First up: The Forerunner 305. Purchased ca. 2010, this watch was my first foray into fancy-pants, GPS running device technology.
It was pretty much perfect in every way, up until about two years ago when it lost the ability to beep when it auto lapped (meaning if I wanted lap times, I had to keep checking it to be sure I didn't miss it) and soon after wouldn't charge without a ton of force pressing it against the charging cradle. (Like, it would charge if I sat there & squeezed it against the charger, but otherwise no.)
Fortunately, those issues coincided with a sweet sale at REI on the Forerunner 310XT at REI. The 310XT was far from new at that point, but since it was basically the exactly same watch as the 305 except for a bunch of triathlon stuff that was irrelevant me, AND it was cheaper than what I'd initially paid for the 305, this was a no-brainer.
Alas, last summer the band broke in a way that wasn't fixable & made the watch useless. Fortunately, REI has an extremely generous one-year replacement policy, so I was able to take it back.
Except...they no longer carried the 310XT at that point, and the closest thing they had was the Forerunner 220.
Friends, I hate this watch. HATE it. So. MUCH. The interface is dinkier, more confusing, and all-around less functional. It has almost none of the features you want and everything you don't. To name just a few issues...
- You can't set it to auto lap under .25 miles. Want to bust out some 200m's? TOUGH.
- When you first turn it on, it defaults to a 'locked' state, which requires performing some kind of insane Vulcan neck pinch of button-pressing to unlock.
- You can't manually lap if the watch is paused.
- You get three data fields--no more, no less.
- When you hit pause, it immediately reverts to a useless screen that shows only your ellapsed time, and if you want to know anything else, you have to hit the 'back' button.
- If you leave it paused for a certain amount of time, it goes into power save mode. Not the hugest deal ever, unless you happen to be standing in a start corral seconds before the gun.
On the plus side, though, it gives you a pretty little ribbon screen & a cute message any time it detects a PR or distance record!! :D :D :D Who the hell cares.
And, to add insult to injury, this piece of junk was like $90 MOAR expensive than the 310XT. (Yes, I got the 310XT on a big sale, but that was kind of half the point). But it was that, the barely-not-useless FR 10, or $160 more for a 610, which included even more features I didn't need.
Finally I got so fed up with the [**horribly offensive vulgar name that I will refrain from typing on the internet, but used to its face repeatedly, bonus points if you can guess what it was, it kind of sounds vaguely like 'Forerunner'**] 220 that I bought a refurbished 310XT on amazon (for the record, still more expensive than the sale price I got at REI). AND LO, my life was glorious.
Until about a month ago. When I plugged my < 1 year old refurbished 310XT in to charge, and nothing happened. I tried different outlets/powerstrips/USB dongels/etc., and no dice. Whatever the problem is, it seems to be either in the watch battery itself or the part of the charger that connects directly to the watch.
Teeth were gnashed and clothing was wrent.
Now, when we were getting ready to move, I had thrown that god-awful [horribly offensive nickname] 220 into the "stuff to go somewhere that is else" pile, namely, back to REI for a refund. But since I am such a good procrastinator, it was still hanging around in a box downstairs when the 310XT died. And since you don't go to the track with the GPS watch you want, you go to the track with the GPS watch you have, that shitty little travesty of a device once again found its way onto my wrist.
I would like to be able to tell you that this gave me an opportunity to practice #gratitude, to feel #blessed that I am fortunate enough to have access to this type of technology at all. Alas, while I remain fully aware of the insane levels of privilege I enjoy in virtually every aspect of my life, just a few runs with the [I hate you I hate you] 220 was enough to remind me what a god-awful piece of engineering failure it is. (If you engineered it....sorry. I'm sure you're still a good person; you just made a mistake.)
In fact, the experience of trying to use the [die in a fire] 220 for anything even remotely resembling an actual workout was indeed so traumatizing that on multiple evenings I found myself on the floor with the sad carcasses of my 305 & 310XT desperately trying to rehabilitate them. (I mean yes, I know I could send them back to Garmin for fixing, but from what I hear, they charge you almost what it would cost to just buy a new watch.)
With the 310XT, no luck. The thing just seemed dead all-around. BUT, after some trial and error, I found that if I took a sufficiently tight ponytail holder and twisted it twice around the 305 and its cradle, it applied sufficient pressure to get the thing to charge. #winning!
Friends, I can't tell you how excited I was to set out on a run with my beloved 305 for the first time in two years. It was just BLISS.
Except...It still doesn't beep when it auto-laps. And while I don't really care about that for easy or long runs, it's kind of key for speed & tempo/threshold workouts.
I wore the [son of a whore] 220 for my two track workouts last week and the thing was almost useless. In retrospect, I probably would have been better off with the 305, since at least you can set the damn thing to auto lap at intervals less than .25 miles.
When I got home from my Friday track workout, I plugged the [screw you & the horse you rode in on] 220 in to charge, & sort of half-heartedly messed around with the 310XT again, just, y'know, to see if something might magically happen. And then, AS IF A SOLSTICE MIRACLE (err...almost), the fucker suddenly started charging.
In the immediate future, this is good news. I *may* actually have a watch I can *halfway-kinda-sorta* reliably use for actual workouts. But it kind of gets me thinking about the harsh mistress that is a Garmin device, and it's tough to just go about your business, knowing what a fickle god you serve. I get that nothing lasts forever, but MAN, that's a lot of money for something that quits working properly after less than three years. I mean c'mon. A one year warranty? Basically I feel like as soon as I buy one, I have to start saving up for the next one.
I've played around with other models (Tom Tom, Polar, Timex), but none of them have ever had both the features & the ease-of-interface that made the 305 & 310XT so perfect. I WANT to stick with Garmin, but they're making it kind of tough. Is there anything out there comparable in features & interface that doesn't go tits-up after 2-3 years?
(Do not speak to me of Bia or iWatches because #no.)
Other questions I would be curious to have answered:
- Have you had any similar issues with these or other models?
- Have you ever sent something to Garmin for fixing? What's the dilly-o?
- Is there any way in Hades (in your personal opinion) to justify the bucks for newer models like the 620 or 920XT? My head says no, but my heart says "Sweet baby Jesus I just want something that works."
Also, random Garmin tip of the day: If your Garmin suddenly randomly won't turn on anymore, hold down 'lap' & 'mode' together for five seconds, then try turning it on again. I've had this issue with both the 305 & 310XT occasionally & it works every time.