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The Garmin Forerunner 305 is a personal GPS trainer with Heart Rate Monitor. I've been using mine now for over 6 months, so I hope this review will cover all aspects of the Forerunner! I should start by saying that I really like this unit; I have used it for walks, jogging, and cycling and it has worked pretty much as I required.
In the box
The Forerunner 305 is packed with features, but out of the box, this is what you get:
The forerunner itself Docking pod USB lead charger instruction manual and software
The docking pod is what lets you transfer the training information over to the computer - you take the forerunner off your wrist, drop it into the dock and (if you have installed the software) the Garmin programme starts up and starts transferring. It will also charge the unit, rather than using the charger (which uses a USB connection, so you plug the docking pod straight into the charger).
Turning it on
I had a brief look at the manual before turning it on and testing it out - a more in depth look would have been better to get all the settings right! But, basically, you turn the unit on, and it will start locating the satellites - if you have moved significantly from the time the unit was last on, this can take a while (indoors it can take forever, so be outside).
Once this has happened the important screen comes up which tells you things like your training time, pace, heart rate etc. What it doesn't tell you is what form of training (running, jogging, other) you are taking; so the first time I used it I went for a cycle and it thought I was running ... fast. So, before you do anything else, check the settings (not obvious and usually requires a look though the instructions).
You also need to input things like your gender, date of birth, and weight, in order that the Forerunner can more accurately calculate your calories burned (it will also take into account any load you are carrying - you just tell it how much it weighs).
When you are ready to go, just press start and set off. There are three screens which you scroll through using the up/down buttons on the right of the unit and these can have various datafields in, which you can choose - you don't have to have the default settings, and each sport can be different.
For example, when running I have: Screen 1:total time, total distance, pace, heart rate; Screen 2: time of day, calories burned, heart rate zone, heading (compass direction); Screen 3: Time, Pace, Heart rate zone, heart rate. For cycling I have additional information such as speed replacing the pace. Other datafields include sunrise/sunset times, lap times, elevation (not greatly accurate, but it will generally show you that you have gone up a hill), and many more. If you swap sports half way through (eg, get off the bike to go for a run), then you change the setting in the Forerunner, and it goes into Multisport mode. If you go over your maximum heart beat, it will bleep to let you know to slow down.
When you're done you can look through the history on the Forerunner which will tell you a few bits of useful information about the training you have done (total distance, calories burned, time etc), and you can connect it to your computer. Using the Garmin software you can see a map of where you have been, but it is a bit basic. You can either upload the data to Google Earth, or use one of the 'free' websites to view your training information.
This is how I tend to use the Forerunner, but additional opions include training workouts by which you can choose how long you want to exercise for, or how far you want to run. You can also save previous routes as a 'course' and try to beat your own time. By setting up your starting point as a waypoint in the Forerunner memory, you can also navigate back to that point (useful if you get lost) - I've had to use this once, and it worked well [it just gives you a bearing, distance, and expected time - you have to work the roads out yourself...its not a sat nav!]. I haven't used these extra options enough to comment fully on them, but when I have used them I've not had any problems.
Ease of Use
Once I got the hang of changing the sport (and more importantly, remembering to do it), using the actual forerunner is a doddle. I have a bike mount so simply clip it on the the handlebars, press start and set off. The screen is clear to read, and the start/stop and lap buttons easy to press. The up/down buttons on the side are a pain to press with gloves on, so scrolling through the screens can be tricky. The unit is rainproof, and when its raining it does get tricky to read the screen, but I can't really complain about that!
Putting the heart rate monitor on is no problem - just wet it a little with water, and strap it on. I think I've only had a couple of occasions where I've had to stop to adjust the strap because the heart rate wasn't being picked up.
The battery has never run out on me; I tend to recharge it after every run and on a four hour long multisport it was still going at the end of it. As with all rechargeable gadgets, if you take care of the battery it should last for quite a long time.
In ideal conditions, standing outdoors, the GPS will usually get sufficient satellites within a couple of minutes, but there can be extremes either side of this average: sometimes it is 30 seconds, sometimes 3 to 4 minutes. Indoors, it is totally variable from several minutes up to never. You can exercise indoors though, just by letting the unit know when it asks "Are you indoors now" if it cannot find the signal.
The heart rate monitor was picked up by the Forerunner with no problems and connects every time. You don't have to use the heart rate monitor, and if it is not detected a symbol comes up on the screen to let you know, but it is not obtrusive.
Registering for free on http://www.motionbased.com/ allows you to upload and store your training runs. You can view the last 10 you uploaded (or all if you pay a subscription fee), and view them on a high resolution map. You will also get information such as the distribution of "heart rate zones" which will tell you if you are pushing too hard (i.e. spending too long in the upper zone). Another feature of the site is that it corrects the elevation information measured by the Forerunner, so if elevation is important to you, MotionBased should be able to help.
Since I spend so much time on the bike, I opted to get the Bike mounting kit (~£16) - having to keep looking at your wrist is not ideal. The mount sits on the bike all the time, and the Forerunner clips into it. It's very sturdy, and the Forerunner has not fallen out yet.
To cover all of the features of this unit would require pages more information, but hopefully I have provided enough info here to help you decide whether a personal GPS trainer is worth it. Personally, I would now not be without the Forerunner 305. Admittedly it has its little niggles, such as the side buttons being a little too small to press with gloves on, but the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. My training has improved significantly now that I'm actually able to see both in real time, and several hours later when I've recovered, exactly what stages of a course are problematic or when I should push harder.
If you require more information, check out the Garmin website, where you can download the instruction manual and see more in depth specifications. If there is anything extra you think should be in this review, please let me know and I'll see what I can do!
I purchased mine from Amazon, which was by far the cheapest at the time. At the time of writing it is £130, with the bike mount still available at £16 (a worthwhile buy if you plan to use it cycling).
Free software pretty good at showing training information Lots of feedback about how your training is going. Fairly small.
Wrist strap a bit uncomfortable (alternative bike mount or Velcro strap is much better). Side buttons are a little small and difficult to press.
I loved reading this review. I have a previous model of the forerunner without the heart rate monitor. I mainly use mine for running and it does the job. I was tempted to upgrade but having the strap around me would be a little uncomfortable so think I will stick with what I have for now. Thanks for the tips.
sim_simian 28.04.2008 14:34
very informative sounds like an intersting gizmo, Rob