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 Trying out the new Garmin 205
mfox

South Orange, New Jersey
Joined: 19 Dec 2004
Posts: 367

Trying out the new Garmin 205 Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 9:05 pm 

Well, I went ahead and ordered the Garmin 205 from CDW about a week ago. I get an employee discount at CDW through my company and was able to get it for $221.77. I think list price is around $245 or so. I just check the UPS tracking number and it looks like it's supposed to arrive tomorrow. I'm pretty psyched to try it out and see how well it tracks the GPS satellites. I also eager to see how well it works with motionbased.com web site.

I'll try it out for a week or so and follow up here with a review.


Rickshaw
Runworks 2005 5M Racer
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 26 Nov 2004
Posts: 1157

Re: Trying out the new Garmin 205 Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 9:30 pm 

Cool, I'm definitely eager to hear how you like it. Have you used the 201 or 301 before? Since the software is the same, I'm curious if the reception and form-factor of the 205 justify the extra cost.

What's motionbased.com about?


Rickshaw
Runworks 2005 5M Racer
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 26 Nov 2004
Posts: 1157

Re: Trying out the new Garmin 205 Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 10:12 pm 

To follow up a bit more, I found a review by one guy who went running with the 201 on one wrist and the 205 on another. It seems that the 205's accuracy is significantly better. Check out this photo:

http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/619/62/1600/fr205andFR201_4.0.jpg

The red line is the 201, the yellow line is the 205. Notice how the 205 follows the streets and the track oval much more closely.


Rickshaw
Runworks 2005 5M Racer
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 26 Nov 2004
Posts: 1157

Re: Trying out the new Garmin 205 Posted: Sun Mar 26, 2006 4:25 pm 

Did you get the 205? What are your impressions?

mfox

South Orange, New Jersey
Joined: 19 Dec 2004
Posts: 367

Re: Trying out the new Garmin 205 Posted: Sun Mar 26, 2006 5:01 pm 

The new Garmin 205 arrived on Monday last week. It took a couple days before I could get a run in outdoors (did the dreadmill for a couple evenings). It's still early to give final comments. But my first impression has been good. Though I don't have any experience with earlier generations of the Forerunner, I found this to be more accurate than any of the other distance training devices I've used in the past (Fitsense, Timex).

Everythng had been going prefect up until today. I went for a 12+ mile run and found that the device lost contact with the satelittes twice at the exact same point in my multi-loop run. It was mostly cloudy (some sun) today but I have a hard time believeing that had anything to do with it since it was just as cloudy during other portions of my run. It's odd that it lost contact in the exact same area of my run. It lost contact long ehough (as I was running in a large arch) to really screw up my distance and time at that point.

I've run a couple other workouts on the exact same course (fewer loops) and it's been very reliable. So I'm not sure what happened today.

I want to give it at least another week before I give a detailed review. I want to run the same course a few more times (to see how consistent it is) as well as run different courses (i.e. some trails). I stopped at the track for a couple loops before heading on to my long run. I walked one loop and it was perfect, then I ran another lap and it was perfect as well. The Timex GPS unit was always off by .01 or .02 miles per lap. The Garmin 205 was right on.

I'm also experimenting with the various settings/displays to see what works best for me. It has a lot of customizable features/options and depending on what type of run (or bike ride) you plan to use it for you might want to switch settings.

I'll try to follow up in a week or so.


Rickshaw
Runworks 2005 5M Racer
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 26 Nov 2004
Posts: 1157

Re: Trying out the new Garmin 205 Posted: Tue Apr 04, 2006 11:11 am 

Any more thoughts on the Garmin 205, now that you've had some more time to get familiar with it? Would you recommend it?

I'm considering getting one, or the 201, which seems to be basically the same thing in a different form factor and with poorer accuracy, but for less money.

My biggest question is: once you get past the novelty factor, do you find that you really use this a lot? I'm as big a gadget freak as they come, but I can probably gauge my pace to within a similar error tolerance as the GPS, and I already know the distance of my standard running routes.


terrysquier

Canon City, CO
Joined: 09 Jan 2005
Posts: 44

Re: Trying out the new Garmin 205 Posted: Sat Apr 08, 2006 1:34 pm 

It will be interesting to hear your experiences over the next few weeks. I've been using the 301 for about a year now and am pretty pleased with it. I rarely lose contact with satelites, but, of course, I live here in Colorado in a small town so there's not a lot of problems with tall buildings or a lot of tall trees, etc. And, of course, I'm about a mile closer to the satelites than you are there in NJ. I'm not always pleased with the heart monitor portion, though. I find that sometimes it just doesn't pick up a signal from the strap for awhile. And then sometimes my heart rate is off the charts. For example, I have one run where it fluctuated between the 120 mark, which is probably the accurate part, all the way up to 228, and I know my heart would never beat that fast.

I'm kind of a techno-geek, so I've used a heart rate monitor ever since I started running about four years ago, but, to tell you the truth, the more experience I have running, I find I really don't run based on my heart rate, anyway. I usually try to pace myself based on how I feel. So I'm thinking of upgrading to the 205, which is certainly less costly, if it turns out to be more accurate than the 301. If it's about the same, I'll keep on with the 301 until it crashes or I break it and then get the 205.

Anyway, keep submitting your experiences as you use your 205 more often.

Terry


Rickshaw
Runworks 2005 5M Racer
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 26 Nov 2004
Posts: 1157

Re: Trying out the new Garmin 205 Posted: Thu Apr 27, 2006 1:55 pm 

Mfox, how are you liking the 205, now that you've had some more time with it? Do you find that you're using the gps features often, or has it become more of just an oversized watch? I'm curious to know if Forerunner owners find them to be useful, lasting tools, or more of novelty.

Terry, I've heard a lot of the same complaints about the heart rate monitor on the 301. For what it's worth, my Nike HRM has the same kind of erratic behavior. My old Polar HRM was much more reliable. The Nike seems to have trouble getting a good connection through my skin, and often show no HR data at all until I've gone a few miles and begun to sweat enough to moisten the contacts.


mfox

South Orange, New Jersey
Joined: 19 Dec 2004
Posts: 367

Re: Trying out the new Garmin 205 Posted: Thu Apr 27, 2006 9:23 pm 

My new Garmin Forerunner 205 has become a staple of my running gear. I've found that it has really freed me to run my neighborhood more without worrying about planning my route out ahead of time or mapping it afterwards. In fact, with the use of the SportTracks software (free at http://www.zonefivesoftware.com/SportTracks) my route is mapped automatically for me when I import my activity. I spent maybe a day or two with the software that came with the Forerunner 205 and haven't used it since. I don't see much reason to use the MotionBased website either since it doesn't do much more (do you really need the 3D fly-by feature) and it requires a subscription fee.

I'm very happy with the 205. It has had its share of odd behavior at times but for the most part it's been much more accurate than I expected. It still isn't good enough to rely on to pace yourself during Tempo or Interval workouts. The technology at this small size just isn't sensative enough...yet.

I still haven't made use of all its features yet. Like the training "Workouts" and "Courses" which allow you to set up a workout based upon a combination of time, distance, or pace (or speed if your in Bike mode) or a previously run course and run it against a virtual partner. And I haven't done much with the Navigation feature either. I'm just having fun running new routes around my neighborhood.

It's nice to have the Distance Alert notify me each time I hit a 1 mile split and I can look down to see my time. I also like being able to look at my display and see four measurements at a time (and read them fairly well); for instance Time, Lap Distance, Lap Pace, and Pace. Lap pace tells me my average pace for the current mile segment, and Pace tells me my overall pace. So when I hit a long uphill seciton in my run I can see how much I'm slowing down for that mile segment and how it's affecting my over all pace. I like checking the Lap Distance by making note of where I am along the road when I hit each mile split. Then, the next time I run that route I take notice of how close I am to that same spot when I hit that mile split again. I've been impressed at how consistent it's been (often within 10-20 feet).

I thought the size of the device might be a problem. But from day one I've not had a problem with the size. I haven't really noticed it being much heavier than my Nike Triax. It is heavier but not so much so that I'm reminded of it as I run. It comes with an extra wrist strap (one...not a pair) that is a little bit longer; for those with beefier wrists or who want to wear it over their long sleeves in colder weather and need it longer. That's a pretty thoughtful design idea, I think. I haven't needed the larger strap but may find it useful next winter. Of course they included a special tool to help depress the pin that holds the strap in place. This will definitely come in handy when I need to replace the watch bands on any of my other watches.

I especially appreciate the fact that this device is rechargable. It comes with a small base that you set the watch on. With a little pressure it clicks into place and the metal contacts on the underside of the watch are held against the metal contacts on the base. The base can then be plugged into your computer's USB port to transfer your data back and forth (you can use the Garmin software to create workouts and transfer them back to your watch) as well as charge your watch at the same time. I believe the manual says you should be able to get 10 hours from a full charge. It also comes with a AC adapter that can plug into the same port on the base and thus charge the watch from an outlet; for when you take it on the road with you (the best use of a GPS watch is in unfamiliar territory). Then, just hook it up to your computer when you get back and transfer all your runs (or bike rides) all at one time.

My only real complaint is the time it sometimes (often) takes for it to acquire enough satelites before I can start running. A few times it's taken about 30 seconds, but most times it takes 2-3 minutes. And I've had a few times (with fairly clear skies) that it took nearly 10 minutes. It displays a layout of the satelite orientation in the sky and which of the 12 possible satelites it's in the process of acquiring. Another display shows a chart with a bar for each satelite ( i.e. bar graph) and the realtive strength of the signal it's receiving. So instead of just waiting for the progress bar to complete you can cycle through these two other displays to see what's actually going on.

I've had three odd instances where I lost satelite connection on days when the sky was pretty clear. Two of those times were during a 1 1/2 hour run and both times it lost the signal at about the same place and time durng the run, but only for a 10-15 seconds. I didn't have any problems during previous and subsequent shorter runs through that same area though. The third time I experience a problem was during a trail run. This was the time when it took close to 10 minutes to acquire enough satelites. The sky was partly cloudy and the sun was shinning; not what I would call a bad day. I eventually turned it off then turned it back on and within about 1 minute it had a fix on enough satelites and I was able to start off on my run. But 3 miles into this run I lost the signal for the next 2-3 miles. This really sucked, cause I was donig a difficult and hilly 9 mile (or so I think) trail run I've done many times before and wanted to measure the course to be sure. I didn't have any problems during a shorter (7 mile) run along much of this same trail the weekend before. Go figure.

I'd say that about 90+% of the time I've not had any problems with satelite reception. And during those other times when I did have problems the environmental conditions were pretty favorable for GPS use. So I'm a bit baffled about that. Something tells me I need to keep my eyes open at Garmin for a Firmware upgrade.

I'm not sure if any of this info is very helpful to those of you considering getting the 205. I'm sure there are details I'm leaving out. If you have any questions feel free to e-mail me at mike@foxhousehold.com and I'll try to provide more info about this watch and my experience with it.

If you would like the freedom of being able to run anywhere without worrying about planning out the route distance then a GPS unit is the ticket. If you like to be on the leading edge of technology and prefer the new features of the 205, and the cost isn't much of an issue, then I'd recommend the 205. If you are willing to give up a bit of accuracy, don't mind the larger size, and want to save some money then get the older model of the Forerunner (201).


Rickshaw
Runworks 2005 5M Racer
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 26 Nov 2004
Posts: 1157

Re: Trying out the new Garmin 205 Posted: Fri Apr 28, 2006 9:57 am 

Thanks for all the info! It sounds like the 205 is the best version yet of this kind of GPS running gear.

Personally, I'm not comparing the 205 to alternative watches, but rather I'm debating whether I want this kind of gear at all. I'm a numbers and gadget freak as well as a runner, so at first look, this seems like a no brainer. I'd love being able to put together all kinds of cool charts, graphs, and maps from my run data. But on the other hand, I sometimes get so obsessed with hobbies that it sucks all the joy out of them. I'm not sure that tracking all my runs to the nearest .01 miles is actually a healthy idea for me.

Ultimately, the question I'm asking myself is why do I really need to know the exact length of my runs? If I run for 45 minutes over a certain route today, and 44 minutes tomorrow, then I know I'm improving. I also know the route is around 5.3 miles long, give or take a few tenths, given my typical running speed. Knowing the exact distance won't change how much I enjoyed the run, or how much it boosted my fitness. I also don't want to encourage my existing tendency to treat every easy run like a time trial.

If the current pace info were more accurate, then I could see a lot of value in using a GPS during tempo runs or other workouts where you want to hit a very specific pace. From what I've heard from you and others, though, it's not really accurate enough for that.

Maybe I'll look for a cheap used 201 on eBay or something, so if I end up not using it very much, I won't feel guilty about it.


OldManRunner
Runworks 2005 5M Racer
Rochester, NY
Joined: 28 Nov 2004
Posts: 262

Re: Trying out the new Garmin 205 Posted: Fri Apr 28, 2006 2:07 pm 

[quote="mfox"] I also like being able to look at my display and see four measurements at a time (and read them fairly well)

I've wondered how legible those four readouts are, since I don't ever wear my glasses when I run. Can you toggle the display to show just one or two readouts if you need to?


mfox

South Orange, New Jersey
Joined: 19 Dec 2004
Posts: 367

Re: Trying out the new Garmin 205 Posted: Fri Apr 28, 2006 4:27 pm 

OldManRunner, there are four displays that can each be configured to display 1-4 different values. Of the four displays you can toggle between three of them while running or biking. THe four displays are Main1, Main2, Run, and Bike. The major differece between the run and bike displays is that you can view various PACE measurements (pace, average, best, lap, last lap) in the Run display and SPEED measurements (speed, average, lap, last lap, max) in the BIKE display.

I often don't wear my contacts when I run and I'm able to see the display find. The label for the value (i.e. Lap Pace) is small and may be difficult to read but I think the number is large enough. So you just have to remember how you have each display configured and what each value is so you don't have to squint.

The History display though is very tough to read. It shows your total time, distance, average pace (or speed), calries burned (which seems way off...too high) and max pace and then allows you to view each lap (split time, distance, pace, calories burned, best pace). What makes the display so tough to read is that it's not back lit. I don't use that display much because I know I can see alll that and more once I import my run into Sport Tracks. With the help of the USGS map data that Sport Tracks overlays on your run (i.e. google maps) I can analyze a lot more about my runs than what the watch alone will do, like evlavation gain/loss and percent grade. And of course the Garmin Forerunner 305 adds a bunch more data from the heart rate monitor.

Richshaw, I agree with your oppinion on using a GPS watch. Keep in mind the virtual partner feature. I don't know if the Garmin Forerunner 201/301 has this feature. Once you've run a course, you can race against your previous best time (or just try to match it) and monitor your progress using the virtual partner. I've not tried this feature yet but it seems that it might be an interesting way to motivate you to run your hard workout hard or a slow workout slow. It woldn't be so much a matter or tracking your pace, distance, or time but just making sure you keeping up with (or ahead) of the virtual partner. I don't know about you but I sometimes find that during a tempo run in which I'm trying to increase my pace (finish a little faster) my pace will fluctuate. I find myself pushing the pace near the end to reach my goal. Is this effective training? Seems it would be best if I could maintain a specific pace over the entire run. Once I've complted the run and improved my time (pace) I should be able to save that workout and run against it again when I think I'm ready to pushing myself a little faster. I hope to look iinto this in the next couple of weeks and see how well this feature actually works.


Rickshaw
Runworks 2005 5M Racer
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 26 Nov 2004
Posts: 1157

Re: Trying out the new Garmin 205 Posted: Fri Mar 09, 2007 9:36 pm 

Amazon.com is now carrying the Forerunner 205 for $186, with a $50 rebate, for a net price of $136. That's pretty tempting... I may pick one up.

Mfox, are you still happy with yours?


mfox

South Orange, New Jersey
Joined: 19 Dec 2004
Posts: 367

Re: Trying out the new Garmin 205 Posted: Sat Mar 10, 2007 6:37 am 

Yes. I've been very satisfied with my Garmin. I've been especially pleased with its accuracy. Or maybe I should say consistency. It's clear that it's not 100% accurate but it is very consistent in how close it gets. That is, when I run the same measured course over and over, ,the Garmin often shows my mile splits as .99 or 1.00. I haven't had much trouble with it losing the satellites as I did in the beginning. I did a update to the firmware a while back and I wonder if that had anything to do with it.

One of the things I particular like is the ability to program a workout into the watch (without the need for the Garmin desktop software) that guides me through a tempo or interval workout. The chrips made by the watch are loud enough for me to hear without being too loud.

The displayed "Lap Pace" often fluctuates much more than I think it should, especially after hitting the lap button. "Lap Pace" is the average pace from the time you last hit the lap button. For example, if I'm running a nice easy 8:00 pace (as displayed by the Garmin) and I hit the lap button but don't change my running pace, the Garmin will often show my pace has slowed way down to like 8:20-8:30. I know this is way off because my level of effort hasn't changed, I'm still on flat ground, and I still feel good. After about a minute or so the pace seems to drop back down to what seems about right. I've been meaning to change that section of the display to instead show just "Pace" which should show my pace at that exact point in time. In another area of the window I have it displaying "Avg Pace" which is the average pace from the time I started.

I like being able to take it off, set it on the base/charger that is connected to my PC, and firing up SportTracks (free software) and importing everything inwith just a couple mouse clicks. If you don't have SportTracks check it out. You don't need a Garmin to use this software. You can enter your workout data manually. But with the Garmin you get more detailed info to analyze.

A price of $136 seems like a steal. If you run in relatively open area (not along the streets of NYC) where you should have good satellite reception you should experience good performance. And if you often run new routes where you don't know the distances then I think the Garmin is plenty accurate enough to guide you with your distance and pacing. But keep in mind you'll never have accuracy to the degree that the pacing info can be relied on for the all important speed workouts. You need to have a pretty well measured course for that so you can monitor your pace and keep it within 5 seconds of your target pace. The Garmin, or any current GPS this small, just can't be that accurate.


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