So, here is my *INDEPENDENT* review of the Garmin Forerunner 920XT based on months of usage and years of using the previous incarnation the 910XT and 310XT. I bought my 920XT; it’s not a freebie from Garmin. I’m not beholden to anyone in my views – I write negative things about Garmin only when they need to be said.
A review CAN be a list of features or benefits; a glorified and elongated re-hash of the manual that you could quite easily read for yourself…here’s the Forerunner 920XT User Manual if you want to do that.
My angle will be coming from how I set up the watch for my training and racing. It won’t be exactly the same as for you but probably similar enough.
If you want to read about the intricacies of setting up the activity monitor for walking up steps or an in-depth look at the run-walk feature then…you’ve come to the wrong place. Here be triathlon.
Edit: Review updated March 2015: Price trends and comparisons are added towards the end of the review. See if you are being offered a good deal (or not….).
The 920XT is a great Triathlon watch. It’s great for Duathlon and great for all 3 sports individually. For normal, everyday training and racing it has everything that most triathletes need and want. It’s suitable for any multisport distance from a Sprint Duathlon to an Ironman Triathlon, in open water or in a pool, on the flat or up a great big mountain, on the road or on a trail. It’s suitable for a beginner or for a pro. Certainly it’s highly suitable for the many Age Group athletes that will buy one.
It only connects to sports accessories with ANT+.
It probably lacks a bit on the navigation front – buy a Fenix 3 or Epix instead for you outdoorsy/adventure folks.
Polar V800 – 920XTIt can be used with all the same planning/analysis/reporting platforms that the previous 910XT worked with – ranging from FIRSTBEAT, to SPORTTRACKS, to TRAINING PEAKS, to GARMIN CONNECT to STRAVA and many more.
Out of the box
Out of the box you get the watch and a USB cable/charging cradle that you can use to also upload data to your PC. If you got the HRM version (Heart Rate Monitor) then you will also have the latest incarnation of the Garmin Heart Rate Monitor the “HRM-RUN” or HRM4.
You needthe cable to charge the watch but there are other ways to upload datathat do not require it. You probably need a HRM but you don’t need the HRM-RUN. An old ANT+ strap is fine too. The HRM-RUN gives you nice ‘how much you bounce and wiggle about’ metrics. Great for occasional training analysis and technique honing but otherwise it’s just a Heart Rate Strap/Monitor that can also do R-R/HRV beats. You don’t need the capability to look at HRV/R-R heart beats but if you intend to train more than, say, 6 hours a week you will eventually find that capability useful.
New Colour 920XT Jul 2015Aesthetics and look-and-feel
Various internet forums will see people slating off the looks of the 920XT. I can see where they are coming from. The 920XT is a ‘bit 1970s’ with quite specific colour stripes which you may or may not like. I really don’t know why it does not come in an all-black version like the 910XT. As at Oct 2015 there is a black/grey model which is only available as an expensive bundle with the HRM-TRI (review).
I mention this only because one of the previous criticisms of the 910XT was that you couldn’t use it as a day-to-day watch as the battery didn’t last long enough. Well now the battery DOES last long enough but you can’t use it as a day-to-day watch because of what it looks like (for many people).
This is a further problem because the watch also has an inbuilt activity monitor (glorified, but nice, pedometer+) and, again, many people will simply not use that functionality because of the aesthetics of the watch. I’m one of them. IE to use the activity monitor you have to wear it all the time and the aesthetics limit stop that for me. I’d rather buy a different activity monitor.
However I bought the 920XT in 2014 for triathlon/Duathlon. So, in reality, I’m not bothered too much about the aesthetics when I’m covered in blood sweat and, occasionally, tears. Also, realistically, the likes of you and I probably don’t need an activity monitor to see how many steps we’ve done that day.
However, the feel of it is great. It is slimmer and lighter than the 910XT and the strap seems to fit me more nicely than the 910. The buttons seem more responsive to me compared to the 910 and I also like the square watch face and the amount and size of data that that the shape allows to be shown compared to a round sports watch. It’s all designed very nicely.
I have NO problems reading the screen in varying light conditions, I have had none of the internal misting-up problems of previous incarnations and I wish I had still fully got to grips with the menus !
So it all looks good for training and racing from the aesthetics and look-and-feel perspectives.
It has a gimmicky colour screen (somewhat dull colours and inadequate resolution) and a similar but annoyingly different menu structure to the 910XT, similar too to the 620’s menus.
Here’s a clickable pdf summary menu structure to help:
the5krunner garmin 920xt menu structure summaryBattery Life
It’s in the manual. Don’t worry about it. With all the bells and whistles turned on it will still go through an entire Ironman or Ultra Marathon. I twice had a flat-910XT, that will NEVER happen with my 920XT…ever. You can use it for WEEKS as a watch without re-charging. But you’re training right?
For reasons that I might go into later I use the USB cable for uploading. It charges up pretty quickly when I stick it on there.
In the battery respect Garmin has now caught up with the rest of the main manufacturers. It’s effectively the same as the alternatives. They must all use very similar battery technology. There is no new ‘magic’ battery about to be invented.
So here’s what we need to set-up; quite a few things really.
Personal Information [My Stats>user profile>Heart Rate Zones]
Enter: Age, male/female. Personal Zones: HR, power, pace/speed. VO2max.
You can set your HR Zones based on %Max HR or %HRR. I still find it annoying that you can’t base it on %LTHR, which is what many triathletes use. Me included.
You can set your FTP based on a test. Super. Done that. Training Zones follow.
There is also a setting for VO2max. Well it’s not really a setting because you can’t set it. It gets higher for each sport (running, cycling, not swimming) as you achieve higher levels in your endeavours.
So that expensive LTHR/VO2max test(s) that you did just before you bought the 920XT is (are) useless. Grrrr.
GLONASS – GPS are explained . Personally I have found the 920XT to be accurate enough. Period. I have not found any increased GPS accuracy from additionally enabling GLONASS. If you check the various forums you will see others have had issues.
GPS Speed of finding location is instant to about 10 seconds usually for me with ULTRA TRAC enabled. So enable it!
4. Connectivity: There is some nice functionality in this watch for new kinds of connectivityover and above what the 910XT used to offer. You can easily setup your home Wi-Fi or your smartphone to upload data to Garmin Connect. I have had no difficulties using these and both worked pretty well. Sometimes Bluetooth threw a wobbly but it was rare. Others have reported more issues. The key thing to remember with the Bluetooth setup is that you need to do it from your smartphone Garmin app. I now use the USB cable so I don’t use these although they are turned on and pop up messages for me telling me my steps have just been synchronised. Handy.
5. Connectivity – Extras: With your smartphone you can use the LIVE TRACKER. Basically your partner can track you when you do your training to ensure that you are training and not shopping or having an affair. Oh yes, and you can also use it to let others know your progress in your latest Ironman race. I guess this functionality is of some use to letting your support team/friends know where you are so they will know where to be to cheer you along. Personally I don’t carry a smartphone when I either train or race, so this is of little use to me. On the occasions that I tried to get it to work for testing purposes it didn’t work. (Edit: I re-tried this functionality recently and it works fine now)
Garmin HRM-TRI (HRM-SWIM) Review6. Accessories: Settings>Sensors & Activities: This is great. Your 920Xt can store a different footpod that’s on each of your pairs of shoes, it can store lots of HRMs that you’ve kept for some reason. Multiple sensors. Very nice. Works wonderfully. If more than one sensor of the same type is detected you can select which one to ‘pair’ to.
It gets better! You can even give each individual sensor a real name. So I call my MIO LINK and HRM4 those names. When more than one is detected it is simple to connect the right one. GSC-10, Garmin Speed, Garmin Cadence and Garmin Vectors work fine.
Let’s look at wheel size. This is set as a property of the cadence+speed sensor (GSC-10) or as a property of the speed-only sensor. That sensor is really treated therefore as independent from the bike. So if you change wheels with a GSC-10 (you might have several, say, disk vs road vs trainer) then, most likely, your tyre circumference is different each time. That could get annoying to have to change circumference each time if you are interested in speed from the sensor (for example if you use proxy power that would be the case or even if you want accurate speed on the watch).
Similarly if you use the speed-only sensor then if you move the sensor (not the wheel) to, say, your MTB you will have to reset the circumference again. It’s MUCH easier to move the speed-only sensor than the GSC-10 so people are MUCH more likely to do so from time to time.
I would have thought it marginally more logical to have tyre circumference as part of your sport profile – in the above example you may well have a RACE profile an INDOOR profile and a NORMAL profile so in each of those cases you may well have a different wheel/tyre – of course you may well have a disc and non-disc race wheel so my argument falls down there. However this is not a deal breaker and my argument is flawed as some of you will point out!
I have heard reports of the 920 looking for the wrong kind of device (eg a footpod whilst cycling) and I have found that whilst POOL swimming it (initially) reports linking to a HRM. None of this affects the training or results or the data available.
EDIT: I had a problem with my 920XT dropping ANT+ connection entirely to all devices sometimes in a session. I now have a replacement 🙂 Oh dear. Beta firmware v3.XX now supposedly fixes this for many people.
7. Segments: As far as I can work out segments are effectively not supported on the 920XT device (but may appear when the segment is part of a course that you are following). However when your 920XT datais sent to Garmin Connect then any segments you have crossed will appear in Garmin Connect. So segments ARE supported with Garmin Connect – although I find functionality there very, very (very) slow.
Strava Segments are NOT supported
8. Autolaps/Laps: You can do autolaps for each sport by distance. But not autolap by time. If you want to do them by time, which I do sometimes, you have to either set a time-based alert or follow an appropriate workout or do it manually. I do it manually.
It often makes sense for you to have autolap turned on for each sport.
A nice feature to bring to your attention here is that when you create or reach a lap a different screen appears for a few seconds – you can choose a few metrics to put on that ‘lap’ screen. So, you might only be interested in current pace as you run your 1km intervals but at the end of each km the 920XT can be configured to show your lap’s performance eg average pace.
There are a LOT of metrics. Almost everything you could possibly need. It easily covers all my wants and needs. All except one…
CONNECT IQ is a new Garmin APP feature that lets bits of functionality be added to their top-end watches including the 920XT.
The one metric I’d like to see is a conversion of SPEED to POWER for your particular trainer-type and resistance levels. eg as with TRAINERORAD.com and TRAINERPOWER (SportTracks). Many people will find this useful despite the power not currently being saved into the fit file (Jan 2015)
New metrics are already being added via CONNECT IQ. For example one allows your HR to be shown as a number but then colour codes the entire screen based on your HR zone. Personally I wouldn’t use that, others might of course. However this illustrates that clever new ways of putting more data at your fingertips (wrist) will appear in the coming months with CONNECT IQ…and most are free. Nice. But IQ apps are not necessary on the whole.
You choose the metrics you want to display for each (multi-) sport. More on that later.
10. Sport and Activity Profiles
An ‘activity profile’ is a really a “sport+specific equipment” profile. The following video gives you a flavour.
So you can have RUNNING and you can also have INDOOR RUNNING where GPS is turned off and a footpod is used (Although the HRM-RUN also gives run cadence).
Similarly you have INDOOR CYCLING and CYCLING. Maybe you can have a different profile for mountain biking where you might not have a power meter.
So this is not ideal. But let’s face it, for those that have lots of bikes they can always create a profile for the bike eg COMMUTE+SPECIALIZED and COMMUTE+TEK. It takes only a few minutes. It’s not too much of a problem for most of us.
When racing this also gives you another option. You can have a RACE PROFILE as opposed to a training profile. For example you might be interested in specific pace measures in training but when running your marathon you might want 1 mile lap pace, current pace and lap cadence and average lap HR as key metrics to run by. So there ARE potentially VERY different metrics you might want and indeed need for use in a race profile. Great. The 920XT can do it.
Here’s one profile I created earlierAs well as single sport profiles there are also multi-sport profileswhich allow multiple single sport activities separated by optional transitions. You can use these for training or for racing. So even the most die-hard triathlete might well find a duathlon-brick profile very useful for training.
And of course in winter you may well want to have a brick session comprising indoor-running and indoor-cycling. Yep, you can EASILY do that. Very nice.
The main downside here for me is the multiple run-bike-run-bike-run-bike-run is limited to only about 5 activities. I sometimes use more than that.
In your triathlon race profile you might want to add lots of bike-runs at the end…just in case you press the wrong button. You can then lap through to the next correct sport quickly. Remember that…one day you will thank me for it 🙂
That’s the setup finished. Takes a while I guess to do it all. Now onto the real stuff.
You can create training sessions and schedules using Garmin Connect (GC). It is much easier to do it that way than through the watch interface, don’t even bother trying to do it on the watch.
The online interface in GC is good. But functionally it offers pretty much the same that Garmin Training Centre on the PC offered many years ago (in terms of workout creation). Then again, I can’t see what else it would need to offer over and above that.
Starting a Training Session
To start a free-form session you just scroll to the sport/profile and press enter. It displays the default metrics and uses the default sport/profile settings like autolap. If you press ‘BACK’ then a lap is manually added at that point and, if set, autolap is reset to the beginning of a new lap (as it should).
You can also set alerts to tell you to run faster or pedal quicker, the usual. There are also some new, interesting alert-types telling you, for example, to DRINK at a certain time. You can set alerts based on hi/low parameters but not on a zone or combination of zones – that would be nice but not necessary as there is a manual high/low method to achieve the same result.
Specific EXISTING workouts that you have ALREADY CREATED can instead be started this way:
I would suggest prefixing the workout with either a R (running) or C (cycling).
All your old Garmin workouts should work on the 920. That makes life easier.
Personally I would like the ability to create a generic workout eg 2×30 minutes with 5minnutes rest that I can do for each sport. However that’s not possible. I would also like to create a workout for SWIMMING – however that seems to be a glaring omission. There are no SWIM workouts as of Apr 2015. I half-expect this to change as other models apparently support them eg FENIX3/EPIX – I just can’t see how the top of the range triathlon watch can’t have a triathlon-feature that the triathlon-cum-adventure watch (FENIX3) would have. I understand WHY this has happened, it just doesn’t make commercial sense to me!
There are also structured workouts that you can create on the fly eg at run>Training>Intervals(or set a target or race an activity). It would probably have been easier to create one in Garmin Connect but if you are in the middle of a field and have forgotten to do that then creating an interval session on-the-fly is easy enough.
Note that if you are following a structured workout then pressing BACK/LAP ends the current lap and progresses to whatever comes next
NEW Note: In a multisport session AUTOLAPS can be enabled/disabled. I have not tested this but I assume that this will enable the use of the sub-profile/sport’s AUTOLAP setting. So, in theory, if it were enabled in running but not in cycling then you would only get multisport RUN autolaps. WARNING: This will have no impact on what the BACK/LAP button does in MULTISPORT mode ie that will STILL take you to the next transition or sport and NOT to the nextlap (indeed, why would it?).
NEW Tip: Some triathlons have non-compete legs for a variety of reasons such as safety. These can mess with your transition if autolaps and suchlike stop you from seeing the time you have spent in the time-limited non-compete leg. In that case add an extra OTHER SPORT into your multisport profile and configure that accordingly, not forgetting to press lap to take you into transition.
Stopping a Training Session
Be patient! Stop a session at the end of the last effort period by pressing enter. Then wait. Don’t save or discard the session yet. After two minutes you will be shown recovery information (HRR – Heart Rate Recovery) as well as the Recovery Advisor telling you how many hours to wait until the next hard session. That info is then stored in the FIT file.
Source: GarminSwim Sessions
As pointed out earlier you can’t (yet) create/follow a swimming workout. So you essentially follow a free-form session.
However there are two new neat features for POOL swimming.
Firstly when you press BACK/LAP the colour of the screen inverts to white-on-black. It’s conceptually very similar to the special run/bike LAP screen that (temporarily) appears. However in POOL SWIM mode you stay in this state until you again press BACK/LAP to re-enter the ‘normal’ swim mode. You get a REST COUNTER and other stuff. Quite useful to let you know how long you’ve been recovering without having to look at the pool clock. But also quite annoying when you forget to leave that mode as your swimming efforts are not recorded when resting.
Of course really this should be in a SWIM WORKOUT and the WORKOUT should tell you to get cracking once the rest time is up. As it currently stands (Jan 2015) you have to assess your rest period manually.
If you forget to press BACK/LAP then the 920XT still will record swimming activities.
Optionally you can turn on DRILL mode which enables you to record the lengths of drills you have done – as the 920XT will NOT properly detect and record drill. Watch this, it’s short, if you want to know more.
If you inadvertently enter DRILL mode then your activity will not be automatically recorded. For that reason I disable drill mode.
As far as I am concerned the 920XT is more than acceptably accurate for most scenarios.
There is a new algorithm for 5 second smoothing for current/instant pace. I think that’s still relatively rubbish.
A footpod is the solution for instant pace. Only in November 2015 was a firmware release made to let instant pace come from a footpod. IMO you MUST buy a footpod.
The 920XT current running pace is much better than with the 910XT. I’m yet to decide on how happy I am with the accuracy.
Elevation when cycling still appears to be troublesome with some bug fixes still in the latest firmware release (Jan 2015). In general though I understand that if you leave it turned on for a while (15 minutes) before heading off then it’ll be fine. I’m not too bothered about elevation gained, sorry 🙁
The GPS track is accurate enough. To within 3-5m I would say at any one time/position. GLONASS did not improve that for me. GPS was as accurate as the 910XT but not as accurate as other devices I have tested. When comparing accuracy to what you actually ran be aware that your Google/Bing map could be a bit out and also be aware that when you ran that 5k you may not have run in a straight line before blaming the watch.
Overall GPS accuracy by distance is as good as the rest. Not noticeably better or worse than the ‘best of the rest’. So you’ll still get, perhaps, 5050m recorded for a 5k (did you run straight?) or you might get 4980 (was it REALLY measured properly like the organisers suggest when you ask if you just thought you got a PB?)
EDIT: March 2015 – my 920’s GPS threw a wobbly and went badly inaccurate requiring a factory reset – oh dear, lost all my zones/configuration.
Stroke recognition: I would say is as perfect as your stroke. I’m an OK swimmer and I have no problems with front crawl recognition. You can always turn it off if you mostly/only do one stroke.
Open water swimming: Accuracy is at least as good as the 910XT. Obviously you don’t really look at your watch whilst splashing around a lake, so the GPS accuracy (distance, etc) is only visible on maps afterwards. It gives a fair degree of accuracy but it’s not brilliant as there is no GPS signal underwater.
Recovery Metrics and Guidance. After you enable HRV then the 920XT can work out your breathing rate and, combined with that, other effort/intensity/duration based metrics can give you an estimated VO2max (power meter required for cycling). They can tell you how long to wait until your next hard session and they tell you after you have warmed up how good you are to go on the impending session for today. All good stuff. But know their limitations and be aware that other software and other watches do this better.