My in-depth review of my new Forerunner 235 with as much detail, photos, stats and useful information as possible.
If you read MobileGuru.LOL frequently, you probably know that apart from being a technology geek, I am also a running geek. I can honestly say that I love technology as much as I love running.
As my training plan got a bit more complex, I realized that I needed a more advanced and professional running watch that would help me better stick to the plan (especially to the pace ranges which my running coach told me to stick to). If I don’t run at these pace ranges, I will not achieve my biggest running goal (which is 40 minutes for 10k).
Most of my running friends use Garmin watches so I finally decided to give it a try. I chose Garmin Forerunner 235 as it’s quite a new watch and has a built-in optical heart rate sensor.
In this review you will learn all about my new Forerunner 235 from the perspective of a running geek who needs a professional watch that will help her achieve her wildest running dreams.
Garmin Forerunner 235 Frost Blue arrived to me in a small and a bit mysterious box. I was so eager to crack it open immediately but, fortunately, I managed to shoot at least a few photos when it was still in the box.
Just take a look at what you might expect to see once your order arrives.
Here is what you will find in the box:
- Garmin Forerunner 235
- A USB charging cable
- Quick manuals in different languages
This is how the watch looks after my most recent run. 🙂
This is basically all you need to get your watch up and running.
MY REVIEW OF GARMIN FORERUNNER 235: FIRST IMPRESSIONS
All of my running friends are forever talking about their Garmin watches and how cool they are. Never having been an owner of a Garmin running watch, I was positively astonished at its looks when I saw my new watch for the first time.
Garmin Forerunner 235 is simply elegant (much more elegant than TomTom Runner which I had previously been using) and leaves the impression of being light and thin (and it actually is light-weight especially in comparison to my Sony Smartwatch 3 which is a bit clunky).
Take a look at the three watches I currently have.
And how they look from a bit different angle.
Garmin Forerunner 235 comes in three color variations: black and grey, frost blue and marsala.
As I am girl, I wanted something light-colored and more girl-like, so I chose frost blue. I was a bit unsure how this color would look in reality, but it’s very cool. I don’t regret my choice.
MORE AND LESS TECHNICAL SPECS
If you are interested in more detailed technical specs of Garmin Forerunner 235, take a look at the specs you can find on the website of Garmin.
These are the more and less technical specs of Garmin Forerunner 235 you might be interested in:
- Physical dimensions of 1.77″ x 1.77″ x 0.46″ (45 x 45 x 11.7 mm) and 1.5 oz (42 g) of weight
- Color display of 1.23″ (31.1 mm) diameter and the resolution of 215 x 180 pixels
- Battery that according to Garmin will last 11 hours of training, 9 days of using as a watch + activity tracking + notifications + heart rate
- GPS + GLONASS
- Water and shock resistance
FEATURES AND FUNCTIONS
As you can see the list of available features is quite long. Here is what they are:
- Smart notifications and features (displays email & text and other alerts, music control, find my phone feature when paired with your compatible phone) which means it can act as a light version of your smartwatch or even replace it!
- Basic watch functions like time, date and alarm. I didn’t expect that! 😛
- Running and cycling features: V02 max estimate, Recovery advisor, Race predictor, Accelerometer, Personal records, Bike speed/cadence sensor
- Performance features: Heart rate monitor, auto pause, auto lap, auto scroll, advanced and custom workouts, timer/distance/pace alarm, interval training, calculation of calories burnt, training effect, customizable screens
- Activity tracking features: step counter, auto goal, move bar, sleep monitoring
- Garmin Connect™ compatible (online community where you can analyze, categorize and share data collected by your watch)
GARMIN FORERUNNER 235 IN PRACTICE
That is enough for the theory. Let’s now analyze how the watch performs during what it’s made for, that is, being a running watch and a bit of a smartwatch.
Garmin Forerunner 235 is, above all, a running watch and plays this role excellently. I have already run with it a couple of times and… I want more.
The watch has five buttons which let you easily control all of its features and functions: backlight, up and down, back and OK.
To start a run or other activity, you have to press the upper right OK button with the runner icon on it.
Run is selected by default, but you can also choose Run Indoor, Bike and Other.
The watch will notify you when the GPS module is ready (which usually happens within seconds). To confirm your choice, push the same button once again and you will see that the workout has been started.
From the moment of starting your workout, the operation of your watch is practically one-button. You use the same button to stop and resume the workout.
Once you pause the workout, you can resume, save or discard it (this is the feature I was missing in TomTom Runner).
Of course, simply tracking a workout is only the most basic feature Garmin Forerunner 235 offers. There are so many more.
Garmin Forerunner 235 also offers you a lot of interesting activity settings thanks to which you can customize the watch to suit practically all of your running needs.
There are a lot of ways in which you can customize data screens you will see during your workout. This feature is indeed invaluable if you really want to be in control of your workouts and progress.
Basically, you have four main screens available during a workout:
- Screen 1 and Screen 2 which you can scroll to show from one to four fields and choose what data (or its variation) should appear in each field (timer, pace, speed, distance, heart rate, cadence, temperature, elevation, Connect IQ and other).
- Heart Rate screen
- HR Zone Gauge
That’s a lot of data you can analyze and monitor during your workout, really.
Garmin Forerunner 235 also lets you define a number of alerts: Hear Rate, Run/Walk, Time, Distance, Calories or even define your custom alerts (Drink, Eat, Turn Around, Go Home).
For me the most useful alert is the Pace alert which I set to 6:00/km, which means my watch will notify me (scream at me) when I run at a pace below 6:00/km.
Of course, you can use laps which by default are set to Auto Lap and the distance being 1 km. Screen 2 will also by default show you the summary of data for laps.
If you don’t want to manually pause your workout, you can use the Auto Pause function which you can set to pause the workout when you stop or when you are running below a certain pace like 12:00/km (which, obviously, isn’t running any more).
I tested this function and it works (my watch pauses the workout after a few seconds of inactivity). This is how the what looks when it’s auto-paused (it’s orange).
As there are lots of different data screens, you may want your watch to auto scroll during your workout so that you can take a look at all the data you defined as interesting and relevant to you without having to manually change the displayed data screen.
You can either set it to Normal (GPS Only) or GPS + GLONASS for greater accuracy (e.g. when the weather is bad).
Power Save Timeout
This feature lets you customize power save timeout to either normal or extended (e.g. when you pause a workout for a long time).
Garmin Forerunner 235 has a color screen and here you can make use of it by adjusting the color of your profile. You can choose between Blue, Green, Orange, Red, Yellow, Pink, Purple.
I chose Blue as it perfectly fits the outer looks of my watch.
Garmin Forerunner 235 offers a wide range of training settings which can be adjusted to practically any type of runners (both beginners and professionals).
Under My Workouts you can browse the workouts defined by yourself.
I have defined 5 different types of workouts I do each week and all I need to do when I start a workout is choose it from the list and hit OK.
Thanks to the Garmin Connect platform (about which will talk a bit more below), you can easily create your workouts on the screen on your computer and then send them to your device.
What’s best about it is that you can define almost any parameter you want. Just take a look at the workout creator.
The above mentioned Garmin Connect platform also gives you access to lots of predefined training plans (for a variety of goals) which you can add to your calendar and plan on which days you want to work out.
Even though the Garmin Connect platform lets you easily create your own workouts from scratch, you can also quickly compose one of the most important types of workouts, interval training, right on your watch and do it.
You can also define the time or distance goal for your workout after the completion of which your watch will notify you.
The Garmin Connect platform gives you tons of different data which you can monitor and analyze for hours.
However, if you need a quick summary of what you’ve been doing recently, you can take a look at the History where you will see what activities you’ve been doing recently and view their stats (e.g. total amount of time spent on running or a number of steps).
Under My Stats you will also find a lot of useful information like Recovery Advisor (which will advise you how much time you should spend on recovering based on your most recent workout), VO2 Max., Records, Race Predictor and User Profile (where you put your data like age, gender, weight and so on).
Race Predictor is an especially interesting feature which will show you its time predictions for 5K, 10K, half marathon and a marathon based on the data it has about you.
Here is what it predicts in my case. I especially like the expected finish time for a marathon (in this post you will learn how I actually ran my last marathon). 🙂
GARMIN AS A SMARTWATCH
What I instantly loved about Garmin Forerunner 235 is that it can also act as a light version of my smartwatch, i.e. display the notifications from my phone, measure my heart rate constantly and track all of my activities (not only running but walking and sleeping).
All you need to do to turn your Garmin Forerunner 235 into a smartwatch is:
- Pair it (over Bluetooth) with your phone. Turn Bluetooth on in your phone and in the settings of your watch go to Bluetooth and then choose Pair Mobile Device. Once the devices find each other, you will need to enter the code displayed on your watch on your Android phone. From now on, when your devices are connected you will see the Bluetooth icon (on the left side of the battery icon) on the screen of your watch.
- Turn Smart Notifications on. In the settings of your watch you can also manage Smart Notifications. They are by default turned on and will display the notifications from your phone (like e-mail messages, SMS messages or notifications from Messenger). You can also choose if you want them to be displayed during a workout or not.
- Install Garmin Connect app on your smartphone.
Once you install the app on your phone, you will get access to practically all the data from the Garmin Connect platform. If your watch is paired with your phone (and you have the mobile data or Wi-Fi turned on), the data between your watch and the Garmin Connect platform will automatically be synced.
I guess every newer Garmin watch gives you the possibility of joining the Garmin Connect platform. Connect is a huge online community of users of Garmin watches. The platform offers tons of different features and functions (I still probably don’t know most of them) like:
- Possibility of connecting with your friends who also have Garmin watches
- Possibility of deeply analyzing all your workouts and all of their data
- Setting and monitoring your own goals
- Taking up challenges
- Monitoring your weight
- Creating reports of your activities
- Monitoring your sleep patters
- Monitoring your steps
- Analyzing and monitoring your heart rate
- Counting calories
- Planning your workouts and adding them to calendar
- Creating your own courses to better monitor your progress
- Viewing and analyzing your personal records
Here is a snapshot of how the platform looks like.
It may actually take a life-time to get to know this platform inside-out.
THE BUILT-IN HEAR RATE OPTICAL SENSOR
The main reason why I bought Garmin Forerunner 235 instead of 230 is the built-on optical heart rate sensor.
The sensor is placed at the bottom part of your watch, so it doesn’t add any bulk to your chest (as it is with regular running watches with the possibility of measuring heart rate) and is completely invisible (as if it has never really been there).
It seems to show very accurate results.
If you wear your watch all the time, you can easily analyze your 24-h heart rate or your sleep patterns based on your heart rate. It’s really a lot of fun to analyze these data.
Here is the data from the day when I did a decent interval training and a couple of walks.
Here is the data from the day all spent at work after which I did a cross training workout. The red range were burpees. 🙂
Here is an example sleep graph.
That’s a lot of fun, isn’t it?
What’ more, the watch doesn’t need to fit tight to your wrist to accurately measure your pulse. All it needs is the optical light to reach your skin.
ACTUAL BATTERY LIFE
I must say that I was positively astonished by the battery life of my Garmin 235 even though it’s not as great as Garmin promises.
It lasted 4 days without charging and during that time my heart rate and steps were being monitored all the time and I went for three longer runs (more than 4 hours of GPS usage in total).
Charging time is less than 2 hours, so it’s not a big of a deal to recharge your watch even once in a couple of days.
The battery life of Garmin Forerunner 235 is incomparably better to the battery of my Sony Smartwatch 3. Of course, these are completely two different devices and my Garmin has a different type of display and no OS. However, in practical terms, it’s much better to use your Garmin as a “lite” smartwatch that will last a couple of days instead of using your real smartwatch as a running watch which will day after a few hours of active usage.
Wow, it’s become a long review and I still haven’t said all I could say about this wonderful watch! Garmin Forerunner 235 is certainly the watch I have been looking for.
Not only does it meet all of my running needs, but it is also a great smartwatch (which, to be honest, I mainly need to quickly check notifications from my phone while, for example, I am driving).
The extra feature in the form of a built-in optical heart rate sensor turned out to be what I was looking for. The battery life is better than I expected so I suppose I will change my running watch only when the newer version of Garmin Forerunner 235 appears.
Share Your Thoughts
How about you? What are your thoughts on Garmin Forerunner 235? Do you like this watch? Are you thinking about buying it?
Please feel free to post me your comments in the comment box below or contact me directly. Since I decided to take my love for running to another level, I invite you to take a look at my running blog sportsjunkie.pl.
I would love to hear from you!