Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Gadget of my Dreams?

I was poking around on this morning and found the gadget of my dreams--okay, I was actually going there to buy some books--but a recommendation popped up for the Garmin Forerunner 305 Wrist-Mounted GPS Navigator and Personal Training Device with Heart Rate Monitor and I had to take a look. Why? Because I have both a bad heart and a lousy sense of direction and I had to see what kind of technology was available that would address both of these shortcomings. Here is what I found out:

Just when you thought Garmin had cornered the market on powerful, affordable, and effective wrist-mounted GPS devices, here comes the Forerunner 305. The release of this device is a major achievement from a design and technology perspective. This isn't just marketing-speak; the Forerunner 305 is the most accurate, most reliable wrist-mounted performance and GPS tracking tool we've ever tested. Yes, it's that good.

So for runners and for me--a walker--it apparently tracks one's heart rate and other exercise stats and also marks one's location and provides a simple map that displays your current direction and path. That sounds pretty amazing if it really works. I would love to have one of these devices for traveling or when I am not familiar with an area I want to walk in.

Before I spend a couple of hundred dollars on such a device, has anyone out there used this thing or something like it, or do you have any other suggestions for GPS gadgets?

Update: What I really need is a GPS system for my car--does anyone know a good one they can recommend that is easy to use?



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel for you deeply about your bad heart, but laughed hysterically at your comment of a bad sense of direction and interest in a "twofers" tool to combat them both at one fell swoop. If you buy it, for the love of God, don't misplace it, you'll never live it down!

Whenever in a town I've never been to, or after much construction has occurred since my last visit, I am lost, lost, frustratingly lost. For savage amusement, I can re-arrange the furniture in my small home and be lost for days afterwards.

10:23 AM, September 29, 2007  
Blogger Helen said...


Knowing me, I would misplace it. I also have a horrible sense of direction. It is embarassing and I am the type of person who will not ask for directions because I figure that 1) I will look incompetent and/or 2) the person I ask will give me the wrong ones getting me more confused than I already am.

I used to drive around to different facilities to evaluate inmates and others and I would often get so hopelessly lost, it would take me more time to find the place than do the evaluation. I once went to a prison that was very large and got lost while inside. I got so upset that I cursed a blue streak and later found out they caught my tirade on video tape and were laughing at it. Needless to say, I have calmed myself down since that episode.

11:06 AM, September 29, 2007  
Blogger Thor's Dad said...

My neighbor (a fellow in Cardiology at UVA) has one and LOVES it. According to him it, does have some limitations with the GPS communication if you are under dense foliage cover. For example a trails in a park or some treelined roads. But he never runs without it.

12:37 PM, September 29, 2007  
Blogger Diane Wilson said...

For GPS in a car, I'm very happy with my Garmin Street Pilot c340. Great mapping. Automatically recalculates directions if you miss a turn. It knows nearby restaurants (and other features) and lets you pick them as destinations. You can set up your own personal destinations; it will remember a current location and let you name it. It automatically switches to night display mode at dusk. It gives directions verbally, in print on the screen, marked on the map, and gives you distance to the next turn. For an added subscription, it gets traffic reports and can route you around traffic problems.

You don't really appreciate how useful these gadgets are until you get caught in a combination of bad circumstances, like getting routed onto a detour in a heavy downpour at rush hour. You know exactly where you are and where you're going, without depending on outside cues.

The best dashboard mount is the friction mount, sold separately.

1:30 PM, September 29, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

I have one which I got to encourage myself to start running again - that hasn't really worked out but I do used it for cycling every day. As someone who likes gadgets and is fascinated with GPS I think it is great.

A couple of points - it can be used to follow a preplanned route or go to a point but does not display current coordinates very easily (you can set a mark and look at the properties - but it only gives lat/long not any map coords). The number of waypoints in a route is limited and it does not have the memory or display for uploading maps.

One neat thing is that you can run (or walk/cycle) against a route you have recorded and see how you are doing compared to the recorded time - it displays a little picture of your previous self and how far ahead/behind you are.

The windows software (as with many gadgets) isn't that wonderful. It will display graphs and tables of runs. Tables show time, distance, avg speed, heart rate, elevation gain etc. Graphs of up to 4 different variables are also available - i.e. speed, heart rate, grade etc. Note that elevation with GPS is not that stable so the grade graph can be a bit random unless you are going up/down steeply. Recent versions of the software have a nasty habit of deleting all the previous history and it doesn't put it in the documents and settings folder. I always export it as an xml file when ever I download data which I then reload when it does this.

Battery life is quite good - I find about 8-9 hours. I use it nearly every week day and so it picks up the signal quite quickly - although has trouble in Canary Wharf were I work with all the tower blocks. If you use it less often it can take awhile (up 10mins) to down load all the data it needs to make a fix.

1:31 PM, September 29, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

Everyone I know who has a Garmin Nuvi loves them, esp. the large screen versions

1:41 PM, September 29, 2007  
Blogger Kevin said...

I second the Garmin Street Pilot c340. An excellent and easy to use device. We took it on a 2,000 mile road trip and it worked very well. I recommend getting the dashboard mount accessory.

1:47 PM, September 29, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

Buy the 305! It is an awesome device. It helped me lose 50 pounds and they have a great website you can use for free called motionbased. That link will take you to my running diary. I also own a Garmin StreetPilot 2720 which works perfectly.

1:54 PM, September 29, 2007  
Blogger Kevin said...

Hate to sound like a Luddite, but for walking/running, I just can't imagine why you actually need anything more than a digital watch with stopwatch function. Anything more than that causes global warming.

OTOH, give me a slender watch with built-in MP3 player and bluetooth streaming to tiny bluetooth earpieces, and THAT would be balls.

2:02 PM, September 29, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

We have a Forerunner 305. I haven't gotten much use out of it, but my husband uses it nearly every day. And he LOVES it. The signal has never dropped on him, not once. And he adores having his exercise so thoroughly and accurately quantified.

We also have a GPS for the car, a small TomTom unit. That has been a little less stellar - the signal drops far too often. But a portable GPS of any kind really is nice to have, especially if you travel.

2:09 PM, September 29, 2007  
Blogger Scootie-Puff said...

I don't let my wife leave home without her Garmin c340. Just the assurance that she WILL get to where she's going is worth the investment, and it has pulled her (and yes, my) fat from the fire several times. A few thoughts, though: If you windshield-mount it, it leaves some pretty nasty rings on the glass that take some elbow grease to remove, BUT it talks to you and tells you which way to turn AND the name of the street, so my wife lets it sit between the seats and just listens to it (watching the map is not a help to her anyway). The map set I think is due to be updated soon, and will be extra cost, but will be worth it, especially if the locations are also updated (it once guided us to a "restaurant" that had been torn down two years previously). It has some battery life, so you can walk with it for a short time, which we have done (to the aforementioned "restaurant"). It is a little bulky, like a miniature tube TV, so if the newer flatter ones have the same features, they may be preferable.

You won't regret having one. Get one you like, and don't skimp. Good luck!

2:10 PM, September 29, 2007  
Blogger John Enright said...

I have an earlier version of the Forerunner, which I use for cycling and running. I find it most useful for establishing mileage covered.

2:11 PM, September 29, 2007  
Blogger Donald Sensing said...

Consumer Reports says for auto GPS's:

Best Overall:

• TomTom Go 910 , $500
• Garmin nuvi 660 , $700
• Garmin StreetPilot c580 , $550

Best on a budget:

• TomTom One , $300, CR Best Buy
• Garmin StreetPilot c330 , $300, CR Best Buy
• Magellan Roadmate 2000 , $250, CR Best Buy

2:12 PM, September 29, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

Garmin is the only brand I'd recommend. I bought a Garmin Nuvi for my car after trying a Magellan and absolutely love it. And, when my son returned to Iraq for his 3rd deployment, I got him a Garmin model that did everything the military model did but had a stronger signal so that it could pull in readings through a building. Otherwise he'd have had to go up on a rooftop or outside.

2:23 PM, September 29, 2007  
Blogger Michael said...

I have a Garmin 305 and I love it. It keeps track of quite a lot of data, such as your track, your heartrate, calories burned, course profile, pace, etc. And, you can create a route and upload it from your computer into your Garmin.
As a bonus, there's an online fitness program that Garmin just purchased and will make available free to Garmin users.
Compared with its predecessor, the 301, it has a much better antenna that receives GPS signals even in tree cover.
The 305 also meshes well with other Garmin and Garmin compatable software that facilitate route planning.
I highly recommend it. I'm a triathlete and I love mine.

2:25 PM, September 29, 2007  
Blogger dirty dingus said...

I've used an earlier Forerunner 205 for 9 months now and I've seen people with 300 series ones too. Overall it's pretty good for measuring distance (as in how far you've gone) and heart etc. It is not good at telling you how to get unlost other than hinting at how you might retrace your steps. Also in urban areas it can get very confusing because the path it shows of you walking down a straight road will not be straight (in open coutnry this is less obvious but still noticeable, in wooded country the loss of signal due to trees is definitely a pain). In really urban areas (as in Barcelona or London or I guess somewhere like NY) it has big problems coping with high buildings / narrow streets that end up blocking out the GPS position. It may also get some weird reflection artifacts too.

However over all it is a good training tool and it is at least consistent so that if you run the same path time and again you see the same map and get the same stats.

As for actual navigating you need something with built in road maps etc. In addition to the accuracy of the maps you need to look at Time to first fix (basically how long it takes after switching on to tell you where you are) and for options like Assisted GPS which use other things to improve resolution under poor conditions (e.g. in tunnels multi story parking garages). AGPS is probably even more important for walkers because it should help you when you go through shopping malls etc.

2:29 PM, September 29, 2007  
Blogger Tucker Goodrich said...

I have a 305, which I use while running, biking, and hiking. Great device. Only issue with it is that sometimes it takes a while to sync with the satellites after starting up at the beginning of a run: you generally need to put it down for a few minutes, and then it will sync. It needs to be stationary while doing it.

The 305 is not really a 'navigation' device, as it won't help you get somewhere if you don't know where you're going: the maps are very rudimentary. It does have a feature that will guide you back to your starting point on a hike or a run, for instance.

It's got tons of other neat features, too many to go into here. It's basically a training computer.

We also own a Garmin Nuvi 680, the major problem with which is that I bought it as a gift for my wife, so know when I need to use it, I must steal it back. I hope to recitify this situation soon by getting another one.

I always thought a device like this was a waste of time, know I think it's essential. I recommended it to a couple I know who drove across the country for their honeymoon: they loved it, and found it indespensible.

The 680 has the MSN direct service, which gives traffic, weather and gas price updates wirelessly, and has a pretty excellent database of stores and restaurants, and has excellent navigation.

It's not a replacement for a brain, but if you have a bad sense of direction (as my wife does, her nickname is 'Wrong Way') you'll find it irreplacable.

2:33 PM, September 29, 2007  
Blogger Simon Hawkin said...

Re car gps units, Garmin Nuvi 660/680 is the current state-of-the-art model.

Re hiking/boating, it's Garmin 60CSx.

Now get your 305 and have fun with it!

3:11 PM, September 29, 2007  
Blogger Jim S said...

I have a Garmin Forerunner 305, and used it in a 5K Race for the Cure this morning. Both its heart monitor and GPS functions work well, and it can go 10 hours between chargings. For the car, I also have a Garmin Nuvi 350, which fits in a shirt pocket and works up to 4 hours in pedestrian mode. I used it for everything until I ran often enough and far enough to also feel a need for the runner-oriented features of the 305. The Nuvi is a huge comfort when trying to find an address in an unfamiliar area. Its synthesized voice "Jill" is good enough that you don't even need to look at it to follow her directions.

3:36 PM, September 29, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a Rand-McNally 1998 Road Atlas and a pair of New Balance sneakers that are 4 years old..........


4:31 PM, September 29, 2007  
Blogger John Clifford said...

Sounds like you need a navigation device and a heart rate monitor. I'd recommend getting separate devices.

I have a Garmin Edge 305 (the cycling version) and love it. Here's a post that discusses how I use the 305 for training. Note that the Edge/Forerunner 305s are really 'bread-crumb' devices (they keep track of where you've been) rather than navigation devices, to be used to upload your 'bread-crumb' trail to your PC so you can plot where you've been.

I also have a Polar heart rate monitor, and a Garmin Nuvi 360, and I think this combination would be far better than the Forerunner 305. Why? Because you aren't going to want to haul around a GPS device for local walking and in-the-gym exercising. The Polar HRM is also water resistant so you can swim with it. From the little I know about you and your fitness goals, I think the Polar F11 would be a good choice.

The Garmin Nuvi 360 is a fantastic personal navigation device (PND), that works in your car or on your person. I've used mine in strange cities in the US and Canada without any problems... it's like having your own local guide. You can find the nearest gas station, restaurant, motel, etc., and you also have a moving map display so you can see where you are relative to where you want to go. An example: I used mine to tell me how to get to my motel from the STP finishing line after dark in a strange city, and it was right on. Then I used it to find the closest restaurants to my motel, and I was able to walk right to a Denny's that was out of sight of the motel. Another example: I gave it to my in-laws who met me at my office, with my son's daycare plugged in, so they could navigate to it without me having to give them directions, and then they could navigate to my house afterwards. They loved it so much they bought one.

The Garmin Nuvi 360 also acts as a hands-free speakerphone for your Bluetooth-equipped cell phone, and you can listen to podcasts (like the Glenn and Helen show) while walking or driving. It's a really neat device, IMO better than built-in GPS/nav systems in most cars today... and it's portable. You can even get maps of Europe, South America, Asia, etc., if you travel internationally.

In short, unless you're a serious cross-country runner, you'll be far better served with a good Polar heart rate monitor, and a separate moving-map GPS like the Garmin Nuvi 360.

4:43 PM, September 29, 2007  
Blogger ellie said...

I have an earlier version of this Garmin device, which I use for running and hiking, and I like it a lot. I haven't ever had a car GPS.

4:48 PM, September 29, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...


There are quite a few excellent portable GPS devices you can install ino your car or simply plug into your ciggie-lighter & mount on the dash. I have a friend who is a superb mechanic with a particular excellencer in automotive electronics which ones he would suggest.

If you have a price range I can narrow it down.


6:19 PM, September 29, 2007  
Blogger Helen said...

Hi Graham and others:

I am looking for something in the $300-$500.00 range. Thanks to all who commented here and emailed so far with suggestions; it has been most helpful!

6:22 PM, September 29, 2007  
Blogger T Mack said...

You buy books? Why? It seems your husband gets every book sent to him free for marketing purposes.

How many books have you bought but never finished reading?
Never even read?
For me its too many which is why I always put a five day delay on any book I get an urge to read. If after five days, urge still there, I buy.
It has saved me a lot of money and more importantly, self esteem.

6:40 PM, September 29, 2007  
Blogger GM Roper said...

Dr. Helen, your bad sense of direction lovingly reminded me of my late mom who could get lost in a shower! Once, moving from Budingen, Germany to the town of Bad Neuheim (Dad, in the Army had already been there a week) mom took a wrong turn and after much up and down hill driving ended up in the middle of a grain field with no more road. Deftly turning our big car (a 1952 Nash Ambassador) around she said "Stick with me kids, we'll see Germany." To which my youngest brother said "But I don't want to see Germany, I want to see Daddy."

Thanks for the memory!

6:51 PM, September 29, 2007  
Blogger DirecTV Sucks said...

Hi Helen. Loved your John Ondrasik podcast.

My spin instructor has one of these and swears by it. He emails a screen shot of his heart rate over the course of the class to give us an idea of the workout. He is also a cyclist and uses it quite a bit for that as well.

8:05 PM, September 29, 2007  
Blogger dv said...

I want to encourage you to purchase a 305 for your walking. Knowing your heart rate while you walk is smart and you can use that knowledge to tailor your intensity. Knowing that you are going a little further or a little faster or that your heart rate is a little slower this time is great feedback and very encouraging as you exercise.
Lots of excellent advice before me but thought I would add my perspective. I have bought five 305's in the last 8 months. Mine, my wife's, my running partner, my sister-in-law and, well, another one for a backup because mine stopped working and had to go back. Customer service was decent but not zippy and these little rascals are quite fun and quite addictive. Turns out the backup was a good idea because my original unit is back being serviced. However, there have been no problems with any of the other four. I have a Polar as well but do not like it as much. I have a problem with the polar monitor strap rubbing my chest to irritation. The Garmin doesn't do that. Also it is easier to use while on the move than the Polar.
Congratulations on the walking. I hope you find it rewarding.

2:18 AM, September 30, 2007  
Blogger Ben said...

Here's a handy zero dollar solution that works with any Java enabled phone:

Give it a nearby airport, it can tell you where north is by the sun or moon. Also, of course, there's the mobile version of Google maps, I mention both of these because they work in a gadget you probably already carry, and so they're good backups.

BTW, you can overcome a lousy sense of direction. Make it a habit of learning which way north is everywhere you go, including when you're in a building. Devise your own way of referencing and make a nearby hospital one of the first landmarks you learn. Insist on driving around yourself, and after you go some place, look it up with an online map. And you can use the GPS, but use it to confirm your instincts rather than replacing them.

5:29 AM, September 30, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Judging by the above responses, if Garmin's marketing department had half a brain, they would be in contact with you for advertising space on your blog.

I travel a lot for work. In days gone by, covering a six state territory, there were more maps in boxes in my trunk than you could shake a stick at. At $3.50 to $5.00 a pop, a GPS is much less expensive, not to mention the ease of use. Now I fly, and rent cars, always making sure there is a GPS unit in the cars reserved. They are wonderful, truly. No maps!

With my sense of humor, I would love to hear the thing say, "You missed your turn, dumb ass". - or "Wrong way, numb nuts. Turn around.". But some may find that offensive.

9:49 AM, September 30, 2007  
Blogger Patrick said...

I've had a Garmin i3 for a couple of years, and I love it.

It's nice and small, so it doesn't take up too mcuh space in the wind shield. It comes with enough memory (128 MB) to hold most of the east coast. It's got a nice loud voice anf it has businesses - so you can look for a business by name and get directions immediately.

Oh, one more thing: it'll tun off batteries for a few hours, so you're not tied to the power point in the car.
As I said, I love this device.

10:44 AM, September 30, 2007  
Blogger R. Neal said...

+1 for Garmin Nuvi.

My review of the 650:

The 350 is the same thing with a smaller screen and lower price.

11:53 AM, September 30, 2007  
Blogger Cham said...

It is probably easier to list the GPS devices I DON'T own than the ones I do. I have several handheld GPSs for the woods that give me maps, waypoints, distance, times, elevation ascending, elevation descending, speed, moon rise, moon set. I can bluetooth some of them with my PDA. I have several devices that can turn my computer into a GPS superstation, telling me in my own words which way to go (I just taught the little scamp to do that!) I have two HRMs, they tell me more than I want to know about myself too. I am so good with GPS that I am now a Beta tester for a major GPS company and spent most of last week working on one of their new products.

After 5 years of hard GPS use which do I use? Well, none. After the luster of the new toy wears off, they turn into extra weight and suck the joy out of whatever I am doing. Maybe I would rather be getting lost and discovering new vistas. Does it really matter if my heart rate is 145 or 155? (Well, maybe it would to you Helen, with your specific health issues). It takes time and effort to program a GPS when a paper map I can print from my computer takes just seconds. I don't really want the extra weight in the backpack when I fool around in the woods, they slow you down when you have to run from the critters that are trying to eat you. But don't tell the GPS company for whom I test that, they won't send me anymore new toys.

All I can say is go ahead and get yourself a GPS if you wish, they can be fun. But get the one that does the specific purpose for the specific activity that you wish to apply. Don't buy one that has more bells and whistles than you need, because these complex GPSs are something not nearly as intuitive as their manufacturers say they are (I am working hard on correcting that at the moment).

7:42 PM, September 30, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Never mind about my previous statements about thinking it would be funny to hear a GPS say insulting things like "You missed your turn, dumb ass."

I realized that most men already have a similar device that speaks like that.

9:44 PM, September 30, 2007  
Blogger tomcal said...

There is my dream gadget. Using it and the accessory GPS I could hit any target out to about 2 miles with my rifle; and if that isn't enough, I could pinpoint the coordinates for an airstrike up to 7 miles away.

At $22,000, the price is a little high; but for some reason I am craving it.

I think you should have your fancy watch...

10:58 PM, September 30, 2007  
Blogger Cham said...


That is exactly the way I taught my mapping system to speak using my own voice commands. Instead of "make a U turn" I've got, "Moron, you missed it, turn the eff around!" Anyone who gets in my car thinks my GPS is hilarious. That uber-polite Microsoft Annie gets on my nerves.

7:39 AM, October 01, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's funny, cham. Glad someone else has an off the wall sense of humor!
I wouldn't trade it for love or money.

1:46 PM, October 01, 2007  
Blogger Serket said...

I have a Garmin e-trek handheld GPS. I'm not really sure how to use it very well and I haven't gone anywhere since having it that I wanted to track my route. It didn't seem as fun as what I expected it to be like. The only car navigation system that I've heard of is Tom Tom.

gm roper: Did you live in Germany a long time? It sounds like she wasn't very familiar with the country or perhaps she was bad with directions in the US also.

6:02 PM, October 01, 2007  
Blogger rudebwoy said...

Dr. Helen,

The lost-in-prison episode post is an unusual brief narrative of courageous self-disclosure.

Completely un-analytical and purely descriptive.

You might wish to consider taking that more declarative mode of writing once in a while.

Obviously you have many captivating stories to tell, based on your professional experiences.

The narrative voice would nicely compliment your professional analytical persona.

Just a thought. For your blog-authorial aspirations. (You already have one book, right?)

PS -- Could you post the "lost-in- prison-cursing-like-a-banshee" video on YouTube?

That would generate a lot traffic for your web site.

And it would be enlightening, I am sure.

The return of the repressed?

9:41 PM, October 02, 2007  
Blogger rudebwoy said...

BTW Dr. Helen,

(Just an afterthought ...)

If you have a tendency to get lost and become disoriented while driving....

How does that ontological dilemma influence your clinical practice with clients who are seeking your direction?

Do you suggest to them -- "I might take a right turn, or a left turn, or just stop and get out of the car?"

10:05 PM, October 02, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of get lost.......

6:44 PM, October 05, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

After debating a few months, I saw had/has the 305 (with heart rate monitor) on sale for $159. Add $8 if you're not a member. Grabbed it. Also got a $2.50 5-inch long wrist band from Walmart (Sports area), on top of which I place the Forerunner 305. Super comfy on this smallish woman's wrist, and accurate. Picks up signal in a jiffy, even indoors, which surprised me. It's got to be among the greatest motivating tools I've ever encountered. I'm now doing serious walks daily, and am religiously biking, despite the frigid temps. (Don't wanna see gaps in my graphs!) Add freebies SportTracks and Google Earth for a truly informative treat, not to mention eye candy.

I've also long used Garmin's Nuvi 750 for the car. Great products. Truly getting bang for the bucks. Recommend both without hesitation.

8:40 AM, November 22, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


3:14 AM, June 08, 2009  

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