Customer Review

243 of 265 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars 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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Tracked by 1 customer

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Showing 1-10 of 10 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 13, 2009 10:04:14 AM PDT
Garmin released an update in August 2009 that solved the ANT transfer problem on my Mac running Leopard 10.5. I have chosen not to upgrade to Snow Leopard, so I don't know if there is a transfer problem with that.

If you use a Mac, then forget the Garmin software and buy a Mac program called Ascent. It is far superior and very easy to use. I use it for both running and bicycle riding.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 24, 2009 12:23:50 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Dec 5, 2009 3:36:01 PM PST
J. Budzinski says:
The transfer problems are better on Leopard with recent updates but still not reliable enough on either my iMac or MacBook Pro. Snow Leopard is much worse -- it often takes 3 or more attempts before success. Regarding the Garmin web site outages, these seem to have been minimal in the last couple of months but perhaps that is due to a seasonal drop off in traffic as we move into the cooler months in the Northern hemisphere. At the cost of the basic package plus accessories, I expect a pretty flawless experience. I'd still advise potential buyers to be sure they buy from a vendor that has a good return policy just in case their expectations are not met.

Posted on Dec 5, 2009 3:35:29 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 5, 2009 3:38:33 PM PST
J. Budzinski says:
Reliable transfers continue to be an issue on Snow Leopard with Garmin Ant Agent 2.1.4. It is not uncommon to wait through multiple transfer attempts before getting it to succeed. The computer transfer issues make the 405CX an incredibly frustrating device to use. Note that the kernel panic issue I mention in my original review appears to have been solved since I haven't encountered one in the last month of use.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 5, 2009 4:05:59 PM PST
I intentionally did not upgrade to Snow Leopard when it was released a few months ago because I knew that there would be a lag time between when programs that work fine on Leopard would work equally well with Snow Leopard, as is confirmed by the Snow Leopard forums. I appreciate your comment because it makes me more determined than ever not to upgrade now.

Posted on Feb 14, 2010 3:17:27 PM PST
I've been using the 405cx for a couple of weeks now on a new imac 27 with snow leopard. Not one problem at all using the ANT+ stick with the garmin connect webpage. I don't use the training center software though because it adds no value over the website. Every upload i've done has worked perfectly. So as of Feb 14th 2010 I can report zero problems using a Mac.

BTW, 1 star? Come on... That's not even harsh, it's a totally stupid rating to give this watch.

Posted on Apr 7, 2010 5:48:54 AM PDT
M. R. Rimmer says:
Battery life? I've had my 405 now for 18 months and the battery now dies when it reaches 60% remaining charge. So I guess it's not going to last much longer.

Posted on Sep 27, 2010 5:51:50 PM PDT
I've had my 405CX and Garmin ANT Agent running on my Mac since April 2010 and have had no problems at all. I don't even have to think about it. I walk in after a workout, set my watch down and my data automatically uploads. I am running Mac OS X 10.6.4 Snow Leopard.

Posted on Dec 29, 2010 9:24:07 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 29, 2010 9:25:47 AM PST
J. Budzinski says:
I'm still using this watch and have used it pretty frequently during the last year for biking, hiking, and skiing. The upload/transfer issues I described are mostly a thing of the past. On Snow Leopard, transfers are pretty reliable. The one issue that remains is a kernel panic (system crash) if you unplug the Ant stick without quitting Garmin Ant Agent first.

Reagarding reliability of the Garmin Connect website, things are also somewhat better. Outages are less frequent but still happen often enough to be a minor nuisance. Garmin also recently switched from Google Maps to Bing maps. The Bing maps seem less detailed and international users in particular should be aware of spotty coverage.

With respect to the watch itself, it is occasionally a bit flakey and the touch bezel registers phantom presses when wet (e.g. during rain, snow). The issues typically amount to annoyances rather than interfering with the primary function of the device. My battery is still holding up ok and gives me about 6 hours of use.

Looking at the device and service today, I would rate the combination closer to 3 stars. At the time I bought it originally, the software and related online service were just awful. Today, the software and service, while not great, are much improved.

Posted on Jan 18, 2011 8:35:51 PM PST
C. Schiffer says:
I am finding that this review is very accurate. I haven't even had a chance to test drive my new Garmin out but I spent nearly 4 hours trying to resolve one issue after another, now the actual Garmin watch is dead- won't turn on and doesn't seem to be charging at all. Perhaps I received a lemon but I am planning on returning this right away. I've read many reviews on garmin forums while trying to address each issue so this review is totally legitimate. It may not be a worthwhile investment for someone who is looking for a running gadget that is foolproof. This has many issues to work out.

Posted on Aug 21, 2011 1:49:57 PM PDT
J. Budzinski says:
I still have this watch and it still drives me crazy. After many firmware updates, the reliability has been improved. However, there are still problems that crop up regularly. Most of the problems are temporary annoyances: problems with ant transfers, web site outages, device flakiness. These problems happen enough to be aggravating but not as frequent as when I first picked the watch up. However, if I knew of a better alternative to the 405CX (from another vendor), then I'd probably buy it and put the overall poor Garmin experience behind me. For folks doing research on this product, nothing is more instructive than a visit to the Garmin technical support forums.
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