April 27, 2008

Garmin 405 first impressions


Yesterday during the race expo I got the new Garmin 405 including the HR belt. I was thinking about it twice, but since they had them at the expo I had to get my hands on one. So far I ran only once with the unit and as a matter of fact it was my first A-race of the season. The Garmin watch really helped me a lot to keep even splits during the half marathon as you can see on Garmin Connect record. I'm not yet ready to do a full review of the watch since I can not really judge it after just one run. But here are few observations I made so far.

The good

  • The form factor of this new watch is just great. It looks like watch, is small as a watch and still has the Garmin GPS capabilities built in. It also looks good - understated design - not much showing while in the power save mode.
  • Navigation in the menu is very easy and using the bezel of the watch is very intuitive. Watch has only 2 buttons and 4 touch areas on the bezel. Navigation and access to the menu is very easy.
  • The fit is great - it snugly fits around the wrist and is very easy on the hand even in long races (I had it on my right arm where I usually do not have a watch).
  • The GPS signal gets picked up very fast (compared to regular car GPS units or the Polar GPS sensor that I use).
  • The watch is little bigger than the Polar RS800, but not much bigger. It feels very sturdy - something like Suunto T6 or Polar S625X. With the RS800 I sometimes fear that the watch is to fragile.
  • The ANT connection to the computer is in one word amazing. When I got home I walked into my office and the computer picked-up the activity recording and transferred it to the Garmin Training Center and Garmin Connect. Without me even logging onto the machine (it was locked from last night).
  • Garmin apparently built in capabilities to program guided workouts - seems very similar to RS800. I have not used it yet, but from the pre-delivered workouts it looks very easy to build the workout and execute it.
  • According to the manual the 405 can calibrate foot pod based on the GPS data during the run. Something Suunto and Polar users were asking for their manufacturers. I'm not sure how good it is as I do not have foot pod to test it.
  • The watch lets you setup virtual partner which was what kept me on pace today during the race.
  • The accuracy of the watch is very good - all the splits came within a meter or two of the official race mile markers. The only exception was the mile 10 where I was about 20 meters behind the marker when the lap got recorded. I think it may have been the tree cover or just misplaced mile marker. In any case I did not seem to lose the GPS signal even while running under the trees. I did not check the accuracy for obvious reasons, but I may do that on one of the training runs.
  • Battery life is rated as 8 hours of running with GPS on and about 2 weeks in power safe mode. I can only tell you that after being fully charged last night I used the watch for the half marathon, transfer to the computer and it shows 80% battery life left. I also left the default settings of 55% brightness and beeping of the buttons, bezel and while running.

Stuff that can be annoying to some people

  • The bezel is extremely touch sensitive. One needs to remember to lock it when you put your shirt over the watch otherwise it may lead to some unwanted actions on the watch. Like switching on the GPS when you are indoors. But learning to press the two buttons to lock the bezel is very quick. I had the watch only 12 hours and knew what to do.
  • At this point the 405 is not supported on Mac, but I assume that will get corrected over time. I do not mind as I use PC for my workout recording, but some Mac zealots may find it disturbing.
  • I did not find anything that I would not like about the watch. I actually had to think long time to come up with the two above items. But hey I used it only for less than 24 hours so there may be things that pop-up later. I'll post them here.

OK that is all I could come up with after quick read of the manual, quick setup of the watch and one run with it. Let me know what you want to know for the review so I can look into it before I post again.


Ted said...

Awesome !!! Thanks for the terrific report on Garmin 405. I cannot wait to get my hands on it. I have been using Forerunner 201 for years. I am ready for this kind of upgrade. I am a Macuser but do have PC readily.

Pavel said...

Thanks for a nice (p)review. What I don't understand from Garmin's web: Is it possible to completely turn off the GPS, or does the watch inevitably die in two weeks without electricity? I mean: can it be used as a normal watch when one goes to spend a few weeks in wilderness? It woud sure be nice to have this ultra compact GPS as a backup.

Pavel said...

One more thing.
From the data you posted at Connect, it seems the elevation of the half marathon was quite something: more than 1000 meters, if I read it correctly. Is this really correct reading or some error of GPS? Because if for example the spikes there btw. 50 min. and 1:08 hours are correct (cca 180m loss, 200m gain), you are some runner. If it is nonsense, then one should probably use maps for the elevation profile, not this GPS.

kxux said...

ted: I think the Garmin blog said that the Mac support will be available for the 405 later this year. Something like September. Right now REI has 20% off for members - if you are a member it is good time to buy. Or if you waited for 305 if is very attractive with 165 before the 20% off.

pavel: Yes you can completely turn off the GPS function. I do that after every run. I charged the watch on Tuesday, had 30 minutes run and now it is at 81%. So I guess it will eventually run out of juice. If you go to wilderness you can use the USB solar charger that I saw on some websites to re-charge the watch. Some people used it for 205 and 305. I would probably take my Suunto T6 with me as a watch and Garmin for distance tracking. Depends on how long would the trip last and how much exposure to water was involved. (http://www.rei.com/product/760969)

I do not know how they calculate the elevation gain/loss. But the numbers do not seem to make much sense. The highest point of the race was 382ft and lowest -14ft. Looks like Garmin is working on a solution. When I googled elevation gain loss in Garmin 405 I found few discussions about the problem. Does not worry me too much. I'll just wait for the fix.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry about the elevation measurement variation, guys; all gps is least accurate in this regard, and most sensitive to sattelite signal interference, thus the characteristic spikey plots that are a feature of most recreational gps readouts.

Ellen Propellen said...

Thanks for an interesting review (I first found you on youtube)! I do have some questions, though..

1. Does the HRM give you percentage of maximum HR?

2. Does the HRM and GPS work in water (if it does, it's probably on the buying list for us triathletes...)

3. Is the HRM signal coded?

4. Does the HRM give you average and maximum HR from the workout?

5. Is it possible to set training zones so that the watch can warn you when you're outside the zone?

6. Can the virtual trainer be a partner for interval training as well?

I know these appear to be silly, but you never know - the last HRM I bought can provide neither lap times nor average or maximum HR! Stunningly stupid!

kxux said...

Wow quite a few questions there Ellen :-). I'll try my best to answer them here:

1. Does the HRM give you percentage of maximum HR?

Yes it does. I would expect no less from any HRM I would put my money in.

2. Does the HRM and GPS work in water (if it does, it's probably on the buying list for us triathletes...)

I have not tried this and will not. The manual is very clear - page IV - CAUTION: The Forerunner is not intended to be used while swimming. So you will need to leave it in T1 and grab another watch for swimming. I use Suunto T6 with Memory Belt. Memory belt would be sufficient as it records HRM under water.

3. Is the HRM signal coded?
It is ANT so I would say so. I have not met many people with 405s as I train alone. But I did not have any interference in my Half Marathon race where a lot of folks ran with 305s. So I assume it is coded.

4. Does the HRM give you average and maximum HR from the workout?

Sure. Also per lap as I'm used to from Polar or Suunto. The Garmin software falls somewhere between Polar PPT and Suunto STrM. Not as bad as STrM, but not as flexible as PPT. Oh and the HRM avg for workout and per lap is available also in the watch.

5. Is it possible to set training zones so that the watch can warn you when you're outside the zone?

Yes you can set the HR zones in the Garmin software and transfer to the watch. The display can show you in which zone you are. What is interesting is the 2.3 zone - which means that you are 0.3 into your zone 2. That is a new concept.

6. Can the virtual trainer be a partner for interval training as well?

Technically you can reset the partner after each work interval, but that would be little tedious. So I would say no it can not be used for intervals. But you can program intervals workout in the software and then follow it. Just as Polar RS400/RS800.

Julie said...

Hi! Does anyone know if you can get an elevation readout on the watch while you are out on your run/trek? I know you can determine elevation profile after download but I want to be able to determine elevation on the fly. Also, I bought the non HRM version of the 405 but I think I can use the HRM strap from any previous model. True or not? Thanks!

Ellen Propellen said...

Hi kxux, and thanks for the reply. I have indeed bought a FR405 now, but I'm still struggling to get used to it. When I program it to automatically pause whenever I'm standing still, it keeps stopping and starting even when I'm walking at a steady pace - unbelievably annoying! It particularly seems to have problems when I'm walking steeply upwards (could this be because the GPS is too inaccurate when it comes to measuring heights?) or in thick forest... For walking I have decided to leave the auto stop function off, but I do like the feature, as I often cycle, and then we sometimes stop for red light for instance. Except for that the belt does seem coded, at least I experienced no problems with it riding in a peloton two days ago.
I heard someone say that the bezel stops working in heavy rain. Now that's pathetic, but I tried to soak it in running tap water, and I had no problems operating it without wiping it.

kxux said...

julie: Does anyone know if you can get an elevation readout on the watch while you are out on your run/trek?

Yes indeed you can customize the display to show the actual elevation from the GPS signal. I do not use this feature on my runs, but I checked the watch and it has the option. Just look at the manual section that describes how to customize the display fields.

Darren said...

I just picked one up last week and was very disappointed to find out that the basic features that I relied on in my 301 were absent from the 405. Most importantly when switching from run mode to bike mode none of the settings are identified with which mode you select. For instance on my 301 when in Run mode I set my pace as min/km and had autolap set to 1km. When I was in Bike mode I had speed set to km/hr and had autolap disabled. When i chose Run mode the settings for autolap, speed and custom screen all changed to my running configuration and likewise when going to bike mode all the configurations changed as well.

With the 405 when I change "sport mode" it's just a tag for the software to identify what you were doing but none of the autolap settings, screens or history are seprate so if I want to go for a run I have to make sure I set my autolap, speed, choose my running data screen and when I go for a ride I have to go and change all these for biking. This is too much of a hassle changing multiple settings every time. Also the history is one big lump of everything so not even the history is separated into activities. I will go back to my 301 as it has the functionality I require. If they 405 does get updated to fix these critical flaws I would not hesitate to buy one.

I spoke to Garmin and they informed me that this is how it was designed and they are getting lots of feedback like mine where people want the 305 like functionality. Apparently the engineers made the 405 as a "runners" watch so why then do they offer a wireless cadence sensor and bike mount. Doesn't make sense. Maybe if they get enough feedback a firmware update would fix these problems as nothing I've described can't be changed in firmware.

So if you're considering the 405 be aware that it's limited in it's usefulness. That being said I loved everything about the watch and how it worked. The 301 just had far more functionality.

Plecto said...


I have the 405, it records and uploads my runs to my PC great. However when I set it to bike more it records the event but dosn't upload the data to my PC. Does any one have any thoughts?

kxux said...

Plecto - this never happened to me. I have no issues with either Run or Bike workouts being loaded to the computer.

Make sure you close the Training Center before the watch synchronizes with the computer.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sold on the 405 yet. I went on my first run today and it lost its GPS signal several times for several minutes each time. As a result the data that was transferred to my computer was inaccurate (mileage). For the price, it needs to do a better job. Anyone else experience this problem?

kxux said...

Anonymous: Let us know where you run. One remedy can be the foot pod that would automatically take over when the GPS signal is lost. Did you watch indicate loss of GPS signal? Mine does if I forget to switch it off and then walk into the building. I did not have this issue yet and would like to understand when and where (type of terrain) you experienced it.

Anonymous said...


the gps has worked great since that first negative experience. I usually wait for the satellites to calibrate before beginning a run. Now, however, it's not uploading data to the website. The display screen says "transfering data" but when i go to the site there is nothing there. This has happened on my last two runs...am I doing someing wrong?

kxux said...


you may need to check the settings of the Garmin thingy in the Windows task bar. I have mine set to upload data to the web and also store them in the Training Center locally.

Otherwise look at the Garmin site and if nothing helps get in touch with their support. They are fairly fast - I got response to my request in less than 48 hours.

But you may want to wait until next week - after the big holidays in the US...

Henrique said...

How Can I reset my garmin 405, because it is not connecting to satelite, I will try to reset it !!

kxux said...

Henrique: press and hold the enter and quit butons until it resets. See page 37 in the manual.

By the way the first GPS reception took some time and I left the watch sitting outside on the table and did not move around. I read it on another site as recommendation for establishing the GPS connection with some other gadget. Worked well for me.

Also make sure that you switch on the GPS as it switches off automatically when out of reach of the signal for prolonged period.

Henrique said...

How can't I switch on the GPS as it switches off automatically when out of reach of the signal for prolonged period ???

kxux said...

I don't think you can switch off this function. It is energy saving function - when you walk into the building and your watch loses signal it switches off the search for GPS signal. Sounds pretty logical to me.

RunColo said...

Nice report, I like the youtube bit.

Here is my review:


Anonymous said...

"I did not find anything that I would not like about the watch. I actually had to think long time to come up with the two above items".
I´ll tell U a nice one: according to the manual, the battery lasts for 3 yrs and so does the 405. I think it is a good buy though, but would try not to use the GPS and other energy consuming functions all the time. Regards.

kxux said...

I should probably change this post :-). Truth to be told the initial excitement did not hold for long. After few weeks the 405 ended-up on eBay. Not really a watch suited for triathlon - at least I did not want to deal with its shortcomings. Back to Suunto and Polar now. Looking more like back to Polar actually, but that is to be seen when the RS800CX arrives.

darkwingz24 said...

I bought a 305 when I returned my 405 (for exactly the same reasons... poor triathlon performance) but I have been extremely happy with the 305. I also bought the wireless cadence sensor and used it in my first half ironman this past weekend and it performed flawlessly. The 305 has the same improved heart rate sensor with ant wireless and user configurable screens (which were the most important features). I also got bike mount so the 305 can clip onto my bike and when I go for the run I unclip and clip into my wrist strap.

kxux said...

I hear a lot that the long time users of Garmin prefer the 305 with its features and battery life. I have not owned one, but many of my friends do and they love it. If you want navigation on the run that is the best way to go. It is great HRM for short course athlete, but I wonder whether the 305 would last the entire Iron distance race? Plus how do you handle it in the water? I saw few people swim with the 205 and 305, but Garmin does not guarantee they are water proof only water resistant to 30 minutes. And at least for the 405 they are very specific on the watch that it is not to be used during swimming. That is a big deal breaker for me. I'm sticking with Polar and Suunto that can be used in water and I do not need to worry about getting another thing in T1 or T2.

Anonymous said...

I am thinking about getting the garmin 405, but I have a question. I can't run outside in the winter so I go to the gym through the winter months. Can I use the 405 as just a heart rate monitor in the gym?

Also did they make it compatable for Macs yet?


kxux said...

"Can I use the 405 as just a heart rate monitor in the gym?"

Yes you can. You can get the foot pod and run with it or just use the watch as HRM.

"Also did they make it compatible for Macs yet?"

I believe Garmin delayed this by another 3 months. So not yet. I do not think it actually works even under Parallels (as opposed to Polar or Suunto HRM software that works fine under Parallels).

Anonymous said...

I had a forerunner 50 which has just died (it is water proof according the instructions but apparently something leaked after a year). FYI - This watch was excelletn for Tri's apart from the HRM was not fucntional in water, and you had tomanually connect to bike when you existed the water. The cadence for the bike is superb as is the footpod. It is also smaller than the 405. However I notice that the instructions in the 405 say do not use in water - I think this is because of the battery points for charging being exposed. Did anyone have an issue with this?

Garmin Forerunner 405 rules said...

Wow! Great post. Wish I had written it myself.

The Garmin 405 is really a very, very nice gps-watch. Now when they have taken the gps-watches so far, I'm very excited to see what happens the next few years!

Anonymous said...

After 5 months my 405 died too, never swimmed in it, ran in the rain once, and just sweat exposure other than that. They did process a factory warranty newly recondidioned one for me whatever that means.

Phoenix Patent Attorney said...

I find the bezel way too touch-sensitive or -insensitive. I imagine it relies on a heat differential to trigger a tap, but when you're running in Phoenix, there isn't much of a heat difference between ambient air and your skin. The bezel often doesn't respond.