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Garmin Forerunner 201 GPS Personal Training Device

Garmin Forerunner 201 GPS Personal Training DeviceThe hugely popular Forerunner 201 is one of Garmin's range of lightweight wristband devices incorporating a GPS (global positioning system) sensor that offers athletes speed, distance and pace data.

According to the company's own website:

It's a compact, lightweight, accurate training assistant with performance tracking, auto-lap, auto-pause and more. The Forerunner 201 is easy to use right out of the box and delivers the benefits of GPS technology at an affordable price.

...Users can plan, analyze and store data from their workouts using Garmin's free Garmin Training Center software. This software allows you to store and analyze data using interactive graphs that chart your speed, pace, or elevation. Your course is overlaid on a map so you can pinpoint specific areas and see how elevation and other factors affect your performance. provides a large amount of data, including its own comprehensive review that incorporates a comparison chart of the Forerunner 101, 201 and 301 models. According to the review:

The Forerunner 201 has a variety of helpful tracking, monitoring, and navigational features. The History function enables you to view your workout statistics broken down by individual days, cumulative weeks, or your entire workout history (if you track different workouts during the same day, they'll be broken out as different laps). You can even view a map of your route. And much like other GPS units, you can save waypoints (called "locations" in Forerunner parlance) to mark the coordinates of a place you want to return to later.

Most interesting is the Virtual Partner mode, which enables you to set goals for a workout which will then be completed by a digital character displayed on the Forerunner's screen. You can then see how far off the time, pace, or distance you are of your virtual training buddy's; your digital character even stops when you do (though the buddy keeps on going). I found that, unless you've got a good idea as to your pace or distance, you'll have a couple of trial-and-error training sessions to get in sync with your buddy. I cut short my first attempt after my buddy got so far ahead of me that he disappeared off the screen (which I'd like to believe was not due to my woeful pace).

According to a CNET review:

We tested the Garmin in two very different locations: a beach in the northwestern part of Florida, and Riverside Park in New York City. In both cases, we kept losing the GPS signal. We realize that GPS connections are ephemeral, but a sturdy external antenna might help the situation somewhat. The pace reading was also off at times, especially when we were negotiating peaks and valleys. We were able to fix this somewhat by tweaking the pace-smoothing feature. The Forerunner comes with a rechargeable lithium-alloy battery that lasts around 14 hours per charge--adequate for most runners but a bit skimpy for some cyclists. We also wish the device had a heart-rate monitor.

Serious and competitive runners will probably be frustrated with the Forerunner 201's imprecise GPS location tracking, but for more casual use, it's close enough to be helpful. Big-city runners or those who train in places with a lot of tree cover may find Timex's Bodylink devices better equipped for their needs, but they'll pay a much higher price--the Bodylink personal trainer costs $100 more than the 201. Garmin also offers a cheaper, pared-down version of the Forerunner, the Forerunner 101, which lacks the 201's PC interface, runs on two AAA batteries, and is a bit bigger.

Joel McNamara, author of "GPS for Dummies," reviewed the Forerunner 201 at some length early in 2004. In his conclusion he compared it with the Garmin Geko GPS unit (no longer online):

- If you're an athlete and care less about using a GPS receiver for navigation, get a Forerunner. Considering its features and capabilities, it's a pretty reasonably priced training tool. (2/24/04 - If you frequently trail run under heavy tree canopy, in canyons, or urban areas with lots of sky obstructions, you're probably going to get frustrated because of poor satellite coverage.)

- If you can only afford one GPS receiver and want to use it for workouts and navigation get a Geko. It's small, affordable and versatile. 2/15/04 - I'd personally favor the Geko over the newly announced Foretrex. The thought of relying on a GPS receiver for navigation that has a rechargeable battery you can't replace out in the middle of nowhere kind of bothers me.

- Or, as I'm sure Garmin would like you to do, buy them both. (Actually I'd probably get the Forerunner for training and a GPS receiver with a larger screen and mapping capabilities for other activities. When it comes to full-size receivers, you really can't go wrong with any of the models from the Big Three - Garmin, Magellan, and Lowrance).

The Competitive Runner's review was spread over five pages. It concluded:

The Forerunner 201 is a great tool. It helps you monitor your pace and allows you to run intervals and repeats even if you don't have access to a track. It suffers from accuracy problems when running on wooded trails or roads, but even so accuracy appears to be within 5%. As mentioned earlier, if you do run on wooded trails or roads and you want more accuracy, then you may want to consider the Nike Triax V10 Speed & Distance Monitor or the Polar Speed, Distance, and HR Training Monitor.

The GPS Information website wrote:

The Forerunner product seems to do a good job for what it is designed for, as an electronic personal trainer. Using the added software of Training Center will help those who are really trying to get into shape. While I have used the Forerunner more for GPS applications rather than for exercise, my wife who has never really cared about my interest in GPS, does like the Forerunner and says it has helped her keep track of her progress. It is lightweight, easy to read and the virtual partner is the feature she likes the most. And it has been quite easy for her to use the basic features she is interested in.

Overall we would say that the Forerunner 201 seems to be a good product for the money and we have found few problems with using it. If you want it to help you with an exercise program of walking, jogging, running or biking, the Forerunner seems to fit what you need, while also offering some basic GPS functions.

The undemanding website awarded the Forerunner 201 five stars (out of five) and commented:

Every walker and runner should have one. A single wrist unit uses GPS satellites to trace your outdoor workout. Displays speed, distance, pace, time, laps in large display. Charts your route as you walk or run, and can point you back to start. Pace alerts and a virtual partner can pace your workout. Can download all data to computer with the provided serial interface and free Forerunner Logbook software, or use free online GPS Visualizer.

* Get the Latest Price on the Garmin Forerunner 201 GPS Personal Training Device .

June 6th, 2006



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