For years I have run using the Nike+ system to track my distance and pace.  I like it so much that I wrote about it on this site.  Since the switch to running minimal full time I noticed that it had a tendency to be more and more inaccurate, especially on longer runs.  I still say for the money you cannot beat what Nike+ has to offer, but I decided to try something different in an attempt to get solid accuracy.  I decided on the new Garmin 110.

After a couple of failed attempts to get Garmin to donate a watch for this review, I decided to pony up and pay for one.  I searched online and had a somewhat difficult time finding a 110.  It seems this new model designated the easiest way to track your training is quite popular.  I was able to get one from gps-r-us, an ebay retailer in Australia, for a great price.  I went ahead and got the “fully loaded” model that comes with a heart rate monitor.  They were great to deal with as they shipped the monitor extremely fast and communicated with me very well.  I was out of town when I my 110 arrived, and I will admit the excitement drove me a little crazy even though I have never been one to want my running to be overly technical.  It took me years to buy into moisture wicking, heart rate monitoring, and even mp3 players.  When I started running I did little more than throw on some shorts and shoes and head off down the road.

Today I use things like mapmyrun.com, have sunglasses with an mp3 player built in (although I’ve recently gone back to running without music), electrolyte drinks, energy gels, etc.  I’m amazed at how much stuff there is for running, and this Garmin110 is right there in the list of things I never imagined I would use in running.  I got home and did my dork thing of reading everything.  I read all the stuff on the packaging, the manual, and a couple of other little sheets that came with the unit.  The 110 is impressive to look at as it looks more like a regular watch than any other GPS running watch I have ever seen.  One of the things that kept me from getting into Garmin’s world was the size of their watches.  They were huge in my mind, and I just could not handle the looks, much less the size or weight of the thing.  I do not like to have much on me when I run, hence the sunglasses with mp3 built in.  I am not a fan of headphone cords.  My 110 is dark gray with a red stripe, but there are other colors; black and white and light gray with red.  Garmin says this watch is simple and has no extra bells and whistles.  I was intrigued by this thought when I purchased it, and on the surface I would say they are correct in the description.  I have worn it around, and no one notices what it is, which is a very nice plus for this watch.  It’s stylish and blends in, and there is a lot that can be said for having a versatile GPS unit like the 110.

In terms of function I would say Garmin is way off in its description of a no frills unit.  Sure it does not have some of the programs and extras that some of their other models have, but this thing is not lacking in the abilities department at all.  For starters it has their best satellite link up so it gets you going fast, and I mean fast.  I have not had this monitor take more than 20 seconds to link to satellites before a run.  That is crazy fast.  It also has a high sensitivity GPS so it doesn’t lose its connection with the satellites either.  I’ve run through wooded areas, rainy/cloudy days, as well as just going under some awnings, and I have yet to have a drop in signal.  I find this very impressive.  There was also next to no set up with this watch.  I charged it, set my personal information on it by using three buttons, up and down arrows and an okay button.  Getting this thing ready to go for a run took all of a few minutes after it was fully charged, which only took a couple of hours.  All in all this is an extremely user-friendly tool that takes nearly zero brainpower to run.  Once you have it set and you are ready to go, all you have to do is push the page/menu button, let it locate satellites, then press start.  Do that and you are on the clock.  Once running, the screen shows you distance traveled, duration of exercise, and pace.  If you are wearing the heart rate monitor, a press of the page/menu button will cycle you through extra screens to show your heart rate and the time of day if you need it.  The thing I find most impressive is the pace indicator.  It is so accurate that it will change within three to five strides.  That means that if I’m running a nine-minute pace and slow down to a ten minute pace this monitor senses that within five strides.  I have been shocked at just how fast this thing can keep up with my changes in pace as I run along.  When I finish a run it is as simple as holding the lap/reset button down for a 3 second period.  The monitor will show you the countdown with a warning that you are ending the recording.  If you need a pause at any time during your run you can press the start/stop button.  It really is that easy to work.

Once you have stopped recording a run, it is saved in the watch.  You can either page through the exercises right there on the watch, or you can transfer them to your account online at Garmin’s website.  This is where I really enjoy this monitor.  All I had to do was go to Garmin’s site and create an account.  It was as easy as giving them my name and email info, picking out a screen name and password, and agreeing to their terms of usage.  What are the terms?  Who knows?  Does anyone really read those?  After I had my account set up I connected my watch to my computer using a USB cable that came with it.  This will also allow you to plug the watch into the wall for charging through a provided wall plug, but I don’t use it.  I just plug the watch into the computer when it needs to be charged.  How long does the battery last?  I honestly do not know, as I have not pushed it that far yet.  I’ve got nearly thirty miles recorded at an average time of 9:30 per mile and it still has not died on me.  The manual says eight hours of usage in training mode so I say trust them on that one.  Now back to the uplink capabilities.  I plug the monitor in, and I am immediately asked if I want to connect to Garmin’s site.  Click yes, and your recorded programs are automatically sent to the site and saved.

Once the page opens I can then sort through all of my runs and see all the information I could ever need.  I am given an overall summary of distance traveled, total time, elevation gain, and calories burned.  I am then shown my total time, total moving time, average pace, average moving pace, best pace, and miles per hour in terms of average, moving, and max speed for the course of the run.  This watch keeps track of my time in terms of movement and non-movement, amazing.  I then get my elevation numbers: gain, loss, minimum, and maximum.  Next up are heart rate average, max, percentages, and zones.  I will next see a breakdown of each mile time and average pace.  That is a lot of information, and I love it!  I also get some great charts to look at.  The first is my run marked out on a Google map.  I am also given a pace, elevation, and heart rate chart with multiple viewing options that allow me to see all sorts of different information about those categories.  Isn’t this thing supposed to be a no frills model?

The answer is yes it is supposed to be a simple no frills GPS unit, but it’s not.  It is extremely easy to set up and use, but it offers me so much as a runner.  I love the accuracy, as it is has been accurate down to the last foot in its calculations of my distances run.  The ability to see my pace in real time is something I have never had, and I now wonder if I can stand to run without it.  The data it gives me through the Garmin website is fun to have and educational.  I cannot be happier with this purchase.  I am actually somewhat glad I was forced to pay for it as I now can say that it is worth every penny of the $230 it cost me.  If you want simple, accurate, and stylish then you want the Garmin 110.  I would even say if you want cost effective then you want the 110, as it is one of the cheapest they have.  Garmin has produced what I believe is the best tracking tool you can have for running, and they most definitely have my stamp of approval, even if they did make me pay for it.

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8 responses »

  1. Monica says:

    I have the 305, and the only thing I can’t say about it that you said about the 110 is the small size and descrete-ness. For about $100 bucks cheaper, I can live with it being a little bigger! I, too, started off with Nike+ and was extremely satisfied until I went to VFF’s and found the accuracy sadly wanting. Now I, too, don’t know what I would do without knowing my current pace at any given moment! I ran my first race 2 days ago, a 10k, and the virtual partner option helped me to attain a time I never thought possible! Go Garmin!

    • I do wish I had the virtual trainer with this model as I think it would be fun to play with. At the moment I feel like knowing my pace is kind of the same thing. In terms of price I am surprised your 305 cost so little. When I searched I found the two models were about the same price. Still congrats on a great race!

  2. bob says:

    does it have a timer that you can set to do walk intervals? eg. 10 min on then 1 min and repeat.

    • That is one attribute left off of this model. Garmin created what they thought to be an entry level/beginners monitor and they feel that intervals are for more advanced runners. I disagree but do not feel that it takes away from this monitor at all. If I want to do intervals I just pay attention to the time and start/stop myself.

  3. Denis says:

    Does the 110 have the feature that will backtrack you to your starting point? If so, does it work well. It sucks to get lost on the trails.

  4. Sophie J says:

    I have been using my Garmin 110 for a few weeks now and honestly cant think how I ever managed without one! I used to run with a 405 but after that broke I decided to get something cheaper in the interim but now am debating just keeping hold of my 110 instead as it gives me everything that I need.

    My Garmin 110 Review

  5. Karen says:

    I’m just now toying with the idea of buying a Garmin – it’s a toss up between the 110 or 305. I’m a newbie to running, and I run intervals 10 & 1, however I want something that is not to complicating to operate as I’m 50 something (Yep, just started running) and not too gadget savvy especially with computerized things. Any thoughts for anyone on recommendations before I spend the money.

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