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:
GPS Accuracy Part I
GPS Accuracy Part II
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.
I’ve used it to record flights over the South Pacific:
And I’ve used it to record long car rides across the vastness of India:
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.
The previous heart rate straps can be bought individually for about $65 for the non-2010 premium soft strap version, and about $35 for the old school classic edition.
Foot Pod (for indoor treadmill use)
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).
The rubber bike mount costs about $13.
Tanita BC-1000 Weight Scale
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.
The scale retails for about $279, and you can find my full In Depth Review on the scale itself here.
Other accessories that aren’t supported
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.
If you’d like to explore Garmin Connect a bit mere, here’s an activity of mine using the FR210 that you can use to poke around a bit.
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:
|Function/Feature||Garmin Forerunner 210||TomTom Spark 3/Runner 3||Garmin Vivosmart HR+||Garmin Vivoactive HR||TomTom Spark|
|Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 28th, 2016 @ 8:29 amNew Window|
| Price||$179.00||$149-$299 (Features Vary)||$219||$249||$149-$199 (Features Vary)|
| Product Announcement Date||OCT 4, 2010||Sept 1st, 2016||May 16th, 2016||Feb 19th, 2016||Sept 3rd, 2015|
| Actual Availability/Shipping Date||OCT 2010||Sept 8th, 2016||Expected June 2016||Q2 2016||October 1st, 2015|
| GPS Recording Functionality||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
| Data Transfer||USB||USB/Bluetooth Smart||Bluetooth Smart, USB||USB, BLUETOOTH SMART||USB/Bluetooth Smart|
| Waterproofing||IPX7||50m||50m||50 meters||50m|
| Battery Life (GPS)||10 hours||Up to 11 hours (varies)||8 hours||13 hours GPS on||Up to 11 hours (varies)|
| Recording Interval||Smart||1s||Smart Recording||Smart Recording||1s|
| Satellite Pre-Loading via Computer||No||3 days||Yes||Yes||3 days|
| Quick Satellite Reception||Great||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
| Backlight Greatness||Good||Great||OK||Good||Great|
| Ability to download custom apps to unit/device||No||No||No||Yes||No|
| Acts as daily activity monitor (steps, etc...)||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
| Can control phone music||No||Yes||Yes||No|
| Has music storage and playback||Yes||No||No||Yes||Connectivity||Garmin Forerunner 210||TomTom Spark 3/Runner 3||Garmin Vivosmart HR+||Garmin Vivoactive HR||TomTom Spark|
| Bluetooth Legacy (pre-4.0) to Phone||No||No||No||No||No|
| Bluetooth Smart (4.0+) to Phone Uploading||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
| Phone Notifications to unit (i.e. texts/calls/etc...)||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
| Live Tracking (streaming location to website)||No||No||Yes||No|
| Group tracking||No||No||No|
| Emergency/SOS Message Notification (from watch to contacts)||No||No||No||No||No|
| Built-in cellular chip (no phone required)||No||No||No||No||No||Cycling||Garmin Forerunner 210||TomTom Spark 3/Runner 3||Garmin Vivosmart HR+||Garmin Vivoactive HR||TomTom Spark|
| Designed for cycling||Barely (Speed mode only)||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
| Power Meter Capable||No||No||No||With some Connect IQ apps (but cannot record data)||No|
| Power Meter Configuration/Calibration Options||N/A||N/A||NO||N/A||N/A|
| Power Meter TSS/NP/IF||N/A||N/A||No||N/A||N/A|
| Speed/Cadence Sensor Capable||No||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
| Strava segments live on device||No||No||No||No|
| Crash detection||No||No||No||Running||Garmin Forerunner 210||TomTom Spark 3/Runner 3||Garmin Vivosmart HR+||Garmin Vivoactive HR||TomTom Spark|
| Designed for running||Yes||yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
| Footpod Capable (For treadmills)||Yes||No (Can use internal accelerometer)||No (uses internal accelerometer)||YES (Also has INTERNAL ACCELEROMETER)||No (Can use internal accelerometer)|
| Running Dynamics (vertical oscillation, ground contact time, etc...)||No||No||No||No||No|
| VO2Max Estimation||No||nO||No||No||No|
| Race Predictor||No||nO||No||No||No|
| Recovery Advisor||No||no||nO||No||No|
| Run/Walk Mode||No||no||Yes||Yes||No||Swimming||Garmin Forerunner 210||TomTom Spark 3/Runner 3||Garmin Vivosmart HR+||Garmin Vivoactive HR||TomTom Spark|
| Designed for swimming||No||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
| Openwater swimming mode||N/A||No||No||No||No|
| Lap/Indoor Distance Tracking||N/A||No||N/A||Yes||Yes|
| Record HR underwater||No||NO (NOT ENABLED IN SWIM MODE)||N/A||No||NO (NOT ENABLED IN SWIM MODE)|
| Openwater Metrics (Stroke/etc.)||N/A||No||N/A||No||No|
| Indoor Metrics (Stroke/etc.)||N/A||Yes||N/A||Yes||Yes|
| Indoor Drill Mode||N/A||No||N/A||No||No|
| Indoor auto-pause feature||N/A||No||N/A||No||No|
| Change pool size||N/A||15m-50m||N/A||Yes||Yes|
| Indoor Min/Max Pool Lengths||N/A||Yes||N/A||17M/18Y TO 150Y/M||15m-50m|
| Ability to customize data fields||N/A||Yes||N/A||Yes||Yes|
| Can change yards to meters||N/A||Yes||N/A||Yes||Yes|
| Captures per length data - indoors||N/A||Yes||N/A||Yes||Yes|
| Indoor Alerts||N/A||Goals Only||N/A||Yes||Goals only||Triathlon||Garmin Forerunner 210||TomTom Spark 3/Runner 3||Garmin Vivosmart HR+||Garmin Vivoactive HR||TomTom Spark|
| Designed for triathlon||No||Sorta||No||No||Sorta|
| Multisport mode||No||No||No||No||No||Workouts||Garmin Forerunner 210||TomTom Spark 3/Runner 3||Garmin Vivosmart HR+||Garmin Vivoactive HR||TomTom Spark|
| Create/Follow custom workouts||No||No||No||No||No|
| On-unit interval Feature||Yes||Yes||No||No||Yes|
| Training Calendar Functionality||No||No||No||No||No||Functions||Garmin Forerunner 210||TomTom Spark 3/Runner 3||Garmin Vivosmart HR+||Garmin Vivoactive HR||TomTom Spark|
| Auto Start/Stop||No||No||Yes||Yes||No|
| Virtual Partner Feature||No||Yes||Has Virtual Pacer||No||Yes|
| Virtual Racer Feature||No||Yes||No||No||Yes|
| Records PR's - Personal Records (diff than history)||No||No||No||Yes||No|
| Day to day watch ability||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
| Hunting/Fishing/Ocean Data||No||No||No||No||No|
| Tidal Tables (Tide Information)||No||No||No||No||No|
| Jumpmaster mode (Parachuting)||No||No||No||No||No|
| Weather Display (live data)||No||No||Yes||Yes||No||Navigate||Garmin Forerunner 210||TomTom Spark 3/Runner 3||Garmin Vivosmart HR+||Garmin Vivoactive HR||TomTom Spark|
| Follow GPS Track (Courses/Waypoints)||No||Yes||No||No||No|
| Markers/Waypoint Direction||No||Sorta||No||Yes (to pre-saved spots)||No|
| Routable/Visual Maps (like car GPS)||No||No||No||No||No|
| Back to start||No||Yes||No||Yes||No|
| Impromptu Round Trip Route Creation||No||No||No||No||No|
| Download courses/routes from phone to unit||No||No||No||No||No||Sensors||Garmin Forerunner 210||TomTom Spark 3/Runner 3||Garmin Vivosmart HR+||Garmin Vivoactive HR||TomTom Spark|
| Altimeter Type||GPS||Depends on model||Barometric||Barometric||GPS|
| Compass Type||N/A||Depends on model||N/A||Magnetic||None|
| Optical Heart Rate Sensor internally||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
| Heart Rate Strap Compatible||Yes||Yes||No||Yes - CONTAINS OPTICAL HR SENSOR||Yes|
| ANT+ Heart Rate Strap Capable||Yes||No||No||Yes||No|
| ANT+ Speed/Cadence Capable||No||No||No||Yes||No|
| ANT+ Footpod Capable||Yes||No||No||Yes||No|
| ANT+ Power Meter Capable||No||No||No||No||No|
| ANT+ Weight Scale Capable||Yes||No||No||No||No|
| ANT+ Fitness Equipment (Gym)||No||No||No||No||No|
| ANT+ Lighting Control||No||No||Yes||No|
| ANT+ Bike Radar Integration||No||No||Yes||No|
| ANT+ Trainer Control (FE-C)||No||No||No||No|
| ANT+ Remote Control||No||No||No||YES FOR GARMIN VIRB||No|
| ANT+ eBike Compatibility||No||No||No||No||No|
| ANT+ Muscle Oxygen (i.e. Moxy/BSX)||No||No||No||No|
| ANT+ Gear Shifting (i.e. SRAM ETAP)||No||No||No||No|
| Shimano Di2 Shifting||No||No||No||No|
| Bluetooth Smart HR Strap Capable||No||Yes||No||No||Yes|
| Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence Capable||No||Yes||No||nO||Yes|
| Bluetooth Smart Footpod Capable||No||No, has internal accelerometer||No||No||No, has internal accelerometer|
| Bluetooth Smart Power Meter Capable||No||No||No||No||No|
| Temp Recording (internal sensor)||No||No||-||Sorta (Available only in Skiing/SUP)||No|
| Temp Recording (external sensor)||No||No||No||Yes||No|
| Compatible with Firstbeat HR tools||Yes||No||No||No||No||Software||Garmin Forerunner 210||TomTom Spark 3/Runner 3||Garmin Vivosmart HR+||Garmin Vivoactive HR||TomTom Spark|
| PC Application||GTC||MySports Connect||Garmin Express||Garmin Express - Windows/Mac||MySports Connect|
| Web Application||Garmin Connect||TomTom MySports||Garmin Connect||Garmin Connect||TomTom MySports|
| Phone App||Garmin Fit||iOS/Android||iOS/Android/Windows Phone||iOS/Android/Windows Phone||iOS/Android|
| Ability to Export Settings||No||No||No||No||No||Purchase||Garmin Forerunner 210||TomTom Spark 3/Runner 3||Garmin Vivosmart HR+||Garmin Vivoactive HR||TomTom Spark|
| Amazon Link||Link||Link||Link||Link||Link|
|Clever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP program||Link||Link||Link||Link||Link|
|Clever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP program||N/A||Link||DCRainmaker||Garmin Forerunner 210||TomTom Spark 3/Runner 3||Garmin Vivosmart HR+||Garmin Vivoactive HR||TomTom Spark|
| Review Link||Link||Link||Link||Link||Link|
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 DCR10MHD 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 FR210 (black color)
Garmin FR210 (limited edition blue/green)
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.