Garmin manages to cover an impressive amount of the wearable spectrum — offering everything from dedicated golf watches and swing analysers to everyday fitness trackers and smartwatches.
But if you’re in the market for a GPS running watch, your head may have been turned by the company’s popular Forerunner 235. So to understand just what the device does, as well as how it compares to the rest of its siblings in the Garmin family, read on for our breakdown.
Any questions? Let us know in the comment section.
What is it?
With Garmin stocking the Forerunner range with several different options, it can be tough to tell the difference between them and which bases are covered.
And while the Forerunner 235 has recently been outmuscled by the Forerunner 935 — which is aimed at the likes of triathletes — it still has a place among those who want to simply track their whereabouts and heart rate on runs, as well as receive insights on recovery. Now around a year into its life, it also represented Garmin’s first attempt at using heart rate tracking of its own, after ditching Mio’s smarts.
But as we’ll explore in more detail below, it’s also able to offer a passable smartwatch impersonation and potentially pass as an everyday option, providing you’re a fan of the design.
This should be a fairly painless process. Firstly, you’ll need to connect your device through Bluetooth, so head to settings and sync the pair up before also downloading the Garmin Connect app.
Whether you’re rocking an iOS or Android device, this will act as your hub to view activity and gain insights. And while it has its strong points, it’s also worth checking out the PC/Mac version if you’re looking for detailed tools for building workouts and creating routes.
Once you’re all connected and ready to go, starting a run is as simple as hitting the top-right button, selecting your activity and taking off. Unfortunately, though, those who enjoy listening to their tunes as they run will have to take their smartphone with them, since the 235 doesn’t allow for any storage and only provides you with music controls.
What does it do?
This is a running watch first and foremost, but it also factors in more exercise modes and features that will potentially convince you to keep it on outside of activity.
Sure, it’s up with the best for tracking your run from the wrist, but it can also deliver the basics. This obviously isn’t anything new for running watches, with most of the Forerunner brethren also providing activity tracking, but the 235 raises the bar.
The device makes use of the optical HR sensor 24/7, and will keep a record of your heart rate throughout the day. If you tap through, you can receive a read out of your heart rate over the last 4 hours, with current and resting heart rate also displayed. Tap down again and you’ll be able to get a glanceable look at your steps, progress against the step goal, distance travelled in your day and calories burned.
More of your action is available in the app’s Snapshots section, such as active calories, sleep and weekly intensity minutes.
This is where the device really shines, offering you four modes: running, running indoor (GPS turned off), cycling and a cover-all free tracking setting.
You can access any of these by pressing the button at two o’clock, with the in-built GPS locking on and tracking your location throughout.
The run tracking, in particular, is comprehensive, capturing the basics — your pace, distance, time and calories — while also clocking your average heart rate, max heart rate, cadence and Garmin’s own Training Effect, which rates your session out of five.
It isn’t quite as in-depth as the more pricey options in the Forerunner range, but you’re still getting the likes of VO2 and recovery analysis, making it a solid addition even for serious runners.
For those wanting to receive some marginal smartwatch-like support from the 235, notifications are also in tow to let you view the likes of calls, texts, emails and calendar updates all from the wrist.
It doesn’t give you the same depth or customisation you would receive in a genuine smartwatch – with generally only the first line popping up on the screen – but it’s still a handy addition that will save you reaching in your pocket for your phone at every buzz.
Connect with a chest strap
While the 235 isn’t capable of shaking hands with your Bluetooth headphones, and is already tracking your heart rate from the wrist, you are able to sync the device up with your chest strap thanks to ANT+ support.
With pretty much all optical sensors suffering at high intensity, this can be a handy way to ensure a second reference on what’s going on with your ticker.
How does it compare?
As we’ve mentioned, Garmin’s stable of wearables is pretty overwhelming, but the Forerunner 235 remains one of its more coveted devices.
It can’t do everything, though. If you’re looking for the very peak of Garmin’s range, the Fenix 3 or freshly released Fenix 5 harbour genuine smartwatch features while also providing an elite option for those looking to track a wide range of sports.
If you’re not into donning a smartwatch on your wrist, there are also fitness trackers such as the Vivosmart 3 and Vivoactive HR to consider. These aren’t as comprehensive for runners, but do provide the cheapest entry point.
And with many users’ decision reliant on price, the Forerunner 235 is a nice landing spot in between the wildly expensive Fenix range and the sometimes feature-dry fitness trackers.
Even within its own Forerunner family it manages to find a middle ground between the Forerunner 935, which starts at $499.99, and the more basic Forerunner 35, which will set you back $169.99.