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Forerunner 305 review

Garmin are a company for me that just keep missing the mark. They make fabulous products and then just miss the bull eye slightly. This device is another one of those. I’m getting ahead of myself …

This device is a VERY reasonably priced heart rate monitor ($159 at GPS city or $190 at MEC ) with GPS functions. Even if you only used it as a hear rate monitor it’s cheap. Compare something in the Polar line that allows offloading the data and your looking at a lot more money.

Garmin are doing market segmentation. Not like they are the only company doing it, and generally speaking (including this case) it is distasteful. Attempting to FORCE customers into a product they want you to choose from. Garmin have a portal Garmin Connect that you can use to upload the data off of your GPS unit. Garmin have decided to only implement some of the functions (or in some cases intentionally disable) other functions to force you to some products. In the case of my Garmin Foretrex 401 they decided that it will display the heart rate, and cadence data but will not let you offload it with any program and not upload it to the portal Grrr. Garmin say this is not an “Active Sports product”. Huh, what exactly do you think I will be doing with the Foretrex 401? Playing Parcheesi? Ok rant off and now back to our regularly scheduled program, the review of the Forerunner.

So this unit is interesting designed. The bottom of it is an offset L shape which when you look at you think is not going to be comfortable. It’s actually not as bad as you might think. Now this thing is big and not exactly stylish so no way your wearing it anywhere other than when you are doing stuff. The device is also large enough that it gets quite warm and sweaty underneath after only wearing it for a little while. I wonder if it would even lead to a rash but have not experienced that. The watch strap they have used to hold it to your wrist is made of a soft stretchy almost elastic like material. I must say it feels cheap and I wonder how long it is going to last.

The device can hook up with three accessories: 1) heart rate monitor (included) 2) cadence and wheel sensor 3) foot sensor (for jogging). I played with it with the heart rate monitor and the cadence and wheel sensor. It hooked up with them effortlessly, connects and reconnects as you walk away from it very well, and overall is trouble free.

The screens on the device are well designed with a profiles for each sport with the ability to customize the screen based on the sport. Handy. You can even have multiple users programmed into it (I think) to allow you to have different displays for different users. There is a plethora of data choices for what can be displayed on each screen. Oddly missing are Max heart rate or Max cadence (although current and AVG are there). Also strangely missing is wheel speed. There is a wheel sensor in the cadence sensor that picks up the rotating of the wheel by a magnet. GPS’s only sample once per second so when you are on twisty trails the distance traveled on the GPS can be out bu 10-15%. You would think the wheel sensor to be the perfect fix for that. It alludes me what they do with the wheel sensor. There’s no where to display wheel speed, and it seems to ignore anything it gets from it. I even manually set the wheel size thinking that might be why. Nope. I’m perplexed …

Another off miss is a digital compass display. Why they left this off is beyond me. The foretrex has it. It does display a compass screen when navigating to way point but not one when you are not.

The captured data on the Forerunner is at last, completely uploaded to the portal! This includes the heart rate monitor and cadence data. Sample portal graph The end result is quite impressive, comprehensive and well done. If the wheel sensor did something (anything) I would be even more impressed.

Garmin do sell separately a piece of software called Mapsource. This is a nice program that allow you to offload data from the device as well as send it to the device. This includes waypoints, tracks of where you have been, as well as routes based on waypoints. All of which can be edited on the PC. I love this code. It is the one way (that I have found) that you can make a map that includes your waypoints. Not as slick a map as Google maps that the Garmin portal uses but good none the less.

Garmin include a piece of software called Garmin Training center with the device that can be used to offload and export the data. It works pretty well but has a totally different interface to MapSource and does not support waypoints or editing.

The battery on this device is a built in rechargeable battery. Battery life seems pretty good and more than enough for a day out. I believe the battery is also replaceable. Of course you can’t carry a spare.

The watch connects up with almost like a dock that provides a mini USB connection (yeh standards) that can be used to offload data and charge the device. Garmin include an AC charger as well. Nice touch especially given the price.

So now the rub. As with the Edge 305 I reviewed thsi device can only handle 100 waypoints. I mountain bike. I go to a number of different places. I’ve mapped out 10-15 waypoints per place so there is not enough memory for me to carry all the places I ride so I have to remember to preload all the right points. Not happening. So in the end, I will end up with two devices: The Forerunner to do data logging and heart rate monitoring and the Foretrex for navigation.

I bought the handlebar mount for Forerunner 50 (I bought it for the Foretrex 401) and it works well and is cheap. There is another one specifically for the Forerunner 305 not sure if it would be any better.

So in the end, do I love the device? I do. It’s a cheap heart rate monitor with GPS functions. The conenct portal and the Garmin training software that come with it are great.

I really do wish Garmin would get there act together. If they had done the Foretrex 401 right and allowed it to load the heart rate and cadence data I would be a delighted customer. As it is I am a slightly disgruntled customer.

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May 31, 2010 - Posted by | GPS Stuff

2 Comments »

  1. This is good information about the products Garmin Forerunner 305 from this blog, thanks for the info …

    Comment by Forerunner 305 Price | November 1, 2010 | Reply

  2. Hi there – actually you can upload the heartrate from your 401 to Garmin Connect. When you connect your 401 via USB and attempt to upload via the Garmin Connect website it ignore the heartrate info, however if you scroll down to the bottom of the “upload” screen and select “manual upload” and then navigate to the 401 device and select the file “current.gpx” it brings the extra info through with it and voila! Just a tip – if you have already uploaded a session it will not re-import that one so you will first need to delete the sessions and then re-import them using this method. You can aslo bring in other vendors data this way so long as they export to gpx format
    Rgds

    Comment by Wayne Boshier | December 15, 2010 | Reply


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