Garmin has established itself as a leader in satellite navigation products with a current portfolio that ranges far and wide. There are outdoor devices for leisure and adventure pursuits, marine and aviation specific products, and in-car and motorcycle satnav devices. The company even has a range of smartphones with built in satnav. And it also has a number of products for fitness including cycling and running devices.

The Forerunner 110 sits in the middle of the runner specific range of products. It is a GPS enabled sports watch which can be used to measure distance covered, calories burned and time taken. At £180 it is not a pocket money device. But nor is it at the top of the range. So the question is, does the Forerunner 110 deliver enough value to justify its price?

Runners only

The Garmin Forerunner 110 is specifically aimed at runners. There’s no added functionality that might appeal to those focussed on other activities. Its core aim is simple – to measure speed and distance, and calculate calories burned. If you buy the version of the Garmin Forerunner 110 that comes with a heart rate monitor it’ll check the old ticker too. But you can leave that out of the equation if you like.

That suits me quite well, as running is my main activity. But it is worth noting right here at the outset that if you want to monitor your activity across several sports, you might be better off looking at other kit, either from the Garmin range or elsewhere.

Design and usability

I found the Forerunner 110 really comfortable to wear. I have a very small wrist and some of the running watches I’ve tried are a real challenge to wear because of their size. Watches can be heavy too, feeling like quite a weight on your wrist in comparison to an ordinary watch. I had no such problems here. The watch is actually smaller than the Timex Ironman I’ve got into the habit of wearing every day!

If you want dimensions then the face has a 25mm diameter, and measured from left to right, as it is worn on the wrist, the watch front is 45mm across. It weighs 52g.

To my mind the Forerunner 110 isn’t actually the best looking bit of kit I’ve seen, lacking a degree of style that would make me want to wear it all the time. However it scores highly on usability. The side buttons depress easily, and there are clear markings as to their functions on the screen surround. It is comfy to wear too, and the fact that it is water resistant means you can probably dunk it in the sink to get rid of sweaty gunk from time to time.

The Garmin Forerunner 110 looks enough like an ordinary watch that if you disagree with my comments on style you could wear it every day – if you are prepared to charge the battery regularly. The charger is a fairly chunky clip that has four contacts which drop into slots on the back of the watch. At the other is a USB connector.

The charger is a fairly sizeable bit of kit to carry around if you go on hols for a week or more, but you may need it. Garmin says you’ll get a week from the watch if you use the GPS for 45 minutes a day, three weeks if you never use the GPS and up to 8 hours if you use the GPS constantly. Another battery life fact of note is that Garmin says it’ll last for three years if you use it for one hour a day. It is really good to see that the battery is user replaceable, so you won’t need to send it back to Garmin when it does finally give up the ghost.

The watch comes in three colours. Garmin really shouldn’t be telling me that the light grey one with pink highlights is the women’s model, the black one with a red stripe is for men and the black one with a grey stripe is unixex. For heaven’s sake, Garmin, the three designs all have identical features, I think people can make up their own minds what colour they want!

Setup and use

What really matters, though, is how easy the watch is to use and whether it delivers the right info.

It is really easy to set up. Calibrating it with your age, weight and sex are done at first switch-on and can be changed later. Starting and stopping the watch are no-brainer tasks – there’s one button on the top right side to press for both functions and it is clearly marked start/stop. Even when you are exhausted after a run it should be easy to find this button!

Hit the Reset button on the bottom right side of the watch and a finished session is stored in memory. There is enough storage space for 180 hours of running history, and when it gets full the watch automatically deletes the oldest run to make way for the newest one.

The speed/distance monitor doesn’t start and stop with your movement, so if you stop at traffic lights waiting for them to change you can either stop the watch manually or leave it running. Something else it doesn’t do is give alerts if you overstep or go below a certain pace. You can’t configure it for timed interval training either, and it doesn’t give vibrating alerts like some more advanced sports watches do. So you can see that while the basics are covered, more advanced features are absent.

When you’ve finished a run you get to the history by holding down a button on the left side of the fascia. You have to hold this down for three seconds to get to the History menu, which is listed alongside other menu options like changing your user profile (height, weight, sex), and setting up watch alarms. The right side buttons page you up and down through menu options.

The history screen shows elapsed time, distance travelled (miles or kilometres), calories burned, and average pace or speed (you choose which when you set what’s to be recorded for your run). What it doesn’t do is give you pace/speed per distance unit travelled (mile or kilometre).

Making more of your data

Data recorded into the Forerunner 110 can be uploaded to Garmin Connect online (pictured below) or the Garmin Training Centre software which you can download from Garmin’s web site and run locally on your computer.

We’ll look at both of these software tools in detail in later blog posts but basically they both allow you to collate and then analyse information from different training sessions. With the online application you can see other people’s sessions too.

In both cases you don’t need any more equipment than came with the Forerunner 110 to take advantage. The large charger unit I mentioned earlier doubles up for data synchronisation. If you choose to use the online Garmin Connect you can upload run data to your Web space from wherever you happen to be – as long as you have access to a computer. So analysing your stats while you are running on holiday should be no problem!

Conclusion

While testing the Garmin Forerunner 110 I found it fine for measuring distance and speed. My usual watch, Garmin’s Forerunner 310XT, has some additional features that I missed even for basic run recording such as pace per distance unit, automatic pausing when I stop (for example at traffic lights) and vibrating alerts, but it costs over £100 more and is a much chunkier device to wear.

Overall, the Forerunner 110 seems like a great watch for anyone starting to run regularly who wants to keep an eye on progress without getting bogged down by too much technical detail. It could easily see you through a few serious competitive runs as an improver too.

As you improve further you might find you want more features, or you may remain content with what the Forerunner 110 has to offer. That’ll partly be dictated by your running goals as you progress. But this is definitely the kind of watch that could keep some runners happy throughout their running careers.

Pros:

  • Small and light
  • Easy to use
  • Comes with or without heart rate monitor
  • Can upload data to the Web or to computer software for further analysis
  • Water resistant
  • Good battery life after full charge

Cons:

  • Light on features for the intense/serious athlete
  • No vibrating alerts
  • Can’t auto pause when you stop running

Manufacturer: Garmin

SRP: £179.99 without heart rate monitor, £209.99 with heart rate monitor