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Reviews Garmin 920XT review

Garmin Forerunner 920XT review

An evolution rather than a revolution, but the new industry standard for multisport watches

When Garmin launched the Forerunner 910XT in 2011, a new multisport world was born. Here was a training tool that delivered a triathlete’s dream – metrics across three disciplines.

That, aligned with Garmin’s Apple-like ability to create gadgets that are easy to use, elevated the 910XT to near-godlike status.

Three years is a technological eternity, and the interim’s seen strong competition in the form of Polar’s V800 and the Suunto Ambit3.

But now the Forerunner 920XT’s arrived, packing in a magazine’s worth of features. In fact, too many to list here, which is why we’ve focused on the key changes over the 910XT

Slimline partner

The most striking is its ergonomic design. It’s 14.3% lighter than the 910 (70g to 60g), though not at the cost of screen size, which ensures data’s clear to view on the fly. Unlike the run-specific Garmin 620, it’s not touch screen.

Instead, four sizeable buttons scroll through the myriad of features. Its blue and black colourway mimics the 620 and there’s also a red/white number, though no women-specific sizing, so petite wrists may feel dwarfed.

Rapid connection

Garmin Connect data analysis is much easier on a laptop, so we appreciate the new Wifi connectivity between the device and, in our case, a Macbook Pro. It also has Bluetooth Smartphone connectivity to Android and iOS devices, and again consistency and speed rules.

Live Tracking means your partner can watch you struggle around the Vitruvian. Eclipsing all that is satellite pick-up, which is extraordinary. Historically, Garmin has led the GPS pack in this department and, with a new satellite pre-population data feature, it’s even faster.

Running dynamics

This is where you receive key upgrades over the 910, albeit pocketed from the 620 and only if you purchase the HRM-Run strap. Running dynamics reveal your ground contact time and vertical oscillation.

We questioned the usefulness of this on the 620 earlier in the year because, unless there’s a next step to guide you, this data’s redundant. We put this to Andy Silver, European product manager at Garmin.

“Coaches are beginning to explore running efficiency in detail, primarily because it’s never been measurable in the wild,” he says. “In the past, treadmills with pressure plates have been the only way of measuring these metrics. Not now.”

Garmin offers a comparative scale, giving the results context – the less ground contact time, the better – but how do you improve run economy beyond raising fitness? Garmin doesn’t tell you, but brief research reveals that plyometrics and squats are proficient methods. It’s one for the dedicated performance-seeker, which is what you are if you’re spending £400-plus on a watch.

You’re also given other 620 metrics like VO2 max predictor, race predictor and recovery advisor. We felt the latter was the most useful of the three as, like the Omegawave we tested in June 2013, it could guide the intensity of your next session. You can also measure runs indoors without the need for a footpod – a useful feature as winter draws in.

Swim and bike subtleties

“What about the swim and bike?” we hear you cry. For swim, there’s potential disappointment for 910XT fans who thought the next incarnation might feature heart-rate data, though chest-strap slippage seen on tools like the Suunto Ambit3 means Garmin is still working on that one.

Actual swim upgrades over the 910 include the swim drills feature found on the Garmin Swim, and a useful interval/rest timer that maintains consistency of intervals sets.

For cycling, recovery features as seen for the run are again a neat addition, though it’s only applicable if you have power data. Then again, the 910 was brimming with so many bike features that this isn’t a negative.

Challenge Apple

You can also track daily activity thanks to technology borrowed from Garmin’s Vivofit.

For keen triathletes, it might appear superfluous, but we found hitting 10,000 steps a useful tool for recovery days. Garmin Connect’s been upgraded too, with your multisport exploits now clearly charted in a clear, flowing narrative rather than as a file for each discipline as before.

Despite the in-watch advancements, it’s third-party input that will be the greatest addition over the 910XT. Connect IQ gives third-party developers the tools to create apps and widgets that could transform your 920XT into the ultimate training computer. It’s a wise move by Garmin considering the inevitable success of the Apple watch, and you should begin to see these hit the market early in 2015.

The 910XT was a gamechanger. The 920XT isn’t… but it didn’t need to be. Yes, there are in-watch tweaks, but it’s the less headline-grabbing advancements like satellite pick-up, slimline look and Connect IQ that ensure it’s a worthy successor to the 910. In a world often ruled by marketing, Garmin should be applauded for this subtle but effective evolution.

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Profile image of Jamie Beach Jamie Beach Former digital editor


Jamie was 220 Triathlon's digital editor between 2013 and 2015.

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