Of all Garmin’s fitness watches, the Forerunner 405 is the most sophisticated, but also the most stylish.
This is mainly thanks to a touch-sensitive ring that keeps buttons to a minimum, but it’s helped by a 124x95 dot-matrix LCD display that allows the 405 to display reasonably complex levels of information without having a large, multi-section display like its Forerunner 305 and 205 brethren. The screen also has a user-activated blue backlight for running in the dark.
Big but beautiful
It’s still a big watch, but one that you could wear under a shirt without drawing any odd looks. Given that it contains a GPS receiver and a battery that’s good for a full day’s activity, its size is remarkable.
The 405 has to be charged using a USB cable with clip-on attachment. The watch will flatten its own battery in a week or so even if you’re not using it for training, but it goes into a trance at about three per cent battery life and doesn’t lose any data.
It’s worth noting that the USB charging attachment cannot be used for data transfer to a PC. For that the Forerunner has built-in ANT+Sport wireless technology and a USB receiver stick.
Running and cycling modes
The 405 uses GPS to measure speed, distance, time and height data. It will also communicate with an optional heart rate monitor or foot pod pedometer.
It’s designed primarily for running sports, but it can also be switched to cycling mode, and has many of the same capabilities as Garmin’s handlebar-mounted Edge cycling products, albeit with a smaller screen and the inconvenience of having to raise your arm to see what’s happening.
It can also handle basic navigation tasks, the most useful of which is guiding you back to wherever you first activated it that day (for example, the car park). Perfect if you’ve blazed off into the woods and forgotten how you got there.
It navigates using a simple direction arrow and distance display, which users of handheld GPS units will be familiar with. You can also store up to 100 locations and the 405 will navigate to them, or you can manually enter a latitude and longitude (but sadly not a postcode).
Using the 405 is initially simple, but rapidly becomes quite complex. It’s all down to the touch-sensitive bezel, which can be touched, touched-and-held, and scrolled in a circular motion – all of which perform different actions.
If you use it a couple of times a week, you’ll get used to it, but it can be frustrating. You also have to remember to lock the bezel to stop accidental mode changes during your run.
Out on the trail
In use the Forerunner 405 works well. The GPS receiver locks on reasonable quickly and is rarely fazed by buildings or tree cover.
The screen is clear – once you’ve learned how to get it to show what you want. You can choose between three training screens and customise the information that’s shown there.
So you might have direction and speed on one screen, with heart rate and pace on another. You can also set basic goals for your workout.
Once back at home it is reasonably easy to transfer you training data to a PC where Garmin’s software will graph your run/cycle so you can compare.
It also shows your track on a basic basemap of the UK, although the data is compatible with more advanced mapping software like Memory Map. You can also upload your data to the online Garmin Connect training community, but showing off isn’t cool, you hear?
We’re big fans of the Forerunner 405, but mostly because we’re geeky enough to persevere with the unintuitive touch-senitive bezel, and because the idea of a satellite-sensing watch appeals to us.
If style isn’t important to you, and pure ease-of-use is, the uglier, fully-buttoned Foreunner 305 or 205 might be a better choice. For cyclists, the Edge products are certainly a better option. But, we’ll take the 405 – it’s a proper gadget.