap out wrist straps in-warranty for free, and out of warranty for a fee.
Can you use the Clever Training discount code on the Clever Training website? Or is it only for Amazon?
Just on Clever Training (which includes free shipping). Thanks for the support!
Can I download my created workouts on connect.garmin.com in garmin FR 210 or should I create my workout on the device ? I’m waiting the response to buy my unit.
No, you can’t download works to the FR210 unfortunately.
Excellent overview of the 210. I’ve been pretty happy with mine for a year now and I got it due to this great review
One thing I can’t figure out – how to set up the time:lap data field as mentioend about – I can’t see any options to do that.
Is it something ou have to change in the settings?
Have you updated your firmware? It was added in a firmware update.
Yeah – I have – I’m using the updated firmware. Unless I’m doing something completely wrong or am misintepreting what time:lap does.
I expected it to reset the lap time everytime lap is pressed – but it doesn’t – it adds one to the lap counter (as in becomes lap x) but overall time is still shown in the main data field. I was hoping I could do manual intervals with it, but can’t see any setting.
let the FR210 show the lap time in the main field, and you can reset it every time you press “lap” button. FR210 will show for some seconds lap time, lap distance and lap medium pace, then will resume to normal operations (if i remember correctly :D)
Yup, and to remember you’ll need to enable it. Hold the Menu button a few seconds, then go into System Settings, then iterate through until you see the “Lap Timer” option.
Thanks folks – still can’t find it.
The main setup options I have are
History, HR Alerts, Intervals, Alarm, Auto lap, HR Monitor, Foot Pod, User Profile, Setup, About
I thought it might be in Setup, and in there, there is a setting called ‘display ‘ that gives me three options ‘lap pace’, ‘current’, and ‘average’ – I have it set to lap pace. There is also ‘lap timer’ which I have set to ‘on’. None of these settings seems to give me the manual interval setting I’m after.
My garmin updater says I have the most up to date firmware for my 210 – but perhaps it could be something I need to manually do. Thanks for your suggestions though.
So I played with it a bit more on tonight’s run. To clarify, here’s how it works.
Assuming you’ve turned on the Lap Pace option and on the latest firmware, then you start running.
As you’re running, you’ll use the lower left button to change the display. It iterates through Total Time (with total distance up top), then pressing the lower left again will show you lap time (with total lap distance up top). And finally, pressing it again will show you your HR.
To change the lap, you press the lap button.
I used this for my hill repeats tonight in timing 5min, 3min, and 2min segments – no problems.
You’re a legend – this works! And seems to be the first documented how to on how to do this.
Thank you so much.
Hi All, this is a great watch however its biggest problem is that the strap and face are one piece, which means if the strap tears you have to replace the entire watch. And this is expensive if you are out of warranty. My watch strap tore at the buckle after a year and half of daily use. To have it has replaced it is costing me half the sale price. Otherwise, great watch.
Second this. I got the fr210 a couple of years ago after consulting this site (great site Ray!) and whilst it still meets my running needs pretty well, the strap snapped a couple of months ago and I’ve had no joy in getting a replacement. 🙁
I’m wondering if anyone can let me know what the capital A with three dashes next to it means at the bottom right of the screen when in lap mode.
Can’t seem to find the answer anywhere.
Thanks in advance
I had a question about this watch. You showed the Training Peaks website on here, I thought this was a TIMEX website. Is the Garmin compatible with all features of the Training peaks website, to include being able to use it to put your food log into it to count calories and what not? I had originally bought a Timex Run Trainer watch and it did not work when I took it out of the box. So I bought a second one from a different company and had it shipped to Afghanistan and lo and behold took it out of the box and it does not work either. So if you know of a way to reset the Timex watch or something like that to make it work, that would be amazing since I really liked all the features of the Timex.
Training Peaks is a standalone company. Timex leverages a customized portion of the Training Peaks site for their watches.
Garmin units (like Timex units) are compatible with the full paid TP version as well.
Garmin is about to release the Forerunner220:
link to sites.garmin.com
Hi All – here’s my hands-on look at the FR210 replacement, the Garmin FR220, enjoy! link to dcrainmaker.com
hi. on the screenshots of your intervals it seems you cant see the hart beat when you do intervals. is there any way of doing this? I thought knowing if your hartbeat is within 85%-95% during runs and 70-75% during rest is critical. if not you are just running in the wildernes. on my 405 I dont use intervals cause of this. I just have normal run and display max hr %, and time, and use lap/split key to switch between runs and rest.
how is this on 210. can you do that on 210? have hr and lap time? so when u run u get ur time and hr, then when you enter rest you press lap button and timer start on 0 again, then repeat when you go run-rest.run.rest etc? or can you do other way of doin so you have good rest/run controll in the interval funtion.
hope you answer this good. or is 220 the only viable option here? 220 can still not show max hr %?
You can see the heart rate during intervals by just tapping the page button. Then to manually trigger a lap (outside of interval mode), you just press the lap button. So I press lap at the end of an interval and at the end of the rest period.
Post-running, you can see them in the splits tab (including HR). Here’s a link to a recent FR210 run, where if you click on the Splits tab you’ll see all the details: link to connect.garmin.com
Thanks for answer. Great! Can 210 be set up with only one screen then? Or page. So when pushing page button you only switch between interval and he page? Or can you switch up and down? So you can have access to many pages but only use two if you don’t want more for most of the interval.
And though you can’t customize the pages, can you choose what pages that is activated during exercise, do you only can map through selected pages?
There’s no map page. And you can’t really turn off the pages per se, it just iterates through them.
Hi I just ordered the 210 and was wondering if the watch will have a sound alert every time i finish a mile or half mile. I had this on a previous watch and really enjoyed it.
Yes, you can setup auto lap for this.
thanks for answer. but can you navigate “up” and “down” through the pages? like on the 310xt?
if so. I think its great.
but abit sad that you cant choose withch pages that is active for scrolling through, and that I have to go through all the pages
Not up down, just ‘next’ without a back.
can this watch show % of max hr?
Like the FR220, only within the context of zones.
Another great review, but I’m still curious about one thing : is there an auto pause feature? If so how do you activate it?
No, it does not have Auto Pause.
Muchas felicidades por el análisis que hace al modelo 210 de Garmin, yo adquirí uno hace dos semanas, y su explicación es por mucho, de mayor ilustración que el manual, quiero hacerle un para de preguntas aunque para hacerlo, ante necesito comentarle algo.
Vía virtual, un entrenador, saco mis Zonas de pulsación posterior a unas pruebas que me pidió realizara en un pista, apoyándose con un reloj con cronómetro, entonces sacó mis zonas 1 50% 2 60 % 3 70 % 4 80 % 5 90 % y 6 100 % aún con esos datos creo que no he llevado un verdader entrenamiento basado en zonas de pulsación! antes entrenaba apoyándome con el reloj que saco Nike asociado con Tom Tom pero se me descompuso no duró ni diez meses y ahora compre el reloj Garmin modelo 210 y por eso quiero sacarle mucho provecho.
Cuando veo su configuración del 210 me encuentro que se puede programar alertas y aparecen zonas de frecuencia cardíaca, y en configuraciones en lo referente a Monitor al programarlo también aparecen zonas entonces eso me enredó muy feo, no se cómo hacerle, y aquí bala pregunta.
Si en las alertas uno le proporciona los datos de frecuencia alta y frecuencia baja, en las cinco zonas que aparecen, al momento he entrenar uno puede elegir en que zona va a a hacerlo, por que de no ser así, en que zona estoy entrenando.
En fin es muy enredado lo que preguntó pero así estoy de complicado con este tema. Haber si me puede ayudar.
Traductor Google no parece traducirse tu pregunta así tan difícil de entender 🙁 Esperemos que alguien que realmente sepa español puede ayudar.
Very good review.
Is it possible to connect USB cable into AC adaptor (IE:Apple) to a standard wall outlet for charging battery.
I understand that you did’nt know when the forerrunner 220 will be available in Canada.
Very good reviews…attention to details in using, comparing and analysing the features…keep up the good work!!!….This is the go to site for fitness gadget reviews and research!!!!
Great review! Is it possible to see the speed in kmph instead of mph with this watch? Thank You
Yes, no problem.
Hi, Rain or someone else. Can you give me ebay link for correct screwdriver (or correct size – 2mm or something like this?) to change battery on garmin heart rate strap for my Forerunner 210. Its impossible to find this stuff in my city.
Thanks. Greetings from Belarus.)
Great review thank you.
Couple of questions please; I bought the 220 that is supposedly 2014 model. I took it back bc I want something showing me distance, heart rate and calories. I endin up getting this one… 210… Bc the box said all those things 🙂 I see in your review that you show calories.
Do I have to log on the internet to get that reading or am I missing the button to find that on the watch?
Now that you know what kind of things I need from my watch… Do you have any suggestions for a watch that does those three things?
Thanks in advance!!
Great review thank you. Couple of questions please; I bought the 220 that is supposedly 2014 model. I took it back bc I want something showing me distance, heart rate and calories. I endin up getting this one… 210… Bc the box said all those things 🙂 I see in your review that you show calories. Do I have to log on the internet to get that reading or am I missing the button to find that on the watch?Now that you know what kind of things I need from my watch… Do you have any suggestions for a watch that does those three things? Thanks in advance!!
Hey amanda, the calories should show (presuming you’ve entered your weight/age or used a heart rate monitor) once you ‘save’ your runs to the watch at the end of a session. Hold down your menu button for three secords and then look at the training log. Calories burned should be on the display. Also, it should show on any of the usual web-based/computer services.
Hello, one cuestión, I need to replace my old fr 205, but I don´t want to miss the following features: current lap, pace and distance, they are in my main screen, I`m particularly concerned about the current lap feature, because due to the kind of training that I do I need that, and I´m my watch I don´t have to reset it after starting a new lap, as I see the guys with the fr 110 usually do….thanks a lot for your time and your reviews
The FR110 does current lap pace, but does not do instant pace.
and the 210? thanks a lot
It does do instant pace.
Really appreciate your work. I’ve had a 210 for about 6 months now based on your review, some others and the price. Generally speaking it does everything I need, however a few niggles spoil the experience for me, not sure if it is just me or if others have noticed the same?
1) Lap button does not have a very positive action meaning the press is often not registered when I’m doing interval training, even if I try to give it a good press.
2) Reset feature counts down from 3 to 1 and then the screen just stays on “Reset in 1”, why can’t it go to 0 and then show the cleared display?
3) Agree with other comments about the charging clip being rubbish.
I’m sure I missed it, but does the 210 have the ability to display each mile split (or any set distance) on the screen while running like my 405 did?
Thanks for a great review!
Yes, you can display the lap splits (Lap Distance) as you go along.
Hey, I have a question about the lap timer (feature from firmware 2.5). Does it work on distance intervals as an actual timer? Like, let’s say I want to run a 6 x 1km interval with 1:30 rest at a pace of 5:00. On my second split, the clock will show 6:30 after the resting period is done. Does “lap timer” work as a page where it shows the clock as 0:00? I could only see how much distance was left in the page. Like “0.98km” was left at the start of the 2nd split.
It seems lap timer also doesn’t work at regular running (not intervals). If I try to click “page”, it only swaps between hour/date and the standard distance/time/pace. Maybe I’m doing something wrong, so please show me some light!
BTW I currently have firmware 2.6 on my FR210
Doh, sorry mate. I just read through all the posts and I found the answer I was looking for at post #528. Thanks 🙂
Thank you for the thorough review. I understand how to set up intervals now, I found this site when I got the unit in October. Currently I need the ability to set alternating intervals based on time, for instance run 3 mins, walk 1 minute followed ny run 5 mins, walk 2 mins then repeat. Does this unit do so and I’m missing it?
Thank you so much!
Hello Ray, i think FR210 is the best running watch ever but I confirm that it has a problem on isolation of display. Infact during winter or very cold days or on the snow (near or under zero degree C) inside the display appear a foggy that dont permit to read the data. I’ve verified it on 3 differents unit (mine and 2 units of my friends… ).
I hope in the future garmin take in account this issue
Yeah, if you’re seeing that it tends to mean there’s some slight condensation inside. There’s a couple ways that can happen – sometimes if water seeps inside (since the waterproofing rating is kinda low). Or, if there’s a manufacturing defect (also possible). If it’s reasonably new, I’d ring Garmin back up and have them swap it out. As long term that will likely lower the life of the unit (simply because water and electronics don’t tango well).
I changed the Heart Rate Zones on my Garmin FR210 and the watch reads the heart beat zones correctly. The problem is when the run is uploaded to Garmin Connect, Garmin connect reads wrong. Is there a fix for that?
You can adjust your zones on Garmin Connect, which should take care of that. It’s under settings in the upper right corner.
Hi Rain Maker,
congratulation for the cool website. I guess it’s really the best on the web for reviewes of sport watches like these. Just a couple of questions:
– what do you think of using an app (ie Runtastic, Endomondo, …) on a smartphone, versus one of these cool GPS wathces?
– why do you always write “Once that period has elapsed, I send the whole beaten box back to the folks in [CITY]. Simple as that. Sorta like hiking in wilderness trails – leave only footprints.”?
Greetings from Italy,
A) It depends. For some things apps are really good, and have flexibility (like real-time connectivity, sharing, sometimes greater customization). And for others, they have limitations (like waterproofing, battery, GPS accuracy), etc…
B) Because I send back the products I test to the companies (loaners). Virtually every other ‘review’ site/blog/news company simply keeps the products. I don’t believe that’s cool. I re-purchase everything and then support people here in these posts (as it may be, comment #577).
Thanks a lot Ray, very kind of you. 🙂
A) super clear. I’ll think about getting a watch then…
B) I got that point, what I was wondering is the usual sentence you write, ” Sorta like hiking in wilderness trails – leave only footprints.”, it looks like a quote, and since you use it everytime I was just curious why… 🙂
Ahh, yes, it’s a very common saying in hiking/wilderness areas. More info here: link to travelchannel.com
Great site, really good knowledge on here. My question – I am using my sister’s FR110 and I have to give it back. I am going to get a FR10 for £80 or a FR210 for £90. All I use on the FR110 is time and pace, that’s all i need. However does the FR210 do this more accurately? I am a bit confused as to ‘current pace’ and ‘instant pace’, I don’t see the difference.
Thank you for your help
The FR210 does instant pace, whereas the FR110 does average pace (either lap average or run average). Which means that the FR110 is much more slow to visually react to a pace change than the FR210.
But the FR10 does instant pace too right? If that’s the case I think the FR10 might be the best bet for me and it’s cheaper.
Correct, the FR10 does instant pace too.
Many thanks for your help and well done again on a brilliant resource, this site really is invaluable to anyone looking into sports watches.
Hi, you very kindly got back to me when I’d asked about the 10 before vs another model, but I’m now wondering if the 210 would be better than the 10 for me (given that a friend can get me a 210 for the same price as a 10). Just looking for a basic, easy to use watch for running. I’ve read through the above, and it seems to rate well. Thoughts? Many thanks
If you plan to use either the watch indoors (on a treadmill), using an automatic interval mode, or with a heart rate strap (requires ANT+), then I’d go with the FR210. Else, I’d go with the FR10.
Hello, thanks for your review. Is it possible to see the cadence in real time? I mean in the watch while you’re running. Or you can only see it through garmin connect or other software?
sorry, no real time cadence for FR210 (on the watch while running), it is only possible to see it later on Garmin Connect or offline software, as far as i know.
I have heard that the forerunner 210 is not water proof and can suffer condensation due to body heat and is at risk of damage due to running in the rain? What are your views on this?
I see in the features chart that the “recording interval” of the 210 is indicated as “Smart”. What does this mean? I’m looking for a watch that has a short GPS recording interval so that it would be accurate on events like cross country (where races have allot of “zig-zag” routes and short/sharp turns).
Smart Recording means it records about every 4-7 seconds. Versus 1s recording is every second. In theory, Smart Recording is smart enough to go as low as 1s if there’s lots of changes. In reality, it just doesn’t work quite that well.
I cannot get my 210 to beep per mile. How can I set this up?
You’ll configure it within Auto Lap, in the settings.
Thank you for the great review… It is going to help me out alot. However, I do have one question concerning the power save mode. I understood that the power save mode automatically activated istself after awhile once you finished your run. I guess I misunderstood because I went to get my Garmin for a run two days in a row and on the second day it was no longer charged. I was quite surprised because I thought that I wouldn’t have to recharge it for about a week. Did I need to activate the power save mode or disactivate the GPS somehow?
By the way, I am VERY technically challenged so I am so sorry for this question if it seems like an obviously simple situation.
It should happen automatically. Any chance it was somehow in a spot where the buttons were pressed holding it on?
I would like to point out a flaw in the 210. I was just attempting to set my heart rate zones. My zones are very specific (based on my VO2 max test). The watch will not allow you to set any zone which is smaller than 5 beats per minute. For example, I wanted Zone 4 to be 173 – 176. The watch would not allow the low end of this zone to be any higher than 171. After several failed attempts to force the Zones into the numbers I needed, I gave up and called Garmin Support. After 20 minutes on the phone with them, they finally said that I was right and that the heart rate zones had to be at least 5 beats per minute wide. VERY disappointing if you want to use the heart rate alert feature on your watch for training in very specific zones.
I have had my forerunner 210 since Mar 2011. I have had no problems until this week. I connected through USB to my iMac. I was able to download all my data to my account through Garminconnect. . No problem. I then noticed that the other garmin site(I think “Garminexpress” ) was saying there was a firmware update and also a zone map. I updated both and then next day went running and found that I couldn’t start the data collection as it said the memory was full. I was confused because I thought it just overwrites when it is full. But it wouldn’t let me start. I checked the manual and connected to my iMac and deleted the history files which where there. I was astonished to find that they went back to 2012. ( I run 3 x week for about 55 mins) . I have been for a run today and after 40 minutes it said that the memory was getting full. I continued and now it says memory is full and won’t start recording. Have you heard of any problems with the update? Should I not have downloaded time zone maps? How can I reverse this . Currently I am away for three weeks so have only my iPad with me and I cannot get to site to restore back data. Any advice would be appreciated. I’m gutted if I can’t record for three weeks! Regards Eileen
Hmm, I’ve never seen problems with the updating process. However, the newly released Garmin Express has generally been a nightmare. I wish I had some better news there.
What you can do though is to delete off old activities from history manually – that would cover it. So you can go into your history, find a given run, and then individually delete them.
Thanks for your prompt reply. I have already done that there are no history records left on watch but it still says memory full and won’t let me record my run. I think the memory is full of whatever was downloaded in updates. I have an email into garmin support so hopefully they can help. The only thing I can think of is to restore to an old back up. Unfortunately at the moment where I am I can’t get hooked upto do that . Today I went through all options on the watch but couldn’t find anything else to delete. Regards Eileen
Hi, I need a watch for cycling that will show my route, the distance and my heart rate etc. I will not use it for running but seems to be the most reasonably price on the market, is this watch the one for me? (mtb and road) without having to buy anything extra?
It’ll show you the route afterwards, but not during the run/ride. For that, you’d want to look at something like one of the multisport watches (the FR310XT/910XT/Fenix2, or even Fenix1), or a cycling computer such as the Edge 500/510/800/810.
I bought the FR210 in May 2012 with the HRM and the foot pod, based largely on your review. It’s been great – until now. I’m getting the HR spikes, dropouts, etc. Based on your thread about the Garmin strap and all the comments about how great the Garmin customer service is, I called them this morning. Warning – I had to hold over 45 minutes before I could speak with someone – but it was worth it. They said they’re sending me the new strap – model Access,HRM3-SS WITH a new transmitter too. All this for NO CHARGE! I wasn’t expecting that since I’ve owned it almost 2 years but I was delightfully surprised. The guy said the new strap was much better. Hopefully this will work great but, just in case, I know I can use my old transmitter with the $17 Polar strap from Amazon. Have you tried the new strap? Is it really better? Thanks for all you do!
The new HRM3 is definitely quite a bit better, especially if it was made after July 2013 and has the new firmware in it.
Hi – great site (i used your review about 2 years ago to buy my FR210…
one thing which is annoying me (probably the only one) is that my watch seems to be ‘inaccurate’ when showing my track at the start of a run. as the run progresses let’s say for 6 or 7 minutes it seems to become really correct.
Kind of stupid that when i load it into garmin connect or endomondo it shows me running on the roofs of the houses in my area for a while…
anyone seen similar behaviour?
It sounds like it may have a ‘bad’ satellite in the cache. It can happen when for whatever reason it ‘remembers’ a satellite that’s no longer accessible. A soft reset will resolve it.
Hey whats up?
Great review man!
Tiny question, any idea if this watch is compatible with the new premium strap? It probably is but im sure youd have a better idea than me.
Yes, with the HRM3. It’s also compatible for just the heart rate portion of the HRM-Run, but won’t get any of the Running Dynamics pieces. Enjoy!
Thanks for the great review. I’m a super-senior who recently purchase the 210 on the advice of my runner daughter and have had no problems with it until NOW.
The watch display is stuck on “Saving Activity” which I have been unable to change back to the original settings. HELP. Dick
FR10 vs FR210. Hi Ray, now that the 210 has dropped to $179 (really closer to 160 with the clever training discount), would you say that the 210 is the better “budget” choice over the FR10. You gain HR monitoring with the 210, but the FR10 is still a lot less (115 or so with the CT discount). I’m buying for my wife and she isn’t showing much interest in the HR monitoring, so I’m not sure if the HR feature is worth the extra $40-50. Thanks, Jeff
It’s tricky, because there are some areas that the FR10 has more/better features than the FR210, yet, others where the 210 is better. It really comes down to if you find the HR feature useful. If not, I’d probably go the FR10 (unless you need intervals or footpod support).
Have the chance to buy the 210 for the same price as the fr10 and wondered which you would choose? Is the 210 now too old technology wise? Thanks Ray for all your great reviews to date.
It’s a good unit, but it’s tough right now as both the FR10 and FR210 are getting a bit old these days. Obviously, it’s a perfectly good watch – but, it is a number of years old and thus lacks the Bluetooth Connectivity found on many newer devices.
Thanks Ray for the advice.
Amazingly thorough review — thanks. Having owned the unit for a couple months, I have one comment and one question. First, as an ultrarunner in the northeast where the trails have lots of tree cover, undulate rapidly, and have lots of twists and turns, the unit seems to significantly underestimate elevation gain — I did a technical 50k today and my 210 showed 4100 feet of climbing, while my friend’s Suunto Ambit showed 5600! It also comes up short on distance by a significant number (nearly 1.5 miles over 50k). (And sometimes the profile reading is totally wrong, showing me that I started a run at 1000 feet above sea level when I know it was 500, giving me 500 ft more descent than gain when I start/finished in the same place!
The question: With only 8 hrs battery life with the GPS running, is there a way to use it simply as a chronograph (without GPS) for activities longer than 8 hours? Thanks!
Nice review as all your reviews are. I have had the 305 since the beginning of time and I bought the 210 because I thought I had lost my 305. I think this is one of the worst Garmin’s ever made and I have 4 of them. I absolutely hate this touch bezel, is it the pits, you can’t hold this thing without changing a setting unless you remember to lock the bezel. Forget about using this thing with gloves on … so if you are a XC skier or cycle anywhere cold, get everything set, then put your gloves on. I had to order the velcro strap since the longest rubber one fits a toddler. Might be fine if you put it on bare skin but anything over 1-2 layers, you can’t get the rubber strap done up. Unless you get a really good deal, I would stay away from this model and get an old 305 or one of the newer versions. Whoever at Garmin that designed this, didn’t test it!
Edit: ooops, I slagged the wrong model, it is the 405 I dislike… I like the 210, but stay away from the 405 unless someone gives it to you…
Loved the review. So much so that I went and got one of these to use on my runs and the coming 5 and 10K runs i’m starting to compete in.
My question is in relation to me doing some obstacle course events which in some cases im expecting to get a little muddy. I know watch is not waterproof but wandering how it holds up to mud etc on these types of assault course type runs.
No problems with mud. Just give it a light rinse afterwards and you’ll be good to go.
Enjoy the race!
Excellent review, thanks so much for all your work.
I have a quick question if you have time: do you feel that Garmin brings any kind of reliability to this space over other brands? I’m currently stuck between getting a Tom Tom Multisport or an FR210 (as an affordable alternative to the FR220); for me, I’m attracted to Garmin’s reliability and their online suite, though I may be overrating both. Alternatively, I like that I can use the Tom Tom for cycling as well and it has a vibration alert (a tiny thing I know, but it would be a big deal for me).
I think as far as an entire all-encompassing platform goes, Garmin’s is the most complete of the GPS watches out there. And I think in general their units are just as reliable as other top companies.
I would say that if you’re looking at the FR210 – check out the FR15 that was just announced yesterday. Might be what you’re looking for.
Thanks for getting back to me! I appreciate the advice and I’m going to look into the FR15. Keep up the good work.
Great review… very usefull.Thanks from Chile. Regards
Hi. Great website. I’ve just bought a Forerunner 210 and the bottom left button seems to be less “sticky-out” than the other 3 buttons. It’s almost as if it was pushed too hard and has got a little bit stuck within its housing (hope this makes sense!) It’s flush with the top of its housing, rather than sticking out above the housing, as the other three buttons do. Is this common to all Forerunner 210 watches, or just a fault with mine? Mine is brand new… Thanks!
Sometimes that happens if salt gets in there – though, typically not an issue with the FR210. Try rinsing it with warm water for a couple minutes (not too long), and see if that helps.
I only just purchased my 210 about 6 weeks ago, and now after reading your review I feel confident in making proper use of it. Thank you for your in depth breakdown it’s really helped me get to grips with my first garmin.
I have a quick question. I only just bought my 210 and I’m still learning how to use it. I do NOT have the foot pod and the first day I used the 210 it asked me if I was indoors. Today (2nd day) it is not asking that…just assumes I’m outside. Is there a setting that I can change so it’s asks me every time if I’m indoors or out. I want to use it indoors to monitor my heart rate while I work but I don’t want the GPS running the whole time. I hope that makes sense. 🙂
Nice review, thank-you.
I have been using the F210 since December 2013. I bought it and used it twice and it stopped working. I took it back to the shop in Hong Kong and they sent it to Taiwan for repair. I came back in 4 weeks. I was not impressed. Since then I use it 3 to 5 times a week. It records well but I have a devil of a time getting either my big iMac or MacBookAir to find it when I connect through the USB. I’ve combed through the Garmin site for information with no luck. I can usually get on of my Macs to find it but sometimes it becomes a bit frustrating. Any ideas on why the device cannot be recognized by the Mac?
Hi, great review!
I never run indoors, but would like to use the food pod to register/control my number of paces at different speeds and inclinations to train shortening and fastening my pace. The manual suggests that the food pod has to be connected first time with GPS OFF, but doesn’t talk on afterwards use. In your review above I read that you can choose indoor/outdoor use. Thus this mean that when I choose ‘outdoor use’, it indeed is possible to use/record the normal GPS-features like distance and velocity and at the same time count my steps (like the HR monitor)? That would be great!
Thanks for your answer!
I have been using my 210 for a long time and absolutely love it. When I called Garmin support about a small issue they instructed me to install a bunch of firmware updates. After doing this, I noticed strange behavior of the watch: when every you plug it in to the wall to charge, or connect to the computer, or check settings / history; the watch starts to search for satellites automatically. This has resulted in the battery dying every 3 – 4 days. I contacted support and they said that this is not a bug, rather they had many calls from people that didn’t know that they have to turn on the satellites prior to activity.
They added that I just need to press the page/menu button and the watch will let me choose whether I am using it i indoors, if then change the menu from no (default) to yes and press page/menu it will stop searching for satellites. Frankly, I am shocked that Garmin will claim that this is acceptable. Does the 410, 610, 220, 620, 10 and 15 share this annoying feature?
Yes, all of them do – though, for the same reasons you noted. I’d agree though in that I actually haven’t heard of any complaints though. Also, the FR210 should go back to sleep in the event you don’t start an activity, so the impact on battery would be minimal.
Yes, support thinks that my battery is the main culprit. What I don’t understand is how a product that starts to look for satellites when connected or disconnect from power sources is considered normal. With the price of the Suunto 2R dropping to under $250 (including strap) maybe I will just switch brands.
Minor tip of the day: The Suunto Ambit2S is down to $219US, not including strap, but your FR210 strap will work with it (If you have one).
Details: link to dcrainmaker.com
Hi there! Great review. I just wanted to make sure I didn’t miss something, but it sounds as though there is now way to calculate calories while cycling? Thanks!
Just the methods outlined here: link to dcrainmaker.com
Hi there! Great review. I just wanted to make sure I didn’t miss something, but it sounds as though there is now way to calculate calories while cycling? Thanks!
My beloved Garmin Forerunner 210 has just “kicked the bucket” with a malfunction that I cannot seem to troubleshoot after 4 long years of running.
My start/stop button seems to be “stuck” and as such, will continue to start and stop the run despite the fact that I have not touched it. This occurs while running and when the watch is sitting across the room. I’m sad and only 1 month out from my 4th marathon. Any tips on how/if I could fix it?
Try dunking the watch in warm soapy water for about 5-10 minutes. Not too long, but long enough that it might clear out any residual salt that can cause the button to stick. You’d be surprised what can build up. Outside of that, you can ring up Garmin support and they have swap programs for usually about $80US to replace watches out of warranty. It varies slightly by model though.
Thanks! I’ll try that! 🙂
I know you’ve posted this a very long time ago, but I really appreciate it. I’ve been using the 210 for a long time (perhaps going back to the release date,) but I was unaware I could use it with my biking, and this was helpful for that. I also appreciate your detailed testing and coverage of the particular features. It seems I have a lot more value in the device than I’ve been using it for.
Many thanks, and take care.
Thanks Billie, glad it helped!
Hi there. I’ve been looking for a GPS watch to use while reffing as well as for training for physical fitness tests. After looking around a bit, I came across this review and decided on this watch. However, I’ve noticed it has been out for about 4 years. Is it approaching it’s end of life and are there other Garmin watches I should look out for that might be better than this one but similar?
Yup, check out the FR15, or the slightly more expensive FR220.
Just bought a FR15 but came across an ad for the 210 that is less than the 15, any reason why I shouldn’t return my 15 and get a 210? Other than instant pace what will I get that I am not already? B/c the 15 is newer is the hardware better? Obviously bluetooth isn’t what I was looking for so I have to plug in anyways. Thanks for your thoughts and reviews!
Honestly, I actually like the FR15 over the FR210 these days. The core reason is the activity tracking, but even then, there’s actually other features the FR15 has that the FR210 doesn’t, minus the intervals. The screen is also a fair bit crisper on the FR15 as well.
I used to have the Timex Run Trainer (which died after a little over a year) and still have the foot pod. Will the Timex foot pod work with the Garmin 210?
Yup, fully compatible.
I used it indoors for the first time and it didn’t recognize the Timex foot pod. I didn’t see anything in the menu to activate a foot pod search. Am I missing something or is it likely that my foot pod is dead? It is about 2 1/2 years old.
I played with the watch menu and found the foot pod search. However, it still didn’t recognize my foot pod after numerous tries. Is there something special that needs to be done for it to recognize a different brand foot pod (Timex)? Is there any way to test if my foot pod just doesn’t work anymore? Thanks.
Is this watch capable of displaying ‘instant pace’ AND ‘overall average pace’, iether on one screen, or split over two screens that you scroll through as you run?
A $150 refurbished Garmin 610 via Amazon.com will do this. Note that Instant Pace from GPS can fluctuate a bit, for best results you’ll want to add an SDM4 footpod.
Hi Ray, I read that the 210 has no ant+ fitness equipment. Now i bought a concept2 indoor rower. And on their site they say you can use the 210 to connect with ant+fe to their PM5 ( the compuetet on the rower). So, can you help me: can i connect a 210 to the PM5? (I can get a 210 for cheap, and i need one because the 920xt has no ant+fe). Regards Huub
I recently lost my Garmin Forerunner 405CX. This was a very good watch and I liked all the features. I am now looking for a Garmin watch that can do running and cycling, set workouts and intervals, be able to tell me if I’m behind pace and track distance, time, pace etc.
What would you recommend?
great site that you have. I ordered the fr110 and received the fr210. now after reading the reviews on both and the fr15 I am confused as to preference. this is my first time venturing into gps watches for running. I am 56 I like the ability to track all my activities. if you were going for your first knowing what you know now which gps watch would you advise.
Honestly…I’d go with the Polar M400. 🙂
This explains a bit more of my thinking: link to dcrainmaker.com
I use my Garmin 210 for intervals, which I will try to run in a certain time. For example, six reps of 800m, each one in 1:30 (with recoveries). But I can’t figure out how to show both the distance I have covered in a particular interval, and the time elapsed, both of which are pretty vital. I get the option of measuring each interval either by distance or time, in which case the other field doesn’t reset with each interval, it just gives a cumulative distance/time for the whole of the session. Does this make sense to and can you advise how to get round it?
Pretty sure you’ll have to wait til you get home and upload your run to see the good work you put in to each individual interval. This is the same on the 405 too.
I found Garmin 210 for $85 (US) refurbished. Would you say it is a good choice at this price?
Not too shabby! Sometimes you see the TomTom Runner down to $99, which is a better watch for the money than the FR210. Fwiw…
Ok, thanks for the quick reply!
Wow, this is the first time I’ve ever responded to a review but after such a clear and elaborate story I had to post a comment! Thanks so much, this helped me a lot in finding a watch that is both compatible with heart-rate monitoring and gps for running and cycling.
Thanks a lot!!
Hi- I run in 5:1 intervals, but find it frustrating that it doesn’t show me my 1 mile lap pace when in interval mode. If interval mode is off, obviously the watch tells me at what overall pace I’ve run each time I hit a mile. I wish It did the same for intervals. Do you know if this can be changed?
Have you tested to see if using blue tooth accessories (Headphone, Jaybirds to be exact) interfered with the HRM transmission? I think I read that using the headphones and the monitor together could alter the readings. Just wanted to see if you had any information on that.
No interference there, you’re good to go.
Sometimes you’ll see issues with WiFi on devices, but usually only if super close.
Rainmaker, your review was one significant factor in my purchase of a 210 about 2 years ago. I recently encountered what appears to be the major shortcoming of the 210 and actually a poor showing by Garmin: inability to affordably replace a broken/torn watch strap. The 210 is a single unit – not a 3-piece – and when the band fails like mine did you can’t simply replace the piece. You may already have written about this in a prior post – if so my apologies for reintroducing, but this is a black mark on Garmin as far as I am concerned. You can send watch back to Garmin and they will replace – I think – for about $100 or so. Everyone has their own price points but that feels like a huge gouge to me for an expensive product. There appears to be a cheap fix, namely a NATO band, but it looks like —-. So, caveat emptor, and think twice about using as a daily watch.
Yeah, I think it’s the main reason you’ve seen them shift all watches (even the new FR25) to detachable bands.
I didn’t tend to hear too many issues with the FR210 bands, but more so with the FR10 (which was mostly fixed in the FR15).
My oldest runs cross country and is looking for something that tells him how fast he ran each mile. It would be helpful for him to be able to see how far he has went and how fast he ran while he is running. Which device would you suggest?
Your post is awesome, I hope my Garmin running again to take advantage of all of these tips!
My Garmin 210 has stopped working properly.
He no longer finds satellite, does not reset activity, does not set the time automatically or manually.
I’ve tried resetting, but failed.
The only thing I can do is to reinstall the software with the Web Updater, it seems that at the end of installation nothing happens.
You know what I do?
Great review. Thanks!
Have had my 210 for about 2 years and, after a few hard re-starts, it works fine.
As a trail/ultrarunner in the northeast with heavy tree cover and lots of twists and turns in the trail and millions of small ups and downs, I am often looking at the vert estimates on Garmin Connect and notice that the GPS estimates are substantially higher than the adjusted map-based estimates (e.g., yesterday’s 20-miler showed 2,300 ft of climbing and descent when adjusted, but about 2,800 ft based on the GPS alone!). Any data on which would tend to be more accurate given the terrain I’m dealing with? (Sorry if you’ve addressed this previously and I missed it).
Hi um can it do the pacer thing where it beeps if ur going to fast or slow? Thank you
Hi, great review! Just two questions about display modes in interval training:
– top field – does it show total elapsed distance, interval distance or remaining interval distance?
– heart rate mode – is it possible to display HR and remaining distance or time at the same time?
Hi there, for the bike mount. Does it fit over the bar tape? The table goes right to the middle of the handle bars, so was wondering if the mount is wide enough? Thanks
Does the Garmin 210 record steps? We earn money for for insurance for tracking our steps on virgin pulse. I see a step function on the website but not sure on the actual watch.
No, unfortunately not. It was released about 3-4 years before Garmin added that function to wearables.
I’m looking for a smaller watch that will beep on run/walk intervals as well as the usual distance/pace features. I have an Apple Watch so I don’t need it for anything except running. Will this watch do this? If not, any other suggestions? Thanks for a great review.