Garmin Forerunner Product Review


Garmin Forerunner 201

This Garmin Forerunner product review includes product specifications, price information, and my own experiences with the functionality and many uses of the ultimate runner’s gadget. I have been training with the Garmin Forerunner 201 for over 2 years and have been thrilled with the performance of the unit, and the added dimension that it’s added to my training and competitions. It’s extremely powerful, yet comfortable enough to wear even during competitive races. At less than 3 ounces, it doesn’t weigh that much more than a standard watch.

The Forerunner comes in 5 different models: 101, 201, 205, 301, and 305. All 5 of the Forerunner units come with Garmin’s reliable GPS sensor that records your exact latitude, longitude, and altitude information for your location. And it continues to update and record your location for a very accurate tracking of your workout. All of the units, except the 101, can have their data downloaded into logbooks thatare included with the unit. Below is a screen-shot from Garmin's Forerunner Logbook (the blue area is the pace; yellow is the running course; and the green shows the elevation change):

Garmin Forerunner Logbook

The Garmin Forerunner 205 and 305 are newer models and come with a higher sensitivity SiRFstarIII architecture. This can be very useful if you’re running in dense woods or between large city buildings where satellite reception may get broken up. The 205 & 305 have also been redesigned with some nicer ergonomics and newer features (see product reviews below). All of the Forerunner units have the ability for you to retrace your steps to the starting location; and each unit will track your time, distance, speed and calories burned.

Below is a list of the Garmin Forerunner units, a summary of their features, and my experiences with the training features of these units. It also shows the manufacturer’s recommended price and some of the better sale prices out there so you can get the best deal.

Garmin Forerunner 101

  • Stores up to 5,000 laps in daily and weekly groupings (up to 2 years of data)
  • Pace alarms for when you run faster or slower than your desired pace range
  • The Virtual Partner feature lets you compete against your goal pace or distance with a graph showing you if you’re ahead or behind.
  • Automatic stopwatch feature that stops when you stop & restarts when restart
  • Distance alarm can be set to sound at certain intervals and record your lap time
  • Takes 2 AAA batteries

Garmin Forerunner 201

  • Stores up to 2 years of data, including pace and lap times.
  • Pace alarms for when you run faster or slower than your desired pace range
  • The Virtual Partner feature lets you compete against your goal pace or distance with a graph showing you if you’re ahead or behind.
  • Automatic stopwatch feature that stops when you stop & restarts when restart
  • Distance alarm can be set to sound at certain intervals and record your lap time
  • Comes with rechargeable lithium ion battery and recharging cradle and cord
  • Includes computer interface cable so that you can download data onto your computer and see a graphical representation of your run, elevation information, and even organizes your runs into a nice training log (See screen shot – above)

Garmin Forerunner 301

  • Stores up to 2 years of data, including pace and lap times.
  • Pace alarms for when you run faster or slower than your desired pace range
  • The Virtual Partner feature lets you compete against your goal pace or distance with a graph showing you if you’re ahead or behind.
  • Automatic stopwatch feature that stops when you stop & restarts when restart
  • Distance alarm can be set to sound at certain intervals and record your lap time
  • Digital coded heart rate monitor and chest strap that shows you the effort of your workout – no calibration required.
  • Comes with rechargeable lithium ion battery and recharging cradle and cord
  • Includes computer interface cable so that you can download data onto your computer and see a graphical representation of your run, elevation information, and even organizes your runs into a nice training log (See screen shot – above)

Garmin Forerunner 205

  • This unit comes with all of the features as the 201, plus….
  • A new high-sensitivity GPS receiver that will keep satellite reception even in dense woods or around tall buildings.
  • A sleeker and more ergonomic design that fits snug and comfortable on the wrist.
  • Allows you to customize up to 12 data fields on 3 different screens to maximize the available information to you as you train.
  • Capability to download previous courses and compete against your old times.
  • Includes Garmin’s Training Center Software which provides an in-depth workout analysis and full-feature training log.
  • Data from the 205 can be downloaded into Garmin’s MotionBased web application which allows you to better map and save your running routes.

Garmin Forerunner 305

  • This unit comes with all of the features as the 301, plus….
  • A new high-sensitivity GPS receiver that will keep satellite reception even in dense woods or around tall buildings.
  • A sleeker and more ergonomic design that fits snug and comfortable on the wrist.
  • Allows you to customize up to 12 data fields on 3 different screens to maximize the available information to you as you train.
  • A new & improved chest strap that eliminates cross-talk from other devices, is made out of softer and more comfortable material, and comes with a superior long-life battery.
  • Capability to download previous courses and compete against your old times.
  • Includes Garmin’s Training Center Software which provides an in-depth workout analysis and full-feature training log.
  • Data from the 305 can be downloaded into Garmin’s MotionBased web application which allows you to better map and save your running routes.

The Most Useful Features of the Garmin Forerunner...

If you’re considering buying any of these units, here are some of the features that I like the most:

  1. AutoLap: On long runs, it’s nice to be able to “veg-out” and not have to worry about where the mile-markers are on the course and what my pace is. I usually set the unit up so it automatically records my mile splits. It beeps every mile and shows me my split time in a bubble on the screen. It also records these lap times so I can go back on the computer and analyze my splits – great feature!
  2. Interval Training: This is a powerful and very useful feature, especially if you like doing intervals on the open road or trails. You can set up the intervals and rest periods by time or distance. You’ll get a warning beep a few seconds before the start and a finish beep with your lap time at the end. This is really handy when you’d rather do intervals in the park instead of on a track!
  3. Pace Alerts: I’ve used this during a few races to help keep me on my target pace. In the beginning of the race, it helps me not go out too fast by beeping its “Slow Down” warning. And in the critical part of the race, it’s “Speed Up” signal helps prod me along to my goal. Very handy.
  4. Average Pace: You can customize your screen to show time, distance, pace, lap speed, etc… For races like the marathon, it’s nice having one of those fields read “Average Pace”. This can help out when you want to stay on a nice steady pace, especially if it’s a pace that will help you meet your goal, like a Boston-Qualifier!
  5. Rechargeable: All of the units, except the Garmin Forerunner 101 is rechargeable. It’s nice being able to plug it in the night before and go! Imagine if your cell phone took AAAs?! I’d go with the one that can be recharged (201, 301, 205, 305).
  6. Computer Interface: Being able to download your workouts and analyze your training runs and races is invaluable. It’s very simple to use and the software is very user-friendly. Again, all of the units except the 101 have this interface capability.

The Garmin Forerunner is one of those rare gadgets that actually works like it’s supposed to & one that you’ll find yourself using everyday. I really have been thrilled with its use and operation since I’ve had it. If you’re a serious runner, walker, or hiker that likes compiling data for your training, you’ll get a lot of use and fun out of this high tech toy! You can find additional product data on the Garmin Forerunner webpage or through the product links below.





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