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Athletes On Track

Garmin FR60 vs. Garmin 405

Posted By on January 25, 2011 in Coaching, Running, Training |

Bling and Budget Face Off

Garmin 405 vs Garmin FR60

If you need a running watch, you’ve got a lot of options. Even after narrowing it down to one company (hint: go Garmin) there are still 9 to choose from.

Let’s take a look at the budget model and a bling model, and see if it’s worth the upgrade. We’re looking at the FR60, which is labeled a Fitness Watch, and the much fancier GPS Sport Watch, the 405. I picked up both of my at Sun & Ski Sports.

First, this is a watch, and both function adequately in that regard. However the FR60 has a clear edge in this department, as it’s the size of a normal watch. It fits smaller athletes a bit better, and there’s no break-in period of getting used to a bigger/heavier thing strapped to your wrist. Also, it has a regular watch battery, and so doesn’t require recharging as the 405 does.

In the Ease of Use category, the FR60 again comes out ahead; it has regular watch buttons whereas the 405 has a touch-bezel (think iPod). Personally I’m an agnostic about the bezel, most athletes either love it or hate it. Given that Garmin just introduced an updated 405 with an improved bezel, my hunch is that more hated it than loved it.

To me the bezel isn’t that bad; it’s fairly intuitive if you’re up on modern technology, but it can be touchy (pun intended) and it’s the most annoying when actually running, which is kinda the point of a running watch. Frankly it seems like a gimmick; there’s a gee-whiz factor, but it’s a solution in search of a problem.

Getting more into the sport functionality of these watches, they share many sport-related features. Both accept ANT+ accessories like a foot pod, heart rate monitor, and speed/cadence sensor. Both have programmable screens to view your data, and both have multiple sport modes in case running isn’t your only thing. However, the FR60 is a “fitness watch” and will communicate with some gym equipment, which the 405 won’t do. Speaking of sports other than running, the 405 really doesn’t like to get wet. It will survive a rainy workout or a trip through the shower, but a swim set will kill it. With the FR60, however, you’re fine to swim or even snorkel.

The 405 has a smaller screen, meaning that your information is also smaller, and thus harder to read. One redeeming quality is the higher resolution on the 405, but honestly the FR60 is much easier to read, especially in the middle of an interval set.

If it sounds like Budget is winning this shootout so far, you’re right. However, now we get to some of the finer details. The biggest difference is that the 405 has GPS, and the FR60 does not. That means two things; first up the FR60 is dependent on a foot pod for speed. Second, upon downloading your file the 405 will give you a pretty little map of where you went, and the non-GPS FR60 will just give you speed and distance.

I’d say the foot pod is a wash, since if you train indoors at all, or want cadence, then you’ll need a foot pod for the 405 as well. The foot pod and GPS both provide surprisingly accurate speed and distance, and both are relatively worry free.

Obviously if you want a map of your run, GPS is the way to go. However, most of us run the same couple of courses frequently, making GPS a bit superfluous. If you run somewhere new or travel a lot it comes in handy if you (or your coach) is really persnickety about good data. A side note here, the GPS won’t tell you where you are or help you get un-lost; it only records where you’ve been for later review. (By the way, if you run with your cell phone, GPS and elevation are just a free app away.)

Both devices feature Virtual Partner, so you can set a pre-determined pace and keep track of how far ahead or behind you are of your little virtual friend. The 405 features Simple and Advanced Workouts so you can plan a basic run or even an interval set ahead of time, and the watch will prompt you when to go. The other thing you can do with the 405 is save a course, and race against your previous time. These really are neat tools, but honestly I don’t use them much. I can remember my interval sets and I mostly use the watch to ‘black-box’ my workouts for later review – when I’m running I enjoy the freedom of just running; not having my watch tell me what to do or when to do it.

When you’re done, both watches download to your computer using the same protocol, and once on your computer, upload to the same software.

I like the 405, I really do. But, I also like stuff that ‘just works.’ For me, the additional cost, hassle, and size of the 405 just don’t offset the few added features. Sometimes I miss having GPS, but in those instances I can just run with my smart phone.