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Thursday, June 1, 2006

Garmin ForeRunner 301 review (301 vs. 305)

Garmin ForeRunner 305With the release of the Garmin ForeRunner 305 GPS Training Assistant, I though it would be a good time to review it’s 301 predecessor and take a good hard look at weather shelling out nearly 150$ for the latest and greatest is such a good idea.
The ForeRunner 301 really changed the way I train. I practice mostly speedskating and running, I also rarely run or skate on regular tracks. The ForeRunner enabled me to run freely off track, and still log the mileage I was aiming for.

While runners can use pedometers, or other cheaper solutions - a GPS receiver is almost the only way to measure speed while skating. Knowing how fast your going is very important, as you can rarely tell the difference between skating 27Kph and 30Kph. Knowing your speed can help you improve you technique.

The ForeRunner was also my first heart rate monitor. If you’re already experienced with such devices, I don’t have to tell you the difference they make. A heart rate monitor can help you get the most out of your workouts - especially in interval training.

So - the ForeRunner 301 gives us speed, distance, heart rate and other valuable training statistics - what more does the ForeRunner 305 have to offer?

Garmin ForeRunner 301The 305’s main improvement upon it’s predecessor is in design. While the 301 is slightly bulky and comparable in size to two wristwatches, the 305 is much smaller and could almost pass for a wristwatch. This has been achieved by repositioning the GPS antenna to the side of the wrist, rather than up the arm. This is also said to improve GPS reception due to the fact that the antenna is facing skywards while in a standard running position.

My 301 seems to get a strong signal even with both my hands behind my back, and under my skating pack - so it doesn’t seem that there was much to improve upon as far as reception.

The second major difference is the new heart-monitor strap and communications system. The strap is said to be more comfortable, and the communication between the strap and unit to be more reliable and secure.

I must admit that the 301 has the occasional heart rate “glitch” - making your recorded HR jump to 220 or drop to 50 for no apparent reason. This is annoying, but doesn’t happen very often.

The finally addition to the 305 are the extended custom data screens. The 301 allows one custom data screen per sport (3 screens total), displaying 3 chosen parameters. The 305 allows 3 custom screens as well, but with up to 12 chosen parameters per screen.

The 305 is an unquestionable improvement of its predecessor - but with the 305 retailing for over 300$ and the 301 retailing for just over 150$ you must ask yourself: Is a sleeker design, a slightly better heart rate monitor and small firmware update really worth twice the price?

Compare and Buy Garmin ForeRunner models on Amazon.com