By Brian D. Sabin

Garmin announced on Tuesday the release of its new Forerunner 910 XT, a GPS-enabled multisport fitness tracker.

The device is targeted at triathletes and other long-distance endurance competitors who need a battery with an epic life span (a fully charged battery is said to work for up to 20 hours) and enough data to satisfy a stock market statistician.

Here at RW, we got a first in-person look at the device when it showed up in our mailbox earlier this week. After a few runs with the device, here are my first impressions.

The Garmin Forerunner 910XT on the RW Gear Guy's desk.

The new Forerunner 910XT from Garmin.

At a glance, the watch seems to take two big steps ahead of its predecessor, the much-lauded Forerunner 310 XT. Where does it make these gains?

1. Look and feel. The 910XT is smaller and has a lower profile than the 310. The device still isn’t anywhere close to being the size of an everyday wristwatch (and even if it was, the device doesn’t run continually – you turn it on and off for training sessions), but you won’t hear this device getting the dive-computer comparisons that some earlier Garmin models received.

The Forerunner 310XT (left) and its successor, the 910XT.

Garmin widened the 910XT’s wristband by about a quarter-inch, and used a more flexible rubber that really made the device more comfortable overall. I wore both the 910XT and my regular training watch during an interval workout this week, and was impressed at how much better the 910 seemed to gel with my wrist than my usual device.

Last on the aesthetics front, the 910XT isn’t nearly so bright as its orange-highlighted forefather. The toned-down, all-black look is much sleeker. Data on the on-screen display was easier to read for me as well.

2. Swim metrics. Triathletes who really want to go deep on their efficiency in the water are going to have a lot of data available to them. The 910XT is the first Garmin watch ever to offer metrics like swim distance, stroke count, and swim pace. I haven’t had a chance to test these out because I suck at swimming, but I’m sure someone who’s less aquaphobic will have a ball with this new abundance of in-water data.

The Forerunner 910XT is scheduled to be available for sale sometime in mid- to late-November. Garmin plans to sell the device for $399, or $449 with a heart rate monitor. You can find more information about the 910XT at Garmin’s official site, or wait for a more in-depth review from us closer to when the device is ready to ship.

UPDATE 10-11-2011 After I posted this story to my twitter account, a follower named RogersIsRunning asked a great follow-up question: How well does the watch fit women?

I asked my colleague Dana to wear the 910XT around this past weekend as she ran, biked and swam (she's not nearly the aquaphobe I am – in fact, she swam in college). Her observations:

"Whoa baby, this is a big watch for a thin lady wrist! That said, the fit and weight are remarkably comfortable. I tested the 910XT on a swim, on a run and while working at my computer. The longer I wore it, the more often I forgot I had it on. The notches on the strap made for a nicely snug fit and the rubbery give to the strap doesn’t irritate me at all. Because of the size of the face, I did notice a slight limitation in wrist movement. It wasn’t enough to hinder my run, stroke in the water or form while biking, but is just enough to bother me while typing (that's probably the only stat this watch won’t measure: words per minute)."

Thanks, Dana! And if you, dear readers, have any questions you'd like to ask, please follow me (@RWGearGuy) on Twitter and send them my way.



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