Having recently rubbished the abilities of the iPhone 3G as a GPS-enabled training tool, I was delighted when the brand new Garmin Forerunner 405CX finally showed up here at Jelly Baby Towers; the first one that was dispatched to me having, somewhat ironically, become lost in the post…
Nevertheless, having taken the frankly gorgeous unit out of the box and attached the rather nifty ‘clip on’ charger, I set about to read the manual, and quickly realised that attempting to review this thing in one go was slightly pointless; as not only do I want to see if it really is the state of the art as a GPS unit, I’m also keen to see if it’s any use in making my training any more effective.
So this is just Part 1 of the review, where I’ll probably make fun of it’s gadget value a fair bit. But I’ll also be posting Part 2 in a couple of weeks, discussing the heartrate-based calorie counter, followed by Part 3 detailing all of its technical wonderfulness a couple of weeks after that.
Setting up the Garmin 405CX
Well, OK, so after reading the manual, it all sounded pretty straightforward. You control the 405CX’s functions by tapping the relevant words on the bezel, and scroll through the function menus by ‘stroking’ the written part of the bezel in the direction you wish to scroll. The ‘Start/Stop’ button acts as an ‘Enter’ key, and the ‘Lap/Reset’ button acts as a ‘Go Back’ key. So far, so straightforward? Well, yes and no. Even after following the setup ‘wizard’ that makes you try each technique in turn, I really struggled with this system for about 45 minutes, as it was entirely new to me. But having now lived with the unit for 24 hours, and run with it earlier today, I’m already completely comfortable with it. In fact, it’s very, very clever once you get the hang of it; a bit like the scroll wheel on an iPod, but without the moving parts.
Going for a quick run with the Garmin.
The 405CX is just about as high-tech as things get. Not only will it wirelessly sync with your PC or Mac using a USB dongle called an ANT stick, it also comes complete with a wireless heartrate monitor. However, I didn’t bother with the HRM today, as, still struggling with injury, I was only planning on a slow 5.5 miles, at around 8 minute mile pace. So I entered the ‘Training’ mode, noted that the unit acquired satellite reception in 5 seconds flat, selected ‘Virtual Partner’, scrolled the target pace to be 8.0 minute miles, pushed the ‘Start’ button and set off.
I found the display to be easily readable, and it was also easy to tap the bezel and switch to other views including a standard stopwatch. But apart from the GPS measurement function, which is great for analysing your run afterwards, I think that Virtual Partner is the really crucial tool, especially for unsociable weirdos like my good self. The little chap at the top is your partner, the little chap at the bottom is you, and the large display shows exactly how much you are ahead or behind your intended pace. Simples! And an absolute boon to those of us who don’t like running with a real training partner…or, who simply have no friends who run…or simply, have no friends…
The only small flaw came when I got back home and pressed the ‘Lap/Reset’ key button instead of the ‘Start/Stop’ button, which meant that another minute and ten seconds had been added to my time before I realised my mistake and pushed the’Start/Stop’ key.
Once indoors, the Garmin uploaded the data to my Mac without even being asked, and I was then taken to the Garmin Connect website, where I could view not just a map of my run, but splits for every mile, average pace, quickest pace, and a whole raft of other data. It was quick, seamless and well laid out.
My only quibble is that I couldn’t edit out the 1:10 added to my run by my own clumsy stupidity. However, another quick read of the manual allowed me to alter the Garmin’s settings to ‘Auto Pause’ the timer whenever I stop running in future, so this can’t happen again. And, if I’m honest, this was my fault rather than the unit’s.
So is the Forerunner 405CX any good?
Well, let’s see. It looks great, and is far less bulky than any other GPS unit I’ve ever tried. It acquired a satellite signal in about 5 seconds flat, using something called, if I’m not mistaken ‘HotFix.’ Once I’d gotten over my initial ham-fistedness, the controls turned out to be spectacularly clever and easy to use. It even set the clock to the right time of day, all by itself, using satellites.
Best of all, the ‘Virtual Partner’ function meant that I was able to set a sensible goal for my run, and meet it exactly, which would suggest that this thing really will help me to increase my currently appalling level of race fitness, by helping me to meet further, slightly more ambitious goals in the not too distant future.
Naturally, it remains to be seen if that will happen. And goodness knows what I’m going to make of the heart rate monitor and calorie counter function when I have a go of that over the weekend.
Frankly, with an RRP of £329.99, or an Amazon.co.uk price of £281.77, this thing really has to be very good indeed. But in the interests of honesty, my first impression of the Forerunner 405CX is that here, finally, is a GPS unit that gives runners everything they need, including simplicity of use.
So if you have that sort of dosh lying around, this could be exactly what you’re looking for. And so, having failed to find anything wrong with the 405CX that isn’t actually my own silly fault, and which Garmin have a fix for anyway, I’m afraid that I’m going to have to give the Garmin Forerunner 405CX a resounding 5 Jelly Baby Rating. Though in fairness, it probably deserves the whole bag…
• Advanced heart rate-based calorie computation
• Fits most wrists with either the original strap or the included fabric wrist straps
• High-sensitivity GPS receiver with HotFix™
• Touch bezel interface
• Training and motivational features: Virtual Partner®, courses, workouts, goal
• Battery life: up to eight hours (training) or two weeks (power save mode)
• Water resistant to IPX7 (1 meter of water for 30 minutes)
• Weight: 2.11 oz (60 g)
• Display: round four-level gray FSTN, 124 x 95 pixels
• Size (mm): 45.75mm x 70.5mm x 16.4mm
• Distance accuracy: 99% with clear view of sky
• Temp range: -4oF to 140oF (-20oC to 60oC)