Last month just ahead of the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii, Garmin announced their latest triathlon watch – the FR920XT. At the time I wrote a relatively long first look at the watch, but now I’ve had a solid month under my belt using the final watch and firmware. In doing so I’ve been able to beat the crap out of it and see where it shines…and where it might need some more polish.
The FR920XT brings together in one unit a slew of new features found on many recent Garmin devices across the health and fitness landscape. For example, it adds in Live Tracking that started on the Edge series, more swim functionality found in the Garmin Swim and Fenix2, Running Dynamics that started in the FR620, and finally activity and sleep tracking from the Vivo lineup of activity monitors. But, these are really just small tidbits of what is without question the most full featured multisport watch on the market (if not most full featured watch of any type out there today).
To be clear, I’ve been using a FR920XT provided by Garmin to test with (final production unit). Like always, I’ll be shipping that back to them in Kansas in the next little bit and going out and getting my own via regular retail channels. That’s just the way I roll.
Lastly, at the end of the day keep in mind I’m just like any other regular athlete out there. I write these reviews because I’m inherently a curious person with a technology background, 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. So – with that intro, let’s get into things.
The FR920XT comes in two box flavors and two unit colors. You can purchase the unit with the HRM-RUN heart rate strap, or without it. And then both of those are offered in either Blue/Black, and Red/White. I’ll discuss the HRM-RUN later on.
To start, here’s the box of the HRM-RUN bundle:
After cracking it open you’ve got these five basic piles: The USB charging clip, the watch itself, the HRM-RUN strap, some paper stuffs, and the HRM-RUN transmitter model that snaps into the strap:
And again, without the plastic bags:
Starting with the charging cable, it allows you to plug into any USB port on the planet to charge the FR920XT. The other end snaps into the FR920XT. It’s incredibly secure and requires pressing of a side button to remove. Thus, it’s somewhat ironic that given this high level of snap security that it doesn’t permit you to charge the device in the middle of an activity (such as an ultra run or super-long ride). When you add USB power to the FR920XT mid-activity, it’ll instantly end the activity and begin full charging. This is a bit of a disappointment.
Next is the HRM-RUN strap. This includes both the strap and the transmitter module. I’ve had good luck with the HRM-RUN strap and lack of drops/spikes. The strap is no different than the HRM-RUN straps found with the FR620 or the Fenix2. The presence of the little runner icon means it’s the HRM-RUN strap, versus just a regular strap. The regular straps are unable to transmit Vertical Oscillation or Ground Contact Time, as they don’t have the accelerometer inside that the HRM-RUN has.
Next is some paper quick start guides and manuals. You won’t really need them after reading this post:
And finally, we’ve got the watch itself. Again, but the end of this post you’ll be sick of photos of the FR920XT:
Let’s move onto how it compares in physical dimensions to other units.
Size & Weight Comparisons:
When it comes to size, the FR920XT is notably slimmer than past models. It’s roughly the same thickness as the Garmin FR620 running watch.
At the same time, the display colors are also increased over the FR620. While the FR620 included colors according to Garmin marketing, in reality it was pretty washed out. The FR920XT on the other hand is much crisper and brighter:
Speaking of wrists, here’s a look at how it compares on The Girl’s wrist, who is quite petite at 5’2″ tall:
Here’s a comparison to the FR910XT – the previous generation:
And finally, when looking at the Fenix2 (and Fenix2 Special Edition) – here’s how those compare:
Next, to compare it to other watches in the same markets (or just past Garmin watches), here’s a full lineup.
From left to right: FR920XT, FR910XT, Fenix2, Ambit3, Ambit2, Ambit2S, Polar V800, Polar M400, Polar RC3, Garmin FR620.
And here’s the thickness shown. In this case the roller was kept level, so the depth between the surface and the watches shows you height:
Zooming in on just the higher end multisport watches (Left to right: Garmin FR920XT, Garmin FR910XT, Garmin Fenix2, Suunto Ambit3, Polar V800):
Finally, looking at weight of the watch – it’s quite light. The FR920XT comes in at 61.6g, which is even lighter than the older running only FR610:
The Polar V800 comes in at 80.8g:
The Suunto Ambit3 at 86.0g:
And finally, the Fenix2 at 85.6g:
Now with everything all compared, let’s get onto using it.
Initial Setup & Configuration:
To start the software side, you’ll open up Garmin Express and get it added to your account:
From there you can choose to create a Garmin Connect account, or link it to an existing one. You’ll use this Garmin Connect account to upload workouts to the service, which can then be sent to other services including Strava, Training Peaks, and Sport Tracks – all automatically. But I’ll talk more about the Auto Sync piece later on in the Garmin Connect section.
Next, in the event you already have a Vivo product like the Vivosmart or Vivofit, you’ll need to choose which device to use for your daily steps.
Next, you’ll be asked to setup WiFi networks. You can attach to up to 7 WiFi networks, as long as they don’t have some sort of ‘I agree’ type page, like Starbucks or some airport WiFi hotspots. Home and office ones almost never do, so you’re setting up both easily there.
You can also specify a preferred network. Additionally, it’ll show you the MAC address in the event you do MAC filtering on your routers/WiFi hotspots.
Finally, you’ll want to ensure the software checks for updates and grabs them, this is especially true earlier on in the product cycle where things might iterate quickly with bug fixes.
You can see below there are two updates available, so I’ll just go ahead and click ‘Install All’ to get things underway.
Next, you’ll go ahead and unplug your device, which will allow the install to finish:
The whole process only takes a moment to complete. With everything set, it’s time to head on outside.
Now that we’ve got it all configured, we’ll start with running and go through the run-specific items. Note of course that there are many features that are applicable to all sports that I’ve covered elsewhere in the review. For this section I’m just focused on the run-specific items.
To begin, like all sports you’ll go ahead and power change from standby mode to sport mode. In doing so you’ll then choose the sport, in our case an Outdoor Run:
This will enable the GPS. The FR920XT uses satellite caching to speed up satellite acquisition time. In general, it’s going to take about 3-7 seconds for it to find satellites, often less. This satellite cache is valid for 7 days, and is refreshed each time you connect your FR920XT to your phone, computer, or WiFi.
With that ready, you can begin your run by pressing the start/enter button. This will begin the timer and start recording.
At this point the unit will start showing you pace and distance from GPS. To get a feel for how quickly the unit will respond to changes in pace, I’ve put together the following video that shows me running along at a steady pace, then stopping within the width of a crosswalk, and then resuming running again.
It’s pretty quick to respond. You’ll notice that the pace is rounded to the nearest :05 seconds, which is common on most of Garmin’s newer running watches. This is to make the pace a bit smoother. In reality, all GPS watches do smoothing, so while it may seem annoying to some – one way or another the pace is going to get smoothed. Either with or without you knowing about it. For me, I don’t find this too big an issue. When I’m doing intervals timed to sets that are less than 5-seconds in definition, such as 6:22/mile, I simply use the ‘Lap Pace’ option instead. Problem solved!
The FR920XT adds the Running Dynamics found on the FR620 & Fenix2 watches. Running Dynamics include three components: Vertical Oscillation, Ground Contact Time, and Cadence. In this case, the first two – VO & GCT – are only available using the HRM-RUN strap. Whereas while cadence can some from the HRM-RUN strap, it’ll also come from the watch itself.
These metrics are shown on a specific Running Dynamics page. After uploading a run, this data is available to plot on Garmin Connect (you can see a sample run here). You’ll notice the most definition when doing something like an interval run that has clear pace changes in it.
While this data is interesting, in using it over the past year, I haven’t actually found much training value out of it. I suspect that most users stop looking at the numbers after the first week or two.
In addition to Running Dynamics, you’ll get Running VO2Max. This is updated following the completion of each run:
It’ll take a number of runs for this number to even out, so don’t judge too harshly after just the first few runs. The VO2Max number is then used to calculate race predictions. These race predictions are simply done by looking up your VO2Max combined with gender and age, to known ‘best case’ results. This means this is somewhat of a best case scenario, and doesn’t mean you have actually done the training to complete – for example – a marathon at that pace/time.
Still, I find that once my VO2Max number stabilizes, the race predictor numbers are very close to my PR’s. It won’t be perfect for everyone, but it’s certainly interesting.
Next we have two recovery related metrics. The first metric will show up about 10 minutes into your run, and let you know how well recovered you are from your previous run. This will give you a ‘Good’, ‘Fair’, etc… type metric that you could use to potentially change your workout.
The second metric is the actual recovery time following completion of the workout. For this metric it’ll give you hours until your next hard workout. For triathletes of course, these numbers can be a bit tricky because you might do a hard run one day, and then a hard bike the next.
I tend to take these numbers with a solid boulder sized grain of salt. Also, note that while none of the recovery/VO2Max pieces require the HRM-RUN strap, they don’t work as well with optical HR straps from 3rd party vendors. See my section on that later on to get more clarity there.
When it comes to mid-run related functionality, there’s a ton of features found on the FR920XT. In general, everything you’ll have used in past Garmin watches is present here, for example:
Auto Pause: This will automatically pause the watch when you stop running. It’s ideal for city running, but I personally keep it off. If you do enable it, you may want to tweak the configuration a bit to get better results.
Auto Scroll: This will change your data pages automatically every few seconds. I prefer though to just control them myself.
Auto Lap: This will automatically create laps at a preset distance, such as 1-mile. I use this mostly on long runs where I don’t have any other structure in my run. But for shorter runs, I’ll turn this off so I can manually break up the structure of my run. You can always manually lap at any time by pressing the lap button.
Alerts: These can be used to notify you when you go above/below certain thresholds like distance, time, heart rate, cadence, etc…
Run/Walk Mode: This mode will allow you to create a Run/Walk routine that’s often used in beginner marathon attempts to have you run for a certain time/distance and then walk for a certain time/distance – repeating over and over until 26.2 miles of misery is complete.
All of these options are available in other sport modes, except Run/Walk.
For one last FR920XT specific new feature we have the Metronome. The Metronome enables you to have the unit automatically beep or buzz to a specific running cadence. Running at certain higher cadences has long been used as a way to increase turnover and generally improve efficiency. The fastest of elite/pro runners will have extremely high running turnover. A running cadence of 180rpm is generally considered a good baseline (90rpm per leg).
Within the FR920XT you can specify the exact running cadence (with both legs combined, as beats per minute which is equated to rpm) and then the unit can be configured to beep/buzz every other beat, or in increments up to every sixth beat. Note however that this will impact battery life a fair bit in my experience.
For me, I went with every fourth beat, which is basically one leg every two steps. I find it a nice balance.
Now, I also find that it’s a bit tough to hear the beeps in the city at rush hour, so the vibration makes it super easy to just match the buzz to the foot hitting the ground.
Finally, the FR920T gains the ability to show PR’s on the unit. PR’s are ‘Personal Records’ for a variety of items from longest run to fastest one-mile time. Upon the completion of each run it’ll let you know if you’ve triggered any PR’s during that run:
These PR’s will also show up on Garmin Connect as well, so you can validate them there too.
The FR920XT supports a cycling mode that allows you to track bike-specific metrics. In the cycling mode you’ll see speed instead of pace, thus it’ll show up at MPH or KPH. Further, you can access power meter metrics from ANT+ power meters, and speed/cadence/combo sensors from ANT+ devices there as well.
The FR920XT is able to clip into the standard Garmin Edge series quarter-turn bike mounts that are so popular these days. Both Garmin and many 3rd party companies make these mounts, and some bikes even have mounts built into them. However, that does require the FR920XT quick release kit. The quick release kit is a add-on that slides into the backplate of the FR920XT to allow it to mount directly to quarter turn mounts.
It also contains a separate plate that you then attach your watch straps to, so that you can quickly turn it from watch to bike computer. Below, are a slew of pictures of the kit.
The quick release kit
Quick release kit parts
Bands attached to plate, FR920XT separate
Within watch band
On wrist side
On road bike step with rubber band mount (seen above to left/right as well).
On the Barfly TT mount on bike
On wrist front
On wrist profile
Backplate attached to FR920XT
When it comes to power meter metrics the FR920XT has all the same metrics as the Edge 1000 does – so it includes advanced power sensor metrics around everything from left/right balance to pedal smoothness. It also has one metric the Edge 1000 doesn’t have – which is Cycling VO2Max.
For this metric it computes your VO2Max value using cycling specific algorithms, in conjunction with a power meter (which is required). These algorithms will update your cycling VO2Max after each ride:
I noticed it’s a bit low for me, but each time I ride it appears to increase slightly. I asked Garmin about that and they said it’ll take a number of rides to stabilize, as it ‘learns’ you. I’ve seen this on the running side as well, where it’s just now finally getting close to the VO2Max numbers that I get on my FR620 (as well as the ones that I’ve been tested against).
When it comes to sensors, the FR920XT supports two major cycling types of sensors. The first is power meters. Within this it supports ANT+ power meters, from any vendor including Garmin but also Quarq, PowerTap, SRM, Stages and so on. It does not support Bluetooth Smart power meters though.
Next, it also supports ANT+ Speed sensors, ANT+ Cadence sensors, and ANT+ Speed/Cadence combo sensors. Garmin themselves had units in each of those categories – but there are many other companies making ANT+ speed/cadence sensors, including some like Trek & Giant that insert directly into the bike frame itself.
Note that like power meters, the FR920XT does not support Bluetooth Smart speed/cadence sensors, only ANT+. Many of the speed/cadence sensors though coming onto the market are dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart, so it’ll support those just fine.
Beyond these bike-specific items noted in this section – the rest of the features I’ve covered in other sections. So routing for example is applicable whether in bike or run mode, just as Live Tracking or structured workouts are as well.
The FR920XT contains two different swim-specific modes: Openwater and pool. For this first section, I’ll cover openwater. The next will be for pool swimming.
Openwater swimming is simply the swimming in any body of water that doesn’t have lane lines. Be it a river, ocean, lake, or pond (or, I suppose this crazy big pool in Chile). In these settings the watch uses a special openwater mode that allows it to determine your pace, distance and location.
It’s important to understand though that this is a tricky affair. Each time the watch goes underwater during your swim stroke it loses GPS signal. For the 1 second or so that it’s above the water it regains it, but usually with low accuracy. It might be off by 5 meters or 100 meters. This process repeats every stroke. The openwater swim mode software however takes all these potentially inaccurate data points and starts to create a picture of where you’re going. That picture tends to be a bit smoothed in order to normalize the craziness of GPS data captured during swimming.
As such, I find that for most openwater swim sessions, you won’t often have exact accuracy. Within 10% or so is the name of the game. If you want exact accuracy then the swim cap method is the way to go. But for most people putting it on the wrist is just fine. I’ve included my openwater swim GPS accuracy numbers in the GPS accuracy section a bit lower.
While in openwater swim mode the unit will show your distance in yards/meters and then miles/kilometers. It’ll also show you stroke information as well as pace.
Now, the FR920XT does actually allow you to complete Live Tracking in openwater swim mode. In my earlier testing there was a bug that produced incorrect data tracks (it looked like I was swimming drunk). My understanding from Garmin is that bug has been addressed in yesterday’s firmware update. Still, the concept is pretty cool. I just set my phone inside my swim buoy and then it’ll actually keep the connection alive and transmit my location via cellular services:
I won’t re-write my entire post on it, but you can read about it here. Alternatively, you can watch a video I put together on it below:
Overall, like past openwater swim devices the accuracy is generally acceptable for most purposes – albeit not perfect. For those looking for perfection the best bet is to sacrifice stroke information/metrics and place the unit in your swimcap.
One final note is that the pins on the FR920XT are greatly improved over previous watches. It uses a similar pin system to that of the Fenix2 and FR620/FR220, which uses dual sets of screws that tighten into each other on both band portions. This means that unlike some older multisport units, it’s highly unlikely the band pins will break on the unit. Note however that I haven’t yet had a chance to try out the quick release kit. That is still pending release from Garmin.
The next swimming related mode is for pools. It doesn’t matter if the pool is inside or outside, it’s the same mode. In the pool mode the unit doesn’t use GPS, but rather uses an internal accelerometer to detect each time you reach the end of the length of the pool. It uses the same accelerometers to detect strokes and stroke types.
To begin, you’ll select the ‘Pool Swim’ mode from the available activity profiles:
Because the unit simply tracks each time you complete a length, it needs to know how big your pool is. To set that you’ll press: Settings > Activity Settings > Pool Size, and then specify a pool size. You can choose from a number of common pool sizes, or just select your own.
By default it’ll save your last pool size, so it’s not something you need to change unless you go to a different sized pool.
At this point you can begin swimming after hitting start. It’ll automatically count your laps, lengths and pace for you.
The FR920XT also introduces a new swim rest timer as well. This allows you to better time intervals by showing you your resting time and interval time on one handy screen:
You’ll use the ‘Lap’ button to toggle between swimming and resting. You’d usually do this at the end of the lane.
While swimming it’s easiest to just twist your wrist slightly when you push off the wall to see your current pace. You can specify all the usual data fields such as pace, time and distance. You can also create alerts for set distances, such as 500y/500m, or time alerts.
Note that while there is a metronome mode for running, it’s not available in the swimming mode. I asked Garmin about it, and they said that in their testing it resulted in a poor user experience. Likely simply because of the downside of dealing with it being on your wrist versus some of the swim metronomes being in your swim cap.
As for the heart rate strap, it won’t transmit more than an inch or two underwater, so you won’t get heart rate while swimming. The FR920XT does not permit pairing to any HR strap within the pool mode. It does however permit connectivity to a heart rate strap in openwater swim mode. In this case, you’d have to use a HR device that’s within an inch or two of your wrist – such as the Mio Link. I tested this with mixed success, you can read more about that here.
The FR920XT contains the swim drill mode, which allows you to complete drills and then specify a total yardage/distance at the end of the drill section. This is useful when you do something like a kickboard drill, which wouldn’t accurately be captured by the watch due to lack of stroking.
All of this data is then available afterwards on Garmin Connect. It’ll show your sets as well as your individual swim lengths:
In the event you have miscounted lengths, Garmin Connect doesn’t offer a way to fix it. However, 3rd party sites like Sport Tracks do allow you to fix lengths on your swim. As does this site here, which will fix the file and then allow you to re-upload it to Garmin Connect.
In my experience I’ve found no issues with swimming accuracy and the FR920XT. Though, that’s also generally the case for almost every swimming watch I test. It was par for the course with other units I wore at the same time. This is likely because I understand fairly well how these devices work and know how to get the best results from them.
So if you haven’t swam with a watch that measures distance it might take a bit of tweaking to your normal routine to get accurate results. Here’s a few things to consider that should help you dramatically improve swim accuracy:
– The unit is measuring movement, and thus extra and unexpected movement will cause inaccurate results – If you randomly stop in the middle of the lane, the unit will assume you’ve reached the wall and complete the length – If you don’t pause the unit and run to the bathroom, the unit will likely assume you’re still swimming – If you don’t pause the unit at the wall and then have an animated conversation with your lane mate, the unit will not understand the YMCA song movements and assume you’re doing something like swimming – Swimming in crowded pools can be a challenge. But I assure you it’s not worse than mine, which I’ve counted up to 19 people in my lane at once. The key here is that if you accelerate to pass people, try and make it slightly smooth – versus outright stopping after a pass. Obviously, I recognize that initial acceleration to pass is required, but try and smooth the deceleration after the takeover. – Stroke recognition can be tricky. I only swim freestyle, so I can’t really comment on other strokes. – For the most accurate results, give a firm push off at the start of each length. It doesn’t matter whether you do a flip (tumble) turn, or an open (no flip) turn. Just do it with conviction.
All of this is likely common sense, and also completely expected by those using such devices for the past 3-4 years, but nonetheless I find it worth noting to those who might be new to swim watches. The most important thing to remember is that extra and unexpected motion is your enemy. The second most important thing is do push off the wall like you mean it. No wimpy pushes. Remember those two and you can usually get perfect results.
Indoor Training – Bike Trainers/Running Treadmills/Gyms:
The FR920XT allows you to track workouts indoors. By default it includes both an indoor cycling and indoor running mode. In the case of the indoor cycling it will allow you to track speed and distance on a trainer in conjunction with an ANT+ Speed or Speed/Cadence sensor (or a trainer that transmits those metrics).
But for those without electronic trainers, then you’ll just need the $35-$50 ANT+ sensors (see sensor section here).
For running indoors on a treadmill, the FR920XT will actually utilize wrist based detection (called WDR) to determine your pace and distance. This is calibrated automatically during your outdoor runs with GPS. Historically when I’ve tested the accuracy of this it varies wildly by device and sometimes just week to week in terms of recent runs and calibration efforts.
Take this run I did last night on a treadmill. In this case my workout was a 10 minute warm-up, then a 5 minute build in pace before 90 seconds of recovery and then starting a simple 4x800m interval set. The pace was set and controlled by the treadmill.
Now obviously I can’t say with 100% certainty that the treadmill was precisely accurate. But I can however state that the paces shown by the FR920XT were not accurate. I’ve run enough to know the difference between a 7:30/mile pace and a 6:00/mile pace. In my case, the FR920XT was showing my paces as significantly too slow. Though, the paces were quite smooth, whereas sometimes I see significant variations in these modes – so that’s a nice improvement.
You’ll also note that because it’s wrist based, that it’s fully impacted by non-running wrist movements. For example at the ~15 minute marker I used the same wrist/hand as my watch to change the treadmill pace. This resulted in that dropout you see. Whereas for the rest of the run I used my other hand.
Here’s a simple chart showing the paces for each section by what the treadmill reported, and what the Garmin reported:
Garmin FR920XT Treadmill Data
Garmin Pace MPH
00:00 - 02:00
02:00 - 10:00
10:00 - 15:00
15:00 - 17:00
Interval #1 Work
~16:30 - ~19:40
Interval #1 Rest
~19:40 - ~21:20
Interval #2 Work
~21:20 - ~24:30
Interval #2 Rest
~24:30 - ~26:00
Interval #3 Work
~26:00 - ~29:10
Interval #3 Rest
~29:10 - ~30:40
Interval #4 Work
~30:40 - ~33:50
Interval #4 Rest
~33:50 - ~37:00
5 KPH to 0 KPH
3.1 MPH to 0 MPH
In some cases the pace was off significantly, and in others it was just off by less. I wouldn’t worry too much about the walking sections, since that’s more heavily impacted by how long the ramp is. I tried to ensure that the times for the work effort sections were only started once up to speed.
Now this level of accuracy shouldn’t really come as any surprise to most readers. It’s largely the same on many devices (Garmin or otherwise). Some devices are slightly more accurate, and some are slightly worse. For some people it works better, and others not so much.
You can improve the accuracy of pace indoors by picking up a footpod. Pairing to an ANT+ footpod traditionally produces near perfect results with Garmin devices in my experience – and is the best way to get accurate pace/distance data indoors recorded on your Garmin.
Finally, when it comes to regular gym cardio workouts (non-bike/run), the FR920XT can track the calories burned and heart rate metrics. The best way to do this is to simply create a new activity profile within the watch that uses the ‘Strength’ default activity profile.
This will then use heart rate to determine calorie burn. It won’t track specific movements like pull ups or weight lifting, but it will track the calorie burn during those activities.
Above you can see a core workout of sorts that I did using this profile. It’s nice as no distance is reported by the watch (at least, it wasn’t during this workout).
Multisport and Custom Modes:
Perhaps core to the FR920XT is the fact that it’s a multisport watch. Specifically this means that you can change sport types as part of a single cohesive activity. As a result if you’re doing a triathlon you can go from swim to bike to run, without having to end the activity and start a new one. This is different than a simple watch that can do both run and bike, but not as a single activity (for example, the Garmin FR620).
The FR920XT supports two ways of doing multisport events. The first is via fixed multisport modes where the order and sports involved are known ahead of time. For example, in a triathlon it’s swim-bike-run. Within that you can enable transition times as well (aka T1/T2).
The second method is a free-form multisport mode where you simply change from sport to sport on demand, using the mode button. This is best for training brick sessions where you may repeat sports numerous times, or in unpredictable order.
For most though, you’ll just use the generic triathlon mode:
In this mode it’ll iterate through Swim/T1/Bike/T2/Run, recording each segment as you go along. Afterwards, on Garmin Connect there is a new multisport view, which will show your entire activity, as well as the individual segments that make it up:
You can also create your own multisport mode with set sport profiles. Within this you can choose any other individual sport profiles on the watch (standard or custom) to string them together as a multisport profile. The most obvious example would be a Duathlon:
But, you could just as easily make up your own sports such as Windsurfing, Weight Room and Wallyball into a multisport profile of your own.
Garmin introduced the Live Tracking service nearly two years ago as part of the Edge 510 and Edge 810 units. This service was extended to the FR220 and FR620, as well as the Fenix2 watches. The platform enables you to connect to your cell phone and transmit your location to a website that allows friends and family to follow you. The primary reason to use this method over a generic phone app is that the GPS component is offloaded to the FR920XT, saving significant battery on your phone. The second reason to use it is that the vast majority of phone apps won’t transmit sensor data such as heart rate/cadence/power, whereas the Garmin Live Tracking service does. The service is free, so there’s no added cost.
Of course, you will need to bring your phone with you. So this typically isn’t an issue on the bike, but some folks don’t enjoy having a phone on the run. And, for those curious – it does actually work while swimming, provided your phone is above water.
To begin a Live Tracking session you’ll need to have first paired your phone to the FR920XT. Next, on the FR920XT you’ll go into the LiveTrack option on the app. From there you can give the activity a title, as well as select the recipients. You can choose to send out the link onto Twitter or Facebook (as well as via e-mail).
The ‘Extend Sharing’ option is rather useful, as it ensures the session stays visible for 24 hours after you’ve ended the activity. Otherwise the recipient may not know you’ve finished and instead just get some nebulous information that might imply you got hit by a car or something.
From a friend standpoint, here’s what they’ll see (on the desktop, there is also a mobile phone view). They’ll see your current position as a blue dot, and then when finished as a red ‘Stop’ icon. Along the bottom they’ll see your ANT+ metrics, as well as pace/speed and elevation. These metrics include heart rate, cadence (run/bike), and power meters (bike).
Up in the corner they can toggle between average pace and average speed, as well as showing time, distance and elevation gain.
Meanwhile, at the bottom they can change the map from Bing to Goggle (or Baidu), as well as the language and whether the distances and paces are shown in Statute/Statute UK, or Metric. Up top in the left side they can swap between map and satellite view.
Finally, they can click on a mile marker to look at splits. For running these are shown every 1MI (or 1KM if in metric mode), and for cycling these are shown every 5MI/5KM.
Note that these splits do NOT align to any button pressing you do. That doesn’t show up here. It’s just autolap for the online folks. Don’t worry though, it doesn’t impact the splits/laps/intervals you set on your watch for yourself.
Overall, I’m finding quite good success with the Live Tracking and have used it a number of times without any issues. You will note in the images that there is some slight GPS track smoothing that is applied that isn’t on the native files you’ll upload yourself after the activity. Don’t worry too much about that, it’s simply to minimize how much data is used on your data plan.
For those curious about swimming and Live Tracking with the FR920XT – I wrote an entire post about it here. Note that while I did see a bug with Live Tracking and swimming tracks, my understanding is that the bug has since been fixed in the 2.50 firmware update. I haven’t been able to retest that since the release was only yesterday.
Navigation and Routing:
The FR920XT includes some limited navigation and routing capabilities. These capabilities include the ability to follow a ‘Course’ that is effectively a breadcrumb style trail. This course does not include features like roads, lakes or rivers, but rather just a line to follow. In this case, a purple line.
In order to utilize this you’ll need to create the course ahead of time on Garmin Connect. It’s here you can simply press the mouse on various points in the map to create a course:
Once that’s done, you’ll send it over to the watch to execute. Upon pulling it up on the watch you’ll get the estimated time to completion, as well as distance to completion.
The unit will show you a map of your planned route, and as you run it will also show you where you are:
Unlike previous units, the map redraw is incredibly quick. Further, it’ll also display your on-unit saved waypoints on any and all routes you do. Saving these waypoints is quick and easy, and you can give them customized names:
(Post-Review Update: This next section regarding zooming has now been addressed via firmware update – the unit now has a zoom option.)
Now, this sounds great, but there’s a number of limitations. First is that you can’t change the zoom level. While running (at speed) the unit will automatically zoom in to .3-Mile zoom. Well, at least that’s the scale noted on the screen. In reality, it’s actually higher up than that. In any event, this isn’t quite zoomed in enough to figure out complex intersections or trails.
Second, making matters worse is that when you stop running it zooms out to show the entire route. Since there is no roads/rivers/etc on the map, this gives you even less context in the zoomed out view. In my opinion the behavior should be the opposite – zoom in when stopped – since you’re likely trying to figure out where to go.
Again, there is no method to manually zoom in (Update: There is now). It would seem to me this could easily be accomplished via a long-hold on the up/down buttons, just like the Fenix series supports long holds for various secondary functions. In fact, so does the FR920XT. When using the VIRB for example, you long-hold the mode button to access a special menu.
But the limitations don’t end there. For example, you can’t drop older .TCX or .GPX course files onto the FR920XT and have it automatically use them (such as those from RideWithGPS, or from older Garmin units). That’s because Garmin wasn’t able to include a parser for those on the unit itself. This means for those you’ll have to first convert them in Garmin Training Center and then send them to the FR920XT from that software. It’s not the end of the world, but it doesn’t make it convenient. Note however that the FR920XT does not support waypoints sent from software, only those created on the device itself.
Ultimately, the way it stands right now I wouldn’t recommend the FR920XT if you’re looking to use it for complex course following/routing, or if that’s going to be the primary purpose of the watch. For that there are much more suitable options on the market such as the Fenix2 or Ambit series watches. In discussing it a bit more with Garmin this morning, they do note that options are still on the table for how to improve the experience.
Workout Creation, Intervals, Training Calendar:
The FR920XT supports a number of ways that you can pre-create structured workouts, as well as create impromptu intervals. Finally, it supports the ability to assign specific workouts to certain days and have those available on the watch.
To begin, we’ll create a structured workout for an upcoming interval run. The easiest way to do that is on Garmin Connect, within the workout creator.
Once in that you’ll go ahead and drag and drop to create all your steps, such as the below workout:
With that set, you have two options. The first is to pull it from your phone (though that’s coming in an upcoming Garmin Connect Mobile app update), and the second is to push it via USB. To do that, select ‘Send to Device’ and then select your FR920XT:
It’ll take a second and then it’ll be all set.
Alternatively you can add it to your Training Calendar for a specific day. When you do this, it’ll then show up on the watch within the Training Calendar option. You’ll need to send a range of workouts to the device however, so don’t forget to do that.
Note that the training calendar can also be populated by a slew of training schedules that Garmin has put together for a ton of events:
With that all set, on the device itself you’ll go into Training and then into Workouts. Alternatively, if you use the Training Calendar you can just select the workout by choosing the appropriate day:
With the workout selected you can review the steps:
Once you’ve started the workout it’ll begin each step by giving you a full-screen description of the next step and the targets associated with it.
During the execution of each step it’ll show you a special screen that tells you the specific target as well a your pace/HR/cadence/etc against that target. This is a new data screen that shows up:
In the event you stray from the target goal (high or low), it’ll give you a notification as such on the screen as well as audio/visual alerts.
Structured workouts such as these are ideal when you have a complex workout that’s more than just a basic interval. However, it can be overkill for simply executing a basic repeating interval.
An interval workout within the confines of most devices is a workout that has four core components: A warm-up, a work effort, a recovery effort (and some number of repeats), and a cool-down. Those components then must have the ability to set a target (such as pace). The FR920XT allows you to create simple intervals that have all of those components along with targets for each segment, including durations.
You can create an interval workout in the same Training area:
Just like the structured workouts it’ll walk you through each step until completion.
Now, if both of these workouts sound complex, you can also simply define targets/alerts. These targets could be just a simple pace target or heart rate zone. If you stray from these it’ll alert you to get back on plan:
Lastly, there is Virtual Partner. This isn’t actually a training component per se, but rather just a screen you can enable on any run/ride. It allows you to specify a desired pace and it’ll show you how far ahead or behind you are of that desired pace.
This is best used in races where you are trying to pace very smoothly over the course of the run. If you slow down it’ll tell you how far (in distance, such as feet/miles), as well as how far behind in time.
Activity & Sleep Tracker Functionality:
In line with virtually all new watches and bands coming onto the market these days, the FR920XT carries with it activity tracker functionality. This means it’ll count your steps and sleep over the course of the day. This information is then periodically synchronized with your phone for upload to Garmin Connect as well as integration with some 3rd party apps, such as MyFitnessPal.
Steps are shown in a few places, the first is the main ‘home’ screen that is displayed on your watch 24×7 in standby mode. You’ll see the current steps in the lower left corner:
Next, if you press the down button once, you’ll get a activity monitoring specific screen that shows you total steps for the day, progress towards your goal steps, calories burned, and miles (or kilometers) walked:
By default the goal is dynamic, automatically shifting slowly to edge you on to walk a bit more. It’s designed so that a single ultra-high step day doesn’t dramatically sway the goal the next day. Alternatively, you can just set a specific step goal if you’d like.
Below that (and on the home screen) you’ll see your ‘Move Alert’, which is a red bar that lets you know when you need to move. The different chunks indicate how long you’ve been inactive. After approximately one hour it’ll give you a vibration/beep (if enabled) telling you that you’ve been lazy too long.
Next you’ve got the ability to track sleep with the FR920XT. Like other Garmin sleep tracking capable devices, it requires that you manually enable the sleep mode when you’re ready, as well as turn it off when you awake. You’ll do this by just pressing down once to the activity tracker page, and then pressing enter. Once within that mode, it’ll show you a little icon that lets you know you’re in sleep mode. Upon waking up you’ll want to remember to exit sleep mode by doing the same steps again. Note that you cannot pair a HR strap during sleep mode, only during workout activities. Similarly, you can’t pair a HR strap in regular step activity tracking mode (day watch mode).
All of this information (steps and sleep) is then fed up to Garmin Connect via your mobile app (or desktop upload). From both the mobile app as well as the desktop you can view both sleep and activity details. The main ‘Steps’ page shows you daily summaries of how active you were by the hour:
You’ll also get detailed information on total calories burned, steps, your current average daily steps, as well as your goal for that specific day.
You can select the ‘Breakdown’ tab to get a bit of a charted version of your activity that day:
If you tracked sleep, you’ll see that displayed on the sleep tab:
As you can see, it’s just a case of showing how active in movement you were, and doesn’t show anything like the type/phase of sleep. So in general, I don’t find this very valuable compared to some other devices like the Basis watches. Thus, I tend not to wear it sleeping (I also find it a bit bulky sleeping).
Both daily activity and sleep tracking produce longer term graphs as well, for example here’s my step activity over the past 30 days:
With the Garmin devices (like the Fitbit), you will need to choose a single ‘Activity Monitor’ device to use. Meaning that if you own both a FR920XT and a Vivofit/Vivosmart, only a single device can contribute step data at once. You can select that within Garmin Connect in your dashboard however.
Note that in the event you’re travelling and changing time zones, you’ll get a little icon displayed on the day in question, which indicates a time zone change occurred. Your steps will increase even across time zones (you won’t lose steps if going ‘back in time’), however the graph will overwrite any hours that were ‘re-done’. So if you flew back 5 hours in time zone shifts, and then you re-lived 1PM to 5PM, it’ll overwrite the graphical displays of those hours, but it won’t overwrite the total steps for the day.
Finally, Garmin has established a partnership with MyFitnessPal, which enables you to sync calories and step data between the services. This means you can track food within MyFitnessPal, and then it’ll show the total calories consumed within Garmin Connect. Inversely, on MyFitnessPal, it’ll show calories burned via Garmin devices, including the Garmin FR920XT. This can be setup from the same ‘Steps’ page by just clicking the ‘Calories In/Out’ tab seen in some of the screenshots above.
Smart Watch Functionality:
The FR920XT includes the ability to display smart watch notifications on your device from your mobile phone. At present that includes Android and iOS. You can find a full list of compatible phones here from Garmin’s site.
These alerts are configured on your mobile device ahead of time, and involve using the systems native notification center ties. For example, on iOS devices the notifications would be configured using the Notification Center component of your phone. This is where you can enable apps such as Twitter, E-Mail, and even Words with Friends to display notifications on your Garmin device.
Next, these notifications are displayed in real-time on your FR920XT – both in standby mode and in sport mode. Actually, often times I’ll surprisingly find the watch buzzes just ahead of the phone itself for incoming text messages. It’ll show you the application/function responsible for the notification as the top line, and then show you the first line of the notification.
However, you can then select the notification to get the full details displayed:
You cannot however respond to the notification, such as composing a text message reply or answering a call. Look at it as simply being read-only. You an also access the missed notifications menu while in standby by just pressing the down button twice:
Here you can dive into specific notifications just like above.
Note that you can select whether you want notifications displayed on your device in either workout mode, standby mode, or both:
You can also configure whether or not it beeps or vibrates (or both). I personally just set it to vibrate only.
Now when the notification piece works, it works quite well and is rather handy. But I’ve found that like the Vivosmart, that after a few days the watch and phone seem to forget about each other. This invariably requires me to either reboot the FR920XT, the Garmin Connect Mobile app, or flip the phone to airplane mode and back.
I don’t have a clear enough understanding of whether or not this is a Garmin issue (either their app or their device), or an Apple issue (hardware or software). Though, it seems to have occurred on both my iPhone 5s and iPhone 6. On the flip side, the random loss of Bluetooth Smart pairings is something I’ve seen with other activity trackers from other companies as well.
Use as a day watch:
When it comes to using the watch as a day to day timepiece, the FR920XT works fairly well. I’ve been wearing it daily for the past month – both in the office in my day job, as well as during workouts and airports alike. Now to begin there’s no getting around the size of the watch. Nor the colors Garmin has selected. It is what it is.
But, if you don’t mind wearing it around the clock then it works great as a watch – including all the smart watch and activity tracker functions noted in those sections. Beyond that it also has base time functions, functions which will expand as Connect IQ (next section) allows 3rd parties to build new watch faces.
In the meantime though, the watch will show you the time day of (using either 12/24h formats), the day of the week, and the date. Further it’ll show you connectivity to your phone via the Bluetooth icon, and battery status. Finally by default it’ll also show you many steps you’ve taken and the inactivity bar below all that.
You can set a single daily alarm. Unlike some watches, the alarm cannot be configured though for certain days of the week, nor is there multiple alarms.
The alarm will follow the same settings that you have configured for alerts, which means you can select either vibrate only or audible alerts + vibrate.
Garmin states that the watch should get about 30 days of battery life in this standby watch mode with notifications enabled. My experience says you’re going to get about 3-5 days at best in this mode. I don’t see myself as having a significant amount of Bluetooth notifications either. Perhaps once per hour on average it’ll buzz about something. Despite the battery life claims, it doesn’t bother me a huge amount – but it is something to be aware of.
Finally, note that the unit does have a bright and crisp backlight. This backlight can be set to automatically turn off after a few seconds of being left alone, or, can be set to “Stay on”.
In general, I set mine to stay on when doing activities at night.
Garmin Connect IQ (Apps):
Roughly a week prior to the Garmin FR920XT announcement, Garmin announced Connect IQ. This platforms allows 3rd party developers to develop apps for supported Garmin devices. The Garmin FR920XT will be the first device to take advantage of the platform however, upon launch early next year. While my other post describes in more detail the concept, the key item to know is that the unit will support all four modes of apps within Connect IQ. These modes are:
Apps: Full blown multi-level/interactive apps Custom Data Fields: The ability to create custom data fields that you can add to any data page Widgets: The ability to create basic screens that pull data from other sources Watch Faces: The ability to create customized watch faces, from a picture of your bike to something more data oriented.
The real power for the FR920XT will be the ability to support sensor types that aren’t traditionally supported by Garmin. For example, I’d expect that someone like BSX to look at adding in support for their sensor via a simple app. The same could be true of anything from hydration sensors to aerohelmet position sensors. It might also be able to bridge the gap on features that didn’t make the cut for the FR920XT such as weight scale support and the fitness equipment (gym machines) profile.
I won’t re-hash all the Connect IQ functionality/components here, for that simply read my Connect IQ post for all the details. Note that the Connect IQ app store doesn’t launch until January, so you won’t see that functionality quite yet on the FR920XT. However, developers can already download the SDK and utilize the emulator to get started. Once it releases on the FR920XT I’ll come back and update this section with how it works and some examples of cool 3rd party apps.
Garmin Connect (online/web/mobile):
The FR920XT allows you to sync directly to your mobile phone using Bluetooth Smart. This allows you to upload workouts from wherever you are, without the need for a PC. That combined with Garmin’s Auto Sync options, means that your workout will automatically be uploaded to sites like Strava and Training Peaks mere seconds after you save the workout on the device.
This can be accomplished not only via Bluetooth Smart to your phone, but also via WiFi networks that are pre-saved onto the device. And of course, via USB to your computer.
In addition to uploading completed workouts, the device will use the phone to transfer step data (activity monitoring) and sleep data to Garmin Connect. Once on Garmin Connect, you can view the workout data. You can also view activity and sleep data, though I cover those within those sections.
The workout data can be sync’d as noted automatically to a variety of sites, including Training Peaks, Strava, Sport Tracks, MapMyFitness, and Endomondo (all via Auto Sync). But, for those sites that don’t support that yet, you can also just upload the native .FIT files that are sitting on the device itself. These are accessible by just plugging the device in via USB and opening up the ‘Activities’ folder. The FR920XT has ~10.3MB of free usable memory, which means that using the average 100KB an hour (at most), you can store about 103 hours of activity data.
Virtually every site on the planet that does sport data will support .FIT files. In the highly unlikely case it doesn’t support .FIT files, you can use one of the tools listed here to convert them.
Ultimately, Garmin Connect is a great site for those just getting in online training logs. In fact, it’s probably the best of the manufacturer provided sites out there. But no doubt more advanced athletes will use other, typically paid, options for their training logs.
Battery Life & UltraTrac:
The FR920XT extends the battery life over the FR910XT in two ways. First, is simply just straight up by having longer battery life in the same scenarios as the FR910XT. For this you get a slight increase to 24 hours (from 20 hours). But it also can dramatically extend the GPS battery life through a mode called ‘UltraTrac’, which gets some 40 hours of GPS-on battery life.
GPS-on at 1-second rate: 24 hours GPS-on at variable UltraTrac rate: Up to 40 hours. GLONASS enabled: About a 20% reduction in battery life
The 920XT UltraTrac mode is both similar and different to how it works on other Garmin devices. It’s similar in that it reduces the GPS polling interval. However it’s different in that unlike other devices it’s not a set one point per 60-seconds. Rather, it’s a slightly variable rate that effectively works out to be 15-20 seconds of GPS on time, and about 45 seconds of GPS off time.
This means that it wouldn’t be ideal for very fast moving sports where you are constantly changing directions. It’s much better for either slowly moving activities (like hiking), or activities where the route doesn’t shift much (such as cycling on really long/straight roads).
Ultimately, if you’re looking for the highest levels of GPS accuracy, UltraTrac isn’t it. But if you’re trying to eek out more than 24 hours of GPS-on performance, it’s your best bet.
Note that I prefer to use GLONASS to get what appears to be more accurate tracks. But it will take a hit of about 20% on GPS-on battery life. Personally, that’s fine since I’m not doing any activities anywhere near 24-40 hours.
Note that because of the fact that I’ve been using the device almost 24×7, I haven’t been able to do any pure GPS-on till it dies testing. That’ll come actually after I publish and then I’ll go back and add it in here. I had hoped to have an additional device to test that with by now – but that hasn’t happened.
Next, beyond GPS-on battery life you also have standby battery life. Officially these are spec’d as follows:
Watch-only mode with activity tracking & activity alerts enabled: 30 days Watch-only mode with activity tracking enabled: 33 days Watch-only mod with neither of the above enabled: 4 months
Now, in my experience – I don’t get anywhere near these numbers. In general, I’m seeing about 3-5 days of normal 24×7 activity tracking with it paired to my phone for Bluetooth Smart alerts (about 1 alert per hour). But, I just don’t see how I’d be able to get anywhere near 30 days when I can’t make it more than a few days. Perhaps others will have other experiences.
The FR920XT contains new GLONASS satellite capabilities, which are typically used in conjunction with existing satellite systems to improve GPS reception. In my testing, the FR920XT consistently performs as the most accurate Garmin GPS device I’ve seen, and certainly on par and usually better than other brands with recent models.
Now, when it comes to GPS accuracy I tend to take a fairly practical viewpoint. I’m generally looking at how well a unit tracks compared to where I went, as well as the total distances seen between different units. Generally speaking I’m running/riding with 2-5 other GPS devices at the same time. I feel this is pretty important – comparing two different runs, even on the same route, will result in differences due to environmental factors and simple things like body placement. Which, is also important to consider. You can get different results between the left and right wrists, depending on how your body impacts GPS reception. In most cases, it’s negligible, but in edge cases it could be more overt.
When looking at GPS accuracy and tracks on a map – you must be sure to be in satellite mode and not map mode. Maps don’t always align with reality, while satellites are much closer. A map might have you running in the water whereas the satellite will show you on a river path.
Finally, do recognize the limitations of consumer grade GPS, which is generally specified as +/-3M. By default the FR920XT does NOT have GLONASS turned on, so you’ll want to enable that via: Settings button > Settings menu item > System > GLONASS = ON. Note it will have a slight impact on battery, but not significant.
All that said, I’ve seen consistently impressive results when it comes to GPS accuracy with GLONASS enabled. Here’s a data sheet of distances recorded by two or more devices. Obviously, with only two devices in some cases, it’s hard to know who was right – but as you can see, in almost all those cases the two devices were nearly identical. For cases where I had a third device, I included that.
Garmin FR920XT GPS Accuracy Data
FR920XT Distance (Mi)
Ambit3 Distance (Mi)
Ferry Loop Bike Ride
26.04 (Edge 1000)
Rainforest Mountain Run
8.03 (Bia Watch)
Auckland Sunset Ride
13.55 (Edge 1000
Final Malta OW Swim
Blue Lagoon OW Swim
Partial Bay OW Swim
Point to Point OW Swim
Quick Lunch OW Swim
Evening OW Swim
Louvre Mile Repeats
Part Peripherique Run
Parisian Tri - Swim
Parisian Tri - Bike
Parisian Tri - Run
(Note: Indoor trainer sessions are not included, or cases where I only had a single device on me. The single swim where the device distance counting portion froze, Garmin believes they have that fixed in 2.50 firmware.)
For those that are curious, here’s a package of all my swim/bike/runs over the past few weeks (Note: Coming within the next 24 hours…). Most of secondary files from the Suunto Ambit3, Garmin Edge, or Bia Watch along with it to compare against.
Altimeter Accuracy (Elevation):
The FR920XT contains a barometric altimeter, which in theory means that it would be able to track your elevation gains and losses more accurately, as well as your exact elevation more accurately. This is different than many running watches that just use GPS based altimeters, which while having improved significantly in recent years – still aren’t quite as precise.
But Garmin has made some changes in how the latest multisport device establishes initial elevation. Previously, with every other Garmin sport/fitness device ever made the unit would get a reading of the elevation from GPS first, allowing it to establish the initial GPS elevation to a rough degree. From there, the barometric altimeter would kick in and more precisely hone in on the exact elevation.
Unfortunately, the first step is skipped in the case of the FR920XT. This means that it attempts to determine the elevation using only the barometric altimeter. The problem is this takes forever – and even when it does decide where you are, it’s inaccurate. In case you’re looking for a more clear definition of ‘forever’, it’s at least an hour after you’ve turned the device on and are ready to run/ride/etc…
For example, take a look at this pancake flat run I did. What you see is that the elevation slowly decreases, where the altimeter is attempting to adjust over the course of the hour run:
And, it still doesn’t get the elevation right either.
Next, this run I did from virtually sea level (perhaps at a starting elevation of 10-15ft), up a mountain and back down again. Note that despite starting and ending in the exact same place, it shows two different locations. Not only that, it shows me 17 meters below sea level:
If you compare to to the Suunto Ambit3 on the same route, the Ambit3 nailed the starting position straight up, and then only exhibited minimal drift that would be expected due to shifting weather, also ending in the same spot. Meanwhile, you can see the FR920XT started and ended in the wrong spots (data compared using this tool):
Now compounding this problem is that there isn’t actually any way to calibrate the altimeter or manually override it. I asked Garmin why they’re doing it this way versus the previous method, and they noted the following:
“How long it takes for the elevation in real-time to “correct” itself is mostly a function of how far off the initial elevation is, which is a function of the local barometric pressure. If the local pressure due to current weather conditions is far off from “base pressure” average, then the initial elevation estimate will be a ways off and it takes the watch a while to correct this error. We have been discussing ways to improve the initial elevation estimate based on the pressure and speed up the correction, but nothing is planned in the short term.”
Which, may be true. But at the same time from a user perspective the current method is the worst I’ve seen in a barometric altimeter device. So I’m not exactly sure the grass is greener on this side. I checked in again this morning, and they noted that “all options are still on the table” as far as changes they might make to how it works.
Now some folks have seemed to find a tricky little workout to setting the elevation, which is to go ahead and save a waypoint at the current location with the correct altitude. Obviously, that requires you know the correct attitude, which is no doubt potentially a big ask.
Sensors & Accessories:
The FR920XT is compatible with numerous sensors, both Garmin branded and 3rd party. For sensor connectivity, the FR920XT utilizes ANT+, which is a low power wireless protocol. It’s similar to Bluetooth Smart, though more widely used within the cycling community than Bluetooth Smart. Like previous Garmin products, the FR920XT supports ANT+ sensors only, be it from Garmin or 3rd parties.
It does not support Bluetooth Smart sensors (or Bluetooth Legacy), nor Polar W.I.N.D. sensors, analog sensors, or Nike sensors.
Below is a quick compatibility table of products and sensors that I’ve tested and/or have ANT+ certification for compatibility with the FR920XT:
It should be noted that the FR920XT also doesn’t support two sensor types previously supported on past Garmin multisport devices. That would be the weight scale as well as fitness equipment profile (gym equipment). The weight scale previously allowed you to connect to what was a handful of ANT+ wireless weight scales for uploading weight data. Meanwhile, the fitness equipment profile enabled some gym equipment like treadmills and spin bikes to transmit data directly to the watch.
Garmin has previously said that the number of users using these functions was just too small to justify future development. And, that’s probably very true. With WiFi being the primary and most relevant way to get weight scale data to the internet, it just makes more sense than routing it through your watch, then through your phone, just to get to the same place.
That said, while Garmin isn’t providing such connectivity, I suspect we’ll see it provided by 3rd parties using Garmin Connect IQ coming up early next year. That’s already true in the case of Moxy, a 3rd party sensor using the Muscle Oxygen sensor. Virtually all of the Connect IQ demo’s that Garmin has used utilize this protocol. This is an example of where Garmin isn’t natively supporting the Muscle Oxygen sensor type, but is allowing 3rd parties to do so.
Said differently: I suspect that if the software API’s allow for it, we’ll see a weight scale and fitness equipment app pretty quickly after Connect IQ release.
Heart Rate Straps & Optical HR Sensors:
I just wanted to very briefly touch on this but in its own section – since I see lots of questions about it. First, the FR920XT is compatible with optical HR sensors from companies like Scosche and Mio. It will pair to those sensors just fine.
However, there are some limitations there. First is that optical sensors on the market today largely ‘guesstimate’ heart rate variability (HRV/RR). Heart rate variability has nothing to do with your actual heart rate. Rather, it’s measuring a different metric. Sometimes that guess is spot-on, and sometimes it’s way off. It’s simply a limitation of the technology today. Will it improve down the road? Absolutely. But it’s not there today.
The result of that limitation on heart rate variability is that’s how advanced watches like the Garmin FR920XT, as well as Polar and Suunto determine recovery information. They utilize algorithms (in Garmin’s case, from a company called FirstBeat) to understand the variability information, and from that they can tell you if you’re recovered or not. For conventional chest straps, this is easy. But again, in optical, not so much.
As a result, if you use an optical HR sensor, here’s the impact of it on the FR920XT:
– Recovery Advisor: May have non-accurate values – Recovery Time: May have non-accurate numbers – VO2Max: May have non-accurate numbers – Vertical Oscillation & Ground Contact Time: Not shown at all, requires HRM-RUN – Calories: May be impacted, usually pretty accurate, but still can be impacted
There is no impact however on straight up heart rate recording (your beats per minute – i.e. 140bpm). The FR920XT simply displays and records the values from your heart rate sensor for those pieces.
Finally, what about not using the HRM-RUN strap and using another company’s strap – like the Wahoo TICKR or 4iiii’s Viiiiva (or even the older Garmin HR straps)? Well, in that case all ANT+ straps do transmit heart rate variability (HRV/RR), so instead you’re only looking at a few features that will be impacted. Here’s how those work out:
– Recovery Advisor: Works normally! – Recovery Time: Works normally! – VO2Max: Works normally! – Vertical Oscillation & Ground Contact Time: Not shown, requires HRM-RUN – Calories: Works normally!
As you can see, the only thing impacted here is VO & GCT. Note that you’ll still get running cadence, because the FR920XT can provide that from three places: The Wrist, the HRM-RUN, and a Footpod. As long as you have one of those three, you’re good. And since obviously you’ll still have the watch on your wrist while running you’ll still get cadence.
Further, note that some have asked about the Wahoo TICKR X & TICKR RUN. Neither of those straps transmit Running Dynamic metrics to the FR920XT – or any other watch. They only transmit similar running efficiency information to the Wahoo Fitness app. Additionally, that strap won’t work in terms of saving swims with the FR920XT either, unless you manually merge the data with 3rd party (non-Garmin) tools afterwards.
The Garmin FR920XT adds in VIRB action camera support. This means that the Garmin, via ANT+, can control the VIRB action camera. This control includes both taking a photo as well as video.
You’ll start by pairing your VIRB action camera through the sensors menu:
Once you’ve done so it’ll add a new VIRB-specific screen to your workout pages. This screen will show you the recording time of the VIRB, and whether or not it’s recording:
By default the unit will automatically start and stop recording based on when you start and stop your activity using the buttons on the watch. When you start the watch, it starts the recording. And the same for stopping.
However, you can also long-hold the lower left button down to manually control the VIRB – such as to take a photo.
The system works fairly similar to that of how the Fenix and other devices control the VIRB, so this isn’t new territory for Garmin.
Data Fields & Pages:
The FR920XT can be customized a number of ways with different data fields and screens. Each activity profile can have its own set of saved data pages (data screens), with each data page having up to four data fields (1, 2, 3, or 4 fields per page). The size of the fonts increase with less data fields, and decreases with more data fields per page.
The fields available are generally consistent across activity profiles, though some are obviously sport specific – such as power meters for bikes are only available in the cycling fields.
You can have four fully customized data pages/screens per activity profile. You can then additionally have the following data pages enabled or disabled: Clock, Map, Virtual Partner, Running Dynamics (Run Only), Drill Log (Pool Only). Additionally there are context-enabled pages for Courses (following) and Workouts (when in a structured workout, such as an interval workout). Finally, there’s the Metronome page and VIRB pages, available when those features are enabled.
Here are the data fields available to you:
Garmin FR920XT Data Fields - Part 1
Power Meter Fields (Bike Only)
Power Meter Fields (Bike Only)
Heart Rate Fields
Running Dynamics (Running Only)
Average Stroke Rate
Last Length SWOLF
3s Avg. Balance
Interval Stroke Rate
Avg. Vertical Oscillation
Power to Weight
10s Avg. Balance
Last Length Stroke Rate
Lap Vertical Oscillation
3s Avg. Power
30s Avg. Balance
Interval Stroke Type
Ground Contact Time
10s Avg. Power
Last Length Stroke Type
Avg. Ground Contact Time
Last Length Strokes
Lap Ground Contact Time
Last Length Pace
Average HR %Max.
Last Lap Power
Training Stress Score
Max. Lap Power
Lap Normalized Power
Last Lap Normalized Power
Lap HR %Max
Time in Zone
Time in Zone
Garmin FR920XT Data Fields - Part 2
Estimted Finish Time
Last Lap Time
Last Lap Distance
Average Lap Time
Last Lap Pace
Last Lap Speed
Last Lap Cadence
30s Avg Vertical Speed
Time of day
Finally, you can create numerous activity profiles, both as individual sports (for example, your own Wind Surfing profile), or tie them together to make multisport profiles. In total you can have up to 10 individual sport activity profiles, and up to 5 multisport activity profiles.
Before we wrap things up I’ve put together the comparison charts of all the features of the FR920XT and FR910XT, compared to the Garmin Fenix2, with the Suunto Ambit 3 and Polar V800 (closest competitors). You can of course create your own comparison tables using this link with any of the products I’ve previously reviewed/looked at, such as adding in other watches:
The tables are updated dynamically and thus if/when things change that’s represented automatically in this section. And again, remember you can create your own charts easily here with any product you’d like.
Bugs and other imperfect notables:
As I’ve been doing on all reviews over the past year or two, I’ve been including a section on bugs and/or issues that I’ve seen within my timeframe using the unit. Do remember that a ‘bug’ is different than ‘by design’. For example, the lack of a feature is something I highlight within a given section is considered ‘by design’, whereas something not really working right is considered a bug. For example, not having weight scale support isn’t a bug. It’s a design decision Garmin has made. Whereas Bluetooth connectivity failing to work consistently is more of a bug.
Here’s what I’ve found as my main issues:
– Elevation Accuracy: As noted within the elevation section, the device is simply taking too long to acclimate to the baseline elevation. Response to elevation changes during an activity is immediate, but the calibration is what’s taking an unacceptable amount of time, thus skewing the elevation profiles. (Update: For me, I see this issue as now resolved through a firmware update earlier this year (2015))
– Loss of connectivity to phone: While this hardly seems specific to the FR920XT from my testing (seeing it both on Garmin and non-Garmin devices), it is nonetheless annoying. Not a showstopper, but just annoying that every few days I have to reset the connection to the phone.
– Courses: While not a specific bug per se, as is designed today, I don’t believe courses are usable for the majority of non-obvious road routes. In cases where there are clear intersections with minimal choices you can use it with success. However, in complex dense forest situations or even more complex urban situations – the lack of of zoom option makes it impossible to get the directions right. (Update: The ability to zoom was added in a firmware update, which now resolves this issue for me)
Now, for most triathletes these aren’t likely complete showstopper issues. The vast majority of users don’t actually use courses. And while having to reset the phone connection is annoying, I find that it’s kinda par for the course for many devices out there. Elevation accuracy is really the big ticket one though. No doubt most online apps re-write the elevation data anyway, but it’s still problematic that it just doesn’t give me accurate elevation data to begin each activity.
Obviously you’ll have to decide whether these bugs (or ‘by design’ in some cases) are an issue to you personally. Everyone is different. I do think there’s hope to fix both elevation and courses. The phone connectivity piece may be more challenging though as I suspect there’s some dependencies there on the phone OS platforms that make this less reliable than fitness device manufactures want.
Again, this doesn’t mean this is all the bugs out there. These are just the ones I saw during my use. As a single person I can’t possible test every possible feature in every possible combination to reproduce every possible scenario. Sure, I’d love to – but companies have entire teams of testers and they still miss things. So I do the best I can to note what I’ve seen above. If you have bugs, please post them to the Garmin Forums, or report them to Garmin. That’s the correct channel to get them fixed.
Overall, the FR920XT is the best multisport watch in the market with the most features. It’s also the watch that has the most potential for really cool 3rd party apps with upcoming Connect IQ enablement. What’s core to understand is that by itself the FR920XT doesn’t contain any shockingly new major functionality. Rather, Garmin has just plucked out all of the new features from numerous devices since the FR910XT was released three years ago. They grabbed the Running Dynamics from the FR620 series, the additional pool options from the Garmin Swim, the Live Tracking from the Edge 510 & 810, and the activity tracking from the Vivo series. The FR920XT just unites everything under one device roof.
Well, almost everything. There are a few areas that are lacking in the FR920XT found in past Forerunner multisport devices, such as weight scale & fitness equipment support. Also missing from the Edge 510/810/1000 is Di2 support and Garmin Segments. As well as better elevation calibration options and better course support. Hopefully though future updates can address those.
While the FR920XT isn’t perfect, it is the most capable device out there for the multisport athlete. It may not however be the most capable device for the hiking or outdoors enthusiast. For that I’d look at other devices that have better support for courses, routing and altimeter data – such as the Garmin Fenix2 series or the Suunto Ambit 2/3 series.
As for whether it’ll stay on my wrist, that’ll depend. I tend to be more of a single-device person except for racing. I prefer smaller watches for running (like the FR620), as well as the Garmin Edge for cycling, and my favored little Garmin Swim for swimming. Which isn’t to take away from the FR920XT, as it has nothing to do with the device but just my personal preference is more sport specific. If I were to choose a single triathlon watch for a race (which I often do), there’s no doubt that it’d be the FR920XT at this point. Between the consolidation of new features from other devices, plus the minor adds of additional completely new features like the Metronome – it’s hard to beat.
With that, thanks for reading!
Found this review useful? Or just want a good deal? Here’s how:
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.
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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.