Mini Review of Garmin Forerunner 305

I’ve had my Garmin Forerunner 305 for 2 weeks now and have been quite pleased with it. A few people have asked me for a review of the unit, so I’ll do the best I can.When I first opened the box, I put it on the docking station plugged it into my DC inverter in my car so that it could charge on the way home from REI as I wanted to use it that day and it was supposed to charge for a few hours. After I got home, I plugged it in and it was ready to go in no time. I turned it on, took it outside and it acquired a signal pretty quickly. I browsed the instructions while waiting for it to charge, but didn’t thoroughly go through them.There was no configuration required and I started my first run by strapping on the heart rate monitor (I read a tip that said to put water on the monitor before putting it on), putting the monitor on my watch and I was off. There really was no configuration needed to get it going. It seemed to keep a signal and gives me the data I need to train (current pace and heart rate are about it).I’ve read some complaints about the unit from others in that it doesn’t keep a signal, the heart rate monitor doesn’t work, etc. My unit has performed flawlessly and keeps the signal all the time; I don’t run in wooded areas and there is pretty much a clear view of the sky. Also, the heart rate monitor works fine; another complaint I’ve read has to do with the heart rate monitor not registering when the GPS unit is placed on bicycle handlebars or on a crossbar on a boat. Since I run with it and it was designed for running, it works well. My only problem with the monitor was that I didn’t wet it down one day so it didn’t start registering until I had worked up a good sweat.If I wasn’t a techno geek, I’d stop here as the Forerunner tells me my pace, distance, and heart rate which has been helping me train. One of the reasons I went with the Garmin device is that Garmin announced Macintosh support for their products. The Forerunner comes with Training Center software which currently only works on Windows; I haven’t bothered to install it as Garmin’s subsidiary, MotionBased, put out a beta version of a Mac plugin that uploads data from the Forerunner to the MotionBased website. I love data analysis and this site has more data than I could ever need.The Forerunner has so many options, I don’t even know where to start. I configured my main screen to show my pace, time, and distance. I then configured a secondary screen to show my heart rate and average pace. It took me a few days to figure out that I could reconfigure the screens as I didn’t bother reading the instructions. The device does limited navigation (to get me back to where I started), handles multiple types of activities, etc. I currently have no use for lots of these options, but I’m sure I’ll discover them when I need them or I get bored.I’m quite impressed with the device; it appears to give me accurate information about distance and time. I’m not sure what else I could ask for in a device. I’m definitely giving this device a thumbs up; it makes me excited to get out and run.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Large readable display
  • Reasonably accurate distance tracking (I did compare a run with Google Earth and found it to be close)
  • Lots of options
  • Not too bulky for what it does (looks better than the Twinkie shaped Forerunner 301)
  • Partial Macintosh support for MotionBased; more is coming
  • Can charge over USB

Cons

  • Current desktop software is Windows only Update: Mac software is available. Read my first impressions of it.
  • Training partner is annoying to me, but maybe when I get better it won’t bother me as much

Some pictures of the unit are at the end of this entry. If anyone has specific questions, please post a comment and I’ll try to respond.

172 Replies to “Mini Review of Garmin Forerunner 305”

  1. Thanks for the review, Scott!

    How accurate (and responsive) does the altitude reading seem to be? (I’ve heard some complaints about the usefulness of the 301’s altimeter.)

    What is the battery life like?

  2. I haven’t really looked at altitude on the device, but when I upload the data to MotionBased, my starting and ending elevations are never the same (I don’t use MotionBased’s gravity correction). The difference is 20 to 50 feet. However, the uploaded data seems to correlate to how steep I think the hills are!

    As for battery life, the longest run I’ve gone on so far is 1.5 hours and it held up fine. I leave it in the cradle when it’s on my desk, so it’s always charged. Another nice thing is that it trickle charges over USB so I just leave the cradle plugged into my computer all the time without having to have another power brice.

  3. Nice review, Scott

    I was actually looking forward to the Forerunner’s training partner function. But it sounds like in your review that it not very good. Why is it annoying?

    What kind of settings are available when using the training partner function?

  4. It’s annoying to be because I don’t like losing to a computer! So, it makes me run faster than I normally would go at that point in time. I’m running

  5. Thanks for the review Scott. I’m upgrading from a normal Polar model to this one…and I’m really excited about finally getting it in the mail.

    Do you know if you can change the readings to kilometres instead of miles? Might be a stupid question, but it would be handy to have kilometre reading instead of miles (as i’m from Australia!).

    Thanks again.

  6. I’ve used my 305 for 2 weeks now. I have serious doubts about the accuracy of this device. If it is cloudy (as it is quite often in Britain) the GPS accuracy is +/- 21meters! If you apply this error rate for every update (once every second) you get huge variations in speed (as you can clearly see when you download the data into the training Center).

    The best accuracy I got was +/- 10m (in the middle of the park, soccer field). As for the elevation accuracy, it is slightly worse: sometimes (on the same route) it shows +1400m, others +820 this is in Cardiff, Wales, UK).

    Heart rate is accurate (I measure it against Polar 610S, 810S). Calorie calculations, however, are way off! 90 mins on a Polar showed roughly 1000 cals. I did the same distance in the same time, but Garmin showed 2300 (!!!). Geez! talk about rough approximations! 🙂

    So, I wanted to ask you wheter your device shows a similar behaviour. I want to find out whether mine is ‘broken’ somehow… 😉 I sent 4 emails describing the problems to Garmin tech support, cust service, etc., both in the States and in the UK, but for 2 weeks I haven’t got any reply. God help me if I ever need this unit serviced.

    I appreciate any input you may have.

    Cheers,
    Mat

  7. Hi Mat,

    The device seems fairly accurate. I think that the cloud cover may affect the unit as I’ve seen the device take minutes to acquire a signal on cloudy days. However, most of my runs have been on sunny days. The specification for the GPS chip give it an accuracy of <10m and <5 m SBAS (space based augmentation system, which I guess uses ground base transmitters to improve accuracy). So it would appear that your best accuracy is on target. You might want to look at the screen that shows which satellites have been locked on to see how many you have; the more you have, the better the accuracy. The calorie calculations, as I understand it, are based on weight and distance and not speed, so I'm not sure how it could be that far off, unless you entered your weight incorrectly. For my 2.5 hour run today, it shows 2638 calories.

    I hope that Garmin can give you more information about accuracy and if your device is broken. I do notice, however, that when we walk our dog (same route), the numbers range from 1.4 miles to 1.5 miles which is a bit off at times.

  8. Hi Scott,

    I am thinking about buying the 305 but I am concerned about it’s performance under trees. Have you any idea about this? (I know you said that you don’t run in woods) Since I run mostly in wooded areas for my longer runs, it is essential that accuracy is not that bad.

    Thanks,

    Dirk, Belgium

  9. Hi Dirk,

    You might want to try to buy it from a company that has a good return policy and try it out. There are only a few trees I run under, but not for any length of time, so my experience isn’t going to be much help. If it does handle trees well, I think you’ll enjoy the other aspects of the device.

  10. How good is the Motion-Based beta version for Macintosh? I need to upgrade from my old timex/GPS system and the idea of having an “automatic” running diary appeals to me. I bought the Polar RS-200 and was quite disappointed to find no compatability with mac (I’m still trying to locate a pc w/ built in microphone to see how that works…). The website says that some parts work but some don’t –can you use google earth w/ the beta program? Can you charge the device using the usb from you mac?

    thanks for you review.
    Dan

  11. Hi Dan,

    Yes, you can charge the Forerunner 305 via USB (I do it all the time). The Google Earth part of MotionBased works fine on the Mac and all the information I find useful works fine on the Mac. I haven’t played much with it on Windows, yet (they’re upgrading the server as it is too slow at the moment), but the stuff that does work on the Mac seems more than adequate for my uses.

  12. Howdy Scott- Thanks for the review. (2.5 hour run…training for a marathon?)

    I’ve had mine about 3 weeks. Yes, I also think the calorie count is a bit high (certainly higher than my 201). But I thought the heart rate was calculated for calorie burn. But your understanding is it isn’t. I’d like to find out for sure.

    One problem I’ve just recently been experiencing is flaky USB connections. I initially blamed my laptop, but narrowed down the problems to only my 305. Then I noticed one of the electrodes on the back of the watch is discolored and somewhat corroded. So I scraped it off with a knife, then ran a pencil eraser over it. Wal-la. Fixed. Ran today, discolored again. I fear there is some conductance occuring and causing a short or something. Does your 305 have the same discoloring (4 electrodes on back…further to the left).

    Anyhow, I’ll keep looking for a cure to my problem. Thanks again for posting your experiences with such a new device.

    -Benson

  13. Hi Benson,

    While I do see the exact same issue with the same contact, it doesn’t seem to be affecting USB connections. I think you’re already aware of the thread over at the MotionBased forums talking about this issue. It seems odd to me that it only happens on one contact. For now, I’ll just leave it be and clean it off periodically if I have problems.

    (Yes, I am training for a marathon.)

  14. Help!
    I am very close to returning my forerunner 305. Heartbreaking as I was so excited when it was finally released.
    I have had my forerunner for over a month. I have spent hours in that month trying to get assistance from Garmin. First, I install Training Center only to find it has my data but no maps or graphs. I email Garmin, they tell me to reinstall. Still no maps, email again, they tell me to download the update, still no maps. I wait on hold for 30 minutes for Rep., he tells me that maps and graphs are an additional program I can purchase for $120 CDN. For the price I paid.. that’s not right! So I go to motionbased to use the maps. My data won’t upload. Motion based reps (they are great!) tell me that no gps data has been recorded from my device. I admit to having problems with getting a satellite but of the 18 runs currently in my watch, almost all had connected. Motion based recommends that I contact Garmin for assistance. I laugh… so here I am more than a week after emailing Garmin and no response. Does anyone have any suggestions? Anyone planning on purchasing the forerunner, make sure the store has a return policy that works for you… I may be testing mine out shortly. Please help!

  15. Hi

    I have just bough the Garmin 305. As I use a Mac, I havent yet used the software that came with the watch but I have been using MotionBased. I have some questions. Firstly, a run I did today was said to be 11.8 miles by my watch, but when I uploaded it onto MotionBased, the calculation changed to 12.55 Miles. I am now unsure which to go by. Whilst on this run it is only a minor issue, i am worried about the accuracy of longer runs.

    Also, when I ran under a bridge momentarily, the device paused itself (I have the auto pause function on) even though i was still running at sub 8:00/pm.

    One final issue – the calories burned. Does the heart rate monitor have any impact on this at all. It’s just i find it impossible to believe that a 12 mile run in 1:46 burned 2600 calories.

    Any thoughts or advice would be great

    Many Thanks
    David

  16. I have been using the Garmin 305 for several weeks now. I can tell you – it’s an awsome machine. Having owned the Suunto X9 – which was a huge disappointment because of low GPS sensitivity – this works in a breeze – even on an overcast day in Iceland! Very happy with MotionBased, unsure about the altitude accuracy though.

  17. Hi!
    The Forerunner 305 is my first GPS and I love it! I’ve borrowed other Garmin’s before and I’ve really benefitted from the Virtual Partner. Unfortunately, the VP on my 305 does not come up when I use Workout Courses or Quick Workouts. The VP option is “ON”, but it does not come up on the screen when I start my workout. Any suggestions?

  18. Hi!
    I have used a FR305 for about 2 months now and love it. The elevation is a bit off, but I don’t use it so it doesn’t bother me. I have found that if the heart monitor contacts are not making good enough contact with your body the watch records a HR way above what it should be – the cure being making sure the contacts are wet and I have had to press the strap into my chest a couple times to get good connection – not a problem after I have worked up a litte sweat. You may also want to try out a free program called SportTracks available for download – I think it beats anything else out there for ‘slicing and dicing’ your workout data.

    -Sandy

  19. I read some comments regarding Altitude..accuracy. Lets call it what it is elevation. Elevation is only as accurate as your base data you are calibrating the incoming points to. What you get in elevation profiles is often points as they are interpolated from draping this info over a 1:24k quad..ie motionbased. Good for general purpose but not really that accurate. If you want consistancy you need VERY accurate base information. That is not what Garmin or other general consumer gps providers have or will provide for minimal price. In general many communities have developed accurate centerline coverages which have good elevation data from 1 foot to 3inches. So try your local county or city engineer if you want good profies in urban areas. Be prepared to have software to process and create a surface for draping your points. As for trail that is a bit more tricky for highly accurate for a consumer device. Better Grade Recievers have the ability to gather more accurate information which includes elevation.

    These units are a lot of fun and give good information (I use one as well). But being in the GIS Business I understand accuracy..it is fun to bring this information and share it with folks I train with.

    Just my two cents..sorry if this went on a bit long

  20. I am seriously considering purchasing a 305 Forerunneer, so to all of you who have given their input, “thanks.” There seems to be some concern with the reliability of the 305 when using it in wooded areas. I am in the military and use some fairly expensive equipment for navigation. We still have problems in some “wooded” areas. Can’t be helped, at least not with a device this size. Even if you ran with a “full size” GPS you would probably encounter some blanks or gaps. Same goes with the urban trees. In reference to the metal contacts on the back: Has anyone tried to put tape or something over the contacts while working out to help preserve the integrity of the metal? Not sure if this affects the functioning of the watch when working out. Has anyone compared the 305 to the 205? I already have a heart rate monitor, so not sure if I need to buy the more expensive 305. Thanks for any and all comments.

  21. I’m a “305 veteran”, over 14 weeks of {almost} daily use. Here are some thoughts:
    1. Calorie burn – definitely off the charts. As a rule of the thumb, divide the number by 1.5 and you get a reasonably accurate picture. Also do not forget to re-set your personal details (e.g. weight if fluctuating). Anyway, my opinion is that calorie burn is not a clear measure of your workout, it is an estimate anyway, regardless of the device you’re using (if you want accuracy for that, wait until they invent nano-probes that would record ATP breakdown and resyntethis in every cell of your body):). Trust me, use your HR data instead if you really want a true picture, not a motivational ‘my God I’m a nuclear reactor, if I keep training like this they’ll use me to lit up Chicago’ 🙂
    2. Speed/Elevation data. Speed is reasonably accurate only when you get more than 6 sats locked (strong signal on each of them). Otherwise it is off by a variable +/- 40 to 60%. On a cloudy day and/or normal tree coverage (i.e. a park, I’m not talking here about the amazonian jungle) accuracy drops big time. What Garmin sais on the webpage/305 Manual is pure fiction. So my sincere advice is: if you need speed accuracy, do not rely on the 305. Run on a known length track, and measure the time, and then do the math ‘manually’. Also, the position of the watch/antenna does matter: keep the antenna towards the sky. Elevation is … just a joke, but to be fair, for such a small device it is a wonder it does give you sometimes a +/- 100m accurate data. On the other hand, bear in mind that not even military GPS (the system they use to guide their missiles and other thingies like that) is 100% accurate, otherwise you’d have automatic landing on commercial/military aircraft.
    3. Connectivity/Software. My unit works absolutely fine in this respect (WinXp Pro SP2, on an Athlon X2 Nforce 4 motherboard). USB/unit contacts are working fine although they are blackened. My advice would be NOT to attempt to clean them as you’d probably damage them. If you want to keep this unit working forever 🙂 wear it over your sweat-wipe wristband.

    All in all, I’d give it 3 stars ot of 5. It’s a nice toy, but my gut feeling is that it was developed with the recreational/motivational aspects in mind, rather than for accuracy. That is fine for me, since I’m not training (anymore) for competitions. If you do however, be VERY careful when relying on the data obtained with this device.

    PS: Sorry for the long post.

  22. I have a FR305 and it works fine. Not sure about how the calorie burn measurement works, but I have notice this:
    If I have it on bicycling and walk it gives you a result witch is much lower to what I get on the same leg if I have it on Running and walk. I think it is possible to fine tune this, while you can set the pace you are running in. Have any of you tried that?
    I have another Garmin GPS and have found that the forerunner is as accurate as the handheld. Since the device do not have barometric measurements of the altitude it will show data that can be a bit far off. I have found the device to be pretty accurate.
    For those that are complaining about the accuracy you have to blame the US military. It is the US Government that owns the satellites and can move them to where they find the best use for them. They have also made it not so accurate for consumers and dead accurate for them selves. I live in Norway and use bicycle, walk and goes skiing in the woods. When there are to much heavy trees any GPS will loose reception and I find the FR to work the same as my other GPS.

    Great product I love it!

  23. Samuel, I agree that every GPS system on the market has limitations, and in this respect FR305 is as good as (perhaps) any bigger device. I was just arguing that accuracy is not what it’s supposed to be according to the device’s manual. The EU plans to have its own GPS system, let’s hope it will be better than the US one.
    As for the tech support, I fully agree with the people that are completely dissapointed with it, since I’ve experienced it myself.

  24. Hi Scott,

    Really impressed with your review. Very nice to read up on a product before buying it.

    I’m wanting to buy this in the UK and wondered if anyone could recomend anywhere to get it from with regards to good returns policy or fault rectification.

    I’ve just called Garmins support line several times to find out how good they are and had no answer.

    Thanks for the help

    Sam

  25. Hi Scott,

    I purchased my Garmin in May 2006. I have had no problems with it whatsoever also. I love the Free motionbased site because I can export to google earth maps. That’s cool because since I do most of my riding and running on trails…

    Sal

  26. Hi Scott
    Thanks for review on the Forerunner 305. I am interested in this model but would like to know if it can be used as a pedometer to record the actual distance one walked/jogged from leaving home to returning again. I am involved with Health Walks and Ramblers groups and this would be an added bonus. Many thanks, Gerald

  27. Hi Gerald,

    I don’t see why the Forerunner 305 (or 205) can’t be used as a pedometer for you. While it doesn’t record steps, it does record distance (as long as it gets a GPS signal). It might be a bit overkill if you don’t need/want pace, heart rate, elevation, etc.

  28. Hi, thanks for all your comments. Can someone can tell me the average time for charging the Forerunner after a good day out?
    Thanks!

  29. I have been using the forerunner 305 everyday for a frustrating two weeks and have only managed to obtain a satellite fix on one run. I have followed the instructions but cant seem to get coverage even in the middle of a large open field with no trees or buildings to obstruct a signal. The ‘locating satellite’ bar fills to ~1/5th full and then restarts over and over. Has anyone else experienced this problem? I have tried contacting garmin without luck. Could my unit be faulty or do I need additional firmware updates? Any feedback kwould be greatly appreciated.

  30. One thing I’ve found is that I have to let it acquire the signal before I start. If I start running, it doesn’t seem to acquire the signal initially while moving. For me, I turn it on about 5 minutes before I go and leave it on my kitchen counter; it does a pretty good job getting the signal even inside of the house.

  31. I have had the Garmin Forerunner 305 for 2 weeks and thought it was great. Problem is now that the unit starts up by itself at random and drains the battery. Weird! Anyone else had or having this problem? Haven’t called Garmin yet…Anyone got some insight to getting through to a real person?

  32. Hi Doug,

    Something similar happens to me. I have the 305 plugged into USB all the time and sometimes I just hear it power up. I suspect it has something to do with the electrical connectors on the back; maybe a spark or shock causes it to power up.

  33. I called Garmin and basically got through after 12-15 minutes! They issued a RMA return number to send the unit back. Fearing the worst would happen with the customer service end of things, I’ll see how it goes! I gave this 305 to my son who runs for Mizuno USA and he says it’s great for running in the city throughout the tall buildings with no loss of signal. He does around 80-115 miles a week and now hates to think he’ll have to wait a couple of weeks for a replacement! He likes the database and saves him time away from his running log book that he keeps. I’ll cross my fingers on Garmin coming through now and they did not really like those that chose to buy on the internet! Be sure you have a valid receipt! I’ll keep all posted…

  34. Does the ForeRunner tell time also? Something trivial compared to all the GPS stuff, but I would like to wear it for time also?

  35. Garmin 305 Update! I don’t know what all the customer service negatives are about! I sent my “problem child” Forerunner 305 out on a Friday and recieved a NEW one the following Friday at my door! Found a great deal on another one at a bike store in Michigan via Ebay (no shipping charge!) and now have two…

  36. I have had my Forerunner 305 and it starts to drive me crazy! It must be something wrong with my piece of equipment. It has severe problems to locate the any satellite and I have to a master reset every once and then to be able to find any satellite at all, even under perfect conditions (clear sky). Once if finds the satellite it work alright for a while, but most times it looses contact with the satellites again and start to hunt for signals again. Now way to get it back on track again but doing a master reset. I have tried to get in contact with Garmin support in this case, but I have not succeded yet. Anyone who has had similar experiences?

  37. Ulf… Check to see what satellites you are receiving and their strength. To do this look in the manual. Again, I had NO problem getting through to Garmin USA during the morning EST time. They in my opinion gave me MORE than I asked for, a replacement and NOT a reconditioned one. The one I just got in Michigan (through Ebay) also works great as I just used it today (Monday). Hang in there, they are a good training tool!

  38. I am thinking of getting a 305 to help me train for a marathon however, I read on a review that the battery life of the heart rate monitor was only 3 hours. I was wondering if anyone has any other information about this.

  39. I’m not sure what review you read, but it is definitely wrong. The heart rate monitor uses a button cell battery. Garmin gives the specs on the battery as: Battery: 3 years (1 hour per day)/CR2032 (3 volts)

    So, it will definitely last awhile.

  40. Scott or anyone,
    I’ve been using a Garmin Vista for the last couple of years for backpacking and at times running if I’m doing a long run. How does the watch do measuring distance and speed average with a normal handheld GPS? I know not to expect it to be perfect, the Vista has treated me fairly well and I can’t complain, just trying to get a point of reference since I’m use to that.
    Thanks

    Jim

  41. Hi!

    I was thinking on getting a Garmin 305. I have a couple of questions that the garmin site cannot answer. Can you record precise(lat/long) point? How many can you store? Are there any know issues regarding the waterroofness of the watch?

    Thanks,

    Guillermo

  42. I just received my 305 and I had one question. I spin ofter and would like to know how can i measure the calories? The only device I have connected during my spin class is the HRM. I have the GPS function turned off as there is no reception. Any help is appreciated.

    Thanks,

  43. I intend to buy the FR 305. My wife runs as much as me. Can you customize it so that it will store data for more than one runner?

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