Garmin managed to keep a tight lid and many people guessing about when they would be releasing the Forerunner 920XT as the successor to the already hugely successful FR910XT. I say guessing as to ‘when’ as the wireless technology (both WiFi and Bluetooth), that had been appearing and enjoying great success in Gamin’s other fitness devices, had to make its way into the company’s flagship multisport device at some point.
The result is a mighty little watch packing in all of Gamin’s knowledge in running, cycling, swimming and activity tracking in to a nifty 62g device which will also pair with a smartphone (via Bluetooth) to act as a smartwatch. Thanks to the great people at TFN I managed to get hold of brand new FR920XT for testing as soon as it was launched here in the UK.
As usual I’ve got the watch on test right away and used it for as many training sessions as possible to write this review. I’ve also performed a (mock) Triathlon to demonstrate the multisport functions pitted against Polar V800 (see the Triathlon heading below). I’ll keep training with it for many more months to come so I can continue to update this post and answer any comments.
As a break from the normal TriedOnline format I’ve decided to put a concise conclusion at the top of this post to enable you to get a feel for my overall thoughts before reading on through the in-depth write-up of each function. You’ll also see the buying options to the side where you can head over to the excellent people at TFN or checkout further opinions at Amazon.
There are so many functions to the FR920XT that it’s hard understand how so much technology can be packed into such a tiny device. Put simply, nearly every trackable element of health and fitness is catered for in the FR920XT with pretty much everything included a triathlete could need. Garmin has nailed the multisport features to provide not only unrivalled individual functions in swimming, cycling and running but also an immensely easy and intuitive Triathlon mode to assist during a full race-day event. If there’s a single drawback, it’s the inability to track heart rate whilst swimming but this is more than made up for in the unrivalled swim metrics (both pool and open water) and power meter solutions that many triathletes will prioritise. In fact, the sheer scale of data capture available puts the FR920XT in line with the most complex of cycling computers (minus mapping) and beyond the boundaries of previous running devices. I have not experienced any issues with satellite accuracy or in fact any other data capture save for a few missed lengths during an initial session at a congested public swimming pool. The comfort of the strap has been well thought out to ensure the wearer can maintain use 24/7 to take advantage of the daily activity tracking (i.e steps) settings which I was pleased to see included on the main display to keep you up-to-date with activity levels as each day progresses. All of the data is backed up wirelessly to Garmin Connect or easily exportable to any 3rd party software you may prefer.
Quite simply, the FR920XT is Garmin’s most advanced all round fitness device. Yes, it’s a high-end product with a price tag to match, but the FR920XT introduces true (two-way) wireless technology and smartwatch capabilities to the multisports arena meaning the FR920XT is likely to remain top of the pile for many seasons to come. There is also potential for continuing advancements with the opening up of third-party programmability (by way of Garmin Connect IQ) to be introduced in early 2015.
Verdict: Solid, accurate & hard to fault.
Garmin Forerunner 920XT Review – Opening The Box
This is the Blue/Black version of the FR920XT. It’s also available in White/Red and with both colour choices you have the option to purchase with or without the HRM-Run heart rate strap. Most likely only owners of the Garmin’s FR620 will already have the HRM-Run, so its worthwhile reading on to discover how the ‘Run Dynamics’ are reliant upon the HRM-Run.
Check out the very brief YouTube clip for the unboxing of the FR920XT and its accessories.
Within the box was the watch itself, a USB charging dock and both parts of the HRM-Run belt (the heart rate strap). The obvious omission from the predecessor (the FR910XT) was absence of the ANT+ stick, which is no longer required due to the ability to sync by both WiFi and Bluetooth Smart technology.
The HRM-Run (below) was first introduced with the release of the Garmin Forerunner 620 at the end of 2013. The strap improved on comfort whilst the pod itself came equipped with is own separate accelerometer to enable a further level of analysis from the chest, now referred to as ‘Run Dynamics’ (more below).
The charging dock provides a secure housing for the watch to click into with a notch on the right-hand side. Once in place, it can be released using the silver button to the right of the dock. The dock has a USB connector to plug into your computer or other USB charging connection. Unlike many other devices you may find yourself only needing to use the dock for charging purposes, as the vast majority of data transfer can be completed whilst the FR920XT remains neatly on the wrist.
Size & Comfort
The profile and weight of the watch is seriously impressive given the sheer amount of functions and technology Garmin have had to pack in. Since the unboxing video above (25 November 2014), I’ve had it on the wrist 24/7 without any issues or discomfort.
The strap is affixed securely to each end of the main watch unit by a robust screw at either end. The clasp has a single oversized pin making a nice feature with a brushed metal finish. The is loop designed to secure the excess of the strap and features a metal insert to marry up with a corresponding notch. Provided this loop/notch system is used correctly in conjunction with the clasp, I have not experienced and doubts with security during exercise.
If you don’t already have Garmin Express the initial installation is described here in the review of the Garmin FR620. It’s super simple to install on either a PC or Mac with a wizard to guide you through each stage.
Once Garmin Express is open just connect the FR920XT via the charging dock and you’ll be underway with the setup. Here’s how it looks on a Mac:
After Garmin Express has detected your new device you only have a few more stages left to set up your WiFi connection and link to your Garmin Connect account (to see the stats of your workouts).
If you don’t already have an account you can use this step/link where you will be prompted to add a few personal details (i.e age, height etc.).
If, as in my case, you already have an account you can simply sign in to Garmin Connect.
The Forerunner 920XT will also act as a daily activity tracker to log your steps, calories and other such daily information. If you already have a Garmin activity tracker (such as the Vivofit or Vivosmart) you will need to decide which device you continue to use for activity tracking.
Next up is the set up of your preferred WiFi network. This is an important step as you will be logging the network with both Garmin Express and the watch to enable the FR920XT to communicate direct with your network (even when your computer is not in use). Most users will choose their home network but you can register up to 7 separate networks. As you can see from the box above you can also indicate which network you wish to use as a ‘preferred network’.
After the initial set up is done leave the watch connected and Garmin Express will check and install any available firmware updates. I also left mine on connected at this point until it reached a 100% charge (I know this isn’t done by everyone these days but I still find conflicting advice about a device’s first charge!).
After you’re done with the software & WiFi setup you are ready to go out and complete an activity. Well… that’s if you’re already in your running gear and can wait until you get back before seeing how it acts as a smartwatch.
Smart Watch Functions
Pairing the FR920XT with your smart phone has the dual purpose of enabling wireless transfer via Bluetooth (without the need for a PC) and also enabling the use as a smartwatch.
To get started you’ll need to unlock the FR920XT using the ‘Menu’ button (bottom left side) followed by ‘Enter’ (bottom right on the watch face) which will most likely take you straight into run mode. From this point, pressing the Menu button again will take you into the main menu where you can navigate to Settings>Bluetooth>Pair Mobile Device. Here you will want to have your phone ready to pair which you can achieve by accessing the Garmin Connect App and adding the FR920XT as a new device in the devices section, from the main app menu.
With both the FR920XT and the Phone/App in the correct modes you should be walked through the process which will involve inserting a code displayed on the FR920XT.
This process will connect the two devices by Bluetooth Smart and ensure they remember each other going forward.
I’ll return to the mobile version of Garmin Connect below but for now focus on the all new Smart Phone functions.
Notifications are communicated in real-time from your phone direct to the FR920XT. You can configure your settings so the notifications can be seen in standby mode or during activities (or both). It’s also possible to receive alerts by a tone (i.e beep) or vibration (or both). So far I’ve been using a vibrate only but I’ve experimented with alerts being allowed in workouts (it can be a disturbance – but not if you don’t have your phone with you!).
Here is a shot of the FR920XT receiving a notification in standby mode.
The starting point is the notification will appear as the name of the application (i.e Twitter) followed by the start of the message received. From that point you can select the notification to display the remainder of the text (or Tweet etc).
Basically when your phone beeps the FR920XT vibrates!
To take anything further with a notification (i.e answer a call or respond to an email) you will physically need your phone. The function provides a great feature for allowing a quick flick of the wrist to determine whether you need to take time to respond/or answer the notification from the phone. If not, you can simply carry on with what ever you were doing leaving your phone exactly where it was.
Older or unread notifications can still be accessed by pressing the ‘Down’ (bottom right side) twice. To tailor which notifications you want to see you can adjust your preferences in the iOS Notification Centre found within the general settings of the iPhone.
Ok… now we’re ready to run.
As soon as you are set up and charged you’re ready to head out for your first run. To activate the watch you’ll need go through the unlocking procedure which will take you to an opening screen where you have the option to choose from the list of sports supported by the FR920XT. If it’s not already set to run mode you can use the up/down buttons to scroll through the various modes.
If you wish to configure custom data screens (see options below) before your first run you can access the ‘Activity Settings’ by pressing the bottom left (side) button where you will find the options to customise up to 4 data screens each with up 1 to 4 separate fields.
Pressing enter from run mode will take you to your first data screen where the watch will begin readying itself for the run by searching for paired devices (i.e the HRM-Run) and acquiring a satellite fix. You will receive notifications as each connection is completed leading to the position where you are ready to commence the run by pressing the enter button for a second time.
Here’s a quick YouTube clip of the 920XT going through the above process and starting a run (well walk!).
During the run you can scroll though data screens with the up/down button. Each screen will be displayed in the order you have set. My primary screen is below with the remain ing 3 as demonstrated in the video (see above).
After you have scrolled through your main screens you will then reach the coloured display showing the Run Dynamics (see below). This is a set screen to display your current cadence, ground contact time and vertical oscillation.
There is a vast amount of data available to customise and you will want to experiment with what data screens you prefer to see. You also have the option to set various alerts which will act as prompts in real-time. As an example, I have set my FR920XT to alert me if I fall below set target pace per km (say 4mins 45 secs). Alerts can also be applied to heart rate, distance, time, cadence and calories. Be careful how many targets and alerts you set, however, as alerts can begin to dominate the display.
The ‘Auto Lap’ function can be set to notify you of your lap time (i.e 1 mile or 1km) as you hit the marker. I find this a useful gauge both during training and racing. You can also log a lap manually by pressing the ‘Back’ button at any time. There are a few other auto features as found on previous Garmin running and multisports devices which carry over to the FR920XT including, ‘Auto Scroll’ (data screens remain on continuous loop) and ‘Auto Pause’. I prefer to use the manual buttons to access this data so have not enabled either of these options.
To end the run you press the Enter button at which point you will receive a prompt to either resume, save or discard the activity. Don’t worry about accidentally discarding your precious data as this could only happen after a second prompt asking if you are sure you want to delete.
You can program the virtual partner to a set pace you want to achieve (or attempt to achieve) throughout the duration of your run, e.g. 00:4:45 per km. The FR920XT will then alert you in real-time how well you are keeping to the pace via the graphic of a runner either ahead or behind, in the top of the display. Below that graphic you will also be informed of the average pace with the ‘time ahead’ or the ‘time behind’ displayed clearly at the bottom right.
The virtual partner is extremely useful if you know the pace you want to maintain to achieve a desired finish time. Provided you can stay ahead, it can be extremely motivating to see that you are on target. You can also use it a tool to catch back up with your target/time pace (provided you haven’t fallen too far behind!).
Garmin introduced the running metrics with the release of the Forerunner 620 at the end of 2013. Since then these clever features have also appeared in the Fenix 2 and now the FR920XT.
The major difference from predecessor multisports watches is the FR920XT can utilise the full range of running metrics whilst also integrating ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart simultaneously. This means that all of the new metrics can be utilised whilst also using the Live Track feature (see below) and, importantly, without a footpod.
Here’s a quick run through the functions:
This is as you would expect from any other high-end device. The HRM-Run belt is both comfortable and accurate resulting virtually no ‘spikes’ or ‘drop-outs’ in heart rate capture during my training with the FR920XT.
Within the settings area of the FR920XT you have the ability to use pre-set heart rate zones or customise your own specific zones (should you know them). The data is then available visually during your run and also in Garmin Connect in both summary and graph format.
For maximum convenience cadence is now detected directly by the device and the HRM-Run belt, which means a footpod is no longer required. The combination of two accelerometers in both the FR920XT and the HRM-Run gives a very accurate measure which also makes it easier to rotate between shoes without the need to remove the footpod each time and potentially recalibrate.
The cadence feature gives a very good understanding of your running technique plus the ability to compare your cadence with previous runs to understand how various factors (e.g. fatigue, gradient) may affect your steps per minute (SPM). The data takes both feet into account, so you will see a figure of anywhere between 160 to 190 SPM. According to Garmin, the optimum is 185 SPM and above (the upper limit, however, can be difficult to achieve).
Since training with the FR620 this and the following metric have become something I’ve paid attention to in order to maximise my run efficiency and prevent injury. In fact, it’s now a measure I use during training as I want to maintain as light on my feet a possible to avoid the return of a knee injury I suffered in the early part of 2014. It’s also interesting from the perspective of how much of your stride is wasted by unnecessary ‘air time’ as opposed to moving forward. According to Garmin, the optimum is <208 milliseconds (see table below).
The HRM-Run belt will use its accelerometer to measure the distance traveled vertically during each and every stride. You can see from my graph that the data stays relatively consistent with the higher spikes usually denoting a step up a kerb or other raised area.
Ground Contact time
The object of running efficiently is to achieve fast efficient feet moving seamlessly from stride to stride. This metric pinpoints how long each foot maintains contact with the ground (measured in milliseconds). You’ll be aiming for the lowest possible ground contact time, which will inevitably increase your cadence.
Over the last six months I have been asked a few times whether the running dynamics are really necessary or useful. I’m not sports scientist or running coach so I can only comment from my own perspective. Generally, the question was previously asked on the basis of whether you would want to opt for the FR620 over the (less expensive) FR220. The question, however, becomes superfluous in respect of this watch as it’s built-in and that’s it.
I would say that the running dynamics are of use particularly if you are trying to change and maintain a new running style. Having said that, you will more than likely notice that cadence remains the key feature and that an increase in cadence generally results in decrease in both ground contact time and vertical oscillation.
While the Running Dynamics have found their way into list of functions from earlier running devices the introduction of the metronome is an entirely new feature for the Forerunner 920XT. Essentially it’s a tool to help prompt and maintain a pre-determined cadence (in steps per minute) to be determined by an alert via either a tone or vibration alert (or both).
Metronome is an appropriate description as the function emits a tone in beats per minute. If you can match your foot strike with the beat you will achieve the desired cadence. If you don’t – you wont!
I’ve given it a go and found that it’s actually a really useful feature particularly with the backup of the vibrate for noisy town stations (or if you listen to music). Where the ground remains flat and consistent it is easier to keep to the beat, however off-road and/or undulating terrains can prove more of a challenge. All-in-all it is a very useful function particularly if you are attempting to adjust your style in real-time.
I opted to use the metronome function in a frequency of every 4th beat, but options for 2, 3, 4 & 6 beats are available to experiment with.
And to help with your experiments there’s a preview function to allow you to get a feel for your preference before you head out for a run.
The above image is a snapshot of the preview function. I say ‘snapshot’ as the red dot also pulses to the beat.
After ending a run you’ll be able to access a summary of the workout. The basic details are available but the real data will be waiting for you once you’ve synced with Garmin Connect.
Thanks to both WiFi and Bluetooth transfer you won’t have to wait long before seeing the data on your PC or even on your smartphone.
At the end of a run you your also be notified of any new Personal Records (PRs) which will also be stored on the device.
As you save a workout you will see a pop up with a suggested recovery time. This the amount of time that, based upon the exertion of your workout, you are advised to wait before commencing your next run.
Displayed in hours the read out will count down and can be accessed via the main menu.
This feature will display a pop up within the first 10 minutes of the next activity to inform you of your level of recovery since the last workout. It’s a standard wording and will based upon your heart rate at the start of the workout to inform whether you have experienced a ‘fair’ or ‘good’ recovery. This information could be used to indicate how prepared your body is for another workout and may prompt you to adjust the intensity if recovery is not as expected.
Both the recovery advisor and recovery check are designed to assist you with injury prevention.
At this point it’s worth noting that the majority of the functions and controls described in this running analysis will apply to the majority of sports and workout modes available with the Forerunner 920XT
The FR920XT has very advanced cycling mode which puts it on par with some of the top end cycling computers also available from Garmin (minus mapping). In fact, the FR920XT goes further than the Edge 1000 in one respect with the ability to provide a cycling VO2 Max score when paired with a compatible power meter (see VO2 Max Section below).
The main and obvious difference between the FR920XT and the Edge series is the size of the device and that it is a wrist mounted unit as opposed to handlebar. Having said that, there are various methods for mounting on the bike via either adaptors for the bike or even a conversion kit.
Here I have mounted the FR920XT with the a watch mount coupled together with the clever Profile Design’s Computer Mount. This has proved the perfect solution for my particular bike, although a Garmin specific mount is available if you want to place on standard handle bars.
In addition to my solution, you can also purchase a quick release kit which will effectively provide a new system for both the wrist and the bike enabling you to detach the watch unit and place it on a the bike via Garmin’s popular twist-lock mechanism. I have not used the system but is available to view on the Garmin website here.
Mounting could become a factor during a race situation as you will want to find a method for starting a triathlon with the FR920XT on your wrist (i.e for the swim) to then keep it visible once you transition to the bike. For me this is not an issue in training, but during races (particularly if worn on the wrist with a TT bike) it can prove difficult to view the watch as much as you might like unless you are prepared to swap it back during transitions or use the quick release mount. This is where the quick release kit could be particularly useful.
For the actual cycling metrics the major difference from running mode is the default becomes speed rather than pace. From there you have a massive amount of customisation for the data screens in all fields ranging from speed metrics, cadence, power, heart rate, distance, elevation etc.
I’ve customised my main screen to look like this.
This view enables a quick real-time view of my speed, cadence and power in a single glance with the average speed telling me how I am performing over the duration of the ride, should I be looking to achieve a target pace or finish a race in a certain time. I use the remaining screens for more in-depth analysis which are incredible easy to access from this position using the up/down buttons.
To make the most of the cycling functions you will want to take advantage of the ability to connect the FR920XT to wireless sensors. The two types supported are power meters and speed/cadence sensors.
Although the FR920XT is WiFi enabled WiFi is only used for data transfer with Garmin Connect and Garmin Express and not for in-workout sensors. On that basis, you will need ANT+ compatible devices.
For speed and cadence Garmin has either a combo unit in the GCs-10 which will work via a combination of magnets attached to the bike’s crank arm and wheel. Alternatively separate magnetless sensors are now available and provide a very neat solution. Other manufacturers sensors will also pair provided they have ANT+ compatibility.
For power meters the same compatibility restrictions will apply. Provided ANT+ is supported by the power meter it will pair. In reality this means that the vast majority of power meters will work. From the image at the top of this section you can see that I’ve paired the Stages crank arm option.
The FR920XT does support the advanced power options also found in the Edge computer series, including analysis of each pedal, pedal smoothness, balance and torque effectiveness. To access all of these advance functions you will need a power meter that provides analysis of each pedal. A single sided power meter, however, will still provide very good analyis when paired with the FR920XT
Here’s a screenshot from Garmin Connect showing the level of power analysis available. Additional analysis can also been seen in other applications, such as Strava.
To see more in-depth analysis and mapping details from a typical cycle ride head on to the a bit further Triathlon section a little further down the page.
Live track allows you to share your workout in real-time with either specified contacts (via email invitation) or via Facebook & Twitter.
With the FR920XT I decided to give it a go in cycling mode
Before setting out you will need to ensure the FR920XT and the smartphone are connected. You can then navigate through the Garmin Connect app (on your smartphone) to find the LiveTrack feature where you will need to press start on the phone first then begin the activity on the Garmin FR920XT as normal.
When you hit start on the phone an email will be sent to the invited contacts and/or a notification will be posted on your social networks.
Those viewing you will then be able to view a map that looks a bit like this.
Most of your data will be displayed in real-time and those viewing will also have the ability to access some additional stats at the bottom of the screen in graph format.
If you clink into the above image to expand you can see that a good level of analysis is available even after the first minute of the activity.
The run displayed above was actually intended to be longer but was cut short by a careless motorist turning into my path causing me to up-end over the handlebars! Fortunately, both I and my bike were relatively unharmed but I guess the feature did demonstrate a useful purpose, as my family were alerted to the pause and I had an accurate recorded of what happened and where. Hopefully this is not something you’ll need and you can simply use the LiveTrack to interact with followers/friends who want to track your progress.
N.B. LiveTrack will only work if you have a smartphone with you through the entire activity.
Of the two swimming modes available ‘Pool Swim’ is likely to be the most used during general training with the FR920XT. On that basis, I’ll focus predominantly on the Pool Swim features/metrics whist returning to the openwater feature later.
When set to Pool Swim, GPS is off and all data is captured via the FR920XT’s in-built accelerometer. Strokes are detected from arm movement with distance captured by changes in speed/direction detected at the end of each length. On that basis it becomes vital to ensure two crucial details before embarking on the swim:
1) Pool distance; and
After selecting the activity ‘Pool Swim’ you can enter the pool size via Menu>Activity Settings>Pool Size. All common pool sizes are available and the FR920XT will default to your last setting each time a new activity is started. This bit is relatively straight forward.
To begin an activity you’ll hit start as you push-off on your first length. This first push-off is not crucial as the watch will be looking for the next change in speed at the end of the length. Before that, stokes will be captured with FR920XT recognising the style (i.e front crawl, butterfly, breaststroke etc.) from the arm movements together with the number of stroke movements per length.
At the end of a length you are looking to achieve a good recognisable push-off from the wall. In addition, I’ve found the FR920XT is also looking for little slow down before the push-off. This is the same whether you are performing a tumble turn or a straight forward change of direction as you touch the wall. Either way, you’ll need to ensure that the difference is shown with some vigour when pushing off with your feet from the wall.
On my first use of the watch I did notice a few missed lengths but quickly addressed this by re-focusing on my change in direction.
I really like the large display of the FR920XT. It remains clear in the pool even giving opportunity for capturing an eye full of data from a quick flick of the wrist at the beginning or end of a length. You can see from this image that you can still take a glance even without the backlight.
An activity is paused between sets using the lap (or ‘Back’) button. New with FR920XT is a revised ‘rest timer’ which displays the time between sets on the same pause screen showing the interval time and interval distance. In its default form this screen is very useful if you are following a pre-determined training set.
Further customisation of data screens is available which (as with other activities) can be toggled using the up/down buttons. For my primary screen, I generally set a single filed displaying ‘interval distance’ giving me the best chance of seeing an underwater glance of the largest characters possible (should I lose count of number of lengths). You can also set alerts for pre-determined distances (i.e every 100m) or time alerts.
The FR920XT also supports a Drill Mode, to allow you disable the standard data capture whilst you complete slower drills that you might not want to affect your average pace and other metrics (i.e kicking/sculling). This feature allows you to input the distance of the particular drill at the end of the interval, therefore enabling the drill to still form part of the overall distance, but be omitted from the stats for pace and efficiency.
From swimming with the Garmin Forerunner 920XT you’ll also be assigned a SWOLF score for each workout. SWOLF is a combination of the words ‘swim’ & ‘golf’ to create a method of analysing a swimmer’s efficiency in terms of time and stroke count. I have found it useful in improving my swimming, particularly since training with Garmin swim devices.
Click here for Garmin’s explanation of SWOLF
After a swim is completed you get an extremely detailed set of data back in Garmin Connect. Here’s an overview of one of my longer sets where you can see the detail right down to each length and/or interval if required.
Each graph shown in Garmin Connect is expandable. Further stats are displayed below the graphical data with the option to drill down to each individual length and rest period.
Heart rate capture is not available at all in Pool Swim mode.
Open Water Swimming
As I only received my FR920XT at the end of November 2014, and it’s bitterly cold here in the UK at the moment, I’ve not yet had chance to test the openwater swimming function. I will, however, update this section as soon as I’ve donned the wetsuit.
The openwater function differs from the pool swimming mode in that GPS will be enabled allowing pace, distance and location to be determined by your satellite connection. Stroke information will also be displayed and made available post swim back in Garmin Connect.
Having the ability to track openwater swimming (and also during the Triathlon mode) is a major advantage for the FR920XT, making it a true multisport companion in respect of races and training activities. The only minor issue over a few (limited) competitor watches is lack of heart rate capture during swimming.
Now that I’ve described each of the main sport functions I thought the best way to describe the FR920XT’s Triathlon credentials was to provide a run through of a DIY triathlon that I put together one chilly December afternoon. As it was out of the Tri Season (and winter) the swim section started at my local swimming pool where I also had my TT bike waiting in the back of my car. It was designed to be as close as possible to a pool based sprint, i.e 400m swim/20km bike/5km run.
I also conducted the test wearing the Polar V800 Multisport watch on the opposite wrist. Both devices were set to their respective Triathlon modes (as opposed to ‘Free Multisport’).
Here’s how it went:
After selecting Triathlon Mode the activity was started by pressing the ‘Enter’ button as I pushed off on my first of 16x25m lengths.
From this point (although in triathlon mode), the appearance of the FR920XT was as if I was in the ‘Pool Swim’ mode with the first data screen set to my custom fields. I didn’t use the rest/interval timers (as it was a continuous 16 lap swim), however I did take a quick glance at one point to double-check the distance.
The swim was completed by pressing the lap (or ‘Back’) button which has the dual function of commencing the first transition (T1). A graphic appears during T1 (see image below) to show the duration of the swim and also the distance. A timer will also commence at the top right of the display counting the time spent in transition.
As you can see, the swim was only recorded as 300m informing me immediately that 4 push-offs had been missed, therefore, cutting the distance by 100m. As I continued my transition (in the pool changing room) I recalled the congestion in the lane had definitely affected a few of my turns and was the most likely cause.
The bike leg is started by a further tap on of the lap button by which point the FR920XT will have acquired a GPS fix. As with the standard Cycling mode, I was able to capture and view all of my chosen metrics for speed, cadence and power, all in real-time.
The 20km route took me through varied gradients and elevations leading back my house where T2 was ready and waiting.
Pressing the lap button upon dismount ended the bike leg and commenced the second transition. Again, the graphic shows the distance and duration spent on the bike whilst also providing a handy timer to show the transition time.
During transition you can also scroll down to discover the total time since starting the triathlon (something I always want to know as I’m setting off on the run segment).
A quick change of shoes (and a few photographs) meant I could press the lap button again to commence the run. This would be a 5km run back to my car (now empty but still at the local pool).
Whilst running in Triathlon mode, the FR920XT will use the same data screens customised in the standard ‘Run’ mode. This is particularly useful as by race day you should be familiar with the screens and functions to really make use of the FR920XT to push on through to the finish at your target pace.
A final tap of the lap button at the end of the run completes the triathlon where you will be greeted with a celebratory tone and graphic confirming the triathlon is complete. Awesome!
As the activity is saved, the FR920XT will provide a summary and also bring up any new PRs (personal records) together with a recovery advice.
Here’s how the Triathlon looks back in Garmin Connect. It’s great to see the workout will now display as one complete activity with each segment showing in a single timeline, including transitions.
You can also drill down into the detail of each segment. N.B my times are far slower than usual as this was a training session and demonstration exercise!
I captured the same activity on the Polar V800 where I received absolutely identical results during the both the bike and the run. The two watches were so in tune with each other I was receiving near simultaneous alerts for my auto laps. To see the results of the in Polar Flow please follow this link where I’ve provided screen shots from each device (and each segment) side by side.
The main difference using the Polar V800 was the ability to capture heart rate data throughout the entire activity, including the swim. Having said that, whilst heart rate is captured when swimming with the V800, the swim metrics are by no means as detailed as Garmin’s (in fact in the default triathlon mode I didn’t capture any pool metrics with the V800). In addition, with far greater amount of power meters available to pair with the FR920XT the cycle analysis also surpassed what I was able to capture in comparison.
The outcome is the Garmin Forerunner 920XT is a an extremely robust and comprehensive Triathlon device. I really enjoyed the ease of use and the benefit of being able to work though each discipline (including transitions) by simply pressing the lap button to transition all the way through the full triathlon. The analysis back in Garmin Connect is also incredibly detailed.
Gym & Indoor Training
With the combination of the FR920XT and the HRM-Run having the ability to assess cadence and running dynamics without the need for any further sensors, the FR920XT can become an excellent indoor running partner too.
Your running style is learnt by your first initial outdoor running activities which can then be translated to treadmill use without the need for a foot pod.
The results I’ve seen on the treadmill are good both in terms of accuracy with distance and fluctuations in pace. Obviously, the calibration of various treadmills can cause discrepancies and it’s never possible to be entirely sure whether the watch or treadmill readout is correct. In my experience with the Fr920XT they have been within 5%.
The above screenshot shows the result of a fast 4km treadmill run with 4 distinct reductions in pace from approximately 4 mins 15 seconds per km to 5 mins per km (and back up again). You can see the fluctuations more clearly with the corresponding dots which show an overlay of the cadence. When I saved the workout the Garmin FR920XT made the distance exactly 4km. On the treadmill the readout had it as 3.86 km. Real-time pace comparisons were also very close.
Provided you have appropriate sensors on either your bike or your indoor trainer the indoor training modes for cycling can be used to great effect including the capture of power metrics. If you want to capture speed you will either need an ANT+ combo sensor or Garmin’s magnetless speed only censor.
For general gym use can also create a custom activity setting. I’ve created a setting that I call ‘Gym’ which will simply capture the duration of my workout session and heart rate statistics. This is still really useful to me as all of the steps, heart rate and calories stats are logged in conjunction with my daily activity.
The Garmin FR920XT spells the first device where Garmin will open up the platform for third-party developers to introduce ‘apps’ in early 2015. It’s an entirely new concept in the traditional GPS watch sense but looks likely to bring forward a concept we’ve all come to be familiar with when using our smartphones. It looks like the platform will be open up for the customisation of anything from new sport modes through to customised displays.
As this feature is not fully released I will update this section again in 2015. In the meantime, here’s a link to Garmin’s official blog release for Garmin ‘Connect IQ’.
On completion of a workout there are various options for syncing your data. If you are returning to a saved WiFi zone the FR920XT will transfer all data automatically after you hit save. If you are not in a saved WiFi zone you still have the ability to upload via Bluetooth to your smartphone, which will also be automatic provided the two devices are paired and connected.
You will know the FR920XT is transferring via WiFi if two arrows appear (one up, on down) at the top of the display. When transferring via bluetooth to a smartphone a notification will prompt when the transfer is complete.
If for any reason the FR920XT is disconnected from your smartphone or you choose not to run bluetooth continuously, you can reconnect the watch and phone by opening the Garmin connect app and selecting the FR920XT from the devices menu. This will prompt a manual sync of all data not yet in Garmin Connect.
Wireless data transfer is also possible from Garmin Connect to the FR920XT. This will be applicable when sending course information and workouts etc. to the watch.
Finally, there is the good old-fashioned method of connecting the FR920XT to your PC via the USB charging dock. Having said that, one way or another my data is always found its way on to Garmin Connect before I ever need to connect with wires.
Overall, I found the data transfer extremely reliable and effective. Being wireless is a large selling point for me and is a significant upgrade from the FR910XT and/or other comparable devices.
I’ve already given a fairly good overview of most of the swim/bike/run related features available in Garmin Connect throughout the various sections of this review.
There are, of course, a ton of further options accessible through the very user-friendly dashboard which has gradually been refined by Garmin since the last major software update, when the Vivofit activity tracker was launched back in March 2014. As an owner of the FR920XT you’ll have access to pretty much every health & fitness function making it possible for Garmin Connect to become a one-stop-shop for everything you opt to track in your day-to-day life (including meals).
Here is a screenshot of the main menu (in the desktop version) where you will see that a review of the full feature list is way beyond the scope of this review. Fortunately, there’s a tutorial ‘tour’ and infinite customisation to enable to you to use as many or as little of the functions as you choose. I particularly like the detail in the swim analysis together with the fitness reports that can be utilised to review anything from the past week to the past year.
What’s also impressed me about Garmin’s use of data is the freedom they allow users to export files to 3rd party software providers, such as Strava and Training Peaks (amongst others). Again, going in-depth is a little beyond the scope of this review, but you will now find it easier than ever to sync workouts to arrive in Strava not long after they been completed. The new function os known as ‘Auto Sync’. Just head over to Strava’s upload section and you’ll see the Garmin logo where you’ll be guided through the process.
In addition to the desktop platform you, of course, have the ability to sync the FR920XT direct with a smartphone. Here’s a few screenshots of some running data in the mobile version.
Despite the smaller screen, you still get all the summary detail together with mapping data and graphs.
Training Plans & Workout Creator
Back in Garmin Connect you have the option of utilising Garmin’s predetermined training plans or creating your own tailored workouts based upon your training goals.
If you’ve signed up for triathlon there’s a specific plan you can download to the FR920XT.
If you don’t need a predetermined training plan, Garmin Connect also supports the ability to use a workout creation wizard to plan a specific workout tailored to whichever sets, intervals or timings you may choose. I like this feature a lot.
Once you have selected your plan you can then synchronise with the Garmin FR920XT and even specify which day the workout will be utilised. Further still, the chosen workout will also prompt you with the steps to take from the watch display, e.g. warm up though to cool down.
This is an extremely useful feature and is very easy to use within Garmin Connect. Add Wireless transfer to the mix and you can have your workout planned and ready without the device even leaving your wrist.
Once transferred to the Garmin FR920XT workouts can be accessed from Menu>Training>My Workouts. You can then select the workout where you will guided through each step.
The training plans and workouts can be a very useful feature whether you are training on your own or have a specific program prepared by a coach.
To customise your data fields and screens in any given activity you will press the Menu (left) button once you have selected your chosen sport (but not yet started the activity). From there you will find the activity settings where you have the option of customising up to 4 screens per sport plus turn certain settings off.
In each of the 4 available screens you can choose the amount and the layout of data fields.
If you choose 4 (the maximum) the characters and the detail will be smaller whereas with 1 they will be large.
It’s simply a matter of preference but you can also mix and match. I generally focus on the primary screen that I wish to see for each sport and then take it from there.
Some of the data fields available will be generic across each activity (i.e pace) whereas others will be specific to their sport (i.e swimming strokes).
The best way of getting a feel for the date fields is to scroll through the menus in each activity settings page.
If all of the above functions were not enough, the FR920XT will also double up as an all day 24/7 activity tracker. As such, it will monitor your steps and calories expended throughout the day.
Conveniently, the number of steps is displayed on the main watch screen (when not in activity mode) in the bottom left-hand corner. Just underneath that you will also see a ”Move Bar” which does the job of informing you when you need to move. It’s very much the same concept as the Garmin Vivofit whereby a new red segment (kinda like a chevron) will appear on the Move Bar (from left to right) the longer you’ve been inactive. In addition, the FR920XT will also give a vibration and tone alert when you’ve reached the maximum inactivity period (when the red Move Bar completes the bottom of the screen). A corresponding notification will also appear saying, ‘Move!’. Basically, you get told off for being lazy!
Pressing the down button from the main home screen will bring up a screen where you can analyse your total steps for the day. It will also display the percentage achieved against a personal particular target. The target is set automatically based upon previous activity levels but can be customised to whatever steps target you wish. It’s a very handy semicircular chart making it easy to pinpoint how much more activity is needed that day. The great thing about the activity tracking being included a multisports device is all data, from any activity (both workouts and/or steps), will be included in the summary back in Garmin Connect. This makes it particularly comprehensive if you are looking to track full calories in and out.
And that’s where it becomes even more interesting, as Garmin have also made a tie-up with MyFitnessPal to enable you to log your food/meals and see the results in one or both apps.
As it’s also connected to your smartphone it’s dead easy to see the results whilst out and about.
Here’s how the overview of an average day with a workout in the afternoon might look.
At the bottom of each chart a different horizontal colour denotes sleep (dark blue), inactivity (red) and highly active time (green).
Clicking the tabs will show a breakdown of each element of activity in pie-chart format.
It is also possible to track sleep, however, the Garmin FR920XT requires a manual entry of the start/finish times making it perhaps not quite as advanced as some other activity trackers on the market. Once entered though, Garmin connect will produce an analysis of the movement detected during sleep which may give an indication of sleep quality.
As you would expect, an analysis of all activity and sleep metrics can be obtained looking back over periods of the past 7 days, month, 6 months etc.
The mobile app is also extremely user-friendly. Here’s a what you get from a quick view on your smartphone.
Running VO2 Max & Race Predictor
The introduction of the VO2 Max analysis is again carried over from the FR620.
If you Google VO2Max you’ll probably find the following definition:
“the maximum or optimum rate at which the heart, lungs, and muscles can effectively use oxygen during exercise, used as a way of measuring a person’s individual aerobic capacity”
That is a simplified version, but just about sums up what the new algorithms in Garmin’s top devices will analyse as a measure of current fitness. There are more sophisticated tests available for absolute accuracy but these will generally involve lab testing under a controlled environment. If that sounds like overkill then the 920XT will provide you with a score direct from the wrist.
Garmin have introduced an algorithm that takes your run data and heart rate to predict your VO2Max. Since using the 920XT my score has actually decreased slightly from what I was achieving previously from my FR620.
Although I had lost two points since injury earlier in 2014 I was still pretty steady on a VO2 Max score of 52. As you can see, the FR920XT now gives me a lower running VO2 Max of 48.
If a new VO2 Max score is detected it will displayed on the watch at the end of a run. It can also be found by accessing, Menu>My Stats>VO2 Max.
VO2 Max is also displayed in Garmin Connect along with the trend over time. From my experience, only minor incremental changes can be achieved even over a period of many months. Mine has only fluctuated by a few points with cycling only introduced to the graph in December 2014 (after pairing the FR920XT with a power meter).
The VO2 Max function is utilised by the Garmin FR920XT to formulate a set of race predictions over four standard running distances. Again this can be accessed from, Menu>My Stats>Race Predictor>VO2 Max.
Here are my predictions as at December 2014.
As part of my training for Iron Man Wales 2015, I’ve recently adjusted my training pace (i.e I’m running longer and slower) which has in turn affected the predictions I received a year ago. Impressively, however, these current predictions are broadly representative of what I could now achieve over those distances (however I’ve still not yet run a full marathon!).
Cycling VO2 Max
This is a new introduction for any cycling computer let alone the FR920XT.
I’ll need to see how mine adjusts as my initial use of a power meter has pretty much coincided with my test of the FR920XT (i.e it’s only been a month). The cycling Vo2 Max function utilises an algorithm based upon cycling data captured when paired with a power meter (N.B this function will not work without a power meter). At the moment mine matches the score the FR920XT also attributed for running.
Courses & Navigation
Being a multisports device the focus is not on mapping and navigation. However, the FR920XT does have the ability for courses to be downloaded from Garmin Connect. These courses can either be created freestyle from a map or from a run or cycle route previously performed with the FR920XT.
Once synced to the watch the course can be found in Menu>Navigation>Courses where you can also begin the activity. In this image I began a re-run of the 20Km Tri course (see the Triathlon section above).
You can see that a small map is provided but not really with any reference to roads or features etc. Waypoints are stored and it can be a useful function for basic navigation to the next step.
What I liked about the courses function over the navigation abilities was the automatic commencement of a virtual partner to keep you informed how far ahead or behind you are compared with the last time the workout or course was performed.
The FR920XT also has a back to start function which also contains basic navigation functions to guide you back to the starting point of your activity.
As a triathlete rather than an ultra runner these functions were adequate for my purposes. You may want to consider alternative options if full on navigation or positioning is essential to your activities.
Pairing & Accessories
Pairing can be performed from the FR920XT by navigating into Menu>Settings>Sensors and Accessories>Add New.
At this point in the menu you can view the devices already paired and also request the FR920XT to search for available devices. If you ordered the version with the HRM-Run included in the box, it will already be paired.
For other devices and you may wish to pair (i.e. cadence sensor, power meter) you will need to ensure the device is active as you perform the search whereby the sensor should be picked up. You can then pair the sensor and from then on it should be remembered and picked up each time a new activity is started.
Generally you will know if sensor is paired by the icons showing at the top of the FR920XT at the beginning of an activity. A notification will also appear as a per-paired sensor connects.
Garmin states that battery life is increased from 20 hours to 24 hours over the FR910XT. I’ve not experienced any difficulties over longer GPS activities and have confidence that the FR920 will at the very least last an Ironman distance.
For those going beyond the potential 24-hour activity, Garmin have enabled an ‘UltraTrac’ feature to extend battery life by reducing the satellite contact time from the standard one-second rate. Garmin suggests that the UltraTrak mode will extend battery life up to 40 hours.
On a day-to-day level I found the watch will last the best part of five days when performing an activity of up to an hour each day. The smartwatch functionality, however, can have an effect on battery life if your phone is set to push each and every notification. To prolong battery life in this respect it’s best to tailor your notifications and consider disabling the smartwatch on days you are taking part in long events. For general training purposes though, it’s fine.
Summary – Garmin FR920XT Review
My training development has taken me from various smartphone apps to eventually taking the plunge and placing a GPS device on my wrist. Back when I was choosing my first device I agonised over the Garmin FR910XT but eventually opted for the FR620 due to its wireless capabilities through both WiFi and Bluetooth Smart. Since that point I have been hooked on wearable tech and never looked back.
With the arrival of the FR920XT, Garmin have now produced a device that quite literally does everything a mutlisports athlete could require. Yes, some people might say the FR920XT is basically a mix of a Garmin’s other fitness devices but that would simply miss the point. What Garmin has managed is it to take the features from each of its range topping, running, cycling and swimming devices and throw it all into one package with an activity tracker and smartwatch to boot. And it all works perfectly in unison.
The value of the wireless technology is huge, as it simply could not be possible to combine so many day-to-day functions without it. Whereas previous sports watches were something you reached for out of the drawer as you set for a run, the FR920XT can now stay on your wrist 27/7 to become an everyday tool. Smartphone apps are now integral to or lives and the FR920XT is built with that in mind.
Other than a few missed lengths during my initial swims, I have not experienced any glitches or disappointments. I was already aware that heart rate could not be captured in the pool and I believe most will value the enhanced stroke metrics and analysis over this point. Cycling and running are as detailed as you could ask for, particularly with the advance features in both running dynamics and cycling power.
The FR920XT is the most advanced multisports watch currently available and will be very good fit for almost every triathlete. I’ve used it through my own mock-up of a triathlon and will be keeping it on the wrist for the real thing during the 2015 season without hesitation. Until then I’m also really looking forward to what may be introduced by the third-party applications to be opened up in early 2015. And that takes me back to the point about the two-way wireless technology. Quite simply, it makes the FR920XT significant upgrade with ability to evolve even further.
- Wireless transfer
- Running Dynamics
- Customisation of data screens
- Vo2 Max
- Advanced Cycling Power Metrics
- Full Triathlon Mode
- Activity tracking
- No heart rate capture during swimming
- Manual sleep tracking
- Limited navigation
Please feel free to comment or share your own experiences below.
I want my reviews to be as independent as possible. On that basis, I thought a link to Amazon would provide the most impartial method of you looking at other user comments should you be considering a purchase.