Reviews Garmin Forerunner 230 - Black/White

Garmin Forerunner 230 - Black/White

Stay on pace for your next personal record with Forerunner 230, the GPS and GLONASS running watch with smart features1. Its built-in activity tracker2 keeps recording steps, even when you're not running. Pair your watch with a compatible phone1 for connected features like automatic uploads to Garmin Connect, smart notifications, audio prompts and live tracking. You can also download customizable watch faces and applications from Connect IQ. HR data such as heart rate, heart rate zone and VO2 max estimate allows you to train more effectively2. For more challenging runs, download advanced workouts and training plans to your watch from Garmin Connect.

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Great addition to a runner's arsenal! And a month later...

After much deliberation, I decided to go in and buy one of these watches (FR 230, Purple) since started training for my first half marathon. I decided to ignore people's complaints about the terrible screen and poor battery (two comments I highly disagree with), and I'm really happy I did. And then I decided to write a review due to the lack of reviews and photos on small-wristed women, and the fact that as of Feburary 2016 I couldn't find one store that stocked these watches to try it on. You can see in my picture, the size comparison to a Fitbit Charge.

- Screen. THIS IS NOT A SMARTWATCH. Many people who hate the screen are expecting everything out of this watch, but honestly I love it. It's like an eInk screen akin to that of a kindle, but with color. Works GREAT is any normal daylight/working light conditions. I rarely need to use the backlight and I've never had issues ever seeing anything on the screen, even in bright sun. Sure, the colors don't look as vibrant as on a phone or apple/galaxy/moto smartwatch, but what you lose in color vibrancy, you earn in battery life.
- Battery. This thing can hold it's own. A weekend of wearing it through two separate GPS-tracked runs (2.5hr total), and keeping it constantly connected via Bluetooth to my phone left the battery at 80%. I tracked my whole half marathon with it, set on smart recording with bluetooth connection, and the battery was only 20% less. I've noticed that the total percentage when fully charged has decreased (now it's maxed out at 97%), but I'm not sure if this is actually because the battery capacity is decreasing.
- Weight. The watch does look big (the same size as the FR220/5 so if you can find one , but it's really quite light! About the same weight as a Fitbit charge, but quite a deal bulkier. I have mixed feelings about using this as an everyday watch, since my Charge really sits on my wrist without me noticing it as much.
- GPS. It found GPS satellites almost instantly while I was sitting in my living room of my house. Have never had issues finding GPS, even when my phone took minutes to lock on.
- Activity Tracker. Honestly this was pretty low on my Pros list because the step count system seems to be exactly the same as that of the fitbit. The only bad mark I'd give it is that on the Garmin app, you can't just set your walking or running stride length like you can on the Fitbit dash, but you have to fill out the amount of steps you can walk to get to a certain distance. Kind of counter intuitive because that math is super simple to just do yourself.
- Notifications. Seem to work just fine. On my S6+, I don't seem to need to have the app open or running, I just need to approve the app to intercept my notifications, and it sends it right over. Whenever I have my bluetooth on both the watch and the phone, they pair instantly (except in one instance it locked up and I had to restart the watch).
- Wireless sync. After I set up my MapMyRun and Runkeeper accounts to my garmin account, the second I'm done with the run, all the info is automatically uploaded. No hassle.

A couple bugs with the phone connecting sometimes, but this usually only happens when the app on the phone crashed. Sometimes the "Find my Phone" feature also bugs out and doesn't stop chiming and flashing until the bluetooth connection is ended or the phone restarted.

For starters, I'm a runner so any additional activities (biking, walking, whatever) that this watch tracks are just bonus to me and there are certainly quite a few of them. Also, I can't speak to the VO2 and fitness testing since I don't have a HR monitor but I definitely like the option. I got this Garmin after researching some of the other "smart watches" available at the time (main competitors were Fitbit Surge, Garmin Vivofit and Microsoft Band2) and hearing a lot of positive feedback about Garmin in general from fellow runners (they do make some pretty solid GPS navigation for cars so I figured it would translate for running watches too). I didn't care much for a watch with HR monitoring built in (see Garmin 235) as the technology still seems a bit fluky and judging by the gnarly pictures of skin irritation, that concept still seems to have a ways to go. All of that led to choosing this bad boy and I could not be happier!
The watch itself is much lighter than I expected for a GPS watch so I barely notice it's there and it looks great. I really like the color screen and even though the pictures do make it seem a lot brighter than it actually is, the watch face is NOT hard to read unless you're in low lighting (in which case quit complaining and hit the light button). There are tons of customizable watch faces, apps and widgets (check out The Punisher watch face in the picture). The GPS itself connects super quick (thanks to the GLONASS) and on average it usually takes about 3 seconds to find satellites after hitting the start button. The controls are pretty easy to use and after tinkering with it for a day or two I had it figured out. I haven't let it run the battery all the way down to 0 but from a full charge to around 30% usually takes 2 weeks (this was with utilizing the GPS during my runs 5 times a week varying from 4 to 10 miles) and it usually takes me about an hour to charge back to 100%. Keep in mind, the more you're using the GPS, the quicker your charge will drop.
Connectivity to the phone is great, even with Android (I have an LG G3). Since I don't use iTunes I was a little worried about the music controls but they still work great, even with Spotify! There was a little delay when I first synced everything up but it's worked like a charm since. Additionally, as far as smart notifications go, I really was only concerned with texts and phone calls and they work very well.
The big bonus with this watch, as you may have seen on other reviews, is the Garmin Connect website/software. You can customize your own workouts, track your mileage, add gear/shoes to track how many more miles you've got on them! I can't go into everything it does, but it really is impressive and I give Garmin props for putting together such a great product!

This is a terrific product. I upgraded from the Garmin 10 and this is light years ahead. I get several days of non stop battery power and it has not let me down over the several 1/2 marathons I have run. I use this to sync with my Nike app and it works flawlessly. I can run with my 230 and sync immediately with my Nike app when I finish a run.
I use this with the time/current pace/distance and cadence settings. Perfect info to log as you train.

I read several reviews before purchasing this watch. I remember several of the reviews stating issues they didn't like. One of the issues was that the watch face wasn't bright enough. I've used this watch for about a year now, with all of my tracked workouts being outdoors. I have never had an issue viewing the watch face, regardless of time of day.

What I like:
-Ability to change watch face and layout
-Accurate GPS tracking
-Creating workouts in Connect and uploading to the watch to do
-Multi-sport tracking (running/walking, cycling, "other")
-Heart rate strap capable (not sold with the watch)
-The smart notification system, but it is not a smartwatch
-Long battery life (have tracked endurance events for 12+hours without having to recharge it)
-Data customization (able to change the data screens you are shown during a workout to suit your needs)
-Lap distance customization
-Alarms (easy to set, can be vibration only or sound/vibration)

Functions that Annoy me
-Sometimes the GPS takes too long to get your location
-The step tracking doesn't seem accurate. I have a FitBit and this watch. They never match (even within a couple of hundred steps).
-After a few charges, the watch will only charge to 99% no matter how long you charge it (this was mentioned in other reviews, even before I bought it. It isn't a huge thing, just somewhat annoying.)
-Garmin Connect (the app) can sometimes take a while to sync with the watch. Not sure if that's an app issue or a Bluetooth watch issue.

Overall, I would highly recommend this watch. It is great for the price point. It meets all of my needs for running, hiking, endurance events, and triathlons.

Overall, I am really enjoying the Forerunner 230. MapMyRun will always be my first-love for run tracking... but I was increasingly tired of carrying my phone on runs. Its not a big deal, but I wanted something a little lighter and less intrusive so I could unplug a little. This guy solved that issue for me.

I compared a lot of the current 'wearable' technology and I am very excited about the seeming convergence of the core-competencies. What I found is as of Q3 2016 you can get an 'activity tracker' (eg FitBit) or 'GPS watch' (eg Garmin) that do their core functions really well and have some smart-watch features. Or you can get a 'smart watch' (eg AppleWatch) that is bright & shiny & (somewhat) smart but also has some activity/fitness features. If you're looking for one device that really corners the market on all of these attributes, I don't believe it currently exists. My suggestion would be identify your primary need and lean that direction. I've worn the FitBit Charge for about 18 months and love the easy, carefree, idiot-proof simplicity of the tracker. If FitBit had a new model of the Surge out, I probably would have been sold.

A few remarks on use:

SCREEN: The screen on this device is serviceable but very underwhelming. I knew what to expect based on the reviews, video reviews but I would consider Garmin's promotional pictures nearly fraudulent in their representation of the screen color, contract, etc. Also, the backlight is functional but cheap looking.

CONNECT & IQ APPS: The Garmin IQ watch apps (basic applications, watch faces, widgets) are free but all feel a little 'beta'. I heard someone liken the Garmin's Connect program & open source development apps to the overall Android OS system, and that analogy seems appropriate to me. Lots of features, options, customization but very fiddly and glitchy, not a seamless user experience. I view them as a bonus to the OEM software build so its hard to complain. Just don't expect to find a lot of professional, polished applications to make your watch something that it is not.

DISTANCE/PACE: As compared with MapMyRun phone based GPS, Garmin is reporting shorter distance run and, by extension, slower pace. Still experimenting and it could just be my location/experience.

ACTIVITY TRACKING/STEPS: As compared with FitBit Charge, Garmin activity steps are lower by approx. 25-40%! This varies based on activity. While running, the steps are nearly identical. Other activities seem to register 'steps' on FitBit and not on Garmin. Interesting. Around-the-house work and yard work this past weekend registered 25k steps on FitBit Charge and only 14k on Garmin. Again, still experimenting with settings, etc

SLEEP TRACKING: This feature needs more refinement. It gets it right some nights and blows it the next.

Wishlist for next model - smaller bezel (the static picture makes it look like most of the face is the screen, whereas the bezel is 3/16" around which makes the screen area less than 60% of the total face); screen color, contrast much closer to advertised; better backlight w/ ambient light sensor

Garmin's made some nice progress with their running watches, and this one's far improved over the ForeRunner 610 it replaces.

The pros:
- Battery life is great; it's far better than the 610 I had which pretty much needed to be charged every few days or between runs. I charge this one once a week which typically includes four or five runs plus daily use.
- It's far lighter and less bulky than previous GPS running watches. It's arguably as light as a simple Timex Ironman watch.
- It's very configurable, with some neat downloadable watch faces. This, plus a fresh mechanical design, make this more of a stylish smart watch than a utilitarian GPS wrist-brick.
- They've replaced the flooky touchscreen with good, tactile buttons.
- The menu structure has been redesigned and is fairly intuitive.
- The GPS is fast to lock and sensitive to lock indoors in many cases.
- The color display is kinda cool.
- They've done away with the stick-to-everything magnetic charging clip and gone back to a mechanical clip.
- They've done away with the flooky ANT wireless data connection and back to a hard-wired USB data connection which is easier to use.

The cons:
- The display *can* be hard to read, and the product photos are misleading. It's a reflective display with a minimalist backlight. A number of the displays can be configured for black on white which helps.
- There's no charger included. This strikes me as a bit presumptuous for a $200-something watch.
- Garmin's reliability hasn't been great. This watch is replacing two other failed Garmin GPS watches, each of which lasted for just a few years. Garmin's out-of-warranty service is flat fee-based and not cheap, meaning if it does poop out after a few years it's hit or miss whether to fix it or toss it.

So I had the watch for a couple weeks. During that time, the watch (with software fully updated) lost the capability to pair with my phone (iphone 6s with everything up to date), which meant no more data syncing and no more notifications for texts/alerts. Despite all of the recommended interventions suggested by forums online and by the instructions from Garmin, there was no resolution, and I ended up returning the watch, which went smoothly without issues.

I will say that the watch itself looked great, felt great during runs, and provided useful information about distance and pace. The GPS would lock on very quickly as soon as you turned on the running mode. When it did provide phone notifications, it would do it well - just only in English. It would be a luxury if it could also display Chinese text as well.

Since all my other devices were Apple, and since the price difference would be a few hundred dollars, I decided to go for the Apple Watch series 2.

Otherwise, if you're looking to stick to a particular budget, this GPS watch works just fine for the majority of both casual and even more serious runners.

Great watch. I run ultra distance and the battery life is phenomenal. It will take you all the way up to about 60-80 miles in training mode. Cool configurations and apps can be loaded on and looks great.

I was hesitant as I have been disappointed with previous GPS watches - Not this time. The technology has come of age.
BATTERY - Still going on the first charge over a week ago with several runs totaling 4-5 hours with the GPS on. Still has 1/2 the battery according to the icon. I only use the watch for running - though it is downloading my emails, but I'm not draining the battery with anything other than runs.
GPS - Fast - this was my big concern, but it connects quickly - maybe 20 seconds was the longest connect time.
EASE OF USE - Pretty good, I'm still learning but getting going initially took seconds. I think if I made this a day to day watch it would take more effort to configure the connections with email and custom displays.
APP - I downloaded the Garmin Connect app on my iphone and it was very simple to connect via bluetooth. Then all I had to do on Garmin was to create an account and I was good to go. Easy to view routes and run details. I also connect it to my Training Peaks account which again was a simple log in and sync and now it goes automatically.
SUMMARY - If you are a serious runner or just like to have accurate distances and paces then this is a very nice watch.

Based on the reviews, I was debating between buying the Forerunner 230 and Forerunner 235, but I am SO glad I bought the FR 230!! Despite critiques about a 'dim screen' and a lack of a wrist-based heart rate monitor, this watch is INCREDIBLE. I purchased this watch about two weeks ago and I do not notice any screen dimness and I just use the chest strap if I ever want to train based on heart rate. I literally have no complaints about this watch.

It's perfect for running. I run about 25-35 miles per week and it's been an amazing running companion compared to my old FR 210. All the features are impressive (including satellite connection within SECONDS and a great battery life!), and I love that I can connect it to my phone to receive notifications like a smart watch. Wireless syncing to the phone app has also been really convenient and time-saving. This all-in-one activity tracker, sleep tracker, coach, running buddy, smart watch, and comfortable accessory was worth every penny.

I didn't need to pay the extra $ for the FR 235 just to get the wrist-based heart monitor. Based on those reviews, I think the technology is too new for it to be a solid purchase. Therefore, I'm expecting to get plenty of use and valuable training out of the FR 230 for the next few years like I did with my FR 210. This is the perfect watch for me!

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