The problem with writing a review on any GPS devices at the moment is that features and prices seem to increase and decrease at a daily rate, not wishing to sound like my Granddad but when I first purchased a GPS for hill walking (obviously I use my legs for the majority of the assent and descent) it was very basic and gave coordinates and a breadcrumb trial on a little screen. It also used a set of batteries every time I went out, so was costly, not as costly as say scrambling a Sea king out from RAF Lossimouth to collect you in your sandals as you attempt to scale Ben Nevis and then realise that the words "highest Mountain in the UK" are a reality and not a clever marketing ploy by the Brave Heart obsessed Scottish tourism board. For the last time William Wallis could not have had a blue dye on his face...
So GPS has come a long way in a short time, the majority of handheld ones come with lovely overlaid maps at the least, and some are now colour, and can be used in the car. Comparing them to the Foretrex 201 is therefore very unfair as the wrist mounted GPS has a very basic list of capabilities, and relies more on its long battery life and features which are aimed out your outdoor rugged types, you know the sort all jutting square chins and Berghaus, the same square jawed guy will also be wearing the newer versions called the forerunner 205 or 305. The fortrex is also available as a basic version with batteries (called the fortrex 101) and also versions called Forerunner 101 and 201 which have some very nifty training software (PC only mind so I avoided that as I am a confirmed Mac guy) The operation and style is the same on all these models.
So down the overview: The unit is water proof, not diving but certainly in the sea or river for a couple of minutes. The design is rugged and all the buttons are covered in a button covers, thus adding to the military/mission impossible feel of the unit. The Oversize of the unit does preclude its use as a normal watch (unless you want to look like a bit of a tool that is) but it is much smaller than the run of the mill standard hand held units, and does fit securely on the wrist without loosing satellite coverage, its about twice the size of a G Shock. Because this unit is rechargeable there are no battery covers to worry about, and in power saving mode the unit will run for a good 4 days of hill walking use.
So how about the actual usage: It takes about 1 minute to lock on to enough satellites to give you a fix, which is as good as the one in my car. Once you have a lock you are confronted with a very clear backlit display, firstly giving accuracy and signal strength and then scrolling through, firstly to a bread crumble trail which in a time honoured tradition (how many fairy tales would have ended to quickly if Hansel and Grettle had a Garmin on then) tells you where you have been and how to get back to were you started, then a configurable screen which can show either 4 measurements or one large measurements, these are:
Trip Odom meter
Elevation (strangely on beaches thus measurement reads minus 2-4 meters, and you don't get much more sea level than a beach}
Other screens include waypoints (for those special places], Routes (for getting to those special places]
The Memory also seems more than large enough and I have routes saved from at least 5 months ago. The Units comes with a charger, wrist strap and large instruction book (although if you have used a Garmin before it will all seem familiar enough)
So why do I have one, and who else would want one. Well I use it for Kite Buggying as a really good way of finding out my top speeds and distances covered on a session, as well as using it as a Map compliment when I go hill walking. I also sometimes wear it around the garden, as I do get confused. I suppose any outdoor activity such as cycling, horse riding walking, running where the likelihood of water or impact damage is high would benefit from this rather than a pocket or pouch mounted GPS.
Thus far the unit has been in the sea on numerous occasions and has several severe impacts (fell off bike and fractured elbow, and came out of kite buggy at 40 mph) and is unscathed. If you are going to get one ignore all the stuff that people tell you about not being able to use GPS bought in the USA in Europe, its rubbish, and ignoring this advice saved me £80.00 as I got one off an US company for £75.00 including postage.
The technical bit is scabbed from the website:
. GPS accuracy: 15 meters or less in normal GPS mode, 3 meters or less when WAAS-enabled
0. Racing timers: Configurable start sequence, alert tones and large-number digital readout
0. Trip computer: Trip distance, trip timer, plus essential navigation data
0. Waterproof: IEC 60529 IPX-7 standards (submersible in one meter of water for up to 30 minutes)
0. Waypoints and routes: 500 waypoints with graphic identification; 20 reversible routes
0. Track log: 10,000 track points, TracBack technology and 10 saved tracks
0. Display: 100x60-pixel monochrome display with backlighting (display size: 36mmx23mm)
0. Battery life: 15 hours (typical use), rechargeable lithium battery
0. Lightweight design: 2.75 oz.
A GPS running watch is the best gadget available to any keen endurance runner. The Garmin Forerunner 101 was one of the first to be released. For any runner who is put off by the 3-figure price tags requested for most GPS watches, the Garmin Forerunner 101 is the best place to start. They can be picked up on eBay for well inside £50
So why would you want a GPS watch? OK, so they're not an essential running accessory. If you're a recreational jogger who's not interested in how far they've run and how fast, this watch is not for you. This watch is for the runner who wants to get better; who wants to know how fast they're running; and who wants to monitor they're progress.
The watch has a range of features. Like any other sports watch it has a stop watch. The key feature is its GPS system. When the watch is activated, it measures every metre you move. This data can then be used to calculate your current pace, your average pace for the whole run and can even calculate your projected finish time for the run.
The watch is great for monitoring your pace. If you know you can run a specific 2 mile run in 20minutes, the watch will inform you whether you are on course for this time. This puts you into a racing mindset and I find its great way to keep motivated on those long runs.
The watch also has features for the more involved runner. Its interval training manager is very useful. Rep distance/time and recovery distance/time can be pre-programmed and the watch will beeb at corresponding instruction.
Now for the negatives and this product has a great deal of them. Comments are often made on the Garmin Forerunner 101 regarding its size and the effect this has when running. It is a very big watch, but the weight is hardly noticeable. If you can get yourself comfortable running with them the size is not an issue.
The major issue with this watch is the GPS receiver is quite weak compared to what is available on the market. This poses a problem when running in well built up areas, but in particular woodland, where most runners will often target! Once the watch loses its GPS signal, it can struggle to re-locate the satellites, especially when your moving. This will effect the information being transmitted on the watch and it normally becomes incorrect. It can also randomly lose signal which can be frustrating.
The watch literally eats power! It takes two AAA batteries, but they have to be good quality. It's no good going down your local market and picking up 24 PowerCells for £1, they will literally last 5minutes. If they don't provide enough power for a split second, the watch switches off and you've lost all your run data. Typically 2 AAA Duracell batteries would last for about 3 hours of running. I opted for high quality Energizer Rechargable batteries which tended to last between 8-12 hours.
GPS running watches are really good gadgets. I'd recommend anyone serious about running to at least give them a try at some point. But this review is not for GPS running watches. The Garmin Forerunner 101 is a pioneer in this technology, but since its release it has been superseded by much more compact and powerful watches, with many more features. It's a good watch for the frugal runner and would be a good starting point if your not overly keen on spending in excess of £200 on a modern model.
The Garmin Forerunner 101 gets three stars. As far a GPS running watches go, this is quite simply bottom of the range. But the device paved the way for later, improved models and its price is simply excellent value, if of course you've never owned a GPS running watch.