(Pocket-lint) - The Garmin Forerunner series has long been a firm favourite with athletes, with a strong fan base in runners and triathletes. The combination of heart rate monitor with GPS functions providing all the information you need to accurately monitor and manage your training.
The new generation of watch is a step-up in design from the somewhat bulky Forerunner 301. Gone is the oblong slab on your arm – the Forerunner 405 is more like a conventional watch than ever before, a refinement of the move made with the 305.
At the core of the device you still have the same principles – a heart rate monitor strap worn around the chest, paired with the GPS receiver embedded in the wrist watch. The watch is the brains of the outfit, collecting the data to then be transferred to your PC for your analysis.
The watch is now controlled via two hard buttons - "start/stop" and "lap/reset" - and via the touch bezel of the watch. The bezel is divided into four main areas, time/date, training, menu and GPS. To access an area, simply touch and hold and that option is entered. To scroll up and down menus you simply run your finger around the bezel, and to enter an option and short tap selects that option.
During a workout, tapping the bezel will rotate through various screens of information. There is also a light activated by a two-fingered press.
We were a little dubious about touch control on a sports device, but the control is fairly intuitive once you know your way around the menus. We found that once sweaty, we could still make selections whilst running without too much difficulty.
That said, you don’t really need to enter the menus on the move, in reality you only need to use the hard buttons, and in this sense, a smart move from Garmin. Start/stop and lap options are a hard button press, so you can easily stop your timing after a sprint across the line without having to worry about the right sort of press on the bezel.
Those familiar with Garmin’s other Forerunner devices will recognise the unusual beeps, and nothing much as been done to enhance the graphics from previous incarnations. Things are still simple (and rightly so) and the familiar training partner screen gives you the same running stick person. The options are still the same as before, so you can select workouts, train in a particular heart rate zone or even run off a particular number of calories, perhaps to appeal to the weightloss crowd rather than the professional athlete.
In this sense the Forerunner sticks to its core purpose and that is serious training. Whether you are a novice or a professional, the Forerunner 405 is a great training companion. It won’t write you a training plan, but it will take the pain out of monitoring it, especially as it compiles your training diary through Garmin’s Training Centre software (more on this later).
GPS reception we found to be very good. Cold start times are a little slow, especially if you go racing out of the door for a run – the best option is to get your Forerunner out into the clear sky so it can lock on whilst you get changed or complete your warm-up. After that, we found it held the signal well – much better than the 301 which would suffer under even light tree cover. We run mostly along wooded paths and encountered no problems. Of course, all GPS devices suffer around tall buildings and thick overhead cover.
The chest strap also seems to be better than before. A common complaint with previous models was the heart rate monitoring dropping off, sometimes requiring a restart of the device to get a connection. This didn’t seem to be a problem with the 405 and the strap worked well both in running and cycling – no more jumps up to 228BPM that we found with the 301!
Whilst the 405 can cope with adverse weather conditions, it does state that you shouldn’t use it for swimming, which will irritate some triathletes out there.
Another change is the interface with the PC. The introduction of the USB ANT Stick means that the Forerunner 405 communicates wirelessly with your PC. No software is provided in the box, meaning you have head online to get the Garmin ANT Agent software. This then acts as a gateway to retrieve the information from your watch as well as send data – including firmware updates retrieved from Garmin’s website via Garmin Communicator.
Garmin’s free Training Centre will allow you to view your workouts, as well as plan new ones. You can choose a whole range of views and there are plenty of options which we won’t cover here. You can also choose to collate your data online via Garmin Connect. If you want to use a third party application you can also do so, and there are plenty of options for displaying your data, from Sports Tracks (although no native device support for the 405 yet) to MapMyRun.com.
Having been a fan of previous Forerunner models, the 405 certainly delivers enough to get excited about. The new form factor being is the most significant development here – whilst still chunky, you don’t feel as though you have a massive lump on your arm like previous models.
The system overall seems more reliable and gone are the frustrations of previous models. Garmin Training Centre is perhaps a little basic still (we prefer Sports Tracks), and it is a shame that no software is provided in the box – we suspect this is to push you towards registering your product online, something that is needed to access Garmin Connect.
For those serious about their training the Forerunner 405 delivers on its promises, putting a whole range of data at your fingertips, but at a price. With fitness add-ons appearing for a range of devices, such as mobile phones, you know that the Forerunner means business and easily beats the competition.