A few months ago we wrote one of our most popular reviews of all time, the Garmin 405 CX. Given what a great product it turned out to be, we were surprised to see that the Garmin 305 was still out selling the 405. After all, it lacks some of the features and is larger on the wrist. Still, in order to better understand the phenomenon, we decided to test out the Forerunner 305 to get a comparison.
Selling for just $125 at Amazon, this GPS watch appears to be a great deal if you don’t want to dish out almost twice that for the 405. But that’s assuming it’s a quality product, so let’s dive right in.
At first glance, the Forerunner 305 is clearly not as compact as the Forerunner 405. And, in fact, it really doesn’t look like a standard watch the way the 405 does. Still, it’s not overly bulky and so you don’t look like you’ve duct taped a gps device to your write (remember the Forerunner 201?). The size, however, does have it’s benefits. It allows increased room for the internal antenna, which means increased accuracy. In fact, wearing the 405 CX on one hand and the 305 on the other hand, we found that the 305 was significantly more accurate on tree covered trails. On roads, both were extremely accurate.
The heart and soul of the 305 is as a training device, and in that sense it hit a home run. It stores an incredible amount of data (more than just about any runner could possibly care to track). More importantly, it stores and tracks the data in an intuitive way, meaning you can actually use the data to help you train. Unlike the Forerunner 205 and 201 before that, you can actually access the data on the watch directly and use it to view your history of runs including pace, distance, and heart rate over time. While it’s easy to upload to your computer, it’s not necessary.
As an added bonus, you can also customize the view so you can see as much or as little data as you’d like. For example, I personally only care about pace, elevation, and heart rate. Others want much more data, while others want less (although if you want less, you might consider a smaller, cheaper, and less capable option).
The 305 does not have the wireless sync capabilities of the 405, but it does have a USB connection which is fast and easy to sync to Garmin’s Training Center software. This software lets you design courses and workouts on your computer, then upload it to your watch. This is an impressive feature which first came out with the 305 and is included in all future models. Until you’ve raced your Virtual Partner on a 5K around your neighborhood, you haven’t experienced the thrill of a GPS watch. OK, OK, maybe it’s not as good as a real training partner from a competitive standpoint, but it is more consistent!
Overall, I’d give the Garmin 305 a B- when compared to the Garmin 405. However, from the perspective of value for your dollar, I’d absolutely give the 305 an A, and put it above the 405. The only benefits of the 405 over the 305 is size, and wireless sync. If that’s not worth $100 to you, then I recommend the 305.