Product Review: Garmin 405 Heart Rate Monitor

Sep 4, 2008 | fitness

Well I have been trialling the Garmin 405 for 8 weeks now, and I can tell you that this is the king of all heart rate monitors! If you want to know everything, and I mean everything about your run, ride, paddle, or ski then the Garmin Forerunner 405) is for you. This model includes heart rate monitor and GPS, and is priced at around AU$390 or US$350.  I have used many hear rate monitors in my time and this is my favorite by far!


Heart rate monitors generally fall into 3 categories:
– Basic heart rate monitors that just tell you your heart rate. (Try the Polar FS1)
– Heart rate monitors that tell you your heart rate as well as a bunch of other information such as calories burnt, laps and training zones. (Try the Polar RS200)
– Heart rate monitors that tell you all this information, as well as your distance and speed, by using either a foot pod (try the Polar RS800sd) or GPS. (like our Garmin Forerunner 405)


Knowing your heart rate while training is great, as it is a true indicator of how hard you are pushing. But if you are serious or starting to get serious about your training, then it’s great to have stats to tell you how far you have traveled and what pace you are running at.

In the past, GPS heart rate monitors had a separate, usually bulky, GPS unit that you had to carry around on an arm band. This was cumbersome and made the foot-pod models more popular, even though they were considered less accurate. The Garmin 405 has changed all that. It is the first heart rate monitor to combine the GPS function into the watch unit and pack it all into a sexy and functional device.


“Heart rate” all zones, percentages, splits included
“GPS” sat nav means you also get Speed/distance/pace/elavation and % incline
Calories burnt
Ability to set laps at distance or time.
Virtual training partner that tells you if you are faster/slower than target time
Interval training function.  For example you may set it so you run 1km, then rest 2 mins.  It tells you when to start, stop, with ten seconds warning. Simple, intermediate and advanced options.
Courses. You can set regular courses to run so it compares you with your last workout
Computer software that:
– Transmits data when you are within 3 meters of your computer
– Plots your course on google earth or
– Data can be viewed as graphed, tabulated, lap by lap, pretty much any way you want it
–  Compare with other workouts,
– Syncs with the Garmin website for even more advanced functions that I haven’t played with yet.

OK down to the nuts and bolts. I have been running with this watch for a while and it’s got a lot of features.

What I like:

  • It’s easy to use: I am by no means technologically savvy, yet I easily set it all up, and can change settings without any drama. I do suggest you follow the RTFM principal (read the freaking manual!). In no time I had it set up to automatically synchronize with my computer whenever I walked in the room.
  • The virtual partner: This is a very visual icon on your screen whereby you preset it at your goal pace (eg 5min/km) and as you run it tells you how far ahead/behind you are this lap. If you are ahead, the icon is black on white, and if you are behind it flips into white on black, which makes it easy to glance at while you are running. There is also 2 little stick figures running so you can get a visual as to how far ahead/behind you are. It was a saviour during the City to Surf this year!
  • The amount of info you can have on your screen: You can set the screen to rotate 4 times, and each rotation can have up to three pieces of data on it, which means there’s more to occupy your mind while you run. For example, the first screen you might set to have all your heart rate info on it, such as heart rate, average heart rate, and average heart rate last lap. The second screen might have all your distance and pace data on it. You can set it to show pretty much anything you want.
  • The ‘tap’ Bezel: Instead of pressing buttons, the circumference of the watch is a sensor (kind of like an ipod) that you tap to rotate screens and give commands. It’s much easier to use whilst running and gives the watch a sleeker look
  • The GPS function: Wow, this just adds a whole new dimension to running outdoors! Not only do you know exactly how far and fast you’ve gone, but you can plot your runs online. The GPS is remarkably accurate. I run through the CBD a lot and have yet to lose satellite reception.

What I don’t like:

  • You have to charge the battery: Like a mobile phone, you need to plug it in to charge and I find that the battery life won’t last much more than about 4 hours while the GPS is on. So if you run anything over about 30km, make sure it’s fully charged. The other day it had been completely out of battery for 3 days and I had to re-enter all my personal info again.
  • Sometimes it’s hard to read: Some of the data is written quite small, but this is adjustable. I like to see three things on each screen, but you can set it to only one or two.


Training with a heart rate monitor is mandatory for anyone remotely interested in improving their fitness. If you’re looking for the best, the Garmin 405 doesn’t come cheap, but it has all the features you’ll need, and scores top marks for functionality and usability.


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