Just when you thought Garmin had cornered the market on powerful, affordable, and effective wrist-mounted GPS devices, here comes the Garmin Forerunner 305. The release of this device is a major achievement from a design and technology perspective. This isn’t just marketing-speak; the Forerunner 305 is the most accurate, most reliable wrist-mounted performance and GPS tracking tool we’ve ever tested. Yes, it’s that good. While no device this compact can do everything (yet), the 305 pushes the boundaries of what is possible from something strapped around your wrist. The 305 model includes wireless heartrate monitoring and it can also be connected to Garmin’s wireless bicycle speed and cadence sensor. If you don’t need these features, consider the lower-priced Forerunner 205.
The 305′s design is a radical departure from Garmin’s previous generation of wrist mounted GPS devices, which reached a pinnacle with the Garmin Forerunner 301. While the 301 delivered accurate heart rate monitoring, good performance tracking, and decent GPS reception, it didn’t quite deliver in the design department. The form factor was bulky and wearing it wasn’t much different than duct taping a full-sized GPS device to your wrist.
Not so with the 305. Garmin’s engineers obviously burned the midnight oil and have come up with a waterproof design that, while certainly not as small as a sports watch, feels just as comfortable. The curved casing allows the unit’s antenna to face the sky when you’re running, while the widescreen display is perfectly positioned for viewing when you need it. And the display certainly deserves a few kudos. While it’s smaller than the display found on previous Forerunners, its resolution is far higher, offering incredible clarity and crispness.
Garmin has smartly given the 305 a simple button layout and the buttons have a nice tactile feel with good pressure response. The right side houses the menu selection and enter buttons, while the left houses a power/backlight button and a mode button. This simple and elegant solution is a big improvement over the sometimes confusing button functionality of previous Forerunners.
The underside of the 305 is pretty nondescript, except for a row of contacts that interface with the included charging and data cradle. The cradle is small and unobtrusive and its single mini-USB port connects to either an included AC adapter, or a USB cable that connects to your PC. In addition to data transfer with the USB cable, you can also charge the 305′s embedded lithium-ion battery via a powered USB connection from your computer.
The big news about the Forerunner 305 is that it features an integrated, high-sensitivity SiRFstar III GPS receiver. What does this mean? It means that the 305′s ability to both track, and maintain a lock on, your position is better than anything before it. After an intial battery charge, the tester had the 305 on his wrist and was tracking speed and distance with GPS satellites within 3 minutes. The next time we used the 305, satellite acquisition was nearly instantaneous. A run through dense trees didn’t faze the unit either; tracking remained true and steady. Performance on a bike was equally impressive. Whatever witchcraft has been cooked up by the designers of the SiRF technology, we like it!
While the Forerunner 305 isn’t billed as a GPS navigation device, it does have some rudimentary mapping, waypoint marking, and routing capabilities. In addition to marking locations along your journey, you can zoom in or out of a simple map that displays your current direction and path. There’s also a “go to location” feature that routes you back to your starting location, or to any location you have defined. Once you have defined several locations, you can save this information as a route, allowing you to travel the same path in the future. As you’ll see below, the 305′s new “Courses” feature gives you new levels of control over how you define your favorite runs and rides.
The 305 is first and foremost a training tool, and its ability to organize a ton of data types into a user experience that is intuitive and simple is no small feat. Whiz-bang technology aside, if you can’t use it and make it a natural part of your exercise routine, it’s worthless. When it comes to these factors — and here’s the take home message on the 305 — this device is successful where many other devices fail.
The heart and soul of the 305 can be found on the data screens, which give you real-time information about all aspects of your workout. In fact, the 305 can display a dizzying array of data, such as calories burned, distance, elevation, grade, and heading, as well as multiple lap and pace modes. The 305 adds the ability to track heartrate, lap heartrate, average heartrate, and heartrate zones via the included coded heartrate chest strap. With the purchase of a separate wireless cadence and speed meter, you can also track bike performance data.
Thankfully, the device makes it easy to define how much or how little data you want to view during a workout. You can arrange the data that’s most important to you and then make that data appear front and center on the device. Indeed, within a few minutes of skimming the manual and fiddling with the device setup, you’ll have your most important data displaying just the way you like it. The ability to display heartrate is a big plus, too, as it’s a fairly good indicator of excercise output, fatigue, and fitness level. The 305 has all the heartrate functions you’d expect from a full-function monitor, including the ability to set target zones and alerts to maximize the effectiveness of your workouts.
Garmin’s Virtual Partner function was cool feature of previous Forerunners and they’ve decided to keep a good thing going with the 305. If you’re the type that performs best when you’ve got a competitor egging you on, you’ll love this function, as it allows you to set up virtual running or biking companions that compete against you.
If you’re looking for an complicated workout with a variety of intervals and intensity levels, or just a quick three-mile jog against your best time last week, the 305 has you covered. Navigating to the Workouts menu on the device yields three options: Quick Workouts, Interval, and Advanced Workout. A quick workout is just that; set the distance and time, distance and pace, or time and pace of your planned workout and off you go. Interval workouts are just the same, but they allow you to add repetitions and rest between them. When you really want to get fancy with your exercise, you can step up to advanced workouts, which include goals for each workout step, as well as varied distances, times, and rest periods. You can use the Garmin Training Center software to set up these workouts and then upload them to the device.
Computer Connectivity and Software
Garmin has been outfitting their devices with USB connectivity for some time now — a welcome move for those who struggled with serial port connections in the days of yore. Thanks to USB, the 305 integrates seamlessly with the Training Center software and we quickly had workout history uploaded and stored on the computer. Not only does Training Center–which is compatible with both PC and Mac–make it easy to track your performance, you can graph data such as heartrate alongside your speed and distance. Over time, this is a great way to view your fitness levels increase, and it also helps you see what types of workouts are necessary to strengthen your weaknesses. For instance, if you see your heartrate begin to spike after a certain distance, you know you need to increase your endurance workouts to train that area of fitness.
In a first for the Forerunner series, the Training Center software also lets you define courses on your computer that you can upload to the device. When course information is combined with uploaded workout information, the Forerunner becomes a complete guide, telling you where to go, when to make a turn, and what kind of workout to do when you’re on the road or path. Back on the computer, the software’s ability to overlay workout data on maps of the course makes it easy to see where the course offers up the tough hills and the easy recovery spots. Plus, the ability to track historical performance on a given course is a great way to measure your improvement.
The 305 is also fully compatible with Garmin’s MotionBased service, which takes your training to another level by connecting your data with the Internet. While we weren’t able to use the service, the promise of sharing courses, maps, workouts, and performance data with other users is intriguing. And if you’re a serious endurance athlete, you’ll be glad to know that the 305 is also compatible with TrainingPeaks.com, an easy-to-use web based training system designed to help athletes train for any event.
- Radically new design is better in every way
- Amazing accuracy and fast satellite acquisition time
- So simple to set up and use, you will actually use it
- Okay, it’s bigger than a sport’s watch — but so much more powerful
What’s in the Box
Forerunner 305, Garmin Training Center CD-ROM, heart rate monitor, docking cradle, expander strap, A/C charger, USB cable, owner’s manual, quick start guide.
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Product Features and Specification
- High-Sensitivity, Watch-Like GPS Receiver That Provides Exceptional Signal Reception
- 1 Piece Training Assistant That Provides Athletes With Precise Speed, Distance & Pace Data
- Includes Training Center Software, Which Allows Users To Download Workout Data For A Detailed Analysis
- Used For Multiple Sports Such As Cycling, Cross- Country Skiing & Windsurfing
- Data Acquired May Also Be Analyzed With Motionbased, Which Provides Online Mapping & Route Sharing
The Garmin Forerunner 305 Heart Rate Monitor Watch is very accurate and really helps me pace myself. It’s very light weight despite how it looks. Would reccomend it to anyone.
I like the Garmin Forerunner 305 quite a lot. I’ve had it for about three weeks, and have used it on 12 workouts so far. I use it primarily for running, with biking a secondary usage. The main reason I wanted it was for the instantaneous readout of distance, running pace and heart rate, the latter needed for the speed work I want to do this running season.
The core functionality (distance and heart rate monitoring) works perfectly. There’s none of the signal drops I’ve had with other heart monitors. Once the satellites are initially acquired, I’ve only had one dropout when I was outside. The initial acquisition of the satellites can be quirky and can take some time. The accuracy (according to the readout) is +/- 25ft, depending on how many satellites can be found. I’ve compared the distance measurement on the GPS with a known, measured distance on one of the trails I run on (the Chicago lakefront path). The GPS always increments a mile when I’m within 5 or 10 feet of the mile marker sign on the path. Well, I guess that’s the least I should expect from a $350 GPS unit! Of course it’s bigger than a normal running stopwatch, but that hasn’t bothered me at all. The heart rate strap is also very comfortable and well-designed.
The display is crisp and has one outstanding feature: The information presented on the various pages can be completely user-customized. The default screen layout is rather poor, but in just a few steps I could replace it with the information I wanted to see while I run. There are almost 40 different data fields you can choose from for display. Examples: current pace, average lap pace, average run pace, heartrate, distance.
The only disappointment is the point-in-time (instantaneous) pace measurement: It varies wildly during a run. I see swings as big as +/- 3 minutes/mile. I’m a marathoner and I know my pace is fairly consistent during a run. I just looked at my run today, and according to the data the first mile varied from 5:57/mile to 12:06 mile. I suspect the problem is either in the averaging algorithm (too short a distance?), or in the uncertainty that results from different satellites coming in and out of view. The variations seem to get worse under tree cover compared with an open area. Luckily there’s a lap-average pace that can be presented, and at least that value is useful and more accurate. The bottom line is that you can’t look at the watch and say “right now I’m running 9 mins/mile”. There is the ability to specify a pace smoothing factor, but I have it maxed out and still see the variations. The elevation readout also seems inaccurate, but that isn’t important to me.
Upload of workout data to the PC software (Training Center) is transparent. The PC software is very good for presenting time/distance/pace/heartrate/calorie data. However the maps it shows are very crude. I’ve worked a bit with one of the online, subscription services (MotionBased). That looks really good and provides some additional functionality beyond the included Training Center software, although I still haven’t decided if it’s worth the money yet for long-term data storage. MotionBased allows export to Google Earth, and it’s tremendously cool to see your running path superimposed on a satellite image. You can recharge the unit through the USB port on your computer, although it’s slower than using the dedicated recharger.
I had hoped that owning this device would prove motivational for me, and indeed it has. I can’t imagine running or biking without it. Updating my training log is trivial now: Plug this thing into my computer, and it’s done. My hope is that a future software update will do something about the pace calculation (maybe a few additional levels of smoothing?). If so, the Garmin Forerunner 305 would earn 5 stars+++.