I'd wanted a GPS watch for about a year, but had been put off my Garmin's previous models, which were too bulky for my small wrists, and there were reports that they were slow to pick up a satellite. I thought I'd better wait; there had to be something sleeker, cheaper and faster round the corner.
I wasn't wrong: the 110 promised to be all those things.
Receiving the watch, my immediate impressions were highly positive: it's small, not at all noticeably a GPS watch. The styling is attractive, and the finish is tight. The rubbery plastic feels just right against the skin, and the watch strap fits comfortably. Top marks to the hardware design team.
No CD-ROM was included, which was positive, as users of this device almost certainly have access to broadband. No wasted CDRs gathering dust like all the other driver discs that tend to gather up. Thumbs-down, however, for the big stack of instruction manuals in every language imaginable: I plucked off the English version, and promptly dumped the rest in the recycling bin. Wasteful.
I quickly plugged the device into my work computer to charge-up during my lunch break, and decided to give it a whirl by letting it run on the walk home from work. That's when the problems started.
The software was profoundly unresponsive, not detecting a satellite, or allowing me to cycle through the menus. A splash screen with 'Garmin' logo blinked stupidly at me. Holding 'menu' got me to a menu, but letting it go sent me straight back to the splash screen. There are only four buttons, so having tried all of them, I figured I couldn't be doing too much wrong!
Things looked up when I got home and downloaded some software off the site. Now it would pick up a satellite, and quickly too. I went for my first run, which was a revelation. Someone else wrote somewhere on the Web that it was a drawback that the device doesn't tell you how fast you're going, but that wasn't a problem for me: it beeps helpfully every kilometre to prompt me to check how fast I've run that kilometre, and usefully displays that lap time for a few seconds to let me do so.
Unfortunately, I just couldn't get the device to save a run. There's no prompt at the end of a run after pressing 'start/stop' asking you if you'd like to save what you've just done. Reading the manual more carefully (I just felt that a four-button device shouldn't need a manual), it tells me to press 'reset' to reset and save.
Now, is it just me, or does pressing 'reset' to 'save' seem somewhat counter-intuitive to someone whose been using an ordinary stopwatch for the whole of his life? I think that's poor design, and even worse that it then still didn't actually work. I'm not the world's most tech-savvy guy, but I would think that anybody who can operate a Blackberry and an iPod should be able to find his way around something with four buttons, no?
A call to UK tech support then. Hold times were reasonable for a Friday morning, about six minutes; the number is free at least. The tech was reasonably quick and courteous, and suggested I check for software updates, which I initially thought was bizarre advice; this thing was released two months ago, and the software that I had on my computer was downloaded off the Web. Surely it was as updated as it could be?
It turns out that it wasn't.
A further download of 'Web Updater' and a check for updates revealed that I had Version 2.0 of the firmware, and that 2.2 was there to download. Out of curiosity, I looked at the change history. Here it is:
Changes made from version 2.00 to 2.20:
* Fixed issue where the watch could freeze when dropping a lap.
* Fixed issue where the current activity file could fail to save.
* Changed to allow the watch to show the current activity in history.
* Changed history page to show "Today," "Yesterday," or the day of the week for the last six days rather than the date.
* Added feature to turn off the watch by holding the light key and answering yes to the prompt.
* Changed to allow all menus/lists to wrap.
* Updated translations.
'Fixed issue where the current activity file could fail to save.' Bingo. OTOH, how on earth could an 'issue' like that be allowed to persist when the product was released? If the watch can't save its history, I can't view what I've been doing on the nice Garmin website, and am forced to remember how fast/well I did last time. Someone's got to be responsible for not checking this properly, and a company with Garmin's rep shouldn't be beta-testing on its customers.
Well, the issue hasn't been fixed by the software update, which installed smoothly, and the watch is going back to Garmin to be examined. The lack of Web comment suggests this might be an isolated issue, and I'm guessing this can probably be fixed, but no way should this purchase have entailed this much fuss. The watch is well-made, connects quickly, and does track your run very well, but the software has been botched, and I can only recommend that a buyer hold on to his or her packaging very carefully until things have been checked over.
I'll come back and update this review once I've heard back from Garmin.
UPDATE, 22 JUNE 2010:
Within a week of me sending the watch back to Garmin, they sent a replacement with heart rate monitor, so a nice little bonus. That doesn't engender confidence in the original product, but customer service doesn't get better than this. I haven't tested that function yet (I don't need it, and am not keen on wearing the strap whilst running), I am happy to report that the watch itself works absolutely fine, and as expected. It still seems counterintuitive to press 'reset' to save, but now that my runs are saving, using the watch is a pleasure. Another twelve manuals in the bin, and a spare set of leads and adaptors... sigh.