Timex has been making sports watches for a very long time, and its Ironman series is the stuff of legend. Previous iterations of the Ironman watch have relied on a separate GPS unit to keep track of your location and assist in the measurement of speed and distance. The Global Trainer does away with the separate GPS unit in favour of an all in one arrangement.
The Timex Ironman Global Trainer can remember data from up to 20 workouts and 1,000 laps. It can read data from a heart rate monitor and bike sensor and its display can show up to 40 different pieces of information. Without a doubt, this is one of the most sophisticated sports wrist computers on the market.
Feature packed it may be, but at £250 the Timex Ironman Global Trainer doesn’t come cheap. So the question is, does it deliver enough to warrant the price?
What’s in the box?
The Timex Ironman Global Trainer is a complete training kit for the multi-sports enthusiast. I wasn’t sent a product box, and my kit was missing the bike mount that you can use to help with cycle training. I did get the rest of the kit though, the wrist computer itself, heart rate monitor, USB charger and USB cable for PC connection.
You don’t get a bike sensor but you can use the Timex Ironman Global Trainer with any ANT+ compatible kit. The advantage of using ANT+ sensors is that it adds flexibility. So, if you were moving from a Garmin solution to this Timex, you could keep the old sensor on your bike, since Garmin also uses ANT+.
Setup and Configuration
Before you even start to set the Timex Ironman Global Trainer up for first use you need to charge its internal battery. That takes about half a day so you’ll have plenty of time to read through all the documentation and start to get your head around what a sophisticated piece of kit you’ve just bought.
One of the first things you’ll probably do is put the Global Trainer on, and then you’ll notice that it is quite a size. It looked ridiculous on my small wrist, anyone even remotely dainty might think it is a bit of a beast.
The charging unit is a rather sizeable thing and it’ll be a bit of a nuisance to carry around. The good news is that it fits a standard USB adaptor at the power end, which means you could charge from a sleep and charge supporting laptop and the mains power adaptor might work for several devices you have.
When it is fully charged Timex says the battery should last for 15 hours with the GPS running. That ought to be enough to get most of us through a long weekend away with a couple of runs and some hill walking in the mix, or a full week if you want to use the Timex Ironman Global Trainer for up to two hours a day. But on the other side of the equation, you might not get through a standard weekend mountain marathon or three days of hiking from a single charge.
With the battery charged you are ready to start feeding basic data into the Timex Ironman Global Trainer. The basic user information is the same as for any advanced sports watch: sex, weight, height and date of birth. This basic information is used to help calculate calories expended during exercise.
The heart rate sensor that is provided with the Timex Ironman Global Trainer is a standard ANT+ type and you can specifically pair the two so that the Global Trainer doesn’t accidentally pick up another heart rate monitor that happens to be nearby. The same goes for pairing with bike speed/cadence sensors.
You can tell the Timex Ironman Global Trainer how you want it to work out heart rate zones. The default is a well accepted standard of using 220 minus your age as the maximum heart rate. You can manually change this if you know your own maximum heart rate. If you are an athlete working to finely tuned training zones that will be preferable.
The Timex Ironman Global Trainer uses five heart rate zones and you can either configure these manually or have it use the maximum heart rate as a basis from which to calculate these. Finally, you can get the Global Trainer to issue both audible and visual alerts if you stray outside heart rate zones.
Next comes the really fun part. The Timex Ironman Global Trainer can display a subset of 40 different bits of information on its screen, and you can go to town setting up what is displayed and how.
The screen itself can be divided into up to four segments each showing a piece of information.
But there’s much more than this on offer. There are five viewing screens in total, and each can show four, three, two or one information item. During or after a workout you can flick through these screens and get oodles of information about your training session. If you want to see how sophisticated this system is, just take a look at the full user guide, which you’ll find here.
If you want to use the Timex Ironman Global Trainer to monitor more than one activity – if you are a triathlete for example and want to practice different swim, bike and run sessions with transitions, you can set it for the different sports and to count the time you take transitioning between them. It can cope with five different activities in sequence two of which can be allocated to transition times. You switch between modes by pressing a button during training.
Because the Timex Ironman Global Trainer incorporates GPS it can remember the route you have taken and show a representation of it on screen. You can save waypoints during a session and it can cope with 100 of them. The Timex Ironman Global Trainer can also use your current location and plot a route to any saved waypoint.
But a few words of caution here. Waypoints are saved as latitude and longitude and if you know how you can plot them on a map – though of course in the UK Ordnance Survey maps use OS grid references which are based on an entirely different system. When you plot a route from one waypoint to another the Timex Ironman Global Trainer uses a straight line route. There’s no base layer of roads as you might get in a sat-nav device. Using the Timex Ironman Global Trainer for waypoint navigation is a very different thing to using a map based system.
There is also a compass feature and this can show your current speed and direction. The compass needs a GPS fix in order to work. It can also calculate altitude. So if you are interested in doing serious training as a cyclist or runner and want to factor climb into any training session, that is doable. Most unusually you can even enter altitudes you don’t want to go above or below. For most of us that is going to be a pretty bogus setting, but if you are training specifically to see how you do with serious levels of climb it could be handy.
What you can see from all this is that the Timex Ironman Global Trainer is extremely sophisticated. It can capture many different types of data and you can view that data in a wide range of different ways.
For all its inbuilt complexity the first stages of setting up the Timex Ironman Global Trainer are pretty straightforward. One thing I found right from the outset, though, and which persisted throughout my time with it, was that the screen was not ideal to work with.
The display is not particularly bright, text is fairly small, and the sheer number of menus and options available meant a fair bit of resorting to the manual to remind myself how to make or change settings. I noticed the difficulty with reading the screen when setting the Timex Ironman Global and also when glancing at it while training. Ultimately, I want a very large, clear readout and despite the large overall screen size what is here is just quite small.
As I’ve already mentioned the Timex Ironman Global Trainer is a very chunky piece of kit. It initially felt large and heavy on my small wrist though I did get used to it fairly quickly. The wristband has lots of holes so at least you can easily get a snug fit.
There is a total of seven buttons you need to get to grips with – three on the left side of the fascia, three on the right and a start/split button in the centre.
You’ll mostly use these while you are configuring the Timex Ironman Global Trainer, but there will be times when you’ll want to use them during a training session. If you’ve set up a number of screens of data to look at when you are training, you can switch between them using the top right button, while to force a split time to be taken outside of a pre-set interval you use the front start/split button.
The heart rate monitor is made from a relatively stiff plastic which is not uncomfortable to wear when you are running but which feels a little uncomfortable when you first put it on. You could use another ANT+ heart rate monitor if you have one.
I like to have alerts when I’ve covered each kilometre of a run. If I want to check on my speed, that’s the time I do it and I find it useful to get a reminder of how far into a run I am. The Timex Ironman Global Trainer can be set to beep when you’ve covered a set distance, but the beep is so quiet that I failed to hear it a lot of the time. Unlike my Garmin Forerunner 310XT, the Timex Ironman Global Trainer doesn’t have a vibrating alert. This is a pity, as it would have dealt nicely with those many times when I failed to hear the quiet beep.
One feature I did really like was the Performance Pacer. You can set up a distance and a time you want to complete it in, and then get the Timex Ironman Global Trainer to pace you. It uses the GPS to update itself in real time, so that you can see at any moment how well you are doing against your target. My main problem was that routes I run tend to have road crossings on them, resulting in an inevitable drop in pace while I waited for traffic lights to change.
I had real problems in a couple of fundamental areas. The battery seemed to discharge rather more quickly than I thought it would, sometimes meaning that I couldn’t actually use the Timex Ironman Global Trainer on a run as planned. I’m not sure whether this was a charging, discharging or battery life indicator issue, but I hope it is the latter as that’s most easily fixed by a firmware update.
I also had some problems with GPS reception. On one occasion I waited for five minute or so for reception, gave up and started my run, and only after my other watch, the Garmin Forerunner 310XT told me I’d been going for a kilometre did the Timex Ironman Global Trainer find a fix. Nobody wants to wait that long to get a satellite fix, and if this is a persistent problem it will be a real issue for Timex.
There is no doubting that the Timex Ironman Global Trainer is an extremely sophisticated bit of kit, capable of monitoring the training regime of the most high level athletes. It is the logical competitor to Garmin’s Forerunner 310XT, which I use myself and which has for a long time been the market leader at the top end of things.
Triathletes will find the transition recording useful, and if you are into both cycling and running the cycle mount and ability to cope with speed/cadence sensors as well as heart rate monitors means the Timex Ironman Global Trainer should be the only piece of kit you’ll ever need.
However, as I’ve mentioned triathletes I should also say something about swimming. The Timex Ironman Global Trainer is water resistant to 50 metres. So you can splash about while wearing it. But its GPS does not work under water. That’s not a problem unique to the Timex Ironman Global Trainer, but it does mean you won’t get accurate recording of your swim training.
As a sophisticated piece of equipment the Timex Ironman Global Trainer is relatively complex to set up and use to the full and I’m not convinced Times makes the most of the large screen. Too much of the data it displays is small and difficult to read, particularly when you are moving at speed.
I’m particularly concerned by the battery and GPS issues. These are obviously vital components, and without being able to have 100 percent confidence in them all the rest of the sophistication is irrelevant. On this basis alone, as things currently stand, I think I’d recommend Garmin’s Forerunner 310XT if asked to choose a top class wrist sports computer. If the issues can be resolved with firmware, then I’d like to see an updated version in due course.
What the Timex Ironman Global Trainer doesn’t do is synchronise with its own specialised online portal. You can send data to the third party American TrainingPeaks http://home.trainingpeaks.com/ web site, which lets you log workouts, map routes and keep a journal of progress as well as monitoring nutrition. To get data into TrainingPeaks you need to use a desktop tool called Device Agent http://home.trainingpeaks.com/device-agent.aspx which extracts data from the Timex Ironman Global Trainer and uploads it to TrainingPeaks. You can also use DeviceAgent to make settings to the Timex Ironman Global Trainer. We’ll spend some time with TrainingPeaks at a later date, as it accepts data from a wide range of watches and other devices.
- Extremely sophisticated
- Good for triathletes
- Records wide range of data
- Will record waypoints
- Display is not very clear or bright
- Issues with battery
- Issues with GPS
- Audible alerts are very quiet
- No dedicated online application