Shoes & Gear

Garmin 310XT vs. Garmin 910XT

Garmin 310XT vs. Garmin 910XT

Ever since we were kids there is nothing like getting a new toy whether it be a video game, TV, or in this case a new Garmin watch. I have been using the Garmin 310XT for my training for the last couple of years and really enjoy everything that it offers but when I saw the Garmin 910XT was out on the shelves I was like a kid in a candy store and I had to have it.

I have read people’s posts on the watches and they say why would an ultra runner need a watch that was designed for tri athletes? We really don’t need one and neither does anybody that competes in sports but let’s face it we are all gadget junkies and we love to know things like pace, mileage, calories, and other meaningless stats to justify our existence as runners. I know myself I feel a lot more prepared going out to run 100 miles in a race if I have put in the training and have something to look at to see where my progress has been over a training cycle.

Finding the perfect watch

Garmin 305 vs. Garmin 310xt vs. Garmin 910xt

I have wore the 910xt and the 310XT simultaneously over the last few runs to test the different variables such as total ascent, decent, pace, mileage, calories, and to compare elevation. You can read a facebook post or advertisement about the watches but I want to give you an in depth preview of the two and let you know exactly what I have found out. I am going to give several comparisons between the two so you can decide which is right for you. The 910xt is a sleek, skinnier version of the 310XT from first glance and the minute you put the watch on you immediately notice something pretty unique about the watch. The fit of the 910XT is incredible and while it is probably very similar in weight they have designed the watch to feel better on your wrist.

The strap is a new rubber texture that doesn’t rub against the wrist and the watch also lays flats and doesn’t feel so bulky when it is on. Staying with the strap the have reinforced the buckle at the end of the strap to handle more wear and tear and they even include a spare strap in the package. The last item I will mention that is associated with the strap is they changed how the bands are connected to the watch. They have added small screws to hold the bands in place and keep it from separating from the watch. I cannot tell you how many times I have caught my hydration pack, gloves, or sleeves on the 310XT and ripped the strap off in the middle of a race.

Altimeter vs. GPS Enabled

Let’s now discuss the functions of the two watches. From first glance all of the buttons are very similar and the watches are laid out exactly the same but the buttons are much easier to press on the 910XT. I have had some issues with the buttons getting stuck in the past on the 310XT and it looks like the redesigned functionality of the buttons. The features of the watch are where you will start to notice the biggest differences. The 910XT comes with a built in altimeter and receives its data from NASA satellites providing an accurate number on ascent and decent to the meter. The 310XT and other models use a GPS receiver to measure altitude and while they are close the numbers are not fully accurate and accounted for until plugged into your computer for uploading. The GPS altimeters are often unavailable when you’re climbing through deep canyons because the satellites are only available near the horizon. The rest of the features in the run system are identical with a couple new features on the 910XT which include Fat Calories, Total steps, sunrise and sunset. If your watch is set to the right location it will give you accurate times for the sunrise and sunset but not really sure why this is a useful feature but it is on the watch.

Similarities and Differences

To give everyone an idea of the differences between the measurements I want to point out just a few of the categories so you can see just how the altimeter works, and how some of the other categories vary. In my first experiment I did a little over 10 miles through the McDowell Mountains in Scottsdale, Arizona and ascended Bell Pass to 3100 feet and back to 1600 feet. I followed the trail around some single track to Windgate pass where I again climbed around 800 feet to the peak before descending down the trail to the trailhead.

Garmin 310xtBoth of my watches were started in the same location and the first difference I noticed was the mileage difference. I had my watch set to beep every mile and in the first mile the 310XT went off almost a 1/10th of a mile sooner than the 910XT. I have always found the 310XT to run a little fast in mileage as even a loop around the track measure 460 meters on my watch. Over the course of the 10 mile loop the differences were pretty minimal it seemed but when I finished the 310XT registered at 10.38 miles and the 910XT came in at 10.14. No, that is not a huge difference but over the course of 100 miles it is pretty significant when you’re looking for an aid station or if you think you may be lost on mileage alone.

The 310XT and the 910XT are pretty similar when it comes to the interval feature in that it allows you set your warm up, interval times, rest, and cool down without having to reset the watch on each lap. This is a great feature for anyone doing a track workout or pick ups during a run. The watch will beep or vibrate when your break is over and indicate that you need to get the interval started. One of the last items I noticed on the 910XT is a great new feature called the run/walk mode. This is a great feature for anyone who runs ultra’s or long endurance runs. This feature has a couple of uses and many will set the reminder to beep every 20-30 minutes to remind them to eat or drink but it can also be used in the run/walk theory of an ultra. Often times runners find themselves going out to hard in a race and don’t back off until they are fatigued. Runners can set this reminder to go off every 20 minutes or so and let them know to slow the pace down or to walk for a set amount of time.

Here is a little chart of what I noticed on a 10 mile run between the 910XT and 310XT.



Elevation Max:
Best Pace:
MRSP (w/o HR Monitor):
Battery Life:
20 hours
17 hours

Which watch do I prefer?

So with everything being said the real question is which watch would I choose based on all of these factors? I have to say that I am sold on the 910XT and while for most people spending an extra $100 for a few extra features is not worth it, for me I really enjoy the accuracy of the watch. When I am deep in a race or looking to see how far to the next aid station I like my watch to be as accurate as possible so having the altimeter is a great feature. I am not a swimmer so I did not comment on any of those features but as an ultra runner I am going to choose the 910XT. I have ran a couple 100 mile events and been lucky enough to finish before the 310XT has completely died but at the 17 hour mark they quit showing the data on the screen and the battery saving device kept track of my stats until I finished one at 18:26 and the other at 19:01. Since the 910XT has a 20 hour battery life it is good for me for most 100 mile races with the exception of Hardrock whenever I get in there.

So what do you use?
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This post was written by:

- who has written 7 posts on Trail Running Club.

Started running for the first time in my life three year's ago after losing my Dad to a pulmonary embolism at the age of 58 and since running I have lost almost 100 pounds and started a streak which on February 22, 2012 sits at 709 Consecutive days with at least 4 miles while compiling over 7,100 miles with 620,000+ feet of elevation gain and completed 14 Ultra's during this time period. Jay holds a Bachelor's Degree from Michigan State University in Crop and Soil Sciences.

Jay's recent trail ultra running results:

• 10 Top Ten Ultra Finishes in 14 races
• 4th overall at Lean Horse 100 in 19:01:12
• 9th overall at Javelina Jundred in 2011 in 18:28:26
• 100K Javelina Night Run Champion in 2011
• Cave Creek Thriller 50K Champion in 2010
• Runner up in 2011 DRT Ultra Series

2012 Race Schedule includes:
• Bandera 100K
• Nueces 50M
• Zane Grey 50M
• San Diego 100M
• Speedgoat 50K
• Pine to Palm 100M
* CIM Marathon

Jay Danek is sponsored by iRun Honey Stinger

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