243 of 265 people found the following review helpful
Interesting Device Hindered by Unreliable Software
, September 22, 2009
This review is from: Garmin Forerunner 405CX GPS Sport Watch with Heart Rate Monitor (Blue) (Electronics)
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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