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Personal fitness tracking is a huge industry these days, and it really does work. Tracking your heart rate, speed, distance, and other vital metrics is a fantastic way to stay motivated, keep working out, and get to ever higher levels of performance, fitness, and wellness. After all, few things are more motivating than watching your own speed improve on tangible graphs and charts.

Today, I will be reviewing the Garmin Forerunner 405CX: a heart-rate monitor with a built-in GPS. The 405CX tracks your running or cycling in minute detail, then wirelessly connects to your computer and uploads your workout data to Garmin’s website, where you can peruse it at your leisure.

We bought this $270 Garmin Forerunner 405CX, so you can expect an honest, unbiased review. And of course, the cherry on top is that one lucky reader will win this review unit – participate in the giveaway at the end, and you too will have a chance to win it!

The Personal Fitness Monitoring Arena

garmin forerunner 405cx

To understand the Garmin Forerunner 405CX, or 405CX as I will be referring to it from now, we need to view it in the wider context of the personal fitness monitoring market. There’s a spectrum here: At the very first level, in terms of price, are smartphone apps like RunKeeper RunKeeper Adds Ability To Set Specific Goals And Inform Your Friends About Them [Updates] RunKeeper Adds Ability To Set Specific Goals And Inform Your Friends About Them [Updates] Read More and Adidas miCoach Adidas miCoach Helps You Get In Shape [Android 2.1+] Adidas miCoach Helps You Get In Shape [Android 2.1+] Spending days and nights in front of a computer usually results in great physique with well-defined muscles and an above-average aerobic stamina. Okay, maybe not so much. In case sitting in front of the computer... Read More . These apps do require a smartphone, but a smartphone is a versatile device which can be used for much more than just fitness tracking, and besides, you may already have one. These sit on the free to $10 range, and are a fantastic way to keep track of your fitness performance, as can be evidenced by their popularity. What these apps track essentially is time, distance, and speed, using your smartphone’s sensors (GPS and clock, really). Just knowing your elevation, path, and average pace, can make a huge difference in running and motivation – not to mention the social aspects of sharing exercise data and goals with friends.

Those who wish to give these apps a bit more oomph would need to move up into the next level in the spectrum: Accessories such as the $75 Zephyr HxM and $90 Polar WearLink+ Bluetooth transmitter. These are both heart-rate monitors which strap onto your body, wirelessly connect to your smartphone, and provide your fitness app with one more data stream – the all-important heart rate. In theory, with one of these, your smartphone is the ultimate fitness tracking instrument. But one problem remains: Checking how you’re doing mid-run. Pulling out your huge smartphone might be awkward, as will be running with it strapped to your wrist. You can always run with headphones and listen to audio cues, but not all apps have them, and they may not be as effective as just keeping an eye on your stats.

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And this brings us to the next and final level in our spectrum: Full-blown personal heart rate monitors, such as the $210 Polar FT60 and the $270 Garmin Forerunner 405CX. These look like bulky wrist watches, but connect to a heart rate monitor and provide you with an ongoing data feed and training guidance which you can see at a glance mid-stride, without having to fumble with your phone. But if you already have a smartphone, should you really shell out $270 for the Garmin Forerunner 405CX? Let’s find out.

What’s In The Box?

garmin forerunner 405cx

The 405CX ships with an impressive bundle of accessories. In the middle column of this image, you can see the large plastic HRM (heart rate monitor) sensor strap, two alternative watch straps, the user’s manual, the charging dock, and the Garmin ANT+ wireless communicator (the bit that looks like a disk-on-key at the bottom). On the left, you can see included tools, as well as the international charger with its three interchangeable wall plugs. And last but not least, on the right is the CX450 itself – a rather bulky device.

Design and Aesthetics

garmin forerunner 405cx

The Garmin Forerunner 405CX is a bulky watch, even compared to the large FT60. Above you can see the men’s FT60 (left), the 405CX, and then a badly-scuffed ladies’ FT60. The FT60 doesn’t contain a built-in GPS, which explains why it’s so much smaller than the 405CX.

garmin forerunner 405cx

It’s also significantly thicker, as you can see above.

garmin forerunner 405cx

Unlike the FT60, the 405CX does not contain a user-replaceable battery. Instead, the battery is rechargeable via two tiny contacts, shown above, which the included charger clips onto. Another major difference is that the FT60 battery lasts up to a year of normal use, while the 405CX is rated for two weeks in power-save mode. That’s quite a difference, and again, it can be attributed to the 405CX’s built-in GPS and its sophisticated touch interface, which we’ll soon look at.

Another area in which the 405CX is noticeably bulkier is the HRM strap itself:

garmin forerunner 405cx

Below you can see a standard Polar WearLink strap (front) contrasted with the 405CX strap. The Polar strap is very thin and flexible, and its HRM sensor part clips on and off. With the Garmin, the sensor is built right into the strap, which is largely made of plastic and is much more massive.

garmin forerunner 405cx

Here, you can also see the WearLink sensor itself, which is noticeably smaller than the Garmin’s sensor part. The only advantage I could find for the Garmin’s strap is that you don’t need to wet it before using it: You simply strap it on, and it finds your pulse. With the Polar, you must put the strap under a cold water tap and then strap it on when it’s wet – not a fun way to start a training session, really.

Charging The Garmin Forerunner 405CX

garmin forerunner 405cx review

The 405CX ships with a proprietary charger clip which looks a bit like a pulse oximeter (you know, the ones they strap onto your finger at the hospital). At its other end is a USB cable which you plug into the charger, and then you just latch the clip onto the watch so that its two tiny “teeth” bite into the contacts on the back of the watch:

garmin forerunner 405cx review

A full charge takes around 2-3 hours.

The Touch Interface

garmin forerunner 405cx review

Above you can see me configuring the watch – I am not just holding it by the bezel. The bezel itself is touch-sensitive, even though it is made of plastic. In fact, it is even multi-touch: Touch it with two fingers, and the 405CX’s blue backlight turns on. The touch interface sounds great on paper, but was really quite annoying to use. You scroll through menus by running your finger around the bezel and confirm by tapping the bezel once, but many of my gestures were not correctly identified. While the interface doesn’t work well for lengthy configuration sessions, it is well-suited for use while running, when you don’t have time to fumble with the buttons.

Training With The Garmin Forerunner 405CX

garmin forerunner 405cx review

To test the 405CX, I strapped it on and took it for a light stroll. Once outside, I had to pause for a moment while the watch got its bearings and tracked down enough GPS satellites. This took less than a minute, and was illustrated with a simple progress bar. I then started walking (I didn’t actually run this time), and walked for a few minutes before realizing I never actually linked the 405CX with the HRM strap. I paused, navigated the menus for a few moments, and that was it: The watch identified the HRM and instantly connected, and heart rate data started transferring. That’s when I took the picture you see above.

garmin forerunner 405cx review

One of the ways the 405CX tries to motivate you is by providing you with a virtual workout buddy you can jog with. Here you see that I’m lagging behind my imaginary friend by a whopping 23:53 minutes – it went running ahead and didn’t stop to see why I’m not moving. That’s what you get for having imaginary friends, I guess.

garmin forerunner 405cx review

As you train, you can touch each of the bezel’s four main areas (top, bottom, left, right) to get information about different aspects of the session. Touching the bezel’s left side, for example, pops open the GPS menu. Using this menu you can verify that the GPS is indeed on, and monitor your current accuracy. This is a very cool display, and the Garmin had absolutely no trouble tracking me down to five meters, even though I was walking in narrow streets surrounded by tall buildings.

garmin forerunner 405cx review

The 405CX features several training-mode displays, and they are fully customizable.You can have up to 3 personal screens, and get to decide how many metrics (1-3) to show on each screen, as well as what those metrics would be. To me, this shows Garmin really gets that the primary reason to use a watch HRM these days is to see data at a glance. By providing absolute customization, Garmin guarantees that you will have the exact display that’s useful for your training style. This is one of the most impressive parts of the 405CX experience.

Computer Connectivity

garmin forerunner 405cx review

Once you are done with your training session, it is time to upload your data to the Web and see how you did. This is done using the included USB ANT Stick: You set up Garmin’s software, plug in the stick, and it then recognizes the watch is nearby and asks to pair with it:

garmin forerunner 405cx review

Once you confirm, it asks for your free Garmin Connect account credentials so it knows where to upload your training data:

garmin forerunner 405cx review

It then crunches along for a few moments, transferring data. This was pretty slow: Transferring just a single session took around four minutes.

garmin forerunner 405cx review

Once that’s done, you can log on to Garmin Connect and see your session:

garmin forerunner 405cx review

And of course, drill into the session for the nitty gritty details:

garmin forerunner 405cx review

There is also a map (minimized above for obvious reasons). I compared the 405CX’s built-in GPS to my Galaxy S II GPS by tracking the same session with RunKeeper, and the maps came out basically identical, so GPS tracking is at least as good as on the Galaxy S II (which means it is very good). You also get a nice summary of your session, as well as time and elevation charts.

Should You Buy The Garmin Forerunner 405CX?

This time, there is no simple answer to this question. If you are just starting out with personal fitness monitoring, then probably not. Try out a few of the free and inexpensive apps and see how it goes first. The Garmin Forerunner 405CX is at the very end of the spectrum, so I would say you should buy it only if you know you will really use an HRM, know that an HRM that connects to your phone isn’t good for what you need, and are sure you really need the Garmin’s built-in GPS and can’t go with the cheaper, less bulky FT60 because it doesn’t contain an HRM. If all of these are true, then sure – the Garmin is an excellent device for what it does, and provides a solid fitness tracking experience.

As with most MakeUseOf reviews, we’re giving this review unit away to one lucky reader.

How do I win the Garmin Forerunner 405CX?

It’s simple, just follow the instructions. Please note that we’ve included a new entry method which utilises your MakeUseOf points.

Step 1: Fill in the giveaway form

Please fill in the form with your real name and email address so that we can get in touch if you are chosen as a winner. Click here if you can’t view the form.

The giveaway code required to activate the form is available from our Facebook page, our Twitter stream and Google+ page.

The giveaway is over. Congratulations, Tony Bradshaw!

Step 2: Share!

You’re almost done. Now, all that’s left to do is to share the post!

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This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, June 22nd. The winner will be selected at random and informed via email.

Spread the word to your friends and have fun!

Interested in sponsoring a giveaway? We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with us via the form at the bottom of this page.

  1. Amit P
    June 25, 2012 at 7:55 am

    I'm quite the fitness freak. Probably I could give it a long-term twirl between my workout sessions, tennis, golf and of course...morning runs. Couldn't get more comprehensive, could I? Thanks.

  2. Sary
    June 23, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    congratulations Mr. Tony

  3. Linda
    June 23, 2012 at 3:22 am

    Considering the pros and cons, it is so much better than the original Garmin Forerunner that I have, which is basically watching the little man walk around a rinky-dink map. Yes the chest strap is a little bulkier than the Polar strap that I use on my rowing machine but I never "wet" it to get started, is just finds the rate quickly and is damp in no time. Having recently been cross-training with jogging and alternating with the rower, this would really lighten my load of carry-ons when hitting the sidewalk. I don't want to be bogged down with multiple electronics and can combine a couple of them with this item. It saves struggling with the contacts on my Mio HR watch often slowing down to get a good read and carrying a gps-type device to track my time and distance. This is definitely an item I'd get some use from, a little now but a whole lot more when it's not 92*F at 5 a.m.!

  4. Yogesh Verma
    June 22, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    today is june 22nd when they are gonna select winner

  5. Saurabh Kumar
    June 22, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    Great giveaway

  6. Johan
    June 22, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    Great item. Very welcome

  7. David
    June 22, 2012 at 10:10 am

    Just what I am looking for to monitor my progress and fitness levels.

  8. C
    June 22, 2012 at 6:59 am

    very nice new garmin gadget.. will it be nice on my hand?

  9. Keith Evans
    June 22, 2012 at 6:22 am

    Very nice, wish i had one!

  10. Ron
    June 22, 2012 at 6:12 am

    Great contest! Thanks.

  11. sai
    June 22, 2012 at 6:02 am

    It's a very good app to have for health conscious persons.

  12. Yogesh Verma
    June 22, 2012 at 5:41 am

    i want it
    good luck to all

  13. Mayur Godhani
    June 22, 2012 at 5:16 am

    I never discovered about this product before, but after reading its features i want one !

  14. Craig Stock
    June 22, 2012 at 3:32 am

    Anyone got the time?

  15. WayAce King
    June 22, 2012 at 1:17 am

    I would really like one of these so when I go for walks I can keep track of all my Stats and be able to transfer them to my computer, thank you for the chance to win this great prize and good luck to all :)

  16. Ali Lou
    June 22, 2012 at 1:16 am

    Like this, need motivation and this would be helpful by having all the stats to keep track on the computer as well. Knowing the information whilst exercising or walking is a plus so don't over do it. My heart be thankful, lol.

  17. David Bathurst
    June 22, 2012 at 12:18 am

    This would be a big help in my Get-Fit-Plan!

  18. Kevin Fegan
    June 21, 2012 at 11:37 pm

    Awsome!! Please let me know if I won this.
    Thanks!!

  19. David Burks
    June 21, 2012 at 11:33 pm

    I love being a tech geek

  20. Cristian
    June 21, 2012 at 11:14 pm

    Is this offer available for people abroad?

    • Erez Zukerman
      June 22, 2012 at 10:30 am

      Absolutely: MakeUseOf is one of the few tech blogs that are truly international. We'll send this gift -anywhere- in the world, not just to the US or Canada!

  21. Miowname
    June 21, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    Interesting but seems like a steep learning curve and big just to track exercise.
    Seems like too much for most people.

  22. moe3ius
    June 21, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    Exist a version of this kind of equip for swim???
    or you can use this Garmin in the pool????
    Wish me luck!!!!

    • Erez Zukerman
      June 22, 2012 at 10:31 am

      First of all, luck!!!! :)

      Second, nope -- can't swim with it! There might be other watches for that (I know Polar has some), but not with this Garmin.

  23. GeminiVibes
    June 21, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    Getting back to running, after a bit of break, but I am into Spinning...HRM is the key!!!

  24. Jim "Lumpy" Lumpkins
    June 21, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    Would make an excellent tool.

  25. Richard
    June 21, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    Cool stuff!

  26. Stephen
    June 21, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    These giveaway's are so much fun!

  27. Lucinda
    June 21, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    Would love to win this for my daughter who is starting cross country. Thanks for the review.

    • Tylicia
      June 21, 2012 at 6:01 pm

      I would love to win this seeing I am going back to exercise! Better to be safe than sorry at any age :) Good luck everyone!

  28. Frank
    June 21, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    look great.

  29. Alan Tong
    June 21, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  30. Howard Eddy
    June 21, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    My eldest daughter who used to work in Boston for a company was responsible for much of the digital and I.T. stuff for an Adidas product that was similar to this. However I believe this piece of equipment is a bit more sophisticated as the Adidas did not have the GPS and is now already a couple generations older. I am under the impression that the Adidas product probably paved the way for these devices and companies now are basically using their (Adidas') already ground-breaking technology for their now creations with some improvements of course. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery I guess!

  31. Howard Eddy
    June 21, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    My daughter used to work in Boston for a a company where she was responsible for much of the digital and I.T work for an Adidas product that was very similar to this but without a GPS. This piece of equipment may be a bit more sophisticated though as I believe the Adidas is already a couple generations older and probably paved the way for this and others like it.

  32. James Saliba
    June 21, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    Nice gadget and worth having one if one train seriously....

  33. Veronica
    June 21, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    Mike makes a good point, the instant data upload is a bonus against sitting down all sweaty and looking for wires. The detailed software is impressive. I'm interested to see if the device would be useful to track non-verbal teens.
    Good Luck Everyone!

  34. Linda Ann
    June 21, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    Great way to stay motivated and doing it healthy by monitoring your body.
    Great review, would love this for my rehabilitation. Thanks, Lynda
    Twitter: RiLynda
    Email: rilynda@gmail.com
    Facebook: Linda Ann

  35. Leroy whyte
    June 21, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    Really nice gadget - that i'd give a s gift to a hyper active freind of mine!

  36. Carol K
    June 21, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    I'm in to win! What a great gift to me for my upcoming birthday.

  37. glenn
    June 21, 2012 at 4:13 pm

    nice item

  38. apn58
    June 21, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    i like to have one!

  39. Alpesh Dangodara
    June 21, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    I just started doing iNSANITY.. Would love to have one of these. My heart rates shoots up but i don't have anything to monitor it.

  40. Shailesh Kumar
    June 21, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    This the best time for this giveaway, when I was actually looking for one of this cool gadget, for my help on m cardio workout....

  41. Laurence Moore
    June 21, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    Looks like a fantastic peace of kit and would love to be the lucky winer

  42. Joe Fowler
    June 21, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    i want it

  43. Joe Fowler
    June 21, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    I could use this one , hope I win

  44. salvador hernandez
    June 21, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    I could definitely use this.

  45. larrypmNL
    June 21, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    nice prize. great for a gift.

  46. Vampie C.
    June 21, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    This is one fine piece of equipment :-)

    Would fit perfectly in my cycling schema :-)

  47. Kim Paula Guess
    June 20, 2012 at 6:50 am

    Awesome giveaway! :)

  48. Ben
    June 18, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    Beats phone apps!

  49. c4win
    June 17, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    Great Giveaways ! Good Luck to the winners ! :d

  50. Max
    June 16, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    I want it

  51. Ravinder Putta
    June 16, 2012 at 6:56 am

    Thanks for the giveaway :-)

  52. Mike R
    June 16, 2012 at 1:43 am

    Have run over 3,000 miles using my Forerunner 305. Great watch but kinda clunky and the buttons are starting to show wear. Have always had a 400 series on the radar. This one looks like a gem!

  53. zug
    June 16, 2012 at 12:02 am

    love running and the outdoors.. this would compliment my activity well

  54. Mike_Seattle
    June 15, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    I’ve been using my 405cx for about 2 years now and love it. Previously, I was using my iPhone 3G and Erez’s comments about using a smart phone are spot on, while useful very difficult to get immediate stats.

    It took me awhile to figure out the nuances of working the bezel to change and select menus but now it’s pretty easy, you can also lock the bezel by push both the side buttons at once. If you don’t lock the bezel you can accidently make menu changes or selections by touching the bezel with any part of your skin. Like butt dialing your phone ;)

    I like that as soon as I come back from my run and within range the ANT automatically downloads the data without any action from me. Last thing I want to do while all sweaty is sit down and mess with my laptop. I get more useful information from the online dashboard than the included desktop software, it may be just the interaction and look is better.

    The size and shape of the watch took a bit of getting used to, I now wear it on the inside of my wrist for easier viewing while running.

    The only thing I think its missing is a cadence function, that would make hitting my pace goals much easier. I recommend this watch for anyone who wants to improve their current training program or is training for any type of activity and goal. Whomever wins this is really going to enjoy it!

    • Erez Zukerman
      June 16, 2012 at 1:14 pm

      Wow, thanks for the awesome comment! It's almost a mini-review in itself. Very interesting and useful to read feedback from someone who's been using the product for two years -- thank you!

    • Christian Haynes
      June 21, 2012 at 4:51 pm

      If you purchase and link the footpod then you have cadence for running / walking.

      The other nice feature is this works for those that cycle also. It is an additional module that mounts to your bike and provides more details like speed and cadence.

  55. mizdoc
    June 14, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    What an awesome giveaway. Always wanted a Garmin Fore-runner, but couldn't afford it. Sure would help encourage me to get to the gym and go for walks.

  56. Abdul wadood
    June 14, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    what a pretty watch

  57. Wendyworks
    June 14, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    I need one of these so I can keep up to the grandkids on the geocache hikes.

  58. Do Huy Ngoc
    June 14, 2012 at 11:01 am

    the watch is great. wish i had

  59. Jeffrey S
    June 14, 2012 at 7:02 am

    I'm in!!!
    Good luck to all !!!

  60. Yudono Ra
    June 13, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    let me win :D

  61. randy
    June 12, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    i like to have one

  62. Karthik Krishnan
    June 12, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    This is potentially the best friend and motivator for obese chaps who wish to make a change in their lives. Incidentally, this means me ;)

  63. Oleksandr Oksyuta
    June 12, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    I am fond of inline skates, and this gadget would be very useful to monitor my progress and GPS tracking my routes.

  64. Dany Bouffard
    June 12, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    I would like to get my hands on this one to give as a gift for one my friend birthday. Coming soon.

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