The Garmin Forerunner takes basic GPS
navigation and turns it into a system for managing and keeping
track of fitness. Simiar in features to its predecessor the
Forerunner 201, the Forerunner 205 comes in a new shape and size and
features the high sensitive Sirfstar 3 receiver. The
Forerunner is designed to allow for measurement and timing of exercise
through walking, jogging, running, biking and even skiing.
However it also includes most of the features in a basic GPS
unit, such as marking waypoints, reviewing track logs and could
even work for geocaching. This review is specifically for the
Forerunner 205. There is also the Forerunner 305, which includes
many more features, notably a heart rate monitor. The
Forerunner 205 lists on the street for $250. Check discount
Comparative photo of Forerunner 201 on the left and the Forerunner 205 on the right
Forerunner is a wrist GPS unit, with a built in antenna and small
screen. It is lightweight, just 2.7 ounces and can be
connected to a computer via a USB port with the included connection
bracket. This allows you to upload and download information
the MotionFitness program, to monitor your exercise routine. The
Forerunner 205 package includes the "Training
Center" software. You can also download free updates of the
software by following this link. With the addition of the Sirfstar receiver, the Forerunner 205 has
dramatically better reception than the previous Forerunners, allowing a
user to easily get and retain a satellite lock, even if you are running
near tall buildings or on trails in thick trees which can interfere
wtih satellite reception.
The Forerunner is also compatible with MapSource and can both
receive and send information such as waypoints and tracklogs from MapSource.
(No MapSource software is included with the package, but if you already have it,
the Forerunner is compatible.) Tracklogs created on the Forerunner can also be
seen on maps in MapSource. (Although it will only download your last ten
tracklogs, even though the Forerunner seems to retain track data for a much
longer time. Garmin claims it stores up to two years of training history.)
Side Angle View
Although the Forerunner itself is not mapping capable, it
does have a map page where tracklogs and waypoints can be seen, in relation to
your location. The scale goes from 120 miles down to 20 feet. You cannot pan
the map. The Forerunner includes additional features from a basic GPS, such as
the ‘Virtual Partner’, which helps keep you on pace, with a time and distance
you specify. There is also, ‘AutoPause’ which stops your timer when you stop
moving, for example at an intersection or stop light.
This shows the size of the Forerunner 205 as compared with an AA battery
the Forerunner 205 package, is the Forerunner 205, wrist extension strap, A/C
charger for the internal battery, data and charging mount bracket, training software,
The Forerunner is 2.75 ounces and has a wrist strap
attached. An expansion strap is also included. The GPS has a built in antenna
and the screen is about 2/3rds the size of the unit. There are six buttons:
power, mode, reset, enter and zoom in and zoom out. Also, the reset and enter
keys double as a lap key and start/stop, when the unit is in the specific data
The main menu page
is accessed by pressing the mode key and it features four categories: History, Training, Navigation, Settings
is basically the equivalent of a ‘tracks” page in a basic GPS. What I found to
be nice is that you can go back to a specific date and compare your time and
distance, with what you did with your current run. You can look at Last Run,
Last Week, Last Month and History Totals. You can see specifically your run
time, distance, average pace (by mile) and calories burned. It does keep separate data for running, biking and other.
These features are unique to the Forerunner from
other GPS units and are specifically for fitness training.
This allows you to set alerts for when you have either a user specified
distance or a user specified time. Default is one mile and 30
You can specify an alert if you go above a speed and a separate setting if you go below a speed. You can also select these alerts to remain off.
This feature allows you to stop your timer if you stop at a stoplight or are waiting for traffic at an intersection but don’t want it to
affect your moving average, etc. You can set it for when you stop moving or a custom speed.
can also specify when to trigger a lap. Default is set for 1.00 mile, but you
can customize it for a marathon, 10K, 5K, etc.
This may be the most helpful
feature in the Forerunner. It allows you to set a goal, for how
far you want to run and in how much time you want to do it. It
will give you a message on the screen telling you how far ahead or
behind you are of your ‘partner.’ You can customize
the distance and time. From looking at the virtual partner you
can train by only looking if you are ahead of your goal. Easier
to glance at on the go, rather than having to think about time,
This allows you to set workouts for either, Distance and Time, Time and
Speed or Distance and Speed. Helpful to allow you to craft what
is most important to you during your workout.
This allows you to
specify a distance to run and how long you can rest, before resuming. Or how
long you run and how long you can rest. Gives audible alerts for when you have
traveled the distance or time, when you are eligible to rest.
This allows you to customize a 'course' or other route you like to run
and then measure your progress on that particular route and distance. You select from a previous
run/biking route and then have the same distance, etc. And on the
map page, it will highlight what the route is, for you to follow.
(When you start navigating using this feature, the only way to
stop it is to press the reset/lap button on the front of the unit.)
Auto Multi Sport
This feature is used if you are using the Forerunner in some kind of a
triathlon or other event where you transition from one sport to another.
This is where the Forerunner doubles as a basic GPS
unit, where you can create a waypoint or navigate to a waypoint.
This is how you mark
and create a waypoint. It is also the only way to see your current lat/lon and
altitude. You can edit the specific lat/lon, the waypoint symbol and name, up
to six characters.
Navigating to a
waypoint is done in this menu. Options include ‘all’ waypoints, ‘nearest’
waypoints and ‘delete all.’ When you
select a waypoint to navigate to, the map screen appears on the left and an
arrow and distance to the waypoint, shows up on the right. You can navigate to
the waypoint on this page, including a geocache. (There is no dedicated
geocaching function, although the Forerunner is compatible with EasyGPS, a
program used to upload geocaches/waypoints to a GPS unit.) By selecting a specific waypoint, you have the option
of ‘delete’, ‘map’ and ‘goto’ as well as editing the name, symbol, lat/lon, and
Back to Start
When you begin your
run, the Forerunner can lead you back to your starting point. It will use the
internal tracklog to return you to the beginning. Similar to Garmin’s trackback
in other units.
This is where you can build a route of waypoints and then allow the
Forerunner to route you to one waypoint, to another. Not really
helpful in fitness training, but good if you are using the
Forerunner for basic GPS navigation. You can select a new route
and then build the route using the find menu.
This gives you two screens of the satellite page. The first will
show you the round version, showing the satellites and where they are
in relation to the sky. And when you press the up or down key,
you will see the second satellite page, which will show you the current GPS accuracy, as
well a graph page, so you can see the signal strength on each
satellite. (See screen examples below under Satellite Acquistion)
The settings page is similar
to other GPS units, where you can set time zone and units such as miles
or kilometers. The ‘Custom Page’ allows you to set a
data page with the data fields you are most interested in. I like
the time of day, distance and total time on the run. But there
are several other options, such as calories burned, pace, elevation,
grade (of up or downhill.) ‘User Profile’ allows you
to enter your weight and then specify the desired pace times for
running, jogging, walking, etc. (This is to calculate calories
burned.) You can also specify if you are running with extra
weights in the running profile, or in the biking profile, the weight of
your bike. ‘Set Display’ is where you specify how
long the backlight remains on and set the contrast of the
display. There are also numerous
languages available that can be selected here.
This gives you the option of
‘North’ up or ‘Track’ up in the mapping page as
well as showing or not showing your waypoints and whether or not to
show the map in the rotation of screens or not.
There are three data
pages, the custom page, where user can set data fields, as well as the time,
pace and distance page and another page which features lap pace, lap time and
lap distance. This is basically a stopwatch for your run/walk. When you are on
this screen, is where the lap and start/stop buttons are activated, which double
as the reset and enter button in the other screens. To reset your run, hold in
'reset' for three seconds, (it will countdown from three before resetting.)
When you have the timer running, is when pressing the lap key will start a new
lap if you want to measure distance, for example on a track. Otherwise the lap
distance goes to the value set up in the system. When you have a data page on,
use the arrow keys to toggle between the different data pages.
The Forerunner with its built-in antenna located below the screen, does a great
job acquiring and keeping a satellite lock. We found it is
best to wait until you are outside, before turning it on. If you
have it on inside and don’t get a lock, a message will appear
within a couple of minutes, asking if you are indoors.
This allows you to switch the GPS function to 'off.' You can also
do this in the settings under 'General' and then 'System." When we were
outside, we typically had a lock in 30 seconds and once we had a lock,
had no problem keeping it while we were on our run or walk. There
is no lat/long page with the Forerunner, however by pressing the
‘mark’ key, you can find your current lat/lon and
elevation. A small satellite in the upper right hand corner on
the data pages, flashes while acquiring satellites and is steady,
when you have a satellite lock. There is no WAAS correction
available in the Forerunner, however this is not really necessary in a
fitness GPS and probably burns more battery power.
As of November 2006, Garmin posted a software update for the
Forerunner's GPS Sirf Receiver Chip. Running this updated
software on my Forerunner seems to have dramatically improved satellite
acquisition times when the unit is turned on. As of this
writing, it is not available via Garmin's WebUpdater and so you
must download the file from Garmin.com by following this link
and then run it with your Forerunner connected to your computer.
The GPS Receiver software is currently "GPS 2.90" and you can check
your unit's software version by selecting the "Settings" on your
Forerunner, then "General" then scrolling to the bottom of the page and
selecting "About Forerunner." (Garmin also says after the
update, it may take longer than usual to get a new satellite fix the
very first time you turn the unit on).
The Forerunner 205 has a built in lithium
battery, with an average battery life of 15 hours. It typically requires two to
three hours for a complete charge. The battery charger is included with the
package. There is a battery level indicator on the bottom of the main menu display to
show you how much battery time you have left. A message flashes on the screen
while the battery is being charged and changes to say 'battery charge complete',
when it is fully charged. As with most Lithium batteries, you do not need to
allow the battery to be completely discharged before re-charging.
connect the Forerunner 205 to the battery charger and USB computer connection, a supplied
bracket snaps on the bottom of unit. You
then connect the USB cable to the bracket's port.
can wear your Forerunner in the rain, if you really like to run in the rain.
Garmin says it is safe to keep it in one meter of water for up to 30 minutes.
This should get you through even the worst downpour.
There is a backlight available, accessible by gently
pressing the power key. You can set it in the settings, under 'Display' to how long you want it
to stay on. Default is 15 seconds. Once you activate the backlight, it will
turn on each time you press any key. You cannot change the backlight level, it
is either on or off.
Areas for Improvement
The Forerunner 205 does pretty well overall for what it is designed
for. A few things I wish it would do, would be user configurable
fields on the compass page. It would also be nice if you could
plug the USB connector directly into the unit for charging and
extracting data, without having to use the bracket. However this is
probably not possible, so the Forerunner is waterproof. We did
not find any obvious problems or bugs while using the Forerunner.
Can I use the Forerunner on a
use the Setting's page and select "Biking" and then select "Use This Sport"
Can I use the Forerunner in a
but the unit seemed quite confused like Superman was wearing it, when it comes
to speed, lap and pace. It seemed to mess up our averages of actual
Would you say the Forerunner is a
suitable unit for basic GPS navigation?
Yes, for basic navigation, such as
what you would get out of the basic eTrex or Geko models.
But no mapping or car navigation is possible.
Can I wear the Forerunner as a watch?
Yes, but you will receive numerous compliments such as, "that watch is
huge" or "can you see the time okay?" Of course you can respond,
it does other things and usually most people are impressed that it is a
functioning GPS receiver as well. Because of the redesigned
shape, it does look more like a watch, although a big one,
compared to the long skinny shape of the 101, 201 and 301
versions. You will also have to consider the additional wear and
tear physically on the unit by wearing it more often and wearing
out the internal battery.
I have not really used the Forerunner
for running, only biking. However I have found it very useful to
log the distance I have traveled. As far as for running, my wife
uses it almost daily and trained for several 5K runs with it. She
reports that the Forerunner made it quite convenient to know at anytime
where she was distance-wise in the run along with her pace. It
also allowed for her to take a different route anytime, without having
to stick with the same pre-measured route for her run. As far as
accuracy, the Forerunner seems to be pretty good, as compared to a
pedometer or odometer in a car. Although she did report that when
taking the same route, the final destination would vary, but usually
less than 200 feet in a three mile long run. This can probably be
attributed to variations in GPS accuracy. As always, your Garmin
unit will operate the best, if you are using the latest free software
available from garmin.com. Connect your Forerunner 205 to your
computer and use Garmin's WebUpdater to make sure it is the latest
The Forerunner product seems to do a
good job for what it is designed for, as an electronic personal
trainer. Using the added software of Training Center will help
those who are really trying to get into shape. It is lightweight,
easy to read and the virtual partner is probably the most helpful
feature. Overall we would say that the Forerunner 205 seems to be
a good product for the money and we have found few problems with using
it. If you want it to help you with an exercise program of
walking, jogging, running or biking, the Forerunner seems to fit what
you need, while also offering some basic GPS functions.