Garmin Forerunner 205 GPS Receiver and Sports Watch (Electronics)
Online Cycling Store Your no 1 Customer Review Site- Just when you thought Garmin had cornered the market on powerful, affordable, and effective wrist-mounted GPS devices, here comes the Forerunner 205. The release of this device is a major achievement from a design and technology perspective. This isn’t just marketing-speak; the Forerunner 205 is the most accurate, most reliable wrist-mounted performance and GPS tracking tool we’ve ever tested.
Yes, it’s that good. While no device this compact can do everything (yet), the Forerunner 205 pushes the boundaries of what is possible from something strapped around your wrist. While the Forerunner 205 doesn’t offer heart rate monitoring, or connectivity with Garmin’s wireless speed and cadence sensor, it’s a great way to get basic GPS location and performance data
Garmin ForeRunner 205 GPS Design
The 205′s design is a radical departure from Garmin’s previous generation of wrist mounted GPS devices, which reached a pinnacle with the Garmin Forerunner 301. While the 301 delivered accurate heart rate monitoring, good performance tracking, and decent GPS reception, it didn’t quite deliver in the design department. The form factor was bulky and wearing it wasn’t much different than duct taping a full-sized GPS device to your wrist.
Not so with the 205. Garmin’s engineers obviously burned the midnight oil and have come up with a waterproof design that, while certainly not as small as a sports watch, feels just as comfortable. The curved casing allows the unit’s antenna to face the sky when you’re running, while the widescreen display is perfectly positioned for viewing when you need it. And the display certainly deserves a few kudos. While it’s smaller than the display found on previous Forerunners, its resolution is far higher, offering incredible clarity and crispness.
Garmin has smartly given the 205 a simple button layout and the buttons have a nice tactile feel with good pressure response. The right side houses the menu selection and enter buttons, while the left houses a power/backlight button and a mode button. This simple and elegant solution is a big improvement over the sometimes confusing button functionality of previous Forerunners.
The underside of the 205 is pretty nondescript, except for a row of contacts that interface with the included charging and data cradle. The cradle is small and unobtrusive and its single mini-USB port connects to either an included AC adapter, or a USB cable that connects to your PC. In addition to data transfer with the USB cable, you can also charge the 205’s embedded lithium-ion battery via a powered USB connection from your computer.
The big news about the Forerunner 205 is that it features an integrated, high-sensitivity SiRFstar III GPS receiver. What does this mean? It means that the 205’s ability to both track, and maintain a lock on, your position is better than anything before it. After an intial battery charge, our product tester had the 205 on his wrist and was tracking speed and distance with GPS satellites within 3 minutes. The next time we used the 205, satellite acquisition was nearly instantaneous. A run through dense trees didn’t faze the unit either; tracking remained true and steady. Performance on a bike was equally impressive. Whatever witchcraft has been cooked up by the designers of the SiRF technology, we like it!
While the Forerunner 205 isn’t billed as a GPS navigation device, it does have some rudimentary mapping, waypoint marking, and routing capabilities. In addition to marking locations along your journey, you can zoom in or out of a simple map that displays your current direction and path. There’s also a “go to location” feature that routes you back to your starting location, or to any location you have defined. Once you have defined several locations, you can save this information as a route, allowing you to travel the same path in the future. As you’ll see below, the 205’s new “Courses” feature gives you new levels of control over how you define your favorite runs and rides.
The 205 is first and foremost a training tool, and its ability to organize a ton of data types into a user experience that is intuitive and simple is no small feat. Whiz-bang technology aside, if you can’t use it and make it a natural part of your exercise routine, it’s worthless. When it comes to these factors — and here’s the take home message on the 205 — this device is successful where many other devices fail.
The heart and soul of the 205 can be found on the data screens, which give you real-time information about all aspects of your workout. In fact, the 205 can display a dizzying array of data, such as calories burned, distance, elevation, grade, and heading, as well as multiple lap and pace modes.
Thankfully, the device makes it easy to define how much or how little data you want to view during a workout. You can arrange the data that’s most important to you and then make that data appear front and center on the device. Indeed, within a few minutes of skimming the manual and fiddling with the device setup, you’ll have your most important data displaying just the way you like it.
Garmin’s Virtual Partner function was cool feature of previous Forerunners and they’ve decided to keep a good thing going with the 205. If you’re the type that performs best when you’ve got a competitor egging you on, you’ll love this function, as it allows you to set up virtual running or biking companions that compete against you.
If you’re looking for an complicated workout with a variety of intervals and intensity levels, or just a quick three-mile jog against your best time last week, the 205 has you covered. Navigating to the Workouts menu on the device yields three options: Quick Workouts, Interval, and Advanced Workout. A quick workout is just that; set the distance and time, distance and pace, or time and pace of your planned workout and off you go. Interval workouts are just the same, but they allow you to add repetitions and rest between them. When you really want to get fancy with your exercise, you can step up to advanced workouts, which include goals for each workout step, as well as varied distances, times, and rest periods. You can use the Garmin Training Center software to set up these workouts and then upload them to the device.
PC Connectivity and Software
Garmin has been outfitting their devices with USB connectivity for some time now — a welcome move for those who struggled with serial port connections in the days of yore. Thanks to USB, the 205 integrates seamlessly with the Training Center software and we quickly had workout history uploaded and stored on the PC.
In a first for the Forerunner series, the Training Center software also lets you define courses on your PC that you can upload to the device. When course information is combined with uploaded workout information, the Forerunner becomes a complete guide, telling you where to go, when to make a turn, and what kind of workout to do when you’re on the road or path. Back on the PC, the software’s ability to overlay workout data on maps of the course makes it easy to see where the course offers up the tough hills and the easy recovery spots. Plus, the ability to track historical performance on a given course is a great way to measure your improvement.
The 205 is also fully compatible with Garmin’s MotionBased service, which takes your training to another level by connecting your data with the Internet. While we weren’t able to use the service, the promise of sharing courses, maps, workouts, and performance data with other users is intriguing. And if you’re a serious endurance athlete, you’ll be glad to know that the 205 is also compatible with TrainingPeaks.com, an easy-to-use web based training system designed to help athletes train for any event.
- Radically new design is better in every way
- Amazing accuracy and fast satellite acquisition time
- So simple to set up and use, you will actually use it
- Okay, it’s bigger than a sport’s watch — but so much more powerful
What’s in the Box
Forerunner 205, Garmin Training Center CD-ROM, docking cradle, expander strap, A/C charger, USB cable, owner’s manual, quick start guide.
Some Garmin Forerunner 205 GPS Receiver and Sports Watch Customer Reviews:
Fantastic! – I purchased the 205 to mainly get an idea as to how far I was running. This is my first training GPS device. I figured the circuit I ran was about 5k. To my pleasant surprise the 205 told me I was doing 3k more than I estimated so that was great news to me! But the 205 did not stop there. Read on….
If you are anything like me the runs I do at 5:30a on the weekdays are not as strong as the ones I do at 8a on the weekend. A couple hours of extra sleep seems to make a lot of difference. On Saturday I ran my 8k circuit at 8a and came in at a good time (for me). I saved the 8k circuit as a “course” in the 205. The Training Center software that comes with the 205 allows for fairly easy editing of the course adding in markers on when to turn, valleys/summits and saving the course back to the 205. This morning (5:30a) I started the 8k “course” in the 205. Straight away I could go to the navigation page and with the “virtual partner” function turned on there I was racing my(virtual)self! What fun! As expected I could not keep up with my(virtual)self and based on when my(virtual)self would start to break away I knew I had to put on more power. Without a doubt the virtual partner function is going to help me improve my early morning weekday runs. While I intellectually understood the benefit of the virtual partner function until I actually used it I didn’t appreciate what difference this function will have on my training.
[Update]: The virtual partner function has indeed improved my training. I have shaved 6 minutes off my 8k run since I bought the 205. Each time I make a new PR I save that as the course and work against that on subsequent runs. At worst I try and keep pace with myself. At best I beat myself!
I find the 205 to have fairly good ability to get satellite signal. I can turn it on in our house (2 story with me on the ground floor) and get a signal. But overhead tree cover does seem to affect the current pace accuracy (see my nits below).
The integration with Google Earth and Maps is incredible. I can save the images as JPGs and post them to my blog so every one can see where I’ve been. Tres cool!
As I mentioned earlier the Training Center software that comes on the CD with the 205 is good. However, I would recommend going to Motion Based whose URL is provided in a flier that is packaged in the 205. I really like MB and you can check out other people’s GPS data/times.
Now that I covered what was important to me there do seem to be some minor nits with the device that I noticed and I see other people have already commented on. The nits I would like to see corrected:
– the extensive menu navigation. There has to be a way to simplify the menu depth and make it a little more intuitive.
– current pace is negatively affected by overhead obstructions. On my 15k I run down a trail that has intermittent clearings and tree cover. Every time I ran into the tree cover and lost signal strength on the satellites the current pace dropped even though I’m fairly sure I was keeping an even pace with the music I was listening to. The 205 has a “pace alert” function that can alert you to when you slow down. Not very useful when every time I ran into tree cover the alert would sound. I eventually had to turn the pace alerts off as it was too inaccurate to be of any use. The overall average pace seems to be accurate.
[Update] : As I travel a lot the only comment I have here is when I start up the 205 in a “new” city it takes a long time to lock into the satellites. Subsequent startups are fast so there must be some initialization process that is skipped on subsequent runs. I have run in San Francisco without GPS issues so not sure why others are having problems.
Overall, if you are on the fence about a GPS training device (as I was) then jump down and join the rest of us that are reaping the significant benefits of owning one. And the 205 works really well so I highly recommend it!
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