Thursday, March 02, 2006

Day 2: Garmin Forerunner 205 Solo Run

Thought I'd post some additional thoughts on my new Garmin Forerunner 205. I'll get the bad news out of the way first, my 205 is already broken :-( The power button stopped working and after speaking with Garmin customer support, they will ship me a new unit tomorrow.

In the interim, I can still use the 205. How? Well, I have the cradle hooked up to my PC via the USB cable for uploading and charging. By placing the 205 lightly in the cradle just so the contacts hit then it turns on.

To turn it off, I have to upload the data from the 205 via Garmin's Training Center software, SportTracks or the MotionBased syncing app and the unit automatically turns off. It's inconvenient, but at least I can still use it until I get the replacement.

With that said, I'd like to send props to the folks who developed the donationware desktop application SportTracks, which has quickly become my running logbook of choice (I used Excel before) to record all my miles and other stuff.

I've been using it with my Garmin Forerunner 201 to upload my activities and I like how you can edit the data and see all kinds of information. Plus it has a mapping function and uses some kind of algorithm to calculate distance and elevation based on the GPS waypoints from the device, similar to MotionBased.

When I first received the 205, the device wasn't yet supported by SportTracks. However, they were very responsive and within the day made some quick changes to the software so I could upload activity from the 205. And this was all before I made a donation! So many thanks and the PayPal donation has been sent.

After wearing both the 205 and Foreunner 201 yesterday to compare the two, I decided to take the 205 solo so I could focus more on the run than having to hit multiple buttons. It was a little warmer this morning (44 degrees) and the skies were overcast after rain during the night. I again tried to pick a route where I had previously encountered weak GPS signals with the 201. Above is a map from the run exported directly from SportTracks. Here are some more thoughts on the 205:

  • Satellite acquisition time was sluggish this morning. I wasn't sure if it was due to leaving the 205 at the backdoor of my garage or the weather
  • I said it before and I'll say it again. The strap is very comfortable. I hardly notice I'm wearing the 205. The unit also comes with an extension strap if you need to bundle up and want to wear it outside your clothing
  • I still haven't gotten a weak GPS signal beep in two days
  • There is an auto scroll feature that cycles the 205 through the 3 screens about once every 6 seconds. It's a nice feature so you don't have to worry about pushing the stiff buttons (I hope the broken power button was an anomaly)
  • The beep tones are helpful but kind of tinny sounding so if it's noisy you might not hear them. It would have been nice to have a way to chose the volume level (i.e. low, medium and high)
  • There is a data field which allows you to see the GPS accuracy in feet. I'm not sure how low it goes. The lowest I've seen in my area is 17 feet and usually it's in the 20s. This is another cool feature for the really anal types
  • The history screens are still too dark and hard to read. I wish they didn't use the shading and just had the plain background
  • The battery indicator just shows 4 vertical bars. I liked the feature on the 201 where it told you how many hours of charge were left when you powered it on.
  • I used the every second data recording feature this morning and it seems to be more accurate based on looking at the map from SportTracks. It says you can only record 3.5 hours of activity, but I'm unsure if that is at a time or overall. In other words, is that all the 205's internal memory can hold? Need to find the answer to this one.
Overall the 205 had me at 9.72 miles, SportTracks calculated it at 9.77 and MotionBased at 9.86. I'll say it's around 9.7 - 9.75 based on past runs using the 201.

I'll try to do another comparison between the 205 and 201 tomorrow on an out and back course through some canyons that always caused the 201 to lose a signal. I'll also keep you posted on the return situation as well....

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