It was 15 years ago this past week that the Forerunner 305 was released, at CES 2006 (Consumer Electronics Show). Arguably the device that began it all from a GPS running watch standpoint, its famed reddish color made it easy to spot a mile away. Or, maybe it was the gigantic size. Either way, it was the first time a GPS running device actually sorta looked like a GPS watch. Previous to that was the Forerunner 101 and 201, which were basically just Twinkie’s strapped to your wrist.
When it was announced at CES 2006, it shared the spotlight with the Forerunner 205, which looked identical from the exterior except was blue instead of red. But software-wise it lacked a few features, including sensor support. You can read the original Garmin press release here. Or my full review of it here.
The Forerunner 305 carried a number of features that even some of today’s rival watches don’t have, in fact – you can still buy it today on Amazon. Its feature set included:
– 10-hour battery life
– Structured workout support (downloadable from Garmin Training Center)
– On unit quick interval feature
– Course/route following (downloadable from Garmin Training Center)
– Back to start directions
– ANT+ sensor support for cycling sensors, heart rate sensors, and running footpods
– Multiple bike profiles tracking odometer
– Multi-sport triathlon mode, even a ski mode (which I then used)
– Virtual Partner functionality to race a given pace
– Quick-release kit and bike mount for triathletes
Of course, that’d skip over a few itty bitty little things it didn’t have. It didn’t actually have a regular daily watch mode (mostly), so it was only worn for sports. It also wasn’t actually waterproofed for swimming, despite being a triathlon marketed watch. And of course, it didn’t have things like step tracking, an optical HR sensor, or Bluetooth/phone support. And yet, it was loved by many.
The question I had though was more basic: Was it as accurate as all of us seemed to remember? And what’s it like running with it here in 2021? No problem – I dug around in my Garmin watch bin and found my old one, as well as The Girl’s old one too. We both had them back in the day.
For me, the Forerunner 305 was my first GPS watch. Though not my first sports watch – that was an older Polar device, pre-GPS for them. Notably though, the Forerunner 305 was the first true product review I released here on the site some 14 years ago. As I’ve told the story previously, the review itself was actually a copy/paste from a seriously long e-mail I had sent to some co-workers while working at Microsoft, about my thoughts on the watch. My work e-mails were just as famously long and detailed as my reviews are now. I figured people outside of my friends would find it interesting. Turns out, you did.
Getting it Setup:
I starting digging in my bins. Finding the Forerunner 305 was easy. In fact, I found The Girl’s too. Finding a functioning charging cradle was more tricky. I spent roughly half a day troubleshooting because the first one apparently wasn’t working. Once I grabbed the second one, I was in business.
Now, when the Forerunner 305 first came out, it used an app called Garmin Training Center. I think you can even download that today if you really want. But eventually that got shifted over to Garmin Express. And turns out, Garmin Express still supports the Forerunner 305. It paired up quite easily in fact:
I did have to find a functional Mini-USB data cable (specifically, a data one, not just a charge one). Also, I found the mount a bit finicky, but then again, it was always finicky after the first couple of years. But once it chirped it was happy to sync.
And then would you look at that, if I check to ‘view details’, I have my most recently available newly unfavorited and favorited gravel loop route available for me to sync:
I then hit the install button and waited for the device to implode:
Holy crap, it did it! I mean, it didn’t implode. But did the sync!
Before we headed out though, I needed to ensure the watch was wearing the right clothes for this momentous occasion. Basically the entire time I’ve owned it, it’s been naked, in the quick-release configuration. That’s where you remove the stock straps and use a Velcro quick release band:
Yes my friends, that is thousands and thousands of miles of usage on that beautiful fully now yellowed band:
But I felt that was a bit underdressed for the date at hand. So, I went digging in the plastic container full of Garmin strap parts to see if I could find the Forerunner 305’s original straps:
Sure enough, I found a pile of them. I assume mine, The Girl’s, and a few others that I must have bought as spares at some point. I also found that I had even put all the pieces in a tidy plastic baggie with the special screwdriver and four unknown screws:
Holy crap, I used to be this organized?
On The Run:
With everything synced up and properly dressed, I stuck the Forerunner 305 outside for about 30 minutes, with GPS on and recording – as a throwaway activity. GPS devices typically do best once they’ve had a chance to fully ‘soak’ based on the current GPS information. In fact, that was actually the underlying issue with everyone’s dorked up GPS tracks last week, because that underlying information wasn’t there or incorrect. And since the Forerunner 305 predates the current era of watches downloading that information from online servers, I gave it a bit of time to get itself up to date – just as a first run would normally take care of.
While that was happening, I decided on its running mate. Obviously I had to compare it against something. From a price standpoint, that’d be something like the Forerunner 245 ($299) or FR745 ($499), which are the closest latest generation Forerunner series watches price-wise to what Garmin offered the Forerunner 305 at ($349). But, the Forerunner 305 was Garmin’s top of the line unit. After the Forerunner 305 (2006) came the FR310XT (2009), then the FR910XT (2011), then the FR920XT (2014), then the FR935 (2017), and finally now the FR945 (2019). The correct direct lineage of that watch is indeed the Forerunner 945, at nearly double the price these days of $599 – albeit with a gazillion features you’ll probably never use.
So, out on today’s test would be the Forerunner 305 vs the Forerunner 945. And for some bipartisan comparison data, the Polar Grit X and an Apple Watch SE. Just to make this foursome as awkward as possible. Oh, and actually, playing odd man out I even had the NURVV running insoles with GPS pods attached. With that, let’s start running.
Oh…wait, you wanted to hear that little chirp of a starting sound? Fear not, you can – just hit play on the video at the top. It’ll bring you back to more peaceful times. Or, I suppose, bring you back to when you had to stand outside in the cold for 5 minutes for GPS signal. Also, totally unrelated, did you know you could actually add in a weight vest if you wanted to?
Totally unrelated moment aside, GPS acquisition was reasonably quick. With having got my current location about 45 minutes prior, it took only about 10-15 seconds for it to find GPS signal. It took the Forerunner 945 about 2-3 seconds.
As I started running it showed a pretty steady pace relatively quickly. I needed to pair it up to an ANT+ chest strap for heart rate, since this lacked an optical HR sensor. I was curious if that would work or not, given that the newer Garmin HRM-PRO that I was using (like most ANT+ devices released in the last decade or so) uses new longer ANT+ ID’s that the Forerunner 305 doesn’t know about. In theory, the ANT+ spec is supposed to let this work nonetheless by truncating the ID a bit. But in practice…not so much.
So I dug back in another chest strap bin for a much older chest strap – one of the ‘classic’ Garmin chest straps that was included with watches back in the day:
And sure enough, that paired up just fine.
Ok, back to pressing the big top start/stop button and starting my run:
While I had started my run with 4 out of 4 battery chunks (there’s no exact percentages), I didn’t really know how long that’d last in real-life. After all, who knows how well this battery would hold up. The earlier 30 or so minute GPS soak test burned one bar before I refilled it, but who’s to say how accurate that was.
Into the forest I went. My routes would be a variant of one of my main test routes, which includes some forested sections, wide open areas, buildings, significant bridge to go under, the running track, and the stadium. And a few other things tossed in for good measure.
Now, one downside to this watch is that Garmin apparently treated the display with a mirror – I forgot how miserable this was to take photos of. It reflected everything and anything back at the camera. Using a GoPro certainly didn’t help the situation.
However, for my own eyes, it was silly easy to see. Everything was just as crisp as I needed it to be, equally as visible as the Garmin FR945. Interestingly, my data pages were exactly as I left them. The Garmin FR305 allowed you to configure two different data pages, plus different configurations per sport…of which there were three sports in total: Running, Cycling, and ‘Other’. This was well before Garmin ever tracked swimming of any sort.
I had it setup for AutoLap, the same as all my other watches – configured for mile splits. And on the first two miles, it perfectly nailed the splits exactly the same second as the FR945.
Later, after the bridges, stadium, and track, there was a few seconds difference between them – which is to be expected as the units differ in the GPS tracks they recorded. I had no issues hearing the chirp from the watch, or changing data pages by using the up/down buttons.
One of the most obvious differences was the lack of pace stability on the FR305 compared to the FR945. The FR945 was silky smooth as my running pace was smooth and constant. Whereas the FR305 was basically a drunk uncle shouting random numbers half the time. In fact, you can see this difference looking at Garmin Connect later on:
Compared to the FR305:
I rounded back into the finish area at just prior to 40 minutes, hitting about 5mi/8km. Nothing crazy…mostly cause I had no idea how long this battery would last, and didn’t really want it to die mid-run on this chilly day. You can see 5.11mi on the FR305, and 5.13mi on the FR945.
One interesting note is that when you finish/end a run on the FR305, you just hold down the lap button until it resets the timer. The button is literally labeled ‘Reset’. There’s no summary screen or anything else. You’re just hoping that it does what you want and saves it. And as it did many hundreds of times before, it did exactly that: Saved my workout – ready to upload.
I then plugged it into the cradle, and a few seconds later Garmin Express synced the workout to Garmin Connect. A second or two after that I even got the notification that it was live on Strava.
Here it is up on Garmin Connect:
You can look at the full file if you’d like to on Garmin Connect. Here’s the FR305 link, and the FR945 link.
With that – let’s dig into the files a bit.
No DCR comparison post would be complete without some GPS accuracy testing. And I’m here to deliver. On this run I had the following gizmos:
– Garmin Forerunner 305
– Garmin Forerunner 945
– Apple Watch SE
– Polar Grit X
– NURVV Running Insoles (has GPS pods too!)
– Garmin Classic HR Strap (lower chest)
– Garmin HRM-PRO Strap (upper chest)
– Whoop sensor (upper arm)
There’s no reason to compare the heart rate data here, I just had that for the heck of it. We’re here for the GPS data only, and at a high level the distances were reasonable close:
Polar Grit X: 8.15km
NURVV GPS: 8.24km
Apple Watch SE: I somehow effed up initial start point
So, let’s look at the actual track data itself, and at a high level – things look pretty close:
Now, for the purposes of keeping things simple on this post, I’m just gonna show the FR945 vs FR305. But if you want to look at the complete data comparison, you can simply load up the set data here in the DCR Analyzer.
For the initial portion on the path with barren trees around me, the two units were pretty close and basically a wash. At times the FR305 was off in the bush, but other times the FR945 was slightly offset a couple meters of the small 1-2m wide path.
However, as the trees became slightly more dense (or rather, taller), you could see the FR305 falter a bit more on the turns. We’re not talking more than a meter or three, but it seemed unsure of itself at times. To the casual observer, you’d probably never notice, but compared to where I actually ran and as someone that does this daily, it’s barely visible.
However, the FR305 quickly made up for any errors when the FR945 got distracted playing in traffic. In a rare move for it, it was out in the main boulevard, well into incoming traffic and approaching helicopters for the hospital. The FR305 stayed the course and on the bike and pedestrian paths where I was actually running.
However, as I went under the massive span of bridges for the highway and numerous rail lines, the FR945 snapped back into place, and the FR305 took its turn at doing some wiggles. Nothing major, but not as crispy as I usually see here.
Next, we had some loops around the stadium, which I did both clockwise and counterclockwise to ensure both sides of my body had fair representation. You can see how the FR305 on the lower left side differs the path slightly (despite me running the exact same channel both directions), whereas the FR945 locks in place.
Similarly, my little test island to the left there, which has zero tolerance for being off track, the FR305 was very good, but a bit sloppy going across the bridge. Kinda like a typical Amsterdam tourist with too much to drink (or smoke) that evening. Hardly an offense to flag as major, but barely visible.
Meanwhile, for the running track, the FR945 was *NOT* in track mode (which would have easily given it the win). Instead, it was in regular GPS+GLONASS mode. However, annoyingly, during the last reset of it I didn’t re-enable 1-second recording, so you see that most obviously on the track where it doesn’t have as many update points, and is slightly off on the curves. Seriously Garmin: 15 years later and that’s still not the default option? Every other company defaults to 1-second recording rate now for this very reason.
Meanwhile, the FR305 appears to think it got a software update with the newfound track mode, because it almost perfectly nailed the lane I was in. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve seen a non track-mode GPS nail it this closely before. Granted, only two loops worth, but man…talk about a lucky twofer.
Finally, on this last straightaway under the trees, the FR305 was straight – but slightly away and offset. The FR945 was properly on-point here. Again, we’re only talking a couple of meters, but hey…that’s the name of the game.
Still, from an accuracy standpoint, this is nothing to be ashamed of. It easily bests the Fitbit Sense that I tested this past fall, especially in the bridges. It also beats the accuracy of the Wahoo RIVAL. Which isn’t to say it’s a better watch than those two. Those two have numerous other features that most people probably value above spot-on accuracy, such as phone integration or other sensor data. Or maybe just simple activity tracking.
Further, while this was a reasonable test – it was just a one-off. As any long-time GPS watch owner knows, it’s multiple outings that matter. A core reason why in full in-depth reviews there’s often weeks or months of data points. Nonetheless, it’s hard to be upset at these results.
(Note: All of the charts in these accuracy portions were created using the DCR Analyzer tool. It allows you to compare power meters/trainers, heart rate, cadence, speed/pace, GPS tracks and plenty more. You can use it as well for your own gadget comparisons, more details here.)
About a decade ago, I was talking to a then Garmin employee about the Forerunner 305’s longevity as a product, and he joked that “seriously, these things just don’t die”. The joke was is in reference to at the time their biggest competitor was their own products lasting forever. And, as it’d turn out – that’s still true with the Forerunner 305. Of course, the FR305 has a distinct advantage in the battery drain department compared to today’s watches: It was only worn during workouts. Whereas your watch today you wear 24×7 and charge weekly or so, thus the battery wear/tear is astronomically higher. But even then, the vast majority of people never end up actually ‘killing’ their GPS watch or have it die entirely – instead, they just upgrade for newer features or increased capabilities.
As for the accuracy. No, it’s not quite as good as we all remember. Despite having a gigantic satellite antenna on the entire bottom half of the watch, the GPS chipset lacks many of the advancements you’d expect over the course of 15 years. In fact, you may remember my post back a while ago where I pulled up all my NYC Central Park runs over many years to see how GPS accuracy faired with various devices. As we saw there – indeed, despite our occasional run aggravations with GPS devices today, the reality is accuracy is far better now than back then (especially in tricky situations like tall buildings).
Still – there’s something about running with the FR305 that just feels right. I can literally say ‘back in the old days’, and be totally correct. As if I’m talking about Betamax tapes or such. All the quirks of old technology slowly fades in our memory, from having to deal with the FR305 charging ports that constantly needed cleaning using an eraser to keep the contacts clean, to the fact that it simply wasn’t even waterproof like a $15 Walmart watch. All forgotten with the winds of time.
But ya know what’s most important? It properly showed up on Strava as a run with a Forerunner 305. No kidding – go check it out!
With that – thanks for reading!
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Now this is the kinda content I come here for.
But there is one thing to quibble with, and that was that I had this product in 2003. Also made by Garmin but built for Timex, this is really the first running GPS. So uncomfortable to have it strapped to your arm while you wore your watch. No uploading to anywhere that I remember. Just seeing your distance on your watch.
Interesting – I hadn’t seen that before.
As noted in the intro paragraph, there were technically other devices out there – for example Garmin’s own FR101 and 201 were prior to it, but were more or less repurposed Geko units (a handheld unit at the time) with a strap on your wrist.
The FR305 was really the first mainstream (or maybe first at all?) actual watch-looking-thing that had the screen and GPS in a single spot.
305 was definitely a game changer. This thing was called the Timex Ironman Speed and Distance Watch. It was great for what it did at the time. But it was heavy, used either AA or AAA batteries if memory recalls, and left some awesome tan lines when I ran with it in Richmond, VA.
The 305 was my replacement for this. I also still have mine, and have very fond memories of training with it.
Here’s the manual if you really want to go down a rabbit hole: link to fccid.io
I had this and was thinking about it while reading this post. Timex Speed and Distance. No upload, blinking red light on your arm for minutes while you wait for satellite acquisition. But, the magic of having PACE and DISANCE on your wrist was off the charts!!!! Can’t verify the year but agree this was Pre-Garmin 305 for sure. They then had a smaller arm-thing that I also owned. Then came the magical 305 that had it all TOGETHER in one wrist device (mind-BLOWN at the time).
That GPS nonsense will never catch on, it just can’t be accurate when you are running.
Much better to stick with your Heart Rate data from a trusty chest strap. I am currently considering upgrading from my Polar s620 to S720i is that a good move? I’m also thinking that I should get a Polar footpod, it seems sensible that would bring me decent accuracy although they do look a ‘bit’ big.
I’ve even heard that it’s possible to sync your stats after your workout to a Nokia mobile phone via some new-fangled infrared connection (better than the audio sync links surely?). That sounds cool, wireless solutions must be better but apparently, Garmin wants to go down the route of cables and standards. Good luck to them I say.
(I just there away the Nokia that did that a couple of months ago, i still have the 720 though)
PS: No, the 305 is not as accurate as we remember. Not bad tho.
That was my very first GPS watch unit! I was so excited to get that for trail running! After that was my Garmin 201.
Haha! I left my old 720i and 625x with the foot pod! I even had the arm mounted GPS unit.
I had what I think was the next Generation – Timex Bodylink system. The pod was even bigger ?
Well you could get the Data Logger and then upload via USB (surprised it wasn’t RS232).
So before each run: Timex Ironman watch on, turn on GPS unit will it get a signal before it eats its batteries, lick that lovely hard plastic HRM strap to get a signal, then turn the Data Logger on and hope it all works.
50 lap/split memory wohoo. I’ve still got all but the actual watch – too many sea swims and poor button seal killed it.
I’m pretty sure I replaced with a 305, it survived many sea swims, in cap with a lanyard attached around neck – what could possibly go wrong, but never lost it. Then a brief time with a Forerunner 410, hateful thing. Followed by a 920XT and currently a 935.
Still have fond memory reading having no idea about what is endurance sports anf just after reading your article I went to a best buy and bought this watch, I never stopped running and cycling since then
Awesome – glad you’re still here!
That’s how it is, Healthy is addictive and rewarding
The 305 was my first gps watch. Only stopped using it when it died when canoeing. Its replacement (my second gps watch) was the 910xt. And it is still my current watch. And as an aside, I sort of understand the idea of having a 24/7 watch. But my take on a running watch is that when I go for a run I have to change into running clothes and it is no hardship to change my normal watch for a running watch.
Same for me. The 305 was my first and I really liked it even though I had to put it in my swim cap for open water swimming (something I learn from a site called DC Rainmaker back in the days 😉 but when I lost it after a swim I got the 910xt and I am also still using it to this day. Being a swimmer mostly it was, and is, a lot more useful to me that the 305 was, of course.
Would love to se a OW GPS accuracy test between the 910xt and FR945 by the way.
Awesome review DC of a piece of gear from what seems like a lifetime ago already! One addition to your quote about the Forerunner 201 being like a Twinkie strapped to your wrist. I always called it my garage door opener when I ran my first marathon with it back in 2007! I never had a 305 but did get the blue 205 and loved it much better than the garage door opener ?.
If Garmin came out with a retro 305 “Classic” – I’d buy one for sure.
Same shape (but thinner, of course), improve the battery, keep the same features. Improve the display, but make sure it still looks the same.
As I’m now considerably older and my eyesight isn’t as good, I’d love the huge data fields of my old 305 (which is still in a drawer – I will never throw it away).
I’m young and still have the same problem!
A watch with size, shape, and form similar to the Forerunner 910XT. Just a bit thinner and lighter, but still with a huge display (maybe even bigger due to smaller bezels). B/W display, no huge resolution, best possible battery capacity. Intended for use just during workouts (less battery wear, longer life). Maybe Optical HR. Structured workouts and decent, fast sync to phone but no other “sounds-nice-but-gives-completely-unusable-data” features like sleep or VO2 (my watch says I sleep 10 hours a day and run 2:39 marathons even though I’m on a “mantaining” trainload 90% of the time, hahaha I wish).
The Garmin Instinct?
Funny that you were having pace issues when that is the one thing I really miss from my 305 – the pace on it was solid whereas everything I have had since, the current pace has never been as good, especially the 910 I replaced it with. Made intervals a real pain in the backside.
As with marklemcd above, I also got the 305 to replace my timex speed and distance setup!
I have forerunner 920. It used to have good resolution on pace, but after a firmware update I am bound to 5sec increments .. this being reciprocal to speed means then faster I run the worse resolution.
The multi sports capabilities of that watch were epic. Having the Forerunner 935 I still miss simply changing the sports mode during workout!
You want to do a duathlon? Just start a running activity, switch to bike during the race and back to running at the second transition. Want to do manual laps within? No problem!
No fumbling before the race to create an activity. No accidental change of sports when clicking the LAP button.
One thing I liked about the FR305 that I haven’t seen on any later watches or bike computers, is the ability to edit a run afterwards (basically delete arbitrary laps from the session). I don’t remember the actual use case I had for this, maybe it was just to fixup an accidental “lap” press at the finish line instead of “stop”, or timing fuel stops (as laps) on a gran fondo and deleting them afterwards, but I remember I actually used it and missed it on my successor watch.
Also you could create (complex) workouts on the watch itself, which not many later watches allowed to do.
I actually used it again a few months ago when my FR210 wristband tore, but the battery wasn’t reliable anymore, so I bought a FR735XT on sale.
I still use this watch daily. Never found a good enough excuse to spend on a newer one when this still foes the job.
It’s easy to underestimate recent inflation–$399 in 2006 is $515 today by US CPI. So you picked the correct price tier to compare against.
That’s a good point but with tech I feel prices should stay fixed or even fall in cash terms, because that’s what computers and TVs etc did. So no, I won’t pay more than £499 for a phone or £349 for a sports watch!
Thanks for the trip down memory lane! I had the FR205 and loved it. I’ve been reading your reviews and in the Garmin family ever since.
Thanks for this! I started with a GPS V in my pocket. Ridiculous! Went through the 101 & 201. Actually used the 201 quite a lot. But the 305 was my go to watch for a LONG time. Used it until the buttons wore down. I still have all of them somewhere.
I still have a FR305. I use it for ultras as it will record while charging (the strap will hold it on the cradle). My later Garmin’s will either record or charge but not both.
Actually they will. I just did a hundred miler last fall with my Fenix 5x + and charged it halfway through while it was recording.
my 620 doesn’t
Thank you for this review. Unfortunately, structured workout support is not working with 945Forerunner
People also have changed, however, Arnie is still strong and Cindy is still sexy… and I am old fashioned.
I am following your articles since 2009 when I purchased the 310XT and changed it for 910XT (better swim metrics and barometric altimeter). I’m still happy with the 910XT and wouldn’t change it for Chronos/945 even if Garmin would pay me for that.
“After the Forerunner 305 came the FR310XT, then the FR910XT, then the FR920, then the FR935, and finally now the FR945”
I bought the 305 in 2007 when training for my first marathon, and I had them all thanks (or no thanks) to you!!
Really interesting comparison – awesome to see how Garmin’s flagship watches have evolved
Any idea when the next iteration might come around? The 955? Interested in getting a fitness watch but hesitant about being stuck on the x45 series if the next generation is around the corner (although maybe I should reconsider and grab the 305 for a blast from the past!)
Mine still fires up and is kept around just in case!
I’ve got you beat by a few years. Can’t hook this one up to Garmin Connect though.
Hmm…is that a challenge? 😉
I’ve a recollection that there was no way to get data off the 101 – the 201 and 301 had usb to charge and connect to Training Center. So it might be quite the challenge!
Still have my 301 somewhere. Break it out every now and then when people start claiming it was better than whatever newer unit they have. Spoiler: it wasn’t, its gps was so fragile it would autopause if you ran under a tree. 305 was vastly better.
I had the 301, and you could upload to Garmin Connect either by direct USB connection or by using the wireless USB Ant stick thingie.
I don’t recall if the 101 could make use of the latter?
I think your memory’s deceiving you, Tyler, the ANT stick didn’t come in until the 310xt, the model after the 305. The 305 had ANT but only to talk to the heart rate monitor and probably other accessories, but that’s the only accessory I had. The 301 used something else proprietary to talk to its HRM, it didn’t even have ANT for that, so its HRM won’t work with anything later where the 305’s HRM will still happily work with the latest watches.
There is no way to get data off the 101. No ports, no wireless. Just eyeballs. On the positive side, look at the size of that screen! And thanks to replaceable AAA batteries it is as good as new today.
I think you’re right, Dom.
I had the 301, 305, and the 310XT, and am likely confusing them.
All great devices.
The 305 and 310XT were built so much better than the next 2 gens of Garmin devices, especially the terrible 405.
Glad they kept iterating.
Love my 245 and wear it 24×7.
The 310xt I think is still my favourite in many ways. I bought a 610 after I’d had the 310xt a couple of years, but still used it quite a lot (not least because I had to send the 610 back under warranty about three times because the back kept corroding away!). That said, the 310 wasn’t trouble-free – the initial one I had to swop under warranty twice for the not-keeping-time-when-off bug, the third one eventually had the display die, but the fourth one is still going strong now, on the rare occasions I fire it up.
Got one too!!!
I remember being so excited that Garmin were releasing the Forerunner 305. As someone who worked with GPS technology in their job, and was a triathlete, I understood the potential they had in sport.
GPS technology for the masses wasn’t really of use until after Selective Availability was switched off by the US government in the year 2000. Interesting to think that prior to this, error signals were sent through to decrease accuracy to prevent civilian use. D-GPS devices could help correct this….but it wasn’t cheap technology at the time, and had limited range.
I currently use a 920XT – the last of the square shaped Forerunners. It’s bombproof….I killed 2 Fenix 5S’s and will use the 920XT until it dies. Being 5+ years old, and an everyday watch….it generates a bit of interest….non triathletes think it’s some sort of a new watch!
Ha, this just inspired me to drag out my 205 and old (well, not as old as the original which decided not to be waterproof anymore during the swim leg of a triathlon) 310XT. I have the chargers for them too!
My first runs with GPS were with the old Timex Ironman system with the armpod velcroed to the upper arm. I’ve sadly lost both components with the ravages of time – I’m a bit devastated about losing the watch as I was quite fond of it and I ran my first marathon with it. I tried to stay with Timex over the years but the Garmin product just overtook it.
Wow, I am kind of surprised by how many people still have their Garmin working. My 305, 310xt, 910xt, and Edge 1000 all had the rubber buttons disintegrate (so maybe it’s just me).
I am sure your original 305 review brought me to this site 🙂
The 305 was my first GPS watch and I loved it! I actually killed it when I tried to replace the vanishing battery but it was my fault. I then made the mistake of « upgrading » to a 405 (hated the touch bezel) before getting a FR920XT which I still use to this day.
One feature that the 305 had an no other Garmin had since (as far as I know), is the auto-lap by position. It worked quite well to count loops on a track, or on cross-country races, when you’re too busy to reliably push the button for manual laps.
The 910xt has the autolap by position. I don’t know how accurate it is. I mean, how do they calculate when you’re reached the same position bearing in mind that GPS still is only accurate to 2m at best ? Probably not good enough for 400m track (unless it’s me in which case a calendar is acceptable).
I tested the autolap by position about a decade ago, pre FR910XT, and it was crazy how good it was: link to dcrainmaker.com
(Another blast from the past post)
Cool idea to show such ancient gems, looks like you’re getting older too 🙂
Used that one for a long time also (until the internal beeper died), and it was indeed the first handy watch (had also the FR101, 201, 205, 301) – but not only that, I believe it had some cool functions which are not seen in the actual Forerunner products anymore: GPS satellite information screens or just simple things like a full date for saved activities (the new FR’s don’t show the year),…
Yes, I remember this one. Used it for several years, after a few months struggling with the FR201.
Minor issue with the 305 was the START/STOP button placement on the front. During my first New York City Marathon, in 2006, someone hit the button on my watch without me noticing it, somewhere on 1st Avenue. Only after the finish I found out it had recorded only some 28km.
In those days, we did not care about the Strava record, the medal was all that counted, so it did not matter that much 🙂
I still have my FR305 laying around as well!
Interesting story: I actually started running because I was interested in the watch (this was back in elementary school when any electronics were interesting to me). A friend showed me his FR305, and even let me wear it if I went running with him. The next christmas, I was gifted one for myself. All these years later, I’m still recording my GPS track every run.
Loved the article and trip down memory lane!
I bought this watch when it came out. Strapped to my dirt bike handle bars for a few rides then into the drawer. Started running in 2015 and everybody else has a watch. So out comes the 305. Used it for a year. Worked pretty good. Button placement was convenient.
Sadly my 205 lasted less than 4 runs. My special type of sweat ate through the charge contacts.
And whilst you’d normally say ‘warranty’, unfortunately the 4th run resulted in me tearing ankle ligaments (hence less than 4 runs) and so by time I tried to charge for run 5 it was more than a year old and Garmin said ‘nah’.
In other blast from the past I found my Polar 800 with chain tension power meter in the drawer a few weeks back. And by ‘chain tension power meter’ then I mean ‘random number generator’.
I still have a 305 along with all the rest of my Forerunners. It was a beast back in the and still can hold it’s own but, the size and versatility are a little of by today’s standards. I now rotate a 305, a 630, a 735xt, a 910xt, a 935… and an Edge 520 … depending on what I’m up to that day for my sweat addiction ?
Wow that’s an ugly watch
Still use my 310xt for running. I think it was bought for the vasaloppet in 2010. Although have upgraded to a 530 for the bike to get turn by turn mapping as the bread crum trail on the 310 is hard to follow.
And Suunto wants me to ditch my beloved 4 years old Ambit3 Vertical for a newer watch!!
I never owned a FR305, but I had a 101. I still have it lying about somewhere…. I do have very fond memories of my Edge 705 however. I had this “little” thing for about 8 years. It never skipped a beat. I even continued to use it after I got a power meter. However, as far as I remember, it could only display instant power. No averages, or 3 sec smoothing or the like. I used/abused it on mountainbikes as well, where I always forgot to take it off, when turning the bike upside down to fix flats. The giant antenna-humb was however perfectly placed to protect the screen.
Now I am on a Edge 820. Aside from the occasional bugs and laggy, low-res touchscreen, I am stil happy about it.
What about a comparison between a first gen. Edge unit with the current models?
Still use mine daily. Never felt the need to upgrade. Excellent feature is ability to take 6 figure map refs.
Cool to hear! I even ended up getting an adaptor so I could use it with an out front mount, because I wanted to feel like I had a never model. Still have mine. Would probably still fire up without any issues.
Obviously, many new features are useful and all, but actually the Edge 705 covers 90% of the use cases still, I would guess.
I don’t know if this because Garmin where incredibly forward looking when designing the Edge 705, or they have been lazy since 😀
Wow! What a wonderful idea! I remember so many situations where I was using that new cool stuff showing me pace and distance! And yes: How tolerant was I to all these big wobbling pieces in these times and how critical is my thinking now to this small and good looking watches… 😉
The most interesting thing to me is the still living battery after many years of not using it! I sold all of my old watches because I thought they will finally die when not charged. Very impressive they obviously don’t…
I had (have) the 205 myself and still can’t believe how many watches they tried to sell without structured workouts. What finally killed it was when the battery when it wouldn’t charge any more.
Great stuff, it was that original 305 review that brought me to this site years ago, so thanks DCR! My old red is still going, in fact I soldered in a new battery a few months ago during lockdown as the original one was only holding charge for 45-60 minutes during activities; now it works just as well as ever and I occasionally use it for variety alongside my more recent Garmin units.
I would like to add to the comments about longevity with an observation on the reliability of the unit. Sure, it is not quite as accurate as more recent GPS chipsets and devices (but still pretty good); but I don’t remember once ever the unit freezing up or stopping recording mid-run or mid-ride, unlike some more recent devices (cough cough looking at you vivoactive 3 and FR 935). The reliability was up there with or beyond the Edge 500. The only times it ever did conk out were if I was out for a long time having failed to charge it adequately.
Here’s to another 15 years!
since you are doing a trip down Forerunner Memory Lane.. I guess it is likely that we have a Forerunner 755 review coming up very very soon… 🙂
Maybe today? With availability in early March?
Wow, nice review and comparison. The FR305 was my first Garmin.
I started off, I guess around 2007, with a Timex, with separate GPS-module which you had to wear round your upperarm. Not being able to download anything, so I still had to fill in the data in a spreadsheet.
A 2nd hand FR305 came around 2010, which was sold after buying the 310XT. That is still in use by a friend. Then, in 2014 I decided to switch to Polar and an M400 came. Decent thing which you could use 24/7, but aggravating with interval-runs, so in 2018 I returned to Garmin with a 735XT, and since about 2 months that one has been replaced, but still there, by a Fenix 6x. This one is supposed to be used at least 4 years. 😉
Up until a year or two ago this was my “under the swim cap” open water tracker based on your post about using it for that! I just dug it out of a drawer, powered it on and within 1-2 mins it was locked onto GPS and ready to go!
I still have mine. I still use my original HRM strap with my FR235. Amazing the accuracy.
I still have my 205, and had its battery replaced a few years ago. Sadly, I couldn’t get it to sync to my computer anymore, so that was the end of using it as a backup device on longer hikes. I’d even left this watch, years ago, in one of the shower areas at Tuckerman’s Ravine trailhead, and someone kindly turned it in to Lost & Found. Too many fun adventures with this watch to ever recycle or dispose of it 🙂
Because I stumbled across it in this article:
Should I set my GPS recording on my Forerunner945 to 1s intervalls? Right now I have smart intervalls for the GPS recordings.
What are advantages / disadvantages?
Definitely. With smart recording on, it’ll plot GPS data points every 3-7 seconds usually. Sometimes faster if it properly detects a turn. But the ‘if it properly detects’ is the key thing there.
One can see on the track how with the smart recording enabled, it was slow to respond on the curves – versus my non-track mode 1-second recordings I usually do tend to look as normal as the FR305. This is also often seen on sharp 90* turns as well.
There’s zero change to battery life, since it’s just the update rate in the recorded file. The only tangible difference is the recorded file will be bigger, but we’re talking such small file sizes it’s meaningless to you or I (more meaningful to Garmin, producing probably millions of files per day). But the file sizes here are on par with a single short text e-mail.
I enjoyed reading this nostalgic review. This was my first GPS watch way back when and I loved it. In fact I was still using it until last summer when I eventually bought a fenix 6 sapphire. Biggest plus for me was the big clear screen, Not so much with my eyesight with the fenix 6 LOL
My only gripe before I stopped using it was I could rarely get it to connect to garmin express.
This is funny, 2 months ago I tried 305, ordered from Ebay. And in fact… it worked well!
They knew how to make the things in old days )
Brilliant. I remember this felt like such a big upgrade from the humongous Timex bodylink pod I had been using previously.
Ryan, Great site and resource for the community! I have been using my 305 trouble free since 2007 and was just given a 935. Wearing both at the same time on runs to compare, the 305 matches well. You mentioned the instant pace bouncing around, but in ruining mode there is the field to select the level of smoothing on the display. It also lets you add extra weight, something I haven’t found on the 935 but would be useful when pushing the double stroller.
Tom S…I was just about to remind Ray of this very unique pace smoothing parameter on the 305! I wonder how it works, though… If set for 1 s recording, let’s also assume 1 s location fix. So, it seems that the smoothing might be related to how many location fixes the pace is averaged over? For example, if ‘least’ is a pace based on (say) on a rolling basis of three measures, then the error could be relatively high since the total distance over that interval (at an 8:00 per mile pace) is about 33 ft / 11 m. If the ‘most’ is based on (say) a rolling basis of 30 measures, then the error might be smaller since the total distance covered (same assumptions) is 10x greater (330 ft / 110 m). So the variability in pace is something on the order of the distance covered during the smoothing time / GPS location error? FWIW, I have done side-by-side pace comparisons of my 305 and 920XT and the 305 certainly reports correct pace from rest-to-running much more rapidly than the 920XT. It’s easier to see the difference if you run at a constant pace and get a stable pace, then stop. Easy to observe when stationary and the 305 goes from run pace to 0:00 in a few seconds. The 920XT requires much longer. For me, at least – but I can’t recall my pace smoothing setting on the 305 – ‘less’, I think. I retired my perfectly functional 305 only b/c it has no way to measure bike power…
Good catch – I totally forgot about that feature! Sigh that it disappeared.
Enjoyed the comparison. I grew up with the older,similar 205 blue model and yes it still works. I just felt like there was a falcon attached to my wrist when I ran with it.
This brought me back; I started with the forerunner 410 so not the most OG. It was a good watch but that bezel was finicky and I had to get into the habit of locking it before each run (also why I am kind of scared to go with a Pace 2). I rode it until it more or less died, it would only find GPS with a full battery but as it did not have all day stats, I could charge it specifically for each run. The jump to the 235 was startling, the run functionality hasn’t changed much but the steps and HR have been useful. I am interested to see what comes next when it’s time to upgrade again. (I am most excited to have other activity profiles besides run and bike, I have never understood or played with “Run Indoor” and the other has become a catch all for walks/hikes and actually other. I am also looking forward to some of the update training metrics that have been published.)
Wow, fantastic article! I’ve had my 305 since I purchased it brand new back in December of 2006. I used it regularly up until 2017 (see photo) when the battery finally was showing signs of wear. I had a new battery installed a couple years ago and it hasn’t been the same since as it now has difficultly connecting to satellites. Just an FYI that you can only use the Windows version of Garmin Connect for the 305. Anyway, the 305 was the best Garmin ever made in my humble opinion. I’d love to find one of them NOS!
So, I actually dug out my 305 and for giggles hooked it up to my MacBook Pro and it recognized it! It did NOT do that a couple years ago so I’m tickled pink that it worked. Oh and that problem I mentioned connecting with the satellites, the GPS was turned off! Doh!
Can’t help thinking there is a touch of the rose tinted spectacles here… my first GPS for running was a yellow eTrex handheld that barely managed to pick up a signal… though I did live near a military base and wondered if they had somehow blocked local GPS. I had a few Garmins but none of them lasted more than a year and after my FR 610 bricked I swore never to buy another and stay loyal to Polar, then got a Suunto Ambit 2 which saw me through many miles. Now got a FR645 and it’s by far the best, even if it has some bug in it which says I run much slower than I did with my last Polar 😉
My own FR205 had a nasty habit of dying mid run even if the battery said it was full at the start and also suffered from the dissolving contacts.
My first ForeRunner was a 201 in December ’04, and then moved up to the 305 in 2007. I ran Boston in 2008 with the 305 using the quick release (also used it as my cycling computer). Somewhere in the jostling of the first mile it got knocked off my wrist, never to be seen again. I never even felt if happen. I had to run the next 25 miles with only the mile marker timers to guide me. I bought another one and didn’t retire it from active duty until 2013 when I got a 220. Replaced that in 2018 with my current 645. I still have the 201 and 305. The rubber over the buttons are wore off on the 305, though.
How is your experience with the HRM1B through 2021 eyes? According to FCC archives it was still released under the Dynastream brand originally before getting a new brand badge.
I downgraded to the HRM1B when the HRM3 that came with my Edge 1000 in 2015 turned out to be far less reliable than the (closed protocol) cheap Sigma I used before and the HRM1B was a massive improvement in reliability over its grandchild. Actually thinking about stocking up on spare HRM1B because I’ve found someone still selling overstock and they do get gunky from half a decade of use (and the belt doesn’t get better from French nurses stripping it off apparently without discovering the opening mechanism, but it seems they got their priorities right and I digress)
I completely forgot about the time it took at acquire a signal on my 205. Pre-run my choices were often:
-Start running and lose most of your first mile
-Wander aimlessly for 10 minutes outside trying to get a signal
-Turn the watch on near a window and hope there were no clouds
Good to see that there are still so many working FR305 devices out there!
I had mine replaced twice because of a failure. The second time I could upgrade to FR310XT. Never had a problem with that one, neither with the Fenix 3 and the 5plus.
Sounds like what you’re saying is that if Garmin made products with watchmaker-replaceable batteries there would be literally mountains less e-waste in the world, but they would be forced to compete with themselves. Strange how a G-Shock is sold on the premise that it’s the last watch you’ll ever need to buy, while GPS-era fitness watches are expected to last just slightly longer than refrigerator contents.
Wonder if more open platforms and increased tech capability will ultimately change that, much as home general-use laptops have increased in lifespan dramatically as they’ve all become capable and light enough for most users. Probably not, unless/until Android Wear gets a lot more capable.
OK, I found my 305 and fired it up. Three bars of battery. On the windowsill, satellites in about 2 min. From the device history, the last run was January 02. Except, I don’t know what year! I’ll have to dig back through Garmin Connect…
“Sounds like what you’re saying is that if Garmin made products with watchmaker-replaceable batteries there would be literally mountains less e-waste in the world, but they would be forced to compete with themselves.”
Realistically, no. Mostly because the reasons most people move onto a new watch isn’t because their battery life fades. Rather, it’s because of new features. And spaced out every 2-4 years, those new features require new hardware. New optical sensors, faster processors, lower power GPS chipset, etc…
It’s really the same issue for Android Wear (in fact, I’d argue a far worse challenge for them, because battery burn is such a big challenge right now on the platform, really requiring the next generation of chipsets).
Which isn’t to say Garmin can’t do a better job of supporting watches with new feature firmware updates during the 3-5 year window. They tend to do a pretty darn good job of adding new features from 0 years to 18months, maybe 24mo in some cases. After that it tapers out as a new model replaces it. And while everyone likes to compare it to the Apple Watch, the simple reality there is that Apple has a totally different business model that traps you into their ecosystem via an iPhone phone requirement.
Appreciate your insight. You certainly have a better understanding of this market than I ever will.
Kudos to Garmin for maintaining the existing functionality after all these years, many companies wouldn’t.
Hey Ray, thanks for this trip down memory lane… seems a lot of 305s got taken out of their drawers today!
Mine included… I got it after reading your review at the time. Actually got two… one for my running partner and one for me. Mine is still alive even after it flew many times off of the quick release band and I had to open it up and resolder a contact…
What is missing from your post though is an unboxing video, or at least some packaging pics. But no worries, I can help! 😉
This pic was actually taken today – no cheating!
I was actually trying to find the original box. I’m reasonably sure I still have it, though it would have had to first survive the move from DC to Paris, and then again from Paris to Amsterdam. I was digging through some of my older boxes of boxes that I have, and then ran out of time and had to run home that night before hitting publish.
Thanks Ray, brought back a lot of memories. I couldn’t find my first running stop watch. It was the size of an old alarm clock. Coming up on 45 years of recorded road running(94,447 miles and counting). I have a large drawer full of calendars that I have manually recorded my miles over the years. Still getting in 40-50 miles a week. So very grateful.
Also appreciate the work you do. My best to your family.
I still use the 305 (2020) Put new batteries in from youtube. I love it. I bought a newer garmin but the bezel drove me nuts so I sold the new one. Liked your article-thanks
No offence meant and it is not about 305 (in fact I owned and used its successor 310XT for many many years), but this year CES seems to be something which should not have been organized at all. At least from the aspect of fitness realm. I had had no high expectation, but so far CES was almost nuthing.
Well, CES only exited virtually this year – which means that it didn’t really exist.
Nonetheless, companies have moved away from using CES as their announcements stage for years now – it’s pointless for larger companies because it means they need to share the spotlight with a gazillion other announcements. There’s really no good business justification for doing so.
Apart from standalone company-level announcements what events you think stayed relevant for fitness companies to show themselves?
I’d argue that 2021 showed that in many ways trade shows are a waste of a lot of money and time.
Certainly, I enjoy going to some of them (like Eurobike or Sea Otter) – but I think a lot of companies will start truly questioning their value after this past year. CES costs a company like Garmin millions of dollars to put on.
Like other things, CES changed its meaning also…
CES nowadays = Capitolium Entertainment Services
My FR305 is still working even the heart rate monitor. The only issue I had was the seal started separating probably due to running in heat. Actually the heart rate monitor which came with it is far better quality than the ones which came afterwards. I had to get 1 warranty replacement for the HRM which came with FR620 and 3 replacements for HRM TRi which came with Garmin FR935. Garmin was gracious each time to provide a free replacement but the quality of their products seems to be coming down.
My first GPS watch was one of these I bought for $25AU off Facebook last year. I used it for a couple of months because I smashed my phone. I would still use it only the battery lasts like 30min and the chirp doesn’t work on mine.
That same model was my first bike computer for about ~4 years (2009-2012), I had won in in a drawing. It bounced on the road a couple of time and survived. The battery finally gave out, but I cracked it open and replaced it with one that was similar to an iPod mini at the time. It finally bit the dust about a year and half ago. I have given it to a friend and it popped off his bike into the road, and would have survived again, had it not gotten run over by a car, before he could retrieve it
Honestly, I was expecting some new product announcements from Garmin at CES. Both within forerunner and vivo lineups. Kinda disappointeed: been waiting for my fr645 and vivosmart 4 replacements for so long at this point in time.
How did you get your FR 305 to sync with your pc and Garmin Connect. I tried to connect the 305 via Garmin Express to my mac mini 2020 and that went well. But syncronizing to Garmin Connect failed everytime. When I deleted the history on the 305 the syncing worked. But as soon as I registered an activity on the 305, the syncing failed. How come you do not have this problem? I really want to use the 305 again but only if I can figure out how to get it to syncronize with Garmin Connect. My Garmin Vivisport’s armbrace had broken (4 months after warranty expired) and I can’t find a replacement brace anywhere (still waiting on response from Garmin to give me new brace or at least the opportunity to buy new braces).
Any help would be most helpful.
Yes, I managed to sync my Forerunner 305 with Garmin Connect. On my Mac Mini 2020 with Big Sur it didn’t work. Neither did it work on my Windows 10 PC. On my old MacBook Pro 2012 with OS Catalina it did work. Now my wife can use it……
I posted this photo of my 305 and my Venu three months ago to Reddit!
link to reddit.com
A nice throwback with a user plugging his 305 with Sporttracks. Feels like a long time ago but it was just 10+ years…
link to youtu.be
Wow, blast from the past indeed!
Such a throwback! The first GPS watch I used was my dad’s 205, so I guess the running only 305. It was an amazing watch and I LOVED it to bits, until the battery life really started going down.
Next up was a 210, which was also pretty good. Had one big drawback though, which was the fact that it took forever to find GPS signals.
Then I won a TomTom Runner Cardio – first edition – at a race, and that was truly horrendous! Battery life sucked, the optical HR was in its infancy, and the whole thing was kinda unintuitive.
Got a Polar V800 from a sponsoring deal after that. Not good, not terrible. I felt it was pretty heavy, it could to structured workouts and such, but never really caught my fancy.
Nowadays I’m using a Suunto Spartan Trainer. Again, not terrible, but also not good. It’s giving me a headache every once in a while when the Bluetooth synchronization is just not working, I think I have to reconnect it to the app about once a month. The HR is working so/so, more often than not it’s failing. Then there is the battery life.
I really hate the always-on approach. With my first watches I could turn them off after my workouts, throw them in a drawer and forget about them. When I wanted to run again, after a week or a month, I could just power them back up and boom, they were ready to go. The Spartan just dies on you after a while, so you can’t just decide to go run and go, but you have to plan in advance to get the watch charged. Also, these days 25% battery is not enough for an hour of GPS+HR running. Totally sucks!
So now I need a new watch. And I just want the most basic of things 😀 I want a watch that has GPS, can be turned off and can do structured workouts. Lightweight and decent battery life would be a plus. And I really don’t need the HR function – I never train by it, I can go by feel and pace alone. But there seem to be no “modern” sport watches that fit these things, or did I miss something?!
How nice; an ode to an old friend.
I still own the FR205 that helped me train for my first marathon. I still love it. When I switched to the fr220 I was really disappointed with its features. My fr220 and Vivoactive are better looking (Duh), but especially the features for hiking / outdoorsy activities on the FR205 are nowadays only available for the higher segment FR’s / Fenix’s:
-Storing waypoints on the go
-upload a route to the fr205
-point to point navigation, with clunky arrows directing left or right.
-Guide me back to start (wonderful if you park you car in the woods)
-And the map of your track, primitive yes, but it saved me a couple of times: you can trace your route back. e.g. when your hikingroute is marked only one way.
I found the watch to be very accurate and I managed to squeeze 14 hours of GPS in one go.
I read above that the fr205/305 were not waterproof, but I used it without problems for sea canoeing.
The unit set my back €140….
Just back from an epic trail run on a new course I loaded into my trusty, refurbished 305 that a good buddy donated to me many years ago , when he upgraded to the 310xt ( which didn’t last him too long ).
Its a watch that leaves you with a smile on your face, like an old VW beetle. It has its faults, mainly uploading/ sync-ing. But I just can’t head out on the trails without it. In fact i do have a fr910xt, donated again to me, but that just gets the odd outing now and again. Long may the “Big-Guy” keep on making me smile!
I am still using my Garmin 305 now!. The first ones battery died 2 years ago. I was going to buy a replacement battery, but found i could buy second hand ones for £30 so did and got one that looked relatively unused unlike mine so I still use it!
I am very attached to mine – 5.5 years ago I was diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation (which I had never heard of) . I was totally asymptomatic except for a very high HR. Typically 165 resting. I could not tell. The only indication was a funny fluttery feeling in my neck that only lasted for a few seconds when the AFib kicked in (as I later learned). But the Garmin picked up that high HR that stayed with me all night.
As I felt fine I thought the Garmin was bust, my wifes fit bit showed on 80+ Hr. The Garmin was going in the bin, and I was going to work but my wife rang rang the Heath Service advice line 111 who sent an ambulance! The ECG from the paramedic, confirmed the high HR at 165 resting, so I kept it the Garmin. Not sure if modern wrist monitors would pick up the very irregular pulse, but the 305 may well have saved me from a stroke!
I got my beast out to celebrate its 15th birthday but can’t get it to sync at all….it says it’s connected just won’t transfer data…any ideas
I misplaced my 620 and so dug out the 305. Run was fine but I also can’t get it to download. Tried several different USB leads and also different cradles but no luck. Resorted to cleaning the contacts but still no luck. Not sure what has happened since 2018 when I last downloaded from it!
Hey, if you think that download is flakey, who else remembers the Polar audio or IR dowloads. The audio one emitted some ultrasonic squeaks that you could hold near to a microphone on your PC, and the IR had some claw like thing that worked OK. although did need to be covered in a towel to get to transfer.
I remember doing my imagic races in the shed on an airgapped computer, then bringing the ghost recording back in, and emailing that onto the imagic league server whilst I downloaded the HR into polar using the infra-red and then emailing the whole lot to my coach (no Training Peaks cloud back then).
Indeed, I remember the old Polar IR downloads. Such a PITA!
AMAZING! I was just talking to my husband about how you might / should / would maybe do an updated post on the 305! My hubs was still using his until this week it officially doesn’t hold a charge longer than 20 minuts, so cant even get through a 5k run on it. It also doesn’t connect to any computer or device we have in the house. that being said it owes us nothing, obviously. thanks for this update!
The 305 was my first running watch as well. Used it many years before “upgrading” to a 310XT. I have to say I loved the 305 more, for 2 reasons:
– The 305 could be charged during a long race and not only did it continue to record, it continued to display the values. Sure, charging with the cradle was a bit cumbersome during the run, but the same is true for the 310XT.
– The elevation gain/loss numbers were way more accurate on the 305 than on the 310XT, where they are pretty useless. I often did hill repeats with 12 or 20 meters elevation gain. The 310XT may record 1 meter, maybe 4 meters and not even get the mathematics correct (ie altitude top – altitude bottom =/= elevation gain number). The 305 was much closer to the true elevation gain/loss.
No, there has not been a 3 watch so far, still using the 310XT. even so the rubber coating over the buttons has come off in several spots, ie up and down buttons can now only be used with a key or something similar to poke into the holes. 🙂 Time to upgrade, I guess.
I had the 205 and at the time it was awesome. Definitely big on the wrist! I used the big band for it and wore it with a sweatband underneath it, I think there was some issue with the charge contacts getting corroded and that was a solution. Prior to that I was using the gmaps pedometer site to get an estimate.
I´m still using my 305, and the original heart rate strap also still works fine. It´s just sooo versatile. The 305 was (and still is) the key to many succesful canoe marathons where you have to navigate your way through a labyrinth of lakes. It´s quite some work to get the breadcrumb route onto the device, but when that´s done it never fails on me while the competitors have to stop and check the map for the correct route. Great memories coming back 🙂
my garmin history:
205 in 2007: ran my first marathon with it. switched to 610 in 2011. can’t remember if i just wanted some upgrade or I was forced to due to some issues. 610 dismissed in 2015 (oxidation made it impossible to recharge). since then i’m using a fenix 3 (1 battery replacement): from time to time it still downloads some firmware upgrade, without any apparent effect (probably some battery drain in a couple of cases).
no real need of more advanced features on a watch (i mean i don’t think i could dig out of a watch any other data that can help me run faster), but after 6 six years i’d gladly wear something new on my wrist. do you think the release of a 945 successor will lead to any price reductions in higher end of existing FR models or will cpu shortage prevent savings?
I remember this 305 FR its was very good and besides that I then also ran pretty much faster in all distance there are tre things that I truly mis from the 305 FR into later models.
1) The accumelate, I think its was named. When you where finish with lets say a 10 K run. You could recall your run in the history and see every each 1 km lap summed up, so you could the the added lap time after 1 km, the the summed up time after 2 km, 3 km, 4 km and so on. That gave a good indication when you next time ran a 10 K, if you used to be at the 8 km mark at fx 32 min and then the next run at the same distance/place, you see that you are at there at 30. 48 min, then in the run you know that you are doing greater or maybe pushing you self to hard… I miss that calculation funktion.
2) the second think I miss is the buttoms possistion on the watch, when you do interval or high speed laps on a 400 meter track then its much more easy to push on the front the to do the same on the lower side buttom, it it cant be different due to the watch design the make the lap buttom be on the top and not the lowver to the right side of the watch.
3) the 305 was a sports watch to use when you did your training or race then you took it if. They put so much crap into the moden models like musik, sms, and so on…I really dont need more data and the better funktionality that came with the watches after 305 FR.
Great article. I had a 201 for my first GPS (after using Timex Ironman for years), then 205 and then 305. Don’t have any of those as I only get a new watch when the old one dies. Currenlty using a 230. Works perfect. There’s an old accuracy/repeatability plot on fellrnr’s site that shows the 205 GPS accuracy/repeatability was dam good relative to newer watches.
Keep up the good work!
My dad still uses his 3-4 times a week. I have upgraded to Fenix 4 since I had mine.
Just stumbled over this article and it made me pull out mine from the drawer – it still works after all these years!
I remember that I wanted to track running speed and distance for years but the only device that could do so was the Polar 625X with foot pods which costed an arm and a leg so I stayed with my S710.
When this thing came out it made a huge difference.
But I wouldn’t use it today since the newer watches are much smaller and lighter and I really like the automatic sync feature over BT – and the custom data fields via connect IQ have become a necessity for me due to health reasons.
I’m so happy you did this post. I was running day in, day out with a 305 until twelve days ago, when I finally bought a 245. Your nostalgia for the 305 validates my regret at leaving it behind when I go out for a run. I’ve promised it I’ll take it out for a fast mile every so often, given that that’s about all its poor battery can manage.
Also still using mine – had it since at least 2009, and still going strong. So far it’s tracked at runs of at least two hours duration this year without complaining 🙂
No jokes, FR 305 is my running and cycling device these days. Don’t see a need to upgrade.
I had the 205. Loved it. Easy to replace the battery; battery was inexpensive. Loved the way it looked — like a Dick Tracy wrist radio. Finally abandoned it when I couldn’t make the case stay sufficiently closed to keep the contacts engaged.
I had the 305 back in the day, and loved it. I moved on to other brands/units, and have been using the Polar M430 for the last two years. HOWEVER….the one feature that the 305 had that I sorely missed was the Virtual Training Partner. So, about a month ago (October 2021) I found a fully functional 305 on Ebay–for $25. It works fine. Now, my question is–do any of the newer/current Garmins have the Virtual Partner feature? Anyone know? If so I’d jump on one in a second.
Almost all the Garmins do now and PacePro is even more sophisticated as it will also provide a pace based on gradient.
And on its 16th birthday mine still performed brilliantly, side by side with my fenix it was less than 2% difference on distance over 8 miles.
I had this one too, and all my friends laughed at this graphic.
I was living in Hawaii at the time and paddled my kayak down the beach and caught a couple of waves at Flat Island in Kailua/Lanikai. On the way back, a 10 shark popped up next to me and started swimming around on the surface. My heart rate spiked to maximum and I paddled to shore as fast as I could.
The graphic tells the story.
(let’s try this again/photo didn’t load)
I had this one too, and all my friends laughed at this graphic.
I was living in Hawaii at the time and paddled my kayak down the beach and caught a couple of waves at Flat Island in Kailua/Lanikai. On the way back, a 10 shark popped up next to me and started swimming around on the surface. My heart rate spiked to maximum and I paddled to shore as fast as I could.
The graphic tells the story.
What brand is your jacket in the video?
Hi there! Thank you for this great article. I started running again after a long 10-year pause. A few weeks ago, I did a similar test with my Garmin 305 and my friend’s Garmin Fenix 6s pro.
The difference in the pace report is fairly obvious. I also found the elevation gain metrics to be off at the Garmin 305. Many thanks again.
1. both watches are set to track per second and not in ultra battery saving mode.
2. I visited your site in search for a good sportwach/smartmatch with lte (esim). Most devices don’t work well in Greece e.g. the 945 lte. I will be on the look on your website for more reviews and suggestions.