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Everything you ever wanted to know: Garmin’s new Forerunner 230, 235, and 630 watches


Ahh yes, that time of year when there’s pumpkin spiced lattes (or cupcakes), pumpkin pies, and new Garmin Forerunner watches.  Like clockwork Garmin released an update to their Forerunner lineup, which includes new versions of their running watches.

The three watches released cover the mid-range to upper-end of the market.  They already refreshed a new budget-GPS watch, the FR25, back in August.  The new watches for today are:

Garmin FR230: This mid-range watch replaces the existing FR220
Garmin FR235: This mid-range watch is a FR230 with optical HR embedded in the back of it, replaces the FR225
Garmin FR630: This high-end watch replaces the existing FR620

For those that may not be familiar with the existing lineup, you’ll remember that the FR220/620 watches lacked many of the common features found in modern GPS watches today – such as activity and sleep tracking.  They also lacked Garmin’s Connect IQ platform that was rolled out a year ago.  These features were missing due to hardware limitations.

With the FR230/235 and FR630, that’s been rectified.  But it’s more than just that – it’s really a surprising set of small tweaks through both watches that makes the FR230/235 more like a FR630 than I expected – and that the FR630 continues to add new metrics not seen on any other Garmin watch.  Plus it plays catch-up for everything else released in the last 2 years to other high-end Garmin watches that the previous FR620 couldn’t handle.

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.  To be clear, my time with all of these devices is fairly limited.  I have gone on runs with all three of them, and have also spent considerable time poking at them in front of my camera.  I was not however able to do both of those in the same sitting (two separate time-frames).  Nor was I able to download any of my runs afterwards.  Nor run more than once with any given unit.  Thus, this is as much of a ‘first impressions’ post as anything else.  Don’t misconstrue it as a review; it’s not.  These watches may be great, or may totally suck, time will help clarify.

What’s New: The Garmin FR630:


First up, the more expensive Garmin FR630 GPS watch.  As noted, while this replaces the FR620, it’s really taking in everything previously seen on that watch and combining it with most of the new running-specific functionality seen on the multi-sport Fenix3 & FR920XT watches.

Since bulleted lists are one of the best ways to convey craptons of information, I’m going bulleted style for a list of new features.  How do I define ‘new’?  Well in this case I’m going with anything not found on the FR620:.

– Connect IQ support
– Bluetooth Smart notifications (i.e. texts, phone calls, e-mails, etc…)
– Addition of daily activity tracking (steps, sleep, calories, etc…)
– Addition of audio prompts (using phone, or phone + headphones)
– Music Control
– Metronome functionality
– Finish Estimator functionality
– More customizable watch time alarms
– Basic navigation functions (back to start, waypoints)
– Increased battery life (claimed 16 hours with GPS-on)
– Larger screen size (44%)
– New Running Dynamics (Stride Length, Ground Contact Time Balance, Vertical Ratio)
– Stress Score app
– Separate sport apps (Cycling, Running, Indoor Cycling, Indoor Running, Other)
– Performance Condition app
– Heart Rate Gauge data page
– Lactate Threshold testing/reports
– Addition of GLONASS
– Ability to enable UltraTrac mode
– Addition of ANT+ sensor pool concept (multiple HR/bike sensors)
– Backlight turns on when you turn your wrist (optional)
– Race an activity (previous or downloaded)
– Do not disturb mode
– Ability to charge while using
– Tempe Sensor connectivity

Phew, lots of stuff in there!  Ok, I’m going to run through all of it just after the video.  But for those who are less inclined to read through a bunch of stuff, here’s a walk-through of the watch’s features and menu systems.  Think of this more as exploring the different pieces than some sort of highly produced video.  Said differently: I recorded this in one single shot in 4 minutes – boom and done!

Ok – now, let’s go step by step through the major functions.  The FR630, like the FR230/235 includes Connect IQ support, which allows you to install any of the 1,000+ Connect IQ apps that are available today through the Connect IQ App Store.  These include watch faces, data fields, widgets, and apps.  The watch will also be compatible with the various previously announced Connect IQ updates for early next year.


In fact, you’ll notice that the Stress Score function is actually a Connect IQ app.  Speaking of which, the Stress Score app basically has you stand still for 3 minutes and then leverages an ANT+ heart rate strap to determine your stress levels.


This is likely using heart rate variability to come up with your metered score.  When I tried it, the unit said I had low-stress.  Which, seemed like a fairly optimistic assumption of my stress level that day.  Would hate to see what it would say on an even busier day.  Here’s a quick gallery of doing the test on me (it gives you a count-down timer and your current HR).

You’re seeing more focus on unique data metrics within the higher-end Garmin watches.  To that end, they’ve extended the Running Dynamics metrics with three new data points: Stride Length, Ground Contact Time Balance, and Vertical Ratio.  All three of these metrics require usage of the Garmin HRM-RUN heart rate strap.  It will not consume data from competitive solutions that offer similar metrics such as RunScribe or Wahoo Fitness.


The stride length metric is pretty straightforward, simply the actual length of your stride.  While the GCT Balance shows the left/right foot balance for your ground contact time.  And the Vertical Ratio attempts to normalize the previous HRM-RUN metric of Vertical Oscillation by applying stride length to it.


Next, they’ve added in a Lactate Threshold test.  This can be achieved in two different ways.  First, you can just run as usual and if your run meets the requirements (unclear) then it’ll calculate it on the fly.  Or, you can have the unit guide you through a specific lactate threshold test for about 20 minutes.  I’m still a bit unclear on what exactly this gives you at the end.  I’ve asked a number of Garmin people, but nobody seems to be able to give me a precise answer.  Is it a number?  A score?  A set of zones?  A good/better/best?  A Dairy Queen Blizzard?  In my case, my run didn’t trigger it (nor did I get a Blizzard)– perhaps I didn’t meet the criteria.  Either way, something to focus on in the in-depth review with more running time.

Update: I’ve now got new clarification on how and what you get.  Here’s the details, straight from the ‘right folks’:

“How the LT test works:  the watch gathers sets of data at different paces for heart rate and heart rate variability. LT is detected mainly based on the HRV slope with respect to pace.  The data is reported in the FIT file as both a speed and a HR value at the point at which the LT is detected.  Under the hood the speed is in units of km/hour.  LTHR is in bpm.  These values are then reported with the activity FIT file to Garmin Connect where they will then be displayed on a new type of Report widget, the current (most recent) measurement as well as historical measurements.”

This explanation makes sense, and better aligns with what other competitive products do (i.e. BSX Insight).



Next, we’ve got a nifty little feature that helps you estimate your finish time.  By inputting your race (or training) distance the unit will spit out an estimated finish time based on your current progress (and show remaining distance).  This is available on both the FR230/235 and FR630.  Here’s a photo I took on the FR230:


In the event your watch says you’ve got a long time till the finish-line, you might need some navigational assistance.  This feature was cut within the FR620, but has come back by popular demand (or probably more like angry mob-like demand) to the FR630.  With the FR630 you can do simple back to start navigation, as well as the ability to navigate to a given saved waypoint.


You can save various locations for future reference/access, as well as display exactly where you are at any point in time.

Garmin-FR630-Navigate-Locations-Saved Garmin-FR630-Navigate-Locations


Next, we see a significant stepping up of the phone integration.  First up is the ability to get audio prompts during a run.  Audio prompts are defined ahead of time using the Garmin Connect app, which must remain on and within range of the GPS watch for the audio prompts to work.  Once enabled the watch will have the phone speak lap information each time the lap button is pressed.  This can be both using the phone’s native speaker, or via headphones (Bluetooth or wired).

Today it basically just tells you the lap time and pace.  But it sounds like down the road that’ll be more customizable through the Connect IQ app.  See the ‘Audio Alert’ option below.


These audio prompts do require that you carry your phone.  The watch itself doesn’t make any spoken words nor play music directly.  Again, this requires you carry your phone during the run.

Speaking of music, you can now control music from your watch.  This includes basic start/stop and skip functionality.  And yes, it also requires your phone be with you.  The unit does NOT have any music storage capability.


To see both of these in action, here’s a quick video I shot showing the audio alerts and music playing in the background being controlled by the FR630 (the FR230/235 carries this functionality too).

Next, like every other Garmin watch released in the last year or so, the FR630 includes Bluetooth Smart notifications.  This means you can configure the watch using the notification center on your Android or iOS phone and get things like text and call notifications.  Note that this does NOT mean you can connect to Bluetooth Smart sensors.  That wall still exists, only ANT+ sensors allowed through these gates.

They’ve also added in a new do no disturb mode for notifications, allowing you to turn these off both during workouts, as well as for a specified period of time.  Here’s a shot of that on the FR230:


(Tip of the day: Want to quickly tell the difference between the FR230/235 and the FR630?  The FR630 has a three-lined dash at the bottom of the display, which you can tap as part of the touch functionality.  Above, on the FR230/235 that’s absent.)

One hardware-specific feature noted is the larger display screen, allowing for bigger numbers.  Here’s a quick look at 1-4 data fields per page:

Finally, the FR630 also gets activity and sleep tracking functionality.  This means it’ll capture steps throughout your day, and also shout at you via the inactivity alerts.  At night, it’ll stalk you in your sleep, tracking your sleep metrics.  Note, it does not give you a stride length for bed-focused workouts.



All of this data is then uploaded to Garmin Connect via the Garmin Connect Mobile app, or also now via WiFi.  You can still connect the unit via USB too, to any Mac/PC computer.  It’ll mount as a USB device like any other Garmin unit.


On the list of totally random things that didn’t really fit anywhere else, I’ll point out the following pile of small but kinda neat things I figured I’d mention:

– You can now set different types of watch alarms (i.e. week-days only, vibrate-only, etc…)
– You can configure four custom data pages (with up to four metrics each), plus preset data pages: HR Zone Gauge, Running Dynamics Gauge Pages (2), Virtual Partner, Clock, Music Controls,
– You can lock the screen by holding the bottom left button, at any time.

Lastly, there’s one little quirk with the FR630 touch screen that I think might cause some confusion in reviews/shows/tests – but probably not in real-life (except if mounted to a bike).  It’s that the back of the FR630 must be ‘grounded’ to your body in order for the touch screen to respond.  This does not apply to to the physical buttons, only the touch screen.  To demonstrate this, I give you the following short video:

Now, since initial publishing many of you have asked about the jacket/long-sleeve scenario (wearing the watch on top of that). Here’s a quick video I put together showing how well that works (and how non-finger contact works on the screen:

With that I’ve covered all the major features, but haven’t touched on things like GPS accuracy. As noted I wasn’t able to download any of my runs, though I can say that the runs did match the distances I had on the TomTom Spark GPS watch I was wearing at the same time (within 1%).  These runs occurred in tree-filled mountain terrain.  But obviously it’ll be something I focus on and publish all the results of within my in-depth review once I have final production units.

Preemptive Questions Note: For aspects like the new Running Dynamics metrics, Lactate Threshold and Stress Scores, Audio Alerts, etc… I don’t have clarity on whether those features will be coming to existing watches (such as the Fenix3/Epix/FR920XT).  For the most part, everything else new is already on the Fenix3, Epix, and FR920XT.

What’s New: The Garmin FR230 & FR235:


Okey doke.  With the FR630 behind us, let’s move onto the FR230 and FR235.  I’m going to try and minimize duplication of new features here, and instead talk to some of the more unique features.  Or at least, new unique items on this platform.

First, it’s important to understand that the FR235 has everything the FR230 has.  However, the FR235 also has an optical sensor built into it.  As a result, there is one software feature that’s not in the FR230 – which is the ability to track heart rate 24×7 using said sensor.  I’ve noted that below accordingly.

Here’s the list of what’s new on the FR230 & FR235, as compared to the FR220/FR225:

– Connect IQ support
– Bluetooth Smart notifications (i.e. texts, phone calls, e-mails, etc…)
– Addition of daily activity tracking (steps, sleep, calories, etc…)
– Addition of audio prompts (using phone, or phone + headphones)
– Music Control
– Finish Estimator functionality
– More customizable watch time alarms
– Larger display (44%)
– Up to four data fields per customized data page (was 3 in FR220/FR225)
– FR235: Optical HR sensor (was in FR225, but not FR220)
– FR235: Broadcasting of optical HR as ANT+ to other devices, i.e. an Edge device (Update: the FR225 will NOT get an update on this, Garmin has changed their mind)
– VO2 max Estimation
– Training Effect
– Recovery Advisor
– Race Predictor
– 1-second recording option (previously only Smart Recording)
– Heart Rate Zone Gauge (was on FR225, but not FR220)
– FR230: Increased battery life (claimed 16 hours with GPS-on, vs 8-10 before)
– FR235: Increased battery life (claimed 11 hours with GPS-on and optical HR on, vs 7-10 before)
– Back to start navigation
– New cycling-specific apps (previously no separate function)
– Addition of GLONASS
– Support for cycling sensors (speed/cadence)
– Addition of ANT+ sensor pool concept (multiple ANT+ sensors)
– Do not disturb mode
– Ability to charge while using
– Tempe Sensor connectivity


What’s that?  You’re looking for another video walk-through in this post?  Sure, no problem – up first is the video walk-through of the FR230.  Again, focused on features and functionality:

Ok, with that out of the way, it’s important to take a slight diversion to the FR235 and talk about items specific to it first.  Most notably that it has a optical heart rate sensor built into the back of it.  This shouldn’t come as a surprise; the FR225 that was released earlier this year has one as well.  But what is notable is that this sensor is not licensed from Mio like the FR225 was.  Rather, this sensor is all-Garmin:


The optical sensor package is fully done in-house, and not part of an acquisition of someone else’s technology, nor licensed from anyone else.  That’s…well…interesting.  But, probably not surprising.  We’re seeing many companies mix things up, likely because it’s cheaper to do so.  And also because Mio’s technology is further licensed from Philips, who themselves are looking to get into the fitness realm.  Hence why we’ve seen both TomTom and Garmin split ways from Mio NOW, though interestingly both companies maintained numerous times in conversations that the accuracy of the Mio sensors is really top-notch (something we already knew).


The real question will be how accurate Garmin’s new optical sensor is.  I’m putting that one solidly in the camp of ‘TBD’.  My single run with the unit proved inconclusive, due to a beta firmware update the night before that hosed things up on the sensor side.  So it’s hard to tell.  It appears promising, but it’ll take a pass on any judgment either way.  But I will say that as I’ve noted numerous times lately with new optical sensors: Companies must prove their worth.  I don’t care if you’re Apple, Fitbit, Polar, TomTom, or Garmin: I’m going to assume your optical sensor sucks until proven otherwise.

Now, the good news here is that Garmin is doing some cool stuff with the optical sensor.  With the older FR225 (crazy to say that since it’s only 4 months ‘old’), the unit didn’t do 24×7 optical HR measurements.  Whereas the new FR235 does that now.  It’ll track your optical heart rate 24×7 for about 9 to 11 days between charges, and then upload that data behind the scenes to Garmin Connect.  I don’t yet have a screenshot of what that looks like there.

From this point on out – it’s all stuff applicable to both the FR230 and FR235 alike!

First up is that both units get Connect IQ app functionality, just like the new FR630 does:


This is probably more interesting on the FR230/235 than on the FR630, because it’s kinda like how it was on the Vivoactive: It enables folks to get creative and get more extensive/advanced functionality by leveraging Connect IQ apps.  This is especially true early next year once they enable Connect IQ apps to write/save data.

Next, while the FR225 did gain activity tracking the FR220 didn’t have it.  Now both the FR230/235 have activity tracking that covers steps/sleep:

Garmin-FR230-ActivityTracking (2)


As we dive into the phone integration piece, you see the same features on the FR630 as the FR230/235.  That means you’ll get the audio prompts seen above with the FR630.  The same conditions apply here too: You’ll need to have your cell phone on you, plus an audio playback device (i.e. headphones, or just using the speaker on the phone).


You’ll also get smartphone notifications, just like the FR630.  These are all handled after pairing a compatible iOS or Android device:


We see some of the advanced features previously only seen on the FR620, moving their way down to the FR230/235.  For example, VO2Max values are now found on the FR230/235. Note that for the VO2Max tests though you do need to have a traditional heart rate strap paired to the FR235, since that’s not capable of leveraging the optical sensor for that test (common due to lack of accurate heart rate variability on optical sensors). Update: It looks like they are enabling this with native optical sensor.


Similarly, we see Training Effect and Recovery Advisor functionality moved to the FR230/FR235 as well.  Note that the Training Effect also requires a HR strap with the FR235, but the Recovery Advisor can leverage the optical sensor.  And we get Race Predictor, which spits out best guesses on how hot of a race you’ll have based on the VO2Max figures (i.e. shows you running at 36min 10K).


Along the same lines of extended functions is the finish estimator, which as seen on the FR630 estimates how long until you get to quit running.  You’ll need to enter in either a standard distance, or a custom distance.



The FR230/235 got new sport modes.  This was a chief complaint of folks with the FR220/225, which specifically didn’t have a cycling mode (whereas the Polar M400 did, for far less money).  Garmin has slightly leapfrogged there now in that the FR230/235 also supports cycling speed/cadence sensors – whereas the Polar M400 doesn’t.



Now one last item that’s probably of interest to FR220 users – the FR230/235 now allows you to edit custom data pages to show up to four data fields per custom page.  Previously it was three data fields per page.  The FR230/235 gives you two custom pages, plus the following optional pages: Heart Rate Zone/BPM, Heart Rate Zone Gauge, Clock, and Music Controls.


And as noted up earlier, you now get the option to set the recording rate as 1-second, versus the previous smart recording.  Why on earth it took this many years for Garmin to enable that, I’ve got no idea.  I suspect it may be somewhat self-serving in that it’ll probably reduce support calls from folks who see odd GPS tracks where the smart recording algorithm would appear to cut corners on buildings.  Still, I’ll take it!

Next – the FR230/F235 does get a basic back to start navigation functionality.  In this case it gives you a simple arrow towards your start location (as the crow flies).  To understand how this works (and how the FR630 navigation features work and differ), I’ve put together this quick video:

Overall the FR230 and FR235 are solid little watches in the mid-range GPS watch market.  I think they do a good job at making it a much harder job when comparing the Polar M400 to FR230 as well as to the TomTom Spark (actually, especially the TomTom Spark).

Size & Weight Comparisons:


Before we move on, a quick run-down of weights and sizes.  First up, you’ll notice that there’s virtually no differences in the thickness of any of these watches.  It’s all a wash, and to be fair – I’ve yet to hear anyone complain about them needing to be thinner.

Above, left to right: FR230, FR220, FR620, FR630.  Same order on below.



Note that on the FR235, the rubber edging is gone, so that slightly reduces thickness compared to the FR225.

As for weights, here’s a lineup of the units compared to older watches:





Note, I didn’t have the FR235 at the time of the weigh-in.

Of note: New Garmin Connect Mobile:

It should be briefly mentioned that in addition to a slew of new devices, the company is also introducing a refreshed Garmin Connect Mobile application.  The new app’s look is most visible in its blackened color scheme, but more importantly is that the charting and graphing is much more cleanly implemented than in the past.

I have spent some time poking at multiple people’s phones with the new UI, but haven’t had it rolled out to my phone yet (Update: Now I have!).  So my impressions are more snapshot in time than weeks of usage.  Still, it seems an improvement in terms of functionality (even if I’m not a huge fan of the dark color scheme, but it’s growing on me).

IMG_2094 IMG_2095 IMG_2096

IMG_2098 IMG_2100 IMG_2102

IMG_2103 IMG_2105 IMG_2104

IMG_2106 IMG_2107 IMG_2108

IMG_2112 IMG_2110 IMG_2111

This new version should be available today for download.

(Note: This section updated with screenshots from my device this morning after updating)

Product Comparison Tables:

In order to help you compare products, I’ve added the FR230, FR235, and FR630 into the product comparison tool.  This database has all watches I’ve reviewed in it – so you can easily mix and match to compare your own product charts here.

In the meantime, below I’ve split them up into two sets – the first is the FR220 & FR225, vs the FR230 & FR235:

Function/FeatureGarmin Forerunner 220Garmin Forerunner 225Garmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated May 14th, 2021 @ 3:18 pm New Window
Product Announcement DateSEPT 16, 2013May 12th, 2015Oct 21st, 2015Oct 21st, 2015
Actual Availability/Shipping DateOCT 31, 2013July 2015November 2015November 2015
GPS Recording FunctionalityYesYesYesYes
Data TransferUSB, Bluetooth SmartUSB, Bluetooth SmartUSB, Bluetooth SmartUSB, Bluetooth Smart
Waterproofing50 Meters50 Meters50 Meters50 Meters
Battery Life (GPS)10 hours7-10 hours16 hoursUp to 16 hours
Recording IntervalSMART RECORDING (VARIABLE)SMART RECORDING (VARIABLE)1-second & Smart1-second & Smart
Backlight GreatnessGreatGreatGoodGood
Ability to download custom apps to unit/deviceNoNoYesYes
Acts as daily activity monitor (steps, etc...)NoYesYesYes
MusicGarmin Forerunner 220Garmin Forerunner 225Garmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235
Can control phone musicYesYes
Has music storage and playbackNoNo
ConnectivityGarmin Forerunner 220Garmin Forerunner 225Garmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235
Bluetooth Smart to Phone UploadingYesYesYesYes
Phone Notifications to unit (i.e. texts/calls/etc...)NoNoYesYes
Live Tracking (streaming location to website)YesYesYesYes
Emergency/SOS Message Notification (from watch to contacts)NoNoNoNo
Built-in cellular chip (no phone required)NoNoNoNo
CyclingGarmin Forerunner 220Garmin Forerunner 225Garmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235
Designed for cyclingBarely (Speed mode only)Barely (Speed mode only)YesYes
Speed/Cadence Sensor CapableNoNoYesYes
Strava segments live on deviceNoNoNo
RunningGarmin Forerunner 220Garmin Forerunner 225Garmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235
Designed for runningYesYesYesYes
Footpod Capable (For treadmills)Yes (also has internal accelerometer)Yes (also has internal accelerometer)YES (Also has INTERNAL ACCELEROMETER)YES (Also has INTERNAL ACCELEROMETER)
Running Dynamics (vertical oscillation, ground contact time, etc...)NoNoNoNo
VO2Max EstimationNoNoYesYes
Race PredictorNoNoYesYes
Recovery AdvisorNoNoYesYes
Run/Walk ModeYesYesYesYes
SwimmingGarmin Forerunner 220Garmin Forerunner 225Garmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235
Designed for swimmingNo (protected though just fine)No (protected though just fine)No (protected though just fine)No (protected though just fine)
Record HR underwaterNoN/AN/AN/A
TriathlonGarmin Forerunner 220Garmin Forerunner 225Garmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235
Designed for triathlonNoNoNoNo
Multisport modeNoNoNoNo
WorkoutsGarmin Forerunner 220Garmin Forerunner 225Garmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235
Create/Follow custom workoutsYesYesYesYes
On-unit interval FeatureYesYesYesYes
Training Calendar FunctionalityYesYesYesYes
FunctionsGarmin Forerunner 220Garmin Forerunner 225Garmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235
Auto Start/StopYesYesYesYes
Virtual Partner FeatureNoNoNoNo
Virtual Racer FeatureNoNoNoNo
Records PR's - Personal Records (diff than history)YesYesYesYes
Tidal Tables (Tide Information)NoNoNoNo
Weather Display (live data)NoNoYesYEs
NavigateGarmin Forerunner 220Garmin Forerunner 225Garmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235
Follow GPS Track (Courses/Waypoints)NoNoNoNo
Markers/Waypoint DirectionNoNoNoNo
Routable/Visual Maps (like car GPS)NoNoNoNo
Back to startNoNoYesYes
Impromptu Round Trip Route CreationNoNoNoNo
Download courses/routes from phone to unitNoNoNoNo
SensorsGarmin Forerunner 220Garmin Forerunner 225Garmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235
Optical Heart Rate Sensor internallyNoYesNoYEs
ANT+ Heart Rate Strap CapableYesYesYesYes
ANT+ Speed/Cadence CapableNoNoYesYes
ANT+ Footpod CapableYesYesYesYes
ANT+ Power Meter CapableNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Lighting ControlNoNoNO
ANT+ Bike Radar IntegrationNoNoNO
ANT+ Trainer Control (FE-C)NoNoNO
ANT+ eBike CompatibilityNoNoNoNO
ANT+ Gear Shifting (i.e. SRAM ETAP)No
Shimano Di2 ShiftingNonONoNO
Bluetooth Smart HR Strap CapableNoNoNoNO
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence CapableNoNoNoNO
Bluetooth Smart Footpod CapableNoNoNoNO
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter CapableNoNoNoNO
Temp Recording (internal sensor)NoNoNoNO
Temp Recording (external sensor)NoNoYES (TEMPE)YES (TEMPE)
SoftwareGarmin Forerunner 220Garmin Forerunner 225Garmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235
PC ApplicationGarmin ExpressGarmin ExpressGarmin ExpressGarmin Express
Web ApplicationGarmin ConnectGarmin ConnectGarmin ConnectGarmin Connect
Phone AppiOS/AndroidiOS/AndroidiOS/Android/Windows PhoneiOS/Android/Windows Phone
Ability to Export SettingsNoNoNoNo
PurchaseGarmin Forerunner 220Garmin Forerunner 225Garmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235
Chain Reaction CyclesLinkLinkLinkLink
Competitive CyclistLinkLinkLinkLink
DCRainmakerGarmin Forerunner 220Garmin Forerunner 225Garmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235
Review LinkLinkLinkLinkLink

Next, we’ve got the FR620 vs FR630:

Function/FeatureGarmin Forerunner 620Garmin Forerunner 630
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated April 9th, 2021 @ 10:16 am New Window
Product Announcement DateSEPT 16, 2013Oct 21st, 2015
Actual Availability/Shipping DateOCT 31, 2013November 2015
GPS Recording FunctionalityYesYes
Data TransferUSB, WiFi, Bluetooth SmartUSB, WiFi, Bluetooth Smart
Waterproofing50 meters50 Meters
Battery Life (GPS)10 hours16 hours
Recording Interval1-second & Smart1-second & Smart
Backlight GreatnessGreatGood
Ability to download custom apps to unit/deviceNoYes
Acts as daily activity monitor (steps, etc...)NoYes
MusicGarmin Forerunner 620Garmin Forerunner 630
Can control phone musicYes
Has music storage and playbackNo
ConnectivityGarmin Forerunner 620Garmin Forerunner 630
Bluetooth Smart to Phone UploadingYesYes
Phone Notifications to unit (i.e. texts/calls/etc...)Noyes
Live Tracking (streaming location to website)YesYes
Emergency/SOS Message Notification (from watch to contacts)NoNo
Built-in cellular chip (no phone required)NoNo
CyclingGarmin Forerunner 620Garmin Forerunner 630
Designed for cyclingBarely (Speed mode only)Yes
Power Meter CapableNoNo
Speed/Cadence Sensor CapableYesYes
Strava segments live on deviceNoNo
RunningGarmin Forerunner 620Garmin Forerunner 630
Designed for runningYesYes
Footpod Capable (For treadmills)Yes (internal accelerometer)Yes (internal accelerometer)
Running Dynamics (vertical oscillation, ground contact time, etc...)YesYes
VO2Max EstimationYesYEs
Race PredictorYesYEs
Recovery AdvisorYesYEs
Run/Walk ModeYesYEs
SwimmingGarmin Forerunner 620Garmin Forerunner 630
Designed for swimmingNo (protected though just fine)No (protected though just fine)
Record HR underwaterNoN/A
TriathlonGarmin Forerunner 620Garmin Forerunner 630
Designed for triathlonNoNo
Multisport modeNoNo
WorkoutsGarmin Forerunner 620Garmin Forerunner 630
Create/Follow custom workoutsYesYes
On-unit interval FeatureYesYes
Training Calendar FunctionalityYesYes
FunctionsGarmin Forerunner 620Garmin Forerunner 630
Auto Start/StopYesYes
Virtual Partner FeatureYesYes
Virtual Racer FeatureNoYes
Records PR's - Personal Records (diff than history)YesYes
Tidal Tables (Tide Information)NoNo
Weather Display (live data)NoYes
NavigateGarmin Forerunner 620Garmin Forerunner 630
Follow GPS Track (Courses/Waypoints)NoWaypoints
Markers/Waypoint DirectionNoYes
Routable/Visual Maps (like car GPS)NoNo
Back to startNoYes
Impromptu Round Trip Route CreationNoNo
Download courses/routes from phone to unitNoNo
SensorsGarmin Forerunner 620Garmin Forerunner 630
Altimeter TypeGPSGPS
Compass TypeN/AGPS
Optical Heart Rate Sensor internallyNoNo
Heart Rate Strap CompatibleYesYes
ANT+ Heart Rate Strap CapableYesYEs
ANT+ Speed/Cadence CapableYesYes
ANT+ Footpod CapableYesYes
ANT+ Power Meter CapableNoNo
ANT+ Lighting ControlNoNo
ANT+ Bike Radar IntegrationNoNO
ANT+ Trainer Control (FE-C)NoNo
ANT+ Remote ControlNonO
ANT+ eBike CompatibilityNoNo
Shimano Di2 ShiftingNoNo
Bluetooth Smart HR Strap CapableNoNo
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence CapableNoNo
Bluetooth Smart Footpod CapableNoNo
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter CapableNoNo
Temp Recording (internal sensor)NoNo
Temp Recording (external sensor)NoYes
SoftwareGarmin Forerunner 620Garmin Forerunner 630
PC ApplicationGarmin ExpressGarmin Express
Web ApplicationGarmin ConnectGarmin Connect
Phone AppiOS/AndroidiOS/Android
Ability to Export SettingsYesNo
PurchaseGarmin Forerunner 620Garmin Forerunner 630
Chain Reaction CyclesLinkLink
Competitive CyclistLinkLink
DCRainmakerGarmin Forerunner 620Garmin Forerunner 630
Review LinkLinkLink

Note that there are some minor features that haven’t quite been instantiated into the database rows – so stuff like Stress Score; in large part because I’m focusing on some of the bigger features, otherwise I think it gets more unwieldy.

In any case, remember you can mix and match any products in the product comparison tool here.

Product Availability & Pricing:


Just to recap on pricing, here’s the plan for the different units:

Garmin FR230: $249 w/o a HR strap, $299 with a chest HR strap
Garmin FR235: $329 inclusive of the optical HR sensor
Garmin FR630: $399 w/o a HR strap, or $449 with the HRM-RUN

Note that there are a few different color schemes available, which are:

Garmin FR230: Black/White, Purple/White, and Yellow/Black
Garmin FR235: Black/Grey, Black/Dark Red, Teal
Garmin FR630: Black/White, Midnight Blue

As for product availability, Garmin states all of these as ‘Q4’ (so between now and December 31st, 2015).  As is usually the case, expect large wait times if you wait until December to order a unit.  Just the way Garmin works – they don’t really take into account pre-orders in terms of fulfillment like you’d get with a new XBox game or something.

Also, as far as my feeling – I think we’ll see the FR230 and FR630 available pretty darn quickly (weeks), versus the FR235, which I get the feeling might be lagging slightly behind the other two.  But I could be wrong there (and happy to be).  Just my gut instinct based on a variety of factors.

As for my in-depth reviews, those will be published a few weeks after I get final product units to test.  I realize folks are trying to make decisions on watches for the holiday period, so I’ll be balancing having a thorough review with your desire to get it sooner.  Similarly, I’m also making a significant push for other recent products that have been announced.  It’ll be a very busy next few weeks!

Initial Thoughts:


Ultimately, all three units offer fairly solid updates to their predecessors – and will likely soon become the de facto standard for pure running-only watches.  There are a handful of truly new features (i.e. lactate threshold tests), but many of the features can be found on other Garmin multi-sport and related watches that have rolled out over the past 12 months.  So this is really a case of catch-up and getting all the units onto the same platform and playing field.

As for whether you should upgrade?  Well, that probably depends on where you’re coming from.  For example, if you’re using a FR920XT/Fenix3/Epix, there’s few reasons to make the switch.  Plus, that’s kinda like going from a Land Rover to a Ford Focus, you may be losing out on other features (i.e. swimming/running/maps) that doesn’t really make that practical – depending on your use case.

But if you’re coming from the FR220 or FR620, then it’s more of a logical upgrade.  I’d consider how much you want to use the device as a pure running watch, or as a full day to day smartphone integrated device.  Do features like smartphone notifications and activity tracking matter to you?  Then upgrading probably makes sense.  If not and just tracking the core running functions, then I’m not sure I’d shell out.  If you’re on older pre-FR220/620 units, I’ve gotta believe we’ll see some solid holiday deals on the FR220/620, just like we did two years ago.

Minor Addendum: A few of you have asked about whether or not about why there isn’t a FR635.  Essentially Garmin noted that the bulk of the feature differences between the FR235 and FR635 are dependent on a true heart rate strap (i.e. advanced Running Dynamics, VO2Max-based metrics like Lactate Threshold, etc…).  Said differently, if they launched a FR635 they felt that people would need a HR strap to use most of the higher end features.  Further, the FR230/235 got many non-HR dependent features found on the FR620/630.

Next, some of you asked about if/when a FR935XT or new Fenix variant with optical HR might be on the table.  I can’t foresee that happening anytime soon.  Certainly not before spring of next year, but I’d probably guess summer/fall 2016 if I were to take a stab.  They’d have to nail the HR accuracy not only in land-based activities, but also swimming.  Oh, and solve the aforementioned HR variability (strap-dependent) requirements for why they didn’t do a FR635.  You can see why it’s highly unlikely we’ll see something near-term there.  And finally, as for whether or not they’ll add some of the new functions (i.e. Lactate Threshold, Audio Alerts, etc…) from the FR630 to the Fenix3/FR920XT/Epix, as noted at the end of the FR630 section – Garmin hasn’t clarified that piece.

With that – thanks for reading!  Feel free to drop questions below and I’ll attempt to consolidate and answer them.

Shipping Status (New!):

Current as of: November 30th, 2015

In an attempt to minimize the number of questions on current shipping status, I’ll update this section roughly each day with where things (in general) stand for shipping of each of the three units.  If/when folks report shipping updates (not just ETA’s, but actual tracking numbers), I’ll update the below with general status.

FR230: These are now widely in stock/shipping at Clever Training, and many other retailers.  They’re also available at a few places outside the US.

FR235: These are generally fairly widely available now (all pre-orders with major US retailers have cleared), though retailers do seem to go into back-order briefly status for a few days before clearing again.

FR630: These are now widely in stock for most SKU’s/colors at Clever Training, and shipping pretty readily with other retailers both in the US and outside the US.

Do remember that the Garmin shipping pattern is incredibly predictable. They usually start off shipping in very small quantities for the first week or two (a few hundred units globally), and then scale out to thousands of units per week after a few weeks.  This is partly to ensure production quality in earlier shipments, and partly to ensure if they screw something up it lessens the recall (like what happened with the FR920XT last year).  Further, expect that the FR235 backorders will take quite some time to get through.  In other words, don’t expect to place an order Dec 5th and expect it in time for the holidays.  Last year for the FR920XT (announced first week of Oct), some backorders didn’t clear out till January/February in some countries.

Next, there actually isn’t a specific country-by-country order, they tend to ship bunches to countries and it’s up to the given Garmin country manager to handle distribution to retailers in their region.

Next, when it comes to allocation of retailers, Garmin generally tries to get units in the hands of companies/retailers that have actual pre-orders from customers (versus having units sit on a shelf).  However, a LARGE part of that is whether or not the retailer placed initial order requests with Garmin ahead of and at announcement time.  Yes, ahead of.  If a retailer (especially large ones), didn’t do that – it’s highly unlikely they’ll see units soon. For whatever reason Garmin tends to de-prioritize Garmin.com orders, which are almost never first.  Similarly, Amazon also tends to be later in the game too.

Lastly, many retailers will promise you dates that are unrealistic. They’ll do this to get your pre-order knowing you won’t cancel.  As usual in life, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  If they’re promising you a unit to be shipped tomorrow – ask if they have it already in their warehouse.  If not, ask if they have a tracking number from Garmin showing it’ll arrive at their warehouse by tomorrow. Garmin will send retailers tracking numbers once the shipment has left Olathe, KS (or other international hub).  This tracking number includes the number of units of each model that the retailer is receiving.  If they don’t have that, they’re making stuff up.


Found This Post Useful? Support The Site!

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.

If you're shopping for the Garmin Forerunner 235 or any other accessory items, please consider using the affiliate links below! As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but your purchases help support this website a lot. Even more, if you use Backcountry.com or Competitive Cyclist with coupon code DCRAINMAKER, first time users save 15% on applicable products! Or, with TPC (The Pro's Closet), you'll save $40 on purchases over $200 with coupon code DCRAIN40!

Since the Garmin Forerunner 235 is no longer sold, I recommend looking at Garmin Forerunner 245:

Here's a few other variants or sibling products that are worth considering:

And finally, here’s a handy list of accessories that work well with this unit (and some that I showed in the review). Given the unit pairs with ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart sensors, you can use just about anything though.

This is a dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart cycling cadence sensor that you strap to your crank arm, but also does dual Bluetooth Smart, so you can pair it both to Zwift and another Bluetooth Smart app at once if you want.

This is one of the top straps I use daily for accuracy comparisons (the others being the Polar H9/H10). It's dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart, and in fact dual-Bluetooth Smart too, in case you need multiple connectons.

Seriously, this will change your life. $9 for a two-pack of these puck Garmin chargers that stay put and stay connected. One for the office, one for your bedside, another for your bag, and one for your dog's house. Just in case.

This speed sensor is unique in that it can record offline (sans-watch), making it perfect for a commuter bike quietly recording your rides. But it's also a standard ANT+/BLE sensor that pairs to your device. It's become my go-to speed sensor.

This wifi-connected scale will track your weight and related metrics both on the scale display and in Garmin Connect (plus 3rd party apps like Training Peaks). It'll also then sync your weight to your watch/bike computer, to ensure accurate calorie data.

The HRM-PRO Plus is Garmin's top-end chest strap. It transmits dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart, but also transmits Running Dynamics & Running Pace/Distance metrics, stores HR data during a swim, and can be used without a watch for other sports. Also, it can transmit XC Skiing Dynamics as well.

And of course – you can always sign-up to be a DCR Supporter! That gets you an ad-free DCR, access to the DCR Quarantine Corner video series packed with behind the scenes tidbits...and it also makes you awesome. And being awesome is what it’s all about!

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. And lastly, if you felt this review was useful – I always appreciate feedback in the comments below. Thanks!

Found This Post Useful? Support The Site!

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.

If you're shopping for the Garmin Forerunner 235 or any other accessory items, please consider using the affiliate links below! As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but your purchases help support this website a lot. Even more, if you use Backcountry.com or Competitive Cyclist with coupon code DCRAINMAKER, first time users save 15% on applicable products! Or, with TPC (The Pro's Closet), you'll save $40 on purchases over $200 with coupon code DCRAIN40!

Since the Garmin Forerunner 235 is no longer sold, I recommend looking at Garmin Forerunner 245:

Here's a few other variants or sibling products that are worth considering:

And finally, here’s a handy list of accessories that work well with this unit (and some that I showed in the review). Given the unit pairs with ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart sensors, you can use just about anything though.

This is a dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart cycling cadence sensor that you strap to your crank arm, but also does dual Bluetooth Smart, so you can pair it both to Zwift and another Bluetooth Smart app at once if you want.

This is one of the top straps I use daily for accuracy comparisons (the others being the Polar H9/H10). It's dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart, and in fact dual-Bluetooth Smart too, in case you need multiple connectons.

Seriously, this will change your life. $9 for a two-pack of these puck Garmin chargers that stay put and stay connected. One for the office, one for your bedside, another for your bag, and one for your dog's house. Just in case.

This speed sensor is unique in that it can record offline (sans-watch), making it perfect for a commuter bike quietly recording your rides. But it's also a standard ANT+/BLE sensor that pairs to your device. It's become my go-to speed sensor.

This wifi-connected scale will track your weight and related metrics both on the scale display and in Garmin Connect (plus 3rd party apps like Training Peaks). It'll also then sync your weight to your watch/bike computer, to ensure accurate calorie data.

The HRM-PRO Plus is Garmin's top-end chest strap. It transmits dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart, but also transmits Running Dynamics & Running Pace/Distance metrics, stores HR data during a swim, and can be used without a watch for other sports. Also, it can transmit XC Skiing Dynamics as well.

And of course – you can always sign-up to be a DCR Supporter! That gets you an ad-free DCR, access to the DCR Quarantine Corner video series packed with behind the scenes tidbits...and it also makes you awesome. And being awesome is what it’s all about!

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. And lastly, if you felt this review was useful – I always appreciate feedback in the comments below. Thanks!


  1. Matt

    One thing I noticed on the REI page was that the 235 showed a HR graph page that showed RHR and your HR over the past 4 hours. Is it measuring your HR all the time? And if so, is that being leveraged for calorie burn/daily activity level calculations?


    • Matt

      I should read better (or it was added after?) — you state that it does have 24/7 HR. I guess that leaves the second part: does it factor that into “daily activity” and calorie calculations or is it just “good to know” data?

    • Matt

      Okay, okay. One last question (for now).

      I noticed there is a new “GPS level” bar that looks similar to a cell phone signal strength. I believe this is new (and something that not even the Fenix3/Epix/920xt has). Can you find out from Garmin whether this is just for this line or whether they are looking to reintroduce the actual GPS strength field (and possibly connect IQ field)?

    • David Lusty

      The 920XT has these bars, the Fenix 3 does it with a green circle around the edge of the screen. It’s not as clever as it looks it just tells you when you’re OK to press start which is when it goes green and has full bars.

    • Andrew

      Don’t get excited – if its the lines in top left its on the 920

    • Matt

      Expectations thoroughly tempered.

  2. Josh

    Awesomeness. Trying to order from ct right now but getting internal server error message so hopefully that corrects soon.

    • Eeks, just heard from them a second ago on the error when trying to add to cart. They’re working on it and hope to have a resolution immediately. Sorry!

    • Josh

      Ahhh the simple irony in waiting for technology to work correctly so we can order the most up to date technology

    • Josh

      235 ordered thru ct thanks for everything Ray!
      PS if you know of any GOOD virtual running software to use on the iPad while running on the treadmill please let me know.

  3. Lin

    In your bulleted list for the 630, you list ‘Wifi added’, but the 620 already has WiFi.

    Did they add WiFi to the new 230 or 235 maybe?

  4. Matt

    Ray, any idea of these new features will also roll out to the fenix 3/920/epix?

  5. Scott Gall

    Why oh why cant they put four data fields per screen on the 200 series???? ….. why oh why!!

  6. Klaas

    Thank you for the good (p)review! One question: why do you think Garmin has not included the optical HR in the FR630?

    • When I asked them that, they said it was because most of the differentiating features between the FR235 and FR630 required a HR strap (i.e. Running Dyanmics, Lactate Threshold, Performance App, Stress App, etc…). Meaning that if you wanted those extra features, you’d need a HR strap anyway.

      I’d agree with the general logic there…but still wish there was a FR635.

    • Mike Lamz

      If they are crossing over to the fitbit realm with activity trackers, they really missed it w/ the 630. Why would you want to wear a heart rate monitor all day at work and while you sleep?

  7. Simen

    Great article, thanks for sharing as always!

    Will the FR 630 work for swimming? As in recording the distance. I saw there was an option for “other” activities on the watch, without knowing what that means.

    • No, no swimming in terms of distance or the like (like a FR920XT would). Other is sorta the catch-all for something like Yoga, Basketball, etc…

    • daleskie

      Is it possible that this sort of functionality could be added through a Connect IQ app, or is it more of a hardware limitation for the new 630?

      I love the 620, but there are a few extra tri related features that I wish were built in (swimming and ability to connect with a power meter as examples).

  8. Re: lactate threshold test – I guess it should give you threshold HR and threshold pace. May be calculated similarly to TP link to help.trainingpeaks.com

  9. Richard Stanford

    I realize that you probably can’t tell us, but any word on a 930XT? If I could get the current 920 with an optical HR monitor I’d be happy to move from my trusty 910. As it is I have a cheap TomTom Cardio for casual runs, but what it gains in convenience it loses in software.

  10. Oskar

    Why no power meter capability if the 630 has a proper bike app? Would be so sweet for commuting by bike!

    • It’s an odd one. But Connect IQ has semi-solved that on the Vivoactive already (power meter app for it), the only problem being that the current version of Connect IQ can’t save that data. That’s coming in Q1 2016.

    • Oskar

      Nice, let’s hope it will work on the 630 as well!

    • is it new for the compatibility of power meters on VA? When it started it was only cadence/speed/HR sensors right?

    • Roham

      I was hoping for power meter capability in order to use the Stryd power meter that I have ordered. It looks like I will have to make do with my old 500.

    • Oskar

      Maybe that also can be solved via connect iq?

    • Oskar

      Just took a look at Garmin’s info for developer. Thought it couldn’t be that hard to make a custom data field for power in running and biking but hey, Garmin don’t want you to be able to add “real” features since the ant-API is not available for data fields. Honestly, the access to APIs is so limited for data fields it nothing but a toy; link to developer.garmin.com. The only way would be to create an app. I really don’t understand why Garmin is doing this, it’s just plain stupid not to let hardware manufactures like Stryd to add there own data field to get Garmin devices to work with their hardware.

    • Oskar

      Sorry for spamming but it looks like ANT will become available for Edge devices, maybe it will come for all later on; link to developer.garmin.com. I sent an email to Garmin, let’s see what they replied.

    • Oskar

      The reply I got where more or less, “I dunno know, ask in the forum”… Really Garmin, really?

  11. stuart

    I am waiting on fenix 4 sapphire with 24/7 optical HRM

    When that comes nothing else will ever be needed…..well until 24/7 glucose monitoring is required 🙂

    • gingerneil

      That’s the last thing I would want – why have the requirement to have the watch next to your skin ? Whats happens when its cold and you have a long sleeved top on, or a wet suit for the swimmers out there ? I am a very happy Fenix3 owner (upgraded from a 220 in July) – and see this as very much a features and platform catchup (as Ray summarises) rather than anything new or innovative.

    • Steven Shaw

      Me too, or 930xt if it has optical hrm. I’m not too fussed about having to wear a strap if I have to (whilst running/cycling), but draw the line at pool swimming. I bought the 620 when it came out, but wished I had held on for the updated 920/Fenix 3. Hopefully the updated triathlon watches won’t be too far away.

  12. n8udd

    Hi Ray,

    My Edge 500 has just given up the ghost, and I have started running more recently, so was swaying towards a 920, but now that the 230 supports cycling, this is a simple decision!

    BTW, you may want to add WiFi uploads to your “connectivity” section in the comparison chart, as I notice that this is available in the 630, but not the 230/235.

  13. Simen

    Two questions before I order the 630:

    1. In the winter I always use the watch over my jacket. Does this mean I will not be able to use the touch screen as the watch is not in direct contact with my skin?

    2. I see the HRM for the 630 looks different than the one I got for the 620. Do I need the new one for all functionality or is it just a new design?

    • David Lusty

      To me it looks like marketing have used the HRM-Swim or HRM-Tri image and changed some colours. If Garmin are planning to make all of their HR sensors built on to straps I think there will be a bit of an outcry. People have already been moaning about the HRM-Swim being fixed and at least there Garmin had a good reason!
      Ray, it’s the image at link to static.garmincdn.com that I assume Simen is talking about – any comment?

    • ekutter

      I have to agree with Simen, requiring the unit to have skin contact for the touch screen to work could be a problem. There is a lot of functionality that just doesn’t work without the touch screen. So as he said, wear over a shirt or jacket and very limited control. Or just configuring it I often don’t have it on my wrist. Hopefully this will be made an option.

      Other than that, looks like the 630 is everything I’ve been asking for.

    • David lusty

      Looks like you do need the new strap for all functionality. And it wasn’t just photoshopping of the tri strap after all but rather Garmin milking our wallets. link to buy.garmin.com

    • Lee

      I asked that question of the retailer I use and they said that a firmware would be released to allow HRM-RUN v1 produce the new metrics.

    • I confirmed as well with Garmin that the existing HRM-RUN & HRM-TRI straps will get a firmware update.

  14. TR

    M400 or FR230 ?

    I guess that would depend wholly on if Polar plans a M400 successor soon.

    • Mr. T

      Polar has no vibration alert, it’s easy for me

    • TR

      Yeah, that’s one of the nitpicks I don’t like about M400 (and they fixed this in M350), but for 120-150€ price difference …

      If Polar made a M450 with added vibration alert, underwater HR (as on M350) and GLONASS for about 230-250€ it would be a great midrange competitor to the FR230, while lowering the M400 to 120-130€ to compete with Garmin FR15,25.
      M350 could also be put in the 100€ range against FR10 then. This way they would cover basic, (no GPS) entry, mid and higher (V800) range.

    • Mike St. Louis

      I’d almost say that the Tom Tom Cardio is one to beat because of the built in MP3 player. IIRC it doesn’t have quite have the laundry list of features as the Garmin 230/235, but it provides most of the necessary ones and could improve with software updates.

    • Christian Köhler

      In Germany you can get a new M400 for 120€ easily, sometimes even less. Its 150€ with HR strap.
      As a running watch the M400 is much more full featured than FR15. FR15 can only show two data fields at once. M400 can show four, for example pace, distance, time & heart rate and it offers a lot more customization. It can upload to a phone via BT smart, has vo2max estimation & modes for cycling etc and it has smartphone notifications.

      I don’t know what the street prices of these new Garmin watches will be. As long it is not under 200€ the M400 will still be an attractive option.


  15. tomaek

    thanks for this post ray. glad to see they kept the touchscreen on the fr630.

    do you have any idea whether there are mediatek gps chips in the devices? from what you wrote i see very little reason to upgrade from my fr620 unless they changed back to sirfstar (which seems highly unlikely). cheers

    • No SIRFStar chips on these. But they do have GLONASS, which the FR220/620 didn’t have.

    • Tim Grose

      AFAIK there is more to GPS accuracy then the name of the manufacturer on the chip – e.g. antennae design in what are now much more compact devices than the bricks of old. True that the 620 had a few issues early on but even fellrnr now says in link to fellrnr.com “…culminating in the GPS-3.30 firmware that resolved the issues.”
      Also I have a 920 with GPS/Glonass and that’s not SirfStar either and GPS accuracy is fine for me with that.

    • David Lusty

      I agree the 920XT is pretty good for accuracy. The Fenix 2 and 3 less so when compared to their peers but they both ended up kind of good enough. That said, there does seem a correlation where SS chips tend to be better overall for pure accuracy. There are also correlations on features, fix time, battery life, urban canyon fix and others which are not all necessarily in favor of SS. Let’s face it Garmin can afford to fit either and have consistently made the same choice for a while and I’ve got to assume they have a good reason.

    • While the MediaTek chips are cheaper, they aren’t appreciably so. The core reason that Garmin has been using them over the SiRFstar is that they find a fair bit better battery performance with MediaTek. Obviously one could compensate with a larger battery (and thus larger watch), but it’s likely why we see smaller units than competitors.

      As Tim said, the chipset is far overrated in what impacts GPS accuracy. Things like chipset firmware, watch firmware, antenna location/design (huge!), are far more important.

    • Antonio

      Could be nice try the watchs/models in a well-known route, just mesured with gmap-Pedometer and than compare the accuracy. The route could be in a mix of open area, covered area, urban canyon, etc

  16. Karla

    So, If you wear the watch over a jacket, long sleeved shirt in the winter time, the touch screen won’t work? (the quirk you mentioned). Why would they do that?

    • rick_NP

      It would be nice to see that be defeatable in Settings.

    • Antonio

      Could be nice try the watchs/models in a well-known route, just mesured with gmap-Pedometer and than compare the accuracy. The route could be in a mix of open area, covered area, urban canyon, etc

    • Tim Grose

      Ray clarified that in a video further down. You can use the touch screen over a shirt no problem. It’s just over nothing that is the problem.

    • Lolo


      I made tests and depending of the thickness of the long sleeve the touch screen always work (swiping, taping) but the menu button on the bottom used to quite often not work (for instance with a long sleeve shirt and a jacket over the menu button doesn”t work). I can’t stand this behaviour at all !


  17. David Lusty

    I’d like to see Garmin standardise the software and really lean on the apps. I’d quite like a thinner watch with reduced battery if it had the same apps as the Fenix 3. There doesn’t seem to be a technical reason behind this, just Garmin making a big range to artificially introduce choice and differentiation.
    The new data points are just baffling. Garmin have yet to explain the old running dynamics and they are introducing even more! all I’ve seen to date is wild speculation from amateurs as to what use GCT and VO do; it would be nice for Garmin to join forces with some science types and do some research. Let’s face it Uni students would do this for free, they just need a box of watches to test with. Perhaps Garmin are concerned the science would show these fields to be marketing fluff?

    • Tim Grose

      What’s to really explain? I do recall Garmin saying they provide these metrics but like to leave the detailed analysis up to you.

      That said if you have a low GCT and you don’t spend long on the ground etc etc
      Cadence/stride length also very clear.

      You could argue the same about HR. I know runners who always train easy and others who always train hard. Come race day there is little in it. Who then is “right” ?

    • Adam

      To be honest, I think Garmin pursuing research to assess the applications of their features would be a bit of a dead-end.

      Firstly, research takes a long time. By the time they’ve found a suitable academic collaboration, hired staff to do the study, recruited subjects, collected and analysed the data and then gone through the whole publishing and peer-review process, you’re probably looking at 2 years absolute minimum from start-to-finish for any kind of responsible research group. Garmin aren’t going to sit twiddling their thumbs for all that time and suddenly producing data two years down the line to back up a product that’s no longer on the market is pointless.

      Secondly, research is expensive and there’s no guarantee of the results you want. Even if they do get the results they want, they’ll be subjected to all the usual criticisms of being industry-funded propaganda.

      Thirdly, there’s little appetite for it. Yes in an ideal world, concrete scientific data to back up these features would be great, but primarily due to points 1 and 2, that never happens in this industry. The public are happy to buy things based on marketing claims and assess their usefulness themselves. A certain portion of the market will be skeptical about them, but most people’s thought process when purchasing goes “more features = better”.

      Finally, at the end of the day, I don’t think it’s Garmin’s responsibility. IMO their role is to come up with the technology and say “here you go, what can you do with this?”. It’s up to sports physiologists, training coaches and indviduals to assess the application of it. This is way outside of Garmin’s area of expertise and the Sports and Fitness arm of Garmin simply isn’t big enough to go bankrolling research that likely isn’t going to produce any kind of meaningful return in increased sales.

    • David Lusty

      I disagree Tim. There has been a lot of research into heart rate and how to train using zones for different outcomes (recovery or training runs for instance). We can also use HR for interval training to great effect when running just like we use power when cycling and reps with weight training. All of these have research backing up their effectiveness as a training tool.
      Your assumption that low GCT has any bearing on running efficiency doesn’t have any basis in science as far as I’ve seen – that’s what I’d like to see. There is a whole Internet of people assuming something and very few people proving it. The one scientific book I’ve read on the subject actually outright says that gait, stride length, even cadence are all irrelevant and all assumptions have been based on statistics about successful athletes. There are very notable exceptions in the pro athlete world though, and monitoring already successful athletes for statistical similarity is not a good way to determine how to improve an unsuccessful athlete. Telling a 5 foot tall woman to increase stride length to match a 7 foot high man because he’s faster is not helpful and will not improve that womans running. VO has yet to be shown as anything but voodoo. It’s just differing styles of running, and some people are faster with more bounce others the opposite. There has yet to be any evidence that this can be trained on to improve specific performance or fitness.

      That’s allI was hoping for, right now we just have more numbers and more graphs. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We all like a good graph, but as a training tool nothing has changed for running since HRM, GPS and Footpods

    • Tim Grose

      I think the point is that Garmin aren’t in the business of “telling” you how to run. If you (or your coach etc etc) think your stride length (for instance) needs changing here is a tool to tell you what it actually is and how it changes when you try to run differently.
      Typically a long stride length is usually good but equally over striding can be overly tiring and makes accelerating say when kicking at the end of track races more difficult.
      That said they did produce some colour charts on what different ranges of GCT, VO might correspond on a good/average/poor type basis.
      I tend to agree that how useful is all this stuff really to the average non-elite runner (which is 99.9% of us!) but, as stated, it can take years to properly analyse this stuff and HR “science” has had a good 30 years head start.

    • David Lusty

      The only science I’ve seen around stride length concluded to use the one that’s natural to you. This kind of highlights why I think there needs to be guidance as people will try to train things that shouldn’t be trained because the “training tool” makes it possible. VO and GCT more than likely also fit this category of useless info which is best left to nature. Cadence definitely fits this category but seems to increase as stride improves so can indirectly be used to measure how fast the recovery stroke of the leg is, and therefore whether your stride has improved mechanically. What worries me is when people say that higher cadence is better – it’s not – if you run with poor mechanics making a faster stride just ends with injury and pain.
      I’ll give you the lactate threshold stuff, that would potentially be useful assuming they aren’t plucking figures out of the air like with recovery time 🙂

    • chrisgg

      To run faster you either have to increase stride length or increase cadence or both. They are the only primary factors that affect speed, i.e. how many times per minute you stride and how far each stride is. If you know the cadence and the stride length you can automatically calculate the speed of running and the time taken for any distance. So these factors are important to know. If you try and increase cadence(one option for the 5 foot woman) you need to know what is happening to your stride length. If the stride length goes down as a result of increasing cadence you may not increase speed at all or even decrease speed. Similarly, if you increase stride length by getting more push and spring into each stride you may sacrifice cadence. So I think an awareness of these parameters are vitally important to know when training athletes to run faster..

  18. Awesome – Really want the 630!

  19. Jorge

    Is it possible to use apps (watch faces etc.) like the Fenix 3?

    • Matt

      Yes. That’s the Connect IQ portion.

    • David Lusty

      If you can find a useful app then go for it. I have zero apps installed on my 920 and Fenix 3 as I have yet to see anything other than watch faces that do anything. Hopefully the changes to ConnectIQ will improve this. The D2 Bravo said an awful lot about how seriously Garmin are taking apps – identical hardware to the Fenix 3 but they added flying as a hard coded feature which is not available on the Fenix 3. Why no app? Because ConnectIQ is way too basic to do anything advanced with.

    • Adam

      Same here. I’ve not found many apps of use for my Fenix 3, the sunrise-sunset widget is the only “extra” that I use on a regular basis.

      I suspect that will change with CIQ 1.2 though. When apps can actually write data into a fit file then their potential will increase greatly.

    • JorgeP

      I will be next week in New York (Marathon) and stay there until 3th November . Maybe does anyone know if I can buy the FR630 at the marathon expo?

    • gingerneil

      Agreed. I use CIQ data fields (mainly the HR graph), but not watch faces (they lag too much compared the stock faces) or the apps (easy to create your own for different activities, and don’t have a need for anything else).
      Some of the changes to CIQ are interesting though – especially being able to take data over ANT+ and record it in the fit file … I’m a runscribe user, and would like to see this data on the watch and in the fit files.

  20. Cam Carroll

    Hi Ray,

    Great reviews, somebody already asked, will there likely be a firmware upgrade for the F3 that includes some of these new dynamics like lactose and stride length? I can see those becoming really handy!

    Thanks again.


    • David Lusty

      For what? Can you post a link to info on how to use any of them in actual training scenarios? Even a link to evidence that bigger/smaller is an improvement would be nice 🙂

    • Tim Grose

      Google lactate threshold training and there be loads to read up on.

  21. Adam

    I just spotted this screenshot on the FR630 product page on the Garmin website.

    Does this mean there is going to be another overhaul of the Garmin Connect Mobile app? I really hope this is the case, because the current one is pretty dire if you’re just using it for actual activities, rather than the whole steps-weight-sleep-whatever thing.

    I wish I could go back to the old(er) one with the separate panes that resembled the modern Connect website, much simpler to do what you want to.

    • David Lusty

      I’m going to post this link for you, but it may be faster if you scroll up and just read the whole article?

      link to dcrainmaker.com

    • Simen

      This is actually the current version. I just upgraded this morning.

    • Adam

      Hahaha, hang on a sec, did Ray add that in afterwards?!

      Surely I can’t be that blind?!?!

      Anyway, thanks for bringing that to my attention…

    • David Lusty

      Enthusiasm blindness is quite common around here 🙂 I just tried the new version and it definitely looks like an improvement although there’s still no obvious way to manage waypoints there or online. The graphics are definitely nicer though and it seemed to sync both my watches at the same time which is a step in the right direction.

    • I have added a few things in afterwards (i.e. charging on the go and Tempe support), but nothing changed in the Garmin Connect Mobile section…yet. Will be swapping out screenshots for my own shortly.

  22. DC Runner

    Wow, the increase on the battery life is fantastic. If true 16 vs. 10 hours is a world of difference in terms of both remembering to charge day to day and recording endurance events.

  23. vinny

    I have a hard time viewing the Fenix 3 screen due to poor illumination…are these brighter when viewing indoors?

  24. Erik

    Any word if the fr235 is capable to re-transmit the HR data to a Garmin Edge?

  25. Anders

    Thanks for a thorough post on Garmin’s new watches; I like the ‘initial thoughts’ section, especially if there’s a reason to upgrade. Too bad there’s no support for Bluetooth smart sensors though (and I don’t expect the 235, or 225 for that matter, includes a heart rate strap?).

    • Tim Grose

      If you buy a 235 presume you prefer optical HR over a strap but, if it is like the 225, you can also pair a HR strap and it will use that in precedence to the optical.

  26. Gearoid O Leary

    any idea why on the garmin uk site when comparing the specs of the 630 to the 235 are they not mentioning things like bluetooth notifications ,vo2 max estimate,glonass,race predictor etc on the 235 specs but are on the 630 specs

  27. Magnus Berggren

    The 235 doesn’t have multi-sport supported what I read by default but would be possible to create custom activities like cross-country skiing or rowing in settings of watch or is it possible with connect iq maybe? While it’s supporting 24×7, is that and separate activity then ?


    • Adam

      This….it would be great to be able to create a custom workout type. Currently doing a lot of CrossFit workouts, and would like to be able to label it correctly.

  28. bart

    so the different between the garmin vivoactive & the garmin 230 is becoming almost null.
    ps nice information … it’s becoming the watch ‘im waiting for

    • Rob

      Well the 230 can’t handle swimming, so that’s one glaring difference.

      To me it’s a question of whether I’d want a touch screen or physical push buttons.

    • Turn The Damn Cranks

      Well, I don’t think us VA users have one second recording, and it doesn’t seem like we will be getting it. Depending upon what you do, that can be a big issue.

    • Nico

      Another difference: the vivoactive does not allow custom workouts.
      Actually, the point that got me to love my vivoactive is its form factor, really slim 🙂 🙂 fits under formal skirts…

  29. Paul Schaver

    I see the FR225/230 with the optical HR are also HR strap compatible. Does the unit use both the HR sensors and do some kind of cross referencing of the HR or does it just pick one of the sensors to use? Which sensor would have the priority?

  30. Roman

    does FR230 show ascent and descent for the actual run, like Fenix3? When configuring own data pages, is it possible to choose from Altitude stats?

    • Tim Grose

      I don’t think these devices have barometric altimeters in them and so just take elevation from GPS. As such ascent and descent figures aren’t going to mean a lot.

    • peroni

      Barometric altimeter would have been a nice addition. Are we confident Garmin left it out in these new products?

    • Roman

      As each GPS position has got exact altitude, I think it would make a sense to show ascent and descent “online” in data field during the run. As these figures are able to see in Connect when you see your run stats… I have got Fenix3 so I am perfectly happy :), I am just asking as my girlfriend wants to buy 230, but she wants to see altimeter figures as we do a lot of trail running.

  31. Jeremy

    So the Forerunner 235 looks like just what I wanted. All I have really been looking for is a vivoactive with Optical HR, since I do both HIIT and cycling. With the HR broadcasting do you think this means I can just use this with back to back workouts and no longer have to always use a strap? Also will you be doing a follow up review with HR accuracy?

    • Jeremy

      Oh one more thing, but the graph doesn’t mention max battery life, just the GPS battery life being 16 hours. I think I read somewhere that it can run 9 to 11 days, but can’t remember where I found it.

    • Frank

      From the Garmin website “5 weeks watch + AT + Notifications”

  32. Cat's Meow

    “– You can lock the screen by holding the upper left button, at any time.”

    Actually, it’s the bottom left.

  33. billy

    is there auto wifi upload like the 920?

  34. Fredrik

    Hi Ray!
    Will the 920xt get the lactate threshold through an update?

  35. Peter

    it’s good to have basic navigation back, maybe sooner or later they’ll also bring back working course navigation in the future.

    I have 2 garmin watches (305 and 310xt).

    It’s almost unbelievable that the oldest watch (my 305) has almost all the functionality I want: basic navigation, (working) course navigation, customizable screens, interval training, accurate gps measurement…. only thing I’m really missing in this watch is the optical heart rate measurement

    I bought the 310xt watch to be able to track longer distances (when I run a ultra). What I like better in the 310xt watch is the ability to track for a longer duration and the ability to use vibrations instead of beep sound? Unfortunately with the updated firmware course navigation doesn’t work well at all (line drops away, can get it back by zoom in/zoom out, but it’s still annoying, and it’s the main reason I keep my 305 around))

    So basic story is I keep waiting until they bring out an updated watch which has the features of the 305 and optical heart rate measurement. 🙂

    • I think the thing one has to keep in mind is that the FR305 became the FR310, which became the FR910XT, which became the FR920XT. The core commonality being triathlon watches. And most notably, size. With the FR210 then 220 then 230/235 series, as well as the FR610, then FR620, then FR630 series – they’re going after the smaller runner watch.

      That said, I do agree that course navigation would be ideal in the FR630.

    • Dom

      Courses were a mess in the later versions of 310xt – it worked better if you used planning software which set the points close together, so the course didn’t vanish when you zoomed in. (Think gpsies was the best option, as you could set the maximum space between trackpoints).

      There is a Connect IQ app which supports courses – I haven’t tried it as the native support on the F3 I currently use is better, but for devices like the Vivoactive and the watches previewed here which don’t have native support, I suspect it will be really useful.

  36. Mark

    Battery & optical HR hardware advancements (and the yet unproven running dynamics) aside, the true differentiating spec seems to be software/apps. Any thoughts towards a monthly review of Connect IQ apps?
    (ex – I can turn my Vivoactive into a multi-sport watch with a Connect IQ app – including recording transitions. Not sure this is as widely known as straight device specs.)

    • Matt

      I think beside the optical HR and screen, the most significant change is really a set of much smaller changes for the 230/235 line: 4 data fields, 1sec recording, Bike/Other activity profiles, and charging while an activity are going — these all take the “mid entry level” watch and stretch it much beyond.

      For example, this could easily the 230/235 could easily be an ultra running watch now (minus barometric altimeter) even for slower people (since with charging on the go, it essentially has unlimited* recording ability).

      *I’m sure there is some actual recording limit, obviously.

  37. Luís Ricardo Beato Pereira

    Ray sorry for asking, I have a 620 since they came out, and I simply hate wearing the HRM band (it hurts me, etc). I only use it when I really want to get more info (the Running Dynamics) out of my workout.

    But… I still would love to get the built in optic heart rate (like the 225 or the 235) even knowing that that data will not appear! The HR would… that´s all we need. And more, without that feature the daily activity tracker loses big time to the 235!

    Any news of a 635 coming out?

    I would migrate from the 620 if that happens…

    • Tim Grose

      As already stated most of the difference (other than the touchscreen) between the 630 and the 230/235 is in the stuff you get from wearing the HRM-Run strap so not sure what the real point of a 635 over a 235 would be in that respect?

    • Luís Ricardo Beato Pereira

      There is a lot more… like wi-fi connectivity, etc. But sure the 230 bump up the specs, software wise and have almost the same as the 630…

      But having a built in optical sensor in the 630 would be the right way to go, even knowing that some data (almost all) can only be achieved with the HRM-Run.

      Ray said that the 235 will track the heart rate 24/7 only by using the watch. Well the 630 will fail in that.

      What I would like is a 620/630 with a way to get HR data without the hassle of putting every day the strap on, with the problems that garmin straps have (hurting and scuffing)… and having the same activity tracking data as the 235 will have.

    • Chris

      The Scosche Rythm+ optical HR monitor is a nice option if you want to get away from the chest strap.

    • Dan Morley

      If you where a hat or visor when you run, check out the Life Beam Smart hat or visor. I have the hat and it’s been great for HR. You loose the advanced running dynamics, but functionally it has worked great for me with my 920XT

    • Jennifer Helms

      Tim, I agree with Luis. It would be great to have 24/7 HR monitoring that the 235 offers, plus the additional info you get with the 630 (VO2 Max, etc.) by adding the HR strap. I want both. I’m still hoping Garmin will release a 635. I’m patiently waiting and still using my 305 in hopes that they will. Of course, I’m also waiting for the 235 review to see how well the optical HR sensor works. That will tell me whether or not I should continue to hold out hoping for a 635 or if I should just go ahead and purchase the 630.

    • Bill L

      Jennifer, I’m in exactly the same boat as you. I’m figuring that if the optical reader in the 235 proves out, I’ll get that for a while and wait to what comes down the pike with the 630 ..actually, maybe with the Fenix because my preferred upgrade would be to the ideal tri watch and I just like the Fenix better than the 900 series. Then, I’ll keep the one I like best. The 235 would certain work for a while, even if there is a software issue. A hardware issue would be a different story.

  38. Teriemer

    Two questions pops up imideately: 1) Does FR630 support “Pace from footpod”? And about the new touchscreen touching your skin before it works; how does that work when I’m wearing the watch outside a sleeve / on a jacket during winter?

  39. Keegan

    You have said that the Vivoactive previously undercut the rest of the Forerunner lineup. Do you think the FR235 is a better deal than the vivoactive now?

  40. Armando Serafini

    I purchased a Vivoactive earlier this year. What implications, if any, do these product updates hold for the Vivoactive? What’s your opinion on the Vivoactive’s position or status as part of Garmin’s entire line of watches? Thanks.

  41. Lee

    Regarding the Garmin Connect mobile update, If you go to devices and click on the ‘?’ under set activity tracker, it reads
    ” Connect will sync with multiple activity trackers and allow you to use the appropriate device for your day or activity. If there is a conflict in merging data Garmin Connect will use your preferred activity tracker.”

    Does this mean Garmin finally supports the use of two activity trackers? If so, i am surprised that wasn’t mentioned in their update desc.

  42. Tony Zahn

    I recently picked up a Fenix 2 on sale as an upgrade for my FR210, but I’m not really happy with the GPS reception (it was much better on the old 210). I’m now seriously considering trying to return it an getting a 230 or maybe 630, as long as the GPS isn’t going to report a 27+ mile marathon.

  43. luca massetti

    when will we have a garmin 930xt or 935xt? I mean, when the new triathlon watch without HR belt!

    • David Lusty

      October 1st 2016 would be a reasonable bet. January 5th 2017 for Fenix 4. These are based on a 2 year cycle and the current product announcement dates. Add to these the usual 3-4 month availability problems and potential early unit quality issues and you’re left with now being pretty much the optimal time to buy either 920XT or Fenix 3. Most bugs are ironed out, price is lower than it was, and they are available.
      The FR620 was announced September 16th 2013, so pretty much 2 years ago

    • Jennifer

      Currently the fenix is running a 1 year cycle, Jan 2015 and Feb 2014. I suspect the 4 will be released in January 2016.

  44. Steven Brown

    Good to see the return of the Virtual Racer feature, after its inexplicable removal from the 620.

    Think the 620 looks very sharp. Would be tempted if I wasn’t giving Garmin a swerve for their Fenix3/GPS nonsense.

  45. Byron

    Sigh… I have Amazon gift cards from my corporate wellness program, but Amazon doesn’t have the 630 available for preorder yet. 🙁

  46. Martijn

    Yikes, I got a 225 less than 4 months ago. Not pleased that it’s been replaced already and even less by the fact that the new one uses a different HR sensor. Because I doubt whether Garmin will continue supporting the 225 with new firmware versions, especially since the 225 will end up being Garmin’s only unit to ever use a Mio optical HR sensor.
    Sure, it works for me, but I have to be quite mindful how to wear my 225 and especially how hard to tighten the strap, since the HR data will be all over the place if I don’t.

    • Tim Grose

      I would be surprised if you could wear the 235 “any old how” and still see good results from the optical HR.

    • JB

      Yeah, I am also not happy about this. I was expecting updates to 620, but totally blowing out of the water a 4 month old device, that is unheard of. I think that they believe 225 was such a flop that they had to do something about it. I will raise this with Garmin, seriously, the features on the new watch are at least (what you would expect) a couple of revisions ahead of what they released just 4 months ago.

    • Jun

      I contacted Garmin about this and got this statement,

      The choice to release new devices is Garmin’s decision, but they do review the emails the customer sends to Garmin. Your reason for your frustration is understandable. Garmin is a tech company and like any other tech company they release new device in 6 months or shorter. If you like please input your suggestion to the following link. It is an ideas link, but would be taken seriously because Garmin listens to the consumers.

      link to www8.garmin.com

      So essentially to pound sand

    • If enough people comment, it does tend to make a difference. I think this is a case where if enough people push back, they’ll change their mind. Heck, they went pretty far down the development and beta cycle for it.

  47. Bob B

    I am a bit tempted by the 630 (heck, even the 230, now that so many features have been added), but I love the look and feel of my Fenix 3. I was hoping Garmin would have made the exterior a little more upscale. Still, can’t wait for Ray’s review.

    • Tim Grose

      Doesn’t the Fenix 3 already do nearly all the stuff these ones do? I note Ray commented that for 920/Fenix 3/Epix users one of these isn’t an obvious “upgrade”.

    • gingerneil

      My F3 does pretty much everything here (other than some of the obscure dynamics stuff – I get way more from my runscribe anyway). As Ray states – this is a catchup to the F3 and not addition of lots of features over and above. They are more single activity cut-down versions of the F3/920 – and are waaaay uglier than the F3!

  48. Hannon

    What music player do the watches support? Is there a garmin connect player you have to install on the phone, or does it control native phone apps?

    • Tim Grose

      I presume it is like an extension to your phone and so play on the watch is the same as pressing play on your phone.

    • TR

      It probably just uses BT like on a BT headphone set, so any music player you’re in, you get the controls.

    • xmas

      Wonder why the hell they don´t have an option to playback music from the watch itself? Nobody wants to carry phone whern running.

      Via BT the watch could be the best music player with BT headphones. You can take your music and/or podcasts and go.

    • TR: To be clear, you’re pairing your headset with the phone, not the watch. The watch is totally outside the loop on this transaction.

      The watch simply has what is basically a data page connection via Bluetooth Smart to the Garmin Connect Mobile (GCM) app on your phone. In turn, the GCM app talks to the iOS/Android music platform. In other words, the watch is pretty much unaware of what device you’re using.

      As for why we haven’t seen Garmin add a music player – not entirely sure. However, one of the challenges with music in such a device is playback. If you use wired headphones, it’s a waterproofing nightmare. And if you use BT headphones, you get into a horribly messy BT compatibility issue (just ask Adidas and TomTom). Many BT audio devices suck at following standards (it’s nuts). Adding to that is the body interference, so you typically have to wear the watch on the same side as the BT transmitter in the headphones.

      Then there’s battery life. For example, on the TomTom Spark with optical HR, music, GPS, and the backlight (for winter evening running), I don’t even get 90 mins of battery time. With the backlight off, it’s a bit better.

      None are show-stoppers, but I suspect it explains why the gap.

    • TR

      Thanks for the clarification. The question now is only if the GCM app is coded (or is able) to change tracks in any player, or just hard coded ones. If it does that by emulating the BT controls (like on a headset as I said above), an API (like notification API on Android), or something else.

    • Alan

      Will the 230/235 have the “– Backlight turns on when you turn your wrist (optional)” or is this just the 630?

    • Matt

      According to the manual, yes.

      link to www8.garmin.com

  49. Ian

    Does the 230 have specific “other” sport modes, or is it all just generic “other”? Wondering specifically if there is a XC ski mode.

  50. Daniel

    Ray, your product comparison table mentions that the FR235 does not have the Virtual Racer feature, but the spec list for the FR235 on the Garmin site says it does. Can you confirm that this feature is also available on the FR235?

    • I’ve asked for clarification/validation on that one. Will update as soon as I get confirmation.

      (Many times the Garmin.com site is incorrect in the days after a product launch, for reasons that defy logic. Not saying that’s the case here, just providing some backstory.)

  51. luca massetti

    Thank you David, already bought both (920 and fenix3) will wait for the next generation…

  52. Patrick


    Thanks for another great writeup!

    The”Backlight turns on when you turn your wrist” feature is probably the only thing I am wishing my awesome Vivoactive had. A 10 year old Casio has it, so it’s not exactly groundbreaking for an accelerometer to say “turn on a light for 2 seconds.” Do you think there’s any chance that will show up as an option on the Vivoactive/920/Fenix3?

    p.s. – Sorry about the Blizzard. If you’re in Northern IL sometime, I’ll make sure you get one.

  53. Roman

    Do you guys think with all the recent upgrades, perhaps a Fenix 4 is coming up next? maybe even with an optical HR? or is too much to wish for since garmin only recently adopted optical HR

  54. Michal

    Is there any chance for Ultratrac in 230/235?

  55. Stefan Gutehall

    I was almost set on Polar v800, but now I read about FR630 and I’m not so sure anymore. Any comments on how they stand in comparison now?

    • David Lusty

      Yes, you can buy a v800 but not a FR630. By the time you can go to a store and buy the FR630 Polar will announce the new v800 replacement which is probably due January (CES?) which I reckon with the news today about their new A360 is likely to have a colour screen at least along with all the features of the v800 and hopefully Ant+ support alongside the BTLE which has been dragging them down a bit on compatibility. If they add Strava sync by then it’ll be a bonus.
      All wild speculation of course, but comparing the 2 year old v800 to a not yet released watch is a little unfair.

    • Steven Shaw

      I can’t see polar adopting ant+. I really like my v800 and v650, but ultimately I think they are let down by polar flow not being as good as garmin connect and the lack of ant+ support. As a triathlete it is poor that a sensor cannot transmit to a watch and cycle computer at the same time, something that is easy with Garmin products. I think polar has better hardware than Garmin but is let down by it’s software.

    • I could actually see them enabling ANT+ on their cycling computers, depending on how sales go. I think they heard the message loud and clear at the media event this past summer on how important that is to cyclists. I mean, 30+ journalists from world basically shouted it at them*. And Polar had some fairly senior folks there.

      If they do that, they have a legitimate chance of making inroads in the cycling head unit realm (especially the M450), and also with a V800 successor, if/when that happens. Without that, I think we’ll continue to see them struggle with adoption rates.

      *Note: I was actually silent.

    • Steven Shaw

      That would great, and might put me back into to preferring polar. Having both polar and garmin watches/computers, I tend to go through phases of preferring one then the other. At the moment I can’t get my v650 to sync with my mac, so I’m using my edge810.

      Would the v800/v650 be upgradeable to ant+ via firmware?

    • To be clear, there’s no promise or hint from Polar on supporting ANT+. Just a guess/hope that seems commonly felt by many there.

      I don’t know the hardware stack specifics of the other two.

  56. Sam M

    Ray, I saw on the Clever Training site the pic’s of the new HRM strap. Looks like a different mounting system in the back? Have you had any time with it? Also, will the old HRM strap work from a 620 for the new dynamics? Thanks!

    • Derek Paton

      This is a good question – any comments Ray?

    • Brian Simpson

      Yes I would really like to know this as well. I really do not want to buy a new heart rate strap.

    • I’ve asked for clarification from Garmin on whether the features require the new strap, or if the new strap is simply just more of a cosmetic update (Garmin does cosmetic updates to all manner of straps about once a year).

    • Matthias

      And did you get an answer so far? I have got the HRM-Strap from the 920xt and would be happy to save some money, buying the 630 without one…

  57. Does the 230 display the heart rate as ‘% of max hr’?

    • Wayne Lyle

      This is what I’m looking at knowing, if it does I’d definitely buy one, but might be a deal breaker if not.

  58. Can these watches sync/export data to fitbit and/or runkeeper? I’m already a fitbit user but I’m looking for something geared towards running.

  59. Just using the new app on my iPhone and it is much cleaner then the last version. I really like it!!

  60. FYI: I’ve received some more explicit details on exactly how and what the Lactate Threshold test shows. Here ya go, straight from the right persons mouth:

    “How the LT test works: the watch gathers sets of data at different paces for heart rate and heart rate variability. LT is detected mainly based on the HRV slope with respect to pace. The data is reported in the FIT file as both a speed and a HR value at the point at which the LT is detected. Under the hood the speed is in units of km/hour. LTHR is in bpm. These values are then reported with the activity FIT file to Garmin Connect where they will then be displayed on a new type of Report widget, the current (most recent) measurement as well as historical measurements.”

    Also, I’ve just updated the Garmin Connect Mobile app section with a crapton of screenshots I just took on my phone, replacing the provided ones. Enjoy!

    • David Lusty

      OK even I’ll admit that sounds like one of the more useful features of recent times on any watch. Presumably though this will need quite a bit of running below and crucially above threshold so to even get a number will be quite painful. Should be very useful for distance event training.

    • Tim Grose

      Computing LTHR in a lab test is not half as “painful” as doing it for VO2 Max! Both times I did a VO2 Max one, got LTHR “on the way up” to max. LTHR pace is also usually no quicker than 10K race pace and for better runners can be more like 10 mile race pace. I saw a description of it as “Comfortably hard” which thought was a good one.

    • David Lusty

      I was thinking that for the unit to guess it you’d need to surpass it enough times to show fatigue or whatever. To a sports watch pretty much anything under threshold would presumably look the same as you’re able to keep HR and pace consistent – it’s only when you breach it that things start to change? If that’s the case then you’d need to place yourself into some pain to work out where to back off to. The V02Max guestimates on the other hand are based on HR/pace right the way through so no need to hit any barrier.

      Obviously totally different on the proper lab tests (which I’ve never done), I’m just thinking how it could work on a watch with limited inputs. Either way, it’s potentially a lot more useful than stride length and presumably we’d be able to then base alarms/intervals on it for use when running.

    • David lusty

      It looks like LT needs the new HRM Run strap ($100!) whether they add support to the older watches or not.
      link to buy.garmin.com

    • I’ve asked for specific clarification on this, as I don’t believe it requires the newest of HRM-RUN straps. Sorta like how there’s been various cosmetic changes in HRM straps over the years, many of them technically meaningless.

      Will report back as soon as I get an answer.

    • Eli

      Seems like your comment above about being similar to BSX is wrong as Garmin is based purly on HR data (HRV is still heart rate) while BSX uses muscle oxygenation data.

    • I was referring to the output, not the input. The output of BSX is your HR zones (and with Gen2, muscle oxygenation during workouts). That zone is based on measuring your lactate threshold.

      So two totally different measurement techniques, but ultimately the same output as far as a specific number to the athlete to train by.

    • Eli

      Also all Garmin’s data is from Firstbeat: link to firstbeat.com

      BTW is does seem like Firstbeat has gotten their algorithms which need HRV to work with optical sensors: link to firstbeat.com

  61. Rudolph Wolfenstein

    I still use an old edge 800 for my biking activity, so I have cadence, speed and a heart strap. Is it possible to receive the signals from these BOTH with the edge 800 as well as one of these watches, at the same time?
    Too bad that there isn’t a 630 with the optical heart sensor built in. I’d like to have continouus monitoring, when not on the bike (where i am used to wear a strap, but not when wearing a suit..).

  62. natalia

    Does the 230 have a run/walk setting?

  63. Dan Majgaard

    Any explanation to why the rubber thing from 225 was skipped for 235 for optical HR? – That one made a lot of sense to me.

  64. Michael

    Do you think they will be revamping the Fenix 3 anytime soon?

  65. 6co

    Quick question,…
    what about old people with very poor reading eye sight? Can we get only ONE data field per screen and get a font that looks larger?
    Am asking because many times in Garmin watches, even though we can get one data field only, the font does not get any bigger than when there are two, three or four fields…

    Along the same line, the auto lap message, or any other messages during a run, like “accelerate” or “slow down” or “ahead of virtual partner” … are those getting any larger fonts? They are just unreadable to me …

    thanks for the great sneak peek!


  66. Paul Adams

    I have had my 225 for two months now, and it is already obsolete. *sigh* Maybe I can sell it to a friend.

    Adding the Bluetooth Smart notifications and 1-second recording option is great. What I would really like is the addition of an alarm that vibrates, so I could wear it to bed and it would silently wake me up in the morning. It sounds like that may be available on the 630. It should be doable on the 225 with an update. After all, it already has an alarm, and a vibrate for alerts.

  67. Jan

    now Garmin can safely add cycling mode to the Forerunner 220, since 230 got it and the predecessor 210 had it, too

    (apparently market segmentation wasn’t the cause for lack of cycling mode for the 220 model then)

    • TR

      I wonder how hard would it be to update the lower FR models with the cycling mode. I mean it’s just a difference in the workout type and setting the “speed” as default instead of “pace”, it could be coded in an afternoon.

    • Jan

      it got added to the 620 with a firmware update later, too (incl. ANT+ Speed & Cadence)

    • Jan

      … guess they are busy bloating newer product with *features* instead of hitting send to push the firmware update with cycling mode for the 220

    • Tim Grose

      Doubt if it is “hard” but commercially makes zero sense. I am sure Ray regularly says buy a device for what it does today not what it might do tomorrow.

    • TR

      Sure, but as a customer it can leave a sour taste. Garmin behaves almost like Samsung in mobile with shipping new hardware instead of focusing and updating the existing ones.

    • Byron

      The 210 has a cycling mode? I have a 210 and I didn’t know that.

    • Dom

      I have a 210 and know that it doesn’t 😉

  68. Josh

    Does the 235 allow you to view your HR when not in an activity mode?

  69. ekutter

    How exactly does the navigation work? I assume it doesn’t have the bread crumb map, which is what I’d really like. You show a picture of an arrow back to start. What about other way points? Can you tell it to do a “route” where it just keeps giving you an arrow to the next route point? Also, is the arrow to the location only valid while you’re moving since it doesn’t have a magnetic compass?

    • Tim Grose

      Looks like the same screen as on the 920. That is just an as the crow flies arrow. It seems they stopped trying to be clever with “BTS” after the 910 and now just give you an arrow and distance but have to admit is nearly always good enough for me. Again on the 920 navigating to a “Location” is similar and you can’t do Routes. In fact can’t remember being able to do Routes on a Forerunner since about the 301 so seems unlikely that is coming back.

  70. Ray, do you know what chipset is used in 630? Is it the same as in 620 or the one from fenix 3?

  71. Mr. T

    Is there anything to the “running dynamics” other than a gimmick? It seems Garmin is married to that technology at the expense of giving people what they would like. I’ve never heard it being used in training

  72. Josh Howard

    Any Chance you can add the TomTom Spark Cardio to the product comparison table? With so many new watch options, it would be a huge help.


  73. Donnie Barnes

    Ugh. My problem with this is we have a clear answer now on “advanced running metrics” versus optical heartrate. Or so it seems. Basically, you can’t have both in the same hardware. By that I mean Garmin seems unwilling to put an optical HRM on a watch *and* let you optionally pair it with a strap for advanced dynamics when you want it.

    I’m a Fenix3 lover. But I don’t care about advanced running metrics. So I wear a Scosche optical HRM. But I’d SO much rather have everything in ONE device. That said, I’m not willing to drop back on other features to a 235 class watch.

    Please, Garmin, please create a Fenix4 that’s really just a Fenix3 with optical HRM built in. Pretty please with sugar on top?


    • Matt

      I am trail/ultra runner and currently have the Fenix 3. I, too, wear a Scosche. I plan to replace my Fenix 3 with the 235 until the Fenix 4/whatever comes out. While I love the design of the Fenix 3, it currently just isn’t accurate enough for me — combine that with having to wear two different things (HRM and watch) and the 235 fits the bill (assuming it’s as or more accurate than the F3). I was sold with 11hr battery life, 4 data fields, bike/other options, HR rebroadcast, use while charging, and 24/7 HR monitoring. Just makes more sense, personally.

    • Gingerneil

      I don’t see why the new watches should be any more accurate that the f3…. Sounds like they are the same chipset. Maybe the antenna design will be better. I have an F3, and run mostly trails. The maps may not be perfect, but accuracy had never caused any problems in real world use.
      As for all in one device – what about when you’re wearing long sleeves and want the watch on top? You could always thread the strap through the rhythm so it sits on the inside of the wrist. That’s what I did with my 220 and it worked great!

    • Gingerneil

      Here you go.. Threaded through a 24mm nato strap from Amazon.

  74. David

    Ray, what is your initial take on the improved resolution on the screen, and do you feel the color is brighter than on the 220/225/620 series? Thanks…

  75. Gabe

    IMO Still too many products…

    • Jan

      +1 … with too many “features”

    • Gabe

      a lot of these watches can be consolidated – Ray – maybe youre a bit restiveness saying it but garmin is just looking at a $ grab by taking away features when it’s simply just software between these watches (aside from the HRM built in) .

      It just seems like a better opportunity to limit the watches to ONE run watch – ONE tri watch – ONE multisport watch etc

      it’s just garmin being garmin.

    • I agree on too many products (if for no other reason than it’s too many reviews to write).

      Personally I’ve hinted a few times to them that I believe they should simply adopt a model whereby consumers can pay for the features they want – just like in-app purchases. You start off with a base hardware (i.e. the Forerunner X) which would be essentially the FR630 body, and then folks can enable/disable new features by paying for them. This also gives Garmin significant potential to upsell new features without alienating existing customers requiring them to make huge hardware investments. i.e. the idea that someone could go and buy the Lactate Threshold function for say, $30. Or whatever the price is (certainly cheaper than the BSX at $400).

      Unfortunately, their platform simply isn’t setup for that today – and it sounds like it’d probably take years to get to that point.

    • Marcel

      While that sounds great, I think it would create a huge risk: hacking. Once there is only one watch to think about, it would become interesting to hack the cheapest watch, unlock all features, and sell it as the most expensive watch.

      I’d be more interested in seeing just 2 or 3 watches, from low to high end, with hardware differences to justify pricing differences, and then give customers every single feature that hardware set can support. So on the low end, no optical sensors, phone features, internal accelerometer, or adjustments for swimming, but all the other metrics, including Connect IQ.

      The midrange could then add a few hardware features, like optical sensors and/or bluetooth, and the high end would obviously have everything. Whether or not e.g. navigation would be on the low or mid-end watches would then depend on hardware limitations, nothing else.

    • Anh

      I am pretty sure that the Sport/Fitness Smartwatch will allow in-app purchases and Garmin will be in trouble. They are trying too many things. Their Connect IQ has very few useful apps.

  76. Brian

    Any information on if the FR235 will include resting heart rate as part of it’s 24/7 monitoring? That is one of the main reasons why I use the FitBit Charge HR. With resting HR and some decent apps to improve the SmartWatch capabilities, I could replace my Charge HR, Pebble watch and old FR610 with one nice all in one FR235. No more taking the Pebble off, putting on the FR610, strapping up the HR strap, waiting for the 610 to acquire satellites. This is assuming that the optical HR proves to be accurate.

    • David

      Yes it does Resting Heart rate, automatic sleep tracking etc. everything the Fitbit Charge HR does. There is a screen shot on REI.com that clearly shows a screen on the 235 with a graph of the days HR and specifically breaks out Resting HR. Battery life with 24×7 HR is 9-11 days (with no GPS) vs 5 weeks with no HR (with no GPS).

  77. Fredric Luthman

    Is the display on the 230 brighter than the one on the Vivoactive?

    Does custom workouts from Garmin Connect and training calendar really work (on the 230/235)?

    How is the lap/split button?

  78. AndyW

    My 310XT is finally about to bite the dust, the battery life has been not so good..or I just leave it on and forget to turn it off haha.

    I’ve stepped away from multisport and now just do running. In your opinion if I was looking between the VivoActive and FR230/235 what do you think would be a good fit? I like the smart phone capability of the VA but it sounds like the FR230/235 have all that now. Is the FR230/235 going to be the best bang for the buck as well as the most durable? Additionally, in short what has been the most frequent problems with the optical HR? Has it been picking up a HR continuously or just accuracy compared to the strap. Wanted to get your thoughts.


    bonjour est-ce que le lactate va arriver sur la fenix 3 et la 920xt?

  80. Dr. Matt

    Hey Ray,
    if the in depth review is going to take a while, can you give a quick update if you have some interim results on the 235 HR optical sensor accuracy? That’s my (and I would think others) main question/deal breaker on spending the extra money for that.

    • Lenard Lesser

      Have you gotten any response on this? It’s holiday present time and I’m trying to choose between the old model (on sale) and the new one. I’d like the new one if the optical sensor is just as good.

    • There’s some data that folks (including myself) have published throughout the comments, check out the later comments.

      As for my in-depth review of the FR230/235, it’ll be published on Wednesday.

    • Lenny

      Thanks. I scrolled though 235 comments and didn’t find the answer, so I stopped scrolling. I”ll keep scrolling. If you can point to it, let me know. Or if there is a search term to find it.
      Looking forward to your review!

  81. Wayne Lyle

    Thanks for an excellent review/s as usual, I think it was asked somewhere above, but couldn’t see an answer, but does the 230 show hr as % of max ‘on the run’ ?

  82. JimG

    What?! No stride length for bed-focused workouts!! How could they leave that out??!!

  83. raven

    Any chance we’ll see the Apple Watch review that has been forthcoming for months now, or has all the new hotness killed that?

  84. stefanos

    I imagine how the people that bought the 225 feel at this moment.

    • Nathan Williams

      Gobsmacked. I literally just received my FR225 (replacement for a dead Polar M400) today. I’d rather not have to train without a GPS watch this fall, but the 235 sounds like it might be worth waiting for.

  85. Adam

    Does it make sense buying FR630 without strap and using FR620 strap?

  86. Raymond_B

    Man I was hoping to see an update for my Fenix3, I really like the audio alerts.

    • Devon

      Updates have been coming pretty fast and furious (for better or worse), so I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some updates coming to the Fenix shortly.

  87. Karla

    Do you plan to test the 230 & 235 at the same time to compare HRM similarities? Heck, put the 630 and 620 on at the same time for a more complete comparison on the other arm. 🙂 Feel free to add a few other watches to your arms (yes, plural) as well to get the full sense of how they differ and how well they perform with other watches you’ve already tested.

    • David

      Karla have you ever seen a DC Rainmaker review? 😉

      That’s EXACTLY what he does… I doubt he ever runs with less than 4 watches on LOL.

    • Karla

      Yes I have. It was meant to be sarcastic as I know he does that.

  88. Tim-S

    Hey Ray, when I pulled the trigger on the 620 immediately after it was released it wasn’t until months later and several firmware upgrades did it actually track properly. Any indication on accuracy issues with the 630 (or other models for that matter)? Frankly, I just about swore off Garmin because of the myriad of GPS issues last time and won’t go through it again.


  89. I’m gonna go total lady here: They look good!! Good enough that I would wear them in public (unlike my 920XT).

  90. Ryan

    Placed a pre-order this morning!

  91. deorum

    what about tracking accuracy?

    some older models (305xt) actually had a better accuracy than newer models. I am a bit spliting hairs now, but still, any noticeable improvement against 220-620 ?

    • Tim Grose

      Ray said he did one run with it and could not even download the track. As such think we will need to wait on this point. The fact though that the distance came up as expected is at least promising.

  92. So the 630 touchscreen doesn’t work when it’s winter and you have the watch strapped on outside your jacket sleeve?

    • Tim Grose

      I do wonder whether it has to be “grounded” to something rather than nothing. In Ray’s video he was showing it having problems when touching nothing but I don’t see any test say with it resting up against his shirt with obviously his arm underneath that.

    • torben

      working without any problem outside of a jacket

  93. Cailia

    Great overview, Ray.

    From what I read on Garmin’s website for the new HRM-Run strap that is available with the FR630, it measures three new metrics: vertical ratio, stride length and left/right ground contact time balance. I am guessing from this that the current HRM-Run are not be capable of providing these additional metrics. Can you confirm this?

    Also, you didn’t mention in your review, unless I managed to missed, if you used an existing HRM-Run strap or tried out the new one on your run with the watch. Have you tried the new strap? Can you confirm if it’s still a separate transmitter and strap or if it’s now a one-piece design as the small image I’ve seen, and in-box description, indicate. I found the current HRM-Run strap miserably uncomfortable on my small frame and ended up getting the Polar soft strap in a xs-s size that is far more comfortable. I’m a bit concerned if the new strap is one piece and proves uncomfortable, that won’t to be an option.

    Thanks for the helpful info! I really appreciate your detailed reviews.

    • Bart

      It seems that Garmin now has 2 HRM-Run straps.
      “Classic” with 3 running dynamics measurements — cadence, vertical oscillation, ground contact time
      “New/Red” with 6 running dynamics measurements — cadence, vertical oscillation, ground contact time, vertical ratio, stride length and left/right ground contact time balance

      And finally the recent HRM-Tri (new/Blue)
      I know the HRM-Tri has memory but how many dynamics does it measure the 3 classic ones?
      (According to the dutch garmin site the HRM-Tri measures 3 running dynamics measurements — cadence, vertical oscillation, ground contact time )

      If so will there be yet another HRM the HRM-Tri2 (Yellow?) which supports 6 measurements and has memory for swimming?

    • It’s probably best to put a bit of a pause button on the assumptions of whether or not the different HRM-RUN straps offer different metrics until we get final clarification (which I’ve already requested).

      I wouldn’t want folks getting the wrong bundle, or getting riled up for no reason either. Hang tight! Should have clarity today.

  94. Paul

    Great preview but I’m a bit confused how the running cadence is measured. I own a 620 and have been running without my HRM strap the past couple of months. The watch still tracks my cadence just the same, so there seems no connection to the strap for this metric.

    • Gingerneil

      The 620/220 have an internal cadence sensor inside the watch itself.

    • ekutter

      The strap is slightly more accurate so will use that if you have it. Otherwise it uses the internal accelerometer for cadence.

  95. Mark Melton

    Really frustrated that I bought a 225 and it’s being replaced 6 months after it came out and essentially the same price for more features. I had hoped the 225 might get upgraded to 24×7 monitoring. Any chance that will happen now? I doubt it.

  96. Marius

    Do you think the do not disturb notifications function will come to Fenix 3?

  97. Ed

    Ray, for these watches or any others by Garmin with notifications, could you post a video of the notifications in action and the user options, and your tips? I’m hoping the 230 could be a good daily smartwatch.

    • Nighthawk700

      Yes, I’m planning to replace my Pebble with one of these (leaning on the 235 at the moment) but would really like to see this feature in action! Thanks for all the information!

    • Ed

      I have a Pebble as well, the first-generation Steel. It works well and it was a great deal at $100 a few weeks ago.

      I bought it instead of the Vivoactive (I have a 910XT for running and cycling), hoping Garmin would come out with something like the 630 with long battery life, but not as costly and as big the Fenix3 /920XT.

    • Nighthawk700

      BTW: I saw one example of the Smart Notification on Garmin’s video: link to youtube.com Pops up at about 28 seconds in.

  98. Jennifer

    So, there is no optical HRM sensor on the 630? A little disappointed thinking they would add it in this upgrade, especially with the 225 having an optical sensor.

  99. Yogi

    The 630 will probably be a good buy in 12-18 months when all the usual bugs have been ironed out.

  100. steve mayo

    On the touch-screen for the 630.. Did they change it from resistive (which let you use mittens or any old pair of gloves to change screens) to capacitive (which allows a wet shirt to change screens -OR- requires a finger or touch-capable gloves)? Any reason why they added the “back must be grounded for the touch screen to work”? Worries me that they tried to fix something that wasn’t broken… (For those of us that live in the north, not having to use touch sensitive gloves which are usually thin and crappy during winter runs 0-15 degrees was kind of nice.)


  101. ampestijn

    I bet there will be a 635 within 6 months.

    I don’t really get Garmin, why do they release products like the Fenix 2 and the Forerunner 225 if they know they’ll be obsolete within 6 months and the people that bought them will feel ripped off.

  102. Michael Fiola

    Can you summarized the benefits of the 630 over the 230?

    Hi Ray. Thanks for the great info. I admittedly skimmed some of the comments, but I did not see a good description of the advantages of the 630 over the 230. I even did a direct comparison and saw very little. The 230 looks to have nearly all the key functions of the 630.


    • ekutter

      touch screen, basic navigation, and 4 vs 2 customizable data screens seem to be the big ones for me. New advanced running metrics are also there but won’t impact most users. Absolutely love the touch screen on my 620.

      Ray, given the 630 has a touch screen, does it have any negative impact and the clarity of the screen over the 230?

    • No impact on clarity that I see.

    • Adam

      wi-fi, virtual racer (this is to be confirmed as Garmin website says both have it)

    • Michael Fiola


  103. MikeDozer

    Do you think that New Running Dynamics ,Stress Score app and Finish estimate will be added to other connect iq watches like Epix? Or i have to wait for Epix 2? 🙂

  104. Oscar

    No rolling pin comparison?

    (jk I know it will probably be in the in-depth review for the watches)

  105. Nick

    With Connect iQ, I wonder if someone will develop an app that would allow the FR235 to connect to bike computers (510/520) as an external heart rate monitor. Not sure if this is a hardware or software issue. Thoughts, Ray?

    • The FR235 will rebroadcast its heart rate signal over ANT+, to any other devices (such as an Edge device) that wants to pick it up.

      Additionally, Garmin will shortly be releasing a firmware update for the FR225 to do the same (it’s already under testing).

    • Nick

      Awesome! Thanks for the reply!

    • The Garmin 225 just got an update ” Version 2.50 ” the rebroadcast was not included within the change log – are you saying there will be another update?

    • Geoff

      Hi Ray,

      as Martin said, Garmin just released firmware 2.50 for the 225, but no sign of ANT+ HR broadcast. Are they definitely going to add it with another update?

      I hope so. It will somewhat ameliorate my displeasure at finding out the 225 I bought as a present for my wife has already been superseded. Shortest product life ever?!

    • I’ll get clarity on the exact timeframe. I’d typically suspect that we’d see it roll out to the FR235’s first (where the sample-size is semi-controlled since there are simply few units) and then enabled on the 225’s. That said, they did imply they’ve been cooking on the software for a while.

      I’ll circle back with that once I get answers on some of the other things I sent over yesterday (I somewhat try to batch unknown questions to minimize them hating me too much).

    • Geoff

      Did you ever get to find out about this, Ray?

      I assume whatever the date was, the v2.50 firmware debacle will have delayed it somewhat, but other than this article, I haven’t found any further mention of this feature being implemented on the FR225.


  106. Lajos Toth

    Hi Ray,

    Great review.
    Would the Garmin HRM-R strap that came with my Epix pick up the same features/metrics available on the FR 630 now ? The new strap looks a little different and I am not sure whether it also functions differently.
    Thanks and best,


  107. Kelly Harper

    And I JUST bought the 620 earlier this month, shame on you Garmin! 🙂

  108. Darren

    It would be great to know the dimension of the 235 – can you measure them Ray? Garmin’s website lists 45×11.7mm for both the 230 and 235. I’m assuming the 235 is thicker than the 230!

    I find the 225 considerably thicker than the 220 (understandably so with the HRM), perhaps a little too bulky for my liking to be worn as a day-to-day activity tracker (which is one of it’s big features). The vivoactive, on the other hand, is nice and thin (but no HRM).

  109. MacroPhotoFly

    Absolutely delighted there is finally an optical HRM device, with a watch face and transmits the HRM data to edge products. FINALLY! It will be so nice to go riding with a watch on my wrist rather than a chest strap
    I really hope your testing of the HRM shows it to be reliable.

    It would obviously be perfect if it was able to accept Power Meter data too – that would be the creme de la creme for the odd days my 800 battery dies before the end of the ride (knowing I then have a back-up of the ride on the wrist). Please let us know if they update the watch to accept Ant+ Power devices

  110. Nighthawk700

    According to Garmin’s website (comparing the 630/235/230, it says only the 630 has music control, not the other two. (the other two do have the audio prompts though). Next time you play with the 235 or 230, can you double check on that? Not sure that it’s a deal breaker for me, but figured you’d want to have as much accuracy as you can.

  111. JF

    I know it’s been asked before but with everything going on, I figured I’d ask:

    In order to get the running dynamics with either that 620 or 630 such as stride length, ground contact time, etc, do I need a traditional HR strap or can they do it without?

    I don’t wear a HR strap anyway but love the optical HR that the 225/235 series has and would love a deal on the older versions but always need 4 data points per page so that leads me to the 235 and not the 225

    But if it’s b/w optical HR or running dynamics, which is more useful.

    Just trying to figure which one to buy now.


    • For Running Dynamics on the FR620/FR630 you need an HRM-RUN. The only exception being for cadence, which got lumped under Running Dynamics but isn’t really (no strap needed for that).

      For me, it’s 100% more useful to have optical HR than running dynamics. I’m still unclear on what to do with Running Dynamics beyond the initial geek-factor wears off (a few runs).

    • Reinier

      Do the 230/235 show cadence or do you need a footpod for that?

    • Reinier

      Does the 230/235 show cadence or only the 630

    • They both record cadence, no footpod needed.

  112. Kartik

    Ray: You have spoken about 220=>230, 620=>630 and that 920/Fenix users need to stay put. What about the Vivoactive user? Where does the 230/630 fit in here in the desirability equation / upgrade path? How is the product positioning like? Just curious…

    • Yeah, I’ll be honest – I have no idea how Vivoactive users should take things. It’s sorta in a weird (but good) parallel and uncharted universe from a stand Garmin product roadmap perspective.

    • Kartik

      Ok – thanks.

    • liftbigdata

      I have the Vivoactive and ended up selling it. Just not enough serious (even simple) running functionality. Considering jumping to the MS Band 2 or one these new Garmins..

  113. Ben_I

    I’m a reasonably serious runner and I’m really glad I didn’t wait around for the FR630 and went and got a Vivoactive early in the year. From the comparison tool, the only real difference is the running dynamics, which from all reviews is worth a look at once or twice and then forget about. The VA is smaller, lighter better for my day to day and for my swims and bike rides. The extra 6hrs battery would be nice but I’m sure it comes at a price of size/weight.

    I was expecting the FR630 to have an altimeter, temp sensor and optical HR. Then it would be a serious watch but now I can get almost everything from my cheaper VA.

    Thanks for the review Ray!

  114. Michele

    Like a lot of people asked I’m also wondering about using the watch in winter. Does it have the ability to cycle thru screens automatically? Also curious as someone else mentioned about using gloves with it. I’m still using a 610 so other than these issues looking forward to upgrading

  115. Mark O'Sullivan

    Is there any optic heart rate device (in a watch or otherwise) for swimmers?
    I used a Mio link for a while but battery life was crap and it carked it shortly after warranty expired.

    Would consider buying garmin (as the swim is reliable and my favourite) but don’t see the point if H.R. is non functional in the water

    trying to avoid buying the finis heart rate device that connects to your ear but it looks like my only option.

    could you do a feature on devices just for swimmers please

    • Unfortunately nothing. As you noted, some use the Mio Link, but it really isn’t designed for it.

      I think we’ll see some folks hitting that segment next year.

  116. Ray

    Great first look man!

    May I know the 235’s lens surface is using plastic or glass material? How about 630?

    • acousticbiker

      Whoa, that is a serious bummer – was ready to jump ship from the F3 until seeing this. We’re the 220 & 225 also plastic? How have Garmin plastic faces fared over time in terms of durability / visible marks?

    • I honestly haven’t heard any complaints on the FR6220/620 on this. I treat mine like crap. Literally it’s either in the big bin of devices (which have metal sides), or it’s in my backpack pocket (full of sharp objects like keys, pens, etc…). No scratches.

  117. David M

    How thick is the 235 vs the 230/630? The Garmin website lists all 3 as having a thickness of 11.7mm but I have a hard time believing they are all the same given the 225 was much thicker than the 220/620. Is the Garmin specs sheet correct or is that an error?

    • Darren

      I too would like to know this.

      As a running watch the thickness isn’t such a issue. But as an all-day watch/activity tracker much more so.

    • David

      It IS the same thickness across the board. The Mio solution on the 225 was obviously a quick tack on the 220 to get a optical product into the sales chain as quickly as possible and that added thickness to the product. The Garmin 230/235/630 design and in house optical was designed from day 1 to be in that housing… NONE of this means it will work as well as Mio’s product so we shall see.

    • Darren

      Are you guessing this or actually know?

      It’s extra hardware they have to fit into the body of the watch. Why would they make the 230 & 630 unnecessarily thicker, just to keep the same dimensions as the 235?!?

    • David

      assembly line Darren, it saves money. the dimensions are totally identical between all 3 watches. I agree it means garmin “could” have made the 230/630 smaller I guess but bottom line is they are identical AND the thinnest dedicated running watches Garmin has ever made.

    • Darren

      I hope you’re right!

  118. xTHENKx

    It doesn’t matter… take my money. Here’s my credit card…

    Pre-ordered with REI! *BOOM*

  119. Jorge

    Is it possible to change the language (german) on the FR630 if I buy a FR630 in the USA? Thanks

    • Yes, you can change it to German from the USA version (note: They’re all actually the same version, just the default language is set differently). I believe only some of the Asian units have different language sets, but you can still download other language sets.

    • Jorge

      So is this exactly the same FR630 with accessories, which is also sold later in Germany? It just needs to be changed the language? Thank you Ray.

  120. Jorge

    I’ll be in New York (Marathon) next week and found out that Garmin will offer the FR630 at the marathon expo … my question is if I can then change the language on the FR630 and if there are any differences to the German version?

  121. Shahar

    Just wondering – Does the touch screen actually work when your fingers are wet or sweaty?

  122. Tom Shane


    does anyone know, will VO2Max, Training Effect and Recovery Advisor work on FR230 when using old premium strap (that was shipped with Edge800 in 2010) and not using current version of the strap?


  123. Donna

    Ray, great first reviews. How is the clarity of the screens, both indoors & outside in bright sun. I’ve got the Vivoactive and my main complaint is a common one…the screen is extremely dull indoors & very hard to read. All the pictures on the box & Garmin website are very misleading.

    • I find it quite clear (but I also have pretty good eyesight).

      The Vivoactive is no doubt the least clear watch they’ve made, but I don’t find too much of an issue outdoors. Indoors in really dim lights can be a bit…well…dim.

      That said, if you think your Vivoactive is overly dim, you might want to contact Garmin. I have heard of a few folks here and there who had super-dim units and got them swapped out for much brighter ones.

  124. Paul

    Is the HRM-RUN with the 630 the same model that came with the 620? Can I just buy a 630 and use my existing strap but get the new running dynamics features?

  125. Teriemer

    Thanks for posting Ray, always a pleasure to read through your stuff. Do you min posting links to your activities in GC? I’m most interested in FR 630 but FR 230 will do too. In advance, thanks 🙂

    • As noted I wasn’t able to download my activities afterwards – otherwise I’d be happy to. That said, once I get final units I’ll start sharing links.

      All of my activities go to Strava, though you’ll want to check the description field to see which device is used (since only one activity file per workout is allowed).

      Strava profile: link to strava.com

      Finally, within the in-depth review you’ll get downloads of everything.

    • Mike K

      Hey, do you know if the 235 syncs to Strava easily just like the 225 did?

      Many thanks

  126. Volker

    On the fr630 display, is this a sat strength signal icon on the upper left side?

    • Adam

      Question to the photo of FR230, where You present the marathon finish time predition:

      this bar-like scale on the right side of the display, what does it represent?
      Is it battery, GPS signal stranght? Or maybe HR zone?

      Would be pretty cool if it’s HR zone, because with 4 data on the screen + this bar, it could actually display 5 metrics!!!

  127. Thijs

    Hi Ray, thanks for this nice preview of what will potentially be on my birthday wishlist 🙂

    I see Garmin added Cycling activity support to the 230. Did they add the option to choose any activity type the watch is suitable for, like Walking/Hiking? Or just an option for Cycling next to the Running option?

    I’m still waiting for a basic running watch (like the 220) which allows me to record walks as well, without having to change the activity type afterwards.

  128. Daniel Varinsky


    so what exactly is planned in the firmware updates of FR225? Any plans of enabling phone notifications on 225 or adding of mentioned music control 🙂 ? It’s a pity Garmin (and me too) did not wait and instead of 225 released the 235 in the first place 🙁 …


  129. Jean-François Lamy

    I don’t get the “must be grounded to skin” idea . Five months a year I have to wear my watch OVER my sleeve because of this winter thing.

  130. Marcel

    Thanks for this preview, Ray, always a pleasure to read.
    I’m looking to upgrade my 610 for my 1st marathon, next April, so I’ll eagerly await the reviews (and pricing of the 620). That said, I don’t see much point in going for the 630 if the only difference is the navigation and some running dynamics I might only use once or twice, everything else is on the 230. Aren’t they over-pricing the 630 like that?

    Also, to be functional, you need a strap with the 230 – is that included at the $249 price level? If not, the price difference with the 235 would become minimal, and the 230 would be expensive for a midrange watch, wouldn’t it? Interested to hear your thoughts on what market segment these watches belong in.

  131. Frank

    Foot Pod support?

  132. Maryro Mendez

    2 days ago I was ready to upgrade from my FR620 to the phenix3 saphire (white and metal rose edition, it is a beautiful thing :P) then I saw this yesterday and now I am debating about getting the FR630 instead. Recommendations welcome. I wish they had the optical HRM on the 630, though.

  133. JW

    Thank you again for your good work Ray!
    I did ask it before and ask it again right now: It would help me very much when you show a photo of the (auto) lap screen in your reviews. Like more (older) runners it’s getting hard to see the digits. And there’s a lot of difference in how large the lap screen is. For example : in FR620 it appears in a small box. In the FR920 it’s full screen. In the Epix the digits are huge (the best one for me).

    I’m really curious how the lap screen in the 230 & 630 looks like.

  134. Eli

    THE F630, will be the version F635 ?

  135. Jeremy

    Thank you for taking the time to do these reviews!

    I agree with the other comments about Garmin having way too many forerunners. I love your idea of having a base model with purchased upgrades, though.

    I’ve always said “if Garmin puts out a 220-esque watch with a built in heart rate monitor, connect IQ, and looks decent enough to wear casually, I’m all over it”. Looks like I finally have to man up and snag the 235. I’m just hoping the bluetooth sync with android is a littler better this time around, because my 620 sucks at it.

  136. Krak

    Strictly for running … what’s the difference between the 630, 235 and the Fenix3, if I’m okay with continuing to use the Scosche Rythym+ HR monitor (which is fantastic)? My 610 is dying, and it’s time to upgrade, and I’d like to have something that will double as an everyday watch. So the Fenix3 is attractive, but I don’t want to lose out on the latest features.

    From what I can tell, there’s really nothing different between the Fenix3 and the 630 if you’re not wearing the advanced HRM strap. Is that accurate if I’m only running or using as an everyday watch?

    Without the HR strap, it also seems that there are minimal differences between the 630 and the 235 (WiFi, touchscreen and some navigation features).

    Too many choices!

    • Tim Grose

      Suggest ask yourself what are the “latest features” (on the 630) you don’t want to miss out on? If you don’t like wearing HR straps you will miss out on a lot of them anyway. Also the Fenix 3 is a multisport watch and so another factor is how much are you into biking and swimming. OK these new watches have a bike mode but it’s “basic” and so does not have power meter support for instance.

  137. Ingo

    While charging on the go, will the optical HR keep working? I’d think the charger covers the optics, no? Cheers!

  138. Jacob Kernell

    I’m not sure if I missed it but I never saw anything on GPS accuracy. I was wondering how accurate it was including possible maps or comparing to other reliable watches.

    • “With that I’ve covered all the major features, but haven’t touched on things like GPS accuracy. As noted I wasn’t able to download any of my runs, though I can say that the runs did match the distances I had on the TomTom Spark GPS watch I was wearing at the same time (within 1%). These runs occurred in tree-filled mountain terrain. But obviously it’ll be something I focus on and publish all the results of within my in-depth review once I have final production units.”

    • perkask

      Do you happen to know GPS chipset manufacturer and model? Is it Mediatek or SIRFstar? Thank you.

    • MediaTek. Though, in short, don’t overthink GPS chipsets – there are far more important things to accuracy than the manufacturer of the chipset.

    • Nick

      Thanks for everything you do Ray. I find myself being overly techy about things to and really find all your information very useful. I plan on getting a watch for Christmas and also plan to buy the SO a vivoactive or something like that. I Will make sure to click your link to Amazon or go through clever training.

      My question is that I will be doing biking on some mountain biking trails as well as city routes. I’m very interested in the fr235 and I was wondering based on your opinion would the watch be 90-95% accurate while in the woods. I understand that it will probably not be 100% and I’m ok with that. I just don’t want it to be way off. I have been trying to use my cell phone along with apps and am getting double the distances that I should because my map goes crazy.

      My only other comment is that I hope the optical sensor is accurate but it seems everyone is hoping that.

      Thanks again. Nick

    • I think there’s no problems with getting 90-95%. These days, my line is roughly 99% accuracy. It used to be about 98 to 98.5%, but 99% is pretty much the line in the sand in most situations. There are some rare cases, like if you’re in heavy trees on switchbacks and with massive rock walls on sides – that it’s going to be tough for any GPS chipset.

      That said, I’ll be doing some tree testing once units arrive. The exact terrain will honestly depend on when the final production units arrive. For example, I’ve got a trip to northern Finland coming up – so if it’s before then, then it’ll be there for that type of terrain (since it’s likely to be harder than the Paris parks).

      In any case…hopefully the 1-second recording rate should help there too.

    • Nick

      Awesome thanks for the quick response. Also. Do we know what gps chipset is used in the newer garmins? Is it going to be the same mediatek or the original sirfstar?

      While I’m on that topic do you think the ambit 3 peak will be more accurate in the trees than the Garmin is?

      Thanks again Nick

    • The use MediaTek. But I wouldn’t overthink that. GPS accuracy is derived from many factors, including: GPS Chipset, Antenna Design (hugely important), GPS Chipset Firmware, Watch Firmware, and environmental factors (where it’s worn, weather, terrain, etc…).

      As for whether or not the Ambit3 is more accurate in trees than the FR230/235/630, I’m not sure. When I did a mountain tree run with the 235/630, I found accuracy quite good and on par with the TomTom Spark. But that was just one run, and I couldn’t download the map afterwards. The Ambit3 generally has very good GPS accuracy. So we’ll have to see once I get more hands-on time with production units how it handles.

    • Nick

      Sorry I missed that about the chipset in the previous post.

      I would however like your opinion if you think the Ambit3 will be more accurate around a lot of tall woody areas than the new garmin. Like I said though I’m fine with 95% accuracy. I’m leaning more and more to the garmin based on all the features it has. I hope they all work well together.

  139. Hey Ray, I ordered the 235 on CT to evaluate against the Fenix3+Viiiiva combo. Will let you know what results I get. BTW, I never did publish the data on the Apple watch (all 60+ tests over 100 miles and 200,000 heart beats) because I was so sick of how ridiculously inaccurate it was I ditched it entirely.

  140. JohnO

    Hey Ray, Thanks for all the great reviews! Couple of questions on the 235:

    1. Can the 235 record optical heart rate during a swim? I understand it would not have swim metrics, but could it be put in a Yoga mode where it is only recording heart rate and show calorie burn?

    2. Can ConnectIQ developers access internal sensors in the 235? If so, would Garmin allow a developer to create a lap counter app for swimming?


    • 1) Technically you could just put it in other mode. I haven’t had the chance to see what accuracy would look like with their sensor in the water.

      2) My understand is this should be possible and permitted.

  141. Grazza

    Hi Ray, very tempted by the 235. Just wondering if I would be able to use this to control my Garmin Virb Elite action cam? (either natively or through a connect IQ app)

    Also, just to confirm, as there is no Barometric Altimeter does this mean there is unlikely to be any type of ‘ski mode’ like in the Fenix 3. Or might this still be possible through a connect IQ app using the GPS altitude data?

  142. Bob Lukes

    I am primary a cyclist who runs occasionally and likes tracking steps and sleep, and likes connect features. The vivoactive was almost perfect, the weight and size were perfect. Its major flaws were short battery life and a very easily scratched screen, plus the square screen looked ugly to me. Additionally, I like the idea of having a back up gps on my wrist for when my cyclo 505 dies. I think there are a lot of people out there who have those same requirements

    The 230 seems to scratch most of those itches with 5 weeks of battery life and other features.

    The one complaint I have is why can’t garmin make one version of the watch that is more “work appropriate”. The black and white is ok, but I would have liked them to offer an all black version, maybe without the giant garmin logo.

  143. Bob Lukes

    Sorry Ray, tried to order and support your site. But, the DCrainmaker 10% off code doesn’t work on the 230 unless you join the VIP program. I guess that is the 0.01% that you mention!

    I guess I will wait and see if I can find it for cheaper from another site.

    Fyi, your site is easily in my top 10 sites along with google, espn, foxsports, etc.

    • Thanks Bob. Indeed, the FR230/235/635 do require the VIP program (a Garmin requirement, not a CT one). The VIP program costs $5, of which the proceeds go to Girls On The Run – a great running related charity.

      And of course, the purchase of the device through Clever Training supports the site here. Thanks!

    • David M

      The VIP membership is worth it even if you don’t buy anything else for the rest of the year. I paid $5 for the membership and then saved $33 on my 235 preorder.

    • Matthew G

      I just did the same- was happy for the discount and the opportunity to support this site but helping a running related charity makes it that much better!

      Thanks Ray!

  144. Chad

    If I am strictly a runner and not into multi sports, but do some cycling for training purposes, would you recommend the 630 or the 920?

    • Tim Grose

      Probably the 630 as it is more compact/lighter.
      However 920 is better if you want to do some navigation with courses as you get a breadcrumb map screen or like to have a barometric altitmeter for the best elevation readings.
      Also remains to be be seen whether the 920 will get support for the new running dynamics stuf.

  145. Gareth

    I am interested in upgrading from my smartphone.
    Would you reccomend the fr630 or the fenix 3?
    I have read some pretty negative reviews regarding the f3 and GPS so not entirely sure but I can get it for a good price at the moment.


  146. Dpom

    I am on the fence over ordering the Microsoft Band 2 versus the Garmin Forerunner 235. I am primarily a cyclist with a Garmin Edge 510, but when I run I want something like the 235 or Band 2. I also want something for everyday watch use. I have an iPhone 6. Is the Garmin worth it for a $100 more?

  147. John B

    Excellent reviews, always. Thank you. Q – I currently use the 620. And it’s nice to see the 44% larger display with the 630 – thou, are the numbers on the screen larger too? And are the numbers more visible…even if not larger. I’m a bit far-sighted (problems seeing relatively close to the eyes), so the bigger numbers help! In my case now with the 620, I mostly have two fields shown (Lap Distance and Lap Pace, for example) on the data screens => as you know, that way much bigger numbers and easier to read.

    • 6co

      am also interested in this question. See my earlier comm/Question on the 1 data field page and visual alarms


    • I sifted through my photos and didn’t take a photo of the 1-data page format. I’ve added it to my list for Monday when I’ll get another round of photos/videos with the unit.

    • 6co

      Looking forward to it! Thanks a lot!
      If you can check as well whether the alerts are largish sort of font or smallish type…
      thanks a lot!


    • 6co

      Hello Ray
      could you finally get around take a photo of the 1-data screen format? Could you post that if you did?

    • Sorry – took them weeks ago and totally forgot to upload.

      Just plopped four (one for each data field size) into the mid-later sections of the FR630 chunk: link to dcrainmaker.com

      Note, running a bit behind on stuff at the moment, so didn’t have time to clean up lighting to match others, etc…


    • 6co

      Thanks a lot Ray! This are perfect shots to evaluate the font size. Thx for your time


  148. Patrick

    Been running with the 620 since it was released (including 6 months of crashes before getting stable firmware) but am seriously tempted to “downgrade” the 235. I rarely wear the HRM strap with the 620, so the optical HRM would be ideal.

    Is anyone else considering a similar switch? Are there drawbacks I may not be seeing (again, assuming I don’t wear the HRM strap)?

    • Adam

      Yes, I’m also thinking about “downgrading”. We would gain optical HR and Virtual Racer (to be confirmed), but lose wifi. The wifi uploads have been seamless for me, so it’s definitely something I’m hesitant to give up.

    • Patrick

      Thanks for pointing out the wifi loss – I missed that. I’ve been uploading my runs via bluetooth to my iPhone since getting a new router a few months ago, so I think I could live with that downgrade. Optical HR – depedning on how good it is – probably wins for me.

    • David

      I love the Wi-Fi uploading on the 620, mainly because Bluetooth to my iPhone is so painfully slow on the 620… and buggy. The Edge 510 released around the same time as the 620 was also very slow and buggy via Bluetooth upload…

      THE GOOD NEWS is that the new Edge 520 with Bluetooth is quick and fast with newer, more modern Bluetooth 4.x chipsets and works great. I *assume* the Garmin 23x line will have similar modern chipsets that will perform far better than the 620 did and hopefully make the loss of Wi-Fi less painful.

      Hopefully. 🙂

    • Patrick

      David, are you planning to pre-order, or wait for reviews? I’d like to make the transition sooner rather than later, if for no other reason so that I can get my 620 sold before used ones flood the market.

    • Luís Ricardo Beato Pereira

      Thinking the same, but the lack of Wi-Fi is putting me down.

      Ray didn´t clarify this but the screen of the 620 is much better than the one in the 220/225, I would like to know if this is so in the 630 vrs 230/235 or if they are the same.

      There is also the back to start, the smart phone notifications, the touchscreen… well I don´t know what to do.

    • David

      I preordered via Clever Training immediately, but I always do. Then I whine bitterly on DCRainmaker.com comment sections about the bugs for the first 6 months (sorry Ray…)

    • Thanks for the support David!

      (And no worries about the bitter whining…better than bitter wine.)

  149. marklemcd

    Any chance of the vivoactive getting the audio alerts. I’d love for my split times to come through my headphones, though I won’t be paying 400 bucks to get it.

  150. Paweł Jońca

    The only problem with these watches is the lack of maps (routes).
    I’m stuck with my old friend, forerunner 305. I don’t need a triathlon device and maps are my favorite feature. I often trace a route in Garmin Connect to have the exact distance (to end at home, not in the middle of nowhere after a 35 km run).

  151. Mr. T

    I would love to pre-order the 230 from CT. However, I think CT’s policy of charging the card at order instead of shipping is BS. It’s just giving them your money to use for a while free of charge. I could understand putting down a deposit, but I know darn sure they aren’t paying full retail. I really wish I would have known of this policy before signing up under the “discount” program.

  152. TA

    I had heard a rumor from a Garmin rep months ago that the next versions would have a smaller women’s watch face and variety of colors. I see the colors, but the sizes are the same, correct? Was hoping for a smaller watch face to fit smaller wrists for everyday wear.

  153. Ingo

    Btw, anybody else noticed battery life deterioration in the 620s? I could get up to 8.5h in 1s mode with HR out of it 6 months ago, now it dies after less than 7h. The ability to charge while using is a welcoming option – I just hope it’s not too flimsy and keeps charging during trail running.

    • Anne (Brighton, UK)

      Yes – my 620 battery life is down to just over 6 hours. This is usually okay for me but it died after a super-hilly marathon before I could press the ‘save’ button. Luckily the watch saved the workout before dying.

    • Mathieu Tourangeau

      I tested my 620 this summer during an ultra beast and the battery last 9.5h which is what I expect from a 2.5 years old watch. Also, after leaving the watch off for 20 min, I was able to restart the watch in standby mode (time only) and could manage my nutrition for the rest of my race (almost 12h). Other Suunto and TomTom watch from my friends simply die 25-30 min after mine and could not restart at all.

    • Ingo

      In 1-second recording mode including heart rate? Or was that in smart recording mode? Hard to believe you get more battery out of a watch that’s older than mine – or maybe it is a function of how often you have used it in total, i.e. how many recharging cycles the watch went through in its lifetime. Your number would be plausible for a fairly new or hardly used 620 I’d say.

    • All data in 1-second mode.

      Do keep in mind that while some older watches have more battery – they are bigger. Thus, more battery size.

  154. Dan Wells

    Any thought on Garmin releasing an optical HRM strap of their own? I use an Epix (for a mix of general fitness tracking and outdoor navigation – map actually very useful), and I’ve wanted to add an optical strap. Of course, I could go with a Mio or a Scosche (nobody around here carries either one, so it would be sight unseen, which is a bit tricky due to a physical disability), but a Garmin would be extra-appealing, both for guaranteed compatibility, and because we have about five Garmin dealers around here, so a couple of them WILL carry it.

  155. Ewan

    Does the 235 record the resting heart rate and graph it? I would love this feature to know more accurately when I over train or am sick.
    As always, I love your previews and reviews. Thanks

  156. Nancy

    Thanks for all your great reviews!

    Will you do a more in-depth review with each of the watches after you’ve had more time with the units? I’m interested in the 630 and I have a friend who’s really interested in the 235. We’d both like your opinions on these units after more extensive use!

    • Yup, I’ll be doing a combo FR230/235 In-Depth Review, and then a separate FR630 In-Depth Review.

      The timing will solely depend on when I get final production units. Meaning, if Garmin doesn’t get me final units until mid-November, then it’s at least 2-3 weeks until review posts come up. I don’t have clarity on where within ‘Q4’ things will fall. They’re telling retailers one thing, PR another, and the inside rumor-mill a different thing. So…

  157. Ryan Finco

    very interested in the 235 vs the TomTom Spark Cardio – Right now, I’ve got the Mio Alpha, but I would like to step up, especially based on some of the things I read in your post on the Spark Cardio — thoughts at this point? I need interval training and the Mio has no problems with this, so that’s my main concern.


    • I’ll cover that a bit in my winter recommendations guide in 2 weeks. Though, I suspect it’ll have to come with some caveats this year due to timing. Meaning that I won’t have as much hands-on time as I’d like with all the units, but at the same time, it’d be weird to recommend older units when new ones have just dropped.

      Ultimately, I think the core things to look at between the TomTom Spark and 235 is really the audio piece. If you don’t want music, then go FR235. If you want music, go Spark. That’s a super over-simplification, but ultimately it’s the key pivot point between those two. The FR235 is a much more capable running watch (in terms of features), but at the same time, there’s nothing wrong about the core of the Spark as a running watch. On the flip side, the FR235 simply doesn’t have built-in music, so if that’s what you want…Spark it is.

  158. Ivan De Paepe

    A 235 with Navigation support would be so sweet 🙂
    Especially as I understand we can use the optical HR sensor with the edge series on the bike. Any chances Garmin can be convinced to enable navigation on the 235 as they clearly don’t have the intention of offering a 635?

    • Rafal

      Probably only hope for navigation on 235 will be connect iq apps. Even now there is an app called dwMap which allows you to load a gpx file and display it on you watch, should be good enough for biking.

    • I’d agree with Rafal – chances for native mapping support on the FR230-235 is between zero and none.

      However, as he also noted, the Connect IQ mapping app is probably a great option: link to apps.garmin.com

    • Tim Grose

      The 230/235 has Back to Start which is probably the most useful navigation function when out running. Has saved me getting completely lost on more than one occasion!

  159. Foti

    Thanks for ther review. I have a 230, and I have been trying to find a way to track my spin class sessions. I currently use a Wahoo bluetooth sensor in my sock and the app. I have not found anything that would work with the 230, and was wondering if any of these new version will have this ability. I see that indoor cycling can be tracked with the appropriate sensor, but I do not see anything on the Garmin site for this type of sensor. Hoping someone can help – thanks!

  160. PhilBoogie

    1) I open the updated app, and even though my Fenix 3 and iPhone are paired, it’s asking me to pair them. No idea why the app says there is no Garmin device connected, while the Garmin device itself says so. So does iOS say. Notifications come in on the watch, yet GCM app keeps looking for a new Garmin device. It looks like I cannot use the app, yet it displays all my workouts just fine, obviously pulling it all from the Internet or its local DB as this version is an upgrade.

    2) Anyway, app tells me I’m using my F3 as an activity tracker, even though the switch is set to OFF.

    3) LiveTrack only uses email, no option to iMessage someone a link. (Twitter & FB are there, but I don’t have an account on either)

    4) Charts of workouts only display last 30 days. No week or year overview, no single view of several workout types within a given period.

    Enough b!tching from me. There’s fortunately also a vast amount of improvements:

    1) Tapping a map gives us a better UI; easy choosing between Standard/Satellite/Hybrid. Toggle lap markers.

    2) Landscape view of charts. (No zooming in unfortunately)

    3) /More/Gear/ has been much improved

    4) The calendar adds group calendars

    5) Leaderboard is improved; you can now compare your own time with others in a single view

    I’d love to see one article solely on the Garmin Connect Mobile app. I’d really like to hear wishes from others, my list is a long one.

    • Nath

      RE #3:
      I generally select share with Twitter, copy the URL it gives, then paste that into WhatsApp (or iMessage in your case)

      A bit convoluted, but it works.

  161. Rui Sebastiao

    Hello Ray,

    Quick question, does the FR 230/235 have a silent alarm feature to wake you up at an optimal sleep phase? This is like the one thing I’d love for a running watch to have.

  162. Arie

    Hey Ray,

    Thanks for your well outlined reviews as always.

    I’m contemplating on getting either the TOMTOM Spark (I don’t care too much on the Music edition, but maybe someone can convince me otherwise) or the FR 235.
    Or maybe there is a new watch that is in the same range that I’m forgetting??

    I’m currently tracking my progress with a FR610 which I use for cycling and running.
    The waist-HRM is annoying me to some degree, hence the optical HRM option would be the main factor to have in my new watch.

    Love to see the pro’s and con’s on them if you can!



    • Ignoring the music aspect, the TomTom Spark is $79 more than the FR235. But you’ve also got the TomTom Cardio (older sibling to Spark), which is routintely at the sub-$200 point.


      You don’t care about activity tracking or music, go TomTom Cardio, it’s basically the same as the Spark
      You don’t care about the advanced workout options and such on the FR235, go with the Spark or Cardio
      You don’t want to spend another $250-$329, just pickup the Scosche Optical HR band for your FR610 and be done with it. 🙂 Especially if you don’t care about activity tracking, music, or anything else super-new.

      As for your treadmill question – all of these watches (albeit not your FR610) support distance on a treadmill without a footpod. Though pace is pretty wishy-washy sometimes. It tends to be good at average paces that you often run (i.e. long run pace), but less so on intervals.

  163. Arie

    Oh and one addition…. I do take turns on the treadmill as well, so it would be ideal if it had an indoor mode with (approx) distance traveled…


  164. SF

    It seems like the 230/235 and the 630 are really the same watch for the most part. Little things like the optical HR in the 235 and touch screen in the 630, but can you essentially break down the key differences between the 2 lines. Ive been trying to do it on the spreadsheets but keep getting confused.

    Just the high level stuff that might be the most important would be awesome

  165. Nighthawk700

    With the 235, can the Optical HRM be turned off for “all day” use, and only be used when running, cycling, or other activities? (for me, “other” would be kayaking 🙂 ) If this is done, how big of an impact do you think it would have on the battery life? Also, what advantages are there to having HRM on all the time? I’m still relatively new to running and all, so I’m catching up on what’s good, what’s not really needed, etc. Thanks for *ALL* the information you’ve been handing out!

    • Dave

      5 weeks no HR no GPS.
      9-11 days with 24×7 HR.
      GPS use during workouts obviously will suck it down fairly fast with 11 hrs quoted total on 235.

  166. Mark Melton

    Ray, will you please express the frustration many of us 225 owners are feeling with Garmin. They never should have released the 225 if they were going to replace it in just a few months. I can’t see any reason why they needed to push out the 225 in the summer and replace it in the fall/winter.

    • Yeah, it’s a tough one. It’s one of the core reasons I cautioned in my post at the time that it felt like a bit of a stop-gap product since it didn’t match the feature-sets of every other products they released.

    • Mark Melton

      Will they consider putting any of the non Connect IQ features on the 225, for example, 24 x 7 HR, similar to how they are pushing the HR re-broadcasting to the 225?

    • I can’t foresee them doing 24×7 though on the FR225 since the Mio sensor isn’t designed to do that from a battery consumption standpoint. It’d last about 24-30hrs tops.

      The bigger challenge with the FR225 is that it’s basically just a FR220 with activity tracking tossed in. So the platform from a dev standpoint doesn’t share much in common with the newer devices.

    • Andrew W

      Definitely add me to the list of frustrated FR225 owners. I understand the fact that in the technology space continuous innovation means things get improved pretty quickly and a new product is just around the corner, but 4 months is ridiculous. I would think Garmin would have already committed some parts of the 235 to manufacture in July and still released the 225. Very shady corporate behavior I think.

      I totally understand the push to move to a Connect IQ product line, and the 235 looks great, I wish they had just released that and not the 225.

  167. Brian Simpson

    So I contacted Garmin support to ask if my HRM-Run heart rate strap would work with the new Forerunner 230 and 630. The answer I received was yes it would work, and again with only the advanced running metrics provided by the 630 and not on the 230 (similar to the 620). What Garmin did not answer, however, was whether or not the HRM-Run strap would provide the 630 new running dynamics (Stride Length, Ground Contact Time Balance, Vertical Ratio) and Lactate Threshold testing or will I need the new heart rate strap with the red sensor that can be purchased in a bundle with the Forerunner 630. I asked this second question again and will post the answer as soon as I receive it. Ray will probably have the answer sooner.

  168. Luis del Solar

    Hi, I noticed some people mentioned they’ve ordered the 235 in CT. Which website is this? Can’t seem to find a website that would allow me to order the watch. thanks

  169. Luis del Solar

    Great. Thanks so much!

  170. Matt

    Are the new FR watches compatible with other Bluetooth 4.0 devices, besides just cell phones. Specifically, I’m wondering if the music control functionality will work with a bluetooth mp3 player (I run with a iPod nano in my pocket and bluetooth headphones so I don’t have to carry my phone with me)?

  171. Heath

    Would be waiting on full review for the FR630 and FR235 from you. The core difference here would probably be the running dynamics on the FR630. If it is plenty accurate as a foot pod, it’s gonna be a good investment down the road. The FR235 lacks the running dynamic but has all the key features that a runner need and not to mention the convenience of the optical sensor which leaves out the worry of having leaving the strap at home when travelling.

  172. Dr Fager


    Can you explain why Garmin would release a “premium” watch like the 630 without an optical heart rate sensor? Releasing a non optical watch makes no sense these days, it basically dates the phone before its released. Its basically DOA for a vast majority of people who simply will not buy a “next gen” watch that requires an external strap. Especially for a watch that is $499. Who will pay that to have to wear and external strap for the life of the watch? Ridiculous.

    I cant for the life of me think of a compelling reason to look beyond the Forerunner 235. Sure Garmin has held back some software features from the 235 to the 630 (Which is infuriating in its own right) but is rudimentary music control or a virtual racer worth having to wear a heart rate strap for the next 2-3 years?

    We can all see the future, and its simple: optical heart rate sensors and local storage. Needing a strap or a phone is not where anyone needs to be positioning themselves with a run-specific watch.

    • Heath

      In-depth heart rate detail like HRV-RR is still a problem for optical sensor, thus a HRM strap is still a requirement. For those that does not need this details, optical sensor is a no-brainer. The reason why it was explained that if you want all this analysis on the FR235 with the optical sensor, you will still need a HRM strap for it.

    • Dr Fager

      Still doesn’t make sense. There are other feature-set’s, not pertaining to HRM, that are not available on the 235 or 620. (The full navigation feature set, virtual racer etc.)

      Is it beyond imagination that someone would want those features on a watch that has an optical sensor?

      They could easily make a 635 with an optical sensor, which can still be used with a HRM strap. So, if you wanted to track heart rate variability you could use the strap, and if you wanted to use EVERYTHING ELSE, you could use the optical sensor.

      Garmin should not offer a premium watch that doesn’t have an optical sensor option. Otherwise you have to buy a 235, which has been software locked by Garmin. You cant have software be such an important part of your upsale strategy, when you can offer comparable hardware! Its ridiculous. if you want optical you have to buy a mid tier watch that is software crippled. If you want the full software suite, you have to buy a premium watch that is hardware crippled!

    • I’m getting confirmation, but Virtual Racer may indeed be on the FR235.

      Garmin is somewhat in a no-win situation temporarily. If they build a FR635 and then tell people to spend another $50 for a HR strap for 80% of the additional features – people will revolt. And, by the looks of the 400+ comments here, the number of people revolting is significantly less in their current strategy of adding more features to the FR235. It really sounded like avoiding pissing off consumers with having to buy (or rather use) a HR strap for many of the features was the core reason they didn’t launch the FR635. Now I think long term as HRV gets sorted out on optical HR during an activity, it’ll work itself out.

      Personally, for what I do – I suspect I’ll go from historically using a FR620 to using the FR235, since it has the four data fields and 1-second recording that I care most about (though lack of WiFi will make me sad)

    • Josh

      Ray, I think many of us who consider ourselves serious runners are doing exactly what you have mentioned, going from the 620 to the 235. It truly is a very logical solution; 4 data fields, the one second recording, the optical heart rate monitor, Garmin did a great job in including these for us. Now I only hope the accuracy is as amazing as my Suunto Ambit 3sport.

    • Heath

      An added strap will just add additional cost to the already high price tag and it would add redundancy with an optical sensor that can do less. Those who want the heart HRV-RR will wear the strap and will not need the optical sensor. As mention earlier, the FR235 is a competent watch with all the running features. Compare to FR630 with the added running dynamicc, that price tag is an option for those who does not want to fork out additional money for stuff that they dun need. I believe that the existing foot pod will still work with the FR235(not confirm yet) and that should also provide running dynamics for existing garmin user.

    • Ken

      Hi Ray – some of us will always need the HR strap … running through a Canadian winter, watch goes on the outside of my jacket!

    • Dr Fager

      Well i guess i look at it from a different angle; who is in the market for a “premium” $400 run-specific watch that doesn’t already have a HR strap? If HRV is your thing, (Or heart rate training at all) then there is a 99% chance you already have a strap. (IMO) Its not an additional cost for the overwhelming amount of people in the market for the device.

      And what i really dont get is, if they really were trying to do everyone a solid by NOT including optical, to serve a device who’s existence is basically for HRV, then why have exclusive software features not related to HRV on the device at all? Thats a petty tactic.

      IMO nobody wins. 235 owners are losing software features to the 630 that dont involve HRV, and 630 owners get the full software suite, but no optical. There is literally no option by Garmin that leaves users entirely satisfied.

    • Dr Fager

      Heath, its not HRV vs Non-HRV, or Optical vs Strap. Garmin made sure of that by excluding some of the non HRV features from the 235. (Thus making them 630 exclusive) Its ultimately Strap plus features vs Optical minus features. There is no winner. Each product makes a sacrifice.

      But, again, do you know a single person that cares about HRV that doesn’t already have a HR strap? Garmin didnt sell an optical watch until 2 months ago, so anyone in the Garmin universe who cares about HR training, already has a HR strap.

      This is a premium watch, it should have EVERYTHING covered in the running spectrum. It never occurred to Garmin that even the HRV crowd might like a watch where they could go on a run without a HR strap, but still have basic HR stats? (Using optical) That’s why having it optical by default would make sense. Everyone is covered, for every situation. that sounds like a premium product to me.

      /end rant


    • Chooch300

      I wonder if one could use the 235 and pair it with a tickr run and get the whole kit n kaboodle. I don’t know enough about the differences between Garmin and Wahoo run metrics to know. And then you’d have two sets of logs to check, if the run metrics mattered that much.

    • Garmin’s Running Dynamics are transmitted over a private channel, rather than a public one – so Wahoo (or anyone else) can’t transmit it to the Garmin devices. Sorta sucks.

    • Robert

      At the end of the day Garmins will never please anybody, I’d probably buy a 635 and a strap too. Optical it great I have two scosche units. But running in sub zero temperatures with the watch outside your coat so you can see it at a glance makes the inbuilt unit worthless. From your posts I’m guessing that’s not a scenario you’ve considered?

    • ekutter

      I actually wonder if part of the motivation not to release a 635 initially is that their optical HR technology is brand new and not yet proven. Work out the kinks with the slightly lower end, less demanding crowd, and then release a 635 once they see how the tech is performing and being received.

      Might be similar to the 920 release where just after the masses started receiving their devices, they announced the Fenix 3 and Epix which were both basically 920’s on steroids.

    • Tim Grose

      There are a few key “issues” I’ve found with an optical HRM that may or not be a concern for everybody. Firstly it adds bulk to the watch. Don’t think Ray has been able to weigh a 235 yet but it will surely be more than the 230/630. Secondly I find the latest Garmin HR straps almost flawness in recording my HR but the optical in the 225 was less so and that’s after you have worn it as recommended – up the arm and fairly tight. Thirdly there is the HRV issue which is needed for some “premium” software features. When these three issues are addressed, I would be up for optical but don’t think we are quite there yet. Hopefully Garmin making their own optical HR sensor will advance the technology and our confidence in using it.

    • Darren

      According to Garmin’s website the FR230 and FR235 have exactly the same dimensions with the 235 only 1g heavier. I find this hard to believe. Especially given the difference between the 220 and 225, i.e. the latter is significantly thicker and heavier. I guess we’ll know soon enough.

    • Tim Grose

      Could be that the optical on the 225 was sort of “glued” onto a 220 but if really only 1g difference with a 235 would reduce my issues by one to two!

    • Josh

      Now I’m curious what are your two issues with the 235?