The Forerunner series of athletic-minded watches from Garmin Ltd. have gained a devotion with some athletes and exercisers that may only be described as cultish. But it is with good reason: Forerunner watches are top-shelf performers and they offer functions unlike anything else on the market.
To the point, the Forerunner series provides accurate and useful GPS functionality combined with all the fitness metrics an exerciser might want and need.
For the past three months, I have had the Forerunner 310XT on my wrist. It is a big and solid watch, with a substantial $399 price tag to match.
But for the money, the 310XT gives a stout waterproof design and an easy-to-use interface that measures your heart rate, calories burned, distance covered, altitude gained, and a litany of additional assets to track and quantify a workout in space and time.
The watch's stellar GPS functions impressed me most. On training runs in the city as well as adventures in the mountains and woods, it was easy to track a route. The high-sensitivity GPS receiver captured every twist and turn, including under tree cover.
At home on a computer, a wireless connection via a USB stick takes information from the 310XT and puts it on a map. Grids and charts pop on the computer screen, revealing fitness-oriented details of your recent activity outdoors.
On the go, the watch can accurately measure distance and pace. During a run or a bike ride, you can glance at the watch to obtain real-time, GPS-based information on miles traveled and speed obtained.
Made for runners, bikers, and swimmers -- or triathletes if you combine all three -- the watch is waterproof. It can be mounted on a bike and can track distance in an open-water swim.
Downfalls? The watch is pricey, to be sure. With the heart-rate monitor strap it costs the aforementioned $399. The 310XT is $349 without the strap.
Battery life is about 20 hours. Unlike most watches, you must plug the 310XT in every couple days to charge. I found this to be a hassle, as I would occasionally forget to recharge the watch and find dead batteries when it was time to workout.
The watch initially feels big on the wrist, measuring more than 2 by 2 inches square. But size concerns go away after a few uses, and the large display screen soon makes you appreciate the substantial watch face on your wrist.
In the end, if you can afford this tool, its pros far outweigh its cons. I had few complaints and no troubles getting the watch up and running. It became integrated into my workout routine this summer. To be sure, I am edging toward joining the Garmin cult.
--Stephen Regenold writes about outdoors gear at www.gearjunkie.com.