Sunday, November 19, 2006

Testing the Garmin Forerunner 305

My training buddy David kindly let me borrow his Garmin Forerunner 305 ($247 and up) and I tested it out on our local high school track. It's a wrist unit that combines readings for time, position via GPS, and heart rate (with chest strap). I was able to get it up and running quickly with just a few glances through the manual.

I put it on the "running" setting, wore it over to the track, started up the timer and ran a mile (4 laps), walked a quarter mile (1 lap), reversed, ran a mile including three 50-yard pickups, and walked a quarter mile.

Loading the data analysis program onto my computer was seamless and I was able to look at the charts (YAY! CHARTS!) of my workout easily within five minutes:


First impressions:

  • Manuals and setup are surprisingly easy and user-friendly.
  • The wrist unit feels a bit big and clunky, but I could get used to it.
  • There is some 50 feet of play in the position data, even though I ran in the same inner lane every lap.
  • Total distance ran a bit high - distances measured around the track ranged from 0.25 miles to 0.28 miles. It probably would work better in straight-line running. It really got mad when I reversed on the track.
  • The heart rate meter was a little flaky at times (notice some anomalous readings in the red line, plus it started beeping at me for low heart rate once while walking), although it did find the 3 brief periods of elevated heart rate in the pickups I did in my last 3 running laps (while the pace data was too variable to pick out these increases).
  • The pace readings were a little high because the unit was measuring distance about 6% long.

Still, it was fun to play with (I love CHARTS! Even though it seems to auto-calculate the axes to include the anomalous data spikes, and they don't seem to be user-scalable) and I think it would be helpful for heart-rate based training - especially for running on local roads and doing followup post-run data analysis. I also think it would be fun to use during races. There are tons of features that I haven't tried yet - like the virtual running partner to help you pace yourself with, or using it on the bike. I wish it were waterproof enough to use during pool swims or open water swims, too.

I may just buy one for myself as a reward toy for reaching a weight loss goal. But that will have to wait a while until I actually reach said goal, about 25 pounds from now.

17 comments:

TxSkatemom said...

I've got the old 301, with no HR, and i love the virtual training partner. You can set it to "race" you, and you literally get a little guy in the display trying to catch you, or leaving you in his dust, depending on the day you're having! I also LOVE the intervals, which I use for any run longer than 15 or so, when I Gallowalk at 1 mile, 1 minute walking. I'm trying to talk Santa into the 305 -- it helps that they're coming down some from when they first came out.

That would definitely give me some inspiration to stick to the weight-loss efforts. Good luck!

momo said...

i have a garmin and i like it for my long runs. i trained this past year for big sur, and i liked being able to look at the elevation of where i was running - trying to simulate the hills for big sur. the readings on the hr monitor always seemed a little skewed, though. i've gone back to wearing my old polar because after awhile it got to be info overload. g'luck toward your goal - i think the garmin would be a GREAT present. i'd be inclined to buy it before hand though - rationaizing that it could help me get to my goal! ;-)

Triteacher said...

25 pounds?? Are you serious? Would you still qualify for Athena as your profile promises? :)

Hmm... I've never tried a Garmin. Thanks for the review. Let us know if you take the leap. (25 pounds from now or not.)

nancytoby said...

Um, that would be TELLING! But I'm not in danger of losing my Athena status any time in the next 6 months, probably. I'll let you know. You probably could hear the cheers of joy all the way where you live....

Lisa said...

ooooooh. nifty! i don't know what the difference is between 301 and 305 but maybe santa would bring *me* one(i wouldn't be too picky)...assuming i've been good enough.

Charles said...

I've been using the 305 for a while now and really like it. You can program it so that it doesn't beap at you when you take your walk breaks or never beeps at you at all if you prefer. The only negatives that I have is that the HR is nearly impossible to read off of the watch display and if you buy the wireless cadence sensor for your watch, you cannot display it on the watch. You can not see your cadence info until you download it to the computer. That being said, it is a fun toy and I use it to track my progress on a couple of "standard" rides/runs to check my average pace and HR and see if I am actually improving.

Steve J said...

Nancy,

I had the 201 (No HRM) for 6 months. Was very pleased with it and then upgraded to the 205 (also no HRM). I liked the 205 much better, especially the form and functionality factor. GPS reception is better, but not huge (i.e. the instantaneous pace function still jumps around too much to be useful - I don't use it, lap pace and avg pace are good enough for me).

Unfortunately, the 205 died (warrantee issue) so I will hopefully get it fixed when I return to the US in Dec. Garmin seems to be cool about warrantee issues. Just make sure you buy from a reputable dealer (I've heard to be careful if you use ebay) so you get the warrantee coverage without hassle.

I have 2 runnning friends with the 305 and they are very happy with the gadget (of course, we're all engineers - so there you go).

Despite my problem, I think you would enjoy it.

Steve J said...

Nancy,

One more thing. If you do take the plunge, I do not the recommend the MB suscriber analysis software($$ per month) that comes with it in the package.

There is some shareware (you can contribute via paypal to the owner) on the net that is just as good and cheaper...my opinion of course.

nancytoby said...

Thanks for all the feedback and tips, folks!

Flatman said...

I *heart* mine like a second child...

LeahC said...

I love the 205, but I think all the software that goes along with it isn't great. I think it also isn't great on a track but just running in town or whatever it's really accurate. enjoy!

Fe-lady said...

You could always ask Santa for one...but I think the reward set-up is a good motivator too!
I hate numbers and math and anything chart-like, but I guess I could learn. If you say it's easy...then it would definitely be a challenge for me!

Vickie said...

I really like all the stats and stuff with those gadgets, but I know for a fact I would use it a couple of times and then not bother--if I could get it started at all!

21st Century Mom said...

I asked for a 301 vs. 305 review on my blog. You got more feedback than I did but you might want to check it out.

I think I really need to save up for a 305. I've been using a 201 for over a year and I like it but I'd like the HR data, too and the 305 is supposed to be much more accurate both as a GPS device and as an HRM.

Barb said...

I've been using a 201 and am so in love, I can't leave the house without it! I would give up my ipod(s) before I'd relinquish my Garmin. (Did I really say that?) Anyway, be prepared for some major techno love!

Oh... I think you should get it sooner, rather than later. It's a great tool that will help you reach your goal! Keep an eye on internet deals and coupons and jump on it when a deal comes up!

lisapete90 said...

I have been an avid Garmin 201 user for almost two years since I received it for Xmas 2004. I agree with some of the other posters that love their Garmin's! Mine is fantastic, short, long runs, whatever, I never leave without it! It saves all your data so I love to look at my weekly totals to see where I am at. Can't say enough about how much I love this thing - Except, I too, have had a look at the newer, smaller versions, they seem so nice!

Siren said...

Oooooh, I'm totally jealous! I've been daydreaming about a 305 for a while and I don't even know someone who's got one I could play with. I think that's a GREAT weight loss reward - I do that all the time and it's a great motivator. It's also part of the reason I've got so much tri stuff now : ) (I get a reward for every 5 pounds!)