Garmin Forerunner 235 Review – The Best Fitness Tracker
Almost two months ago, Garmin updated its line of GPS watches with three new models. All packed with everything you need to track your running and measure your fitness. The new models are the Garmin Forerunner 230, 235 and 630. From the lot, the most capable one is GF 235, as it has both the GPS and the HR monitor built in. Not only that, but it also comes with an affordable price tag.
The Garmin Forerunner 235 is the follow-up to the well-received Forerunner 225. It sports a similar look, but Garmin came up with big changes under the hood. We’ve been using the GF 235 for three weeks now, and here is our review.
Garmin Forerunner 235 – Design and Specs
So far we’ve been quite impressed with the quality of Garmin fitness trackers. All their trackers have a solid but lightweight build at the same time. Of course, the Forerunner 235 is no exception.
The Garmin Forerunner 235 body is made of plastic which is why the watch is weighing just 42g. Though it is a plastic build, the Forerunner 235’s body looks nice, and it feels strong. On its body we find the same five buttons as on the Forerunner 225 but, this time, Garmin opted for better materials and you can feel that the buttons are softened and much easier to use.
The strap is made of rubber with lots of holes for the adjustment. Also, the strap is interchangeable, and we should see 3rd party straps on sale soon.
Moving on to the screen, this is where we see the big improvements. The Garmin Forerunner 235 features a much larger screen than the last year FR 225. It is a jump from 1-inch screen to a new 1.23-inch colour LCD screen. The screen has a resolution of 215 x 180 pixels, is always on, and you can read the data even in bright sunlight.
Another clever improvement was to replace the old Mio heart rate sensor with a new Elevate wrist HR technology. The new sensor can record your heart rate not just during workouts but full 24×7. On top of that, the Forerunner 235 can have its HR signal “rebroadcasted” to other ANT+ devices such as the Recon Hud unit or the Garmin Edge.
As you would expect from a pro running watch, the new Garmin Forerunner 235 comes with all the sensors you need. From the basic accelerometer, GPS to the V02max, the 235 has them all. For design and specs, the Garmin Forerunner 235 receives top marks from us.
Garmin Forerunner 235 – Running And Workout Tracking
Now let’s have a quick look at how it works. The Garmin Forerunner 235 has, by default, four workout tracking modes: running, running indoor, cycling and a general mode for any other activities.
To start tracking your workout, you have to press the power button once. The button brings up a screen from where you can select your workout mode. Once the mode is selected, the unit starts looking for satellite coverage. In most cases, if you’ve been in the same location for some time, it should take less than 15 seconds. Once locked to the GPS, the watch takes you back to the main data page, and the watch starts recording your workout.
If you run outdoors, you’ll be happy to find out that the Garmin Forerunner 235 features a function called “Auto Pause”. This feature can put a pause to the tracking when you stop at a traffic light or just want to tie your shoe laces. The Forerunner 235 also allows you to set up custom alerts to remind you to drink water, turn around, or, it is time to “Go Home.”
It is true, some of these functions can also be found in other Garmin running units. However, the Garmin Forerunner 235 brings a new feature, called the “Finish Time.” This feature makes use of your overall speed during a workout and estimates the remaining time until you hit the distance of your goal.
Once you are done with the workout, the Forerunner 235 provides you with all the metrics you need. The workout time, steps, calories burned, heart rate, VO2Max, and even the GPS map. Speaking about the GPS, you have two options with the FR 235. One is to use only the default GPS, and the second is to enable GLONASS.
If you are new to Garmin’s ecosystem, GLONASS is a Russian satellite-based navigation system that works alongside the GPS. With 24 satellites at its disposal, the GLONASS system can get your location data 20 percent faster than relying just on the GPS. However, using GLONASS can affect the battery of your Garmin Forerunner 235. In our test with the GLONASS on, the battery dropped with approx. 25 percent faster.
Garmin Forerunner 235 – Activity and Sleep Tracking
The Forerunner 235 can be used not just for workout tracking but also as a daily activity tracker. The Forerunner 235 can track your steps, calories, distance walked, and your sleep. More than that, the FR 235 has the “inactivity alert” on by default. It means that you’ll have to take a walk of at least 100m every 2 hours.
The Garmin Forerunner 235 can also track your sleep automatically. Garmin has improved over the past year the sleep tracking on its devices by adding much more depth than it did in the past.
Garmin Forerunner 235 – HR Sensor Accuracy
Thanks to the new built-in HR sensor, the Forerunner 235 lets you get rid, once and for all, of that inconvenient chest strap. Moreover, in most cases, the HR sensor is doing its job. At least for casual runners like us, here at the office.
Comparing the Forerunner 235 with a Forerunner 220, paired with two chest straps, we have found that the HR results to be just about the same. However, we discovered that if you stop even for a few seconds during your workout, the Forerunner 235 sensor tends to lose accuracy when compared with the chest straps.
Similar Read: Garmin Vivosmart HR Review
Don’t let that put you off. Garmin is on the case, working on a new firmware and you can still pair any Garmin chest straps with your Forerunner 235. Enjoy your device and receive accurate training tracking via the chest strap.
Garmin Forerunner 235 – Notifications
Apart from the activity tracking modes, you’ll find smartphone notifications on most Garmin wearables these days. The Forerunner 235 makes no exception and can be paired with any iOS and Android devices.
The Forerunner 235 is also capable of displaying all kinds of notifications. Calendar alerts, missed calls, texts and messages, straight on your wrist. During our time with the FR 235, the notifications worked without a hitch.
Garmin Forerunner 235 – Garmin Connect
To see your recorded data, you have two options. Via the mobile app, on your mobile, or you can install the “Express” software on your PC. If you have read our previous reviews of any Garmin devices, you’ll know that the web tool is “the weapon of choice” when compared to the mobile app.
If you are using the web service, you can create workouts and setup your routes, not to mention that the user interface looks gorgeous.
The phone app is not that well designed and it can be confusing at times. Still, it remains a convenient way to keep an eye on your daily activity data, sleep patterns, and all the metrics.
Garmin Forerunner 235 – Battery Life And Price
Overall, the Garmin Forerunner 235 is one of the best fitness trackers we have tried, except for the battery life. Garmin is promising a battery life between 9 and 11 days. During our tests, the Forerunner 235 needed recharging every 3 days.
It is true, we’ve been using the watch non-stop to learn how it works and for all sorts of activities. Then again we had the HR sensor always on. Still, this is not an excuse. Garmin says they are aware of the low battery life and are working on a software update to address this issue.
Price wise, the Garmin Forerunner 235 is going to set you back 329 USD. Still a great deal, considering the broad array of sensors and the capabilities of the Forerunner 235.
Garmin Forerunner 235 – Conclusion
If you want a fitness tracker that challenges you to go further and faster than ever before, look no more. The Garmin Forerunner 235 is the next best thing to a real, human coach.
In conclusion, yes, there are minor problems with the HR sensor and the battery life. However, these are not design or hardware problems, and both are going to be fixed, with the next software update. To us, the Garmin Forerunner 235 is the best GPS watch you can buy today.
Garmin Forerunner 235 – Gallery
- Smart notifications
- VO2 Max and recovery advisor
- Water resistant
- Battery life
- Heart rate accuracy issues