Sports: November 2007 Archives


November 27, 2007

I started running back in the last 1970s, so I well remember the days when just having a digital watch seemed pretty cool and actually having a stopwatch (or as it was labelled, a chronograph!) with a lap timer was ridiculously high tech. So, it was with some trepidation that I forked over for the Garmin Forerunner 305 a combined Watch/HRM/GPS ($179 at Costco, pricematched via Zappos, with a $50 rebate). This is a pretty impressive technical achievement: big for a watch, but pretty compact for a GPS, especially considering that this is a technology that only went operational 15 years ago.

OK, so once you get over the sheer technical whizzbangery, how well does it work? Pretty well, actually. It's pretty much Garmin's standard GPS system crammed into a watch form factor along with a heart rate monitor receiver, so you can do all the standard GPS stuff: time, time in motion, lap time, speed, distance, altitude, heart rate, etc. As usual, Garmin's UI is a little cryptic, but it's extremely configurable—you can set each screen up with a variety of fields and configure what's displayed in each field. It's really surprisingly nice to have distance and instantaneous speed, and it's a lot less annoying than the foot pod pedometers that non-GPS systems use.

There's also a bunch of mapping type features. You can retrace your steps (useful for running in unfamiliar environments) as well as save workouts and then race your previous performance. I haven't tried that feature but I'm looking forward to in the future, since it seems a lot easier than memorizing the time at various waypoints.

As far as comfort, the watch is a bit of a brick, but it's actually surprisingly comfortable once you get it on. I actually noticed the HRM chest strap more—it's about average comfortable, which is to say not great but not terrible. It's probably the first sports watch that I've ever had that I wouldn't want to wear on a daily (non working out) basis. It's not really practical for that anyway since it runs on rechargeable batteries and only lasts about 10 hours on a charge. On the other hand, it seems fine for running and ought to easily last your entire run unless you're doing some kind of ultra.