Monday, May 05, 2008

Garmin Forerunner 405 - Initial Impressions

I just got the new Garmin Forerunner 405 GPS running watch this past weekend and was able to use it for the 50k race. Right off the bat, the styling and elegant look of this watch made it one slick piece of running equipment. This thing is much smaller than the Forerunner 305/301 and actually looks like a watch rather than the albatross that was strapped to your wrist. Sorry, I just didn't like the size of the older Forerunner models. The fit was excellent around my wrist; the model 301 I had would make my wrist hurt after wearing it about 5 to 6 hours. Okay, I have boney wrists and I don't think most people would have the same problem. However, I was happy that it was very comfortable for me to wear all day.

The 405 seems to do all the things the 305 did and then some. It comes with only two buttons on the right side. The top one is the start/stop/enter button and the bottom one is for exit/quit. The bezel of the watch is a touch sensitive ring that allows you to scroll through the menu with a swipe of the finger and a simple tap to select menu items. This thing is like the ipod of sport watches. It is a joy to use. The bezel can be locked so accidental touches won't mess up the display, just simply press both buttons simultaneous and it locks and unlocks. Have you ever struggled to turn on the back light in the dark; well, on this watch, just simply touch two fingers on the bezel and the backlight toggles on and off - very slick. To enter the four modes, just touch and hold at the four designated and labeled areas on the bezel.

The 405 also doesn't have an "off" button. Now, it just goes into a power save mode in which the GPS portions goes to sleep to save battery and the unit functions pretty much like a regular watch.

The 405 now have up to 20 hours of recording capacity. It automatically stores routes and your run data to be downloaded to your computer wirelessly. That's right, wireless. And since it is wireless, now you can transfer route information from unit to unit. Can you imagine showing up for a new run and you get a download of the route straight to your watch? We just might never get lost on the trails again. One major bummer, however, is that Mac support won't be available until the Fall. Luckily, I have an Intel Mac and is able to run Windows through Bootcamp. If you have a G4 or G5 Mac, you are out of luck.

The display is smaller than the 301, and each of three screens only displays 3 fields. The 301 displayed four fields, but I was never able to really make use of the extra fields anyway. I usually just care about my pace, distance, and time when I run. If you do use three fields, the digits on the bottom fields are a little small and was a bit hard to read on the run. The battery lasted only 6 hours on my first full charge but the manual said it would last 8 hours. However, I didn't charge it overnight. I think the GPS receiver sensitivity is also better than the 301/305; I was able to receive satellite signals indoors at the bottom floor of my two story house. I have only done one run with this watch, more comprehensive observations will come in a later review.

Happy trails!