Garmin Forerunner 235 - Black/Gray

Garmin Forerunner 235 - Black/Gray

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Overall my initial impressions is that the Forerunner 235 has the potential to be a decent runners watch... and I would probably hope to give it an additional star maybe two, if Garmin International can sort out why it is somewhat incompatible to Apple's iPhone and the iOS system. Unfortunately, both the Weather and Calendar widget features are not working as a result. Apparently, Garmin is now fully aware of this issue and has its software Engineers working on it. Since I have had a previous Garmin Forerunner for quite a few years that was real decent, I am going to give them a few days prior to consider returning for a refund via Amazon... The other aspect I am not ecstatic about is that the screen is a bit on the dim side, but I believe I can learn to live with it if I do decide to keep the watch... at the moment a bit disappointed to say the least, we will see...

Oct 13, 2016 Update: Today GARMIN's Connect Mobile version 3.11 sorted out the firmware in my Forerunner 235 and the Weather and
Calendar widgets are working fine. As well that the Garmin Connect App now displays additional information that I hadn't noticed before. I am now a much happier camper as I start to invest more time to figure out further what this watch has to offer and to further customize it with additional widgets. I have gone ahead to upgrade my rating to 4 stars, as I will no longer consider returning this 235 to instead get an Apple Series 2 watch due the initial compatibility issues I was having with my iPhone 6 Plus. I may update this review one more time in a couple of weeks, and would not be surprised in giving it 5 stars once I figure a few more features out, and customize it closer to meet my needs as a runner.

Hardware: 3 stars
Running: 5 stars
Heart Rate Accuracy: 4.5 Stars (Cardio), 3.5 Stars (Interval/Weight Training)
App Functionality: 3.5 Stars

OVERALL THOUGHTS
I've been around the block on fitness gear, specifically ones with optical heart rate monitors. After 6 months of owning the Garmin 235, here are my thoughts, along with a comparison to the other items I've owned (Fitbit Surge & Mio Fuse):

Hardware: The watch is lightweight, the band provides good air penetration (ie less likely to cause wrist rash), and while the watch face itself is pretty large, even as a female I didn't find it unweildy for everyday wear. It is a bit casual looking to wear everyday at the office, but I do anyway to get the activity tracking benefits. The main issue I've experienced is that the plastic house (which makes it so lightweight) means that the watch face is very easy to scratch. After 6 months of pretty "normal" wear (ie daily office plus workouts a few times a week), I have 3 pretty large, obvious scratches on the watch face.

Running: For people who primarily run for exercise, this watch is great. GPS functionality, pretty quick signal lock-on, solid accuracy. It also has a cycle mode plus swim mode (it's water resistant), which are nice touches. I do wish it had more gym features - all other exercise gets lumped into an "Other" setting, so it's hard to go back and know what was weights, yoga, elliptical, etc unless you manually go into the app and rename each session (which is enough of a pain that I never do).

Heart Rate Accuracy: For activities where your wrist isn't bending much (running, elliptical,swimming), the accuracy on the OHRM is quite good. I occasionally find a lag is my arm is really sweaty, but it does a solid enough job that the information is useful and usually ~93-96% accurate to a chest strap. For exercise when your wrist/arm are frequently bending, accuracy gets way spottier - it interval training where you're up/down on the floor for pushups, weights, etc. Accuracy drops to more like 70-80% in my experience. Enough to be kind of useful (ie to see how high heart rate got in the session) but not to really get any insight about how heartrate performed during the session as it often drops tracking or lags measurement. I do enough interval training that this is pretty annoying. I plan to wait another 6 months or so to see if Garmin improves their OHRM algorithms, and to see what other products hit the market, and reassess. The gold standard in my experience for interval training OHRM accuracy so far has been the Mio Fuse. (Mio actually is the company that created OHRM).

App functionality: Over the last 6 months, the app has improved significantly in terms of keeping a correct bluetooth connection and being able to sync (initially I had consistent issues with this). The app itself certainly works fine - you can see charts of heart rate, mapped runs, etc - but the overall app experience definitely goes to Fitbit here for ease of use, ability to connect with other users, and visual

COMPARISON TO MIO FUSE
The Mio sings in OHRM accuracy. Even during High Intensity Interval Training, crossfit WODs, weightlifting, it was nearly dead on accurate. This is no small thing for someone (like me) who really did want to monitor heart rate during workouts. The Mio Fuse also does basic activity tracking, ie steps, but no altimiter for stairs and no GPS. Ultimately it was the no GPS that pushed me to upgrade to the Garmin 235 when it came out. The main downside is the app. It has bare bones functionality, if that. I often had connection issues with the bluetooth, app crashes, and minimal available information from the app interface. (Note: There is a Mio Alpha which uses the same great OHRM technology and does include GPS, but it does not have any daily fitness tracking and is a more focused sports/running watch... and of course, the same Mio app issues).

COMPARISON TO FITBIT SURGE
I began with a Fitbit Surge 18 months ago, and while the app functionality is heads and shoulders above any competitors I've tried (including Garmin), the OHR accuracy was awful unless you could somehow exercise a) without sweating and b) while keeping your wrist nearly motionless. This made the OHRM basically useless unless you were a non-sweaty person who only ran for exercise, no weights or interval training. (As an example, during crossfit sessions the Surge would regularly read in the 80s while my actual heart rate was in the 160s). The band also irritated my skin - I ended up having to take it off at night to avoid a wrist rash, which is too bad since the sleep tracking accuracy was actually the best with this device in my experience.

For starters, I replaced my $600 Apple watch with this watch. It's not even fair how much better suited this is for runners! Apple watch GPS was terribly inaccurate, and battery life could not withstand a marathon. Ultimately I could not deal with the chaos of a watch that would fail to last as long as I can and couldn't even tell me how far I was running. This watch is deadly accurate, and battery life is far superior. Don't even mind the loss I took selling the Apple watch!

As someone else mentioned, make sure you are buying this watch for the right reasons! I have been a dedicated Fitbit user for the past 3 years. I have had the Charge HR, the Surge and the Blaze. I was a runner through the Charge and Surge (GPS) but then had a knee injury and became a gym rat through the Blaze time period. My knee has been doing better and so I am pleased to say that I am back to running! I used the Garmin and Fitbit Blaze together through various days and workouts to compare them. I hope this review helps someone switching from a Blaze/Surge to a Garmin 235.

I love having an activity tracker but I also love having a GPS running watch. I had the Surge but it was SO ugly, I got rid of it. So why did I need to move on from the Blaze? It is advertised as being able to connect to your phone for GPS. This was an epic fail for me and although Fitbit customer service was awesome and replaced it under warranty, the new unit still did not work on GPS. It had a lot of bluetooth problems including not connecting often so that I could access music controls. It also was not catching my heart rate correctly during high cardio and peak heart rate.

Here are my thoughts on the Garmin:
-The GPS is awesome! Not once have I had a single issue with the GPS. I ran with the Blaze and Garmin yesterday. The blaze (connected to GPS for a brief moment before it lost connection) gave me 2.35 miles while the Garmin gave me 2.2. I do like that the Blaze tells you how many steps you take on your run while the Garmin does not.

-The music controls work well and always connect. This was VERY important to me and if the Garmin did not have this option, I would not have bought it. I do wish it showed the track name like the Blaze did though.

-I like that you can customize your Garmin, but it can take some practice before you can figure out how to do that. It's also MUCH easier to download apps, widgets and watch faces connected to your computer than to your smart phone. I got TONS of error messages when trying to do it on my phone. Also like the Fitness Pal connection.

-Heart rate seems pretty spot on. I have read lots of reviews here that say this product has a bad hrm, but I have found that to be untrue. Since I have had many fitbits with this feature and experience with Polar heart rate straps (they cut my skin so I had to stop using them), I believe that the heart rate monitor is pretty reliable. It does not show the heart beat moving like the Blaze does, but that's minor and it does take a minute to update. It did catch my peak heart rate where the Blaze had trouble. It showed my peak at 175 which is maybe 3-4 beats too high but much closer than my Blaze which said 164.

-As for steps... this is where I am not sure of the reliability. I wore it with the Blaze yesterday and the Blaze gave me 12,499 while the Garmin gave me 10,823. On Friday, my work schedule is such that I don't usually get very many steps and the Garmin gave me 10,948 steps, so I became suspicious leading to me wearing both monitors together on Saturday. I am going to guess that the correct number is somewhere in between the two watches. Also, the Garmin does not let you know when you have reached your goal and that feature on the blaze was kind of cute. VO2 Max is cool but probably not very accurate. So is the recovery hours suggestion.

-Love the weather and sunrise/sunset view. This helps me not need to look the info up on my phone.

-This is a very attractive looking watch. I hate that Fitbit is stuck on the square watch face look and I will not go back to Fitbit until they try a round watch face that can pass for a regular watch like this one can! I have a very small wrist (around 5.5") and this strap is comically long on me. I wish they made small watch band sizes for women like me. But nothing is as comical looking as the hideous Surge was!

Here is where I agree with the reviewer about making sure that you are buying this watch for the right reasons! The bad parts. I am a gear head and very good with gadgets. So I can only imagine being someone who is not.
-On the first night I had my Garmin, I was 100% sure I was going to return it because the set up process was such a pain in the butt. The app absolutely sucks. If Garmin could hire a Fitbit software engineer to sort out their IOS app, I would be a happy camper. I got so many error messages and I still cannot figure out how to use the app very easily. That's where Fitbit has one up on Garmin. Information you want at your fingertips are easy to find, but on the Garmin, it often takes me a few minutes to find the info I want. I wish I could have all the data from the Garmin with the Fitbit app.

-The menus on the watch are very difficult to figure out. If you asked me right now how to get to my stopwatch feature, I could not tell you how and I would have to google it. I also had to google various other steps to access other things on the watch.

-I cannot tell when my Garmin is actually charging. I don't see any icon or any indicator that it is charging and I have to just come back in a few minutes to see if the percentage has changed.

-Battery life. Well, needless to say it doesn't last very long. I charged it fully on Wednesday and then used it only during the day (turning it off at night) and it is Sunday now. It has 31% battery left. So that's around 48 hours so far with probably another 8 before I need to charge it again. I read some users saying that the battery life gets better as time goes on so we will see.

-Sometimes I wonder if the HRM is working at all. My blaze was running/flashing at all times. Just now, I took my garmin off and it is not flashing at all. It takes about a minute or so before it turns back on. But when it is working, it's reliable.

So all in all, be sure you are buying this for the right reasons. Don't expect it to be a gimmicky/cute activity tracker like a Fitbit. If you are looking for a good GPS running watch with some maybe reliable activity tracking, this is the watch for you. I was very sad to leave Fitbit and I will probably go back if they ever come out with a Surge 2 that is not square (hate that look) so I can use their awesome app and do challenges with my friends and coworkers.

First, I am an avid runner and training to qualify for the Boston Marathon and needed a better watch. The FR235 has great features, the watch face is bright, HR is accurate for me, GPS is astoundingly fast but was a little disappointed in the feel of the build quality. Feels like cheap plastic. I compared mine to the fenix, Suunto, Polor all feel like a better quality build (this was only an in store comparison). I want to love this watch, it has what I want/need but the batter life is killing me! With activity tracking and hr on I am only getting 5-6 hours of battery life. (Updated the software to current version 7.10) If I turn off everything per Garmin (Shorten the backlight timeout,Shorten the timeout to watch mode (Power Save Timeout Settings),turn off activity tracking,Select the Smart recording interval,Turn off GLONASS,Turn off the Bluetooth, and Turn off wrist-based heart rate monitoring I can get 8-10hours!. The watch died during my half marathon run! Whats the purpose of having a running watch that cant work during a run? I love the functions, the HR is as accurate as my chest strap (if you have the watch correctly placed and snug). I am hoping I have a bad watch and can get this replaced.

****UPDATE****
Amazon replaced it and the battery life is what it should be. One more reason to love Amazon. In regards to the FR235, I found if I wear my watch upside down (HR pressed against the inside of my writst) it matches my HR Chest strap. Used the Interval and custom workout function which is wonderful. I also downloaded the Race Predictor from Connect IQ. What more can you ask for!

My wife and I started using this watch in April and are very happy. I've also set several personal records in my running this year (been running since 2011), and I think this watch was a big help in that effort.

The watch links with your phone and automatically uploads your workout data to "garmin connect", a free service. Here you can see results of your workouts in tremendous detail as well as generalized reports. There are even social features for sharing friends who happen to use garmin - this can be "motivating" :)

If you have or wish to buy additional garmin accessories (such as a foot pod, heart rate strap, or bike cadence sensor) this watch will support them all and augment your data.

Data collected (with no phone required) includes:

- Running path, via GPS
- Elevation data
- Running speed (selectable as speed or pace)
- Cadence
- Heart rate (more accurate with chest strap but pretty good with the build in HR sensor).
- Stride length (if using a foot pod)

All shown as pretty maps and graphs with all-time personal records automatically noted. Both phone app and web interfaces are available and can be used interchangeably.

You can choose to wear the watch all the time, even while sleeping. The benefit of doing so is that you can get 24 hour heart rate and sleep monitoring, which I find interesting. This also allows you to get full credit for your "walking step count", which the watch will track.

The watch will also give you instant message notifications from your smartphone, when linked. There are other apps you can load on the watch, all free-to-download, but I have not played with them much.

So why use this instead of a "smart watch"? Here are my personal reasons:

- The screen is color e-ink (like a kindle). This means you only need to charge the battery once a week or so instead of daily. Charging time is about 1% per minute (so 100 minutes to go from zero to full)
- No phone required. The watch has built in GPS and enough memory to store your workouts. You can thus run without a phone - something that is valuable to me.

Any negatives? The only one I can think of is a few cases where the sync between the watch and my wife's iphone would sometimes be flaky. They seemed to have gotten this one resolved with a firmware update though, as the watch has been running perfectly for months.

A runners dream watch! I don't ever write reviews, but have to on this product. I wear this watch all the time, that's how much I love it. I'm soooo picky on things, so for me to say I love something is big. So...

I had the Forerunner 610, but the GPS was always off compared to my running partners. The whole point of the GPS watch to track milage, so I knew i needed to upgrade finally. I bought the FR 630, never liked it and returned it. The #1 reason was the touch screen to hit the menu took me at least 3 taps each time. Scrolling around was a pain, it just was a headache. I was disappointed coming from the 610 going to the 630. I returned the FR630...

...and bought the Fenix 3 (pre HR). LOVED the look of it, and the Text's showing up, and all the extras. GREAT Watch, BUT, the screen is soooo dim, I had a hard time seeing it unless I had the light on. Another negative for me was the #'s are thin, and with my eyes while running i had to hold my arm far away to read them. I thought I would get use to it, but never did. I was alway straining between the low light, hard to read thin #'s. One other thing as a runner, that isn't bad, but... it's over kill. I only run and bike, this watch does SOOOO much more that i just didn't use or see myself ever using. So I felt guilty spending that much money on it. Returned it...

... and bought the FR235. So, I mentioned I'm runner, a bunch of marathons, running 5-6 days a week at 55-60 miles in peek training. Okay, so what I love and why I kept this watch... It's designed for the runner and for everyday use, but not working out, hiking, etc... The look is great, and the basic screen is awesome. Switching the screen to analog allows me to look a little more professional in the office with it. The Notifications work awesome. I use the find my iphone built in, answer phone calls with it (can't speak through it), and the #'s are LARGE, but not overdone at all. I just mean i can read them clearly while running. The text is thin letters and harder for ME to read even when standing still, but doable for sure. GPS Signal is found in the middle of my house within 10 sec's every single time... outside, my FR610 needed a solid 5-8 min's. The colors option sucks, so i leave it white on black all the time except running, it's black font on white background then. It's SUPER Light and comfortable. The HR monitor use to annoy my wrist the first week, then I got use to it and never know it's there now. I really where all time and miss my other nice expensive watches sitting in the watch box for now. I do rinse it under warm water after each run to get my body salt and sweat off of it since i like it looking good. I put a screen protecter on it and have banged it into walls and the car, etc... not a single dent or scratch on the side or screen yet. So it's durable for sure. I battery lasts days at a time. I'm currently down to 15% on it and will still go out for a 5-6 mile run later before I charge it. It syncs with Garmin Connect quickly with no issues. The HR monitor, lots of other reviews on that, so I'll skip my opinion on that. I would take a picture and post, but it really looks like the pictures (not as bright with the screen font though). Okay, so the one thing I HATE... is with the bluetooth connection to my phone... the iphone 6s battery dies down alot faster. Maybe double it's normal speed. So it's not draining instantly and killing the phone battery... but I do see it go drain faster then prior use. You can slow this down by closing the Connections app... BUT, you need to leave that Connections app open in the background for the Find My Phone option to work. It works through the app, not through Bluetooth. So if i close it and can't find my phone, it wont work. I suppose that is a person decision to keep it open, since I"ve used that find my phone in my house several times a week (even when phone is silent it works).

Okay, so I wrote alot... my suggestion out of the 3 watches, i recently tested for a runner the FR235 is the way to go for sure. Like I said, I love it, and I'm really picky.

This is not a review for Forerunner 235, which is a great running watch with all the features that I was looking for. My feedback is for shoppers that are wondering if a refurbished item is the right choice.
I'm very happy with the purchase. The watch arrived in good condition, even though not in the original packaging. I've had the watch for about 5 days and used it 4 times; this morning the battery was at 30%, which seems to be expected for the Forerunner 235. It syncs beautifully with my phone and I can't wait to take it out for my next run.
Happy shopping!

Ed
I adore this watch. It is so well designed and easy to use. My friends and I all comment that this watch is so much better than an Apple Watch for someone who exercises. It keeps track of steps very well and tracks my running very accurately and easily. It also tracks the miles on my running shoes and my sleep patterns. I like that it also shows my text messages on the watch face. I could go on and on about this watch; it is great. I saw that the price went down substantially since I bought it. I would suggest you buy a screen cover as if I didn't have the cover I would have ruined the watch a few times.

I bought the 235 to replace my 225 because I wanted phone notifications. The 235 has provided not only the notifications, but many other benefits as well. I really like that it constantly tracks your heart rate. No more guessing on what your "resting heart rate" really is as it shows you what your rate has been over the previous four hours. I am also enjoying the race predictor function; just set your distance and it will tell you how much further you have to go and how much longer you will be out given your average pace. Another added feature is background syncing. The 225 would only sync when you opened the app which caused me to lose a few runs. The 235 also has the added feature of a forced sync. On the 225, you just had to keep opening and closing the app to make it sync.

The notifications are quite helpful, but this is where it loses a star. The app must be constantly running on your phone for to sync. In addition, I have had a number of occasions where it lost connectivity with my phone. If you have the connection alarm turned off, you do not know this until you go a while without any notifications. The other downside is that you cannot select which notifications you want to receive and which you do not. For instance, if you have all notifications on then your watch buzzes with apps are updated or someone likes an Instagram picture. The only other two options are for "phone calls" or "off". I would happily give the watch five stars if I had the ability to receive phone and text alerts without all the other junk. When I'm running, I do not care about emails or app updates, but I would like to see if my wife is trying to text me something important.

Just as a point of comparison, I do miss the strap from the 225. It was wider and felt more secure. This strap is about two-thirds the size, however it does make the watch feel much lighter.

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Please ensure both model and battery part number are matched with your device.

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