Garmin’s Forerunner 235 marks the first time that the GPS company is using its own built-in heart-rate monitor (HRM) for its running watch, instead of the Mio’s HRM technology found in its predecessor, the Forerunner 225.
On first look, the Forerunner 235 does not differ much from the 225. It has three left buttons and two right buttons that let you control the functions of the watch.
Those familiar with Garmin GPS running watches should feel right at home. But new users may find navigating the menus confusing at first. I still cannot get used to using the bottom two left buttons for up and down, while having to use the top right Run button for enter.
Unlike the 225’s round face, the Forerunner 235’s round watch face has double “flat tires” – a black space below and on top of the 1.23-inch display (215x180 pixels).
The built-in HRM is found at the rear of the watch. It measures your heart rate all day.
Press the down button once from the time display to see your heart rate for the past four hours.
Not only does it track your heart rate, but the watch also automatically tracks your steps, distance travelled, calories burned and sleep patterns.
To start a workout, press the top right button. You can choose Run, Indoor Run or Bike.
As I hate running in the gym, I usually run outdoors. The Forerunner 235 locked on to a GPS signal in 5sec, even when I was surrounded by high-rise buildings. Impressive.
You can set the watch to vibrate and beep at regular intervals, such as every 1km, or when you hit your maximum heart rate zone.
The top left button is for backlight. But the display lights up every time you press the Up or Down button to toggle the menu during workouts. This is great for visibility, as I usually run at night.
Comparing the data with that on my trusty TomTom Runner Cardio GPS watch, I found that:
The distances tracked were exactly the same.
The heart-rate readings differed by no more than three beats per minute.
The Forerunner 235 under counts steps by about 6 per cent of the readings on my calibrated Fitbit Charge HR fitness tracker.
Sleep tracking is inconsistent. The Forerunner 235 sometimes misinterpreted being left on a table for “sleep” and did not pinpoint sleep and wake times.
When paired with a smartphone, this GPS watch can display notifications. Updated to the latest firmware, the Forerunner 235 was able to last for around a week connected to a smartphone with all-day heart-rate monitoring – not far from the advertised nine days.
On the downside, the watch is full of plastic and rubber. It lacks the premium build one would expect from the price tag.
Verdict: The Garmin Forerunner 235 is a great lightweight GPS running watch that doubles as a fitness tracker - if you do not mind its pedestrian looks.
CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth and ANT+
WATER RESISTANCE: 50m
BATTERY LIFE: 5/5
VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5
This article was first published on February 10, 2016.
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