I promised myself I wouldn’t write up a review on the Garmin Forerunner 920XT until I had at least used it in an actual triathlon. As the new Holy Grail gadget for triathletes, the 920XT has been hotly sought-after in my circles. After two seasons using a GPS watch from a competitor, I thought it was high time to get back to my roots. After all, my first ever GPS watch was a Garmin (but a Forerunner 305, for running and cycling only).
I have a confession to make: after two months of owning it, I still haven’t read the owner’s manual! But this is a testament to how user-friendly its interface is and how much of it is plug-and-play. (For everything else, there’s DC Rainmaker’s extremely extensive and informative product review.)
On the first day I had it, I immediately used it for a run, then later that morning taught myself how to set up a Bluetooth connection between the 920XT and my smartphone so I can upload all my workouts wirelessly wherever I am. (This is also thanks to the excellent connection quality and bandwidth I get with my Globe GoSURF data plan.)
My old Garmin Connect account, which I had previously used with my 305, was just waiting in the wings for all the data uploaded from the 920XT. I’ve also synced Garmin Connect with my Strava account. Now I don’t have to connect my watch to my laptop, download files, and upload them manually. Pretty much the only time I connect my 920XT with its cable is when I need to charge it, which happens once every week and a half.
I should mention its form factor, first and foremost! The 920XT has a sporty look, but gone are the days when it looks like I’ve strapped a calculator to my wrist. It’s super sleek and lightweight and plays well with casual wear. And you can use it as a regular watch to tell time, something I wasn’t able to do with my old 305.
With Garmin’s foray into fitness wearables (the VivoFit), it’s nice to see the activity tracker make its way onto its higher-end gadgets. Even when I’m not actively working out, the 920XT tracks how many steps I take throughout the day and gives me a percentage score of how well I’ve done against a target number (I just don’t know how it chooses the step targets per day). It has a vibrating “Move!” alert you can switch on or off, which is useful if your job involves sitting at a desk all day. At least it reminds you to get up every so often and get blood moving.
The controls are pretty easy to figure out, and there are preset sport modes you can use: Run, Run Indoor, Bike, Bike Indoor, Pool Swim, Open Water Swim, and Triathlon. All the cycling data I’ve recorded for the Challenge Philippines new bike course was logged through the 920XT. The white-and-red colorway also neatly matches my Challenge kit. :D
I’ve really enjoyed using the 920XT in the pool due to its rest timer, which allows me to record my actual pace and rest time. My previous watch would take a few seconds to register that I was resting at the end of the lane, so its accuracy in recording how fast I had gone was somewhat questionable. There’s none of that with the 920XT. Minor peeve is that when I upload the data to Garmin Connect, the average pace of the workout is reckoned by including rest time with lap time, so it displays a much slower pace than I’d actually maintained.
In an ideal world, I’d have a power meter like the Garmin Vector pedals to make full use of the Bike Indoor mode and the data it logs. I don’t have a power meter, but I do have a (third-party) heart rate monitor which I use to track my exertion and recovery during my intervals.
The Garmin HRM-Run, the heart rate monitor you can purchase along with the 920XT, is able to sense torso movement to give you running form metrics like cadence and air time. I don’t have that, but the 920XT itself logs cadence through your arm movement (which is linked to leg movement). This makes the 920XT pretty useful to track distance and pace even during indoor runs on treadmills — but only if you’re running at 0% incline. The error margin grows when you increase the treadmill incline because this changes your run mechanics — so while you may still be holding the same pace at 5% gradient, your Garmin may register this as a slowdown.
Outdoors, the 920XT locks onto GPS signal nearly instantly so you don’t have to stand around waiting for a signal before commencing your workout or race. At one touch you have all the information you want to see — or you can change the screen configuration to your liking on-the-go. The 920XT shines brightest when it’s doing what it’s designed to do: be your outdoor companion when you’re swimming, cycling, running, or doing all three.
I was able to use the 920XT at the NAGT Subic, so I can finally say I’ve tried all its sport modes. What’s nice about the Triathlon mode is that when it uploads the data, it’s neatly split into Swim, Transition 1, Bike, Transition 2, and Run. No more manually cropping the data file in Strava to show where the swim, bike, and run parts ended. There was a little hitch in the data transfer from Garmin Connect to Strava (the bike leg didn’t have any GPS data), so I had to download a GPX file from Garmin Connect and manually upload it. I hope it’s just a glitch and doesn’t happen for future triathlons.
Review at a Glance
- lightweight, can be worn as regular watch
- user-friendly interface capable of on-the-go customization
- useful for basic activity tracking
- connects wirelessly to WiFi or smartphone Bluetooth for easy data upload
- able to log run metrics even without GPS
- very useful rest and drills timer for pool swims
- locks quickly onto GPS signal
- long-lasting battery life
Overall, I am extremely happy with the 920XT and am looking forward to training and racing with it even more.