Garmin 305 vs. MotoActv

First off let me say that I’ve had my Garmin 305 since November 2008! So, I’m very partial to it Smile It’s seen me through hundreds of runs and many many races. Good, bad, ugly I wore the Garmin.

But, it’s on it’s last legs and when a MOTOACTV rep recently sent me their GPS/Fitness Tracker/MP3 player I was super excited to give it a spin.

One of my Garmin’s side buttons caved in at the Reach the Beach relay and I’m finally transitioning to use the MotoActv. rtb leg 3

But, when I used it the other day it seemed “off” from my Garmin’s usual readings. I know where the 1, 2 and 3 mile markers are from my house and the Moto was a little different.

So, today I wore them both to compare.IMG_1613 (800x600)

For the record, these are both BIG watches so I looked like a weirdo running down the street. The things I do for you Winking smile

As suspected, when my garmin clicked 1 mile the Moto was at 1.03. No biggie.

But at 2 miles the Moto was at 2.08 or something <- shouldn’t it be 2.06 at the most?

That is not a big deal to me. I don’t care about tenths of a mile. motoactv and garmin

My bigger concern was that the pace reading might be different. The two watches were never the same with pace. The Garmin would read 9:03, the Moto would read 8:47. Sometimes they were 10 seconds different, sometimes they were almost a minute!

That is a BIG difference when you’re trying to keep your pace for a race or speed run!

Final Readings:

Garmin 4.0 miles Average Pace 8:54 (max 7:25)

MotoActv 4:11 Average Pace 8:40 (max 7:24)

IMG_1611 (800x600) IMG_1612 (800x600)

The MotoActv’s touch screen and MP3 features make it super cool and user friendly. But that pace reading has me a little worried.

Both of them are fairly big and come with a plastic-y band. I bought that fabric band online a while back when the original one was falling apart (it got a lot of use!).IMG_1615 (800x600)


1. I hate having to wear a big watch plus have an ipod on my runs, so I love the music feature of the MotoActv.

2. I’m bad at pacing myself and being able to tell how fast slow I’m going, so it’s important for me to have a watch that is accurate. I think the Garmin is better with this.

3. But, I am most likely NOT going to buy a new Garmin when I have the MotoActv to use.

4. The Garmin 305 is an older model (obviously mine is 4 years old) and costs $199.99

The MOTOACTV is newer in style and costs $249.99

5. I get asked all the time, “Do I need a GPS watch?”

No. You don’t “need” anything except a good sports bra to run (if you have boobs obvi). The rest is just extras.

If you use Map My Run or drive your route to know how far your walk/run/bike is you do not. You can also just run for time ex. 15 minutes out, turn, 15 minutes back.

Oh, I gave the new Laughing Cow Strawberries & Cream spread another shot today. Nope. It’s not good. I want to try the cinnamon flavor though. I love all the other LC flavors, but this tastes artificial.IMG_1617 (800x600)

Question: Use one of these? Chime in with your thoughts?

Fun fact: When I first bought my Garmin I was working at my old recruiting job (the one I’m back to) in the office. I bought it during lunch and came back to the office to show my friends. One of them said, “Are you going to start running with a wheelbarrow to carry that along?!”

It’s big.


  1. says

    I think that all sateliite watches have a margin of error. When my husband and I run together (with the same type of Garmin), our paces and distances are off. Although we run the tangents differently, I don’t think we differ enough to have such a difference in distance!
    The MOTOACTV one sounds pretty cool!

  2. says

    That’s interesting. I’ve run similar side by side tests with my MotoActv and my Garmin 405 and my Garmin Edge 800 (on the bike), and found them to be almost spot on accurate. I didn’t compare pacing though, so I can’t speak to the accuracy of that. Have you hooked up to a computer and gotten all of the latest firmware updates?

    I’m with you on your distaste for carrying a GPS, an iPod, etc, on my runs, and the ability to do all of that, PLUS sync with my phone when I’m on the bike outweighs possible variations in pace and such. Another feature that I’m a fan of on the Motorola over the Garmin is how quickly it charges.

    I’ve heard that the MotoActv doesn’t love the rain, so it will be interesting to see what happens the first time I get caught out with it.

    Is it a perfect device? No. Is it good enough for my usage? Absolutely.

    • says

      I haven’t updated it, but I haven’t had the Moto for that long. And I don’t want to have to do a lot of maintenance on a device, so that might be a deal breaker.

      What’s this “rain” you speak of?

  3. NancyO says

    I have unlimited data on my iphone and use MapMyRun. If I didn’t have unlimited data, I would probably consider a watch. I notice for my extremely long runs when streaming music through iHeartRadio and using MapMyRun, my battery struggles a bit. I guess it means I need to start running faster so my battery last longer and I don’t have to buy a hunky big watch.

    BTW — is it “good enough”… for $250, I would hope it would be great not just good enough.

  4. says

    THanks for the review! I use my husband’s Garmin (when he isn’t using it) and I like it well enough, but wish I could wear something smaller. I’m small enough already, so that thing looks huge on me!

  5. Leslie says

    I’ve never had a Garmin – just couldn’t wrap my head around spending that kind of money. I was given a MotoActv recently, and it’s mostly ok. I have always run with a watch, and I’m fairly decent at knowing my pace naturally. Sometimes I look down at the motoactv and think, “there’s no way in hell I’m running that fast!” when it tells me I’m running and 8 min pace… I’m more of a 10 min pace! Overall, I like knowing my distances as I run instead of mapping it out on DailyMile or the USATF site the next day.

  6. says

    I’m interested in a Garmin. Someday. They’re too pricey of an investment right now. I just rely on my Nike+ sensor and/or MapMyRun app to tell me how far I’ve gone. Their measurements also seem to differ, but I lean toward MapMyRun since it’s GPS based.

    The Cinnamon Laughing Cow is incredible on apples and waffles. Haven’t tried it on anything else yet.

  7. says

    I use a gps watch and an iPod nano – the tny thing clips onto my shirt and doesn’t bother me at all! In the past I used mt iPhone but I hated the clunkiness, so I switched to this.

    I was curious about this gadget- sounds cool!

  8. says

    How would you get music from it? Do you have to plug in the headphone directly in there? I’d rip the headphones out a lot, then!

    Interesting side-by-side comparison, though! I’m used to my Garmin 405 for the time being…

  9. Ashley G says

    I like to call my Garmin 305 my “Zach Morris phone”. Though, sometimes, I find (with the younger generation especially) that they don’t get the reference, and then people think that I actually believe it can be a phone too…. ugh, awkward.
    Either way, I love that beast, and I love that it is huge. I love the huge display because I can always read it easily. Maybe if it was just thinner?

  10. Dynamics says

    Did you ever think that maybe the Garmin was off? Since it is an older model and lovingly used a lot, might be? Thoughts? My friend tells me my Garmin is off, but heck, I base my workouts on MY Garmin and there is consistency, so I am going to continue using it, plus my numbers are better than hers. HA!

    • says

      The Garmin still seems pretty accurate at races where there are mile markers, so I don’t think it’s very “off”. I wouldn’t expect it to be exact, but it’s only tenths of a mile different.

  11. says

    Does the Moto sync with your ipod? Like you, I hate having to wear my Garmin on one wrist and my ipod on the other arm. I recently got an iphone and have been using the Nike+GPS app. I haven’t compared it to my Garmin yet to see how accurate it is distance-wise but I sort of love not having to take both with me for now.

  12. says

    I have only ever used my Garmin, same one as above, and love it, I would love to get the newer Garmin that is much smaller but it is not worth the $$.

  13. Becca says

    @Ashley G Ahh Zach Morris phone!!! I love it!!

    I’m a tech junkie, so I’m envious of all the blog people’s GPS watches. It’s very likely I’ll get one one day- probably ask for one for Christmas or birthday. But right now I’m still only logging about 2 miles in a 30 minute session, so my phone is perfectly fine for that. And I keep it in my bra actually. I find that to be the best. I would always pull my headphones out when I carried it in my hand, and I tried an arm band but I couldn’t deal with how tight and sweaty it got. So right now I don’t check pace while I’m running, but as I intend to run a half-marathon (And hopefully a marathon) one day, I’m sure knowing my pace will be great and helpful.

    But yeah, the size of those things totally puts me off. I’d rather get a simple one that just shows me pace and/or distance and is nice and petite and comfortable.

  14. says

    My friend who I run regularly with has your Garmin and I have the 405. They are never, ever in sync. Hers always hits the mile marker faster than mine. So hers beeps at a mile and them a few seconds later mine will beep. As our runs get longer they seem to get farther off.
    I think all GPS are inaccurate and have a margin of error.
    I love the idea of music with my GPS though. One device a appose to two is always good.

  15. says

    I’m in the market for a new running watch. My husband has the Nike+ Sportwatch, which is powered by TomTom. It doesn’t always link to up to a satellite right away, which can be annoying when we don’t want to stand around forever waiting, so we often just go based on the time we’ve been out.

    He’s hoping to upgrade to a Garmin, and then I’ll probably take over the Sportwatch until I can prove faithful to running regularly. :-/

  16. says

    My first watch was the Nike+ which I had to calibrate a few times for it to be accurate, once I did that it seemed to do pretty good. For Mother’s Day I was given an iPod Nano with the Nike+Fitness app and I love it. I’ve calibrated a couple of times and now seems pretty spot on with my mileage and pace. PLUS I love having my watch/music on one little device, they also sell a watch band that will hold the Nano so that is a really awesome feature. I’ve never used a GPS based watch or my app on my phone, but my friend does and doesn’t seem to have any issues. I would really recommend that iPod Nano to anyone looking for something similar to the Motoactiv.

  17. LJ says

    I would like to see more information on what is an acceptable margin of error for real-time pace readings via satellites (GPS watches etc). I don’t think you can compare watches and say ‘I think the Garmin is better with this’ without providing any reason ‘why’ you think the Garmin is more accurate. What if it is the other way around? I’m sure the information is out there (on the internet) and I’m not going to take the time to look it up, but if you are picking a watch on how accurate its pace (or distance) settings are, then the scientist in me would like to hear more facts and information surrounding any claims.

    Straight up, I’m not expecting you to do this (I wouldn’t), but I just wanted to mention that a little more research might be interested. Hey! I bet Garmin or MotoActv could help out! Ask them :-)

    • says

      I think the margin of error for civilian GPS is 2 meters per point? We had this discussion at work regarding some engineering stuff. At a given point, the GPS could be 2 meters off, but the more points you add the greater the margin of error. I could be wrong on the exact distance though.

  18. says

    I love my Garmin. It sounds like the MotoActive has lots of problems. I’ve tried runner with RunKeeper on my phone but haven’t had great luck with it. It either tells me that I’ve completed a mile in the first thirty feet or starts repeating my pace and time constantly. Now I only use it on the bike because I’m not super concerned about stats besides a rough distance and because I can’t hear it if it starts repeating itself :)

  19. says

    The first time I saw one of these MotoActv reviews, I was really intrigued by it. Your review sounds pretty good for it but I’ve seen a few not so great reviews that I don’t think I could splurge for one when my 305 is my trusty friend (although I actually have 2 and both can be a little haywire at times!).

  20. says

    Very intersting about the Garmin vs. Moto! I have two Garmins – a very old 201 that I just love to death, and then a new Garmin 405 that I’m not quite used to yet. The thing that bugs me about the 405 is there is no on/off switch, so it goes dead all of the time. Case in point, this morning for my run I had two dead Garmins, so I had to use an old stop watch for timing intervals. Grr. The Moto sounds really neat though, despite it’s differences in pacing from the Garmin.

  21. says

    I like the iphone nike+ gps app. It’s free! And I like to take my phone anyways for music & emergencies. I’m sure some people don’t like running with something so big, but I actually like having something to hold in my hand… otherwise I have weird T-Rex running arms!

  22. says

    I have the Garmin 405 and am pretty fed up with it. The gps never seems to work. Do you think the touch screen on the MotoActv would still work if you were super sweaty? The bezel on the Garmin never works if I am.

  23. says

    ive heard good things about the garmin but ive never tried it. i have a polar heart rate monitor and its ok..i dont know why i said that actually it sucks haha. i was trying to be cheaper but it seems like spending the money is worth it!

  24. cindy says

    Of course the paces won’t match if the devices are giving you a different distance traveled in the same timeframe.

    I’ve found that my Garmin 405CX isn’t always accurate and occasionally beeps for a mile 2 tenths of a mile before. I know it’s not 100% accurate, but at least I know I’m being consistent in how I’m measuring.

    • says

      I think I was surprised by how much they were different and how much the Moto’s pace seemed to jump around. My Garmin usually pretty right on with the location of the mile markers when I run the same routes. Hoping the Moto is consistent too so I can just use it as a tool and not the end all…

  25. Sarah says

    Why do people keep asking if they “need” a Garmin watch?! Sounds like they are just looking for an excuse to spend money. The answer is always no! Now, if you WANT one, that’s the real question.

    I use the Run Keeper Pro app on my iPhone. I only run a couple times a week though, so I could see it being cumbersome to carry a phone if you’re running more frequently. They have a free version and as far as I can tell, it gives me the exact same info as a Garmin with pace and route. Plus I can set it to tell me info periodically through my headphones.

  26. Ida says

    I love my garmin 305! I feel like garmin is the gold standard when it comes to gps, but the motoactv seems fun. my iPod as a built-in pedometer that is so-so, I use that when I want music and don’t feel like lugging around the garmin.

  27. Bridget says

    I have a garmin watch. You don’t NEED it, but I think wearing it pushes me to go farther/faster than I would without it so I think it’s worth the money if you’re a regular runner who wants to get better.

  28. says

    All the blogs that I read have been testing out the MOTOActv and all have been having the same issues!

    This morning it was a very sad morning, I woke up ready to run and my Garmin 305 was not turning on.. I almost cried!! So now I am wondering buy another 305 or go with the MOTOActiv?!?! I hate deciding!!

    • says

      You might could do a reset on your current one, if you haven’t already tried that. I have to do that occasionally. Hold down the lap + mode buttons at the same time.

      I have tried all sorts of button combinations at one time or another (mine is really old), and usually one will get it to work. If I plug it up to the computer more frequently, it usually works better and doesn’t need that as often.

  29. says

    I just don’t think I could wear something that big! I used to have a Polar F4 or something like that and it had a very slim, small watch. Until I lost it. I still have the chest strap, but it’s pretty pointless without the watch!

  30. Stephanie says

    When the Garmin GPS watches first came out, one of my running buddies got one – they’ve changed shapes over the years, but his was pretty big and boxy, and it got nicknamed “the dashboard.”

    I had one of the … 100 series Garmins back in the day when I was doing all my marathoning. I laid off running for a couple years, and for the first time in my life started using a watch with a heart rate monitor – no GPS since I was just working out in the gym.

    Now that I’m back to running, I keep mulling over getting a GPS watch again. Most of the time I’m running with a bunch of people…all of whom have the watches anyway. Or else I’m running a route I’ve mapped. Even when I wore the GPS watch I never looked at pace WHILE on the run, only afterwards when I was done. As long as I know the distance I’ve run, I can calc the pace, and that’s good enough for me.

    But gadgets are always cool, so I’m not ruling out investing in another GPS watch at some point!

  31. says

    I currently use the MapMyRun app on my iphone and love it, but the pace does tend to jump around periodically. I just like it cuz its free! That and I’m not TOO concerned about pace yet as I’m still pretty new to running.

  32. says

    This makes me nervous! I believed my Garmin religiously….am I not running at the pace I think I am? Hmmm. In general, though, it seems fairly accurate on distance at least….when I run marked trails, it clicks over right around where the mile markers are.

  33. Alicia Wynn says

    I got the MotoActv a few months ago and synced all my music from iTunes. The problem is, you can’t skip a song when you don’t feel like listening to it. At least I can’t figure out how to do it! Have you? Is there a way to go into the MotoActv site and delete the songs you may have had on iTunes but don’t want on MotoActv? Thanks!

    • Rachel says

      If you press down the music button twice, it skips past the song you are listening to! And I think three times lets you go back a song. If you hold down the music button, it also takes you to a list of the songs on your playlist and touch-screen arrow buttons so you can advance forward and back.

      I’ve just been managing my music on MotoActv by making a playlist of what I want to run to and syncing that from iTunes into MotoActv.

      Hope that helps!

    • Rachel says

      My boyfriend got me the MotoActv for my birthday in April, and after 2 months of use I have to say I am quite a fan! He got his after his Garmin 305 broke, and was impressed enough to get one for me too.

      From what I’ve gathered from him, the inaccuracies of pace aren’t *too* different from the Garmin. Occasionally when the signal gets obscured by buildings, my pace spikes and then plummets to compensate so I don’t always trust that, but overall I feel my average pace is spot on.

      On a side note – I used my MotoActv for a marathon over the weekend and couldn’t be happier with it! Outside of being ~.3 off at the end (which isn’t bad over 26.2 miles), it was great with giving me audio splits every mile and fun looking on the website after to see my pace charts matched with the map and even my pace matched up by what song I was listening too. Pretty neat!

  34. says

    I’m a big fan of NOT wearing a bunch of stuff so I love iMapMyRun on my iPhone. It yells at me, gives me my splits, etc. Plus then it’s one less tan line I get running :)

  35. alison janecka says

    I don’t own a gps watch. However I feel I should. I was once told that driving the car along the trail you run is not as accurate as wearing a gps watch during your run!

  36. says

    I have recently been doing the same thing with the Nike GPS app vs. my Garmin 410. (Garmin has been having battery issues so been using Nike, and then got curious.)
    The GPS tracking is different. If you compare the routes they calculate on a map they will be different. I found Garmin tracks turns better and my actual route better. I cant speak about motoactiv, but the Nike GPS is a nice guide but not overly accurate. I wore them both in a race and Garmin was much closer to mile marks on the course.

  37. Tricia says

    I have the Garmin 305 but hardly ever use it anymore and stick with a simple Ironman stopwatch, I was obsessed with the Garmin when I first bought it a few years ago but it made me crazy on runs looking at my pace all the time. I never wear it in races because I would concentrate on the thing too much rather than pay attention to how I’m feeling in the moment. I do use Map My Run to keep track of distances though!

  38. Rachael J. says

    For a cheap option, have you ever tried the Nike+ sensor? I’ve been using mine for a while now just because I was curious and found it on sale. It seems to be pretty accurate. Even without calibrating, it was only off by roughly .11 miles for a 3 mile run. But I don’t know many people who use this. Good luck with your new watch!

  39. Catherine says

    I got a Garmin 405 for Mother’s Day. Before that, I ran with just an iPod. I have about 5 routes, run 30 miles/week and know my routes and timing pretty well. LOVE the Garmin 405. Based on my knowledge of my routes and my pacing, I think it is pretty accurate. I love that it downloads to my laptop and I get all the splits, elevation, etc… So I can pinpoint areas to improve. I did not need it, but I love it and I think it is taking my routine 25-30/week in a new direction.

  40. says

    I LOVE having my Garmin and trust their numbers more that others, like phone app I tried for a while. However, I have the new one with the bezel edge buttons and I am still trying to figure it out. Last time I ran with it it spazzed out and started beeping like crazy. I almost tossed it in the bushes but quickly realized it is probably user error so I need to sit with the instruction manual.

  41. Amy says

    I have the Garmin 610 and I say go with the Garmin! I used to use the nike chip and that was also inaccurate and that is frustrating when training! Not sure if you’re a memeber of REI, but when REI has their member sales you can get a Garmin for 20% off. That’s a good deal!

  42. says

    1. I must admit I am super jealous of you getting to try out a new MOTOACTV. I’m still using MapMyRun before I leave the house to track distance.
    2. If you like Laughing Cow & you like cinnamon, don’t get it! It’s like cream cheese and Cinnamon Toast Crunch got together and had a deliciously sinful baby. I ate it on my toast every day for a week and no longer am allowing myself to buy it as it just reved up my sweet tooth first thing in the morning. (Yummmmmm… I just drooled on myself thinking about it. So your fault!)

  43. says

    I “upgraded” to the Garmin 610 about 10 months back when my 405 gave out on me (watch was ok but the strap broke and not where it could be replaced). Both Garmins have worked for me.

  44. says

    that cream cheese looks kinda gross! I also have a Garmin and love it. My runner friends and I agree that Garmin is basically king of GPS right now and no other running watch an compare.

  45. says

    My Garmin 305 just $%^& the bed at the start of my marathon last week. It was fully charged and would not turn on. Yes, I was in freak out mode. My Dad went to the nearest gas station and found a timex watch so at least I could keep track of when to eat since it was a small race and no timing on the course. I completely agree that you don’t NEED a Garmin. It can easily become addictive and for me, many times it just stresses me out when seeing my pace.

  46. says

    I’m a Garmin 305 user and I love that thing like no other. I’ve tried one of the fancier new garmins as a loaner but didn’t really enjoy it as much as my trusty old 305.

  47. says

    OMG I love you for making me feel slightly less weird. Occasionally I’ll go for a run with both my Nike+ and my Garmin to calibrate my Nike+, and I feel very self conscious about having too many gadgets.

    Thank you!

    • says

      Yes, I use the MotoACTV and the Garmin HRM. The moto will sync to an ANT+ HRM, which the Garmin is, but the Polar ones aren’t.

      BTW, I bought it at Best Buy for $150 for the 8gb version, down from $250. I’m very happy with it. I mountain bike and at any point I can see my heart rate, speed, time on the ride, distance, as well as how far ahead/behind I am from another time I rode the same course.

  48. The Todd says

    I wonder if the Motoactv isn’t the more accurate GPS? My first and only 1/2 marathon registered 12.85 mi on my old forerunner 305. It’s almost off by as much as your 4 mi vs. 4.11 mi comparison.

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