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Tag "forerunner 405"

The two GPS units provided by Garmin are now in use for the UrbanDiary project for one ful year and this seems a good point to follow it up with a review of the use and performance of the device. This is a follow up from the first test review published on urbanTick a year ago. Since then 365+ days have elapsed and we are still going.
And really to take it up front, the performance is through out impressive and completely positive. The few minor points we’ll be talking about later on, but for the most of it both units performed perfect every day year through out the seasons. This is a great result.
Since they arrived back in April 2009 they were in use every day for the whole day. This puts them to a usage time of some 200’000 minutes. During this time the have collected some 800,000 track points with time-space information for the UrbanDiary project.
The UrbanDiary project is run by urbanTick and is an investigation to record the spatial extension of everyday persona routines in the city. The two 405 units have been used for a longtime study. Two participants used them for the whole year to track their movement.

Image by urbanTIck for urbanDiary / GPS tracking over one year by two participants. Person a is covering in pink the western end of the map and person b is moving around central and north London.

For the previous review the comparison of the Foretrex 201 was used. This proved to be not really comparable, since the forerunner 405 performed so much better. This time we could use the iPhone or a like to compare. To be honest, this, even though we tried it, is nothing you want to do for a whole year. Tracking with the 405 on your wrist is such a convenient thing to do, after two days you forget that it is there. Apart from a slightly paler tan around your wrist in summer there are no longterm complications.
The satellite reception is through out very good with little errors in the resulting records. In fact only a handfull of points needed manual corrections out of the 800,000 records in the database. Here in London there are a particular locations were a signal is weak or lost. For example on the DLR it is even for the 405 difficult and most of the time impossible to get a decent signal due to the glass used in the carriages that prevent the satellite signal to penetrate.
One of the points of critique is the Bezel, the main input element on the device. It touch sensitive navigation is not without hicks and there is nothing more annoying than having this creepy feeling of a tool not responding the way it is intended to. This is to say that the technology works very well, but the few hangs and glitches are probably more annoying than anything else. Occasionally the Bezel will simply not register anything. Not sure if this is connected to wet, or cold fingers, but usually locking and unlocking the device will help with this. The second point is the missing feedback from this method of input. Having a click or any tactile and audio respons would improve the experience quite a bit.
A second point of critic should be on how the device handles the information. There is no option to delete something or manage the data directly on the device. This can only be done via the desktop software. More importantly the device does not inform about the state of the internal storage. So no clue give if the storage is full and worse the device simply starts overwriting the old information. So one has to be careful and regularly sync. And this regularity depends on the activity. If you are out for a week on a tour and recording everyday most of the day, more frequent syncing is required compared to a normal working week where you could probably go for the whole seven days without syncing.
Over this quite long period obviously the bodys of the watches have taken a few hits and this is now visible as scratches and marks. This is again mainly the Bezel that shows most of the markings. There is a exposed kerb around the display and this is where the hits go. As a result this area is partly black instead of the initial golden colour. There are two three scratches o the rest of the plastic body but they are less prominent even though larger. The material copes well with it. Also the actual wrist band looks pretty good, probably not like new, but there are no sweat marks as one might expect.
The second important point of critique is the battery life. This is not really the devices fault. The longterm performance of the battery, in fact is very good, with no sign of earlier battery drain after a continuos usage for a whole year of using and charging every day. And this is the point, the device needs charging every day. It has out of the box an about 8 hours battery life. It would be nice if this could be longer. For now to use it continuously one has to addable the habit of plug in every night. The charging time however is impressively quick. One hour is good, two hours wil probably fill it. And you’ll have it filled up 100% under three hours. The USB charger has the benefit of working with your computer or laptop, so there is never far to go to charge it. For outdoor usage in this post the use of the 405 with the freeoaderPro solar charger was reviewed. It is a realy good solution for when you are on the road and the weather is nice.

Image by urbanTick / The two devices after constant use for one year, every day, all day.

Regarding the buttons, for one there is the missing power button to mention. I still kind of think this would be something to have. Probably mainly because it needs the charging essentially. It is designed as a watch and no one turns the watch off before they go to bed, but I guess this is one of the points were it doesn’t quite work out to be two things at once. I woud like to turn the thing off, preserving battery and starting it up, with a ful battery, as I need it, the next morning. Currently it turns off if the battery is dead and it turn straight on while charged. It has to be said on is usually sleep mode, e.g. displaying the time. We have also debated weather the option to turn on the satellite reception is a needed option? In the context of the UrbanDiary project there was no use of the device without the GPS, tracking is required constantly. For other uses however, there might be a benefit to being able to preserve battery, if you are training at the gym for example. The way to handle it in our case is not to touch the satellite setting, but to start-stop the timer. Stop the timer will put the device in sleep mode after one minute, turning on the timer wil prompt the device to lock to the available satellites, as simple as that – almost a power button.
The design is very simple and quiet. Not a product to attract too much attention for its shape or colour. It fits for everyday use, however it is sort of a cross mix that is a bit undecided. In the long run one might wish it were a tick more distinct. But this is maybe a personal preference for subtile statements. On the other hand the design cleverly conceals the rel size and clunkyness of the thing. I have voted for the green model back then and still would, the black model seems to hard to me, but I am aware that a lot of people prefer it. Maybe an extended colour palet with dark red and a yellowish-orange would be something. Maybe for an urbanTick special edition?

To sum up, as already stated in the introduction the Garmin forerunner 405 is a really great tool and performs to a standart of its own. The price is high, for a full set between £280-300, but this is in the long run very well invested. If you are tracking and able to charge it frequently this is the tool for you. Lets see how it goes in the second year with different participants.

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I have been away for a few days, away from the desk and away from the city and away from my computer and away from some power sockets. Away really from quite a lot of the routines I normally repeat daily or even hourly.
Although I have been away from quite a lot I did not separate from my GPS and my iPhone. So some solutions regarding the power management had to be found. Great idea, solar chargers are available and not any longer really expensive. So I checked out the options and very soon was able to narrow it down to devices that could probably do the job of powering two iPhones, two GPS both Garmins but different plugs, and Camera. Al this over the period of a couple of days so no big deal one might think.
The two options were the powerMonkey and the Freeloader. I got some advice from Andy over at digitalUrban and he was testing the powerMonkey not very successfully a couple of month back, so I made the decision to go for the Freeloader, mainly because the new FreeloaderPro comes with a wide range of adapters for all sorts of devices from iPhone/iPod to mobile phone and PSPs on 5.5 V and can now also charge a wide range of Camera and Camcorder batteries on 9.5 V. Also the option to extend the solar panel with the FreeloaderSupercharger made a lot of sense.
So I went down the road into the nearest Maplin store and bought both, the FreeloaderPro and the FreeloaderSupercharger. Happy and feeling prepared I left all the routine and habits related to the stuff mentioned earlier behind me and head of.
To get straight to the point it was a bit of a disappointment really. I worked out very well in the beginning regarding the FreeloaderPro as a battery to recharge the devices. The FreeloaderPro works as a solar collector and charges its internal battery that on the other hand can then charge the device. Apparently not simultaneously both at the same time, meaning it has to charge itself first and can only then recharge. A bit annoying but there you go. Anyway it worked at first because I did, while following the instructions on the box charge the FreeloaderPro while still at home straight through its USB port to fill its internal battery.
Why do I need to charge my iPhone so frequently, it would normally last for half a week easily you might ask. I just love the little app on my phone that enables timeLapse p​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​hotography and it basically runs all the time and having photos taken back to back seems quite power intensive so the battery runs down ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​quick.

Image by UrbanTick – left FreeloaderSupercharger charging the FreeloaderPro, right same on the move.

The charging of the GPS, a Garmin Forerunner 405 works all right, is quick and the device full. The iPhone is more o a problem though. It does charge up rather quick trough the USB port, but it would only go up to about three-fourth (having the FreeloaderPro full). This was expected, as the explanations on the website already warned about this issue, but on top of this, the battery run out much quicker. So the iPhone was showing a large green, almost full battery sign, but it would only last for an hour.
The even bigger problem occurred as the FreeloaderPro appeared not to charge up again properly. It would not trough out all the sunny days we had charge for more than half full. Not with the FreeloaderSupercharger connected via USB to it and not on its own either. I tried it for a number of days and the weather could not have been better!
Mid week I had to give in and get my iPhones charged at the normal power socket in the wall. This was probably the low point of it all, as I had really high expectations. Anyway one good thing I discovered afterwards was that the FreeloaderSupercharger works very well on its own for the Garmin Forerunner 405. The 405 come with a USB cable to charge so it can be directly connected and charges up rather quickly to a nearly full 98% with a good seven hour battery live afterwards, This trick does not work for the iPhone, somehow the amount of energy delivered seems not to be high enough for the device to recognize as being charged.
Some side notes on the FreeloaderPro are issues with the status light. It is nearly impossible to see it in the sunlight and where else would you use it? Not even shading it with my hands made a big difference, I usually had to take it under my t-shirt to be able to see if there where any light on and what colour they where at. The other issue is with plugholes and robustness. To me such a device should be built for the outdoor use and the FreeloaderPro certainly does not have that feeling to it. I did not test it towards this but it does not have a very robust feeling to it. And being at the beach with sand Covers for the plugholes would be nice. Also better fit for the cables, while having it attached to the backpack often the USB plugs would disconnect with the movement so after a while you find that it did not charge at all because it got disconnected.
To sum up it has been a bit disappointing as said before, but I still believe in the concept. It is small it is light and it is relatively cheap and it should work.

Image by UrbanTick – left FreeloaderSupercharger charging a Garmin Forerunner 405, right trying the same with an iPhone.

The timeLaps imagery will be ready to be put online soon so you can see what all this struggle was intended to do. – These timeLapse are now online.

There will also be an update on the Freeloaders functionality shortly. I have been in contact with the guys producing them and they have sent me a brand new one. I will update you in a post.

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We have been using the Garmin Forerunner 405 now for more than a week and it’s time to look at this tool again. An earlier post was all about how great this device feels and looks, but this time we want to go a bit deeper into how it is to actually use it.
The two devices we have at the moment where in use pretty much non-stop ever since we got our hands on them. And getting the hands on them or better your finger is one of the highlights of this tool – the Bezal – as it is called by Garmin is the companies answer to apples iPod wheel. It works as a touch sensitive ring around the clock face, but other than the iPod is has no click, only touch. The fact that one can actually touch it and communicate through touch makes for a great relationship right from the start, although the device’s respond is not always as expected. The Bezal does play up and sometimes reads touches as rotations or rotations as touches, I suppose this is what the click wheel is all about. The settings for this input method are great and after testing them one can definitely find a personal best fit.
But to get things in a bit more order we’ll restart this review with the setup process. Lovely how the device it self actually gives you an introduction. At first startup the 405 introduces itself as the instruction on screen get you to use all the methods of input. This is very nice and works very well, as one is able to use the device straight away.
The first satellite connection then sets the devices date and time and your ready to go. The first satellite fix the device got really quickly. Something under two minutes, which for a central London location and inside a court, is really good.
To start tracking, two settings need to be made. One is to turn the GPS receiver on and the other one, the one I only realized after my first trip around the block was not recorded, the timer needs to be started. This makes it at first glance a bit more complicated than the previous device 201, where only to turn on the device was required.
Then off you go and you are tracked and this means tracked! Once the signal is established there is hardly anything that brings the 405 to loose it. Again this is tested in central London in narrow streets with high buildings, on buses and so on. The accuracy is generally around 7 to 9 meter. Sometimes it is actually a bit scary, when you are inside the kitchen of your ground floor flat and the device still tells you 9m accuracy or your sitting on a double-decker bus on the lower floor in an aisle seat and check your device – 7m! Being used to a 201, the reception of the 405 is a dream!
On the other hand being used to a 201 the information on the 405 is much reduced. The display is obviously smaller, but the information one can aces is also reduced. I assume Garmin aims at another target group with the 405 and they decided, that for training less information is good enough. For example there is no altitude information, no information about actual speed or location. Also, compared to the 201 the compass and the track record map are not a feature of the 405 and so are all the information’s about sunrise, sunset and so on. Further there is to mention that one screen usually only gives the user one type of information. Say on the time screen only the time and the date is displayed, but not the satellite connection or any timer information. So if you are interested in what is going on as you are on the go, you find yourself tapping and turning all the way.
To get to the input methods from there, the Bezel as much as we have fallen in love with it in the first place is not always one hundred percent accurate, as mentioned before. There are three methods of input on the Bezel itself. One is rotating round the clock to navigate down, clockwise, or up, anti clockwise. To select a menu a tap on the Bezal is all that’s needed and in you go. The third method is actually tap twice and this is for confirming messages that pop up on the screen. The 405 does, compared to the 201 not come up with questions, like, are you indoors? There are buttons on the device though, but after discovering that you can tap the Bezal you’ll probably find this more convenient and not use the real buttons much. One button is for selecting, enter, the other one is for quit, exit. One major button we do miss is an on/off button, or at least a way to turn off the device. There is no way to turn it off; you just let the battery dye. A strange thing to do really, if you think of someone doing training, as the developers may have done, who does that twice a week, this person might wants to turn the device of for the two days it is not in use.
The menus and its content are, overall very clear and simple.

Image by UrbanTick / Forerunner colour black.

A rather big thing is connecting the device to the computer, surprisingly. The device itself has no connection point, it transmits the data wirelessly via a Garmin made protocol. For this an additional USB stick called Ant-stick is required. Of course for this additional software is required and this software is preferably downloaded from the internet. There is actually no Mac software on the CD that is included in the package; only Windows support is delivered in the pack. Fortunately there is Mac support and apparently we did not get it to work on Windows yet, we are still working on this. So basically Internet is required for the setup, not only to download the software, but also Garmin makes everyone to sign up online before they are allowed to use the device. We could not really believe it at first, not even apple makes you sign up for using the iPod after you have downloaded the software, that comes actually preinstalled if you are on a Mac. So we signed up and there you go your data gets downloaded and by default is uploaded to the internet and publicly available. The default settings on your online account are set to public, so unless you change this your training or what ever you recorded on the device, including your weight, birth date or your resting heart beat rate.
After all that it is possible to change the settings in the references of the Garmin Ant Agent program, so that it does not upload to the internet directly. There are currently some issues reported and discussed online, with this special USB Ant stick. Older laptops, especially PowerBooks see to hang up if the USB stick is disconnected without the machine shut down. The MacBook we tested did work fine but just would not enter sleep mode after disconnecting the stick. Garmin seems to be working on these problems.
The tracks are saved in a .tcx file format. Apparently this stands for Garmin training centre. That is the Garmin software that goes with all this to actually visualize the recorded data. This is another thing one needs to download and set up, but we won’t talk about this here.

Image by UrbanTick / To make sure you train safe!

This .tcx data can be translated with the aid of the brilliant GPSBabel software into any other GPS related format you wish for. The only thing one has to do is select the input file format, as the .tcx is not automatically recognized as the Garmin training centre format. The right format would be .tcp, as it is called after exporting out of the real training centre, but it works fine though. The heart rate monitor data gets lost with most file transformations, as very few formats are intended to incorporate such information, but the standard stuff is there to play on Google Earth.
The 405 has better signal compared to the 201, but it also saves a lot more track points. A trip comparison showed that for the same trip at the same time, the 201 saved 234 location Points, but the 405 saved 645 location points. The route both records display does actually not much differ. The recording interval of the 201 is pretty good with few points. On the other hand the 405’s storage capacity is much more limited.

Image by UrbanTick / blue line Foretrex 201, pink line Forerunner 405

Image by UrbanTick / blue line Foretrex 201, pink line Forerunner 405

Similar is the battery life. The 405 needs to be charged every day/night. It does charge quickly though, three hours will do it. We managed to get 08h45 tracking time out of the device, wile having the GPS on for the whole time. As we are looking at tracking peoples daily routines, this is the very least we need. In this respect the 201 was pretty good. It would do during the experiment with participants two or three days before charging. If the user does turn off the GPS when inside, a normal full day out of the house, nine to nine is possible, but not much more.
Charging is a funny thing with the 405, much because of the unconventional way Garmin choose to connect the cable to the device. It is not plugged in, it is clipped on. It is a refreshing way to do it as we are used to the boring plugs we daily use on our ten different gadget that want to be fed, but makes the device useless during the charging period because the Bezal is partially covered by the clip. The 201 could be used wile being plugged in, actually this would even open more options, like external antennas or real time tracking. So the 405 can for example not be used in the car and having it charging wile playing with it.
Before summing up, some words on the choice of colour. The device is available in two colours only, who would guess it, black, and some green beige, one for males and the other one for females presumably. But actually this green beige weird colour is great looking!

Image by UrbanTick / Forerunner colour green/beige.

Over all, a superb device, it has its clearly specified target group and usage area but within this it is flexible and very good. It is definitely better than the old Foretrex 201, even though not in all areas. This review has probably been a bit harsh at times, but we loved the device right from the start and still do.
Hmm, actually we have left out the major part of the device. The training bit, together with the heart rate monitor and some virtual training partners, pace, laps and that sort of thing. We are not into this and don’t understand any of it so we cannot comment, I we haven’t even tried to use it, sorry. But apparently it is great. If you are interested in this sort of use o the device you might wana read here, Garmin Forerunner 405 review.

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The two test devices supplied by Garmin have just arrived. They are charging now, but will be soon out for first test walks around central London. The main interest is how good they will ply in these urban conditions.
Garmin kindly sent us two forerunner 405 wristwatch GPS to test them. They will be used in the UrbanDiary project to extend the field of participants.
First touch, the device is surprisingly responsive through the “Touch Bezel“ and one immediately finds oneself attached to the new tool. Simple setup, including a short tour through the device function at startup help to be able to use it straight away from the beginning.
Setting up the first of the devices in the court of Torrington Place took no more than an impressive two minutes to get a good Satellite signal and location. Compared to the Foretrex 201 that was used at the same time this is great and the weather conditions where very cloudy. The 201 didn’t find a signal for five minutes and we couldn’t be bothered to wait in the rain for the device to find a signal.
Garmin has supplied a heart rate monitor belt and ant stick as well so this will be in the next phase of testing.

Image by UrbanTick

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