Mini Review: Garmin Forerunner 405CX
March 25, 2013 — by Per Christensson
For many years, I tracked my runs with an iPod nano and the Nike+ sensor. However, after three iPod nanos and five Nike+ receivers stopped working — often in the middle of my runs — I decided it was time for a change. I switched to the GPS-based Garmin Forerunner 405CX.
The nice thing about the Garmin Forerunner is that it only requires a single device — the watch itself. Apple's Nike+ system requires 1) an iPod, 2) a sensor that connects to the iPod, and 3) a transmitter that you put in your left shoe, and 4) Nike shoes. The simplicity of the Garmin watch was a nice change and I also found it easier to manage while running. After all, it is much more natural to control a device on your wrist than one strapped to an armband on your bicep.
Using the 405CX to track a run is pretty straightforward. You simply select Training Mode, wait for the watch to determine your location, then press Start when you begin your run. The watch records your time, pace, and distance as you run. It can also record your heart rate if you use the included heart monitor strap, which wraps around your torso like an elastic belt. I especially like the optional "foot pod," which you can place in your shoe (like the Nike+ transmitter). I've used the foot pod all winter long to track track my indoor runs on the treadmill.
Once you complete one or more runs, you can import the recorded data from the watch into your computer wirelessly using the included USB receiver. You can either save your runs in Garmin's Training Center application or upload the data to the web. I initially used Garmin's software program to review my runs, but later found that the web system was much more advanced. Therefore, I now use the web interface exclusively. Garmin has done an excellent job creating an intuitive interface where you can track your all your runs. Each run is overlaid on a map, so you can view the exact trails you have run — something that was impossible with the Nike+ system. You can also share your runs with others, which is fun if you are on a running team or training with friends.
While the Forerunner 405CX has plenty of impressive features, it is far from perfect. In fact, the device has several annoying flaws. First of all, the watch is a bit bulky, so it's not especially comfortable to wear. Secondly, the GPS receiver consistently takes 2-3 minutes to locate all the necessary satellites before I can start my run. Therefore, I make sure to enter Training mode as soon as I walk outside so it can determine my location while I am stretching. The biggest flaw, however, is the battery. From my experience, a full charge only lasts about four and a half hours. If you let the watch sit for a week, the battery loses about half its charge. There have been several times where I have been ready to go running, only to find out the battery died during the few days since my last run.
Pros: Easy to use; tracks runs accurately; supports a wireless heart rate monitor and foot pod; includes access to an excellent web-based run tracking interface.
Cons: Somewhat uncomfortable; easy to accidentally bump buttons on the face of the watch; takes several minutes to locate satellites before each run; horrible battery life during activity and in standby mode.
Conclusion: The Garmin Forerunner 405CX is a much better option than the Nike+ system. It is easy to use and provides a well-designed web interface for tracking your runs. However, it has a few annoying flaws that only become more frustrating the more you use the watch.