The Garmin 920XT. A Swiss Army knife of watches and the timepiece of choice for many triathletes often to be found on the suited and booted as a giveaway to their Lycra credentials. We have been testing this magical device for the past 8 weeks and putting it through its multi sport paces in training and races. This weeks blog is a review of this tech addition to your tri wardrobe.
Early decisions here are colour. For some a pointless distraction while for others a burden of choice needing suitable consideration and review. The 920XT only offers two choices. Blue/black or red/white. Not being too scientific we went for blue/black. Slightly less in your face for a watch that is quite a chunky style statement in the first place. Design wise the watch has no touch screen loveliness but has side buttons for usual functions coupled with 2 front of screen buttons for ease of access while racing / training. A good size screen is easy to read while on the move and offers configuration of settings to suit your needs. This is activity based as well allowing you to tailor depending on what you are doing. The strap is chunky with a very solid strap loop to hold the spare strap in place. Feels like it will last and has been really reliable in use. Even pulling off a wetsuit hasn’t dislodged it.
The watch includes GPS and has Bluetooth connectivity to your phone but does not have any heart rate monitoring so for those doing zone based training you will need to start your Christmas list early with an additional strap. The latest 735 offers built in heart rate monitoring that this earlier model hasn’t included. The 920xt comes with the charging docking station for recharge or PC connectivity and has a pretty healthy battery life given its mutltitude of functions. You won’t be daily charging unless you are Deca Dave doing an ironman every day. Battery life is pretty strong but again some issues with ironman distance events for the watch if your looking to run it for 12 hours plus solidly.
The watch is very much triathlon orientated with swim, bike, run and triathlon modes. All (except triathlon) including indoor and outdoor modes allowing for winter training to be easily included. Each mode includes specific updates linked to your discipline and again allows configuration of settings. With a heart rate monitor attached it also unlocks extra updates including recovery time calculators. How much stock you place in this is down to you but personally I like the time in zone results it delivers. Syncing to your phone via Bluetooth can be amended from continuous during training or in batches after your training has completed. Bluetooth includes some handy iwatch type notifications from your phone to your watch with phone call and text message alerts. Nice touch if your late and worried about missing that important message while out.
The indoor swim mode tracks your laps and pace without need to fiddle with any buttons. It is adjusted to pool distances and is very accurate. Only seen a couple of instances of it dropping a lap over a couple of km swim. With stroke count and 100m pace continuous feedback you get good feedback throughout your swim. You also get a SWOLF rating for each swim that ranks your pace and stroke rate to give an indication of swim efficiency. When swimming intervals with rest periods you merely press the lap button and it pauses your session providing an update on the last set completed. There is no auto stop/start on swimming unlike riding or running but the manual button press is not too distracting. When using in outdoor swim mode you additionally get the benefits of accurate distance feedback for your swim. This was a revelation for me as I quickly realised my sighting training needed some work as I regularly put in an extra few hundred metres per lap as I weaved off course. This insight saved at least a few minutes on race day plus valuable energy I was expending without need.
The watch syncs with Nike+ amongst others so no need for lost miles on your run and performs admirably as a run buddy. You can configure your updates but a reliable pace indicator throughout is the main benefit of a watch like this for me. Why wait until the end of a mile to know your pace is dropping when you can get a speed check throughout. The watch offers indoor and outdoor functions allowing treadmill tracking alongside your other training.
On the bike
Garmin have a history of making quality bike computers and much of this has been poured into the 920XT. With GPS quick to locate it actually outperformed my Garmin 500 bike computer every time for position acquisition. On the move the bike gives a range of updates with interval updates depending on settings. Good heart rate updates also allow accuracy of zone based training. With optional extras to capture cadence and speed based on wheel rotation it is the perfect partner to turbo trainer winter sessions as you maintain your base fitness with sufferfest or equivalent training videos. There are handlebar mounts for the watch if you choose but with a decent sized screen it is pretty easy to check while located firmly on your wrist. Strava integration is offered to keep up your strava stats from the Garmin connect app.
Triathlon mode is superb for tracking races with the only effort from you being to press the lap button as you move between disciplines. This includes transition time recording. All simple and all great to retain after the race. With GPS through all disciplines and update screens that adapt with each one. It really helps you hit those targets and get that PB.
Overall this is a quality piece of kit and while no style icon it is a must have for most replacing the need for Fitbits with step counts included and in honesty questions the need for an iwatch as this does so much more while being more robust and tough enough for every day use. We love it.
About the author – Billy loves tech and this is his third sports based timepiece switching between manufacturers as the tech has matured.