User Review: Garmin Foretrex 401
Price Paid: $240
One of my Foretrex101s expired a few weeks ago and I decided to replace it with the just released Foretrex401. It arrived mid-week and I had no trouble accessing and opening the Foretrex401 generated gpx file with Easy/ExpertGPS and Topofusion. The 401 appears as a USB drive in Windows.
I was hoping to use the 401 along with the Garmin heart rate monitor during my mt bike rides instead of the my Edge205 and separate HRM. The 401 had no trouble picking up the HR reading and displaying the values.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the Garmin website has no substantial information of the 401 as of yet and no discussion of what software will work with the 401. When I emailed Garmin concerning data transfer software and the spanner function under the Setup menu, I received the following rather uninformative reply:
“Thank you for contacting Garmin International. I am happy to answer your questions. At this point, the Foretrex 401 is only compatible with Garmin MapSource, but this information will unfortunately not include your cadence or heart rate information. On the bright side, Garmin Connect, our online fitness website, will support the Garmin Outdoor product line in the second half of 2009. In the meantime, we recommend that you upload activities from those devices to MotionBased. Unfortunately, there is not much documentation available for Spanner other than the installation instructions found on the download page. You may also want to read through the Wiki page found at the wikipedia.org, see Spanner(Garmin_program).”
The above reply is totally lame referring to outdated/non-supported links and a less than helpful Wikipedia reference. Even though it is now well beyond the “second half of 2009” Garmin Connect does not include the Foretrex 401 and the motionbased website has essentially been abandoned by Garmin leaving the Foretrex401 in effect unsupported by Garmin except for the most basic data transfer. The Foretrex401 manual makes no mention of the spanner function or what a gpx file is or how to make use of it.
At this point the Foretex401 appears to be a corporate orphan that no Garmin division is able or willing to support. It is unclear if it is intended for jumping out of airplanes (jumpmaster function), hiking (altimeter/compass), cycling/fitness (HR/cadence) or providing a heads-up when ordinance is going to explode (countdown-up/timer).
In addition to the above, function wise, the 401 adds a USB interface, faster satellite acquisition and wireless data transfer to the venerable Foretrex101. It is slightly more compact in size than the 101, has a better strap attachments and stores the data is in a gpx file.
Operationally the Foretex401 does what is it supposed to do but with no software included, undocumented functions and virtually non-existent technical support, most purchasers will be frustrated in trying to use the Foretrex401 right out of the box. A printed quick start guide is in the box but the manual in a pdf on the CD.
As noted above, with some tinkering and non Garmin software I’ve been able to list and view the Foretex401 tracks, waypoints, routes and other data as well as transfer the data to GoogleEarth. For what Garmin lists as a basic handheld GPS it should be much more straightforward to operate and transfer data.
I’ll give it 2 stars until it is better supported.