In keeping with the popular trend of adding activity monitoring to devices, back in April Garmin announced their latest running watch – the Forerunner 15 (FR15). This would take their popular FR10 budget-focused GPS running watch and then combine it with the Vivofit activity monitor. Effectively the FR10 and the Vivofit had a baby, and that baby was called the FR15.
I’ve been testing it for the past month on all assortment of runs, rides, and just a lot of walking around – getting to understand how it all works. And now, I’m ready to give you the low-down.
To be clear, Garmin sent me over a FR15 to start testing with until retail availability. Like always, I’ll be shipping that back to them in Olathe, KS, in the next few days and going out and getting my own via regular retail channels. That’s just the way I roll.
Lastly, at the end of the day keep in mind I’m just like any other regular athlete out there. I write these reviews because I’m inherently a curious person with a technology background, and thus I try and be as complete as I can. But, if I’ve missed something or if you spot something that doesn’t quite jive – just let me know and I’ll be happy to get it all sorted out. Also, because the technology world constantly changes, I try and go back and update these reviews as new features and functionality are added – or if bugs are fixed. So – with that intro, let’s get into things.
The FR15 comes in a bunch of colorful flavors and then two sizes and once further, two packaging contents. But essentially everything boils down to one thing: With or without the heart rate strap.
So, for the purposes of this unboxing the unit has the heart rate strap. If you buy it without the strap, then you’ll simply lack the strap in your box. The unit itself is identical, so if you add a heart rate strap later (or, if you already have an ANT+ strap), then it’s all still good.
After removing the plastic you’ll basically find four things: The Garmin FR15 watch, the USB charging cable, a pile of paper stuffs, and then the heart rate strap.
The heart rate strap (if you bought that package) is Garmin’s classic plastic strap, officially the HRM1. It’s been around the block for some time, but generally works just fine.
Next you’ve got the USB charger. This is how you’ll download your workouts as well as charge the unit. You can plug it into any USB port you’ll find on the planet (USB ports ‘request’ the power they need, so there’s no problems as long as it fits in the hole).
Then you’ve got the paper manuals. After you finish this post you won’t need them.
And last but not least there’s the watch itself.
And here’s the back of things along with the strap.
Now that it’s unboxed, let’s talk about size.
Size & Weight Comparisons:
When it comes to size, the FR15 is actually offered in two sizes: Small and Large. Unofficially it’s Men’s and Women’s, whereby the colors roughly align to what either gender might be most comfortable wearing.
In my case, I was sent a blue ‘large’ FR15 to try out. The good news is that the FR10 and FR15 share the same outer shell (both sizes), so while I didn’t have the smaller sized FR15 with me, I am able to show you exactly how big it is, since the FR10 is exactly the same as the FR15 (small FR10 = Small FR15, and large FR10 = large FR15). Make sense? Good.
Above you’ll see how it compares to other budget and mid-range running watches. From left to right: TomTom Runner/Multisport, Suunto Ambit2 R, Timex Run Trainer 2.0, Garmin FR220, Garmin FR15/10 (Large), Garmin FR15/10 (Small), Garmin FR70.
And here’s the thickness:
Looking at just the small and large variants of the watch, you’ll see the screen is shrunk slightly, as well as the outer shell:
The depth however does not change at all:
Looking at weights, I was curious if the FR15 added any more weight than the FR10. Turns out, it’s exactly the same:
The smaller size is a fair bit lighter however:
Overall the FR15 in the small size is pretty much the smallest (dimension-wise) GPS running watch on the market.
As noted earlier, the FR15 comes in a variety of flavors. These are basically two camps – large and small. Ostensibly the smaller colors are more womanly, and the larger colors more manly. But there are no hard rules and even the most manly of men can rock the purple.
To understand the size differences, here’s the two FR15 sizes right next to each other. Again, functionality wise both are identical.
First, here’s the two larger colors, red and blue:
Next, we’ve got the three smaller colors: Purple, teal, and olive (green).
And again, all five colors here:
Ok, fashion show over. Onto using the little thing.
Before we dive into the running side, a brief note on battery life. The FR15 got a bit of a battery upgrade from the FR10. The older watch used to only get 4-5 hours in active GPS mode, which often wasn’t enough to finish a marathon for many in the target audience of the watch. The FR15 now however gets 8 hours of active GPS time. In non-GPS mode it’ll get up to 5 weeks for activity tracker/standby/watch mode. Obviously, if you use it 4 hours a week in exercise, then you’ll cut down the overall battery life to about two weeks. The battery icon is displayed at all times on the left side of the watch as seen above.
Now that we’re outside and ready to run things are pretty simple. You’ll go ahead and tap the blue button (upper right corner) to start GPS search. This will also initiate the unit looking for the previously paired heart rate strap and footpod. In the event it can’t find its past friend, it’ll get all promiscuous and find a new partner to hookup with.
While it’s doing that it’ll be looking for GPS signal. Now the FR15 isn’t quite as smart with caching as some of the newer GPS devices – likely because it’s built on the same GPS chipset as the FR10. So you won’t usually get 1-2 second load times. Instead, it’ll generally be in the 10-30 second range.
Here’s a short video showing this from my run last night:
Just for random comparison – I also shot two other videos right before/after this one with two other watches, the FR620 and the Polar V800, simply for comparison.
Once you’ve got GPS signal you’re ready to roll. Simply press the blue button again to start the recording/activity. From here it’ll switch into one of your two display pages.
The FR15 mirrors the FR10 when it comes to display pages. A display page is simply a screen that shows you some run metrics, such as pace, speed, distance, time, calories, etc…
The FR15 follows a bit of the Panera Bread “Pick Two” model. Meaning, you can pick two paired metrics for a screen, and you’ve got two screens to work with.
Note, for the pace/speed metric you can choose whether to display “Average Pace/Speed”, “Current-Instant Pace/Speed” or “Lap Pace/Speed”. It’s a bit of a global setting though, so you can’t mix and match and have one page be average pace and the other page be instant pace.
In addition, you also get one further page (for a total of three) that’s dedicated to showing your heart rate (top) and heart rate zone (bottom):
And lastly, you get the usual time/date page shown during the run (time of day).
Those pages will all update continuously during the run. As is common in most watches you can also create laps. Laps are often used to mark chunks of a workout (such as warm-up and cool-down), as well as used to split-up mile/kilometer markers.
The FR15 allows you to enable autolap for every 1-mile or every 1-kilometer (no alternative configuration). Alternatively, you can simply enable the manual lap-key which turns the lower left key into the lap button:
These laps will then appear in your Garmin Connect activity file afterwards:
The FR15 has a few options to help you pace during a race or training (aside from just looking at the pace). The first is the ability to configure walk/run alerts. This is very popular in certain marathon training programs where you run a set period of time (i.e. 10 minutes), and then you walk a preset period of time (i.e. 1 minute).
These alerts on the FR15 are time-based only and allow you to first specify a run-time (minutes & seconds):
Then, you’ll specify a walk-time (minutes & seconds):
During the activity, the unit will simply alert you automatically every time you hit the threshold for walking or running.
Next you’ve got Virtual Pacer. Virtual Pacer simply tells the unit that you want to set/keep a known pace – such as 7:30/mile.
As part of this it’ll actually add a new data page for you.
It’ll then alert you when you stray too far from that:
Note that this is different than Virtual Partner found on some of the higher end Garmin units. In Virtual Partner it’ll also tell you how far ahead/behind a given pace goal you are. Whereas Virtual Pacer doesn’t really have any memory – it’s simply a moment in time thing.
In my testing I’ve found that the Virtual Pacer piece gives you about 10-20 seconds of being off-pace before it alarms, assuming you stray more than about 5-10 sec/mile off pace.
Next we’ve got heart rate alerts. These alerts are tied to either a specific heart rate zone (i.e. Zone 2), or tied to a specific range (i.e. 139-149bpm). You can select what it is that you want to tie them to:
You can also configure only a high-alert, or only a low-alert. It’s actually more flexible than I would have expected.
Then, while running (with a heart rate strap), the unit will automatically chirp at you if you stray above/below that zone. Remember that you generally want to set a reasonable range for a heart rate zone, because your HR will usually fluctuate a little bit with terrain. For example, most people have no less than 3-5BPM per HR zone, with most zone’s ranges being about 5-10BPM.
Last but not least the unit supports Auto Pause. This means that if you do a lot of city running you can configure it to automatically pause the unit when you slow down for a stoplight.
Next when I look at GPS accuracy I’ve seen no issues with the unit after the last 3-4 weeks. It’s consistently in the same ballpark as every other GPS device I’m using. Here’s a few random end of run photos:
When we look at instant-pace, it’s also very solid. In fact, it follows the same fairly smoothed instant-pace that we saw with the FR10 that so many people have come to like (as it reduces GPS jumpiness). To demonstrate that I’ve included two videos below.
The first is what it looks like starting from a standstill at the beginning of an interval set I was doing. It shows me picking up speed and leveling off pretty quickly after I make a turn off the slightly downhill bridge:
And the second video shows me coming to a stop from steady-state running and how quickly it reacts:
Finally, if you’d like to look at the GPS tracks, here’s some from last night comparing the three units I had with me. All ended up with a final distance within .03 miles. For those unfamiliar with GPS accuracy – that’s pretty darn good actually, especially for a city route with numerous underpasses/bridges and tall buildings.
When it comes time to pause or stop the workout you’ll use the same blue button again to do so. If you need to pause for a bathroom break/etc, you can simply scroll down to resume to start right back up again and keep the same activity.
Or, you can press ‘Save’ to go ahead and save the activity so that it’ll upload later to Garmin connect. It’s here that it’ll show you a small history of the run:
The unit tracks a handful of common PR’s (Personal Records) for common running distances from 1-mile up to a full marathon. If you break one of these records during a run you’ll get notified:
Now, one thing I really like is that you can revert back to a previous record in the event that the record you just set isn’t valid. For example, when I was driving one day the watch accidentally got bumped on. In doing so, it recorded new PR’s for all my categories. As much as I’d like to throw down some of these times, it skews things quite a bit.
But the unit includes the option to both clear a PR, as well as to revert to the previous PR. Very nicely done:
Speaking of which, the unit stores about 5-7 of your most recent runs (full history), which you can view in the History menu. It’ll automatically delete/overwrite older runs.
Once you plug your unit in via USB to your computer, that data will be sent up to Garmin Connect for you to look at online. But I’ll dive into that a few sections from now – so hang tight there!
Treadmills & The Footpod:
The FR15 builds on top of the FR10 by adding in support for treadmills via a footpod. The FR10 didn’t support any ANT+ devices, nor the footpod, thus you weren’t able to get pace or distance indoors on a treadmill.
With the addition of the footpod you can now get that on your watch, as well as get cadence information recorded too.
To pair the footpod to the FR15 you’ll simply put the footpod near the unit when you turn it on to search for GPS:
After that, it’s paired. The FR15 will automatically calibrate the footpod via GPS. In talking with Garmin, they recommend you run no less than about 300m to ensure proper calibration – but it’s better to run a bit more (all outdoors with good GPS coverage). It’s usually best for GPS based calibration to try and choose a relatively straight route, simply so you aren’t making a ton of turns and impacting the accuracy.
Note that footpod accuracy is impacted by placement. So if you happen to move it around on your shoe (or change shoes) you’ll want to go out for another run to ensure it’s calibrated. The FR15 is “continuously calibrating” the footpod while running outside, according to my discussions with Garmin.
When it comes to cadence, the FR15 will record cadence from the footpod (both indoors and outside). It will not however display that cadence as a data field on the watch itself. Instead, that’s only visible on Garmin Connect (or any other compatible 3rd party site) afterwards, like below:
Note that I think the addition of the footpod support is pretty cool. But I’m also a little bit suspect here. That’s because I’d expect that the accelerometer within the FR15 could likely record pace/distance on a treadmill with reasonable accuracy (like the FR220/FR620 does) without needing a separate footpod. I suspect this is likely simply an upsell maneuver, but it’s a little bit odd given that Garmin has discussed adding calibration support to the Vivofit for running. Thus meaning that a cheaper product would actually work better indoors than the more expensive product. Albeit, the Vivofit lacks any of the pace displays.
When it comes to indoor activities with the GPS off, the Garmin FR15 will still give you calorie burn data as long as you have a heart rate strap connected.
This means that if you’re doing a weight machine workout, or on a spin bike, or just doing the sideways shuffle with your BFF (and your HR strap is still on), it’ll still capture calorie data.
The below was from a super-easy spin on a bike, the high end Garmin Edge 810 with a power meter measured just slightly higher calories, but still in range of being the difference of a gummy bear or two.
When it comes to which of the many different calorie burn methods that Garmin uses on their different devices, the FR15 will basically match that of the Vivofit. Which means they use their own internal algorithm rather than the FirstBeat algorithm that’s licensed for some of the higher-end devices.
In my testing, I’m finding that the two algorithms are generally in the same ballpark – within about 10-15% of one another. However, there will likely be cases on an individual basis where sometimes it’s closer and sometimes it’s further.
Ultimately, when it comes to calories no device on the market is ‘perfect’. Not Garmin, not Polar, not Suunto, nor Nike. It’s really an estimate. And there are a slew of companies that all claim to have the best engineers or the best physiologists on staff and that their respective algorithms are the best in the world.
And you know what? For the most part, the different algorithms from different companies usually end up being roughly the same. One company might weight one specific condition differently than another, but ultimately I find time and time again that it’s all a wash. Focus on the big picture things, and not trying to have the calories within exactly single-digit (or even the tens).
The FR15 does not have a cycling mode, however, you can change the display to show your current activity in speed terms of either MPH or KPH. To do this you’ll go into the data fields option and change to ‘Speed’ instead of ‘Pace’:
Once in this mode you’ll see speed in values such as 15MPH or 20KPH.
When using a bike, you can wear it on your wrist, or you can go ahead and put it on a bike mount. Garmin makes a simple one for about $9 that works fairly well (for any watch really, Garmin or otherwise):
When you complete the activity do note that it’ll show up in Garmin Connect as a ‘Run’, and not a ‘Bike’ ride. It’s an easy change though; just select the drop-down box for activity type and change it to ‘Cycling’ (or, any other sport you want).
With that, you’re good to go. Note that if you use it for cycling you may want to clear the PR’s that you might have set while cycling, since the unit doesn’t track them separately (see the end of the running section above for how to do that).
Note that the FR15 does NOT connect to the ANT+ Speed & Cadence sensor, nor to any ANT+ power meter. I definitely don’t expect Garmin to add support there, since even on their $250 FR220 it’s not supported. It also won’t connect to any Bluetooth sensors, since it doesn’t have a Bluetooth chipset within it.
Activity Monitoring & Step Tracking:
The FR15 includes a built-in activity monitor, which counts steps throughout the course of the day. This makes it just like a FitBit or Nike FuelBand, keeping track of activity outside your runs. The unit and logic is based on the Vivofit, and as a general rule you can use many of the same assumptions that the Vivofit does within the FR15.
When it comes to display, the unit will always display the steps on the front of the watch-face (again, this is GPS-off 24×7 mode). Below the steps is a progress bar towards your daily goal:
In addition, you can press the little feet icon button (lower left) to change the display to show other activity metrics. For example, the next screen will be your daily goal and remaining steps towards it. The daily goal is automatically generated by Garmin Connect based on trending over the past few days. If you miss a target it’ll slowly lower you down, and if you exceed a target it’ll slowly increase the daily goal:
In addition the unit will show you the estimated step-distance for the day (in either miles or kilometers). This will be inclusive of any runs you may have completed that day as well:
Finally, pressing the button one last time will take you to calories burned – which is inclusive of your baseline calories. So, you’ll see this number rise over the course of the day even if you’re sitting watching the World Cup:
The unit will stay on whatever screen you’ve left it on. If you press it once further it just brings you back to a simple date screen, showing the current date:
Like the Vivofit, the FR15 aims to keep you moving. Thus, if you haven’t moved at least 200 steps in the last 1 hour, it’ll go ahead and chirp (lightly) at you and display ‘Move!’ on the screen:
To clear this, you’ll go ahead and walk about 200 steps. After walking the required distance you’ll hear a faint chirp and it’ll go back to the steps field.
Note that you can turn off any of the beeps/alarms/etc through the system settings if you’d like:
From a step counter perspective, here’s some numbers showing how accuracy looked like over a bunch of random dates where I wore multiple units at once:
Garmin FR15 Activity Tracker Data
Now, there’s an important thing that I need to point out, which relates to activities that track well and don’t track well. As noted the FR15 is a wrist based tracker, and thus like every other activity tracker on the planet it depends on accelerometer movement to determine steps. Internally it’s constantly trying to decide whether every single movement you make is a step, or just you doing something odd with your hands.
To that end, I think people need to realize that no two companies will be alike in their algorithms there – and that honestly most are pretty similar. And further, it’s more complex for wrist based trackers than clip (waist) ones. For example, wrist-based trackers won’t work well if you’re pushing a shopping cart or mowing the lawn. And it’s plausible depending on how you wash the dishes, it might incorrectly pickup that.
But the thing is – I don’t tend to find that makes that grand of impact at the end of the day. If you’ve got a goal like 8,000 steps or 10,000 steps – having an extra 100 steps washing the dishes isn’t make or break (no matter the manufacturer). Sure, you could log an extra 1,000 steps in Costco on a Saturday and perhaps not get it accounted for (tip: push the cart with your other arm). Thus, you’ll have to decide if that tradeoff is worth it.
My overall point is: No activity tracker is absolute to the exact step perfect – not FitBit, not Garmin, not Nike. You should be looking at the bigger picture, and not focusing on a slew of smaller edge scenarios (like holding a shopping basket in a gas station convenience store).
Garmin Express (Desktop):
In order to synchronize data (both fitness activities as well as daily steps), you’ll need to install Garmin Express on your computer. The application supports both Mac and PC, and is quick and easy to get installed.
Once installed go ahead and open Garmin Express, and then connect your FR15 to your computer:
This will open up a window asking you if you’d like to setup the FR15 within Garmin Express:
Assuming you press ‘Continue’, then it’ll go ahead and ask you to link up with a Garmin Connect account. This is definitely required if you want to view any of the data that you’re capturing (especially the daily steps). In my case I already had an account, so I just linked it to that. If this is your first Garmin device, you’ll need to create an account (it’s free, and only takes a second).
Interestingly, for those that happen to have both a Vivofit and a FR15, it’ll ask you which one to take the step data from:
At this point, you’re ready to go!
By default anytime you’ve connected your FR15 to your computer and Garmin Express is open it’ll automatically sync to Garmin Express. You can also just manually press that ‘Sync Now’ button too. Though, honestly, it’ll already have done that for you.
And in the event there’s a new firmware update, you’d see it show up within Garmin Express. For example, later this summer Garmin is planning to release a firmware update for the FR15 that will enable it to complete sleep tracking. So you’ll be able to simply connect it to Garmin Express and have it update to gain that functionality.
Now that it’s plugged in and sync’ing to Garmin Connect online, let’s dive into that.
Garmin Connect Online:
Garmin Connect is Garmin’s free online training log and activity/steps log site. It started in the GPS activity world, so much of the focus is there, but with the introduction of Vivofit back in February it expanded to include steps and sleep tracking, as well as some of the social aspects.
It received a user interface overhaul in February as part of that update, and as such looks a bit different these days. Some users are still on the older version of Garmin Connect, but Vivofit and FR15 users automatically get the new version (simply because all the step-related activity isn’t there in the old version).
Once you’ve logged in you’ll be brought to this main dashboard.
The dashboard has a bunch of pods that you can drag around and customize. For example you can see some of the reports at the bottom, as well as a pod showing one of my recent runs that I can click on to expand out. You’ll see the leaderboard standing for my Garmin ‘Connections’ (which are kinda like Friends on a social media platform like Facebook/Twitter/etc…).
If I click on the ‘Steps’ pod I’ll be brought to more detail about my steps that day. For example, here’s today…err..yesterday.
You’ll see that I far exceeded my goal steps of 6,493 (damn straight I did!), and then you’ll see the actual distance. In this case, The Girl and I happened to go out for a long evening walk around the city, which bumped the numbers. Further, along the way I earned a badge – the 500,000 Step Badge. Meaning I’ve walked 500,000 steps with the unit (or rather, Vivofit + the FR15 in my case).
Down below you’ll see a breakout of my steps. I walked a bit around 9-10AM to a meeting, and then was mostly working from 10-7PM, with a few brief spurts of steps around lunch time.
If I look at step trends over time (a link just below my screenshot above), I can pull up reports based on different timeframes. And, I can change those to be calories or other activity-driven reports.
Within the social aspects I can follow certain people and then as a result I’ll see their activities and steps, or can mix and match what I want to see:
Changing the focus to activities all of my GPS and non-GPS runs will show up in the activities window. From there I can select one to open fully and check out the details on. I’ve gone ahead and shared this activity if you’d like to poke around.
In this case, a bit of a brick interval/tempo run from last night. Starting with the top portion you’ll see the summary information along the left, and a map on the right. I can change the map provider to Bing or Google, and then also change whether it’s map view or a satellite view.
As I slide down the page I get to pace and timing details on the left, and then the post-calculated elevation data. This is done after the fact online.
On the right side it’ll flag any Garmin Segments I’ve crossed. These are not Strava segments, but rather Garmin’s variant instead. Essentially you can compete against people on what are usually short route segments (often less than a mile, but sometimes up to a few miles).
Further down the left side is my lap data. In this case I left auto-lap on, so it’s just showing my lap splits. While on the right side you can see a graph of my paces.
Last but not least we’ll get weather pulled automatically from a nearby source and then you’ll see an elevation graph along with a heart rate graph. You can go ahead and zoom in on both of these if you’d like within the site and examine them more closely.
Going back up quickly to Segments, I figured I’d briefly cover it since it’s Garmin’s newest ‘thing’. Like almost all the Segments you’ll find in the city of Paris, they were created by me. In this case I created this one 3 weeks ago, and, as of now it’s still populating the leaderboards. I assume it might complete in the future, or, it might not. It seems to be a common complaint right now on Segment leaderboards neither updating nor completing. As I kinda like to harp on – the Segments feature will never catch on if this sort of stuff isn’t fixed.
Finally, note that Garmin Connect does include Training Plans for most running race distances, as well as triathlons and some cycling plans. The plans are at various skill levels and different intensities. These plans can be added to your online Garmin Connect calendar.
However, it’s important to note that the FR15 won’t actually walk you through those plans on the device itself. So it’d be more of a paper thing. Still, given they’re free and most of them are actually pretty good – it’s something to consider.
Last but not least, note that you can download and use Garmin Connect Mobile on your iOS or Andoid device. This is Garmin’s mobile version of the site. From the app it’ll pull data from the online site, but not directly from the phone to your FR15. That’s because your FR15 doesn’t have any Bluetooth capability in it to talk to the phone. So you first have to plug it in to your computer per above to see the data on the mobile device. Nonetheless, still an option to check up on things.
Overall, I suspect most FR15 users will find Garmin Connect perfectly suitable. As most advanced users will point out, it’s not the most detailed training analysis platform on the planet, but, for I’m guessing 95% of the population it works just fine.
For everyone else (like me), I can simply take the .FIT file from the unit and upload it to any fitness log site of my choosing (i.e. Strava, MapMyFitness, TrainingPeaks, Sport Tracks, etc…). They’re all fully compliant with the fitness activity data.
Note however that at this time there still isn’t compatibility with the daily step activity data with any other sites. The oft-requested and once rumored MyFitnessPal still hasn’t shown up. Perhaps though with the first two of the direct sync partnerships finally being unveiled this past week, we’ll see MyFitnessPal and others pop-up soon.
As I’ve been doing on all reviews over the past year or so, I’ve been including a section on bugs and/or issues that I’ve seen within my timeframe using the unit. Do remember that a ‘bug’ is different than ‘by design’. For example, the lack of a feature is something I highlight within a given section is considered ‘by design’, whereas something not really working right is considered a bug. In the case of the FR15, such bugs fall into one of two categories: The device, and the platform (app/site).
In the case of the device, things are really solid – I haven’t actually seen anything in a lot of runs, a few rides, and four weeks of step data. So from a device standpoint, I’ve got no complaints at all – the device itself works spot-on for me.
In the case of the platform, Garmin Connect v2 (Modern) has come a fair ways since the initial Vivofit launch in February. There are still some oddities (like the Segments feature I noted earlier), but from a pure FR15-specific bug perspective I’m not running into much.
Which doesn’t necessarily mean I like the new Garmin Connect. It just means that I put up with it and that from a technical standpoint it does what it says – even if I don’t necessarily like how it does it.
Product Comparison Tables:
The FR15 makes things a bit tricky in that I actually have two separate categories in the product comparison tool – one for GPS units, and one for activity trackers. While the GPS unit category already had line-items for 24×7 activity tracking, I did need to expand activity monitor product type slightly to accommodate it. That said, it’s still two distinct product types for the meantime, thus there are two charts at play.
The first from the GPS product category is the FR10, FR15 and FR220. I went with just showing Garmin-only units on this chart to show the progression of features more easily. Of course, you can always make your own charts with any products in the product comparison tool here.
Next, looking at the activity tracker category I went with the Vivofit, FR15, and Polar Loop. All three of which support heart rate tracking during an activity. Again, you can always mix and match your own products via the comparison table tool.
It’s funny, I find that in general (no matter the brand) the products with the fewest features tend to do the best in my reviews. Likely because those product teams can really nail those features and ensure they ‘just work’. The more complex the product the more features and the more ways to screw up.
With the original FR10, it was the simplest product Garmin has really released in the fitness space – and it was enormously popular. With the FR15, they simply took the FR10 and plunked a Vivofit into it. Essentially taking another simple product and merging the two together. With that, I’ve found it’s incredibly simple and has a really high ‘just works’ factor.
The only significant mistake I believe Garmin has made here is that they didn’t put Bluetooth into the unit. Given that virtually all activity trackers these days sync via Bluetooth to your phone, the Garmin FR15 sorta stands apart as the lonely one without it. It’s also a bit suspect that they aren’t including wrist-based pace while on a treadmill given the unit should be quite capable of it (instead of forcing you to buy a footpod). And while I initially had complaints about skipping the sleep tracking functionality, Garmin has committed that will be added in a FR15 firmware update later this summer.
So while there are things I wish the FR15 had – like Bluetooth sync to my phone, if one understands those limitations up front there’s few things for me to poke apart. And, if you understand that this isn’t a $400-$500 GPS watch, then your expectations will likely be met. Which, in some ways goes back to the opening paragraph in this section: The more features that Garmin adds the higher the likelihood that there could be bugs. With such a simple product I’ve run into virtually no bugs – and it’s great.
Thus, if you’re looking for an entry level GPS running watch that can also be used as an activity monitor this is the best one on the market today (albeit, it’s the only one on the market today). And if you’re looking for an entry level running watch (and don’t care about the activity tracker piece), then this is still a very solid choice and would be among my top recommendations, especially given how few (virtually none) complaints I see from people on the running side of the FR10 (precursor to the FR15).
With that – thanks for reading!
Found this review useful? Or just want a good deal? Here’s how:
Hopefully you found this review useful. At the end of the day, I’m an athlete just like you looking for the most detail possible on a new purchase – so my review is written from the standpoint of how I used the device. The reviews generally take a lot of hours to put together, so it’s a fair bit of work (and labor of love). As you probably noticed by looking below, I also take time to answer all the questions posted in the comments – and there’s quite a bit of detail in there as well.
I’ve partnered with Clever Training to offer all DC Rainmaker readers exclusive benefits on all products purchased. By joining the Clever Training VIP program you get a bunch of money-saving benefits, which you can read about here. By doing so, you not only support the site (and all the work I do here) – but you also get to enjoy the significant partnership benefits that are just for DC Rainmaker readers. And, since this item is more than $75, you get free 3-day US shipping as well.
(Note: There are a slew of colors available, simply select them from the dropdown on the site)
Additionally, you can also use Amazon to purchase the FR15 or accessories (though, no discount). Or, anything else you pickup on Amazon helps support the site as well (socks, laundry detergent, cowbells). If you’re outside the US, I’ve got links to all of the major individual country Amazon stores on the sidebar towards the top.
Thanks for reading! And as always, feel free to post comments or questions in the comments section below, I’ll be happy to try and answer them as quickly as possible.
You probably stumbled upon here looking for a review of a sports gadget. If you’re trying to decide which unit to buy – check out my in-depth reviews section. Some reviews are over 60 pages long when printed out, with hundreds of photos! I aim to leave no stone unturned.
I travel a fair bit, both for work and for fun. Here’s a bunch of random trip reports and daily trip-logs that I’ve put together and posted. I’ve sorted it all by world geography, in an attempt to make it easy to figure out where I’ve been.
The most common question I receive outside of the “what’s the best GPS watch for me” variant, are photography-esq based. So in efforts to combat the amount of emails I need to sort through on a daily basis, I’ve complied this “My Photography Gear” post for your curious minds! It’s a nice break from the day to day sports-tech talk, and I hope you get something out of it!
Many readers stumble into my website in search of information on the latest and greatest sports tech products. But at the end of the day, you might just be wondering “What does Ray use when not testing new products?”. So here is the most up to date list of products I like and fit the bill for me and my training needs best! DC Rainmaker 2021 swim, bike, run, and general gear list. But wait, are you a female and feel like these things might not apply to you? If that’s the case (but certainly not saying my choices aren’t good for women), and you just want to see a different gear junkies “picks”, check out The Girl’s Gear Guide too.
I’ve been looking at the Garmin 15 watch for my wife as a gift. She currently has an old 405CX. At the time she purchased it (2009?), I believe that watch was on the higher end of the spectrum. What major functionality will she lose with the 15 as the replacement.
She’ll lose customization of the data fields to the extent of the 405CX, as well as also the interval support. If she uses it for just how far/fast, then she’ll probably like the FR15. If however, she uses some of the more advanced features of it, she might see that as a downgrade.
I have just bougth an FR15 and enjoy it 100%. Congratulations for the in-depth review. All clear! Thank you!
Thanks Carlos, glad to hear!
I’m considering the FR15, I do interval sessions and have had the ability to pre program sessions into my watch in the past. However, I haven’t used it as I find it easier to remember the session and have my watch display showing my current lap time in order to determine the length of my efforts and recovery time.
Are you able to show the current lap time in one of the data screens on the FR15?
Your review suggests that you can, however, the option to show current lap time doesn’t show up in the product spec.
Thanks for the review.
Hi Have started Obstacle Course Races such as Tough Mudder etc. I am after a watch that is simple to use to capture my running training as this is the part of my regime that needs beefing up. I also want to wear the watch during these races as it gives me a good indication of how far I have gone and current time
Narrowed it down to this watch and the 310xt.
Which would you recommend
Cheers – great site
Everything OK except the baterry life. Able to get only about 4 hours from 6 runs.
Hi DC rainmaker,
I did a test last night. After charging full, I left in by the window overnight with GPS on. It died after 6 hours and 23 mins, which is much etter than my actual 6 runs that is just about 4 hours. Do you think my unit is normal ? Thanks.
Thank you for the great (not only this one) reviews. I’ve been following your reviews for a while.
Allow me one question: I have bought FR15 two weeks ago. Everything seems clear, except calories counting on activity tracker. Although I agree with you about alghoritms imprecision, I cannot accept that you leave your watch on the room desk (at 11.00p.m.) and when wake up I get: 0 steps, 0 kms and…. 1268 calories burned!
Something is wrong. Garmin asked to resey the device and promise to change if the problem remain. I believe I will return the watch 🙁
By the way, do you know any sport watch that records indoor cycling on gym with the need of additional cadence sensors?
As far as the calories, the Fr15 is a 24/7 trackers, and you’ll see calories based on your BMR (your body burns calories by just “being alive). These cals reset at midnight, but start adding up after that. If for example, you wake up at 6am, the FR15 will show about 1/4 of the calories that your body burns naturally for the whole day.
Hi I leave mone to charge overnight and when I turn it on u. The morning it rested and starts around 350 cals just when I turn it in and haven’t been wearing it all night is that right ?
Hi I leave mine to charge overnight and when I turn it on in the morning it resets and starts around 350 cals just when I turn it on and haven’t been wearing it all night is that right ?
I leave mine to charge overnight and when I turn it on in the morning it resets and starts around 350 cals just when I turn it on and haven’t been wearing it all night is that right ?
I leave mine to charge overnight and when I turn it on in the morning it resets and starts around 350 cals just when I turn it on and haven’t been wearing it all is that right ?
Thank you for the great (not only this one) reviews. I’ve been following your reviews for a while.
Allow me one question: I have bought FR15 two weeks ago. Everything seems clear, except calories counting on activity tracker. Although I agree with you about alghoritms imprecision, I cannot accept that you leave your watch on the room desk (at 11.00p.m.) and when wake up I get: 0 steps, 0 kms and…. 1268 calories burned!
Something is wrong. Garmin asked to reset the device and promise to change if the problem remain. I believe I will return the watch 🙁
By the way, do you know any sport watch that records indoor cycling on gym with the need of additional cadence sensors?
I just got a Forerunner 15 and I’m happy to say I paid $91 for it on Cyber Monday. Ok, I paid a whole lot more for the first one, but I returned it after I found that deal.
There are things that I love about it, but I have a few things that irk me that I wanted to ask you about.
1) I like the interval timer idea, but I just can’t hear it on this watch. Is there any way to adjust the sound level? I can’t hear it without headphones.
2) I ran my first marathon today. My watch died after 5 hours & five or so minutes. I can not run that fast yet!!
I turned off the interval timer and the pacer, but that had zero effect on battery life. I charged it all night and ran first thing in the morning. Is there any way to improve upon this while I work on running faster? Luckily I got new Droid Maxx which had plenty of battery life even after I finished running.
3) Clearly this toy was designed to be worn 24/7. I never do that cuz it’s so ugly, but I should. I work as a nurse so I would have to disinfect it repeatedly to not be entirely grossed out by it. All those little holes could hide loads of infectious critters. Do you have any experience with cleaning this wristband?? Do you think it would stand up to disinfection every day?
Thanks in advance. Jackie
1) No method to change the volume.
2) Congrats on the first marathon, that’s great! Unfortunately, I haven’t quite got a handle on why some folks get less battery, and others more. :-/
3) It’s hard to know what impact the chemicals would have it on, but I suspect if you rinsed it after disinfecting it, it’d ensure that things are sitting static on it and burning through it.
First amazing in depth review, as always. Quick question and sorry if you already answered. I would like to know if there’s a proper stopwatch function on the watch ? I’ve read that the only way to have some sort of timer was to use the running button and simply deactivate the GPS in order to use it as a timer. Is that true ?
Thats’s right. No other stopwatch option.
Hi!, great review:) just one answer, will be possible do open swim and just de fr15 sow me de swimming distance and time and also record it to after it have it un GCT? its just to use it 10-20 times during summer, no need specific swim metrics.
thanks a lot
No, it won’t get accurate metrics there as it doesn’t have an Openwater Swim Mode. Instead however, if you use the swim cap method though, it’ll work: link to dcrainmaker.com
Well, after following (i.e. sponging off Ray for free for over a year) the 220 and FR10 reviews and endless Q&As, I finally decided to keep it simple and go with the 15. It’s everything I need, just the basics done right, with occasional spot-checking via HRM, otherwise just give me pace, time, and distance. I was finally able to give you a token tip of support (and me a sweet discount) by my wife ordering for my Christmas through Clever Training. Thanks Ray, for the vast amount of time you give to us from your site. I forwarded my photographer son your very helpful review on the GoPro 4. Thanks again for all you do. I’m sure I’ll have more questions of my own after I get my watch charged up and go running. I’ll try to wade through the reams of previously asked questions so I don’t sound like a newb by asking another frequently asked question. Merry Christmas to you and The Fam.
Thanks Hank for all the support, I appreciate it! And Merry Christmas to you as well!
Just received the FR15 as a Christmas present! This is my first GPS watch, can’t wait to run tomorrow! Thanks for your reviews, it has made it a lot easier to understand.
Great, have a Merry Christmas – and enjoy it!
Great review! I’m hoping to buy a new watch tomorrow but I’m torn between this and the Polar m400. I found them for almost the exact same price so that’s not a factor. Which do you prefer? Also, do you prefer the Garmin connect or Polar flow software?
If their the same price, I’d go M400 each time.
Oh that figures. I finally decide on the 15, then next post hear that the Polar M400 trumps it. Oh well, hope I don’t suffer post traumatic holiday stress analysis paralysis buyers remorse syndrome. 🙁
Excellent review, got FR15 from Father Christmas, while reading this excellent review I am chargeing it up.
Should be out running in half hour?
Thanks so much for your review. I am an avid runner and have been sponging off my running pals’ GPS watches for years. I received the Garmin 15 for Christmas and have one question. Are you able to look on the watch at the pace for each mile of your run or do you have to download it to the computer? I do not want all the bells and whistles of the advanced watches, i.e. setting workouts, virtual partners, etc. However, I do want to be able to know my distance, average pace and the pace for each mile of a run. I want to be able to review it without having to download to the computer. Is this possible with the 15?
Thanks so much!
Just got the FR 15 for Christmas and really have been enjoying it, especially the activity tracker. But have 2 quick questions.
One question i have is how does it calculate the calories? In the morning, I put the watch on, get ready for work, walk around the house and to the car, it will tell me that I have burned close to 900 calories. Any ideas why that might be happening?
Second, is when first plugging it into the computer and charging it/setting it up, I tried to do the software update but was told that there was not enough space on the unit to complete the update. Any ideas?
The two questions you asked have simple answers.
1) You’re seems calories from activity PLUS the calories your body has burned since midnight (based on your BMR)
2), what you need to do is unplug the Fr15, and the first update will install, then plug it in again until the same message occurs, or the update completes…
At forums.garmin.com, there is a sub forum just for the fr15.
So did Jim just answer his own question above by going on garmin forums, or did one Jim answer another? 🙂
But Jim #1 raises a good issue I need to know about. Being new to the 15, which I love and is perfect for me so far, and in fact being a total GPS watch virgin, how do I go about knowing about software updates and doing them? I haven’t yet done the whole garmin connect thing but will eventually get around to it ( I still like keeping my own written running journal). Do I just check the garmin website for updates, or do I need to register my device and would then get notified if there is an applicable update? I haven’t thought about it since I just got the watch, but I suppose there might already be a release that I need. How do I know what version my watch software is on right now?
Thanks for helping a newb.
As far as updates, you know about them by way of Garmin express (the SW that gets loaded on a PC/Mac that is used to sync your data to garmin connect). When you first set it up, chances are you’ll have an update or 2 to install. You can also tailor GC so that you see the data you want to see. No need to keep a paper log of your activities – just sync to the computer!
– the other jim
Can I use one computer for two FR15’s? And have separate Garmin Connect accounts?
Yup, Garmin Express (software on your computer) allows you to associate each device with a different Garmin Connect account. Enjoy!
I am unclear about connecting the HR monitor for activities other than a timed run and getting accurate calorie burn based on HR as well as how to display HR. I connected and wore the monitor for the first time the other day at the gym. I did my run successfully and monitored my HR and felt calorie burn was very accurate given the HR I maintained during the run. After the run I ended it and saved it and felt like my daily calorie display then included the calories from my run? Am I correct? Then I lifted for about 40 min with HR monitor still in tact and my daily calorie display only increased by about 50-60 calories during my whole lifted session, which is not accurate based on how winded I felt even. So my question is this- how do I display HR during other gym activities and get an accurate calorie burn based on HR and not just the estimate for walking from machine to machine? Do I have to disable auto pause and keep the watch on a times run/walk the whole time? Thanks for the review. So helpful for a brand new watch owner!
For those with the memory space issue when trying to do an update, I called support and had this taken care of this morning. I too received the FR15 for Christmas and after my first run, went to upload and was told I did not have enough memory. Support told me to do the following: Go to my computer > Garmin > search the Garmin folder for the GUpdate file and then delete it. I then disconnected the watch and the software updated successfully. Hope this helps!
Thanks, Kayla. I am experiencing the same space problem trying to set up Garmin Connect. Seems strange to immediately not have enough space on a brand new watch with all of two runs and a few days of activity. I did the steps you said, deleted the GUpdate file, and it finally was able to run the firmware update, GPS Chipset, and ANT 2.40. Now it is stuck on the Time Zone Map 15.00 and again is saying Not Enough Space for Update. Says not enough free space but I can continue and they will help make room. However, that accomplishes nothing. Firstly, is the time zone map necessary if I rarely travel with my watch outside of my own time zone? If so, guess I’ll have to call support. Should not be so difficult on a brand new device. Any other suggestions, send them my way. Thanks all.
On the time zone map piece, generally no, it’s not critical – especially this time of year. You occasionally see Garmin push updates there when someone hoses up a seasonal time change (since different parts of the world shift on different days). For example, a year or two ago they messed up the UK one and it reported being on the wrong time zone after the fall time shifts.
Okay, just getting started with my 15, so bear with me. I’m sure this is simple or been asked before, but I can’t read through 500 plus posts again. Just got for Christmas, have done two runs, worked great. I saved both, just on the watch, haven’t fooled with Garmin Connect yet. Tonight when I finished, it scrolled through my new records, no surprise with just two runs. But at least I know I saved both. After getting home, my wife asked, “Well, how did your new watch say you did?” So I went to History, Runs, Today, and the run data doesn’t display, but only what looks like activity tracking data, even though I had already turned the annoying activity tracker off. I know both runs were saved and I could review all the results which looked spot on. Under History, Records, the data is clearly there and correct. So why do the two runs not display under History, Runs? What am I doing wrong? Thanks y’all.
Thanks y’all for showing tough love and not answering my question, just make Hank dig it out for himself. Jim has the other Jim to answer his questions, where’s the other Hank when I need him? Went to the Garmin 15 forum and discovered my problem. What I did wrong is in the sixth line above. With the activity tracker turned off, it will record, save, and display the run data correctly at the end of the run, but it doesn’t display the history right until the activity tracker is turned back on. But then, you already knew that. Seems kinda goofy. Anyway, thanks Hank!
Interesting, never knew that actually. I was going to have you check and validate the files were shown on the unit itself via USB. But, good to know on the activity tracker piece – thanks for looping back around there!
After wading back through some of the prior posts, I did find this was covered around #153-156 during July 2014. Mentioned possible software updates to address, but not sure about that. I did just do my first updates via Garmin Connect.
Ray, now after a few days of gaining familiarity with my watch, what it can do, and what I need, I’m beginning to wonder. I love the 15, product is great, works as advertised and reviewed. However, as is typical, reading a review is helpful, but nothing can replace living with the product. I find I really don’t care about about activity tracking. I liked the price point, the GPS, run functions, and the HRM capability. However, I do speed repetitions/intervals once a week. With my simple non-GPS Soleus, I can set the countdown timer for say 3:29 800s, or if running 1600m repeats, can set it for the matching 400m time to go off and let me know how my pace is. My route is measured, so for these workouts I don’t need GPS. In the scheme of things, can my 15 be used for interval/speed work, or, if I need that kind of workout function and not activity tracking, do I have to bite the bullet, return the 15, and pay up for the 220? Or, am I just better off forgetting the Garmin and saving on Garmin Connect for this one weekly workout, use my cheap little Soleus, and hang on to the 15 for all other running? Thanks for your advice. Hank
It’s tricky, one of the core reasons I would have (in general) picked the FR15 over the FR220 is the activity tracking piece. in your case, that doesn’t sound like it’s that useful for you.
If you exclude that functionality, the interval and custom workout functionality within the FR220 is very strong (as strong as any other unit on the market, no matter the price). In the event you don’t quite find what you want within the built-in interval function on the device, you can easily create highly custom workouts on Garmin Connect and transfer them to the device (what I do when I’m trying to do something complex).
With the FR15, if you want to do interval work there, you can do what I do when I’m more lazy (much of the time) – which is just use the lap button for the different interval sections. Obviously, this doesn’t tell you when to go, but it does record them separately to be shown on Garmin Connect.
Last but not least, with CES next week – it’s always worthwhile seeing what the market at large announces there. As there becomes more and more players from previously non-fitness companies stepping into this market, next week promises to be pretty nuts.
Hope this helps a bit!
Well, given that you are a much more accomplished and seasoned triathlete than I am as an old runner, maybe I am undervaluing the activity tracker component. My view until now has been that it’s just kind of the current fad, but I’m going to move during the day as much as life and work allows, burn calories, eat right, and run as much as I can. If I’m getting my runs and strength work in, my number of daily steps or a likely inaccurate calorie-burn count seems somewhat trivial.
On the other hand, I can try the manual lap button route or just stick with my other watch for intervals. Knowing me, I’ll find trying to custom craft workouts in GC tedious and go the lazy route anyway.
So tell me more on how you utilize the activity tracker so I can better compare its value to the running functionality of the 220. Thanks Ray!
I toyed with the manual lap function this morning and think that will work well enough if I just memorize what my various splits are to be if I’m doing some type of laddered intervals of 400, 800, 1000, 1200, etc. I suppose for the times I am doing say 6 X 800s or 12 X 400s, any workout where the intervals don’t vary, I could make use of the Run/Walk setting and set run for my target speed time, then set walk for what a 400m recovery jog time would be, so that it can tell me when to go and slow that way, huh?
Ray thx for great review !!
I got that FR15 for my wife as a x-mas gift, my choice was due to the GPS feat. since she is a SUP fan and want it for her to have away to keep track of water work out.
On the Garmin express you can change to paddling but never stay as default
Thanx for the professional review!
Please keep doing waht you are doing …
I mostly am a runner, but spend lots of time at the gym doing bootcamp and cycling classes. I previously used the Garmin FR70 with HR monitor and foot pod. That crapped out on my after about a year and a half so I was looking for something similar to replace it. It seemed like this was a good choice, however, my question…is there a way to display your HR/Calorie burn for while wearing the chest strap for something like a spin class? I cannot seem to figure it out. Thanks so much!
Please could you assist me? I am a long distance runner & I enjoy doing the Comrades Marathon – 89km. My times vary depending on training but not less than 8 hours ever. Would the FR15 battery without GPS feature switched on, last for the full duration of the run? Can it be used as a straight forward stop watch for these longer distances?
Debbie – I have just read through all the comments as I am considering buying this. The battery will last fine if the GPS is turned off..BUT..there is apparently no stopwatch functionality – so you would have to use the time as a guide
Thank you for your reply, I was under the impression there was a stop watch facility – Disappointing!
There is a stopwatch feature on the FR15. If you press the run button and then the down arrow while the unit is searching for GPS it will ask if you want to use GPS. Say no and it goes into timer mode which will record time and HR/cadence if you have an HRM and footpod. This mode won’t use GPS so the battery life will be better.
Hi, I am trying to debate a purchase between the Garmin Forerunner 15 and the Polar M400. Do you have any thoughts on one being better than the other? All of my running friends are saying to stick with Garmin. I am looking to us a watch for training and running levels from 5k to ultra marathon.
First of all – both of them would not do ultra marathon. Reading earlier posts FR 15 will work in GPS mode about 7 hours. Probably M400 will perform the same.
I have a FR15 and probably now I would go for Polar. I sometimes ride a bike (FR15 is strictly running watch) so M400 would be more useful.
And read the new from DC at CES -> M400 will get foot pod support and notifications (NICE).
Hi. Apologies if this has beeen asked before…. but what does the other figure mean when displaying the average HRM after a run? Hubbies showed 5.6…. what does this refer to? Cheers
Thanks for the review!…. Even after purchasing the watch it was useful!
Just adding my own two cents. I bought this watch back in July as my first GPS watch. I loved not having to take my phone with me and really liked having the step counter. But I started to notice some bugs with the watch early on: The watch would regularly take minutes to get my location. And the stupid “Move Alert” (which is supposed to notify you when you’re sitting for more than an hour) never worked. After months of trying to communicate these issues to Garmin, they finally offered to upgrade me to an FR220. Since the novelty of the step counter has worn off for me (doesn’t feel important to make sure I’m taking enough steps if I’m running everyday already), I think the FR200 will be a nice upgrade and hopefully won’t have the same bugs that the FR15 had. Honestly, if they would’ve refunded my money I may have just gone with the Polar M400 (cheaper, multi-sport, daily steps), but since they’re upgrading me free of cost, I’ll take what I can get.
And if anyone else has been experiencing similar problems with your FR15, just keep calling Garmin until you talk to someone who actually wants to help out. The first few times I contacted them (via email and phone) I was told to do the same thing: reset the watch, make sure the alerts are turned on etc, and then when that didn’t work there would either be radio silence, or I would get the same stupid suggestions again.
Finally someone upgraded my issue from customer service to engineering – which may be what it takes for anything to get done, since the customer service reps are probably supposed to close as many cases as quickly as possible, while the engineering team wants to learn from bugs and make the watches better. The service rep who is upgrading me mentioned that Garmin benefits when they hear of bugs like this, since it allows them to debug their hardware and software for future releases, and he apologized that I wasn’t helped out earlier.
Here’s to hoping the FR22 works out better.
hey rainmaker does this watch have an alarm capability which will vibrate slowly to wake us up ??
I know that Garmin Connect has been experiencing some issues recently but can someone tell me if in the step challenge – step from your activities are counted – when I sync it looks like sometimes they do and other times they don’t?
I’ve look through a number of sights – this review was excellent! Can you help?
yes, steps from activities do get included. What you are probably seeing, is that over the last couple weeks, following a sync, it can take a few minutes (I’ve seen it take 10 minutes) for all the widgets on the dashboard to have the updated values
Thats great thank you – I thought it would be something link that!
Does anyone know if a bluetooth syncable version of the Forerunner 15 is on the horizon?
I wouldn’t expect anything near term. The closest you’ll get there would be the FR220 or the upcoming Vivoactive. I think Garmin will focus on those products for a while since the three new fitness devices will keep that division busy well into the spring.
Ray, the review still suggests that the FR15 can display the current lap time. My own experience and the suggestions of a few other commenters is that it can’t do this and only shows the total time. This seems like a relatively basic capability that even a lower end device should be able to offer.
I read the reviews on the FR10 and FR15, which were FANTASTIC! I am planning to buy the FR 15, however, I am trying to determine if purchasing the HR strap is neccessary. I currently have the PolarFT4 with “Polar Heart Rate Sensor H1”. Will this strap be compatible with the FR15??
I’ve shared your site with my run group as well. Thanks so much!
No, unfortunately that strap isn’t compatible with the FR15. Sorry!
Hi Ray how about compatibility with polar T31 heart rate monitor strap? or can you tell me what other heart rate monitor straps are compatible?
Can anyone tell me why my garmin fr15 occasionally deletes my runs from the history? Activity tracking is on and I am definitely saving the activity – I keep checking as this has now happened a few times. Nothing going into GC. I’ve deleted nothing from my Garmin but it is telling me there is no history and to go out and run!
If you’re not saving your history through GC, your 15 will only store a limited history, seven days I believe. Then it will delete the oldest and continue saving the most recent.
I just purchased my first activity tracker today, the Forerunner 15. I hoped it would have come with the premium heart rate monitor, but such is life. I will decide later if I need to upgrade to the premium. Nonetheless, my question for you is in regard to the watch band itself. I have larger wrists and would prefer a bigger band strap. Preferably velcro. Does any one have any suggestions for a 3rd party company that may sell some sort of kit to do so?
The smaller FR15 fit better. However, I like the larger face watch. This leaves me concerned for when I will be doing plyometrics, and isometrics similar to crossfit. I am concerned that after getting sweat and doing burpees the watch will slide to the bend in my wrists and be a pain. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.
I plan to use the watch for both running and cycling. I am reading the watch can store 5-7 runs. But how much is that in hours? Will it also record 5-7 cycling activities of 2-3 hours per activity?
For those interested, I did some testing. The watch will easily store 5 cycling activities of 2-3 hours each using gps + heartrate. So, that’s really nices
On the downside, the battery time is a little less than advertised. Using only GPS I managed to get 7 hours before it depleted completely. Using GPS + heartrate I get about 5-6 hours.
I have had my FR15 since August 2014.
Sadly to say one of the selling point to me at the time of purchase was the promise of improved sleep tracking which to me means automatic detection and entry when I actually sleep and when I am actually wake up and give some kind of feedback to the quality of sleep on garmin connect without having to manually enter the data (afterall why would someone need an expensive gadget to manually keep tab of the sleep time and quality if one could simply write it down on a piece of paper or enter in a diary).
Garmin has also failed badly in terms of improving the functionality of this watch through firmware update by seperating the runs from the daily step counts which are completely different kinds of activity in terms of intensity and calories consumption.
I am disappointed with Garmin in their lack of ongoing support for what looks like potentially a very good unique product at time of release but is now well surpassed by the Polar M400 in every aspect in terms of practicality and functionality. It feels like Garmin only wanted to test the marketability of the concept of a GPS watch with activity tracker and came out with this watch as experimentation with no effort to improve it, and instead concentrate their effort in making newer models (may be they have realised the hardware they have used in FR15 was just too inferior to make any meaningful attmept to improve it and compete with the M400). To me, they have completely ignored and failed their customers who have purchased this product.
Garmin should offer the FR15 customers refund or some kind of special rebate to the next similar improve version if they are interested in making amends in their reputation to retain the customers loyalty.
As for sleep, yup, the Garmin sleep side of things sucks (on all their products). I note that in all my reviews.
As for steps though, pretty much all the devices out there include running steps in your daily total (including Polar). So the assumption that it has anything to do with hardware isn’t really accurate. It’s simply the way the industry does it across the board.
Of course, as I’ve said many times, the M400 is indeed a much better watch than the FR15. At the time, the FR15 was the best option when it released, but four months later, the M400 stepped up the game (mostly due to Bluetooth inclusion).
I certainly want my daily step count to include all my activities including runs and other separately recorded activities. The step counting wasn’t an important feature for me but actually it has turned out to be quite interesting and useful and encourages a walk rather than the car if I’m below my daily target.
First off, thanks for the awesome review! I am not the most serious of runners (no marathoner) but I am very active and run often. I am looking at the 15 and 220 but am really struggling deciding on which to purchase. I want the interval capability of the 220 and the work out builder is a cool feature but for not being an avid runner I’m weary of spending the money on the 220. The activity tracker is a great additional feature to the 15 and I like everything about it except that it doesn’t have interval timing capability. Any suggestions on what to do? Thanks!
Have you also checked out the M400? It has the capability to create interval workouts, while also having activity tracking.
Else, if narrowed down between those two – I’d keep in mind that while auto-interval capability is handy, most of the time when I’m doing intervals I’ve just written down (or memorized) the steps. It’s usually pretty straight forward anyway. Then you can still use the FR15 to manually separate out the laps/chunks of the intervals for later analysis, using just the lap button.
I will check out the M400 and using the lap function is a great idea. Thank you!
The Run/Walk feature allows you to do time based intervals. It is pretty basic – you just set the time for the run and walk segments which repeat until you stop. It works fine if you are counting say 5 fast intervals. I have found the step counter a fun feature to have on the watch.
Hi , I just bought a Garmin forerunner 15 a new one through amazon from the US and started using it in India . When I connected the watch to the laptop , th Garmin express said device found but without serial number and doesn’t show the continue option it says please try again later , but behind my watch there is a serial number . Is my Garmin a fake , what do I do ?
hello.. i have an inquiry on elevation tracker since my forerunner 15 suddenly does not track elevation during my running… anyone could guide me on this would be great. thanks
According to what I have read -> FR15 does not track elevation. Elevation data is taken from map -> not form the watch itself since it does not contain pressure sensor.
I’m assuming that you can upload activities/ steps to your laptop/ computer using an ANT + “stick” for the FR15, since it has ANT + capability? I want to get it as a gift for my partner, but she really likes the Bluetooth upload like my 220, but I thought a simple ANT + upload would be a good second best.
No, unfortunately no ANT+ wireless uploads on the FR15.
So if the FR15 isn’t ANT+ then how does it connect to the footpod?
It connects to the footpod using Ant+, footpod profile. It does NOT support Ant+, Antfs profile, which is used to support activity transfer. I believe the 910XT was the last Garmin device to support Antfs. I’m sure Ray can correct me on that, if I’m wrong. And trust me, it was about the worst thing about the 910XT. It “mostly worked”, but was definitely occasionally flakey.
David is correct, it supports certain ANT+ profiles, such as the ANT+ Heart Rate and ANT+ Footpod. It does not support ANTfs, which is used for file transfers. As he noted, it mostly worked on older Garmin devices…but when it didn’t you generally wanted to throw the device in front of a bus moving at high speed.
I often run 3 km laps with short walking breaks between the laps. I use the lower-left key to stop the lap time as well as the top-right key to stop the overall activity time (I do not want to measure time of the walks between the laps). The time shown on the display when I run is the overall time. The review says “…in this photo I’ve configured it to show me current lap time (up top) and distance (down below)”. How do I set current lap time to be shown on the display? For example, when I run the second lap, the time shown is the overall time, but I want to be shown the time of the second lap. Is it possible to use only one key to stop the time after the lap (auto pause does not work here as I walk between the laps), but to have all the laps in one run (not several separate runs)? Thanks for the answer. Daniel, Slovakia
I think it is not possible to set the current lap time or the current lap distance in this watch. The review is incorrect – the picture shows the overall time (1 hour and something) and distance (10 miles and something). Quite strange that a running watch does not have such a basic function.
Hmm, strange but good catch. I’ve updated the review. Sorry about that!
Absolutely. Not having a current-lap-time function is a deal breaker for me. IMO it’s analogous to not having a way to tell the time-of-day on a running watch. Who designed this watch?! Have they done an interval workout before!?
Garmin Forerunner 15 and TomTom Runner are both going for about $140 right now. Which one would you recommend?
My main use would be for GPS and stopwatch. Long battery life and quick satellite reception is very appealing to me for both watches. Both are also light weight.
Actually the TomTom Runner is $10 cheaper than the Garmin FR 15 right now on CleverTraining. The 10% discount code does not work for either watch.
Does the forerunner 15 retain its data once the battery is empty? I have lost several workouts on my Times Ironman due to an empty battery: all data is lost once the battery is depleted.
Yes, it retains it.
I’ll try and rephrase my question and hopefully I will have better luck at getting a response. I’m interested in buying a gps watch mainly for use as a stop watch and gps, with a long battery life and quick satellite reception. Both the Garmin Forerunner 15 and TomTom Runner GPS share these qualities and both are simple and easy to use. The Garmin FR 15 currently costs $139.99 at Clever Training and the TomTom Runner GPS cost $129. The 10% coupon code does not work for either. At the current price for each watch, which would you recommend buying? Thank you very much.
It’s tricky. It really depends on how much you value activity tracking (not available on the TomTom), or, how much you value Bluetooth Smart uploads (not available on the FR15).
From a core GPS watch standpoint, they are similar – though the TomTom has more features that are applicable to running (more data fields, more customization, more functions).
Thank you DC! Value activity tracking and Bluetooth Smart uploads are not important to me. So I guess I’m going to purchase the TomTom since it has more features that are applicable to running and I save $10. Thank you for helping me make up I mind and for the great work you do!
I’m setting my run with a 4 min run and 1 min walk. Setting it is fine but after 4 min, it doesn’t give an alarm.
REI.com has the TomTom Runner GPS watch marked down to $94.93. That made my decision a no-brainer.
I have a question about a comment I read somewhere. I am wanting to use this watch mainly for running, but I also lift and do other workouts at the gym. I currently have the Polar F4 watch which just does heart rate and calories. I am wanting a watch that I can see my heart rate in both runs and in normal workouts (since this helps calculate calories the most accurate). Anyways, I read that someone said in order to see your heart rate during a normal workout, such as a walk or lift that you have to trick the Garmin Forerunner 15 and act like you are on a run to get the heart rate to work. Is that true?
I have read you can turn the GPS off by pressing the down button and choosing to do so. So it’s like a regular stop watch. No sites/ videos I’ve found show me this. Does doing that make it work like a regular Timex? – having a time and pushing your own splits? could you show me or link to one you’ve already done if so? thank you
Correct, it discusses turning the GPS off on page 3 of the manual:. And yes, you can still do splits there.
i purchased a Garmin FR15 online half a year ago. i use it on a regular basic of 3 times a week.(about 8km per run with GPS enable). i only recharge it once it is called for (Low battery displayed). To my concern lately. i increase up my running distance to 15km & 20km. with GPS enable mode. The battery life cannot substance to the end of my run which is about 2hr 20 minute.( i had fully charged it prior to my run). i tried it two times recently and the outcome still very disappointed me. Is that any way that i can get help!!
I can’t decide between the Garmin FR 15 and the Polar RC3, both with HRM. They are similarly priced where I am.
I don’t have any desire for the activity tracking side – I just want to know which is the best for running.
I would go FR15 over RC3. Though, double-check the price of the M400 too, as that’s better than both.
Why do you consider the m400 to be better? When I compared it to the RC3 on Polar’s website it seemed like the RC3 had more training features/programs, although I could be wrong because the comparisons on there are a bit confusing.
I’d use the product comparison calculator here instead, it helps to illuminate all the differences: link to dcrainmaker.com
My dad bought a FR15 half a year ago, and at that time he was running 5-10 km on a basis of 3 times/week. He only charges it when the watch calls out for low battery. Recently he started to run 15-20 km and he said that his watch won’t last more than 2 hours 20 mins. Any help on that? Is that common?
He’s living in Malaysia and couldn’t post a comment, hence I’m helping him out. Another thing to point out is that he probably didn’t update the firmware since he doesn’t know much about technology.
That’s a bit early for battery life issues, though it’s probably worthwhile getting the firmware updated if possible. There’s unfortunately not much else one can do, other than getting it swapped out. It’s under a year, so one could definitely do that for free no matter where you are in the globe (just call the local regional Garmin support group).
At the time of this review the FR15 did not allow you to export steps data outside of the platform – does anyone know if that changed?
Apologies for the spam – i didnt intend to post this as a reply to an earlier question – have reposted
At the time of this review the FR15 did not allow you to export steps data outside of the platform – does anyone know if that changed?
Really wanted to like this watch. Sadly it doesn’t save any runs, despite selecting that option after activity. Went for a run Sat, and Sun I looked into the watch to write down that runs stats and none of my runs were there! Also for some reason the watch doesn’t use Bluetooth nor does it allow you to upload manually to a computer (claiming the operating system isn’t compatable!?). Still on the look out for a decent under $150 GPS.
It does save run data giving you a history of runs, steps and records. It won’t save indefinitely but mine currently holds basic stats for the last 7 runs. Upload to computer is really easy using Garmin Connect and also I’ve been able to link to other services like Strava without any problem which happens quickly and automatically every time I connect to the computer. No bluetooth which is a limitation of an entry level device.
Indeed, if runs aren’t showing up something is broken/weird. As noted earlier, there’s no Bluetooth in it, but, that’s sorta a known. But you should definitely be able to plug it into a computer and it work just fine.
According to the manual you can review on your device the last 7 activities. However the device will store activities until the device memory is full. When the memory is full the older activities are overwritten -according to the mania;
In practice on my watch I can review my last 7 activities. However stored on my watch, visible of file explorer, are 39 saved activities going back to 23rd February from today 22nd March. I sync regularly so those activities are already on my Garmin connect, but if I hadn’t synced those activities would presumably be “syncable”. So the 7 limit is not a ceiling on the number of activities that can be stored and activities over 7 will not automatically be deleted. Unless it is a coincidence it appears that a months’ activities are stored in contradiction to the manual. Daily monitoring of steps etc..seems to be stored separately in a separate folder. The files on that cover my last two weeks and my guess is that that is how long they are stored. And not surprisingly activities that I chose to delete are not stored.
Good review, but I guess your satellite reception is better than mine. I have an FR220 which I bought when i started running around 18 months ago, and well happy with it. The GPS (even though not perfect) motivated me so much it was great. My wife and kids started running as well so all good, but often we like to run at the same time but on different runs and needed a second GPS so I looked for a cheaper alternative. Hence I bought the fr15. Problem is, if it doesn’t pick up the satellite, you cant do anything! The FR220 picks up the satellite really quickly but even if it is taking its time it will let you start and estimates (somehow) the distance you run until the GPS kicks in. The FR15 doesn’t, and most times it won’t pick up the GPS for at least 10 minutes – enough to put you off your run. I would take it back and spend the extra on a fr220, but unfortunately HK shops aren’t so great and wont let you return something… Did you notice a way round this? You can disengage the GPS, but that defeats the purpose, and I can leave it in the garden for a time before leaving the house, but that kinda dose too… Any ideas or know if Garmin do an upgrade service for people who screwed up their buying choice? Thanks for your time you spend on your site by the way – my first port of call for reviews!
Maybe its me but I really dislike the FR15. I really do. I wanted something simple to do intervals with. This is what the store sold me. This is my personal opinion and the website I though I could reload aps but I couldn’t. I was trying to delete all my old data while I was in trail phase with this device but it deleted the maps completely and won’t let me reload them. I really wanted to like it but I hate it.
Indeed, sounds like they sold you the wrong device for what you wanted. 🙁
if I’m looking for a running watch entry level (and not care me the tracker piece of activity), what would be the best option the Garmin FR15 without hr strap u$ 160 or tomtom runner gps u$135 or garmin fr10 u$126? thanks
I’d actually look at the Polar M400, but I think you already are from the questions there.
In case no one else has noted, finally the sleep tracking on garmin connect has become automatic (they finally listened after much criticism from owners including myself :-D. It makes a pretty good guess of start and end of my nightly sleep (to nearest 10~15 minutes). I think thats a real plus and just brings the sleep tracking function of FR15 at par with that of polar m400 in my opinion eventhough i don’t own the polar unit.
What about the move alert during sleep? How does the watch know that I’m sleeping and not just sitting around?
Hi. My Garmin FR15 USB Charger got lost. Where can we buy theUSB Charger? Thank you
The FR10 and FR15 share the same charger. Do note however that there are two charger sizes: Small and large.
If you have a small watch, you’ll want the white charging cable (small charger). If you have the larger watch, you’ll want the black charging cable (larger charger).
Amazon has them online, but I’m sure you can probably find them other places too: link to amazon.com
gREAT HELP. tHANks DC rainmaker. More POWER!!
Hello there. I just wanna ask if I should turn off the watch when not using or should I let it on?
No, I wouldn’t bother too.
Do you think it picks up piano playing as steps? Today thought I had more steps recorded than warranted by my usual morning routine. I was playing alot of staccato, but I wouldn’t call it a workout 🙂
It would seem likely with the right movements it could mistake that for steps. You can look at your time chart for the day and see if extra steps overlap with that time period.
Sigh…and I went according to the review and bought the watch for this very purpose for my wife for Christmas. 🙁
In the gym activities section there is a picture of your HR chart from just wearing your HR monitor. How did you get this chart/the data in Garmin Connect. I did a workout with the monitor on and I was inside so I did not start a run. But now that I have synced my watch I don’t see any activity from that time…I am just wanting to look at my HR levels. Thanks.
You need to use the Timer Mode. Put the HR monitor on with wet connections. Press the top right button to start. The watch will look for GPS so press lower right button and choose No to not use GPS. Then you are ready to start the workout by pushing top right button. Make sure the watch had recognised the HR monitor during this process.
Very Helpful. Thanks man!!
I’ve a question regarding download of activities from FR15: is the installation of Garmin Express a must and is this the only possibility? Or can I do it as with FR10, just connect to PC and upload files from Windows directory to Garmin Connect through manual upload?
For activities you can do the same as the FR10.
thank You for the great review, like always.
I have a question about charging FR15 with external battery charger during workouts (trail running > 8h).
When I connect it to the battery, will it just go on with the recording or will it restart or …?
It goes to charging/usb connection mode -> so no go for longer activities. Also worth to know: battery will last up to 8h, I worked for me up to 6,5h or so…
Ray, did you know that maximum lap number is 50? Look here. I didn’t found any info regarding that limitation. And I have a second FR15 (got refurb from Garmin – battery issue) but it lasted 5,5h in GPS mode being fully charged – so much lower then stated 8h.
Old FR110 on the same course: no lap problem and half battery afterwards.
About laps number – Garmin confirmed that info via their telephone customer support.
I realize this is an older review but… In the comparison grid you show “Pace Alerts” in the box for Virtual Partner for the FR10 & FR15 and “No” for the FR220, and “No” for all three for the Virtual Partner function.
Shouldn’t it list the FR10 & FR15 as having the Virtual Pacer (my FR10 has it) and “Pace Alerts” for the FR220 (mine does at least)
When I try to see my heart rate I get a signal that my heart rate is low.
I believe the salesman who sold me the forerunner 15 set my lowest level too high
for a man in his 70s. Level 1= 109-119
How do I reduce the setting?
How can I adapt my Forerunner 15 to moniter my heart rate indoors.
Re to the first question:
If you below that level you should be able to see HR anyway – but zone will be indicated as 0.x.
I would check HR strap first – remember to moisture contacts before putting it on, that helps to get proper signal.
It has been answered couple times before. You just starting your training just like you don outdoors; then click “down” button (the one you using to scroll the menu) and it will ask to use GPS or not. Select no and start activity as always – it will show you time of activity and HR on second screen.
I was using the GPS Nike sport watch for the last 3 years, it was my first GPS watch so I believe that this performances it was the proper one. One co-worker just buy a FR15 and start explain me all the advantages of Garmin, so yesterday at night I decide to go out running with both watches. And we have different measurements.
I update my profile in the Nike platform so the firmware of my watch is the lasted released, and my co-worker does the same in the Garmin smartphone app, so I suppose that the FR15 has the lasted firmware version too.
The measurements of the last night run were:
1Ks 5’42’’ 5:42
2Ks 6’11’’ 11:53
3Ks 6´07’’ 18:00
4Ks 5’36’’ 23:36
5Ks 5’39’’ 29:15
Total Distance: 5.51K’s
Total Time: 31:45
Average Rate: 5´46’’
1Ks 6’31’’ 6:31
2Ks 6’11’’ 12:53
3Ks 5´59’’ 18:40
4Ks 5’37’’ 24:18
5Ks 5’39’’ 29:52
Total Distance: 5.38K’s
Total Time: 31:45
Average Rate: 5´54’’
We live in a little town in Mexico, Queretaro. Maybe in the region the number of satellites are less…
Now I don’t know which one is the correct measurement, normally I run like 80Ks per month with my Nike GPS Watch but I want to buy a new one and the next month we have a training session in US, so this is the perfect chance to have a good watch a perfect prices.
Which one do you recommend me??? FR15 or FR220 or another one.
Ps. Sorry for my bad English… XD
Anyone have problems with drastically reduced battery life with a footpod connected to the fr15?
Ray (or other DCR readers),
I’m in the market for GPS+Activity Tracker for a kid’s gift. In other words, entry-level stuff is just fine. In Ray’s review summary, he makes this statement:
“Thus, if you’re looking for an entry level GPS running watch that can also be used as an activity monitor this is the best one on the market today”
That was almost a year ago. Do you think it’s still a true?
No, I’d go for the Polar M400 right now.
I have had the watch for about two weeks. I started a run/walk program. I can set the intervals just fine BUT the alert volume is not very load versus the Garmin Forerunner 205. Am I stuck with the barely audible beep or is there a way to turn up the volume or a firmware update coming? I am looking at trading it in for a 220 because it has the vibration alert. But don’t want to spend the extra money. Any help on the alert volume on Garmin 15 and/or the volume/vibration alert on the 220 would be great. Thanks.
Thanks so much for the review! This was much more helpful in getting started than the materials that came with the Garmin! I had a question about using the interval…I normally do about a 5 minute warm up walk and then go into the interval times (say 30 min walk/30 min run based on Galloway’s recommended intervals). Would I have to actually wait to “start” my run on the Garmin until after I complete the 5 minute warm up?
I have a FR15 which i’ve had since last christmas. I fully got into the step counter function and now wear it everyday, trying to do well on the garmin connect weekly step challenges! For about 2 weeks now my watch randomly resets the steps to 0, or turns off. I did a master reset last week which fixed it for about a week, but for the last 3 days the same has happened, one minute i’m looking at 11,000 steps, then it goes and resets itself to nothing. Highly frustrating to say the least, and since joining the garmin forums it seems that i am not alone!
Hmm, I’d ring up Garmin and have them swap out the unit if it makes sense. That’s honestly always the fastest resolution, especially if/when a reset doesn’t work.
Hi – I am wondering about the step counting feature – is it possible to turn it off during portions of the day? I want to have a gadget that I can wear all the time, including swimming, but that will not count steps during horseback riding. Currently because my fitbit flex cannot be turned off, if I forget to take it off before heading out for a trail ride, then I am stuck with crazy numbers from the horse’s footsteps. (Plus I can’t swim with it or use it as a clock, etc.)
The FR 15 seems like it would do everything I need (though I wish it had bluetooth), but I can’t tell from the descriptions whether the step counting can be turned off and on during a day without affecting the day’s total steps? Thank you for any help!
Like many of the FR 15 users I found that the advertised 8h GPS tracking time is more of a 4-5 hours and hence the need to charge it mid workout (I do long bike rides, with auto-pause enabled). The problem is that once I connect the watch to an external battery the current workout is saved and I need to start another one. In theory I could merge the 2 tracks with a third party software but that turned out to be more complicated than I initially thought.
Is there any simple solution to this?
Thanks in advance!
I still waiting for my forth FR15. Battery life is exactly the same on all units. So thats not your unit problem.
You cannot change USB behavior – it goes straight to USB mass storage/Charging with no other option.
Best solution -> get the other watch if you can. Maybe you have an exchange option or so.
Same problem here – VERY disappointed that the REAL battery life (aound 4.5 hrs cycling) is SO far short of what Garmin announce (Up to 8 hours) . Don’t know how they get to these numbers, but as a first time buyer of one of their products, it does not give any confidence in their honesty about specifications.
Thank you for the reviews. I’ve read about Garmin 10, 15, 220 and Polar M400. I think I’m going with the Garmin 15. Once again, thanks for taking the time to be detailed and consistent. The one feature I miss is the picture of what the watch looks like on your wrist compared to a female’s wrist.
Hi Ray, thanks for the review! Some great info there.
I am competing in a triathlon in 2 weeks. I am hoping touse this watch to pace my run, but i find that the watch can take about 1 minute to locate satellites which is quite a long time to wait in transition!… do you know of any way to use the watch to track running pace without worrying about the long time to locate satellites in transition??
I was wondering whether the foot pod would provide an equally accurate running pace without the worry of long time to connect with satellites ?
How long is your race?
For a sprint distance, you can just turn on the watch before the race, get a satellite lock, then simply turn off the “Auto Off” option (sorry don’t have a FR15, but the other forerunner models I’ve used have this option). The watch will have sufficient battery life to be turned on while you swim and cycle and still track your run.
For longer race distances, that approach may not work. I normally just turn it on and get a satelite lock as the very last thing I do before leaving transition. Since the amount of time it takes to re-acquire satelittes is directly realted to the time and distance moved since last lock was obtained, by minimising this time and leaving it in the same position where you will next turn it on, you drastically reduce the time required to get the next lock when you are about to start the run.
Hi Alex. Thanks for the reply. The tri is Olympic distance so i think the battery life should be sufficient. However I have looked through the settings and can’t find any option to disable the “power save” which turns off gps after a certain period of inactivity….
Does anyone know if its possible to disable the auto power save function?
I had a chance to play around with a FR10, which as above is basically the same as a FR15 minus the activity tracker features.
It looks like the auto-off is not a user selectable option anymore, which is a shame. all of the older models I’ve played with have had it, and I assumed the newer ones would too given it’s such a basic feature.
So sorry for leading you up a dead end path. I still think if you turn it on before you leave transition and let it turn itself off, it will be very quick to re-acquire satellite lock when you get back.
DC, since there is now an Edge 25 with essentially the same form factor as the FR15, can we expect a FR25 in the next couple of months? Love to see that, and some different (more professional looking) colors.
Quick question, I am big treadmill runner and I am trying to decide between the Forerunner 15 and the Forerunner 220. I do have a footpod so that is not an issue, but personally which watch is going to give me the best accurate measurements indoors? Or is there another watch that works better?
Also, if I get the Forerunner 15, how much longer will the battery last for counting steps in a typical day?
I really appreciate all your help!
Just got a FR15 at the w/end & realised due to an old MacBook i can’t use Garmin Connect (OSX too old). Is there any reason why i cant just upload the .Fit data to Strava?
Both me & my wife will be using the unit (at different times ) so i could up load to my Strava & the same with hers?
Also adding height & weight into the FR15,would that impact the .Fit data,as we are both different (and dont really want to keep changing it if poss)
Cheers for any info
This may sound like a dumb question, but how do I reset my activity log for a new day? I can’t seem to get rid of my activity info from previous days.
Thanks for the very detailed and thorough review. It is indeed very helpful and fair – both to the brand and the reader. One great quality of this review is it does not read like a paid advertisement. I have already placed my order and this is going to be my first fitness watch (I am 51). I have a few newbie questions that have possibly not been discussed here. I shall be grateful if someone could please answer them.
A. There isn’t much discussion on the HRM. Does it require any battery? And how comfortable does it feel on the skin? particularly the HRM as it will be in contact with a large area of the body. I live in a very hot and humid country where the weather is somewhat similar to Houston. I sweat like crazy during my runs and I feel like throwing away my Timex watch that has a strap made of silicone like material. Indeed I often take my watch off and keep it in my pocket, particularly after a hard run. Do you think I might end up doing the same with this unit as well?
How is this unit going to perform in that area ?!?
B. Does the watch have any back-light/illumination switch? I run in the evenings and in a not too brightly lit environment. Will it be a problem for me to see the screen? I often have to press the switch on my regular watch to see the exact time, when both my hands are needed. It is very distracting and I don’t want to do that with this watch. Is there a way out?
I don’t think these two issues have been discussed. I am sorry if they have been because that would mean I completely missed seeing them.
Thanking you for reading my post.
I ran in a competition today on a hilly track and when I connected the watch to the computer, it said elevation gain 0 metres. It happened for the first time like this – I have been using the watch for half a year. What might be the problem?
Howdy. I purchased the FR15 about a year ago and have to say that on paper – it’s great but in practice it’s a pain in the arse. Major problems – It randomly restarts and loses all of your step data. I have had one unit replaced under Warranty after about 5 months of initial use and now my replacement unit is doing the same thing after about 5-6 months of use. The GPS lock sucks. Sometimes It takes AGES to find satellites – like 10-15 minutes! Depends on where I am when trying to get a lock but some locations worse than others and this problem occurs about 40% of the time. Not ideal when you are warmed up and ready to run! The HRM Strap sometimes wont connect, again it seems to be either I cant get Sat or HRM or neither! Seems like a buggy unreliable product to me. I’m now in the market for something that can hopefully improve on this.
I’ve noticed Garmin’s lower priced watches don’t display certain data fields like ‘lap time’ and a few other fields. Would this watch include ‘lap time’. Bothers me that some watches whatever the quality, don’t contain this simple function! Makes interval training a night mare when you running for example 6x1k with 90sec rest, and have to immediately add 90sec to you overall time and constantly do maths between. Could someone please advice. Thanks in advance 🙂
Unfortunately the Garmin 15 doesn’t display Lap Time. I agree that this is very frustrating when trying to do timed intervals. It does briefly display that lap time after you press the lap button.
Hi! Between the Garmine F15 and Tomtom Runner, which one do you think is best? Currently, I am training for my first half marathon and I trying to determine which one is better. I just bought both of them today since they were on sale. Tomtom was 89 and Garmin was 105. For the past few months, I’ve been using the Nike plus app on my iPhone. Can anyone help me out? Thanks =]
I have bought the Garmin FR15 4 days ago from Navworld Cape Town and I am unable to sync the watch via the usb cable to my laptop. I am using Windows 10 and download the Garmin Express app but when I connect the watch via the USB port it can not pick up the Garmin FR15. I have deleted the programme a few times and restarted my laptop and even tried the mobile version of Garmin Connect. It only show Reading Device information where the cirle turns, but eventually it say Not the device you were looking for? Search again. My laptop picks up the Garmin watch (can see it in my D: drive and I can even open the Activities) and when I click on Autorun it just open in a Notepad. I already have a account with Garmin Express because I had a Garmin FR70 and I was able to download all my races on the previous Garmin website. I can even view all my old activities in Garmin Connect and my old Device still show in the Devices, but I cannot add my new device through Garmin Express. I even tried to connect with my old Garmin Dongle stick which I used with my Garmin FR70 but it does not want to work. What should I do, because the Garmin FR15 only store 7 activities and I do not want to loose my activities. Should I take the watch back to Navworld Milnerton in Cape Town where I bought it last week? The sales person gave me this website when I bought the watch if I have any questions about the Garmin FR15.
Does the heart rate monitor results show the percentage of calories burned from fat? Or is it just the total calories? Thanks so much….. I hope this wasn’t already asked, i didn’t read thru all the comments.
Only total calories. No detailed stats.
My wife and I both bought a Forerunner 15 a year ago. We were after a basic GPS watch to be able to record GPS and pace data. Unfortunately we have been very disappointed by the slow GPS lock, up to 10 minutes but never faster than a couple of minutes before you are out in the open and started your run. Once the GPS locks, the device does everything I need. As a result, I don’t bother starting it at all, because once it locks I have usually run 2 kms or so already. For that reason I would strongly advise people not to purchase this unit.
If it’s taking 10 minutes, it means there’s an issue with the satellite cache and it’s confused. The good news is that it’s a two-second thing to fix. Simply do a hard reset on the unit which will set it back to factory settings and get rid of the corrupted satellite data. Also, if you connect it to Garmin Express (computer), then it’ll download a satellite cache that makes things even quicker. But without that cache, it should only take 15-30 seconds.
While the problem is rare – it’s well known.
Nice review, I just have one question: Is there a 24hr mode for the time??
Is it possible to connect the HR strap and the foot pod at the same time?
think twice before you buy a garmin forerunner 15
battery life of the forerunner 15 is max 4 hours in gps modus? who else encountered this ?
marathon du medoc this year, battery died at 3.35
za, sep 12, 2015 9:44 AM
berlin last year, died at 3.49
I always put my watch on 5 minute before i start, and shut it off 4 minutes after i finished
sent it to garmin to fix it, they send back another(new?) one, but same problem
Mine was giving up after 5,5h. Returned it 3 times – I always had the same problem. It was exchanged to FR220.
Garmin Vivoactive vs FR15? Please tell me that it is better to take?
I am confused about swiming the HRM that comes with the FR15.
in the Garmin site is says that “This heart rate strap has an IPX7 waterprof rating and should not be worn while swimming.” in one page
link to buy.garmin.com
And in the specs page it says that “Water Resistance: 32.9 ft (10 m)*” and the only problem is that “*Does not transmit heart rate data to your device while swimming.”
link to buy.garmin.com
Then, what is the right statement?
Has anybody test the HRM in a one hour swim?
I am curious with getting my bpm after an interval train in the pool. Will it work for this?
No problems wearing the strap in the pool/swim for as long as you want (many triathletes do). However, the strap won’t transmit through water more than about 1-inch, so it’s not too useful.
Does the Forerunner 15 track distance while swimming and biking?
Biking yes, swimming no.
The only two metrics I’d be interested in viewing during a run are heartrate and pace. Are you saying you can’t have those two on the same screen?
do you know if the watch has a changeable battery? I had a garmin forerunner 305 but the battery died. I do not want to purchase a watch again that I cannot change the battery in on my own. I find that to be a waste of money and very frustrating.
Nope, it has not. No current Garmin running watches has user swappable battery.
Bit late to the party, but got a F15 yesterday and love it. I brought preloved and i have basically reread this review like 10 times to learn what it can do and how i can use it as it’s my first bit of running kit (other than my runners). Loved the hacks on how i can use it cycling and in other training sessions. Do you think the hack for indoor workouts would work for climbing too, just intrigued really.
Also can anyone advise how i could use it for swimming?
My Garmin FR15 keeps giving me Memory Low! notices when I am running. I deleted files once before by plugging it into the computer, but I am not able to find the instructions on how to do this again. Are you able to help ?
hai..i just want to ask.. i’m curious about the FR 15 when its use for training such as martial arts, HIIT etc. If someone didn’t buy the FR15 bundle version (means he buy only FR 15 without the HRM), can he still track his calorie burns????
No, it wouldn’t be accurate for calories on indoors without a HR strap.
Um hi as u can probably see by my name I’m not quite ready to be telling the world my email and name but I just got a question about the activity travkin.
Does the updated version track sleep of anything else like that??
Thanks in advance
Yup. Tracks sleep like Vivofit or so. 🙂 And it had sleep tracking from the beginning – Garmin updated it on Connect not so long ago (it’s a bit more usable right now).
Is it possible to use an ANT+ stick to sync the FR15 with my laptop?
No, unfortunately not. Just USB sync.
I thought this would track my route when i ran using the gps but i cant seem to find it on garmin connect. Can anyone help?
ALL of your reviews are excellent. I searched the suggested places but did not find the answer to this question.
Based on your review I bought Scosche Rhythm+ and need to pair it with a wrist activity monitor. Because I have bilateral hip and knee replacements and don’t run I need to monitor activity on the bike and elliptical and weights in the gym. If you could suggest a couple of good wrist monitors, I’d be greatly appreciative.
Loved this review.
For the live of me I can’ figure out how to have the Garmin 15 show me calories burned when I do a workout in the gym. Do I just press start as I normally would when running?
I’m looking for a GPS watch in the price range of the FR15 primarily to track and monitor for cycling rather then running. Would you still recommend the FR15 or is there another watch you would go for?
Hi Tom – I’ve got a FR15 and definitely would not recommend for cycling or multisport. There is no option to set the exercise type to cycling so when you sync to Garmin or Strava or elsewhere it will record the exercise as running and you need to manually change it. A real pain.
I’d agree with Colin, for a cyclist, I’d look at a cycling-specific unit. There’s even things like the Garmin Vivoactive which is on sale right now for not much more than the FR15 is. That has a dedicated cycling mode.
Thanks for the comprehensive review; I am considering buying this watch as I am a beginner runner and I think it has everything I need for now.
My question is very simple; can the watch be reset to show km/min rather than miles/min?
I would think that this would be the case, but I thought to quickly ask first as I am European and find miles a bit confusing 🙂
Yes. you can change it in the setting. I also follow min/km rather than min/miles. 🙂
I’m new with GPS watch. So I purchase FR15 for its simplicity. has been use it as everyday watch and training watch since May 2015. But last January 2106, the band broke/tear apart. Means the bands doesn’t last long. My friends also complains their Garmin wristband doesn’t last long(over a year). Since you are an experienced user, is it normal wear and tear for the band(Garmin’s) to break within 1 year?
Minor link correction needed. The sale information link at the very top goes to your April posting, not to your June posting. Onward to victory!
Had anyone had problem with FR15’s GPS accuracy? I tried it for the first time today and compared with mapmyrun (which I have been using until FR15), and its accuracy looks pretty bad. The routes wiggle and it doesn’t even follow the road I was running on. Fyi I posted to images. First one done by mapmyrunner and the second done by FR15. As you can see, mapmyrunner closely follows Arlington Pl but FR15 is way off!! I am thinking about returning FR15 if its GPS accuracy is this bad. I wasn’t even running around tall buildings..
Sorry the image wasn’t working. Here is the route done by FR15. I was running along Arlington Pl
And this is done by mapmyrun
yes, I’ve been having worsening problems from about August onwards (I bought the 15 in January this year as my first running watch). The accuracy is just completely unstable – it has me running inside buildings, criss-crossing major roads, running over the sea even!
On top of which, I’ve been recently doing a lot of hill repeats and it’s majorly under calculating the accumulated elevation – irrelevant whether in city or rural or even in different countries.
Hence I’m in the market for a new watch and am shy of going Garmin again.
I need to upgrade my Polar F6, and like the sound of the Garmin Forerunner 15 GPS.
However, I need something which displays time elapsed and Heart Rate at the same time, and I see no reference to the availability of this in your review. If this is not available, could you recommend something which would provide this information. I don’t particularly need GPS or running data, as my chosen form of torment is a rowing machine.
Hi there. Gerald from Cape Town, South Africa (where else…??!!).
Bought myself an FR15 recently and was (a bit) disappointed to find that you cannot record manual laps IF the auto-lap function has been enabled. In other words, if you running a road race you cannot push the lap button to record when you ACTUALLY pass a kilometre marker. It will however record each Km ‘cos that’s what you’ve set it up to do.
ALSO!!!…and allied to my above-observation…with regard to heart rate monitoring: The people “who know” say that the best measure of fitness is to check by how much your HR drops within one minute of completing your exercise. Because the FR15 does not have a manual lap-recording setting you cannot record your one-minute post-exercise heart rate measurement.
Just thought you’d like to know all the above…assuming you didn’t know it before…which I’m sure you did.
Thank you for the incredibly informative and well-written reports.
Thank you for all the work you do to help us make far more informed decisions. After reading this review a year or so back I bought the forerunner 15 and love it. Thank you. I am not a high end athlete by any means -I am a busy mum of 4 and am a very slow runner but love knowing how far and what pace I have done – the virtual pacer has really helped me increase speed too. I do not need to know much so love the simplicity of it. However, I love trail running and the forerunner 15 does not seem to do as well in the bush and with elevation as on the road. Do the high end models account for elevation much better than the 15? Just curious maybe the 15 is all I really need – though some of those new ones do look rather pretty;) Very much appreciate your thoughts
Same thing I’m wondering too :).
Lots of problems the last few months with GPS accuracy and elevation, which I am using to help with my speed. Thinking of ditching the 15.
today I slept in the afternoon about 1,5 hours. my forerunner 15 didn’t recognized this activity. why?
I am planning to buy Garmin FR 15 without the heart rate monitor.
Can i use the heart rate monitor of my Garmin FR 410 with Garmin FR 15?
Do you know if the Garmin Forerunner 15 would work in other countries outside of the U.S.? (E.g. Mexico, Spain)
Yup, no problem at all there!
Thanks for the quick response!
And thanks for your amazing blog! It’s incredibly valuable.
Fantastic suggestions . For what it’s worth , if someone is wanting a TN F10 , my company discovered a sample form here
Great review as usual. Thanks.
I have a Forerunner 15 and I am from Canada. I travelled to New Zealand for a race which is in 3 days and I want to use the watch for pacing. I forgot the charger back in Canada. Do you know how it can be charger without or where I can buy one in Auckland?
Thanks for the reviews! These were super helpful. I’m doing sprint triathlon’s and am looking for something to support my running and cycling. The features seem great and the low weight is preferable.
For the bike (I’m still a newbie) I’m really only worried about real-time distance, real-time speed and ongoing time. Sounds like with the modifications you noted that this watch will work out for me. Any other advice?
Much appreciation for your time and effort to do the overviews for us!
I purchased the Garmin Forerunner 15 *WITHOUT* the heart rate monitor. But now I want to start tracking my heart rate.
If I buy the strap, will it sync/work with the watch? I don’t know if there’s a hardware difference.
I pressed the upper right button and the screen goes to Start/Cancel and the heart icon blinks but never goes solid to indicate it has paired. What am I doing wrong?
If you have an adapter for the USB cable, can you charge the Forerunner 15 via a wall outlet instead of plugging into your computer? Thanks
Does the watch calculate steps the same on the treadmill as outside? I have mostly walked outdoorsvall summer but will have to get up earlier and will have to use the treadmill. I want to have an accurate step count.
Yup, the same for the most part (your body will usually step slightly differently on a treadmill than outside, but the step-count will be good). You should set the treadmill for 1% incline to most realistically mimic outdoors. Enjoy!
I have garmin HRM run (010-10997-12), and I want to buy forerunner 15. Would it be a problem to pair hrm with device? Thanks for answer.