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The Garmin FR225 with optical heart rate: Everything you ever wanted to know

Garmin-FR225-BackOfUnit

Today Garmin has released their first device with an optical heart rate sensor built into it, the new Forerunner 225.  In the simplest possible terms, the FR225 is basically a FR220 running watch with an optical HR sensor stuffed inside and then the Garmin Vivo lineup of activity tracking functionality (i.e. steps) added to it as well.

In doing so though, Garmin focuses on what is likely the widest possible segment of the market.  The mid-range GPS running watch is incredibly popular, and it also gives Garmin a bit of an easier proving ground than the higher end watches like a Fenix3 or FR920XT, which would expect optical HR across not just running, but other sports as well such as swimming.

Still, being the first of the three majors (Garmin, Suunto, and Polar), it’ll no doubt kick off a bit of an arms race over the next 6-12 months for the three brands to incorporate what is now becoming commonplace in many other devices.  In the meantime, let’s dive into the FR225.

New Features:

Garmin-FR225-HR-MonitorOption

When it comes to new features, Garmin kept things pretty ‘focused’ on the FR225.  The entirety of these new features are three things:

1) Inclusion of an optical heart rate sensor (ok, that’s a really big new thing)
2) Inclusion of activity tracking (steps/goal/etc…)
3) Addition of a heart rate ‘gauge’ page

And there ya have it…the FR225 in three easy steps.

Now, there are some minor other tweaks; for example – they had to change up the back of the unit thus resulting in a change to the charger.  Similarly, it got a bit more plump due to onboarding the optical sensor (see next section).  However, at its core, the FR225 is still the FR220.

Those however that were disappointed with the lack of activity tracking in the FR220 will no doubt be happy to see it included in the FR225.  However, at the same time it’s a bit of a surprise that Garmin skipped smartphone notifications given that Polar has it in the M400 (for $120 less), and Garmin itself has it in the Vivoactive for $50 less.

To give you a bit of a walk-through of the unit I’ve put together this short video.  Note, I’ve got a second video later on in the post where I take it for a short run.

As you can see, the menus and functions are all virtually identical to the FR220 (plus activity tracking).  Whereas the size is where you see some slight changes.

Size & Weight Comparisons:

First, let’s start off with how it compares to the FR220 directly.  Here’s a full front shot, with the FR225 on the left:

Garmin-FR220-FR225-Comparison

Next, the side profile shot:

Garmin-FR220-FR225-SideBySide

If you line it up next to a slew of different optical sensor capable GPS watches though, it’s actually one of the smallest out there (look, I don’t know why the purple GPS-enabled FR15 photo bombed the optical sensor party, it lacks optical HR):

Garmin-FR220-FR15-TomTomCardio-AdidasSmartRun

Next, looking at the weight, the optical sensor (and perhaps any extra battery added to assist with the additional drain), prompted a weight gain of 13g over the FR220, coming in at 54g.

Garmin-FR225-Weight

Garmin-FR220-Weight

For comparison, here’s a few other units per the same scale:

FR220: 41g
FR225: 54g
FR620: 44g
FR920XT: 62g
Fenix2: 86g
Fenix3 Grey: 82g (Sapphire is 175g)
Ambit3: 86g
Polar V800: 81g

Finally, how does it look on one’s wrist?  Well, we’ll start with The Girl, since she’s prettier:

Since I know many will ask, she’s 5’2” tall and has a wrist size of 14cm (or 5.5 inches).

And then, here’s me (6’2” tall) with a wrist size of 17cm (or about 6.5 inches):

Of course, you’ll see my wrists throughout the post and videos, so you’ll likely get bored of them.

The Heart Rate Sensor:

Garmin-FR225-OpticalHR-Sensor

Without question the most important new feature (out of two new features) in the FR225 is the optical heart rate (HR) sensor.  This sensor works by shining an LED light into the blood capillaries at your wrist, which it then reads optically using the infrared sensor.

While inclusion of optical sensors in watches is all the rage these days, the inclusion of accurate optical sensors is much less prevalent.  One can point at a myriad of smart watch options that have garbage HR data from them when it comes to working out.

There are basically two major players in the sport-specific accurate-data realm: Mio and Valencell.  Mio’s sensors come from a partnership with Philips, while Valencell’s are developed in-house.  In addition, Epson also develops a highly accurate sport-specific sensor within their lineup of products. However, that sensor is not in any other 3rd party products at the time.

Whereas with Mio and Valencell they have a host of companies that have been using their sensors for years:

Mio: Mio’s own Link/Fuse/Velo/Alpha units, TomTom’s Cardio Runner/Multisport, and Adidas’s Smart Run GPS & Fit Smart products.
Valencell: Scosche Rhythm+, Jabra Sport Pulse headphones, and the iRiver On.

Now, we can add Garmin to the list as well with the FR225.  Garmin went with the Mio sensor, which is definitely good news (versus developing their own).

Garmin-FR220-Mio-Link

That’s promising since the Mio sensor is a pretty well established ‘known’.  The sensor used in the FR225 is a slightly newer iteration than those found in existing Mio products, with some minor electronic component changes.  You can see below the Mio sensor in other products, such as the Mio Link (grey) and the TomTom Cardio GPS (red)

Garmin-FR225-MioLink-TomTomCardio

If we look at Mio’s history with sensors (both in their own products and 3rd party ones), I’d say that on the optical HR portion it’s relatively accurate.  Where Mio made one stumble with a product was in their Mio Link/Velo units in using an inferior ANT+ transmitter antenna design, which caused dropouts in connectivity for some users over longer distances.  Thankfully, that’s not applicable here.

Now the one caveat to using an optical HR sensor can be that some folks may see issues with weight-lifting related workouts.  Or basically workouts where you tighten the wrist muscles enough that it causes the optical sensor to stumble.  It doesn’t impact everyone, but it’s something to be aware of.  And while tattoos and darker skin can be challenging for some sensors, I haven’t seen too many folks with issues there in Mio’s sensors either (but again, that’ll vary person to person).

Garmin has added one provision to the FR225 in an attempt to minimize issues – which is to supplement the bottom of the watch with a rubber seal of sorts.  This little flexible seal reduces the amount of external light getting under the watch (external light is the arch-enemy of optical HR sensors).  Think of this like a window-shade:

Garmin-FR225-Rubber-Seal

Interestingly, it’s actually removable, which his kinda smart.  In the event this wears over time, replacing it would be trivial.  Looking at the materials, it looks durable enough to me – but it’s hard to say how it’d stand up to daily pounding for 2-3 years. Replacement seals are just $5.

Garmin-FR225-Seal-Removal

Next, Garmin also added a new data page to the unit, which has a graphical heart rate gauge.

Garmin-FR225-HR-ZoneGauge

Garmin-FR225-Graphical-HR-Gauge

This gauge is tied to the heart rate zones that you setup within the watch (you can configure the ranges of five zones).

Garmin-FR225-HR-Zone-Config

The gauge will also tell you your exact HR in BPM as well of course (it’d be silly to not include the exact BPM in a watch these days, yet some companies have tried it rather unsuccessfully).

DCIM\100GOPRO\G0024246.

In addition, you also have the existing HR page showing your exact HR as well as your HR zone:

DCIM\100GOPRO\G0024292.

Finally, you’ll maintain the same FR220 data page options that were previously available.  Which are:

Data Page 1: Three metrics of your choice
Data Page 2: Three metrics of your choice
HR Page: Exact BPM, Current Zone
HR Gauge: Exact BPM, Colorful Zone Gauge (New)
Clock Page: Shows the time and Vivofit related metrics

When it comes to which metrics you can select for the two data pages, your options are:

Metrics to select: Timer, Lap Time, Distance, Lap Distance, Pace, Average Pace, Lap Pace, Speed, Cadence, Calories, Heart Rate, Average Heart Rate, HR Zone, Elevation

These metrics all display just like on any other Garmin GPS watch:

DCIM\100GOPRO\G0024267.

Note that there are no additional sports to configure – only the single running mode.  Like the previous FR220, you do get functions such as Auto Lap, Auto Pause, and Auto Scroll, as well as Run/Walk Mode and various alerts that you can configure.  Best I can tell, no features were removed from the FR220 – only added (and really only related to the HR piece and activity tracking).

Activity Tracking:

Garmin-FR225-Activity-Tracking

Moving along to new feature #2, Garmin has added activity tracking to the FR225.  Activity tracking on the FR225 includes the ability to track your steps throughout the day, and in doing so your progress towards a goal. Additionally, it’ll track your distance walked and calories.

You can see this data below the time on the face of the watch.  By pressing the up/down buttons you can iterate through the different metrics (steps, calories, distance, steps to goal):

Additionally, you can also check your resting heart rate via the optical sensor at any time by pressing the up/down buttons on the front, which activates the optical sensor and displays it below the time of day:

Garmin-FR225-RestingHR

A couple seconds later, it’ll show your current heart rate:

Garmin-FR225-Resting-HR-Value

When it comes to your progress towards the goal for the day, that’s displayed around the inside of the unit, you can see below it’s all green, indicating that I’ve completed my goal:

Garmin-FR225-GoalComplete

Next, like other Garmin activity trackers it has the inactivity bar, which will increase the longer you sit around watching YouTube videos.  Eventually it’ll beep/buzz at you to stop watching the 12th consecutive showing of cat fan.

Garmin-FR225-Activity-Calories

All of this data is uploaded wirelessly via your smart phone to the Garmin Connect Mobile app (iOS/Android) and then onwards to Garmin Connect, the web platform for your daily activity and workout data.

Finally, in the event none of this activity tracker business is of interest to you – you can go ahead and disable that within the options as well.

Accuracy Test Run:

FR225-AccuracyTestRun

I got to very briefly steal a unit for a few hours so I decided to head out for a short run.  During the run, in order to compare HR accuracy I took along its sibling – the FR220 – paired to a traditional Garmin chest strap (HRM3).  Thus on the run I had:

A) Garmin FR220 with HR chest strap
B) Garmin FR225 with its internal optical HR sensor

The run was just a meandering flat course around some of the local parks here in Paris, nothing terribly complex.  The focus of it was mostly just on heart rate accuracy.  So I did a few surges and whatnot as I went along.  In order to explain things, I shot this short little video showing before/during/after the run, along with some analysis:

I thought it was both somewhat fitting and ironic that the traditional chest strap seemed to stumble briefly twice.  Go figure.

If we dive a bit deeper into heart rate side on some charts here, you’ll see that things largely mirror each other for the majority of the run.  You do see a 1-2BPM discrepancy in some cases. Either via just a second or two of lag, or just differences in smoothing.  None of which would have made a difference in a workout however (coming from one that trains heavily with HR data).

image

The one scenario that you see a difference though is around the 20-minute marker.  It’s when I stopped at a crosswalk and the traditional HR strap just…well…crapped the bed.  No idea why.  You can see that when I started running again it was just sitting there at 130BPM pondering life.  Whereas the Mio sensor within the FR225 instantly picked up and kept chugging.

image

You also see an interesting few second gap in the HR strap again a few minutes later for a few seconds.  I noticed this on the screen as well.  Perhaps the battery is going in the strap – I just picked one at random out of the bin of straps (I’ve mostly stopped using chest straps and instead use the Scosche optical HR band unless I have to test something else).

Of course, this is just a single test on a single relatively short run.  So while I’d view the optical HR accuracy as quite acceptable/good here, it’s possible that if I were to test the device for the next 2 months every other run could be bad.  Though, given Mio’s history I suspect that’s not terribly likely.

For those interested, the Garmin Connect activities are available here: The FR220 activity (chest strap) and the FR225 activity (optical sensor).

And for those that want to download the raw .FIT files themselves, they’re available here. Note again, the watch I was using is a beta watch, thus things are subject to change.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Garmin-FR225-FinishPic

In an effort to stem the tide of questions, here’s a list of what I suspect will be common questions.  Or, areas that I didn’t otherwise touch on in the course of the review:

What are the colors, price and availability?

The FR225 is available only in black/red, and for $299USD. Availability is set for “Q2 2015”, so basically it’ll be out by the end of June 2015.

What is the battery life?

Garmin states 7-10 hours of GPS-on & HR-on.  Additionally, it has 4 weeks in watch-on mode (i.e. time of day/activity tracking).

Does the FR225 have Garmin Connect IQ?

No, it does not.

Does the FR225 track steps?

Yes, it does. Along with sleep as well (automatically).

Will the FR225 capture heart rate while underwater?

I wasn’t able to test that yet, however many readers have been using the Mio Link successfully to transmit optical HR data underwater to another watch adjacent to it on their wrist (it has to be directly next to it due to water transmission limitations).  Outside of a few very short tests I did with that setup (which generally worked with the Mio Link for me), I haven’t spent significant time testing that configuration.

As for the FR225, since it uses the same sensor family as the Mio Link, I suspect it probably would work. Just keep in mind that you wouldn’t get any stroke/distance type data in the pool since the FR225 lacks a swimming mode.  Still, it’s something I’ll dig into in my in-depth review.

Does the FR225 have smartphone notifications?

No, it does not.  My guess is that they used 95% the same hardware from the FR220, which didn’t quite have the right internals to do a low-power Bluetooth Smart mode needed for the smartphone notifications.

Does the FR225 continually monitor your HR 24×7?

No, only in workout mode. You can however quickly check your HR by pressing up/down, which enables the HR sensor temporarily to show you your current pulse. But it doesn’t store this in any sort of 24×7 monitoring mode like the Fitbit Charge HR/Surge, or the Basis units.

Would you recommend the FR225 or an Apple Watch?

Well, one is a fair bit cheaper than the other.  I’m still working on my Apple Watch review.  At first glance, I’d say that the FR225 appears to have a more accurate HR sensor than the Apple Watch.  Meanwhile, the Apple Watch is far more versatile as a day to day smart watch, however it lacks GPS by itself (it needs a phone with it). It’ll likely come down to what you’re looking for.

How do you compare the FR225 to the TomTom Cardio lineup?

They’re very similar – so much so that they use the same optical HR sensor.  However, they differ a bit under the covers.  For example, the FR225 has daily activity tracking, whereas the TomTom Cardio doesn’t.  Inversely, the TomTom Cardio Multisport edition can be used for cycling and has a swimming mode – whereas the FR225 doesn’t.

Garmin’s site and app are significantly better than TomTom’s website, however the TomTom Cardio is also $40 cheaper (and semi-frequently goes on sale).

How would you rate the Fitbit Surge to the Garmin FR225?

In general Fitbit makes better daily activity trackers than Garmin (from a web platform standpoint), however, when it comes to GPS watches right now the nod is definitely more towards Garmin.  If I look at the optical sensor though, the FR225 can’t do continuous/all day long HR tracking like the Fitbit Surge can.  On the flip side, the Fitbit Surge isn’t terribly accurate when it comes to HR while cycling (and is so-so accurate during running).

Would you buy the FR225 or the Polar M400+Scosche optical band?

Now that’s a tricky one.  The FR225 would still be more expensive than the Polar/Scosche combo (about $50 more), but it would make for two things to deal with charging wise.  However, the M400 has multiple sport modes (the FR225 only has one), and it also has smartphone notifications coming up soon too via a firmware update. Thus, it’s a bit of a tricky question.

Is the FR225 waterproof?

Yes, to 50-meters.  And no, I didn’t put it in the waterproof chamber yet, simply because it was a beta unit and I didn’t really want to kill it on them in the few hours I had with it.  Don’t worry, as part of my in-depth review I will.

Can the FR225 pair to an existing HR strap?

Yes, it can pair to any ANT+ heart rate strap.

Can the FR225 pair to a running footpod?

Yes, it can pair to an ANT+ running footpod.

Does the FR225 re-transmit your heart rate over ANT+ to other devices?

No, super-disappointingly it does not. This would have been an ideal way for Garmin to potentially lure in Garmin Edge unit owners who might be casual runners, by giving them something they could use with their bike computer as well.  I wouldn’t be surprised however if the lack of re-broadcasting/re-transmitting is due to some terms of the licensing agreement with Mio.

Additionally, it does not re-broadcast/re-transmit your HR over standard Bluetooth Smart to any device (i.e. a 3rd party phone app).

Just to be clear through, re-broadcasting does not meant that you can’t view your HR on your phone after the activity is completed using Garmin Connect Mobile.  Additionally, you can also view the heart rate on the website in realtime when using Live Tracking with the FR225.  But you can’t pair another device to this HR signal.

When will Garmin add optical HR into their FR620, FR920XT, or Fenix3 watchs?

I don’t know, Garmin hasn’t announced any product plans beyond the FR225. However, it would seem pretty obvious to me that eventually all Garmin GPS watches will have optical HR within them. That’s pretty much the technology trend these days.  Just like it was to include activity tracking.  Nowadays, launching GPS watch without activity tracking would be akin to trying to sell sand in the desert.  Similarly, we’ll see that same transition for optical HR over the next 6-12 months (it’s already happening at the low-mid range, but will slowly creep up to higher end units).

Product Comparison Tool:

I’ve added the Garmin FR225 into the product comparison database.  This means you can mix and match it against any other product I’ve reviewed.  For the purposes of below, I’ve shown just the FR220, FR225, TomTom Cardio Runner, Epson Runsense SF-810, and Fitbit Surge – which seem to be to be the most applicable GPS-enabled competitors.

Function/FeatureGarmin Forerunner 225Epson SF-810Garmin Forerunner 220TomTom Runner CardioFitbit Surge
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated June 9th, 2016 @ 10:42 amNew Window
Price$299$349$249$269.00$249
Product Announcement DateMay 12th, 2015August 2014SEPT 16, 2013Apr 2, 2014Oct 27th, 2014
Actual Availability/Shipping DateJuly 2015Fall 2014 to Spring 2015OCT 31, 2013Mid-April 2014Dec 10th, 2014
GPS Recording FunctionalityYesYesYesYesYes
Data TransferUSB, Bluetooth SmartUSB/Bluetooth SmatUSB, Bluetooth SmartUSB/Bluetooth SmartBluetooth Smart
Waterproofing50 Meters50 meters50 MetersATM5 (~50m)ATM5 (~50m), but no swimming
Battery Life (GPS)7-10 hours20hrs10 hours10hrs with GPS-on10 hours GPS on (5-7 days in time/step mode)
Recording IntervalSMART RECORDING (VARIABLE)1-secondSMART RECORDING (VARIABLE)1-second1-second
Satellite Pre-Loading via ComputerYes, 7 daysYesYes, 7 daysYesNo
Quick Satellite ReceptionGreatDependsGreatExcellentSo-so
AlertsVIBRATE/SOUND/VISUALVIBRATE/SOUND/VISUALVIBRATE/SOUND/VISUALAudio/Visual/VibrateYes
Backlight GreatnessGreatGreatGreatGreatGood
Ability to download custom apps to unit/deviceNoNoNoNoNo
Acts as daily activity monitor (steps, etc...)YesNoNoNoYes
ConnectivityGarmin Forerunner 225Epson SF-810Garmin Forerunner 220TomTom Runner CardioFitbit Surge
Bluetooth Legacy (pre-4.0) to PhoneNoNoNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart (4.0+) to Phone UploadingYesYEsYesYesYes
Phone Notifications to unit (i.e. texts/calls/etc...)NoNoNoNoText and Call notifications only
Live Tracking (streaming location to website)YesNoYesNoNo
Emergency/SOS Message Notification (from watch to contacts)NoNoNoNoNo
Built-in cellular chip (no phone required)NoNoNoNoNo
CyclingGarmin Forerunner 225Epson SF-810Garmin Forerunner 220TomTom Runner CardioFitbit Surge
Designed for cyclingBarely (Speed mode only)NoBarely (Speed mode only)NoYes
Power Meter CapableNoN/ANoN/AN/A
Speed/Cadence Sensor CapableNoNoNoN/AN/A
Strava segments live on deviceNoNoNoNo
RunningGarmin Forerunner 225Epson SF-810Garmin Forerunner 220TomTom Runner CardioFitbit Surge
Designed for runningYesYesYesYesYes
Footpod Capable (For treadmills)Yes (also has internal accelerometer)No (has built-in accelerometers)Yes (also has internal accelerometer)No, has internal accelerometerNO, HAS INTERNAL ACCELEROMETER
Running Dynamics (vertical oscillation, ground contact time, etc...)NoNoNoNoNo
VO2Max EstimationNoNoNoNoNo
Race PredictorNoNoNoNoNo
Recovery AdvisorNoNoNoNoNo
Run/Walk ModeYesNoYesNoNo
SwimmingGarmin Forerunner 225Epson SF-810Garmin Forerunner 220TomTom Runner CardioFitbit Surge
Designed for swimmingNo (protected though just fine)No (protected though just fine)No (protected though just fine)No (protected though just fine)No
Record HR underwaterN/ANot wellNoN/ASorta but not recommended
TriathlonGarmin Forerunner 225Epson SF-810Garmin Forerunner 220TomTom Runner CardioFitbit Surge
Designed for triathlonNoNoNoNoNo
Multisport modeNoNoNoNoNo
WorkoutsGarmin Forerunner 225Epson SF-810Garmin Forerunner 220TomTom Runner CardioFitbit Surge
Create/Follow custom workoutsYesNoYesNoNo
On-unit interval FeatureYesYesYesYesNo
Training Calendar FunctionalityYesNoYesNoNo
FunctionsGarmin Forerunner 225Epson SF-810Garmin Forerunner 220TomTom Runner CardioFitbit Surge
Auto Start/StopYesYesYesNoNo
Virtual Partner FeatureNoYesNoYesNo
Virtual Racer FeatureNoNoNoYesNo
Records PR's - Personal Records (diff than history)YesNoYesNoNo
Day to day watch abilityYesYesYesYesYes
Hunting/Fishing/Ocean DataNoNoNoNoNo
Tidal Tables (Tide Information)NoNoNoNoNo
Jumpmaster mode (Parachuting)nONoNoNoNo
GeocachingnONoNoNoNo
Weather Display (live data)NoNoNoNoNo
NavigateGarmin Forerunner 225Epson SF-810Garmin Forerunner 220TomTom Runner CardioFitbit Surge
Follow GPS Track (Courses/Waypoints)NoNoNoNoNo
Markers/Waypoint DirectionNoNoNoNoNo
Routable/Visual Maps (like car GPS)NoNoNoNoNo
Back to startNoNoNoNoNo
Impromptu Round Trip Route CreationNoNoNoNoNo
Download courses/routes from phone to unitNoNoNoNoNo
SensorsGarmin Forerunner 225Epson SF-810Garmin Forerunner 220TomTom Runner CardioFitbit Surge
Altimeter TypeGPSBarometricGPSGPSBarometric
Optical Heart Rate Sensor internallyYesYesNoYesYES
Heart Rate Strap CompatibleYES (ALSO INTERNAL OPTICAL HR SENSOR)Optical HR sensor in unitYesYes (also internal optical HR sensor)Contains optical HR SENSOR
ANT+ Heart Rate Strap CapableYesNoYesNoNo
ANT+ Speed/Cadence CapableNoNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Footpod CapableYesNoYesNo, has internal accelerometerNo
ANT+ Power Meter CapableNoNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Weight Scale CapableNoNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Fitness Equipment (Gym)NoNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Lighting ControlNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Bike Radar IntegrationNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Trainer Control (FE-C)NoNoNoNo
ANT+ Remote ControlNoNoNoNoNo
ANT+ eBike CompatibilityNoNoNoNoNo
Shimano Di2 ShiftingnONoNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart HR Strap CapableNoNoNoYes (also internal optical HR sensor)No
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence CapableNoNoNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart Footpod CapableNoNoNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter CapableNoNoNoNoNo
Temp Recording (internal sensor)NoYesNoNoNo
Temp Recording (external sensor)NoNoNoNoNo
Compatible with Firstbeat HR toolsNoNoNoNoNo
SoftwareGarmin Forerunner 225Epson SF-810Garmin Forerunner 220TomTom Runner CardioFitbit Surge
PC ApplicationGarmin ExpressWindows/MacGarmin ExpressMySports ConnectWindows/Mac
Web ApplicationGarmin ConnectYesGarmin ConnectTomTom MySportsYes
Phone AppiOS/AndroidiOS/AndroidiOS/AndroidiOS/AndroidiOS/Android/Windows Phone
Ability to Export SettingsNoNoNoNoNo
PurchaseGarmin Forerunner 225Epson SF-810Garmin Forerunner 220TomTom Runner CardioFitbit Surge
Amazon LinkLinkLinkLinkLinkLink
Clever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programLinkN/ALinkLinkLink
Clever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programLink
DCRainmakerGarmin Forerunner 225Epson SF-810Garmin Forerunner 220TomTom Runner CardioFitbit Surge
Review LinkLinkLinkLinkLinkLink

Remember again that you can mix and match any products you’d like within the product comparison tool.

My Initial Thoughts:

Garmin-FR225-Back

I’d first start out by noting that my time with the FR225 was extremely limited – just a few hours really.  And, it’s also a pre-production device (both hardware and software).  So while it performed well, I’d caveat that this isn’t an in-depth review (or really any review at all).

In the case of the FR225, by going with the generally proven Mio sensor and combining it with the also generally proven FR220, Garmin is likely able to minimize potential issues and get an optical unit quickly into the marketplace with the least risky device (compared to say trying to stuff it into the Fenix3 or FR920XT).  During my test run, I saw just that – it simply worked.  It acquired both GPS and heart rate quickly, and displayed/recorded that data accurately too.  Easy as pie.

I see the FR225 as really the starting point for what will likely be an influx of optical heart rate sensing watches by the three major GPS sport watch makers (Garmin/Suunto/Polar).  No doubt other companies have released very capable products in this space (TomTom, Epson, Adidas), but the volume of shipped units by those organizations just pales in comparison to what Garmin/Suunto/Polar do.  For example, in talking with Polar about optical HR earlier in the year – they were keenly aware of where the market is heading and noted that they weren’t ignoring that trend (but also noted they had nothing to share publically at the time).

Regarding the FR225 specifically, overall it’s a good mid-market offering.  The only challenge I think Garmin has is the pricing of the unit at $299. That’s $50 more than the Fitbit Surge, which also has GPS and activity tracking (plus phone/text notifications), along with a cycling mode and some indoor modes (i.e. for yoga).  On the flip side, the Garmin device has far more running workout capability functions – be it interval & custom workouts, or customization of the data screens.  Additionally, based on my history with the Mio sensors, I suspect that the FR225 will work for cycling, whereas even with Fitbit’s latest cycling update – I have approximately zero HR accuracy with the Fitbit Surge (GPS is fine).  Of course, I’d still have to validate that on the FR225 as part of my review process.

Speaking of that in-depth review – expect that likely in June sometime, once I’ve got a final production unit in my hands.

Thanks for reading!

Update: You can now pre-order the Garmin FR225 from Clever Training.  By doing so you help support the site, but also can save a bundle with the DCR/Clever Training VIP program (plus free 3-day shipping).

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676 Comments

  1. Roda

    Hello,

    I would like to capture my heart rate and calories when lifting weights at the gym. Is this watch capable of that? Do you just use it as an Activity Tracker at that point and turn off the Run feature?

    Thank you for your time.

    • NikiGT

      Good question – I know you need to turn off the GPS while using it in the gym for this purpose, but when I do it, even though it measures my HR, it does not display or calculate the right calories. I assume it is because its calculation method relies also on the distance you have taken which is minimal in the gym, but this is just a guess.

    • Marva

      How do you know the calories are not accurate?

      I have been using it because I was injured and was forced to do water aerobics. This one is the only one I know that can keep track of heart rate in the water. It helped me push harder to stay at least in the aerobic range.

      The calorie reports are high, but I’ve always got high calorie burn numbers with garmin products. But perhaps that’s because I am using them for non running activities? Now that I think about it, it doesn’t seem the calories reported for walks/runs are as out of whack as those reported for my in gym activities.

      I am not sure how to turn off the gps on the 225. Any help with that would be appreciated.

  2. Dale

    I’ve heard Tom Tom syncs straight to Strava. Do you know if the 225 does as well?

  3. NikiGT

    I have been using the 225 for a month now so getting somewhat familiar with its functions, nevertheless, I have an issue with the Garmin Connect diary for which I do not seem to find any solution anywhere.
    The Diary section on my Garmin Connect Dashboard should indicate the training days with the colour I choose – and it doesn’t. I see the weekly summary at the right hand side, but the diary view itself is blank. I have tried it in Chrome and iExplorer as well. And to be honest, this is one of the features that I looked forward the most.
    Has anyone ever faced the same problem? Or am I the only one being clumsy with it?
    Thanks in advance for any advice!

  4. Melanie

    How does vibrate alert work? I listen to music so I never hear the beep on my old forerunner 305. Can a person input a pace they don’t want to go under and it vibrates?

    There’s about 5 features that the 620 has that the 220/225 do not. (Excluding the touch screen) I’m not sure what they do? When looking at the comparison chart for these devices, can someone explain what I’m missing out on by choosing the 220/225 vs 620? (Again I’m not talking about the touch screen or the lack of optical HRM).

    I’ve been debating the 220 or 620 for a couple weeks and just learned of the 225 so now I’m just torn.

    What I’ve wanted for the past few years was vibrate alert. And auto pause,… Which all 3 have.

    I just don’t know what device is for me bc I don’t know what all the features do on 620 that aren’t on 220/225.

    Thanks

  5. Melanie

    I see where the 220/620 say “vibrate alert when you’ve gone under lace you set”. The 225 only says “vibrate alert to get you up and moving if you’ve been sitting for too long”. But I see in your review that the 225 has the features of the 220 and they added but didn’t subtract. Please tell me the 225 allows you to set a pace and it vibrates when you’ve gone under…. My hubby just walked in the door with the 225 and I hope it has that feature! I don’t want to take out of the box until I know.

    Thanks

    • Melanie

      I found it finally! The quick start manual in the box didn’t say anything about it but the online manual does. Vibrate feature is what I want so woohoo! But disregard my last comment.

      Thanks

  6. Lou

    having used the garmin 225 for a few weeks now and having done many runs with it, I am a very happy customer! every single run has been perfect. not even once have I had any bad readings/runs recorded. Im fortunate to have a flat top wrist area and I use the watch right over my wrist bone like I wore my old garmin 620 and ive had no issues. I do wear my watch snug, but not overly tight, but that’s how I wore my garmin 620 as I don’t like my watch to move when in running. so I basically can wear the new 225 exactly where and how I wore my old 620. heres a pic of todays 4 mile run as im in week 3 of my 16 week training for the nyc marathon on nov. 1. I wish the same success to all of you new garmin 225 users.

  7. philw75

    Can this be used to track activity in specific things like cardio gym classes, or when used as an activity tracker is it only good for “whole of day” activity tracking? ie can it be used for sports/activities other than running?

  8. tzoff

    Has this watch only vibration wake-up alarm?

  9. Seth

    How did you graph the 225 and the Chest strap with only smart recording as the option? Did they both happen to use the same recording points/intervals in smart recording mode?

    Trying to see if my 225 can be a standalone replacement for my Scosche, but If I don’t have the option to do 1s data collection I may just return the device.

    • In full reviews I just use Excel. But above in the post I used MyGPSFiles site.

      There’s no option on the FR225 for 1-second recording (nor do I expect there ever will be). Thus, there isn’t perfect alignment second-by-second, but they are timeline aligned.

  10. Jesper Tohr

    Thanks for the review. I have read for the second time as my friend is starting to use this. Any idea when will be the in-depth review be written? It was stated above, that will be somewhere around mid-June. Apologize if you’ve made comments above but I’ve not really read through each of them. :)

  11. Laura

    Ray-

    My Garmin 210 has completely failed. I went to Garmin and they could not help me. So…I’m looking at the 225 and the Vivoactive. I do swim and bike but not triathlon. I do want an activity tracker and I think the heart rate monitor would be great for me to improve my fitness. I don’t like wearing the strap.

  12. brooke

    Is the forerunner 225 compatible with the Plantronics bluetooth head phones (backbeat fit ) ?

  13. Matt

    I would like to use this for hiking. I want to monitor my heart rate and keep it within a certain range.
    So… would it work hiking in the mountains?

    Thanks in advance…

  14. Isobel CRAIB

    Hi is this watch unsuitable for cycling? Can it be used for 2 people(ie sharing the watch with my husband)

    • It can be shared, but you’ll find calorie accuracy will differ since there’s only one user profile.

      For cycling, it can work – I’m just working on analyzing a few weeks worth of cycling data on it.

  15. Stephen

    I ask this to the site, more so than to you. You’ve got plenty of other more important questions to answer. I’ve recently gotten into running and swimming and am about to start training for a triathlon. As I am reviewing watches that fit me as an entry but good long term option, I’m stumped by the lack of a particular feature.

    Why is it that virtually none of these watches offers music storage/playback to bluetooth ear pieces? I hate carrying my phone on a run but enjoy listening to music or podcasts. as cheap as internal storage is, I don’t understand why that isn’t part of any new releases. thanks!

  16. Weekend Warrior 3

    I am curious about the optical HR sensor and its performance for those that spin/cycle (ie a constricted wrist movement to some degree) and its ability to monitor HRM correctly based on the comments above. I have an older Polar RX300 with chest mounted HRM that has served me well but the H1-transmitter has begun to not transmit all the time (changed batteries, new strap etc) and I have decided to look at new watch options as the watch itself is over 3 years old. I am a runner/spinner now since the Ortho Doctor said that being a bigger guy (225lbs) and running every day is not doing my knees any favors. So any feedback from the spinners or cyclists on the Optical HR performance would be appreciated.

  17. Daniel Varinsky

    Hello,

    I already touched the theme some time before, but would like to ask again. I would really like to buy a watch and have 3 final candidates – Garmin 225 , Adidas SmartRun & Polar M400. I’d welcome a watch which has mobile notifications, plays music, is aimed mainly on running and has good interval training posiibilities, being accurate on GPS and optical HR, activity monitoring is really optional. The DC Rainmaker page (and namely comparison tool) really helped me in orientation – in this way I chose my 3 candidates :-). However, some time passed since the initial revues and firmware updates may have changed the way you look at them and the possibilities of the watches…. Thus, what is your opinion ? Which one would you recommend ? Are any firmware updates of the watches awaited that could add some functionalities ? Currently I favour the Garmin…. Or should I wait for some upcoming models (any info on this side ? :-) ) ? …

    Thank you,
    Daniel

    • Virtually all of the updates for each watch have been included within the comparison charts. :)

      If it’s music you’re after, then you’re really down to the Smart Run.

    • Daniel Varinsky

      And regardless the music ? When it comes to interval training & easibility of running out and just measuring it & exporting to a web analytical page ? :-)

    • The FR225 is most flexible when it comes to interval training and general use. Whereas the Adidas unit has more options for the gym (i.e. core workouts).

      All three can export to various web platforms, but Garmin’s can automatically sync onwards to the most services natively (all three all export though).

    • Daniel Varinsky

      Thank you for your quick response….

  18. Hi All-

    Just a super quick note to let you know that I’ve published my full in-depth review of the FR225, here: link to dcrainmaker.com

    As is usual, I’ll be closing the comments section here on the preview post, and directing any questions to the in-depth review instead – just to keep things from getting confusing.

    Thanks!