Garmin Forerunner 405 with Heart Rate Monitor Review

Before I get into my review of the Garmin Forerunner 405, I must admit I had a hard time deciding between the older Forerunner 305 model and the newer 405.

I knew I wanted either the 305 or 405 because I wanted the heart rate monitor (HRM). Yes, I will openly admit that the fair superior color options of the 405 did make it more attractive in the cosmetic sense, but the Green Girl is also a fairly practical girl and I wanted a device that would be easy to use while running, accurate and reliable. I also want to mention if cost was a factor, I would have gone with the 305 without hesitation.

The most common complaint about the 405 was the fact that the bezel is rendered useless when it gets wet. There were quite a few negative reviews on Amazon mentioning this problem. The Marathon Mama actually contacted Garmin about this issue and posted an amusing blog entry about the ordeal. I had already purchased Drylyte Wristbands to wear underneath my future Forerunner because my skin not only sweats like crazy but is also extremely sensitive. Like I mentioned in my watch review, I can only wear fabric bands. Since I went for a really short run today and it wasn't raining, my Forerunner remained dry and functional. I'll update this review when it actually gets wet because I'm hesitant to dunk it in my sink just for testing purposes.

I had to plug my Forerunner in and let it charge for 3 hours before I could start playing with it. You charge the Forerunner using with this clip with 2 metal pins that make contact with 2 metal prongs in the back of the watch. The display lets you know if it's charging or not and when it's complete so there's no guesswork involved. Devices that communicate with me make me happy.

When you turn it on for the first time, it immediately goes through an initial setup. The nice thing about the startup "wizard" is that you get a quick tutorial on how to use the device. You also set preferences like time zone and whether or not there is a HRM present. The Forerunner detected the presence of the HRM right away and the ♥ appeared on the display. The instruction manual says you need to wet the HRM's contact points before it will work but I did not find that to be the case. I strapped it just below my sports bra line and worked just fine. It also acquired the satellite signals almost immediately.

I had expected the Forerunner to ship with a detailed manual but instead it comes with a fairly thin, CD-ROM sleeve-sized booklet.

It took me a couple of hours to really master the bezel. At first, I thought you had to touch and rotate from the 3 o'clock position back to 12 to move up one item and from 12 to 9 o'clock to move down but then I realized you could touch and rotate anywhere on the bezel. It's simply the notches clockwise or counterclockwise that drive the menu. I changed the "sensitivity" level to low because at the default medium setting, I kept accidentally doing things I didn't want to do.

The menus are really intuitive and it's easy to get the hang out of once you scroll through them a few times.

I also learned really quickly that it's a good idea to lock the bezel by clicking the 2 buttons on the right simultaneously so you don't accidentally tap it. I kept putting it down on the bed to read the manual and it was scrolling through menus and making changes all by itself.

The backlight is amazing. When lit, the display is crisp and easy to read. I'm looking forward to taking it out for a night or early morning run.

I downloaded and installed the Garmin Training Center and inserted the USB ANT stick into my computer. The ANT Agent immediately detected my Forerunner and displayed a unique number and asked me if I wanted to pair. I selected "Yes" and then my Forerunner displayed the same number and I clicked "Yes" to complete the process. Unfortunately, after that initial agreement, they stopped communicating with each other. I rebooted my computer several times and even reset the Forerunner to factory defaults and the same thing kept happening. The computer would detect the Forerunner as soon as I reset it but then it would time out. Finally, I uninstalled the software and it worked flawlessly.

One thing to note about the Forerunner 405 is that it does not have an off/on button (the 305 does). It simply goes into a power save mode and functions like a normal watch. To take it out of this mode, you can click the side button.

One feature I'm really excited about is "Auto Pause" because it pauses the clock when you stop moving. This is going to be great when I run in the city and have to wait for traffic lights. This morning, when I was out on my run, I stopped to take a picture and Auto Pause kicked in. When I put away my camera and continued my run, it started the clock again.

It was easy to use when I was out on my run. As I started jogging, I tapped the side button to take it out of sleep mode and then my finger on the 'Training' portion of the bezel and then hit the "Start/Stop" button to start the timer. I was pleased to see how effortless it was to get it going.

I had set the Forerunner to Auto Scroll so as I ran, it toggled between the main screen with my distance, speed and time and the heart rate screen. You can personalize the screens to display the data that is most important to you. There are 35 data fields to choose from and you can have a total of 9 fields displayed across the 3 screens.

When I got home, I powered on my laptop and the ANT+Sport technology transferred the data as soon as Windows booted up. I was really impressed by how easy it was.

As far as battery life, I played with it non-stop since I got it yesterday and it was down to 10% battery life when I got home this afternoon. When it's less of a novelty, I'll be interested to see how long it lasts.

If you are considering the 405 but not sure about the HRM, you can purchase the HRM strap at a later date and it will work with the basic model.

I'll do a review of the Virtual Training Partner when I figure out how to use it.

Update 12.14.08:
  • There was light rain pretty much the entire time I was out on my run yesterday (about 2 hours). I locked the bezel to avoid any problems and it seemed to work just fine. I did wipe the rain drops off it from time to time.
Update 01.11.08:
  • I like the Virtual Training Partner so far. The little digital figure actually encourages me to maintain my pace.


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