Customer Reviews: Garmin Forerunner 405CX GPS Sport Watch with Heart Rate Monitor (Blue)
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on January 30, 2010
I really did my homework in choosing a fitness watch with heart rate monitor. I ordered competing models from Garmin, Timex, Polar, and Suunto, to look them over closely and compare. Then I sent them all back but this one.

Someone pointed out that this Garmin watch is a little on the clunky side - that's true. I have a small wrist,and the watch part of it is long and flat and doesn't really fit nicely. They had to pack the GPS receiver inside the band. But no matter - with the band strapped tight, it stays put, and it's not so huge that people would say "What's that thing on her wrist?" It still looks like a watch. A funky sort of a watch maybe, but not a television set or anything.

I think you need to decide if you want GPS or not. I decided that yes, I really wanted GPS to measure my distance, because I run and jog and hike and travel quite a bit, so my routes are always changing. In my ideal world, I'd be able to pop up a map on my PC and see my route, and have a table showing all my workouts and how many miles they total, in running, biking, etc. I could finally answer the folks at the running store when they ask how many miles are on my running shoes.

I ended up with this Garmin, far and away the best choice for just what I wanted. All the other GPS solutions were separate strap-on-the-arm ones that contain AAA batteries that need to be replaced every 12 hours of operation - ouch, costly. Even with rechargables, it would be a hassle to be always taking them out, plugging them into the charger, putting them back in the arm-band-GPS unit. The watch on those other devices was just a receiver for the arm-unit. Granted, it meant that their watches could be a little smaller ... I really liked the design of the Timex the best, and the Polar was small too. But who wants to carry a clunky thing around their arm? That's one more thing to pack or lose, more batteries to buy and fuss with, more parts to break... forget it.

I also was swayed heavily by the Garmin software and tight integration with the PC and mapping software. None of the other brands, as of this writing (January 2010) had anything near as easy. Polar excels at fitness tracking, but not the mapping part. Timex and others require third-party mapping solutions that you have to manually upload and integrate with. Only Garmin had a simple plug-and-play solution. Plug in their little included USB "ANT Stick" (like a little thumb drive), and bring the watch near, and it automatically receives the data the watch stored from your workouts, loads it into your Garmin fitness/mapping program, and you can see all your stats and your routes etc.

I also liked that this unit is one of the few that tracks altitude, so you know not only how many miles, but how much total up and down you went (cumulative). It can display the data on a chart with any paramets you set, for example you can see the actual altitudes of your run along your route. That is so cool!

Other people trashed this unit because the bezel-touch operation is a hassle. One guy made the point that he just locks the screen into a view before his run starts, so he doesn't hassle with the touch thing going haywire. That is the perfect solution, and it's what I did too.

So with this Garmin watch, you only have to remember two pieces: the watch, and the charger. The charger clips right onto the watch to rejuice the battery inside. It ships with conversion plugs for international outlets.

Here's a tip that isn't clear from Garmin's specs: the GPS can be turned on or off. With the GPS on all the time, the watch will run out of juice after about 8 hours and will need to be recharged. With the GPS off, it lasts almost 2 weeks. It works like a normal watch, tells date and time, etc. Heart rate monitor. Etc.

I was worried that this watch wouldn't work if you, say, went out in the morning for a hike, stopped for lunch, continued hiking... 8 hours wouldn't be enough. The simple solution is to turn off GPS when you don't need it, and your battery will last as long as you need it.

So, if you can afford it, this one is the only way to go, if you want GPS. I've had it a month, after handling all the others, reading their manuals, etc., and settling on this one. I'm super happy with it and love Garmin. Next generation will be even better, when they fix the bezel issue and get the watch to be even more watch-looking, but this is miles ahead of the competition as is.

** Update - I've now had this model for almost two years, and still think it is fantastic. A few things I learned - The link to mapping software works great, I have two years' worth of running/biking stats and I can click on any single run to see the route. Since I travel a fair amount, it's a great memory of places. It's also great when I go to the running store for shoes and they ask "how many miles are on the pair you're wearing now?"

It also has a handy feature where you can set a starting point, such as the parking lot of a hiking area, and then once you're completely lost, have it point the way back - you get an actual arrow pointing and a distance indicator of how far away you are from that point. It's kinda buried in all the menus, so not something you'd be able to find quickly unless you did it regularly or had the user guide right there, but I used it twice and found it a comfort knowing that, even if I got lost, I wouldn't be lost.

It is also easy to switch between running and "multisport" modes, which means you can bike and jog and keep those stats separate. (That way, you're not apt to get impressed with yourself for running 20 miles, when in fact that day you were on a bike.) There is also an optional setting (that was delivered through a firmware update a year after I bought it, and probably is pre-installed on newer ones) that will detect if you've stopped moving for a given period, say a minute, and it will put the tracking to sleep till you start moving again. That helps you track your pace better if you have to stop for some reason and don't want that averaged into your overall time.

I have to mention that the wrist band closure is a bit of a hassle, if anyone from Garmin is reading. It has a little lock to keep the end from flapping, but in fact, it's really hard to push the locking end through the little hold-down. Just a wee bit of hassle, hardly worth mentioning. Everything else I said above is still the case. It's a great tool.
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on January 23, 2010
I never write these things but I always read them. So for me to write a review means I was either impressed with the product or irritated by it.

In this case I was very impressed. I did a lot of research on several GPS based training watches and I kept coming back to Garmin. I love my nav unit for my car so I gambled on this watch knowing they aren't primarily a manufacturer of training gear.

I must say the watch when set up and calibrated works great for me. If you have issues with the bezel try to recalibrate it. I mainly only use it when I start my runs and it is intuitive and easy way to navigate the menus without a ton of buttons. I set up additional information screens, set it to auto switch the screens in a slow pace, and lock the bezel when I'm running. I'm not super picky about all the information I see, so for me it is generally pace (you have a ton of options to choose from for each item) distance, and HR info.

I've been on several 3-5 mile runs to see if it is accurate, and it works great. I took it recently on a 7 mile run through a dense park area and combined with my foot pod it accurately mapped and recorded the workout. I believe someone stated that you couldn't use the GPS and foot pod together, which is incorrect. I love that I can now see the elevation changes. I had no idea there was a 600 ft elevation change on one of my routes.

Lastly, I must say I find the HRM actually better than my old Polar unit, though the strap itself might be a tad bulky for smaller men and women. The watch itself is pretty small when you consider what is packed into it, and it looks like a watch not a GPS strapped to your forearm.

I run an average of 22 miles a week, and this is one of my favorite purchases yet.

Pros -
It looks and feels like a watch not a GPS strapped to your arm.
It is accurate and has a ton of display options.
I actually like and appreciate the bevel feature.
It's rechargeable, so you don't have to send it in when the battery dies. (Polar suck in that instance.)
You don't have to have a separate GPS unit, and it works well with a foot pod for treadmill or trail running.

Cons -
Price (I'm a cheap person I guess)
Size (however I totally understand considering what they have to pack in a watch)
HRM strap is somewhat bulky compared to Polar straps.

Well I hope some of this helps others if they were on the fence as I was.
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on April 24, 2009
I'm a new runner and after running the Shamrock Shuffle in Chicago this year, I think I'm addicted. I even registered for the 2009 Chicago Marathon, I still can't contemplate running a full 26.2 miles. But if I'm gonna do this, I'm gonna do this right. Running on nearby trails, I never really knew how far I've run or what my pace was (there aren't any mile markers). I wanted a way to track my distance and pace. I have friends that own both the forerunner 305 and 405, and I was impressed on how accurately they tracked distance and pace. I researched the reviews on both, and even though I like the looks of the 405, I was leaning toward the 305 since it's half the price and the reviews were much more positive. However, I couldn't get over the notion of looking like I'm running with a computer on my wrist.

Along came announcements of the 310xt and 405cx. Initially, I was set on getting the 310xt because of it's large screen and waterproof capability. However, it wouldn't be released till mid May and that model wouldn't even include the HRM. Originally I thought the 405cx wasn't available until mid May also, according to Amazon's 405cx preorder. But to my surprise, I found it available for free overnight shipping from the Clever Training website for 369.99. I got mine for 314.95 with free ground shipping, so do your research and you might land a "premium" deal on this heart rate monitors in USA ;-)

I'm getting side tracked here, I decided on the 405cx because I was hoping Garmin would have ironed out all the flaws of it's previous iteration. I've never owned the 405 or 305, so I can't say how much better the 405cx is. After reading the 405 reviews, a few complaints caught my attention:

- Poor satellite reception
- Clumsy bezel interface
- Locks up when sweated on
- Inaccurate heart rate monitor

1. Satellite reception is excellent. It's able to track satellites indoors! (though accuracy is degraded)
2. The bezel interface, although very sexy, is a pain in my arse to use. It's overly sensitive at times and not in others. Lock it often. It's going to take some time for me to get use to. Oh well, it's the price I have to pay for sexiness...
3. In the 2 days I've had this unit, it's never locked up on me. I want you to know, I sweat profusely to the point where it looks like I just took a shower (I wish I was exaggerating, but I'm not...). I don't just sweat when I'm working out either, sometimes I sweat sitting idly in a chilly room. It's so embarrassing during meetings! So trust me, sweating does not cause the 405cx to lock up.
4. The heart rate monitor is superb. This is my first HRM though, so maybe I don't know what I'm talking about. But it doesn't spike to 200 bpm or drop to 20 bpm like the treadmills in the gym do, so I'm happy. On a side note, the 305 loves the HRM that comes with the 405cx. The one that comes with the 305 is utter garbage, it stays at 65 bpm regardless of what you do. It was probably defective, but it's something to think about for anyone thinking of getting the 305 instead.

This review is getting really long, and I need to get back to work. Garmin Connect is the online software that manages all your running data. Use it, it's hot. Just be aware, at default all your activities are shared with the Garmin Connect online community (think of what you put on your descriptions). I love how you can "play" your run on Google maps. It's hard for me to explain, check out this link for yourself


Please don't make fun of my slow pace, I'm a new runner! Here's a tip before I end this. You can delete activities. Just click on the red "x" next to the pencil and lock. This was a little frustrating until I figured it out. Good luck deciding on a watch, I hope it makes your runs more enjoyable. It does for a gadget geek like me.
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on September 22, 2009
I've been using the 405CX for about 1 1/2 months and have found it to be a device with loads of potential. Sadly however, the full potential cannot be realized due to both unreliable software for the Mac and an unstable web site provided by Garmin. But before going into further detail on the software and web services, let me describe the GPS sport watch.

This GPS watch from Garmin is designed to be used while training to track things like route, speed, pace, time, heart rate, and other items of interest (e.g. if you have a bike, then you can track cadence). In this regard, the watch works pretty well for runners, walkers, and cyclists.

The watch utilizes a built-in GPS to track route and speed. GPS acquisition time is very fast -- typically less than 30 seconds. Tracking accuracy is reasonable -- I'd estimate about +/- 30 ft. Note that it is also able to track altitude, which is something I find useful as a cyclist.

Keep in mind that to track some things, you will need to buy additional accessories like a bike cadence sensor (one for each bike) or a foot pod. So the upfront cost may be substantial depending on your situation. But if you are an exercise junkie, then this may not be much of a concern.

General usability of the watch is OK once you get accustomed to the typical quirks most gadgets seem to exhibit these days. Ease-of-use isn't top notch or anywhere close to it. The watch uses a touch-sensitive bezel that can be both over- and under-sensitive. Nonetheless, you can grow accustomed to the menus and functions after a while and the quirks don't get in the way much on a day-to-day basis. The watch also has some nice customization abilities that can be used to arrange what items to display during workouts.

The interesting part of the watch package is the USB stick that allows you to sync the collected data. The stick plugs into a USB port on your computer and, in theory, automatically (and wirelessly) transfers workout information both to the computer and optionally the Garmin web site. But this is where things get very frustrating (on a Mac at least).

In short, Garmin is really struggling (as of 9/2009) to produce reliable and functional software. I have wasted countless hours dealing with their buggy Ant agent. Frequent Garmin software releases have yet to solve the many issues on both Leopard and Snow Leopard (I have tested on multiple Mac OS X versions). At least 50% of the time, the software fails to transfer properly -- even on repeated attempts. When this happens, there are no diagnostics to indicate the reason for failure. Worse still, the USB device sometimes causes kernel panics (the Mac equivalent of Windows' blue screen of death).

Once you are able to successfully transfer your workout data, then it will also be uploaded to the Garmin Connect web site. This Java-based web site is sometimes overloaded and spews copious error messages due to the situation. Furthermore, Garmin takes the web site completely offline for hours at a time (during North American weekday working hours even). When the site is stable and running, then workout summaries, charts, and reports are at your disposal to track your fitness program. The web site services aren't anything fancy, but they are pretty good and getting better over time.

This ability to track workouts over time online is the primary value proposition of the GPS watch. When the whole thing works, it is very cool and a useful tool for exercise junkies. But the sad truth is that most of the time the potential isn't unleashed and instead you feel cheated by Garmin. And until these problems are solved, then the price of the package just isn't justified by the lousy software and service.

P.S. Other things of that may be of interest to potential buyers of the watch...

Battery life: the watch uses a non-user-replaceable battery (the bane of iPhone and Kindle 2 users) and requires a service fee from Garmin to replace. Battery life is good at about 6-8 hours in practice. Lifetime of the battery remains to be seen.

Standalone Software: the watch also comes with a standalone software product, Garmin Training Software, that can be used to view workout information locally instead of using the Garmin Connect web site. This software provides some of the same functionality as the web site, including maps, but isn't all that polished.
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on January 12, 2010
It took me a while to "push the button" on buying this watch. It wasn't the money. The price is a bit salty and other units out there are reported to perform well. But I wasn't keen on running with a cell-phone-sized monster strapped to my wrist so that I could save a few bucks.

No, my hesitation was because some of the online reviews I'd read were critical of the watches functioning - particularly the bezel interface.

I'm here to tell you - Don't Worry! I've had an opportunity to put this thing through its paces on both ends of the climate spectrum, and it performed flawlessly.

In one week, thanks to a trip to South America, I was able to use the watch in 90 degree weather and 20 degree weather. The watch performed well with sweat, with gloves, with cold fingers and hot - no issues.

You do have to know what you're doing, so as we in high-tech jobs say - "RTFM." (Read the freakin' manual!). I recommend establishing your nine key metrics (three each on three screens), set the watch to auto-scroll and lock the bezel after hitting the start button. You're never more than a second or two from what you want to know, and if there's something you're particularly interested in, set it as a data point on more than one screen.

This watch can't be beat, and if you're even remotely serious about running, it's worth every penny.
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on June 7, 2009
Please note that I normally don't write product reviews. I normally take consumer reviews with a grain of salt because most are thumbs up (5 stars), or thumbs down (1 star), rarely with nuanced shades of gray. I'm giving the 405CX 5 stars not because it's perfect (see CONS), but because for me the product experience was revolutionary, and its ease of use makes it easy to integrate it into your daily life rather than being just another gadget with a collection of features.

For me it's been rare experience that a an electronic device functions precisely the way it is advertised to. When I'd seen Garmin ads describing how you need only to leave the 405CX near your computer after a workout and presto your full workout stats- pace, heart rate, elevation, calories burned, etc. including split data, and a map of the GPS captured route you took will be waiting for you when you return, I thought "yeah right". Yet it did exactly that- and more. Not enough room here or time to break down all the features, but I will say that logging onto GarminConnect a few minutes after my workout and seeing my route and stats on a Google Map (which can be shared/exported, by the way) it was one of those moments you rarely experience as a consumer. The ease of use and integration of features is extremely impressive. Unlike most devices (some of which I had been considering as an alternative like Suunto, Polar, etc.) the 405CX seems to be more "you" centric rather than you needing to spend days reading a manual to figure out how to make the gadget do what you want- and then falling short of that in the end. For instance, creating your own custom workouts with the downloadable Garmin software is easy and intuitive, and doesn't suffer from being inflexible as I've come to expect from other products. For these reasons, I have a feeling I'll get lots of regular use from this device, instead of it being forgotten in a closet or drawer somewhere after the novelty and has worn off or I can't remember how to use it without a refresher.

* GPS / route recording is superb
* HR monitoring and stat tracking are superb
* Bezel interface is easy to use, intuitive and well integrated

CONS: While the touch operated bezel is one of the features that sets this device apart from its competition, it's too easy to accidentally touch it and change the screen it's on during a workout. It has a screen-lock feature, but during a workout it's somewhat cumbersome to have to switch in and out of it to change a screen. Another minor complaint, but probably specific to me is that alerts are hard to read on the screen during a workout; the ability to configure to change the alert font would be nice.
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on February 14, 2010
I have been using the 405CX for a couple of weeks now and connecting it to my new iMac 27 running Snow Leopard. I'll break this down into 2 sections:

The Watch
I got rid of the plastic strap and use the velcro one instead. I love this strap, very comfy, good for different wrist sizes. The GPS locates very quickly and judging by the google map uploads it tracks extremely accurately, even down to 5 meters in some cases. It found my ANT+ heart rate monitor straight away and works very well. The customization for the scrolling multi pages is great. It's also a nice feature that it beeps AND lights up when you finish/intermediate distance. The pace monitor means you know how fast you're running each kilometer/mile. My wife has the more advanced triathlon watch but for me, the 405cx works perfectly for running and cycling.

The Software
I've read loads of OLD reviews about how flaky the upload software was particularly with a Mac. I can report that as of now, Feb 2010, I have not had any of these issues. The ANT+ stick is permanently in my imac and picks up the watch every time. The upload AND download to/from the ANT agent is perfect. The training center software is OK but nothing special. I don't bother with it anymore. I skip straight to the online Garmin Connect website which is awesome. The Google maps and google earth feature is fantastic. And I love the splits and playback function. The latest drivers fix all the connectivity problems with the mac.

Overall, a great device considering it looks like a normal watch and therefore does not make the owner look like a dork. The fact that it contains a GPS with playback course setting is also amazing. It's a very good product.

And for all the reviews before 2010, I would ignore anything about reliability as it's all been fixed now.
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on December 4, 2010
I bought this watch in late August. It started out great. Battery life was good, it found Satellites fast, I really loved it.

But now it is a little over 3 months later. The battery only lasts a couple of days, (there is no way to turn this thing completely off) and it takes forever (sometimes as long as 5 minutes) to find satellites.

I'm guessing there is something wrong with the acquisition and so it burns up the battery trying to acquire satellites. I do turn the GPS off when I store it but that doesn't seem to fix the battery life problem.

I have tried contacting Garmin but if you call you will be on hold for 45 minutes before you give up. I'm on my second e-mail and still waiting for a reply. Hopefully I will hear something soon and will update this with my progress if I get any.

UPDATE 12/11/2010: I received an e-mail from Garmin about performing a soft reset and also a reset to factory defaults. You must upload your data before performing either one if you want to keep it. The soft reset did not fix my satellite problem. The hard reset did. For both resets you hold both buttons on the side down until the unit powers off. For the hard reset, release the start button (the top one) while continuing to hold the lap button (the bottom one) after the power off until a pop-up menu appears. At that point you release the lap button and click the start button to reset to factory defaults.

UPDATE 1/16/2011: After performing the resets recommended by Garmin, I haven't had a single problem. I'm upgrading my 3 stars to 4 stars - knocking 1 star off because of the issue. But other than that it has been working great and as advertised.
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on July 19, 2010
I bought one of these to replace my old 305 which was stolen, and that in turn was a replacement for my original 205. The 205 and the 305 were brilliant devices that worked very intuitively and I was expecting the same standard with the 405.

But no. Unlike its predecessors, the 405 is annoying, hard to use and buggy.

These are my main gripes:

1. There is no "off" button.

Seriously, you cannot turn it off. So if you go for a run then toss it in the drawer the battery will go flat. The only solutions are to leave it on the charger, or plan your exercise long enough in advance to give this time to charge.

2. The screen is too small.

When I run I like to know my distance, time, speed and average speed. The 305, with 4 data fields, was fine for this. The 405 has only got 3 data fields of which only one is big enough to read on the go, which is not enough because;

3. The controls are completely useless.

The touch bezel is incredibly frustrating to use even when you're sitting on the couch. Trying to use it while running is like trying to thread a needle while running. The only way to manage it is to set the screen before you go and then don't touch it. So no scrolling through data fields on the go (and auto-scroll means you have to wait for ages to fleetingly see the data you are looking for). I've also heard that wet fabric will trigger the bezel if it comes in contact. I don't run in long sleeves but if you do it's one more thing to be wary of.

4. The backlight only stays on for 30 seconds. If you run at night or in the mornings with such a small screen you cannot read the display without the light. Turning it on requires touching the bezel which means you're just as likely to stop the clock or turn off the GPS as succesfully turn on the backlight. Doing that every 30 seconds is not practical or fun.

5. The speed readout does not seem to be accurate. Sometimes when I speed up I look at the screen and it says I've slowed down, and vice versa. It usually corrects after a minute or so but that never happened with the 305.

This is one of those rare situations where you can get a much superior product for a much lower price by just getting a 305 instead.

Hopefully the next generation will be better.
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on November 3, 2011
I was satisfied with my 405 CX for the first few months. Now it's nothing but a hassle. First, the HR monitor stopped functioning. I replaced the battery, but no luck. I jumped through a series of hoops and was able to regain the HR functionality. Now it stopped recording my rides. The recording will start but shuts off within a minute or two. It's total frustration.

I paid a lot of money for this device, and it should just work. I don't have time for this nonsense. I would highly recommend that you save your money and steer clear of the 405 CX. Totally disappointed. I wish I could give it zero stars but apparently that's no longer an option.

An update at as of Jan 6, 2012. The device did what it was supposed to do for the most part for the past few months. Now it's shutting off on me while I'm running. Do yourself a huge favor and pick something else. The 405 CX has been an ongoing hassle for me.

Update as of Feb 19, 2012. My 405 has been behaving very well as of late. No recent issues and I hope it stays that way.
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